Abject failure was my ultimate reality check. 50 years ago!

One of this week’s highlights has been to visit with two friends I hadn’t seen since high school days.  Actually we were neighborhood friends who shared more than a few juvenile indiscretions.   I had not sat down and visited with these guys for around 45-50 years.  We were all now retired.  Mark Manuel had worked as a high school teacher/counselor in Alaska while Jerry Sweet and I followed similar paths, sales.  We shared many stories; however, the story that struck a deep chord with myself was as follows.

We  formed an eighth grade garage band The Skallywags.  The end result was more than a little interesting.  This adventure found us on a stage for our inaugural gig at  a dance at Princeton High School.  The evening started out great, we were very cool, in our opinions, and then the show began.  At first we surveyed the crowd from our perch on the stage and then the real fun began, a life-lesson I have never forgotten!

Our first tune was the famous McCoy’s hit “Hang on Sloopy”, it was well received although we stretched the song to around 30-minutes.  Next we played the, at the time, the salacious tune “Louie, Louie”.  By the time we finished it was time for a break and we felt great.  After a short break we returned with another classic, either Midnight hour or Little Latin Loopy Lou.  Whatever the third tune was it didn’t make any difference, because we were at the end of our rehearsed songs!  The third song was also stretched and when we finished we all realized we didn’t know what to do next.  It was time for a break.  When we returned, I thought I had an answer for the somewhat unruly crowd and it went something like this….

Thanks folks and now we would like to play a request. ”  At that point we fired up Hang on Sloopy once again.  We were almost drowned out with booing and people expressing their dissatisfaction.  I also can related to The Blues Brothers at Country Bob’s and the need for chicken wire in front of the band, unfortunately we did not have this type of protection.

To say we were embarrassed was a obivous understatement.  Although I learned several important lessons of life:

  1. You have to stick together when your shit goes south.
  2. What preparation and practice was all about!
  3.  We were not as cool as we thought.
  4. You often have to experience abject failure for the ultimate reality check.

The first show did humble us and although this travesty occurred around 50-years ago, I have “Hang On Sloppy” on several of my iTunes playlists.  Hearing this song drags me back to the stage of humiliation every time.  It also brings a smile to my face nearly everytime.  Whenever I thought I was in a bad place, all I had to do was hum that tune to myself.  Just about everything faded in perspective to that night.

While having a cup of coffee with our drummer, Mark Manuel and Jerry Sweet yesterday.  It was very interesting to see that we were all now retired.  Mark had devoted his life to teaching in Alaska and Jerry, as myself, wound up as salesmen.  While we didn’t discuss it, I think that song likely did a humility check for all of us!

And so I say now, “Hang on Sloopy, Hang on.  Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.”  Never thought this song would stick in my brain for 50 years!  Would have liked a tune like “It’s a long way to the top (if you want to rock and roll)” as a lifetime theme song, but that was not to be.

Too bad I didn’t know how to play bagpipes and that I had very little musical talent.  Rather I became a salesman to get to my own top, it’s still a long way to the top if you know what I mean.

At the very least, while taking a triple-shot of chemotheraputic poison for the first time, Hang on Sloopy still brought a smile to my face.  Very glad that part of my life is over!

Sometimes remembering a failure is the best motivation you can find.

Anyway just about time to head home to Las Vegas, enjoyed this trip of Normal, Illinois.  Great fall weather and also great to see old friends again.  Traveling back to Houston the first of November for, hopefully, a positive scan.


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