Monday, September 19, 2016

Lexington Va. July 4 and 5

After finishing up Nolensville Saturday night, we had the next day, July 3, to travel the 480 miles up to Lexington, Virginia, where we were supposed to play on July 4 and 5.

We crossed the Virginia state line before stopping for supper, at a nice Italian restaurant, where we posed for a photo with our waitress, Morgan.
Four WannaBeatles, one menu, and a helpful waitress

The story of our gigs in Virginia can’t be told without talking about the people who invited us there. One is family, and the other is a new friend.

First of all, Doug Cumming, brother of WannaBeatle Bryan, has lived in Lexington since 2003, working as a professor at Washington and Lee University. He had already become personally involved with the WannaBeatle back in 2013, when he first played clarinet with us for “When I”m Sixty-Four.” 
The clarinet duo for "When I'm Sixty-Four" in 2013
 in Clifton Forge, Virginia, about 30 miles from Lexington, 
as documented in the blog “Virginia Tour” 30August2013.  

In August of 2014, Doug first hired us to play a party at his house, deliberately coordinating that booking with a trip we were already taking to Bethesda, Maryland and for a return to nearby Clifton Forge. That party included our parents and another cousin Janet, who drove them up for the occasion. Janet, like Doug, has hired The WannaBeatles to play a memorable party at her home, but that’s another story. 

Her party, last year in Savannah, Ga. also connects to the Beatles song “When I’m Sixty-Four.” You can read about it in the blog “Cousin Janet” 28August2015.

But back to Doug's party in 2014. During that visit to Lexington, we met a friend and neighbor of Doug’s, Pat Mayerchak, a retired VMI professor, who, like Doug and me, had formed a band as a teenager and continued to play music his whole life.

Lexington is a college town, containing the adjacent campuses of both Washington and Lee and Virginia Military Institute. Doug and Pat are neighbors, both living on quaint Taylor Street, a few blocks from downtown, the colleges, the Stonewall Jackson Memorial cemetery, and R.E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church. 
This cemetery is between Doug's house 
and the Hampton Inn.
The quaint Episcopal church, where Robert E. Lee attended during his years as president of what was then called Washington University, after the Civil War

Our visit to Lexington this year was due to the enthusiastic invitation of both Doug and Pat, for two successive days.

Doug’s birthday happens to be July 5, so that was the date of his party, and justified more family members attending, while Pat recommended us to the board who selected the band for Lexington’s Fourth of July celebration.

Pat’s enthusiasm got us hired for July 4, a special event on the VMI parade grounds, including fireworks, a classic car show and another popular local tradition, a balloon race.

Pat spent the weeks leading up to the event sending us enthusiastic reports of the plans, getting our songs played on a local radio station, sending announcements to the local paper, and planning a special breakfast with local friends. 

He even sending us a copy of the album he had recently made with the reunited members of the band he had joined as a teenager. Pat had written most of the songs on the new album, playing guitar and singing in a Beatles influenced style.

And so, we were delighted to be hosted by such an ideal fan for our July 4 show in Lexington.

But because it was an outdoor event, we paid close attention to the weather report. From several days out, it looked like rain was expected.

We arrived Sunday night, at the elegant and spacious Hampton Inn.
The view from the second story
View from porch of hotel 

Walking paths and majestic tree on hotel grounds
And the pool

It was cloudy, but not stormy. The weather report still included a big rainstorm due to hit the next day.

We were in constant contact with Pat to monitor the decision of whether the event would happen or not. VMI made their official decision the next morning that they didn’t want the event on their parade ground under those conditions.


We certainly didn’t want to disappoint Pat and the people of Lexington, especially after having come all the way from Nashville, so most of the day July 4 became a process of responding the the news of the cancellation, and looking for an alternate place in Lexington to play.

As Dennis was waiting to hear the news from Pat, I walked to a relatively upscale local restaurant called The Palms, only a few blocks from the Hampton Inn to historic downtown Lexington. After a few minutes, Dennis arrived, then Nathan and David. Then, then we met Pat in person for the first time.

