Sunday, November 9, 2008

Miscellaneous and Pointless

  • Miss Wilson, Mrs. Moore, Mrs. Johnson, Miss Sewell, Miss Frazier, and Mrs. Kiley were my first through sixth grade teachers. Can you name yours? Half credit if you're under forty.

  • On a Friday night around 1980, Betty and I went to a restaurant on Diversey In Chicago, Lawrence of Oregano, one of a chain of Lettuce Entertain You restaurants in the Chicago area. There was a very small stage at the street window end of the bar and on Friday and Saturday nights there was music - two one hour sets each from folk singer Carolyn Ford and from former lead singer of Chicago's New Colony Six, Ronnie Rice.

    Ronnie did pretty much all fifties and sixties songs, and while I was pushing forty, most of the audience was twenty-five or so, and it was amazing how many of these songs they were familiar with. The whole act was just Ronnie and his guitar and voice, and he would do a few seconds of a song and then segue into another, for four or five minutes at a time. He'd stop and schmooze with the audience, and perhaps once a set he would offer a free drink to the first person who could name the artist who did a particular song, usually songs around the bottom of the top twenty in their day.

    My first night there, the one with Betty, Ronnie did the free drink thing, saying "Don't yell it out if you know it, just raise your hand." He began playing and I knew instantly what it was, so I raised my hand. He looked at me, looked around, played a few seconds more, and then stopped and looked around. There were no other hands in the air and he asked me for the artist. It was Nervous Norvous, singer of the novelty tune Ronnie had performed, "Transfusion."

    So I won a drink and a friendly competition was born. A few of us *really* enjoyed Ronnie's performances and went occasionally on Fridays. Sometimes Ronnie would have *two* drink questions, one for the audience at large - excluding me - and one exclusively for me. The latter were always fairly obscure, but this was the music of my youth, and I was not easy to stump. I'd give the answer, he'd shake his head, and a drink would arrive.

    But then . . . but then . . . .

    One Friday I was there with a friend, Marlene. About halfway through his first set Ronnie began playing and singing another novelty tune from the 1960's, Mr. Custer.

    I thought for a couple of seconds, then thought frantically for a couple of seconds, then said aloud, "Shit!"

    Marlene: "What's wrong?"

    Stumped Unohoo: "He's gonna ask me who did this song and I don't have a clue."

    Marlene had never witnessed the Q&A thing between Ronnie and me, and she looked skeptical, but sure enough, he ended that string of songs, looked over at me, and asked "Do you know who did that?"

    I smiled and shook my head no.

    "But you know the song, right?"

    I laugned and nodded yes.

    He threw up his hands and yelled into the microphone, "Yayyyy. I win a drink" and the kids, some of whom had seen me win a dozen or more drinks over the course of a year, went crazy.

    The artist was Larry Verne, a one hit wonder, and I'll never get caught short on that one again.

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