Until New Year’s Eve the holiday break in 1966 was relatively tame. Sandy Martin loved her amethyst pendant and we made the rounds of Christmas dinner feasts. I remember we went to see Paul Scofield in A Man For All Seasons at the River Oaks Theater and probably dropped by Sand Mountain to listen to folk music where performers were doing covers from Simon & Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme and the Beatles Revolver. The Rolling Stones and Dylan were still out on the peripherals of my musical appreciation but Donovan’s songs from Fairy Tale and Sunshine Superman were getting covered at Sand Mountain as well as air play on FM radio. With the lyric poetry of Sounds of Silence and Eleanor Rigby, my musical tastes were evolving but I had no idea of what was coming:
New Year’s Eve was a traditional family affair at Sandy Martin’s’ house celebrated with a late dinner of standing rib roast, Brussels sprouts, honey glazed carrots, new potatoes, and black-eyed peas for good luck; midnight came an eggnog toast and cookies. After a chaste kiss I took my leave and dropped by a party on my way home.
Jimmy Choate and Steve Jarrad clued me in on the exclusive event at the home of the Andrews Brothers. They’d registered at Sam Rayburn just before the holiday break and though I’d glimpsed them in the hallways a few times, we’d never been introduced. As requested, I arrived at the standard suburban tract house on Blueberry Lane with two cases of beer and three bottles of scotch, rum and vodka. Prepared to endure a loud crowd of drunken teenagers, I was surprised to hear acoustical guitars and folk music as I tapped the front door with the toe of my shoe. It was Steve Andrews who opened the door and helped me with the booze, “McHattery and just in time. I’m Steve and this is James and my sister Marilyn.”
I was a bit surprised to see a slightly overweight woman in her early thirties. “Nice to meet you,” she said as she fished her keys out of an oversized Mexican leather purse and then turned to Steve and James, “I’m off guys. Keep it sane and call me if anybody gets too drunk to drive.”
With Marilyn’s departure we were a dozen teenaged revelers let loose without adult supervision. Jimmy and Steve Jarrad introduced me to Sonny Trent and Dan Humphrey and two girls I hadn’t met. Dan laughed and said, “From what I’ve heard you’re a well respected man about town,” and then he broke into the Kinks song. Sonny played along and Jon picked up the tune as well.
What was so unusual about this group was that with the exception of two couples no one was on a date. Guitars and song rather than pop music chatter and dancing were the focus of the gathering. Conversation blended with laughter and lyric seamlessly and no one dominated or vied for attention. Jokes were good natured and never at anyone’s expense. For lack of any other word on this particular night I felt a sense of refuge in this house.
I didn’t realize it then but the Andrews Brothers, Jimmy Choate, Steve Jarrad, Sonny Trent and Dan Humphrey would play a huge role in the next few years of my life.
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