This is a very personal blog, and for most of the people who read it, the person at the center will be unknown. However, for those of you on my "Friends and Family" list, and then for a subset with whom I went to Princeton High School in southern West Virginia, you will recognize this as a tribute to our since departed classmate, John Madison Goodwin III, better known as Sonny. My novel, "Reunion," covers quite a bit of my association with Sonny, the irrepressible fan of all things rock and roll - and a really good person.
Sonny Goodwin was the drummer in the band that made up quite a bit of the story ... the Roadster as I recall was the name in the book. I think their real name was The Nebbishes or perhaps the Road Runners.... I am no longer sure. Since I'm in the "real name" mode, the band included Ched Yearout on lead guitar, Larry Watkins on piano/keyboard, and Ron (Sleep) Lively on bass/rhythm guitar. In addition, Arnold Palmer was the lead singer and could play any of the instruments if needed. In the book, Sonny became Buddy Lewis, or formally Thomas Jefferson Lewis III, an attempt to disguise a remarkable person. In fact, the real Sonny went on to play drums in a series of very good cover bands until his heart attack in late September 2002. He survived that but his health was tenuous after that. But back to the story....
In January of 2009, I was surprised to receive, completely out of the blue, a DVR from Sonny. This item somehow became lost in the maelstrom of daily life; I don't know how such a treasure trove of memories could have been set aside. Fortunately, it was not lost forever and popped to the surface of my life in the past several years. To be honest, I'm not sure I ever contacted Sonny to thank him for such a priceless token from our past and how much I appreciated his act of generosity and kindness. He died not long after that, at the end of May in that same year. I will never be able to repay this trip back into magic memory land, so Sonny, if you somehow are listening or aware of this, thank you and God bless!
The DVR cover sports a photo of the band Transit Time (great name, huh!) playing live at the outdoor 2002 car show at the Pipestem State Park in southern West Virginia.
By this point in time, Sonny was the only one of the original members of that high school band still active locally in music, which he did in addition to working for the state in terms of business licensing matters. Ron Lively still lived in the area, was a prominent real-estate broker and served as mayor of Princeton for a while. Larry Watkins lived in another state (the fog of memory wants to tell me Northern Virginia but I'm not sure), and Ched Yearout had moved to near Nashville, TN where he was a senior manager in engineering for a large tire manufacturing company after attending, as I did, Virginia Tech. Arcie, or Arnold Palmer, remained in Princeton after a day job at the local hospital and an active and serious career in music combined with years of touring and recording. He had settled down with a lovely and loyal wife and family and we remain in touch to this day.
The gem of Sonny's DVR is a warm handwritten note and also a complete (handwritten) list of every single song, with the titles and exact times to the second.
There are .... wait for it now .... eighty-one songs from Transit Time and later the Emeralds, a six-piece band. The recordings all were live, and to be honest, range from excellent to not very clear since the microphone pickups were not positioned well. The recordings were made at various locations: The BPOE (Elks Club) in Princeton (12/31/2000), the 40th Princeton High School class reunion (2000 in Bluefield), the Princeton Douglas Center (12/31/2001), the Bluefield Moose Hall (2/2002), the City Park in Princeton (6/9/2002), the Moose Hall again (6/15/2002), and finally the Car Show at Pipestem State Park (8/10/2002) - only seven weeks before Sonny's heart attack. This gem of compilation runs an astounding 6:56, nearly seven hours and is a musical and cultural treasure trove and trip down memory lane. In addition to the songs and music, several conversations were recorded, above or just barely above the crowd noise at breaks, which bring Sonny back to the present along with a strong dose of the accents prevalent at the time, and for the most part, still.
So .... what's on the DVR you ask? Of the eighty-one recordings, Suzy-Q is the winner with four entries, individual times ranging from 1:49 to 3:27. Mustang Sally is a three-fer, ranging from 3:40 to 4:40. Several others are three-fers as well. There are many single entries such as Little Bitty Pretty One, Run Around Sue, Will You Love Me Forever, Turn the Page, Sea Cruise, Walk of Life, Fannie Mae, Love Hurts, The Midnight Hour (remember Wilson Pickett?), Sweet Home Alabama, and others.
In a shameless bit of self-promotion regarding the book, Reunion, I had an up-close and personal opportunity to spend time with and get to know the original group, which was by any standard a very good cover band. I also served as the "door man," and collected the per-head money (usually one dollar back in the day) that people paid to get into the live-music gigs. Since "Arcie" (Arnold Palmer) did not have a car, I drove him to the gigs and of course had a wonderful opportunity to get to know him well. As a black man, newly part of the integrated high school in Princeton back in the late fifties, it was unusual to be able to spend a lot of time getting to know him. We remain very good friends, and in contact to this day.
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Enjoy life; it's the only one we will get.
J.K. (Jim) George
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