Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Forrest Gump of S.C. Music Scene?

"When you were at USC," my brother asked, "did you know Darius Rucker?"
No. I worked with his girlfriend, I said. I didn't elaborate, but she was at The Gamecock. She was in production, I was in editorial.
I could further elaborate that I did talk many times with Mark Bryan, guitarist for Hootie and the Blowfish. My mom even met Mark once, a long time. I could further further elaborate that back then, H & the B was just a bar band, popular with the frat boys.
Why do you ask, I asked back.
Rucker, lead singer of the Blowfish, commonly, mistakenly believed to be Hootie, was on some special about South Carolina.
They had also talked about Dizzie Gillespie on the special, John said. That he was from Cheraw, and Cheraw had a jazz music scene going on.
"And you used to live in Cheraw, right?" John asked.
Yeah. I still couldn't tell where this was going. Again, I didn't elaborate, but I didn't get to know many people who knew Dizzy Gillespie. I did go to Dizzy Gillespie Apartments many times. It's a housing project. Many times it was for drug busts. Once for a murder. Many times also I went there for "Take back the community" type events, because most residents didn't buy into the crime that seemed to be rampant in that community. Cheraw has since dedicated a statue in memory of Gillespie, and is honoring his tie to the community.
However, in January of 1995, the old Holly Inn burned to the ground. The inn had apartments out back in which Dizzy's band members used to stay when he came back to town. It was a decrepit structure. There was still enough to restore at the time of the fire, but not enough after the fire. I walked to that fire and beat the fire department there. It was a block from my own apartment building.
Dizzy used to come over to the inn and have jam sessions with his band.
Anyway, back to my brother. He said the show also talked about James Brown, the Godfather of Soul.
"Said he was from Barnwell," my brother said.
I knew where this was going.
"You used to work in Barnwell, right?"
Yeah. My Godfather of Soul story/
I interviewed him once, but that's business. Doesn't count in Six Degrees of Stephen Guilfoyle.
But I met him. We all knew, at the paper, that Brown was from Barnwell, and being just down the highway living in Beech Island, he sometimes dropped by. So we always thought it was a possibility.
Barnwell is not a nowhere town, and a stretch limo can make the rounds. But when a black stretch limo passed through town with a license tag that said GDFTHR or some such variation, we knew we could find him. I sent my reporters out to find James Brown.
They came back, none successful. So I went out myself.
I found the limo parked on a street behind our building, in front of a law firm. James Brown was meeting Miles Loadholt, a local attorney. They were of a generation, and I think their families knew each other growing up. James Brown called Miles "Mr. Miles."
They stood outside, I took a picture of them shaking hands, a friend of Miles had it framed for him a while later. It was a good picture.
That was the first time I met the Godfather of Soul.
I could hear the wheels churning in my brother's brain.
Hootie, Dizzy and Brown, oh my.
I'm the Forrest Gump of South Carolina's Music scene. I'm always there, in the backdrop.
Or at least that's the impression my brother has.
Mama says, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get."
Unless you buy a box of plain chocolates. Then, you pretty much know what you're going to get.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

FIRE AT TONY'S II: Softball team backers punt their barbecue

It’s not a football term, but the Carolina Angels softball team and their backers had to punt Saturday.
They were to hold a barbecue fund-raiser at Fest-i-Fun. They had the backing of the Bare Bones Barbecue team. They had about 500 pounds of Boston butts to be smoked up for hungry festival-goers and a prime spot, just next to the big white main tent, from which to sell.
Like in softball and many sports, the threat of rain wasn’t a sure bet to call the game.
But Tony’s Pizza caught fire early Saturday morning, and Fest-i-Fun was cancelled by city organizers.. Fire trucks remained on Tom Hall Street, downtown Fort Mill’s main drag, late into the afternoon, and much of the downtown was blocked off by police cars and yellow tape.
So the Carolina Angels punted.
Michael Kidd, who coaches the Angels and is also on Bare Bones arranged to set up at the Presbyterian chuch a couple of blocks down S.C. Hwy. 160 across from the walking park.
The girls on the team made a couple of signs, got at least one white balloon — just circular — and took to the sidewalk hawking ’cue.
Kidd said he “grew up” in the church, so it wasn’t a problem getting the location.
This is the second year Bare Bones has cooked ‘cue for the Angels. They raised about $2,000 at Fest-i-Fun last year, and had hoped to raise at least that much this year, selling, by the plate, barbecue that has won awards in the Greenway Barbecue and Bluegrass festival in the fall.
The barbecue is smoked in a cooker after being prepped with a ketchup/vinegar mix sauce. Brian Kidd worked the smoker Saturday.
About five or six of the girls on the team were working the signs, one for the softball team, another for the barbecue team. They were working hard but laughing.
They seemed to be having a good time despite learning that sometimes, in life, sometimes even in softball, you have to punt.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Extra Meatball Please: Fire At Tony's

Tony's Pizza in downtown Fort Mill burned Saturday morning.
Owner Joseph Randazzo says he thinks he is going to build back, but it's too early to tell.
I understand it being too soon. The fire started around 3 a.m., and it's just about 1 p.m. now.
But he needs to build it back. Not for his own business plan or for its historical value.
No, it's just that I think Tony's Pizza is tied inextricably both to my life in Fort Mill and my marriage.
When I was a' courtin' my wife, many is the time I would drive up to Fort Mill. The first place she took me to lunch in Fort Mill, when I came up on a Friday afternoon, was Tony's Pizza.
She said I had to have the lunch special.
The lunch special. Spaghetti and meatballs and garlic knots.
It might have been that first lunch there, but it was there I met Jeff Updike.
He was having the lunch special. I think, for some odd reason, he did not have the meatballs. There certainly weren't any meatballs on his plate when he invited Patricia to come on over to his table and sit. They were Rotary buddies.
He looked me up and down kind of like he was a big brother checking me out, knowing that Patricia had a new "beau."
I guess he found me worthy enough. At Patricia's prompting, he told me all about about his work with the Nation's Ford Land Trust, a conservancy to protect land in York County. Despite his unredeemable character flaw of being a Clemson fan, I made a friend that day.
That was just the first time I had lunch there, just the first of many fine Fort Mill Township people I met and befriended.
And the special was always so good, I took to ordering an extra meatball.
I branched out just once, and tried the lasagna.
With an extra meatball on the side. I just had to have it.
There are other restaurants in the Township. But Tony's Pizza is just a piece of downtown Fort Mill that needs to be there. Since I ate there with my fiancée who has since become and remains my wife, the two are linked in the back of my mind in some weird way. It is not logical, I admit. But it is what it is in my mind.
If Joe Randazzo and building owner Bayles Mack do not build it back, who knows what will happen to my marriage?
It's not just me. When my brother and sisters came to Fort Mill to meet Patricia, they went downtown. It was lunchtime, late in the week. So they went to Tony's.
They know it too, though they rarely get to downtown Fort Mill when they get here.
So Saturday, May 5, 2007, might end up bring a real sad morning, if the fire marks the end.
It has to come back. I need my lunch special.
And an extra meatball.

Check out the Fort Mill Times breaking news coverage of the fire here.