My Adventures in Writing Music – Part Two

For twenty-five years I played for dances every New Year’s Eve. I never had a New Year’s Eve off. One year I had surgery on my right wrist and I still played a four hour gig with just my left hand and left foot on the organ. Anyone who plays piano or organ knows that the melody is most always in the right hand, so this was a very difficult night. This was when we lived in Ohio.

Another night that was kind of unforgettable, while we were still living in Ohio, was when I was playing a dance for a group of state patrol officers. I was about 8 months pregnant; the officers were drinking merrily and kept yelling at me all night, “don’t worry lady, we’re all trained in childbirth.” They repeated this over and over more loudly as the night wore on and they became more inebriated. The last worrisome part of the night was when they insisted on carrying my organ down a steep flight of stairs. I was sure they were going to drop it.

We moved to Colorado and “Christmas in the Country” was the aftermath of the holiday season when I lived in Vail, CO. For Christmas Eve I had the honor of playing a church service for President Ford and his family. A week later on New Year’s Eve I was on my way uptown to play in a bar when I was in an accident. The woman who hit me turned out to be the sister of the man who hired me to work at the bar. I had to be careful how I handled the event for fear of losing my job, which I really needed.

After we moved to Grand Junction, CO I started my own dance band. I called it “Aces and Eights” after the hand of cards that Wild Bill Hickox was holding when he was shot. I had this band for about ten years. I remember well the first and last jobs.

The first gig was In Telluride, CO, a ski town about 150 miles southwest of Grand Junction. I had booked a three piece band at a club and hired a trumpet player and drummer, both college students. We all went in our van with the instruments including my organ. My husband was driving. The drummer said he’d been in an auto accident earlier that day, but he was all right. We made it through the first set and he got sick. He had to lay down on a couch backstage and the trumpet player took over the drums. He’d never played them before, but had studied how to do it in college. Thank goodness for his talent. We had to pack the van carefully going home so there was room for the sick drummer to lay down on the floor. We had taken the rear seat out and that was the only place he could lay down. He was pretty sick by this time. He had a concussion from the accident.

The last job was in a town about the same distance northeast of Grand Junction. It was New Year’s Eve and that night I had booked a five piece band. We had to take the equipment up three flights of stairs. But that wasn’t the worst part; the travel was treacherous that night. The roads were snow covered and very slippery. My husband was driving and did a great job, but I was scared both going to the job and going home again. There were snow shoe rabbits all over the roads on the way to the job and coming home it was deer and moose that were all over the roads. That was the night I “hung it up.” Our son Neil was about four when we moved to Colorado and by this time he was 14, too old for a baby sitter and too young to stay by himself. I never played another dance job.

After moving to Los Angeles I decided to try to write some pop music so I signed up for lyric writing classes and started going to workshops. I had signed up for twelve weeks of lyric classes. The classes were held at the teacher’s house. One night after I’d been going there for about three weeks, I left her house and headed for my car. It was across the street and down a little ways from her house. While walking to it I noticed two homeless men walking towards me pushing their carts. I saw them cross the street and head towards me. I hurried and just got inside and shut and locked the door when they were knocking on my window. I started the car and tore out of there. I never went back to finish my lessons.

Another night I was at a workshop in a downtown high rise and when I came out to go to the parking lot which was about a block away, I had to walk among street people laying right on the sidewalk and reaching up as I passed, asking for money. I never went to anymore workshops.

I lived in Los Angeles about five years. I was there for fires, floods, earthquakes and riots. I was teaching music at a preschool one day and the other teachers came in, locked the doors and pulled all the shades shut. I sat there and entertained the children while they waited for their parents to pick them up. The rioting was within a block and a half of the school.

I was there for the big earthquake that did so much damage. Our house didn’t receive much damage, but when I went to the preschool where I was to teach a few days later it was completely destroyed from the earthquake.

When the fires were burning I could open my front door and see the flames behind a hill not too far away. My big worry was needing to leave my cat locked in the house while I was teaching. I gave the neighbor a key and asked her to let the cat out if the evacuation order came. It never did.

Talk to Each Other was inspired by actually seeing a woman lift the lid of a garbage can. I also was acquainted with a teacher at the school where the student was shot. I entered the song in a contest to “Heal L.A.” after the riots. It got an honorable mention out of 1200 entries and I also got an eighteen month contract on it, but nothing ever came of it.

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