The year since that Sunday morning

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Feb. 23, 2006

Dear Julie,

For the past year most of my lunches have been eaten at Broussard's, a Cajun restaurant downtown. I like the food and the people who work there, and it's close to work, but only recently realized the real reason for my devotion. Broussard's is where my old friend Randy's band, The Melroys, played when they visited from St. Louis.

Randy has been gone a year now. Time has vanished, yet hurricanes and the force that keeps pulling toward the future have changed the landscape since the Sunday morning Randy didn't wake up.

When Randy's eldest son, Jordan, joined The Melroys a few years ago he was Randy's charismatic kid playing rhythm guitar. Now Jordan's the sole guitarist, shares the singing spotlight and has an equal say in the band. Jordan and his girlfriend, Angie, got married last summer. Many of Randy's old friends were proud like his dad would have been. Jordan has become a man.

Randy's wife, Sally, aka Bongo Sally, now plays drums in a band of her own, the River Rats. Noah, Randy and Sally's quieter and younger son, is the band's guitarist.

Jordan recently became a licensed real estate appraiser, continuing in his father and mother's business. Randy appraised real estate because like most artists he had to make a living. The business paid for food and shelter and sent his two boys to college. Making rock 'n' roll music was the magic in his life. His gifts were a soulful, pitch-perfect tenor, cliche-free guitar licks and inventive chord changes.

He didn't know how good he was. That was one of his charms.

Randy sent his songs to anyone in the music business who might listen. Few did, and he fretted over what might be wrong. His friends and family reassured and encouraged him even though many of us might have given up on ourselves. It meant so much to him.

Finally after nearly 30 years of rejections, the Boston company 95 North Records recognized his talent and originality. The Melroys' CD zoomed up the national Americana charts. Then Randy died.

Hanging out with your friends in your 20s, the near certainty that someday you will be visiting their graves never occurs to you. Last Sunday, Randy's family and some friends trooped to a Scott City cemetery to observe the one-year anniversary of his death. Greg Hopkins and Michael Enderle, the other Melroys, were there from St. Louis.

The day was frigid and gray. A few snowflakes and tears fell. Sally and Jordan thanked everyone for their support over the past year. Others talked about missing Randy. One of Randy's best friends said a prayer.

Much has changed, but life doesn't stop. The Melroys are recording their second CD. Randy laid down the vocals for a few of those songs before his death. The band is coming back to Broussard's this weekend and returns next week for a Fat Tuesday celebration. Their fans are an extended family bonded by loss now.

Occasionally at lunch a Melroys song comes on the stereo system at Broussard's as I'm biting into an oyster po' boy. Randy sings his song "Where the Good Ones Go," the epitaph on his tombstone, or maybe the song that may be his masterpiece, "When I Get Over You." Listening to him sing makes me feel better.

Now he's reassuring us.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is managing editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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