‘Hi, this is Mel, how can I help you?’ For years, these were the first words my dad would speak upon answering the phone. I think this phrase pretty much sums up the kind of person he was; always wanting to lend a helping hand in any way he could.
My dad passed away yesterday and, almost immediately, the memories of an extraordinary life began flooding my brain. He was a professor by trade, having taught at a handful of colleges and universities in New York, including Columbia University. He would often comment that he never felt like he worked a day in his life, as his love of teaching and being among young, talented, motivated students inspired him to no end.
At the age of 10, watching The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show along with my parents and sister, Carol, I knew then and there what I wanted to be when I grew up. From that day on, and continuing to this day, my parents have been my most ardent supporters, having attended nearly every single New York area concert I have played since 1976, be it with Winger, Dixie Dregs, Steve Morse Band, Rudess Morgenstein Project, The Jelly Jam, Jazz Is Dead, drum clinics and festivals, you name it. The last show they attended was the Dixie Dregs reunion concert at The Paramount Theater in Huntington, NY on March 15, 2018.
After a recent hospital stay, an attendant came into the room with the wheelchair to escort my dad out of the building. I introduced myself to him, and he immediately reminded me that he knew who I was, having helped me a few years ago when I was being treated in the hospital’s ER for kidney stones. He also told me he was a guitarist, a major Dixie Dregs fan, and had seen the Dregs every single time we have played on Long Island since the ‘70’s. I then introduced him to my dad, to which he replied, ‘What, are you kidding, I know your dad, and I also know your mom. Every Dixie Dregs fan on Long Island knows them. They’re just as famous as the band members, because every Dregs fan who has come to your shows these past 40+ years sees your parents every single time. He then proceeded to tell me exactly where they were sitting at The Paramount Theater concert two years ago!
My dad has been an inspiration to me, and many of my friends, for a lifetime. In fact, quite a few of my friends have told me that he has been a role model, playing a major part in how they try to live their lives. I am forever grateful to have had him in my life. The floodgates have opened, and the countless, beautiful memories of this amazingly special man, my dad, are everywhere I look…