[Last of a two-part post.]
“This is Matthew of Arimathea, communing with Jerry the Apostle. As our Lord once said to thee, ‘Thou shalt be the Chirp upon which they’ll Rock.’”
—Matt J. Durand, “Model of a Binary Universe Set to Music,” from Buddy’s Scrapbook
On Feb. 11, 1988, I made a quick to-do list on a legal tablet with notes to Buddy’s Scrapbook, items of which included: “Pick up Buddy’s glass ‘The Holly Grail’” and “Flowers, visit Mom.”
I’ll get to the first item in a bit. For the second, some history first.
My mother was then six years into a severe depressive episode, and things were rough at home, even though I was living miles away in Hopkins. It was a difficult time for the Family Project.
Perhaps Buddy’s Scrapbook was a reminder that, as troubling as things could get, a good story might whisk me away to a better place. At least that’s what I hoped for.
And Scrapbook was developing some fun details, like this bit:
“Nancy remembered when she heard Dean’s first album, and one mellow track, ‘I’ll See You Tonight’ caused her to say to him, ‘Your voice, you know, the way you were singing…’ she giggled. ‘You reminded me of the way you used to sneak up on me when I was sleepin’ and whisper Boogie Man shit in my ear, then stick me with a rubber band…’”
Dean was a troublemaker, clearly.
Meanwhile, my crazy research writer, Matt J. Durand, had his own particular brand of mischief:
“The transformation took place in Dr. Buzzard’s laboratory, complete with cast iron electrical personality transformer helmets, a Marshall amplifier set at the highest level, and K.C. and the Sunshine Band cued up on the turntable. Tony (from West Side Story) became the rock star and Buddy worked for the corner druggist. A few years later, Buddy was still around, but Tony had died in a plane crash. You saw Buddy everywhere: as a busboy at the Plaza Hotel, then as a carhop, at the grocery store, years later, bagging your stuff, then carting your golf bag around the links, or bringing you and your Schnauzer up to the fifth floor. ‘That polite young man down the hall…’”
“It’s a rainy, cold night and you’re driving down Highway 61, south where it gets really winding, you turn a sharp corner and suddenly your headlights fall on the ghost of Buddy Holly in suitcoat and tie with rain-spattered, dark-rimmed glasses. You have no choice but to slam on the brakes…”
So, I now wonder, what is the connection between Dean McLeary and Matt J. Durand?
In 1971, Mrs. Andrea Schussler, the music teacher at Shirley Hills Elementary School, turned us on to “American Pie.” But I’d already beat her to it via late-night FM radio.
She wanted us to discover the meaning behind Don McLean’s lyrics, but I had my own ideas, even as a preteen. I’d first heard “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night),” since it formed the basis of my “Nightwalking” mode of thinking. Lyrically, Don McLean ladled it on, and I ate it up. It didn’t take a sixth-grade music teacher to sell me cool.
So Matt J. Durand, of course, is part of me. His “Model of a Binary Universe Set to Music” almost presages the Internet—like someone happily Googling random stuff for the sheer fun of it. And like Durand, I wanted to be a cultural bomb-thrower. Dean McLeary, by 1975, seemed too safe. Matt J. Durand, less Boomer and more Xer, was proto-punk.
I wanted writing to deliver more than words.
I wanted fire-in-the-blood stuff, rock and roll with a flaming typewriter. I wanted a story to be as electrifying as Jimi Hendrix onstage.
And I also wanted something I could stuff in a knapsack for later down the road.
On Wednesday, Feb. 3, 1988, I wrote in the journal:
“It’s late—after 1:30am and I just got back from the Crickets show at Bunker’s Bar and Grill in Minneapolis. It was sad how few people showed up. I went backstage after the show and had a toast with Jerry Allison (I still have the shot glass) … mine was a brandy and he had a beer. I asked him if Buddy had seen West Side Story in NYC in 1958—he said they weren’t close then. I understood and didn’t press the matter. I talked more with Joe B. and the cover band, the Rockin’ Ricochettes. It was pathetic Buddy wasn’t there. It’s as if the Angel said: ‘Your Lord isn’t here’ when we all came to the grave site.”
Four days later I took the shot glass to an engraver. I had “the message ‘Toast to Buddy—J.I. Allison & M. Maupin February 3, 1988’ engraved on it as a keepsake,” (pictured below right).
Meanwhile the corporate job dominated my time, and a cousin’s wedding in Indiana soon pulled me away. “I’d like to patch up the blank pages,” the journal states, “with ‘Buddy’s Scrapbook’ until that time.’”
But that never happened.
1988 was tough—snipping the bonds of the Family Project—all through 1986, ’87, and into ’88, I was building toward more work, more creative ideas—so many stories, but particularly ones that were “less about me and more about the work or project itself.”
The “ghost story” behind all this is probably how a musical icon like Buddy Holly produced a “cultural after-image” that remains burned in the American consciousness.
In the end I don’t feel too bad about not finishing the story. It was the journey that mattered to me—and still does.
I’m happy being “Keeper of The Holly Grail.”
I’m always pleased when friends make toasts from it.
And it’s a keepsake I hope to hand down as joyfully as Buddy’s music did for his friends.