Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happiness Is Knowing When You're Happy!

Happiness is a Warm Fuzztone:  The Remaining Few.  L-R:  Jim (Rona) Wyman (organ), Ed Fischer (drums), Buzz Graham (bass guitar), Paul Cooler (lead guitar).  Photo taken in the Corbin-Olson cafeteria in the fall of 1966 at Western Illinois University.
An exciting week in the annals of a garage band life as Bev Cookson, who was mentioned in my recent blog posting about  garage bands, contacted me last weekend.

Bev was the girlfriend of Buzzy Graham, who was the bass player in my band at Western Illinois University in 1966-67 called The Remaining Few.

Bev and Buzz were an item when I began playing in The Remaining Few in October of 1966, and they dated throughout my tenure with the band.  Unfortunately, Bev and Buzz broke up, Buzz married a Macomb High girl, and both Bev and Buzz went on with their lives . . . their completely separate lives.

Another "unfortunately" is that Buzz died at the age of 58 in 2008.  He was a reading instructor at Rock Valley College in Rockford at the time of his death.

There is some unhappiness in the above words so let's get to the happiness part of this posting.

When I sat down at the computer last Sunday, there was Bev Cookson's reply at the end of my "Garage Bands I Have Known" posting.  Here's what she said:  "It's the middle of the night and insomnia has struck again. I was browsing and got to wondering whatever happened to [the Macomb band] Brillo and the Firebirds, believe it or not. So I Googled it. Anyway, long story short, it led to me to wondering whatever happened to Roger Vail, and lo and behold, it popped up. The Vectors, The Remaining Few, Fischer, Cooler, and Rona. Seems like a million years ago. How about a little "My Generation"? Loved you guys doing that song! Great band, great memories, even for a silly high school kid."

Bev and I have been exchanging e-mails ever since I received her note, and I have been gabbling to anyone who will listen about my days playing in garage bands, especially in the bands at Western.  

I have had a happy week, very happy!

I guess the reason why I've felt so good is because I realize that my life was really happy when I was playing in that band at Western, and I've been able to resurrect that happiness this week.  Dodging the pitfalls of life was always a concern, but I was able to successfully avoid all the negative things that came my way--at least then!

Bev mentioned in one of her e-mails how she made the ruffled shirts and burgundy vests that the band wore, and I remembered how she measured us for the shirts in the basement of Buzz's house and how when I looked at her running that tape measure up my left arm as she jotted down my sleeve length that I knew right then that I was happy and that I was going to remember that moment in time for the rest of my life.  

I knew I was happy when I was happy, and that is the key.  Knowing you are happy at the time you are happy.

It sounds a bit stupid, but it's true.  How many days do we plod through life looking for happiness.  "If I could only get to this point, I could be happy," we think.  And more often than not, that point never comes.

We reminisce about the days when we had happiness in our lives and strive all our days to recapture those fleeting moments.  More often than not that never happens.

But when Bev was measuring me for that shirt on that warm and sunny October day in 1966, I knew at that moment that I was happy--happy that I was away from home and all the conflict and unhappiness that existed in my family, happy that I was going to be wearing a cool looking shirt and vest, not to mention wearing burgundy Levis and  burgundy Beatle boots, and also happy that I was playing with guys who were not only good musicians but great guys as well.  And most of all happy that Bev Cookson was so devoted to all of us.  She loved our music, and we loved her for that.  Even after 46 years, I never forgot Bev's kindness.

The teenage years can be years of heartbreak and anguish.  I suffered from chronic depression in the fall of 1965 when I thought my life was falling apart.  A broken heart, an overbearing parent, academic struggles all contributed to the depression.

But the teenage years can be times of great happiness as well.  The key is recognizing happiness when it comes and then treasuring those moments in your heart.

Every time I hear that song, "The Way You Look Tonight," by Frank Sinatra, I think of my first real girlfriend getting in my dad's Chevy, turning towards me, and giving me this big smile on a beautiful June night in 1965, the early evening sun shining into the car onto her blue Madras blouse.

"Some day, when I'm awfully low,
When the world is cold,
I will feel a glow just thinking of you
And the way you look tonight."

I'm thinking of you today, Sandy, Bev, Paul, Ed, and Buzz.  I'm thinking of playing "My Generation," "The Jolly Green Giant," "Stepping Stone," "On Broadway," and "Little Latin Lupe Lu." 

And I'm happy, even if there are tears in my eyes! 

Hope this helps you too!


  1. When we're happy, music frequently has something to do with it. One of my happiest moments was at a Bruce Springsteen concert in the early 1980s. He was singing "Racing in the Street," and I was standing there teary-eyed, and totally happy.

    Whenever I hear that Sartre quote "Hell is other people," I always think, "Poor Sartre. Too bad he didn't know some different people."

  2. O.K. Tonight (2/25) Maggie had "Bones" on the tv, and one of the characters asks the other, "If you could go to any time in the past, what would that day be?" And of course, she stops the show, looks at me and asks me that question. I was dumbfounded. I had no answer. Maggie says something about, the "so many happy times we have had together." Fine, I think. But what I really like is now, today: things are good. Will they always be this good? I doubt that, but I always think I can make "good" out of what is happening around me. See you on the screen on Thursday, Jim.

  3. Sinatra's voice is probably one of the few that will forever be immortal. The soft crooning, the big band supporting the voice, each person gaining momentum off of each other... music like that has long been lost to our generation. Too few can actually look back and appreciate what was had, both in music and in our personal lives. Happiness doesn't have to be some complicated situation, something as simple as looking over at the person next to you at the right moment can bring all the joy in the world. Being able to have that memory tied to a song is magical, because every time you hear that song, you get to travel back to that feeling and re-experience it all over again. Glad to hear you have such a moment to go to.

  4. I guess I should relate the story that when I read this piece at Writer's Week at Fremd High School in Palatine, Illinois in 2013, I was amazed that the tech crew at Fremd played Frank Sinatra's "The Way You Look Tonight" as I was greeting students at the end of my reading. The chills just ran up my spine as Frank's words echoed through the Kolze Auditorium. Life has certain moments and that moment at Writer's Week complemented Bev's measurement example in the above blog posting. I guess the key is recognizing when those special moments occur! Be on the alert for them!

  5. I was just reminiscing about dances at W.I.U. with my husband and wondered whatever happened to The Remaining Few. I was a freshman, living in Corbin in '66 - graduated with a Music Ed degree. Those memories are especially precious since I can seldom dance now due to illness (M.E./CFS) but what wonderful memories! Thank you! Nan