Monday, April 2, 2007

A tribute to a man who fed an addiction

(A scan of an actual 45 from Will Auger's jukebox that managed to survive my rough handling as a child.)

On Sunday, April 1, 2007, Will Auger died in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. Though his age is not given in this obituary, he had to have been in his mid to late 50s.

Most people don't know this, but Will was a very important person in my early development. Many people gave me records as a child when it became clear that I loved music. But it was Will who cemented my love of the 45 RPM record.

Will was an old friend of my father's. He sustained an injury in the Vietnam War that left him paralyzed from the waist down. He was perhaps the first paraplegic I ever knew. After the war, he opened up a bar in Warwick, Rhode Island, called (what else?) Will's Place. My father would stop at Will's bar on the way home from work to visit his old friend during my early years. Knowing that I liked music, Will would recycle the played-out hit records in his bar's jukebox by giving them to my father during his occasional visits. My father would then come home with these 45s and give them to me. It was one of my greatest joys to receive these records as a young child who could barely talk.

Though I was so young then, I can still remember specific records that Will gave to me. For instance, there was Pink Floyd's "Run Like Hell," which I believe was my earliest exposure to Floyd. And there was my favorite Police single, "Spirits In The Material World." Dr. Hook was still kind of popular when Will gave me the 45 of "When You're In Love With A Beautiful Woman." "We Don't Talk Anymore" by Cliff Richard was another big favorite, one that I still enjoy to this day, and one that I have sung at the local karaoke bar as recently as last September. My parents claim that one of my biggest favorites was a record by Peabo Bryson, though I must have had it before my brain was developed enough to file this memory away because I cannot remember ever hearing a Peabo Bryson song until his hit duet with Roberta Flack, "Tonight I Celebrate My Love." By the time that one came out, my brain could remember these kinds of moments. I had already finished kindergarten and was bold enough to ask my parents to buy me my favorite hit records when I heard them on the radio.

Usually my father would bring home stacks of 45s, but one night he walked in the door with only one. I was already learning how to be greedy at this point, and pouted with disappointment when all I got was "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes. Boo! Not a bad record, I did enjoy it. But 3 or 4 others to go with it was what I had been expecting, and there's no pleasing a 4 year old who knows what he wants.

AND -- where's that Dexy's Midnight Runners 45 I was promised??? Still waiting!

One of the funniest memories I have attached to a record from Will's jukebox was the time he sent my father home with a Rod Stewart 45 containing a b-side called "Ain't Love A Bitch." My mother freaked at the idea of me reading a swear word on a record, as I had been using records as my way of learning to read before I started kindergarten. So she put scotch tape over the title!

All these years, Will has never left my mind. I wonder if he realized just what he did by giving me all those records, if he knew that he was feeding an addiction that, as I would tell my mother, kept me from the evils of drugs and alcohol. That was always a sure point to win an argument with my mother whenever she'd complain that I spent too much time or money on music. "Would you rather I be spending my time and money smoking cigarettes or shooting up heroin?" Case closed.

Rest in peace, Will, and thanks for the music!


Doug M. said...

Goddamn. Nicely said.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is lovely sir. Particularly liked this post. Had a similar incident recently.

harmolodic said...

Why, thank you, sir bugul! I would love to read about your similar incident. Let's hear it!