(Dear readers, if you have the time, I would greatly appreciate it if you hit the links I have provided. They will provide some insight into this writer.)
My ex-wife (XW) wrote me an email this morning informing me of a reunion of sorts next month in Chicago. The get-together is loosely formed around a group of musicians who performed in the very early eighties under the name David and the Happenings (Front man, David Siegfried is the brother of James Chance of the Contortions and James White and the Blacks). The band was formed in Carbondale, Illinois by students at Southern Illinois University (Memphis Mojo’s and my alma mater). While I won’t be making the trek, it brought back a lot of memories.
As the day I was to matriculate from service to Uncle Sam neared, SIU was on my short list of schools to attend. The school had a Forestry Department that was supposed to be very good, as did the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. I didn’t get accepted at UI for some reason (hmmmm), but SIU was happy to have me, so… Now, while it may not be surprising to those who know me that I would choose such a major, after some discussion with parental units, I was coerced into changing to an area of study with more prospects: Finance. Yeah, that worked out. Me in a suit?
My first semester included a Philosophy 101 course, so I changed my major once again to something even less marketable than Forestry, and I never looked back. And I’ve been strapped for cash ever since.
For what it’s worth, I studied under one of the greatest minds in Contemporary European thought, Garth Gillan, who is still a close friend all these years later. He is also responsible for teaching me to write in a semi-coherent style. (I flunked English in Community College, which was partly the reason I joined the Navy. That and the fact that my draft lottery number was 8.) He also encouraged me to pursue writing poetry, a form of writing of which I was somewhat competent.
According to my Dear Mother, I have been writing poems since I was seven years old. She swears she has some of these scribblings somewhere in a box. I don’t have such memories, however, I have some poetry that I’ve kept from high school; and indeed, whenever a creative writing class was offered, even though the principal’s wife taught it, I took it. I wrote about love, death (no surprise there) and social injustice.
I wrote poetry all through undergraduate school. Philosophy was my major, yet I also managed to squeeze in a minor in French (in order to read the French poets I admired in their native tongue) and English (solely by taking more creative writing classes). I wrote eight hours a day, which may seem like a lot until one takes into consideration that I was also smoking a lot of pot, which cuts down on the amount of actually productive time spent writing. (uhhhhhh). And I fell into a crowd of poets.
It didn’t occur to me until graduate school that I should do something with the poems. (Again, at SIU; and, again the pot.) Yet, other poets I knew were doing public readings and invited me to participate. Pretty soon, I had made a bit of a name for myself around town and on campus, and was even reading at school-sponsored events, which not only provided a larger audience than coffee shop patrons but opened my world to other types of artists, My social group expanded to include painters, filmmakers and musicians.
This was about the same time that Laurie Anderson was making her breakthrough to a wider audience with her performances, plus, I had been familiar with Gil Scott Heron and The Last Poets for several years. I saw great potential in doing similar work, and my new musician friends provided that outlet. I worked with a group called “Entropic” and a morphed version of David and the Happenings that went by the name “Bad Dads.” Heady days long gone, and missed.
So now, someone who I may or may not have met in college has a blog on which he posted memories of seeing David and the Happenings while going to SIU, and I guess folks google what folks google and found his thread. Soon, many of the old crowd are reminiscing in the comments section and a reunion gets planned. Several of the people I worked with have provided email addresses, and after the XW commented, others have asked for my contact info. I posted as well, providing an email address.
While I have maintained contact with some people from that time, I have not had any with those musicians, until today. Rather, I’ve made an overture. Many years ago I heard that there were tapes made of the Bad Dads performances, but the guy who had them, a former D&H member has since passed away. Through the above-mentioned blog, I found the drummer who participated, and have contacted him hoping he might know something. I would love to hear those tapes. And, of course, now that I’ve dropped the names of two bands, I suppose this blog will come up in a google search, and our little private sanctuary will be temporarily overtaken by Salukis, for as Mojo can attest, they’re everywhere.
It will be interesting to see what transpires.