Friday, May 7, 2010
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Panel
By Darrell James
On my way to an author panel last Sunday, I encountered a woman in the parking lot of the local Denny’s. She was loading music instruments into the back of an equipment van. On a guitar case was a sticker that read: New Christie Minstrels.
Now, for those of you who weren’t around in 1964, or who were too stoned to remember, they were a folk group of considerable fame. (Something along the lines of Peter, Paul, and Mary.) This day they were on their way to a performance in San Dimas.
I introduced myself as a fan, and told her where I was heading. The rest of the band was quickly summoned-round to meet the mystery writer Darrell James (no mention of the word famous in my regard).
They were gray-haired, and bleary-eyed at the early hour, but still out there touring and spreading their music to the masses. Four of them were of the original founding members of the group. I shook hands with each in turn and a lively discussion of their early work and my long-time fan-ship ensued.
See, I had only a couple of months earlier related to my wife Diana that there was an old song (by this group) that I would love to find, if it still existed. The song is titled El Camino Real, from the album Land of Giants. To my dismay, Cantebury’s in Pasadena had the album on CD, and I purchased it. I happened to be carrying it with me in my car at the time, and the entire band signed the cover.
It was a chance encounter, of little consequence to anyone other than me. (And perhaps the band, as they’d met someone who actually remembered them from the good 'ol days.) We exchanged business cards. I promised to try to catch one of their performances some day, they promised to read my first book when it comes out.
Maybe either will happen; maybe neither will. It doesn’t matter so much. I left feeling nostalgic and warm. And for the remainder of the day, the song in question played inside my head.
It tells the story of the early days of Southern California, of horse and rider, and of the fight for independence from Spain. The lyrics are powerful and provocative, the characters courageous and sad. I’ve never been able to repeat the complete lyrics without choking up.
My wife comes from the disco era, and if the music makes you want to dance, she’s down. Another friend tells me he has to be able to sing to it. For me, a folk-rocker from the Dylan generation, it’s all about story and about poetry and about words. Much of my writing is inspired by song lyrics.
What about you? Are you a dancer or poet, songbird or storyteller? What place does music play in your life?