Posted tagged ‘bluegrass stories’

Memories of Charlie Waller

December 2, 2008

        Charlie Waller (of ‘Fox on the Run’ fame for non-bluegrassers) and the Country Gentlemen used to do a song called ‘Remembrance of You.’  I have it on a recording somewhere, but couldn’t find it.  My vinyl collection is a pre-IPOD disorganized jumble.  It’ll turn up, though.

        He didn’t do a  bad version of it, but my favorite was his last band’s rendition.  My Marfar and I and I had been married for decades when we’d go hear that band play, but we snuggled up like high school kids when he’d sing that one.  It was of many of ‘our songs’ over the years.  

        I thought about Charlie on my lunch hour yesterday.  I was at Johnny’s Jewelry and Pawn, our local music store, and some lady came up to me and asked me if was Tommy Bibey.

        “Yes, Ma’am.  Pleased to meet you.”

        “Didn’t you play with Charlie Waller?”

        “Oh no ma’am, at least not professionally.  I did go out on the road with him some though.  I’d ride the bus with the band to Lucketts School in Virgina.  Charlie sat up front and we picked and sang all the way home.”  It was a fond memory for sure.

        “He had the voice didn’t he?”

        “No doubt.”

        “I knew Charlie when he was young.”  She was on towards elderly, but had an impish cute teenager’s smile.  “Did you know he lived on a boat for a while?”

        That got my attention.  She had to be legitimate.  Charlie used to live on a boat in Washington DC in the 50’s.  He and Eddie Adcock shared the rent there a few years.  Charlie’d look out over the traffic on the bridge and say (paraphrased)  “Eddie, don’t you feel sorry for all those people who have to go to work every day?”  It was the era right before Eddie’s stint as a California rock and roll musician under an assumed name.  This lady was real.

        “How’d you know Charlie?”

        She smiled.  “I worked at the Smithsonian, and had a DC apartment.  My gerbil died.  I hated to just throw it out in the trash, and there wasn’t anywhere to bury it.  Charlie invited me out to the boat.  He played the guitar and sang ‘Amazing Grace,’ and we buried the gerbil at sea.  

        “Dang ma’am.  That must have been the best gerbil funeral in the history of the world.”

        “Yes it was.  Charlie had the best voice right up to the day he died.”

        “He sure did.  I got in a session with him at a place called the Bomb Shelter not six months before his death.  Some folks from England were there that night and said it was the best jam session they’d ever been in.”

       I grabbed a guitar off the wall, and we broke into ‘Fox on the Run.’  Johnny joined in and we did it as a trio.  I wish we’d had another- the tune is always better with four foxes instead of three.

        But I really wish Charlie had been there.  What a singer.  He was one of the best.

Dr. B