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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Aunt Effy and the Young'uns

Aunt Effy needed a backup band to take her show on the road. She enlisted my two brothers and myself along with a sharp banjo player named Christine. I played guitar, my older brother Larry played upright string bass, and my little brother Ricky kept time on the drums. Collectively we were known as "Aunt Effy and the Young'uns."

Here is a photo of us performing for an enthusiastic audience....

The family-oriented show included tunes from her Nashville album, and some newer songs too. One of the more comical moments in the performance was when Aunt Effy (the Butcher's Daughter) grabbed a realistic looking rubber chicken out of her red wicker basket and hurled it around her head while singing. That usually brought the crowd to its knees laughing - a least at Senior Centers.

We performed at large venues (such as the Westchester County Auditorium), outdoor music festivals, and in smaller settings too.

I remember particularly well a show we played for a "captive audience" at the County of Westchester Department of Corrections in April of 1971. After being searched, we were escorted into the general prison area and over to a makeshift stage where we performed for over 100 inmates. They were very enthusiastic, almost too much so. There was so much heckling that I could hardly hear the music I was playing. At one point we invited some of them to come to the stage and sing with the band. One young man was due to be released soon, and his dream was to be a singer. He never contacted us on the outside, but I hope that he had some success in the music business. Not everyone can have the fantastic career of a Johnny Cash.

After the concert we received a thank you letter from a prison official - Mr. Lissner (Col. Army Ret'd). He wrote:

Your show was a tremendous success, each and every inmate in attendance was thrilled to be part of your show. Special thanks to your "young'uns" for their professional display of great musical talent, especially in the manner in which they worked with the participating musical inmate groups.

Please keep us in mind for future engagements in the Jail and the Women's Division.

As you go through life, you never know who you will bump into from your past. Many years later when I was in graduate school at Brandeis, one of my colleagues - a precocious 12-tone composer named John - revealed that he had a checkered past. Apparently, as a youth John had been arrested for being in the possession of some heavy drugs and was sentenced to time at the Westchester County Department of Correction. I don't know if he was in the "captive audience" the day of our "Aunt Effy and the Young'uns" concert or not (probably not), but it just goes to show you that the world is small.