Summer of Sixty-Nine (Part 6 of a 6 part series)

This is the 6th installment of a 6 part series–you may want to read the 1st 5 installments then come back.

The press was there. News cameras were set up in front of the stage and a dozen reporters and photographers were standing around—I recognized a guy from Rolling Stone Magazine. It was a great story. At the last second a nobody, hick town band was on stage filling in for a big-time professional band laying dead in a morgue—the single worst tragedy in rock music history. From the wings I studied the crowd—I could see several of the guys who bullied me several years back—looking very small and utterly blown away by what was happening. I looked across the crowd at the hundreds of pretty girls and didn’t see any—even girls several years older than me—that I would be afraid to approach.

Almost 4 years had passed since I sat on Janie’s bed gawking at her underwear. I was a lot taller, my voice had deepened and could handle the vocals well. I was more broad-shouldered—the shirt Cheryl sent me was what’s known as a “muscle shirt” and the fit was perfect. I knew my instrument—I was a pro who could take the stage like a pro, my band had become in three years a group of stone professionals.  As we waited in the shadows waiting for our que, my bassman Burt stood like a rock holding his instrument like a loaded machine gun, my drummer Aston had changed his name to Carter and had wrists and forearms that could bend steel and pound the skins like a sledge hammer. And then there was Marci.  Marci had turned into a keyboard master who could back up, fill in and knock out solos that soared like an eagle and knew how to use her beauty like a lethal weapon. When a spot hit her and she looked directly out at the guys in the audience you could see their jaws drop.

Finally the house lights went down—the huge crowd slipped into whispering darkness. The floods lit up the stage like a flash of lightening and the same instant and we hit’em with both barrels—opening up with the surging, passionate wail of the unmistakable opening chords from “Layla.” The band was playing better than I’d ever heard—better than even I thought we were capable of. The incredible amps and speakers delivered a wall of sound so massive, so solid and professional every time I hit a chord I felt like I was driving a tank. In the glow of the sound board I could see the roadie—kicked back with a look of relief on his face enjoying the show. Cheryl had nailed it—“when the moment is right and you want it bad enough you will transcend your best—you will do what you thought could not be done.”

As the opening chords filled the hall from floor to ceiling—for a second the crowd stood stunned and frozen like they didn’t know who we were or where they were at. Then—as the music flooded through them—they broke into screams and cheers that rattled the stage and filled the darkened hall with a roar like black , human thunder. We started the piece sounding like Derek and the Dominoes then eased into a style with a darker, more urgently sensual energy. Each time I hit the plaintive, solo chords I’d bring the volume up a tad. When I sang the phrase “Layla—you got me on my knees…” I’d drop to my knees, close my eyes and raise an anguished face to the ceiling—I could hear helpless gasps from a hundred teen-age girls.

As I wound down through the aching, closing notes of the 7 minute piece I found myself remembering the moment 4 years ago when I sat on Janie’s bed staring at her underwear. I couldn’t help but smile as I remembered my 12 year-old reaction to her invitation and thought to myself—“So—this is what it feels like to be Superman.”

End part 6 and end “The Summer of Sixty-nine.”

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