ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD
A serial memoir by Jean Fogelberg
Among our many differences was Dan’s ability to ignore criticism and unsolicited feedback. If he asked for your opinion he would listen carefully and consider your advice; otherwise, you were just white noise to be turned down. When I told him what my grandmother always said, “Free advice is worth what you paid for it,” he loved it. She gave me that advice because I’d always cared far too much about the opinions of others, constantly bending this way and that to try to please everyone.
Dan didn’t believe all rules should be followed, while I’d spent my entire life trying not to break any of them. When we went to a gallery or museum, he would start at the first painting in the room and move methodically from one painting to the next. I would zoom through the entire floor, looking for the special pieces I wanted to go back to and examine at length. Sometimes we’d land in front of the same piece and quietly discuss brush strokes, color and light. Dan would reach his long arm over the barrier cord to gesture and point as he spoke. I'd gently tug on his arm when his hand got too close to the painting, mortified if a guard approached to caution him, which happened on more than one occasion.
We were both avid film lovers who could watch our favorites again and again, and Dan was never too macho to admit that he liked My Fair Lady as much as The Godfather trilogy. When we watched movies together, I laughed at pratfalls until it hurt, while he just smiled. Dan laughed uproariously at subtle academic references and I had to ask what they meant.
He was into sports and I was into computers; he taught me to ski and I taught him to surf the web. We both loved books and music. Dan read everything, but mostly biography and history; I read mostly thrillers and mysteries. He listened to Mozart, Grieg and Bach and I listened to Earth, Wind & Fire, but our common ground was classic rock and the Beatles.
Interests and preferences aside, we were surprised to learn of the many similar experiences in our early lives.
When he was twelve years old, Dan happened upon an old Hawaiian guitar in a closet at his grandparents’ house. It had hula dancers painted on it and a rope strap and Dan, a fan of Buddy Holly and Elvis, was impressed. “Wow, Poppy, you have a guitar!” he said.
“Oh, that old thing,” Poppy said, “you can have it if you want it.”
The action was much too high and the strings far too heavy for a twelve-year-old’s small hands. Dan didn’t know that though, so he persevered until he was able to press hard enough to make the chords sound good. Only then did he discover that it was actually a Hawaiian slide guitar - meant for playing, not with fingers, but with a metal slide. By then his hands were strong and he had major callouses.
Dan and his friends, David Backstrom and Johnny Mabee, decided to perform at their Cub Scout Jamboree. With mops on their heads, they lip-sync’d to the Beatles’ song, “Please, Please Me.” Their fellow cub scouts bobbed to the music and applauded wildly at the end. The boys were stoked, and Dan told David, “We have to learn to do this for real.”
The first Beatles song Dan learned to play was “All My Loving.” He learned it off the record, using a Mel Bay chord book. It was in the key of A minor, which Dan thought was the greatest chord ever.
He and David learned a few more Beatles songs by listening to the records and figuring out, not just the chords, but the catchy guitar intros as well. Their voices blended perfectly. David took the John Lennon parts and Dan took Paul McCartney’s. They progressed quickly and started rehearsing with Johnny, whose parents bought him drums. Poppy’s guitar didn’t have the right sound, so Dan borrowed David’s acoustic and David played an electric guitar his parents bought him. Eventually Dan switched to lead guitar and David played the acoustic. Having mastered the cumbersome Hawaiian slide guitar, Dan’s fingers flew over the sleek, lightweight electric guitar strings.
Johnny and David’s parents loved the band and allowed them to rehearse in their basements. They played their first public performance in 1966, for their 8th grade graduation party at Glen Oak Grade School. An old Crystal mic borrowed from Dan’s bandleader father was taped to a mic stand and everything was run through a small amplifier. With just a few Beatles songs, the whole mood of the party went from an uptight punch and cookies party in the gym to a rock concert. All the kids came up to the stage, just like on the Ricky Nelson show. It was a hallelujah moment for Dan. The three of them were mostly thought of as “sports guys,” but after they played those songs, the kids they’d grown up with their whole lives suddenly looked at them differently. Especially the girls.
Two weeks later they agreed to play at a street dance for one of David’s neighbors. It was their first paying gig, and they realized they were going to need more songs. By the night of the neighborhood party the boys had put together almost two hours of music, mostly Beatles songs. Next, the parents of a classmate hired them to play for his birthday party. They performed in the basement recreation room, with a tall pole lamp for lighting. A country club party followed.
After that, the gigs started pouring in. That summer, they added Joe Schenkle on bass. Joe had a big Fender Bassman amp with four inputs, so Dan and David could run their guitars through it and use the other amp for vocals. Initially, that was the reason they let Joe join the band, but he turned out to be a pretty good bass player.
