I lost and found Ella

The musical chamber of my heart was aching for a melody which was drifting  around somewhere in my mind space.  At first, a little persistent tune humming its way through.  Then a few melodic phrases; “silver buttons all down her back, to see the elephant jump the fence, she jumped so high she touched the sky.”  Finally, Miss Mary Mack, all dressed in black came streaming from my mouth while the rest of me folded clothes and did numerous chore things.

The voice I tried to imitate when I warbled belonged to a wonderful children’s folk singer from Chicago whose name, for the life of me, I could not recall.  I was however, able to  instantly remember every word to every song from her album which played over and over on the plastic record player when my children were young.  As grandmothers often do, I obsessed over making sure that my grandchildren know this woman and her uniquely warm, giggly, fun, beautiful, interactive, music.

Google and I found her – Ella Jenkins!  Need I say how thrilled I am?  I even found a few YouTube videos of this grand lady, her Website, Facebook page and a picture of the beloved album cover along with how to order the CD on Amazon.com.  It’s times like these that I really love technology.  Guess what my grandchildren are getting for Christmas?

In Love, Broke and Bruce Hornsby

The song, keenly appropriate for two love struck kids with two college loans, one maxed out credit card and one minimum wage job between them. The chorus, “Even though we aint got money, I’m so in love with you honey.” The band, a local group of high school friends from my home town.  The boy on the keyboard in the background, a future rock star.

Ask anyone from Williamsburg, Virginia who the local celebrity is and you will certainly hear, Bruce Hornsby. He is one of a gaggle of Hornsby guys who play at life and play with music and draw in friends who play with them. Bruce has taken the fruit of his legacy, and has made recordings, won a Grammy and performed around the world with every who’s who artist in the business.

On November 10th, Pepper and I celebrate our anniversary and admittedly, I post this picture as evidence to all the folks who may have doubted my claim to have had Bruce Hornsby perform at our wedding, but I’d also like to add him to my play-grand for a loftier purpose and that is to give you a mini-glimpse of his personality.

I have lost contact with many of my old friends since leaving Williamsburg but Bruce made an effort to stay in touch. He came to our home in Milwaukee for a visit while on tour and graciously made wonderful music with our daughter on a badly tuned piano. I am told that he often called on transplanted Williamsburg folks around the country, especially in his early years on the road. I saw him a while back in an airport and he introduced me to his wife and sons with the charm and ease of an old friend and he came by my mom’s house after my Dad’s funeral bringing some much-needed levity by showing us all his signed Jerry Garcia tie.

I am sure that Bruce’s days are filled with family outings, social events, numerous requests and all the glamorous and not so glamorous things that famous people do, which make the few times I’ve seen him over the years even more impressive. It seems to me that notoriety hasn’t changed him all that much. Perhaps the values of a close family, the influence and love of friends and the perspective from being raised and embraced by small caring town help him keep his head on straight, his feet on the ground and his music in the air.


Billy Graham, Elvis and Loretta Lynn

  My husband has an uncanny sense of when to push me and when to back off.  This brings to mind three particular outings.  I confess that many times I respond to his suggestions with a sneer, and then hug his neck afterwards and thank him. 

Now I like Elvis, who doesn’t?  But when Pepper suggested we go to see his concert in the late 70’s, I thought:

  • a.  We don’t have the money
  • b.  He’s way past his prime
  • c.  I grew up with Beatles, Stones, Fleetwood Mac – not Elvis

 I put forth my look of disapproval and he secured the tickets. 

The same scene repeated over a Billy Graham Crusade.  I thought:

  • a.  How much does it cost?
  • b.  We already gave our lives to Jesus
  • c.  If all those  people who come forward actually mean it, wouldn’t we have a much better world?

 And so we witnessed this phenomenon in the flesh and in the spirit at the Hampton Roads  Coliseum.

And just this past weekend, he comes up with, “Would you like to go see Loretta Lynn?”  The first thing out of my mouth was:

  • a. Is she still alive? 
  • b.  Country?
  • c.  We don’t have the money 

So I find myself in the new Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre with some funny-looking people in hats and boots, all geared-up to see the Queen of Country.  And she cast her spell over all of us, appearing in a knock-off of the dress that good-witch Glenda wore in the Wizard of Oz. She walked a little slowly, due to some knee surgery and she had to sit down for most of the show.  The band would start a song and she would say, “I can’t sing that one anymore, never liked it anyway.” 

She mentioned more than once that Nashville committed a  great injustice by denying  Conway Twitty a music award and she would start songs that someone in the band had to take over because (as she kept reminding us ) she was losing her voice.  She told us that when she finished up in Atlanta, she was going to Woodstock and her band corrected her by saying Bonnaroo. ” Whatever.”

But I’m here to tell you that I believed that 79-year-old Grand lady when she told  me  “You Ain’t Woman enough to take my Man”, and I felt  her wrath when her husband  ignored her warning , “Don’t Come Home a drinkin’ with lovin’ on your Mind”  and I stood in awe with everyone else, country soul in tact, when she let us know how proud she is to be a “Coal Miner’s Daughter.