The Days Dwindle Down...At left is me (Dan Martin) and my friend and Blue Velvets co-founder John Douglass playing at a Kansas University off-campus bar in 1961. At right we're playing, at the end of 1963, in some south Kansas City school gym. During those two or so years, John decided to play bass, we lost a guitar player to marriage, and we gained a vocalist and a sax man. We lost the white sport coats along the way too - but was that really a loss? John and I had been friends since 1953. Now fast-forward our lives 50+ years...
My wife Sheryl and I visited John and his wife Cathy one cold Friday evening in January 2005. That was the last time we were to see him alive - at least on this earth. Lung cancer, spawn of the Evil Weed, had so weakened him that he could no longer carry the weight of his bass guitar. In only seven more months the mutant cells would claim his life. I wanted to celebrate all the times he and I shared with this final tribute to a true friend and bring to a final close, The Band Days. Here are the two of us that chilly Friday night, reunited in our Last - at least on this earth - Jam Session.
John was always a rock-solid member of the band. He never missed a gig - not even the one that began only hours after his father died. I never heard him complain. Even in the final weeks before his own death, John was always upbeat, always positive. He was a real soldier and a real friend.
The Day The Music Died...His best friends called him Duckie. This was an affectionate nickname that he acquired from a group consisting of him, me, and two others: Tim and Bob. We took turns driving to and from high school every day between 1954 and 1958. For those four glorious years the four of us were almost inseparable. At left, all but Bob are shown in our high school senior pictures (1958) and at our 35th class reunion (1993). At right the three survivors, including Bob, are pictured on that sad day in August 2005 when Duckie was laid to his final rest. He leaves behind Cathy, three grown children, and all of us who loved him. We miss you, man, and lovingly dedicate Mariah Carey's One Sweet Day to you and my late son Scott.
Although I always selected most of the songs on our revolving Play List, it was Duckie who discovered (in his precious Fake Books) the haunting Leonard Bernstein tune Some Other Time. At first I was indifferent to the song, but Duckie persisted and it was soon added to the show. Here it is, digitized directly from our 1964 Blue Velvets 45 rpm master recording, Some Other Time [1 Mb .mp3]. That will be Duckie you hear playing the fabulous bass lines on his 1963 Fender Jazz Bass. Some Other Time has since been recorded by many artists, including Maureen McGovern (Another Woman in Love - 1987), Tony Bennett (The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album - 2006), and Frank Sinatra (Frankie Goes to Hollywood - rereleased 2005).
Once you hear the Some Other Time lyrics you'll know why I am so thankful for, and get so emotional when I hear, this beautiful song. Be sure to download the .mp3 above (or by clicking here). If you like it too I hope you will give a nod of thanks and appreciation to my late friend John "Duckie" Douglass. I'm sure he will be pleased.
The Waning Years...
In October 2006, Cathy was kind enough to give me all of John's instruments: two bass guitars (a Fender and a Carvin), plus his old 1960 Wards Airline 6-string (S/N: T 44538). This last I treasure above all, as he bought it to play in our fledgling band, originally known as the Countdowns (it would be a year before our name Blue Velvets came to be).
These two pix show John and his Airline then (1960) and me and his Airline now (2006). As you can see, the Airline has held her age far better than I. You also see John and his Airline in the first picture, way top left. When I first held her, she was not in playable condition. Her volume and tone controls were rough and noisy, her strings were slack and rusted, and the rollers on her Bigsby whammy-tail were siezed up and missing some screws. I have now completely restored this classic lady and added a modern tune-o-matic bridge for perfect string intonation. Now she is singing sweet and clear and strong again, just like John would want her to. Speaking of strong, any one of those three chunky Airline pickups is potent enough to jumpstart a diesel in deep winter, and their snarl would send a Bengal tiger into cardiac arrest.
Vanity bids me offer "Fender and me" as we were in 1960. That's a portrait of my sister in the background, painted by our mom in 1958. In late 2003 I gave the same Fender Jazzmaster guitar (along with matching 1960 Fender Concert Amp) to my son Steven so he could add them to his own guitar collection. Steven also has several of his late brother Scott's guitars and amps. These fine old instruments may be relics of another age, but they can still stand proudly as weapons of choice on any musical battlefield of today.
On the left is me and one of my finest, a 1995 Carvin AE185 (acoustic/electric) guitar (S/N: 25793). On the far right is a centerfold (late 2006) of my entire troupe. Which one of them is my favorite? Well, the lyrics of the song To All The Girls I've Loved Before come to mind...
By the way, John's 1978 Carvin CB100 Bass Guitar (S/N: 07743 - second from back-left, above) is a perfect mate to my own 1978 Carvin CM130 6-string guitar (S/N: 07751 - second from back-right, above). By the closeness of their Serial Numbers, these two instruments are virtual brothers, as were John and I. At far left above you can see we are playing them in our last face-to-face meeting on this troubled planet. See you later bro, maybe in the heavenly Night Shift. Like the song once said... "Rock 'n Roll never forgets."
Thanks to Carvin Museum for historical info!NOTE: Dan's Carvin guitars and amp are given several nice pictures and writeups in the Carvin Museum here, here too, and here three.
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