 Pat with David and Nathan at the Palms

Pat has poor eyesight, and wears thick glasses, and cannot drive a car, but he gets around on a scooter, and wears a helmet, which makes him easy to recognize.
Pat directing Nathan during our tour of Lexington

Doug joined us in the search, as we called various facilities - local theaters at Washington and Lee, the ballroom of another historic hotel - trying to find some room where we could play. The hours were becoming few as we considered the challenge of setting up to play along with announcing the new location for the event.
Doug on phone with another facility, 
as historic artillery overlooks

It never came together. There had been no contingency plan for an indoor location, which Pat admitted, was an oversight that would not happen again.

In fact, as this blog is being written, Pat has already booked us back in Lexington for next July 2.

But meanwhile, on July 4, 2016, we had time to explore the charming town of Lexington, and set up for the party we were playing the next night at Doug’s house.

Nathan, David and Dennis walk the sidewalks of Lexington
Dennis finds his name on the wall
A noteworthy intersection in downtown Lexington
George Marshall marker, which interested Dennis 
because of his friend Jimmy's interest in World War II
The four WannaBeatles pose in front of the poster 
advertising the event we came for but didn't play

July 4, being a gig that didn't happen, ended up providing us with a chance to recover from the stressful travel of the previous three days, and to hang out with both Doug and Pat as we explored the charms of Lexington. 

It also gave us the chance to set up a day early in Doug’s living room, which became a relaxed jam session, as various other local musicians who were excited about our being there gathered to play old favorites. 
David, Nathan and Dennis finding room for our gear
Dan with the sound gear he had contributed for the evening

It began with us loading in our equipment, then gradually grew into a local love fest, with Doug and me recalling our teenaged musical enthusiasms, with Pat joining us on guitar, another local friend Dan Newhall playing and harmonizing along, as Nathan and David gradually joined in with “official” Beatles parts to flesh out the sound.

That was a beautiful way for Monday night to unfold, small and personal, an unplanned organic alternative to the show that had been cancelled.


Tuesday morning included the breakfast Pat had arranged.
WannaBeatles at breakfast with Lexington friends

Nathan and Pat at breakfast
David talking to Dan and Penny Newhall

Dennis looking professorial in glasses
Then Dennis entertains, doing Jerry Lewis
as the absent minded professor
Pat, Shane, Dan and Penny, Kay and Bob, 
with The WannaBeatles after breakfast

Our next stop was the campus of VMI, where Pat took some photos of us on the parade grounds
Dennis and Pat 

The white tent in the background is 
where we would have played
Four guys in uniform, but still not quite military

Then the birthday gathering at Doug’s house, with his sons Daniel and William, his wife Libby, and our parents, among many other family and friends.
Emily, the famous mother of Doug and Bryan, 
(and Walter and Anne who couldn't be there), 
with Papa Joe in the background
Doug's son William, Elyssa, and Doug's wife Libby listen as 
cousin Mimi reads birthday message for Doug 
Nephew Paul, William and Elyssa, and dog
The birthday boy with his parents and mother in law
Meanwhile, The WannaBeatles,
 in their Shea Stadium shirts,
were tweaking their stage setup, 
preparing for the evening's performance

The party was plenty of fun, with guests enjoying the music, dancing, singing along. Doug sat in with us again, on clarinet.
Doug on clarinet with The WannaBeatles in his living room

The next morning, we had more to do in Lexington: to appear at the local bank, which had sponsored the rained out event, and the office of the local newspaper, as a surprise for their editor and reporters. In both places, we sang snippets of Beatles songs accompanied by acoustic guitar.
Here's the photo of us appearing at the News-Gazette office

Then we drove home to Nashville, without worrying about rain.

It was a great way to continue and conclude our busy five day tour of early July - with a little rain just in time to help us relax.

-Bloggin’ Bryan 19september2016

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