Photo: The Missin’ Links band was started by a couple of my uncles in Ideal, Georgia, in the 1960s, and my dad (left) played bass
A couple Saturday nights ago, my wife and I attended a concert by a group we’ve never seen before — and, apparently, we never will be able to again.
It was a reunion show for members of The Malibu’s /Sixpence, who formed back in the 1960s like so many bands hoping to make it big. Back then there was a fine line between being a band that played high school sock hops and a band that got famous with a hit or two like The Surfaris or The Troggs, neither of whom turned out to be The Beatles or the Rolling Stones, but they became famous, made a few bucks and their couple of hits remain legendary.
Alas, most of those bands that started in garages and living rooms didn’t make it quite as big, but it didn’t stop them from playing covers, writing their own songs and performing like superstars.
I went to this show mainly to say “hey” to one of my middle school teachers, Coach Trussell, who played bass in this band. He told us it was their final show. Guess I caught them just in time. He was excited to be back on stage with his bandmates and thrilled to see folks dancing, including family and friends. His grandchildren were out there dancing to the very music his grandparents likely fussed about as the impending doom of civilization as we know it — kinda like the way I see today’s popular, rap and country music.
When he stepped off the stage to chat, though, he seemed to be wondering what comes next after the show.
I am quite familiar with the look on his face. My uncles started a similar band, The Missin’ Links, back in the sixties just down the road in a neighboring county from the Sixpence guys and also just recently ended their 50-plus-year run a couple years ago. Not only did I have two uncles in the band, but my dad played bass for them in the 1960s. My mom sometimes sang with them and would later sing in a girl group called The Honeybees, who once opened a July 4th concert for The Drifters. Before that, my grandfather played guitar with Cowboy Copas’ band before going to World War II and having both of his legs machine-gunned off in Tunisia’s Kasserine Pass. (Cowboy Copas would later die in the same plane crash that killed Patsy Cline in 1963.)
Did I get any of that musical talent? Noooooo. I own more guitars than some bands, but I only strum a few Jimmy Buffett tunes occasionally and have to sing very quietly so that the neighbors won’t call the cops … anymore.
“Yes, officer, I’m pretty sure I just heard a ferret get run over by a garbage truck.”
Most of the folks who played in these kinds of bands went on to focus on other careers and raising families. Most became — gasp — normal folks. Still, when any band finally plays that last note on stage, it’s a sad thing. Most of these musicians can grab a guitar on the back porch or sit down at the piano and recall one of their favorite tunes. But that doesn’t replace being on stage, whether that stage is Butler High School in 1965 or Atlanta’s State Farm Arena today. Even the bands that did make it big are reluctant to call it quits. I saw the Rolling Stones five years ago in Atlanta, and I’m pretty sure they’re gonna still be playing 50 years from now in Atlanta. They certainly don’t play because they need the money. They love the music, and they love the stage.
As a writer, I’m lucky to have a hobby that I can keep going as long as I want. No one retires from writing. Even if there’s nobody to read it, I’m going to write it. Maybe someday long after I’m gone, like 60 years from now, someone will discover something I’ve written and wonder why I never made it big:
“Have you read this, Keith? This ol’ chap was brilliant!”
“Let’s turn it into a song, Mick!”
Even when these bands have played their final gig, the band lives on — in the memories of the musicians and those who danced long with them in that echoing 1960s high school gym, in the memories of those who endured that 1970s disco phase and and in the recent memories of those who reconnected with their younger days at their final show. The band lives on in the quiet strumming of guitar strings on a lonely back porch. The band lives on in black-and-white photos and faded Polaroids. And, as I’ve learned from my family, the band lives on in stories that only get better as they are further embellished through the years.
So, don’t fret, Coach. As long as you can get your hands on an old guitar, a photo album or a phone, the band lives on. And so does the music.