The boys were playing a lot now, but they couldn’t perform in Peoria because they were too young to join the local union. Instead, they rented halls in nearby towns, advertised and sold tickets. David, Johnny, and Joe’s parents drove them to the gigs, took tickets and money at the door, kept an eye on things, then drove them back home. Dan’s parents weren’t crazy about all the time he was devoting to the band; but as long as his grades didn’t suffer, they didn’t interfere.
They were making good money now so David bought a Silvertone amplifier from Sears and Dan bought a Shure microphone. They named the band The Clan because both Dan and Johnny were of Scottish descent. Dan painted a Scottish tartan logo and, for a while, they draped tartans around the stage, but that didn’t last long.
After all the years of ignoring girls in grade school, the boys finally decided that girls were cool. In no time at all, the whole band had girlfriends. Dan was seeing Val Thompson, a cute girl who went to an uptown school across town. The band and their girlfriends all got together to watch The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in someones’ basement. It was the first time any of them had seen the lads from Liverpool perform, and they were blown away. It was an inspiring night for the boys - especially for Dan, who got his first kiss.
The band entered the Heart of Illinois Fair and won, enabling them to go on to compete in the Battle of the Bands at the Illinois State Fair. They were up against many professional adult bands and they were one of the few bands doing original songs (Dan’s songs.) They won second place and it went to their heads a bit.
Wayne Scott was a friend of Dan’s from his neighborhood and a big fan of the band. He became their manager, booking gigs and taking care of equipment rentals. David and Johnny were preoccupied with girls and their new-found fame, so Wayne and Dan were handling most of the band business.
Dan’s father, Larry, didn’t want him to join the local union - he felt the boys were too young. But The Clan wanted to play their home town, Peoria, so he relented. They went to a meeting of the union and signed up over coffee and donuts, and Dan never missed a dues payment.
Larry Fogelberg would have preferred that his son play piano or a wind instrument; Dan and his two older brothers had reluctantly taken piano lessons for a few years at their parents’ insistence. And yet, when Dan went to him, saying he needed his own electric guitar for the band, Larry took Dan to Bill Hill’s music store. Dan saw an imitation Stratocaster made by Kent and fell in love with it. They bought the guitar and a ten-inch, single speaker amplifier. Dan felt like it was the greatest day of his life.
Larry had one condition though: lessons. A classically trained musician himself, he believed that to master an instrument one needed training. So, Dan started taking one-hour lessons every Saturday morning, and at night he played with the band. This went on for two months.
Greg Williams was the hottest guitar player in Peoria. He and his band were playing at the Coop one night when Dan and some friends went in to hear them. The big Beatles’ hit at the time was “I Feel Fine,” with its feedback and iconic intro riff. No one Dan knew could figure out how to play the intro. Greg Williams played it that night and Dan watched him long enough to get the general idea, then he ran home to learn it. The next morning, he was practicing the riff when his guitar teacher walked in a bit late. “Hey!” the teacher said, “Will you show me how to play that?” Later that day, Dan told Larry he was spending money for Dan to teach the teacher, and the lessons were done.
The Clan left middle school as boys; they entered Woodruff High as card-carrying rock stars with girlfriends and money. They played at the Homecoming Dance. Dan was elected Class President and was excelling in the drama club. He was on top of the world, with many mountains yet to conquer.
My freshman year at Cabrillo Senior High School did not go well. I opened my locker in between classes one day to find a small triangle of tightly folded paper lying on top of my things. It had been pushed through the vent at the top of the metal door, a common method of note delivery. I smiled and unfolded it, looking forward to something funny from one or both of my two best friends. It was from both of them, but it wasn’t funny; it was brief and to the point: “We don’t want to be your friends anymore. Don’t try to hang out with us,” and it was signed by both girls.
I had to read it a few times before the words made sense. Feeling completely exposed, I wondered if they were standing together somewhere, watching to see my reaction. I wanted to crawl inside the locker and pull the door closed.
The thing is, I wasn’t really surprised that they’d dumped me; I was actually amazed that they hadn’t done it sooner. They were both pretty, funny, and clever and I’d felt like the dull sidekick ever since fifth grade. What hurt was the way they’d done it, and the fact that I hadn’t seen it coming.
Terribly shy, I was treading water in a sea of occupied lifeboats now, just trying to stay afloat. Walking into the cafeteria alone was torture. My attempts to mask my anxiety only ensured my solitude. Sitting alone, I’d pretend to be fascinated by something in my notebook. I’d smile and laugh softly to myself to show what a fine time I was having on my own. Every effort to look normal probably just made me look weirder.
One day I was running to my locker to put my books away before a pep rally. I was wearing a straight, knee-length skirt that made it hard to run. Passing a group of kids going the other way, I altered my stride in an attempt to look graceful. It backfired. In a move that would have made Buster Keaton proud, I tripped on my own feet and went flying through the air, skidding to a stop in the bushes and litter next to the snack bar.
