I was asked to be part of my high school’s 50th reunion, Bethlehem Central in Delmar, NY. My friend Deane Fish contacted me, knowing that I’m still playing music, to put together two sets of dance music for the Saturday evening event at the Marriott along with members of his old band The Strangers and other players from those days. I agreed and also suggested that I could do a solo folk set as well. Good on all counts.
Deane suggested that I do the solo set during the dinner and that was fine with me. He then contacted the players to suggest songs that we could do and I submitted several ones I could front. He put together two sets of songs, balancing out two drummers, two bass players and another front man to go along with Jack Richmond on lead.
I got up to town on Friday afternoon to practice at the Legion Hall, reunite with Deane, Jack, Ed, Paul and Paul, Peter and Franklin and go over the material. It was pretty ragged and I was a little concerned with pulling this off. A good session though and we agreed to return on Saturday morning for another session.
I headed over to the hotel to check in and have a little down time before heading back to the Legion Hall for the Friday night mixer. It was great as we all tried to compare the name tags with our senior pictures on them and the face in front of us. There was lots of “Oh, I know you!” The reunion committee did a great job on Friday as well as the rest of the weekend.
I headed back to the Legion at 9 am for our second rehearsal, eliminated some of the dead wood in the set list, and I brought out Wake Up, Little Susie and Bye Bye Love medley (with a key change), Nadine, Country Roads, You Ain’t Going Nowhere and Pay Bo Diddley as a spare. Jack was having a tough time on lead, with a borrowed guitar that was hard to tune, so I lent him a tuner. That turned out to be a very good thing and Jack was able to nail his leads. The sets were all in order so that the two bass players and drummers could coordinate swapping songs. I really enjoyed getting to know everyone and talk music shop with them. It made for a more comfortable time for me.
We broke down the equipment and headed to the hotel to set up for the evening. I brought out my good speakers, we did a sound check and then took some time off before the dinner.
There was a cocktail hour and as we settled in for dinner, I was able to have half a salad and a couple bites of my salmon before it was time for me to do my solo set. Knowing full well that folks would be talking with each other, I launched into Don’t Call Me Early, nailed it and got some nice applause. As I went through my set, I was able to chat a little, notice some folks were listening from their seats. I brought up my alphabetical class mates Deane Fish and Linda House Maxwell (Fish Fry House) to do Giants, and that was fun.
Nelly came up to do our short set together; it was a little ragged on Reason to Believe but we pulled it off just as I got the five minute sign from Ken, the director of the evening. I had hoped to finish with Lessons from Pete but settled with Here Comes the Sun. I returned to the band table to see my dinner cleared from the table, but a chocolate cake in its place.
There was a remembrance for the classmates who have passed on as well as some short remeniences from several folks. Nice.
The band re-set the stage and and started out with a bunch of great oldies dance tunes. My songs were slated for the middle of the set, and I was cool with that. But Deane jettisoned the set list after the first song so PJ and Paul bounced on and off stage, but, amazingly the band gelled nicely, the dance floor was filled with the alumni shaking that thang and the party was on.
I eventually got up for Nadine and You Ain’t Going Nowhere and I felt particularly strong with my vocals and leading the band for the tunes. Here’s where my presence was felt and it felt good. I was also glad that I haven’t been drinking alcohol and I enjoyed having a clear head.
The second set took off with good dance tunes, relatively crisp arrangements and a lively crowd having a great time. I got up for the Everly Brothers Medley which went well and helped bring the evening to a close with Country Roads – everyone singing together at the end. A good way to finish.
I was mildly disappointed that I didn’t have more time with band, but I had my solo spot and some quality time on stage with the band. Most of all, I really enjoyed sharing the company of my fellow musicians as well as catching up with many of my old friends. I was hoping to sell more of my CDs but gave away a bunch to my bandmates. I know they’ll appreciate my music.
The Class of ’68 was a particularly wonderful set of creative and friendly folks, many of whom I was genuinely delighted to see again. As I headed home early on Sunday, my head was filled with good thoughts about the whole weekend.
Sunday afternoon gig in Macungie….