For most of my adult life, I have believed that an essential key to living is ending with the most experiences. As a result, I am the true “Jack of all trades and master of little.” While a few loyalists may debate my strengths, stick-to-itiveness might be missing.
The oldest of seven children born to a single mom, the journey has not been without its challenges. Without going into great detail (I’ll leave that for the book), my mother, escaping from an abusive marriage to a man I will only identify as my stepfather, was always on the move. I will never forget that bitterly cold November day when we moved into the brand-new Rockwell Gardens housing project on Chicago’s west side. As I sat huddled with my siblings, and while Mama got the keys and other instructions, the Sisters of Charity brought in to calm us, the restless natives, served us warm cocoa and cookies, and I remember feeling as if we had made it to the Promised Land. Although Nirvana, compared to some of today’s urban areas, was still not for the faint of heart. I was twelve, and caring for my younger siblings, the oldest eight years my junior, became my job. Considered by most of my playmates just weird because I always came with a bunch of kids in tow, I began to hang out with their parents, who, sympathetic to my adult-like obligations, took me under their wings. While I was a part of the subculture of the time, I was never pulled in completely. I credit this solely to my maternal grandparents, devout no-nonsense missionaries, who provided me with a foundation strong in spiritual, emotional, and educational development, and with whom I lived until age seven.
When I was fourteen, I got an audition for the Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour, America’s Got Talent of the day. It was the first time I remember my mother interested in my singing. Possibly seeing a way out of the ghetto, she spent her last money getting my hair done and buying me a new dress. Unfortunately, the heavens opened that day with a thunderstorm of Biblical proportions, causing her to take me in a taxi to the CBS Studios on Chicago’s north side. It was one of the few times I remember being in a cab. Unfortunately, it would be all for naught because a severe stage fright caused only the strangest glottal sounds to emit from my tender throat, and my mother and I sat in thundering silence on the bus ride home. While I would sing with the radio to pop songs of the day, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Nat Cole, and Nancy Wilson, it would be many years before I got the nerve to sing again publicly.
By the tender age of twenty-two, I had served a stint in the Marine Corps, married and divorced with a young son, and faced an uncertain yet predictable future had I remained in Chicago. Fortunately, that was not to be. Instead, encouraged by family, in January 1970, I relocated to Fresno, California. Unknowing at the time, this unheard-of by many places in California’s Central Valley would be my training ground for what was to come.
San Francisco, open your Golden Gates—
In mid-1970, this time, for very different reasons, I again relocated. Remarrying and eventually making a thirty-eight-year career in government, I spent an equal amount of time as a pop/jazz singer, future songwriter, and composer, singing on the San Francisco Bay Area hotel and country club circuits throughout the mid-1970s through the early 1990s. Sadly that marriage also failed, and in 1997 I relocated to Sacramento. Retiring from public service in 2007, I published my first novel, Of Noble Character, in 2012 and completed a 60,000-word 2nd edition in late 2020. Also, in 2012 I released a CD, “No Apologies.”
In September 2016, I founded the Sacramento Jazz Cooperative, a charitable benefit nonprofit dedicated to preserving classic jazz as the proper American art form. I soon recorded my second CD, Reflections, a compilation of songs whose purpose is mainly to evoke imagery from listeners of those experiences in the past that even now cause us to ponder…what if?
In April of 2021, I made another milestone move. This time to the Savannah, Georgia region, where my grandparents, as it turns out, on both sides, were born.
In the fourth quarter of my life, that is where you win the game; you know, I spend my time enjoying Savannah’s remarkable history and my own. I look forward to focusing on writing as I prepare to release my third book, Lark’s Flight-a journey home, a historical autobiography, and accept all challenges by my mini Poodle, Cooper. While music will always be a part of my life in some way, I take it as I find it, understanding that it is no longer the focus of my life, and I am grateful for having options. Life is good.