I don’t blame the kids for laughing; I love pratfalls too, but at the time I just wanted to lie there and die, like the cursed heroine in a Tennyson poem. After a while they would notice that I wasn’t moving. They’d come over and hesitantly nudge my lifeless body. “Go get the nurse!” they’d shout, overcome with guilt for laughing. It was an oddly comforting image: an urban Lady of Shalott, washed up on a concrete shore amongst books and empty Cheetos bags.
I enrolled in Drama because I loved movies. Our teacher, Mr. Haupt, was putting together an evening of entertainment for the school. We could perform by ourselves or do small scenes together. I thought about performing with my guitar but I didn’t have the nerve, even though I’d been playing for two years by then.
My grandmother had given me her old Hawaiian ukulele when I was eleven. It had a hula girl under a palm tree painted on it and a strap made of twisted black and white strings. A year later, I borrowed a guitar and started teaching myself to play with a Mel Bay Chord Book. The first chord I learned was E minor, simply because it was the easiest looking chord in the chart. My parents bought me a Conn classical guitar for Christmas and I loved it. The neck was wide for my small hands, but I got used to it and before long I was writing sad songs full of adolescent angst.
No one in Drama class asked me to do a scene with them, so I decided to lip-sync to Bobbie Gentry’s big hit, “Fancy.” I couldn’t have chosen a more difficult song; the words are sung so fast, and the cadence is very irregular. I loved the song though, and it seemed like a good story to act out. Practicing in front of the mirror in my bedroom for hours on end, I worked up hand gestures and mouthed the lyrics until it all became second nature.
On the night of the show I stood backstage and watched my talented classmates perform. They all seemed so natural; so relaxed. I felt sick to my stomach and was having a hard time breathing. When my name was announced, I walked on trembling legs to my spot on the stage. The theater felt vast and, as I hit my mark and waited for the music to start, it grew quiet. The spotlights were warm, like distant suns, and I could see nothing in the darkness beyond their glow. This was a happy surprise, and I relaxed a bit; I’d been dreading seeing the faces in the audience.
The record started and the ominous, opening guitar chords hit my veins. I began to dance, a little self-consciously at first but, once the drums kicked in, the rhythm and music moved me. All the practice paid off - the lyrics and hand gestures came naturally. I was beautiful Bobbie Gentry, singing on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, TV cameras zooming in on me, and kids swaying in front of the stage at my feet. All too soon, it was me singing the last words of the final chorus. The horns played their closing refrain and I gave a quick little bow.
Like rain in a season of drought, the applause started with a few staccato drops and grew. It washed through me like first love.
I’d performed at summer camp and in front of my mother’s friends; Honey, get your guitar and play something for us. None of it compared to the glory of standing under those theater lights and being baptized by a wave of acceptance and approval from the audience. That was my hallelujah moment.
Besides asking his closest friends what they thought of me, Dan had been doing research, trying to find more clues about my personality. These days he would have turned to the internet, but the only resource materials he could come up with then were Astrology books. Most of them made Scorpios sound like sex maniacs, which didn’t exactly put him off. Our charts look like a yin yang symbol - Dan’s planets congregate on the bottom, mine on the top. I’m a Scorpio (water) and Dan was a Leo (fire); I cooled him down and he fired me up.
He could be moody sometimes, that’s for sure, but it wasn’t a deal breaker for me. When I was growing up, my parents hid the occasional disagreement from me and my two younger sisters. I could always sense the tension between them though, and it confused and frightened me. So, Dan’s moods didn’t disturb me; it was actually a relief to be with someone who couldn’t hide his feelings. My first husband would walk out the door at the slightest escalation in a discussion, and my second made his own position clear and nothing I said afterwards would get through to him. Dan snarled a bit but then he was willing, with a little encouragement, to talk, listen, and work things out. I could totally live with that.
Dan’s parents had been much like mine: they never would have argued in front of the kids. But Dan’s marriages had been volatile, with screaming arguments and angry silences that could go on for days. While I was the same physical type as his ex-wife, Anastasia, we were very different emotionally. She was, by all accounts, a talkative extrovert. I tend to be a contemplative introvert, unless I’ve eaten a lot of sugar.
This basic difference was revealed one day when Dan and I were on a long drive across Colorado, heading to an event in Vail. I was looking out the window, enjoying the scenery and listening to the music on the radio, lost in my thoughts. Dan turned the radio down and, a bit defensively, asked, “Are you mad at me?” I blinked at him in surprise, jolted out of my reverie.
“No, of course not, why in the world would I be mad at you?”
“I don’t know, you’re just being so quiet.”
“Oh,” I stammered, “well, I…just don’t have anything to say right now.”
He glanced at me briefly, then looked back at the road. In a moment he let out a big sigh and, taking my hand, he said, “Glory Hallelujah.”
Posted June 20th. 2020 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2020