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The wonder of In-Efficient…

by | Jan 22, 2021 | wonder

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The wonder is at this point in my story, the LAST band I would have listened to was Asleep at the Wheel.  My negative framing would have been “… an unoriginal cover band for music from an Okie – with lots of twangy steel guitar. Yuck”.  And likely that would have stuck… except for the intervention of an octogenarian when I met her. My wife visited her every Tuesday afternoon, but she needed help taking up her Christmas meal, and as we got off the elevator, there was music blasting… from her apartment at the end of the hall…300 feet away… 

Like most churches, we had an active Women’s Ministry, and as such was also filled with grey- haired “old ladies”. One circle had a group that were now old enough that they shouldn’t drive, so my wife split time with another young woman bringing them to church for meeting once a month.  The fun part of that story is how they fought to do the meal, set up, program… so they didn’t have to drive around and pick them up and bring them 😉 Getting a number of 80-year-olds in and out of vehicles that are designed for driving around toddlers was not exactly Efficient. That circle eventually ended, and now we were visiting one of it’s former members…

Gladys was born in 1909 in Vienna (if you’re from there you say it Vi Anna) Missouri.  Her family ran the General Store for the town, a small county seat just about dead center in the state… which meant the middle of nowhere.  But no matter to her.  Her youth was filled with wonder – fantastic stories of fun and excitement that even 80+ years on were as alive as she was.  My favorite was when she got a “break” from the store, she would run upstairs with her sister and dance across the floor with her mop or broom to the music on the radio for 15 minutes before heading back down for her next shift. 

It is impossible to write about Asleep without talking about Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. As the depression was raging, and the Dust Bowl was blowing Oklahoma into Missouri and points east, Bob was on a clear channel station in Tulsa – KVOO, playing noon sets daily of what would soon be called Texas Swing.  It was a wonderful stew of jazz, country, folk, hillbilly, and straight ahead square dance tempos.  Literally hundreds of more modern artists all point back to Bob as the King of music.

There are multiple tribute albums to Bob, and one of my favorites is For the Last Time.  Organized by Merle Haggard, it was to be recorded in Dallas in 1973 – with the remaining Texas Playboys and Bob together.  Current stars flocked in to add in a bit, but mostly to wonder, watch, and have a chance to talk and record with their heroes.  A young Ray Benson had come back to Texas from Oakland to meet Bob on the second day of the sessions.  His band had just recently added a fiddle player, and was now playing just a few Bob Wills songs.   

Efficiency can cause us to miss those that are just out of our gaze, those who are slightly older, now retired, having contributed what they could in their own youth.  I remember my Mom saying to me when she was my current age that she would look into the mirror… and be jarred by the fact that she still felt 25 – she just looked older 😉  Now a grandfather, I understand it even more than I did then.  Watching a lot of these Internet millionaires in their 30’s lecturing people on the way they should do things… yea.. Thanks. Maybe. I wonder more about what is timeless… building teams of people who can sustain that for many years… 

Back to Gladys, we got to her small condo and the music was literally blaring – which of course I really enjoyed.  And it was Asleep at the Wheel, followed by Louie Armstrong, and stories of dancing and growing up to this music.  The wonder is I instantly forgot she was 80+ and thought we were both teens again.  I asked to see her record collection – something all friends did in my era.  CD’s of course – and her collection was amazing.  Every Asleep at the Wheel CD that was available, most of Louis, Louis Prima… and like I did with my high school friends, I asked “could I borrow them?” SURE!  So I now have most of her collection ripped to my own music collection, a wonderful constant reminder of her…

As I am cresting my own hill towards Gladys territory, I hope I approach every day with the wonder and joy she did.  It was so captivating that I would make excuses to tag along with Beth hoping to hear her spin another story (and my promise is I will do a week just on stories from her) She was a gentle reminder that through her nearly 100 years, multiple wars, depressions, crashes, assassinations, she found joy and wonder in every moment.  EVERY moment… 

Ray missed his chance to meet Bob who had a stroke after the first nights’ recordings.  Merle was able to lead the band through tears to finish the record and it stands as one of the finest – second only to Ray’s own tribute that today’s selection comes from.  Who is around you that you have overlooked, who has wisdom and wonder to help you in your own story?  It may not be Efficient to slow down and listen, and then again, that is probably the best advice I have for everyone about now.  Grab a chair, sit with someone with some wisdom.  And… Stay All Night. 

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