Every once-in-awhile, I'm asked who my personal inspirations were for getting into the field of music. Not the professional ones, mind you ... but the people who were around me, every day.
Since I've covered Uncle LL, Gene Vincent, The Byrds and others, let me take a moment to give a special tribute to those who, outside my own mama and daddy (the best influences in my life as a human), fanned the spark that grew into a flame and burned within the kid who became a Rock Relic (HA! Still got that writer's touch in my head! Or ... maybe I'm just touched in the head. Dunno ...).
Now, the dude up there in the pic (South Mecklenburg High School Mixed Chorus, circa December, 1968) was a pre-Relician bullfrog; very rare outside Pineville, NC and (considering his age) almost extinct now.
But, if not for South Meck's unofficial "cheerleader" -- a smiling, talented and kinetic wonder named LaRue Perry -- I probably would've been singing lullabies to those wart-laden amphibians (no, not my siblings; we cleared those up a lonnng time before) on the banks of Sugar Creek.
Y'see, we were practicing an old song called Around The Corner when Mrs. P. noticed a godawful sound coming from the third riser. Finally convinced it wasn't the school's heating system kicking in, she had the rest of the class stop ... and called me down to the front.
"Chuck, was that you?" The kids giggled, whilst I was trying to figure out an excuse. Gas? Flatulence? Naaah ... that'd get me in trouble. So I nodded, "Yes, ma'am". She said I sounded more like a bullfrog -- and got me to sing a song an octave higher. It blended better with the group, and, quite frankly, I did feel more comfortable with it ..
After class, she took me aside (Donna Mohrman, our pianist, was glad to relinquish the bench. Besides, she had to put water on her fingertips [she was excellent on the 88's, believe me!]). "Chuck," she said. That was my name, as I said earlier. "If you apply what you've learned here in everything else that you do, you're going to be a big success! Always aim higher! You can make it if you keep trying and practicing!"
The woman was solid gold -- ask anyone who ever had her in class ...
Ahhh, then there was our Psychology teacher, Virginia Winget ... who, whilst stern at times, had a manner that could've convinced Mr. Whipple to let customers squeeze the Charmin® (alright, hands up of all those who remember him ...).
She was also encouraging us, in an almost-motherly way, to pursue our dreams (if they were honourable ... but be back home by 11 or the door would be locked ... and, no, you can't borrow the car ... er, well, not exactly like a mother ...). She inspired us to use our minds instead of our sex drive (sex? Hmph ... all I knew back then is that it was the number whut preceded sehh'bun!). I heard we, being of the teen society, were to have them in the absence of video games which came later ...
Most of all, she listened ... and understood where we wanted to go with our lives. She would suggest ways of getting there, and helped us form sort of a road map to make it to that destination.
Later on, with these teachers, my parents' (and my friends in Pineville's) inspiration, Uncle LL's Stuff Happens (and then you fix it!), David Schwartz's The Magic Of Thinking Big, The Bible and a few kicks-in-the-pants, and with the influence of great friends like John Bultmann, Lloyd Thaxton, Pete Dintino, Ron Ryan and others, the rock engine within me started humming ...
But it's you who helps keep it charged up ... and, for that, I thank all three of you. (Seriously, all of you who tune in ...)
So STAY tuned ... I'll see ya on the flip side!