Home Stretch

The last week of my “gigantic tour” took me to Memphis, St. Louis, Champaign-Urbana, and Kalamazoo. It felt good to be back in the Midwest. I enjoy those grand prairie views and the endless sky.

I left Dallas on Tuesday morning, October 30. After a swing through Fort Worth (“Cowtown”), I made it as far as Texarkana before bedding down at a local roadside establishment. It sounded like semi trucks were roaring past, six inches from my motel room door, all night long. I kind of dug it…

On Halloween, I made my way to Memphis, arriving around 4 p.m. I went to supper with my friends Cecelia and Philip at a wonderful and funky BBQ place. I think “Memphis” means “BBQ” in ancient Egyptian… I went next to Cafe Cabana for my evening gig. This was the last show booked on the tour, on fairly short notice, so there was a limited amount of time to get the word out. Another small but appreciative audience as a result, but I was glad to do it. Good to see my old buddy Andy Cohen and the others who made the effort to come out on trick-or-treat night. No matter what, Memphis is a fun town!

Thursday, November 1, I drove five hours up the Mississippi to St. Louis. The Focal Point is a classy venue, and I really enjoyed playing there. It was especially nice to see so many old friends there. My old college buddy Charlie Blood – I hadn’t seen him in 30 years!

My niece Jessica, musical friends Jim Nelson, Dedo Norris, Rush McAllister, Bill Rintz, Mel Besher, and several others came to the show. It did my heart good to see them all! After the show, a few of us stayed up talking and visiting at the home of Geoff Seitz and his wife, Valerie. These St. Louis people sure can tell a good story, and they love to laugh! After spending the night at Geoff and Val’s, I stopped at Geoff’s violin shop for a visit before hitting the road. There must be more than 200 violins in this place!

Geoff has been building, repairing, and selling violins for more than 25 years. He’s a talented man.

From St. Louis, I got on the long, flat road to Champaign-Urbana – my old stomping grounds. I was a student here at the University of Illinois from 1972-75, then returned to live here from 1976-78. A lot of memories tied up in this town, most of them worth keeping. I was in town for the Champaign-Urbana Folk & Roots Festival, and what a cool festival it was! A highlight Friday evening was catching a late-night set from songwriter and guitarist Robbie Fulks and his trio. I can’t recall when I have been more entertained!

My festival activities were on Saturday, November 3 – my birthday! I started with a yodeling workshop, followed by a workshop on the songs of Hank Williams.

My evening concert set went very well. I was pleased to be introduced by my old college pal Joe Grohens, who gave me a big build-up. (Thanks, Joe!) It was also nice to have my sisters Rose and Barb in the audience, along with niece Briana, nephew Phil, Phil’s wife Elizabeth, and Rose’s friend Maureen. They came to wish me happy birthday! We, along with Joe and his friend Carlotta, went out for supper at Papa Del’s Pizza. I think “Champaign-Urbana” is Egyptian for “pizza”… I had a wonderful birthday, surrounded by friends and family and doing what I love. I am grateful.

Sunday, November 4, I drove to Kalamazoo for my final show on this tour. I was greeted by a house full of people playing old-time music. Sweet!

I was also greeted by my sister Sue and her daughter Alexus, who drove all the way from Chicago to be here, to hear the show, and wish me happy birthday. I have an awesome family!

The show went well, although I was a bit sad to realize that it was the final set of this wonderful tour. There will be more shows, more music, more adventures. And at least one more blog, after I finally get home tomorrow night. Whew!

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3 thoughts on “Home Stretch

  1. Glad you made it back to the mighty Midwest! Wow, Robbie Fulks & Papa Del’s in one weekend — that must have been sweet. A memorable birthday. I’ll be looking forward to the final blog installment when you are back in West Virginia.

  2. Wonderful set in Kalamazoo Sunday night. You do have a great family, John! Thanks for going through all you did to make such a memorable evening possible.

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