Music that hurts too good

by Dave Williams

Fritz Stewens

I was just trying to organize my iTunes files. It’s a maddening process that forces me to access the gnat sized portion of my brain that insufficiently understands digital stuff so that I can preserve the memories of my heart.

I rarely listen to music and until just now I didn’t understand why.

I grew up in the sixties loving the Beatles, the Stones, Janis and Jimi. I was a radio rock jock at 17. I used to crank up the music LOUD when I was behind the mic in the KROY studio on Arden Way.

That time of my life passed quickly. I remember it fondly but I don’t live in the past. For some reason I’m not overly sentimental.

Once in a blue moon though I stumble across a song that brings a memory from my heart to the surface; it pulls my younger self out of the past and paints a moment with goodness and glory that can only be imagined.

This is a performance of a particular song by a group of musicians I knew during a very special time in my life. Like memories themselves it’s a grainy piece of film with a somewhat ethereal soundtrack that can’t do justice to reality as I have held it.

In my heart, I’m still there with the boys in the band as you see them. We have not aged. I’m on my feet under a freeway with hundreds of other fans shouting with joy, frozen in time on a Saturday night in a Sacramento spring.

Sharmayne is with me. This is our song. The trombone player is her man and I’m her best friend.

34 years later Sharmayne is gone and I can’t find Fritz. Rainer, Dieter, Charlie and the other boys have taken their lives elsewhere.

This is probably why I don’t listen to music much anymore.

It hurts too good.

 

NOTE:  This is the Allotria Jazz Band from Munich in 1984. This particular performance was filmed in Germany, not Sacramento. That’s obvious by the narration. Still, Sharmayne and I thrilled to their music and this particular song many times over the years they appeared at the Sacramento (Dixieland) Jazz Jubilee.

You had to be there.  

Willie Nelson, CarolAnn and me

“If America could sing with one voice it would be Willie’s.”
– Emmylou Harris

When I met Willie in person I froze. I literally couldn’t open my mouth to speak.

It was in the late 1980s in the Dan Russell Rodeo Arena in Folsom, California. When Willie finished his last song he did something that blew our minds: He put down his guitar, stepped down from the stage and walked through the dirt right into the crowd of his worshipers wearing that famous crinkly-eyes, half-crooked smile.

He stayed out there, signed autographs and chatted with folks until we all finally dragged ourselves back to our cars for the happy drive home.

I don’t remember if I shook his hand but I think not. I just stood stupidly next to my hero while my wife asked him to autograph our tickets, which he did. Then she asked Willie if I could phone him the next morning for a short live interview on my radio show. He smiled and nicely explained that he’d like to but his bus would be hitting the road as soon as he got back in it.

(This was in the early days of cell phones, once you got out of town you could forget about talking to anyone. He’d be long gone by tomorrow.)

I never said a word. I literally couldn’t find my voice and I don’t regret it. I had stood beside him for a few minutes while he chatted with my wife. I’m pretty sure that’s about as much live interaction with Willie Nelson that I could handle.

I was happy.

I’ve seen Willie and his family four times, I think.

He’ll turn 85 next week and I need to see him again before the time slips away.