This is part of a series, Scene from a Memoir.
What’d You Do with the Money?
“A long long time ago
I can still remember how
That music used to make me smile
The bar had everything a dive should have: rows of motorcycles lined up out front, cheap drinks, locals who didn’t care who came in, a dearth of other college students, and a band, Gopherbroke, of two guys we got to know who appeared regularly. The last place on the left of a dead end street, the bar was called Rosie O’Grady’s, and when the band sang the line, “Goodbye to Rosie” from “Me and Julio Down by the Seaside,” they always got a special cheer.
I was in college, living off-campus in a dingy three-bedroom apartment that a roommate and I rented with a rotating cast of women who shared the third bedroom.
“And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while
One time when the band was between sets stands out in my memory. I wasn’t known for calling attention to myself back then either, but somehow or other I started singing verse after verse of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” During the slow intro to the song, I got a few chuckles. People around me decided to wait me out as I encouraged them to join in.
“But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step
I should probably mention at this point that I cannot sing. I am not being modest.
“I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
My friends at my table and one other guy joined in for the first chorus.
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die
With each verse and chorus, more and more people joined in. When I stumbled on the words, people at other tables filled in the gaps. By the time we got to the end of this long song, pretty much the whole room was singing the song with gusto. We gave ourselves a big round of applause.
A few minutes later I was still feeling exuberant from this great communal experience. A guy came up to our table and asked me, “What’d you do with the money?”
“What?” I was mystified.
“What’d you do with the money,” he repeated.
I took the bait. “What money?” I asked.
“The money that your mother gave you for singing lessons.”
That brought me down fast.
This story was inspired in part by Junebug’s “The Kenny Rogers Code.”