They were play­ing our songs

The Covington News - - Front page -

The three of us were chil­dren of the fourties, but we had left the cam­pus when the trou­ble be­gan. We were born of men back from the war and the women who waited for them to come home.

We barely re­mem­ber Korea. My daddy was gone two years, and I re­ally never knew why. The name Harry Tru­man rings a vague bell. The thing I re­mem­ber most about Ike was how the peo­ple down home cursed him for spending too much time play­ing golf at Au­gusta.

Kennedy was ours, but we lost him in high school. Viet­nam was fes­ter­ing dur­ing our col­lege days, but on a sleepy Deep South cam­pus, it would take longer for the ex­plo­sion of dis­sent to fi­nally come.

Af­ter school one of us — or­dered to do so — went to the fight. The other two, lucky as hell, stayed home and learned about mak­ing a liv­ing.

We made the same fra­ter­nal pledge fif­teen years ago. That tie still binds us some­how. One of us is los­ing his hair. An­other has put on a few pounds. I get down on my back oc­ca­sion­ally and don’t sleep as well as I used to.

Mon­day night was a re­union of sorts. It was rare we can be to­gether as a three­some for an evening out any­more.

But this was spe­cial. They were play­ing our songs at a club called the Har­lequin. We wouldn’t have missed it.

First, you must get this pic­ture: The year is 1964. The band is black and loud. Beer cans are il­le­gal on cam­pus. There was such a thing in those days, how­ever, as “Humdinger” milk­shake cups. They would hold two full cans un­til they be­came soggy and fell apart. A date must be se­lected care­fully. She must not mind beer on her skirt. There were a lot of good women like that in 1964.

And the band would play un­til mid­night, time to beat the cur­few back to the girls’ dorms. The frolic be­fore was al­ways grand and glo­ri­ous be­cause, as that cam­pus an­them went, we came to col­lege not for knowl­edge, but to raise hell while we’re here.

Our mu­sic was a soul­ful strut. Mau­rice Wil­liams and the Zo­di­acs, “Stay;” The Is­ley Broth­ers, “Twist and Shout;” The Temp­ta­tions, “My Girl;” The Drifters, “Save the Last Dance for Me;” Marvin Gaye and the clas­sic, “Stub­born Kind of Fel­low.”

And two more groups, hal­lowed be their names: The At­lanta Tams. The Show­men.

We were on the edge of our seats Mon­day night. And then, there they were. Four black men from Nor­folk, Vir­ginia. Four black men who can dance and sing and take you back where, the Lord knows, you never wanted to leave in the first place.

The four black men called The Show­men who put “39-21-46” on a record years ago.

“We’re gonna take the roof off this place,” they said, and they did.

The Tams were next. “At­lanta’s own At­lanta Tams,” an­nounced the an­nouncer. They have aged, the Tams. But their voices still blend in per­fect, deep har­mony, and when they sang “What kind of Fool?” ev­ery­body in the house was nine­teen years old again.

As is custom, we went down front to the stage be­fore the night was over. We sang and we danced along. Our par­ents did the same to Big Band swing. A group of teeny­bop­pers went crazy over a child named Shaun Cassidy at the Omni the other night. Who knows what sound will at­tract our chil­dren?

But does it re­ally mat­ter? Mu­sic, any kind of mu­sic, is mem­o­ries and some­times hope for the fu­ture. Mu­sic can soothe, mu­sic can hurt. Mu­sic can be lost loves and old friends. Mu­sic can give ad­vice worth heed­ing.

“Lis­ten to that,” said one of us to the other two Mon­day night. “They’re right, you know.”

The Tams were singing. It was one of their old songs. You have missed some­thing if you have never heard it. Three fel­lows bound for mid­dleage gath­ered in ev­ery word: “Be Young. “Be Fool­ish. “Be Happy.”

Plenty to do:

Lewis Griz­zard

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