I was the youngest of three boys. My brothers and I were always pretty close. My oldest brother Larry and I seemed to have the most in common in terms of music. I remember many of the songs that he liked over the years,
I remember him liking a Brenda Lee song that was a hit unto itself and was also the flip side of I’m Sorry. It was a song that I found many years later, much to my surprise, was written by Jerry Reed: That’s All You Gotta Do. The reason I was surprised was because once I heard that factoid, it was so obvious that I felt I should have known it. Larry played that record so many times that I am surprised we did not hear I’m Sorry playing backwards along with that song.
Larry never wasted an opportunity to ride buses. He never realized it, but one of his dreams when he was young was to be a Greyhound bus driver. In early 1963 there was a song that I loved so much that my mother sent Larry out to buy the record for me — Puff, the Magic Dragon by Peter, Paul and Mary. Whether he had to or not, Larry spent just about the entire day taking buses all over Staten Island to find it.
Later that year Larry bought a record for himself. I was with him one day when he played it when my Mother walked in. I don’t know why but she got really mad at him for his purchase: The Kind of Boy You Can’t Forget by the Raindrops. To this day I still have no idea what got her so mad.
When we moved to Germany in 1964 we did not have television so music was one of our biggest forms of entertainment. We bought records like we never had before. One of the first Larry bought was Remember (Walking In The Sand) by the Shangri-las.
Maybe the reason my brothers and I were so close is because we moved around a lot and saw a number of different things, such as our trip to Berlin in 1965.
After we returned to the United States, we drove across country in June 1966. My father always had the radio on in the car and one of the songs we heard was Little Girl by the Syndicate of Sound. Larry liked it but was not sure of the name. He bought the record before we had any way to play it, not sure if it was the right one. He saw in the TV listings that the group was going to be on American Bandstand. Larry never really watched the show, but he made sure he did that week.
Another song Larry liked in 1966 was Hey Joe. He did not know who it was by, but he saw it on an album so he bought it. When I saw the album cover, I was totally bewildered. I had never seen anything like it before. It was a bit much for my ten-year-old brain to comprehend.
That was not the version he wanted. He was looking at the version by the Leaves which he found on KJR 16 All American Hits.
Years went by. College, marriages, life goes on. The three of us would have a chance to get together from time to time.
On January 1, 2002, the three of us got together in Leavenworth, Washington. Besides being New Years Day, it was also Larry’s fifty-second birthday. Larry and Steve had their wives and the five of us had a great time.
My birthday was on a Saturday that year. To help me celebrate it, my son was going to spend the weekend with me. At about 2:30 in the morning, my son came in to tell me that my Father was on the phone.
“Your brother, Larry, is dead.” I know why he phrased it that way. My mother had been fighting cancer for over twenty years. As “mother” and “brother” sounded very similar, my father wanted to be sure I understood exactly what he was saying.
It has been twenty years since I last saw Larry. It took me years to come to grips with his passing, but I still am not used to it.