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This Road Of Music
Well, well, well. If you survived the latest natural disaster in your area and your electricity is back on, I hope you're all in good spirits and trying to form a bright outlook for the rest of 1994. I, by fluke timing, avoided the ice storm that paralyzed Nashville for about a week, leaving some without power for almost two weeks. I drove out of town in freezing rain and drove home to sunny, mild February weather. Just lucky I guess.
The sunny weather made me think of one of my early trips down to Perdido Key. Before I get to the story, though, I'd like to tell a few real short ones as to where the name "Perdido" came from. One legend has it that sometime in the 18th century the Spanish were sailing toward what is now called Perdido Pass, the small waterway running between Orange Beach and Gulf Shores and flows into Perdido Bay. Anyway, the Spanish were caught in the middle of a tremendous hurricane and were in danger of foundering. The Native Americans (or Indians, depending on your political posture) saw them being tossed around out on the waves and built fires on either side of the pass to show them the way through. The name "Perdido," an Indian term, came to mean "gate of hell."
Another version is that a great typhoon washed all civilization from the key back around the same time, and the name "Perdido" was used to mean "the lost key."
The third legend is that the Indians considered what is now Perdido Bay a "lost" bay with regard to being hidden from pirates and other intruders due to the route one had to take to get back to it before the new route which now exists was dug out. So you can take your choice of stories. I like the Spanish and Indian one myself.
Now let's come back up to the near present and recent past. I was playing the Flora-Bama on about my second fall trip somewhere around '87 or so. (See Feb. issue of LMN for introduction to the Flora-Bama.) It was a fairly slow night which I sometimes prefer because you can usually get through to just about everyone in the place without competing with the noise. Joe Gilchrist, one of the owners, and a table of friends were present. There was also a table of "girls night out" ladies directly in front of the stage. They were, to say the least, having a very large time. The good thing is they were into the music rowdy, not just rowdy. I happened to be wearing a Flora-Bama sweatshirt which had been given to me as a welcoming gift from Joe.
About halfway through my second show one of the women at the "girls night out" table began calling out to me between songs, "I really like that shirt!" or "I want that shirt!"
Well, I smiled and thanked her and explained that they had shirts available up front, and glad they were enjoying the music.
She wouldn't give up that easy. "I want that one! And you can come with the deal, blondie!"
It's times like these when one really appreciates the coffeehouse circuit.
At that point Joe, being the eternal diplomat that he is, and a very gifted one, I might add, eased over to the table and offered to buy the ladies a round on the house, and asked if they could hold it down just a little, etc. I'm not sure they needed another round but, of course, they accepted and shifted into high gear. I was starting to enjoy the show out front myself, having only a couple of songs to do before ending what was to be one of my most memorable sets at the Flora-Bama.
Before I started the first of those two songs, the woman who was in love with my shirt, which there were hundreds of up front, stood up and yelled, "I'll tell you what! I'll take mine off and put that one on right here if you'll give it to me!"
My first reaction was to laugh. Then a few male voices chimed up from different parts of the room, "Give her the shirt!"
Let's stop for a moment and consider that I had my show and my manhood at stake here. I mean, after all, I've never been known as a body builder or a bronze god of any kind. Well, by the time I was thinking I'm safe, I have a T-shirt on under this sweatshirt, the well-endowed thirtysomething woman was lifting her sweater up over her head. This woman either grew up in the sixties or just didn't bother with bras anymore. As she was removing her sweater and cheers were going up in the bar, including cheers from her companions, I had no choice but to take my guitar from my shoulder and oblige. I quickly threw my Flora-Bama sweatshirt to her from the stage. She put it on as another big cheer filled the room.
As I was putting my guitar back on and trying to think about what song to play next, Joe approached the stage and said, "Thanks for being such a trouper. Oh, and don't worry, Alan, I'll get you another shirt."
Well, folks, amazingly enough the room went (sort of) back to normal. To be honest, I really don't remember what I played to end that set and I'm sure nobody else does either. ["Merci Beaucoup," maybe? — Editor.]
The attractive brunette came up to me later and thanked me for the shirt. She said she couldn't wait to get home and show it to her husband. Ah, love. I don't know if she told him how she acquired the souvenir garment. She has shown up with her husband on several other occasions though, and they are always attentive and really seem to enjoy the music.
All I can say is, do what you can to please your fans.
Later. — A.R.
Alan Rhody is the writer of such hits as "Trainwreck Of Emotion," "I'll Be True To You," "Wild-Eyed Dream" and "Christmas To Christmas." He can be contacted for concerts and workshops at P.O. Box 121231, Nashville, TN 37212.