A Prine show was in need to be seen so as the sun set, we found ourselves stopping groups of kids,
quadruple times for directions... and each time we got a little closer, until we
found John Prine's Alma Mater, Proviso East High School, home of the
Pirates and the Prine's in Maywood Il, a suburb of Chicago.
We were handed a neatly printed "Prine
Time" program with a lean and muscular Johnny Prine AKA "Tippy-toes"
in a horizontal
balance on the pommel horse...and that is how the show progressed...in a
strong and tight little balanced studly muffin sort of way...
Settling in behind the sound board, as the old
time country music Prine son #1 David and Tyler Wilson of The National Recovery
Act filled the air. Their old time country music was the perfect beginning to a
perfect night. David is an engineer - meaning not only did Cotton
raise some talent, but she groomed some brains too.
They started off with I've been all around this world
and then dedicated the second song to William Jefferson Clinton - Misery's in Arkansas also known as
John Johanna, this pair of talented white haired men picked their mandolins, banjo's, and
guitars with such style and grace that I wondered why they could settle
on such decent living as engineers when they could have lived a wild and hungry
life as just musicians. "Handsome Molly", "Take me back
to the Sweet Sunnyside", and "Sunflower Dance" were
followed by a short exchange between the gentlemen as they tuned their instruments, said the elder Prine, "If a banjo ever did
get in tune it would detonate. There would be this bright flash, and
puff of smoke."
I thoroughly enjoyed this music, and fancied at
what it must have been like having all these talented Prine
boys living in my neighborhood. Behind me I heard this gentlemen say that David used to walk across the back yard and play music
with he and his friends, I had to glance back to see a thin man with a
proud and melancholy look on his face, as if he were reliving those
moments all over again.
After finishing a Rufus Christian song, Diggin'
on the New Railroad David and Tyler began to explain their
next totally silly song, Hop along Peter, "
appeared on a long playing short selling Children's CD called Never Grow Up and was recorded by Fisher Henley and the
AristocraticPigs. "Hop along Peter you bear in mind, I ain't
comin' back till it's
gooseberry time." With that, they ended their set and left the stage to a standing
ovation, that wouldn't sit until they came back.
entertained once more by a Spanish American Anti War Song, Battleship Maine - It was clear to me that this
Prine family came from a talented gene pool. It was most enjoyable and I would definitely search
him out and listen to more if he offered.
After a short break, and long line in a high
school two seater bathroom line, we all settled in to listen to the star
of evening, Maywood's Finest...although he would never admit to it.
John hit the stage with Spanish Pipedream and thanked everyone for being there on that special night. Spend theNight with
Me, was next, with a little story of how
he was happy to back in Proviso's Auditorium. "Boy, I
spent a lot of time in this place, I had a lot of naps" a knowing
chuckle came from the crowd," it was rumored that the Dean of
Students had a metal plate in his head, so we would carry magnets in our
pockets." we all laughed, but I had a feeling that the natives got
the gist of the joke more than I did. John told of his neck cancer and
how he had it treated, "No matter how much you appreciate things, a
bout with cancer makes you appreciate things more...tonight is very
special" the second of many standing ovations was followed by the
appropriately dedicated Steve Goodman song "Souvenirs".
John began, "I was driving around Maywood today, this was my
big chance to tell you how growing up here affected my songs. I
would walk down the street, he said with a wry grin, and people would
say: "Hey, there's the guy that married that girl from Melrose
North, which makes you a hero in Melrose." (claps and hoots from
the audience, sheepish grins from John) "This next song, is
from a few things the first is about 20th Avenue between Division
and Norwood St where there was a Car wash, and the dump trucks used to
go by and shake the house as they passed by."
"The second verse is from a stint in the army, I
was sent away to Germany at the height of the Viet Nam War", he
quipped with luck and laughter in his voice.
"The third verse
came from when I was saving for my first car and my first job was
at Skips Fiesta Drive Inn on North Ave. The hot rods liked to come and
park their cars in the lot so Skip's had a rule that you had to buy
something to park there.
The cheapest thing on the menu was
frozen custard, which they'd order and then dump on the ground. My
job was to come and clean it up in the morning. The bees would swarm,
because they liked custard too" With a big grin he broke into Fish
"My dad went to 11 different schools because Grandpa was a
carpenter. he died when I was about 7 or 8. He built the Bank on
4th and Madison...man, Grandpa used to take me everywhere." Grandpa
was a Carpenter
"The first girl I went steady with waitressed at the old
Seville's on Fifth and Madison." Far From Me
"United Artists was doing an album of charismatic people
and they asked songwriters to write a song about someone they thought
has charisma, I picked Marilyn Monroe, but they said, no she was
taken....so I took James Dean ..." Picture
"It took me 5 years to get through high school" he
began chuckling, "I started off taking college courses to start
with, and I would go to class and just stare at something like a button
on the teacher's shirt, then I got into woodworking and auto shop, by
the end of my school years I had them down to 7 art courses...But it was
gymnastics that got me through high school!" All The Best
By this time John's speaking voice was
getting that coarse gravelly sound, the warmth in the auditorium and he in
a full suit under stage lights had him drinking water at every chance he
could. No one ever minds, I think John could probably get away
with writing on a chalkboard as long as you could see him grin, and
still keep a captive audience.
Angel from Montgomery "That's
dedicated to Bonnie.."
"The first time other than the army when I left the states, I
went to Italy, but I didn't play there, I liked to read the papers, I
fingered through the World Herald Tribune, and it was packed with all
the bad news, until I found and old friend in Dear Abby. So I got
the idea for the song, When I got back I did a show in Minneapolis and
that is where she was from, she said she would be at the show so I held
off singing the song until I was sure she was there. Finally I
said "Are you out there Abby?, this is for you" and some
guy yelled out "She only comes out on Ground Hog Day" Dear Abby