Thursday, September 17, 2009
Peter, Paul & Mary and Me
I first *met* Peter, Paul & Mary when I was a green freshman in college at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The monied gals all belonged to Columbia Records Album of the Month Club. You could get their selection or one of your own. Most gals opted for Columbia's selection and so it landed on Peter, Paul & Mary to be the chosen album for September or October 1962, I forget which one, the weather was still nice though. I did not have enough money to buy albums then but got a lot of free listening as most dorm room doors stayed open all of the time.
After college, which involved my moving to Richmond Professional Institute in Richmond, Virginia in my sophomore year as my folks had left Ohio and out of state tuition was pretty steep but more than that my family too far away, I bought every P, P & M album available.
And then, happy day for me, I read that P, P & M are coming to the Mosque, THE venue to be at in Richmond in those years. My apartment and work mate Sherrie and I make plans to go. As the day of the concert approaches our plot thickens. I know the Mosque pretty well. All of our college dances and those of MCV (Medical College of Virginia) were held in the opulent basement ballroom. Concerts of all kinds were held upstairs in the massive domed theater complete with two balconies and box seats. There I saw Bob Dylan, Roger Miller. I weaseled my way into a Sam & Dave concert. The Mosque and I had spent many grand hours together. Back to my P, P & M story. Sherrie & I want to talk to them, meet them, rub shoulders with them after the concert. But we don't want to walk home late at night by ourselves even if our apartment is only a few blocks away. So the afternoon of the concert we park my Carolina blue Volkswagen Beetle, Velma, vintage 1962, in the Mosque proper parking lot. It is legal but there is only room for about a dozen cars.
We are ready! The concert is all that we expect. Just the three of them on that huge stage owning the show. Well there is one more, Dick Kniss, their bass player. He is always introduced but remains well separated from the group even though still on stage. That was it, no fancy lights, good sound but no headsets, acoustic guitars. You know the picture. Simplicity delivering quality music. Then near the end of the sold out concert, Mary announces that as much as they would love to stay and chat, they have to get to Baltimore to catch a plane. They have not one minute to spare. We are all crushed but that was that.
Concert over, Sherrie & I head through the packed crowds thronging the sidewalks. Bumper to bumper traffic clogs the streets surrounding the Mosque. We sigh, we are never going to get out of our tiny parking lot any time soon. Still we forge ahead and beg with Velma's vintage charm to let us out of the lot. Some kind soul does. We are now part of the bumper to bumper traffic. Suddenly a head pops out of the car window in front of us and yells back to me, "Do you know how to get to the interstate?" Sherrie and I gasp! It's Mary!!! P, P & M are (beat) in front of us! They need our help!
"Sure!" I call out. I hand wave them to a quieter side street close by and our cars switch places. I am thinking fast. I never use the interstate much; old car, not much gas, working girl, all spare money spent on music. I think I remember how to get there. We twist and turn through the fan streets. Surely they think I am taking them on a wild goose chase, but what choice do they have? They are trusting...ME!! Completely forgetting about the Belvidere Street on ramp only minutes from the Mosque, I am taking them to the Boulevard Street ramp. It really is fine though because they will have lost no time, we're going in the right direction. We get to Broad Street, only a few blocks more to the Boulevard and I-95. We need to turn left. There is a lit no left turn signal. I wave to them to turn anyway as I am doing, certain a cop is going to ticket us any minute even though there is absolutely no traffic anywhere. We are lucky. No cop, interstate ahead. We scoot onto the on ramp, as they do. They wave as they zoom past us in their snappy new car that can move. We consider following them. But, we have no gas, we have a pathetic car for a chase, we go home. We cannot let it go. A few hours later, we have a plan. We call the Baltimore airport and explain that we need to page Mary Travers. We have a message for her. They page her (this is 1967). Mary comes to the phone, surely thinking something is wrong with her family. No, it's the crazy girls from Richmond. How can we get in touch with you? She is civil. She gives us an address. That's our Mary.
After Donny and I got married we saw them together in Richmond and we even chatted with Mary through the window of her dressing room. Us outside in that same tiny parking lot standing on tip toe on the loading ramp that let you get fairly close to the barred window. Close enough to shout.
We took the kids to see them before we moved to North Carolina, again at the Mosque.
And we saw them one more time at Wolf Trapp in Virginia in the mid 90's. Donny has the cool story this time. He hung out with Paul, for real. I was taking a cranial-sacral training course and as P, P & M were going to be in town we had gotten tickets to the concert. Donny had time on his hands while I was in class. Here is his story about how he spent that time...with Paul Stookey! "In one of the local handout papers I read that Paul was teaching a songwriting class the afternoon before the concert, and I went to it!! There were only 5 or 6 other people there, and mostly we just talked about music." Can you imagine? You and Paul and a handful of other people, sitting around talking about music. How cool is that!
I love you Peter, Paul & Mary. I love the tiny road we traveled together.