Years ago in his now-classic song of adolescent romantic angst, American Pie, singer/songwriter Don Mclean sang about the “day the music died”. He went on and on and on some more in retrospective, albeit poetic, detail about that fateful day. We learned everything from who was effected to where he went. (It makes this TamPro writer wonder just how many times he drove that big, honkin’ Chevy to the levy, despite it’s being dry, and whether this sort of off-highway hi-jinx contributed to the gradual destruction of said levy, thus leading to BIG trouble with Ol’ Man Mississippi several years later? But I digress; that’s another story for another day.). At any rate, Mr. Mclean never does tell us WHO killed the music, or HOW. Nevermind WHY. For over twenty five years music lovers of all stripes (including the White Stripes) have shed tears, lost sleep and grieved the death of their beloved music with sparse consolation available to provide a balm for their tonally deserted, musically deprived souls. Until now.
Just last week, the intrepid Berkshire Beagle newspaper, alleges that after years of exhaustive research they may have broken this who-killed-the-music mystery wide open. In his exclusive front-page, headline-above-the-fold expose, Beagle reporter Willy Ware Shortpanz has proffered a scintillating tale, replete with full-color psychedelic photos, that addresses the HOW and the WHO of local music’s supposed demise. Though the WHY has yet to be determined, Shortpanz suspects he’ll grab this story eventually, too, given enough time and free beer.
Just below Shortpanz’s brazen Beagle headline “How The Music Died” appears the emotionally wrought, full-color mug of TuTu Much guitarist David Reed. Next to him, an apparent accomplice to the musical misdeed, is the disembodied image of a flute-wielding Miss Mary who would seem, as is often the case, to have again been in the wrong place at the wrong time. And behind them both, a ghost-like image of his former self, TuTu drummer Samster can just barely be imagined whacking his electronic briefcase, staying firmly on the perimeter of public recognition and fleeting fame. Shortpanz and his entourage of paparazzi recently cornered the unsuspecting TuTus while they were performing at The Lion’s Den in Stockbridge, a room world-reknown for reviving dead music.
“I knew I’d have to take them by stealth and cunning,” quipped Shortpanz to no one in particular. “Those TuTus have a way of evading responsibility and reality”. Reed was less sanguine and wondered if Mclean had put Shortpanz up to this inquisition. “I love Don and his music. What, he can’t let go of the time I called him ‘Dougie’ and knocked over his guitar back when I opened for him at the old Towne Crier in Beekman, NY? When was that, 1978? Get over it Donny! Hey, I love music. Even yours. I didn’t kill it I tell ya. You got nothing on me. It’s probably Dr. Easy you want,” defended Reed over a table brimming with burgers, beer and bean dip.
“I’m just a visitor here,” Miss Mary chimed in. Repeatedly.
“Pass the bean dip,” croaked the Samster, typically oblivious to the gravity of the moment.
Shortpanz seemed intent on proving his theory and exposing the TuTus, and more specifically Reed, for the music murderers he suspected they were. “Look,” he intoned a bit self righteously,“once there were plenty of music venues where decent, semi-upright, semi-competent musicians could perform right here in the Brook Shields Hills. . .”
“That’s Berkshire Hills, ignatz”, interrupted Reed, his voice morphing into a gravelly growl akin to Dr. Easy’s sandpapery tones.
“Whatever,” Shortpanz stood up, voice rising in pitch and accelerating in tempo, “you can count ‘em for yourself. Where’d they go? Where’s Woody’s? LaCo’s? Robby Burns Pub? The Ol’ Egg? Dos Amigos? The Gathering? Village Inn? THE NATIONAL MUSIC FOUNDATION FOR GOSH SAKES? And now, The Blues Café? Eh, where are they? GONE! CLOSED!!”
Shortpanz, sweating profusely, paused, caught his breath, wiped his brow and sat back down. Shocked Lion’s Den patrons focused their attention on the garrulously gesticulating gaggle of hysterical artistes seated in the corner booth. “And what do all these venues have in common, Mr.Goody-goody Guitar Guy?” shrieked Shortpanz, whose becalmed demeanor was incredibly short-lived. “YOU! That’s who! You’ve been in ALL of them. And not long after YOU show up, THEY disappear!”
"They come, they go, just like me!" chimed in Miss Mary.
“We never played The Blues Café, did we?” chortled the Samster, glancing at David and Miss Mary as he placidly munched a burger and blinked at the rapidly firing flashbulbs of one photog who, in an entranced state, could not take her finger off her camera’s shutter button...bizeet, bizeet, bizeet, bizeet, bizeet...
“There goes your grandiose story, Shortpanz!" Reed lamented facetiously. "No Pullet Surprise for poor Willy this week. What's really happening here? A slow news day? You gotta conjure up a modern-day witch-hunt so the Beagle might have something barely of substance for a change? Well, I ain’t ridin’ your broom, Shortpanz! Now, get your hands out of my bean dip or there’s gonna be some real trouble here. And don’t touch my tomato!”
Reporter Shortpanz, wiping his still-glistening brow with a bar napkin, leaving moist crumbs of blotted paper on his cheek, sensed the situation could turn ugly faster than a rim shot, and discretion being the better part of whatever it's supposed to be the better part of, he downed his lukewarm pint in a mighty swig, gathered his pencils, erasers and duct-taped glasses and stood suddenly, knocking over Miss Mary's 'Cabernet Maison de Chi-Chi'.
"Hey, no need to get so froggish with me, Mr. Reporter Man. I'm only visiting!" reminded Miss Mary as she slid across the booth, narrowly avoiding the cascading Cabernet. The harried journalist waggled his fingers at the still-entranced photographer. Bizeet, bizeet, bizeet, bizeet...
“Let’s get a move-on, Bhambi. We’re not going to get any more from this bunch tonight,” snapped an irritated Shortpanz, slapping his notebook closed and jamming another pencil back into his already jam-packed pocket protector.
He could smell a really big story brewing right under his nose...part of one anyway...and it hinted of fame and fortune. Yet, something seemed to be missing and there remained a nagging eraser blot of doubt stuck in his mind sort of like chewing gum embedded on the sole of his filthy red Chuck Taylors...a fleeting suggestion that he had a bit more digging to do before he could put this story to bed. Was it possible that Dr. Easy, of whom Shortpanz had only heard rumors, really did hold more clues to the story behind the music's demise?
"Nevermind lookin' for the Easy explanation," the impatient reporter told himself, "I'm gonna plaster this half-baked expose on the Beagle's front page just as it is! Let hit the streets running like a herd of cats! Then we’ll just see who, or what, comes crawling out of the woodwork. Move over, Woodward and Bernstein, it's W.W. Shortpanz's turn!"
Willy Ware Shortpanz slammed out of the Den and into the ink-black night, waddling and stewing, his shortpants in quite the knot. He reached the shadowy corner of Snooker Street and Plotz Way. He dropped his second-to-last quarter into the pay phone and dialed: “Hey, Rufus!” he barked when his wizzened, ink-stained editor who was working into the deep night back at the Beagle’s dusty offices up in Pittsville, picked up. “I got us a real hot one here, complete with Bhambi's dynamite pix! You need to hold the press until I get this juicy one in. You remember that ol’ Don Mclean song about pie? Well, you won't never guess what I've discovered about who killed...” Shortpanz' voice trailed off, his mouth open in disbelief as he flipped his last quarter up in the air off the cracked tip of his nicotine-stained thumbnail, heard the empty thunk as it bounced off his forehead, rolled across the sidewalk and disappeared down the sewer grate.
The phone line went dead.