Making Music

Posted by on Jul 11, 2011

A couple recently told me that playing cribbage was part of their secret to a long, happy marriage.

After being married for thirty years, “there are only so many TV shows you can share,” said Tim and B.C. as we sat with crisp, cool drinks in hand, waiting out the heat of the summer afternoon in the air conditioned lobby before they head to Summerfest.

Tim’s dad used to play with the grandkids, as a way of bonding with them.  A few years ago, during a family reunion over the Fourth of July weekend, Grandpa sat in the lobby with seven grandkids clustered around him, learning the game.  His German relatives played a particularly cutthroat version where if a player missed points, the opponent got to pick them up.  Ouch.  I bet those kids can peg a mean score as a result.

When not playing cribbage, the family took a “nostalgia tour” of Marquette, where Tim and his sisters and parents all went to school.  They went to Summerfest, watched the Big Bang fireworks, and generally hung out in the Pfister’s lobby – “the best in the world.”  Tim’s sister apparently commented on the infamous Bloody Mary that’s served here, garnished with the usual veggies and also some Wisconsin sausage, “it’s a meal!”

These two, Tim sporting a blue Hawaiian short and B.C. bedecked in gold earrings and a big smile, are regulars to the hotel because of its proximity to Summerfest, for which they are in town.  Just up from the Northwest side of Chicago where they live, Tim and B.C. are huge music buffs.  They unashamedly admit that it might surprise people to know they are most excited about seeing Milwaukee’s own homegrown cover band, The Toys.  Though, they’re hoping to catch Michelle Branch after The Toys’ show is over.  We scan the entire 10-days’ lineup together, and they both remark over the classic rock stage headliners.  It’s a true tribute to the genre with (deep breath) Hall&Oates,REOSpeedwagon,Styx,BlueOysterCult,Cinderella,PeterFrampton,KansasLeon RussellandAmerica (exhale)!

I share a story about picking up America by America on vinyl when I was a kid.  Tim, clearly trying to get a handle on what year I might refer to when I say ‘kid,’ asks, “was that the only way you could music when you were ‘a kid’?”  No, cassettes were also big at that time, though eight-tracks could also still be found.  B.C. pipes up, “I never really cared for America.  Their sound was ‘too nice’ – I like music with a little more edge.”

They banter back and forth briefly about what this might mean and, somehow, this triggers a story from Tim about George Harrison’s song, “While my Guitar Gently Weeps.”  He recalls reading it in an issue of Rolling Stone Magazine: Apparently, Harrison brought his song to McCartney and Lennon, who poo-poo’ed it.  A short while later, Harrison was giving Eric Clapton a ride home and asks if Clapton will come in and play the song.  Clapton replies, “No, can’t do it.”  Harrison asks, “Why not?”  Clapton answers, “You’re the Beatles, you don’t do guest musicians.”  But, he’s ultimately convinced, goes into the studio and records the song.  A while later, Harrison, McCartney and Lennon get into one of their tiffs and Harrison storms off.  McCartney turns to Lennon and says “If he doesn’t come back by Tuesday, get Clapton!”

Milwaukee: Where the Music is

Another couple, over glasses of wine, also regales me with music tales while they wait for a friend.  They’re here to hit up Sugar Land and Bobby Friss, and used to come to town from Madison to play the local slots when they were part of a band.  Their stories, as musicians, are juicier, and not quite suitable for public consumption but were just the sort of amusement that gets shared between drinks with other music aficionados this time of year.  They briefly lament the local bands not getting good coverage or time slots any more, so I throw two names for them to check out – local bands who they’ll be sad to have missed, but who both made good impressions at the Big Gig this year: Wil Phalen & the Stereo Addicts and Juniper Tar.

If there’s one thing Milwaukee doesn’t have a shortage of these days, it’s really good local bands making really good music.

Meanwhile, girls in matching shorts, tanks and cowboy hats stroll by, arms linked.  Britney Spears is playing the Marcus Amphitheater tonight, and I’m guessing that’s where they’re headed, though they could surprise us all and show up to sing along as America belts out “Ventura Highway,” in the fading sunshine.

%d bloggers like this: