It was Christmas Eve 1963 in West Allis, Wisconsin. My parent’s house, having a finished basement with a piano, was the destination for all of the relatives. They all lived in apartments and lacked the space for a large gathering. Around noon the snow began to fall. It accumulated to a point where the roads became hazardous. I was in the lower level helping Mom with the entree’s when the phone calls began. They all included holiday greetings, as well as regrets of not being able to attend. As it turns out, my family would be the extent of the holiday eve celebration. That would be I, my brothers Jerry and Tom and Mom and Dad.
Our parents had met back in the 30’s and were both entertainers. Dad played piano with a local combo and performed 4 or 5 times a week at many of the local nightclubs. My Mother was a singer who Dad met at an audition. It was a match made in heaven.
I relate those facts as it is what made this evening so memorable.
Being a teenager my musical tastes were much different. The British invasion was at its apex and I had quite a collection of their offerings. However, James Brown was my personal favorite, and his 45’s were soon found on the stereo’s spindle. My parents weren’t thrilled with that style of musical expression, but were tolerant of my wishes. They had, over the years, collected old hand me down instruments from their fellow musicians. This included a trombone, bass and trumpet. My brothers and I were not adept in playing them but could mirror Mr. Brown’s simplistic arrangements. My Dad sat down at the 88 and with his musical dexterity; we muddled through each of the offerings. In our elation, and with the assistance of some Christmas cheer, the dulcet tones flowed like never before and went on into the wee hours of the night. The silver lining was the camaraderie and permanent bonding that it created between all of us. It was a special evening that I will cherish always.