Now that I am entering those senior years of my life, I have eased up on a lot of things I used to do. I do miss being able to do some of those things, but others, not so much.
Starting with sports, I have become a fan, not a participant. The last time I actually participated in a sporting event was over 20 years ago when my amateur baseball team was short a player and I stuck myself in right field. I happened to draw a walk and it took every breath I could manage to jog to first base. Wouldn’t you know it, the next guy up got a hit and I had to actually run. After finally rounding the bases and scoring a run, my son and other team members decided they preferred me to be alive as opposed to the alternative. We finished the game with eight players on the field.
When I first started coaching after a 20-year layoff, I would pitch batting practice until I finally threw my arm out. I had shoulder surgery at 60 years of age, but the old throwing motion was never the same. To this day it is difficult to toss a baseball or softball and it takes quite an effort to even shoot a free throw.
One of the things I love to do is go to live music shows. I used to love to go to the big concerts with thousands of other crazies. Over the years, my preference has become listening rooms such as Poor David’s Pub in Dallas and places like John Defore’s Pickin’ Parlor in Mineola when it was in its heyday and presently The Bowery Stage in Winnsboro where you can sit and listen.
Memories of what used to be take me back to those first concert-going days. While a sophomore at W.W. Samuell High School, my first big concert was at Memorial Auditorium in Dallas with the Beach Boys as the headliner. Also on the show was Tommy James and the Shondells who you might remember from their song “Crimson and Clover.” Next was Paul Revere and the Raiders, followed by new-found love of everything Motown and soul music.
In my junior year of high school, good friend Bill Sanderson and I loaded up our dates and ttook off to see the Temptations. Memorial Auditorium was full to the rafters. The Iceman, Jerry Butler, opened the show and stirred the crowd with tunes like “Only the Strong Survive.” The Temptations were better than advertised as they rolled through all their hits and coming back to the stage for the “My Girl” encore.
During my college years, I got a job parking cars at Memorial Auditorium. Part of our job was setting up chairs for the concerts. After setting up the floor, we would head out to the parking lots. After the lots would fill up we got to go in and watch the concerts.
The very first concert I ever worked was Grand Funk Railroad. In their sound check it was so loud, I could not even hear myself think. In the next year or so, I got to work concerts by the Moody Blues, The Who, Jethro Tull, ZZ Topp, Humble Pie, Wishbone Ash, Chicago, Alice Cooper, Gordon Lightfoot, Elton John, Seals and Crofts, Elvis Presley and even Tom Jones.
Outdoor festivals became a big thing. I was able to attend the first two Willie Nelson Fourth of July picnics and a few rock festivals in the area. Over the years my desire to be with thousands of others at a music show has somewhat been tempered by all the trouble you go through today with expensive tickets, overpriced parking and putting up with young drunks.
My years working at Dewey Groom’s Longhorn Ballroom gave me the opportunity to see all the country music greats live. It was at the Longhorn I got to see and appreciate Charley Pride, Merle Haggard, Eddie Rabbit, Ronnie Millsap, Dolly Parton, Conway Twitty, Dottie West, Gary Stewart, Faron Young, Hank Williams Jr., Charlie Daniels and personal favorite, the late Mel Street.
The last big concert for me and my wife was the Rolling Stones in 2016 with 80,000 others at Jerry World and Black Sabbath at Starplex last year. We have been to more intimate settings as the Southside Ballroom in Dallas to see Megadeth and Godsmack , but there were still 1,500 at those shows.
We do like the smaller auditoriums like the 6,000 seat Verizon in Grand Prairie. We were able to see Alice Cooper, Cheech and Chong and Shinedown at those locations. You can actually see and hear with no trouble there and parking is cheap and easy.
There is still nothing like a live music venue. Yes, I would still go to a stadium to see Pink Floyd, Metallica and Willie Nelson, but the preference is a listening room. Sometimes that listening room is my living room and a concert we can find on one of the many opportunities on the television.
Today, I am more likely to have a front row seat and a cup of hot chocolate watching and listening to a choice of just about any of my favorites right there in my living room. Getting older has slowed me down a bit, but it has never silenced my enthusiasm to “Rock On” even if it is in my recliner at home.