Strange to say "my friend" actually because I have not really been around Dick for 30 years. But long ago and far away in the city they call New York, I spent hours with Dick and another good friend, Kevin, rehearsing songs. We were the Dick Price Combo consisting of piano (Dick), guitar (Kevin) and bass (me). Dick had a big, basement apartment up on 103rd Street between Broadway and Riverside. It was the same block the Gershwins had lived on. There was a bodega up at the corner of Broadway where Dick and Kevin could buy a pack of cigarettes. They only ever smoked during combo rehearsals. We also became addicted to Harbor Bars until one eventful evening when we looked in the ice cream freezer and - gasp - no Harbor Bars. The Indian gentleman behind the counter told us, "No more, no more. Bars all gone." It was a dark day.
I don't know what Kevin and Dick saw in me, that they drafted me to be the bass player. I played a little guitar was all. After a few informal sessions in Kevin's apartment, he decided that we needed to get Dick's music out to the world and that, yes, I would have to learn the bass. A friend had a friend with an upright. I borrowed it. I taped up the fingers of my right hand and put "markers" on the neck of the bass. I played badly for a long stretch and then, finally, increased my abilities to an acceptable level of mediocrity. Eventually, on "Roly Poly" I took the break. It was rollicking.
Dick's music was eclectic to say the least. While we did a cover or two, like "Roly Poly," for the most part it was all Dick Price. Dick loved movies and wrote songs about the movies he loved. We did "Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House," "That Obscure Object of Desire" and "Celine and Julie Go Boating" (based on a French film). We also did songs right out of Dick's marvel of a mind, songs like: "Tiny Little Man;" "I Spit on Your Grave;" "Don't Speak Badly of the Dead," to name a few. Our opening was always the same whenever we played out..."Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. That's Rob Neukirch on bass, Kevin Cross on guitar...I'm Dick Price and I was a go-go boy for the FBI. We then launched into "I Was a G0-Go Boy for the FBI." We did two songs in our set while wearing berets - "Celine and Julie Go Boating" and "Paris Est le Capital de la France." Dick was taking an introductory French class when he penned the last.
We played all over Manhattan- on the upper East Side, at a club in Times Square and at famous little clubs like the Bitter End down in the Village. In the Village we'd arrive early and hand out fliers to get folks into whatever club we were playing. The arrangement was usually the band getting part of the "door" charge. If it was a good night, that meant we could pay the cab fare home.
In the early 80's, Dick left New York and returned to Waco, Texas to care for his ailing father. The combo had slowly dissolved a year or two before when the fun had gone out of playing and rehearsing and not making any money. That and the disappearance of Harbor Bars. I believe to this day that we could have opened for anybody. Or, headlined for that matter. People loved Dick's music and the combo. We just got tired of handing out fliers and hustling a crowd, calling our friends to come out and support us once again.
How odd that just a few days ago, after reminiscing with Kevin about the Combo days, I Googled Dick. He's been living in Austin for several years, making music and getting some recognition, too, with great reviews in the Austin Chronicle. I'd sent a Christmas card to an address I had but it came back. On a whim I emailed the "Dick Price Fan Club" and within hours had an answer from a man named Matt. Coincidentally, he had been speaking with Dick about the combo and the fun we used to have, both playing and rehearsing. Dick had moved, he told me and I asked for an address and also, to please give my best to Dick. In the second email, more news came.
Last November, Dick had emergency brain surgery. Matt said the recovery was slow and that Dick was still having motor issues and difficulties with speech, etc. He gave me a phone number. This afternoon I called it and there was Mr. Price, sounding his old self. Gosh, it was good to hear his voice. There were pauses in the conversation when I could sense that he was trying to find the words he needed. We talked music, of course and I told him that when I play out I always do "On Her Porch," a chestnut of a Dick Price tune about two lovers, finding one another. It's one of his less quirky and more "straight ahead" songs. He laughed, remembering it. I got his new address sothat I could resend our Christmas card and photo. His brother, Bubba, has been caring for him and, Dick told me, he probably will move back to Waco, back to his brother's house. I had trouble getting off the phone in one piece but I did it, wishing him well and promising to keep in touch.
Dick Price, the man and his music. And yes, my friend.