A Very Belated Thank You
I have known people in my life who have lost love ones and parted with unresolved issues. I hadn’t really experienced that. My parents both knew that I loved them as I told them that many times before their passing and we had no underlying animosity whatsoever. I don’t take that for granted.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve begun to recognize other important people I have known...people who, as a result of some action or other, actually changed the trajectory of my life. I’ve taken the opportunity to recognize and thank some of them...in fact, I thought I had pretty much completed that assignment til very recently.
Since music was such an important part of my first 45 years, I’m particularly sensitive to events that shaped my performing career. After all, I met Carol while playing in a band and I think you’d agree, that was an important event. So when I came to terms some time ago that I greatly overachieved in my musical endeavors, I thought the people who assisted me along the way really needed to know how grateful I am. My successes in music, both playing and recording, far outreached my talent. And I know that this is the case because of several key people and several key events.
I very belatedly thanked my old friend Craig Oyer a couple years ago for his support in the very first days of my guitar interest...when we were both 15 years old. Craig was in a band with another friend, Tim Sauder and Jon Berger called “Sound, Inc.” Unbeknownst to me, they had been looking for a rhythm guitarist when I bought a $5 acoustic guitar from John Diggle and began to learn chords and eventually, a couple Beatle songs those first couple weeks. I can’t recall exactly how or when it happened, but I clearly remember Craig saying to me, “If you can learn bar chords and can buy an electric guitar, you can play rhythm in our band.” But he didn’t simply throw out that challenge...he wrote down all the bar chord configurations for me and explained exactly how they were to be played. I still have that tattered piece of paper...a treasured heirloom for me. I’m very glad I was able to tell Craig how important he was to me in those early days. Without his encouragement and support, I may never have continued to work on the guitar and when, after only a couple weeks, I was able to join “Sound, Inc.”, it started me on a path that brought not only great joy to my life, but allowed me to meet some of the most important people in my life. I don’t know if Craig can truly understand what that means to me...though I did try to tell him.
And now to another important person and vital event along my musical road; it was 1984 and I was recently divorced. It was a difficult time for me and as so often has happened, music comforted me and gave me a purpose. I had met Glenn McArdell at work but didn’t realize he was also a musician, having sung lead in the local band, “Foolish Pleasure”. Glenn and I found ourselves together and looking for a third part for what we hoped would be an acoustic guitar, three part harmony band. At that time, my good friend Cary “Parrot” Ripsch was doing a solo act around Pontiac, IL and while searching for the final piece for our band, I obviously approached Parrot to see if he would be interested. He declined, saying that his solo act was working out perfectly and the thought of getting into another band simply didn’t appeal to him. I respected that and Glenn and I kept looking. One Saturday night during that time, Parrot was playing at Bob and Ringo’s and Glenn and I decided to go see him. Sometime during the night, I saw Parrot’s wife Judy so I approached her to say hello. During that conversation, I told Judy that we were trying to get Parrot to join us to form a band but that he had turned us down. I could sense that Judy was a bit disappointed with that news so I decided to “go over” Parrot’s head a bit and solicit Judy’s help in convincing him to reconsider. She said she would do that for me.
A few days later, I got a call from Parrot. He said he’d like to meet Glenn and discuss the offer we had made some weeks earlier to potentially form a three piece band. That was the very beginning of “three-for-all”, a band that began a 15 year run for me, which included the most significant and satisfying times in music for me. Parrot and I never discussed why he changed his mind. But I think I know. I think Judy convinced him somehow, to give our band a chance. Her influence and the resulting events once again changed the course of my life in an incredibly positive way. I met Carol in “three-for-all”. Had I not been in that band, who knows if that would have happened.
I know that Parrot is fully aware of how important he was and is in my life. Glenn knows that about himself as well. All the people I played with to some degree or another, had a hand in how my life turned out. And I know that everyone we meet and interact with in all parts of our lives can have an influence in our lives. Most people know that about themselves. But I never told Judy how important she was to me and I don’t think she knew it. And now I can’t tell her.
On Friday June 28, 2013, Judy Ripsch passed away at age 63. As I write this, I’m struggling to come to terms with just how important that moment back in 1984 was to me and how I wish I had thought to tell Judy that somewhere along the line. It’s a terrible regret that I must now live with.
Most of the people who are important to me occasionally read things we write here on our website. It’s important to me for them to know that I don’t take our relationships lightly and that I appreciate that they have, in some way, also influenced my life in a positive fashion. I hope they know that. But clearly I’ve been remiss in letting some of most influential people know that about themselves. Don’t let it happen to you. If you’ve got a Judy Ripsch or a Craig Oyer in your life, call or write them today and tell them how important they were to you. It’s such a simple thing to do.
Carol and I toasted our kindred spirit Judy’s life on Saturday June 29, 2013 with this South African red. I thought it was an appropriate choice in that we all wear multiple hats in our lives and sometimes we don’t even realize that we’re wearing them. Maybe Judy knows now, the hat she wore for me all those years ago...I pray she does.