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My Brother the Musician
Lucky to Find This
We grew up in Austintown, Ohio. My brother, Joey was the fourth child of five. I am the youngest. I have a picture of him holding me in his lap. When I was born he was convinced I was a boy. My grandmother said I was a girl and he said "Well, who ever heard of a bald headed baby girl?" I was bald until I was four.
Our father was born in West Virginia, and our mother in Pennsylvania. My mother was married three times, our father being her third husband. Joey used to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and he would always get me out of my crib and get me a drink, then put me back in. I don't think my parents knew that. I only remember because one night they were out on the porch talking and we heard them through the bathroom window. My mother said "I want a divorce." and I screamed. Joey clamped his hand over my mouth and said "Shhh" so close to my ear, but the screen door was already slamming, and there was daddy looking down at us "What are you kids doing up?"
At the stricken look on our faces he softened and realized it was better that we understood what was going on. He explained to us on the porch, as our mother smoked her Pall Mall cigarettes exactly what was going to happen. He would live somewhere else and come to see us, but we would stay with our mother. I protested that if he left I would run away and find him. He said it would be far. I said I knew where far was and I would find him.
Needless to say they decided to stay together. My mom told me in later years that she was glad they did. In five years they would find out our father had cancer. In seven he would be dead. I was three years old.
I tell this portion as it is part of why my brother is the man he is today.
We weren't rich, but not poor. That means we got birthday presents and Christmas presents, but not parties. Joey got a couple of birthday parties, but that was in elementary school. At any rate, we were garbage pickers. I mentioned that term before in another blog. To make it clear, poor kids are too proud to pick stuff out of the garbage, and rich kids don't need to. We didn't ask for things.
One day my brother found an acoustic guitar in the trash and brought it home. I think that some of the strings were broken, I am sure it did not have all six. Now my brother had always been an entertainer, so he knew this was for him.
When company would come to visit Joey would dance and sing for them, and then he would bring his piggy bank around for them to put money in. He had this plastic pig that was standing on it's hind legs, and I think it must have been taller than him when he first started the entertainment business.
Before Joey found the guitar he had already realized singing and dancing wasn't always the way to win the applause, and as he was getting older started to put on skits to entertain. He would dress me up as Sergeant Schultz from Hogans Heroes and whisper "No matter what I say, you say 'I see nus-sink, Nus-sink.' Okay? here we go." And we would come out of the utility room. Joey was Colonel Klink, I was Schultz, with a pillow for a big stomach, inside a long army coat, cinched tight under the pillow with a belt. And the helmet would cover half of my face. He had to keep me from falling. My brother knew comedy.
So he finds this gutar, and he's got a good track record in show biz. He brings it home and tells daddy he wants guitar lessons. Daddy tells him that if he can learn to play a song on his own, he will get Joey lessons. I know many children who would have cried, some would have begged. Any number would have taken the guitar out with the trash and never asked again. Joey came to me and borrowed my 45rpm records that our brother Butch had sold me for my allowance money. He finally found one he could pick out the tune. It is called " My Little Black Egg" then in parenthesis "with the little white specks." As if there was another song called "my little black egg."
Joey worked really hard to learn the song, and then he played it and sang it for daddy. Daddy was true to his word and got Joey guitar lessons.
He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother
The Road is long, with many a winding turn, that leads us to who knows where? Who knows where? (From the song, "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother")
When our father passed away, Joey went into the woods day after day with his guitar. None of us talked to each other anymore. A piece of our lives was missing. I think we couldn't look at each other because we reminded each other that daddy was gone. There were no more performances.
Joey wrote his first song there. He wrote it out of grief for what he lost, and there among the trees found something that could help him get through it. I still remember the words.
Our mother made sure the guitar lessons continued. Joey learned until his teacher had taught him all he knew and suggested another. That one said after two sessions, "That's it, I don't know any more to teach him." He then started teaching Joey to play the banjo.
Joey joined Youth For Christ, and played at their tent in the summer at the fair. He was in Jazz Band, Boys Choir and then Concert Choir in High School. He would have gone to Julliard, if his German teacher hadn't decided not to let him graduate.
Joey had already been held back in second grade, because he would not read in front of the class. He was too old to stay another year in High School for fourth year German class. It is the only time I know of that my brother ever quit anything.
Now my brother is the Music Minister of his church. I wish his second grade teacher could see him now up in front of the congregation, singing, talking, acting.
If you ask him he will tell you what happened in those woods. He went day after day and screamed at the top of his lungs. "I don't have anyone to talk to anymore!" "Why'd you take my Dad away?"
I think we had all been in our own similar argument with the man upstairs. I was ten and had personally told Him (God) that I wasn't talking to him any more.
Joey heard an answer in those woods. "Talk to me now. I'll be your Father."
The song he wrote was called Jesus is Knocking. He heard him knocking in those woods, and he opened the door, and let him in.
Now on Sundays, my brother Joe sings and plays his guitar on live streaming video from his church. His wife Donna and daughter Allison also grace the stage with their beautiful voices. He wrote a musical version of "It's a Wonderful Life" which was performed in the church at Christmas time in years gone by. His family and church members have also performed a musical version of "A Christmas Carol", on stage live, and video stream. In 2008 it was picked up by a cable network, and they were back again in 2009. He has promised to send me a copy. http://www.theresaplaceforyou.com/ is the link for the streaming video Sunday Services, 8:30 AM and 11:00 AM est. (Joe will be the guy with the reddish blonde hair rocking out on the guitar).
The visions of our childhood are too numerous, I realize now, for this forum. I have left out the two bands that he formed, the albums they recorded. His wife and his daughters. All of these things were added unto him, because he chose his path and did not depart from it.
When I see him on stage, and the joy overtakes him, and he closes his eyes, rocking out just a little, I see that smile. And I remember that little boy's smile, as he holds his baby sister in his arms, so sure she is really a boy.
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