Thursday, September 25, 2008

Paul Little

A friend of mine just wrote an epilogue to an old nemesis of his, so I had to too. 

So let me take a moment to talk about an old guitar player named Paul Little. A rhythm guitarist with a sense of soul add a country jerk. A triple pickup burgundy Epliphone guitar and amp with a reverb built in. A warm smile and laugh with motor oil under his fingernails. 

I met Paul in early 1964. An old elementary school classmate wanted to form a rock band and since he couldn't play an instrument, he would manage a group. So he gathered some of his Douglas Southall Freeman High School classmates and called me. 

I had been in a few guitar groups, but was still learning the guitar. And since I didn't have an electric guitar, I was assigned bass. 

But I brought a sense of class to these blue collar working class boys. We discussed what outfits to wear, while drinking beers in the lead guitar players house, while his father sat in the kitchen and his sister kept walking past us in various stages of undress. 

We created microphone stands from lamps, bought classy yet cheap jackets from the "other" side of Broad Street, rented various pieces and parts and equipment from a string of music stores run by my father's old band players.

And Paul, following Wally's lead, could fill the void with a fresh energy and a twangy vocal. He would strum wildly at his guitar and always on time. After the first band dissolved, we reformed another band with Paul and Wally, then another adding horns. Then we parted for a while. 

High school was nearing an end and another band was formed with Thomas Jefferson High School students, but we invited Paul to join us. Practicing in basements, garages, and my living room, we wrote and re-wrote songs, new beats, new rhythms and Paul was adaptable to it all. He was a creative motion, but was flexible to adjust to anything. And he had fun.

Outside the music groove, Paul had 2- '56 Desota automobiles in his front yard. Saturday's we would gather parts and pieces and try to make one of them start. If we were successful, we could cruise the night. Some Saturdays were journeys to junk yards looking for parts. Other Saturdays were swapping parts back and forth until one of the monstrous beast came to life. Drinking 3.2 beers, smoking cigarettes, and laughing all through the hot afternoon. 

Gas had to be cheap, because we would drive around all night on only a few bucks. This big purple monster with wild fins and a push button AM radio and electric windows. Driving up and down Broad Street from Bill's Barbecue to the Clover Room to Tantilla then up to the Village. Always looking for girls. And when we could find a couple, we'd invite them into the wide seats of this huge automobile. Then, as any good adolescent boy, looking for a place to park and "make out". 

Paul was never suave, but he had a Huck Finn type of likeness. He was enjoyable to be around and certainly dependable. He drove me to Williamsburg one night to meet a girl I had met the previous weekend in the Hotel John Marshall. I had given her a call and she invited me down, but we didn't have a date for Paul. So as we picked up Diane, I asked we find a "date" for Paul. She made a few calls and we were off to pick up a damsel for this prince, while I and my lady made out in the back seat. We finally found a young woman for Paul and started off into the night, but I noticed the new young lady was clinging to to the door far away from the driver. I suggested we go to a local eatery to get better acquainted. And so we did, but it didn't help. The two girls would giggle, but the new young woman was differently not interested in Paul. So I convinced him to drive around a little more while my lady and I fogged up the glass, but I soon felt sorry for Paul, so we took both ladies home (goodbye Diane and thank you, I'll never see you again) and head back for Richmond. I felt I had done Paul wrong, but he never regretted the adventure. He reveled in friendship.

After high school our paths separated. I had not contact with him or any of the early band members. 

And a few years ago, I received an email from Paul Little. He saw my name on a web page and traced me down. We sent a few messages back and forth, then there was silence. 

I received an email some days later from Paul's wife. She told me Paul had died of cancer. 

So goodbye old friend. You were a good buddy and gave me lots of energy and comedy. We all live in a '56 Desota.


Rus Wornom said...

This shit sucks, doesn't it? Grab a brew Monday? Tell me your ideas...

Rus Wornom said...

Actually, I think I have a good one for you. And do you really want Word Verification for comments?