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Jul. 21st, 2008

Rollercoaster and Return
    Sometimes you can go home again. It's such a cliched anti-cliche, I suppose, but it's really the truth.
    Saturday night, after a long and very unpleasant Friday, BB and I went to a performance by a gentleman we used to know, a man by the name of Marty Peifer. The last time we saw him may have been...hmmm...23 years ago. 
    When we last knew him, he was a relatively successful folksinger in the waning days of the Great Folk Scare in Chicago - for varying degrees of "folk" and the understood varying degrees of "successful" that obtained for being an acoustic act in the waning days of said Folk Scare. The "relatively" has absolutely everything to do with the economics of singing, and nothing to do with Marty's talent. Because he was, and is, overloaded with talent.
    Marty was a folksinger only to the degree that he loved songs by other folksingers. He was much more than that; he was the ultimate performer. He could entertain more people with one song, a broken string that he had to replace, and an out-of-tune guitar which he constantly fiddled with, than most other so-called entertainers could with an entire set list. It didn't hurt that he had a fine, strong voice, capable of great dynamics.
    BB has often said that it was by watching Marty that he learned the art of entertainment and performance, rather than simply standing and singing a song. He's right.
    However, that was years ago, and he left Chicago. We'd heard he'd headed west, gotten into a completely different line of work, and we weren't surprised. A great many of the folks who sang for their suppers in the 1970s and beyond had to leave that life, in whole or in part. Some wanted to, some didn't, but that was life.
    But about a month ago, BB ran into word that Marty was in town, and doing one performance. We got tickets, we went, sat in the front row, and he sang, and performed, and was just as good as I remembered. Better - he didn't break one string, and the guitar was always in tune. He sang his first song, one of the ones I remembered from years ago, and I started to cry.
    Do you know how rare it is to find something is as good as you remembered?
    It's probably not worth all this buildup, I suppose - except that I wanted to tell you how good Marty is - but really; how rare is it?


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 22nd, 2008 01:45 pm (UTC)
I recently got to have that delightful experience, so it's not unique. I am glad that you got to see him play again.

Jul. 22nd, 2008 04:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks. They're among the little gems of gifts the universe gives us from time to time.
Jul. 22nd, 2008 01:50 pm (UTC)
It was worth the build up. Thank you.

My favorite times are those that I know are going to be good that then blow my expectations out of the water, turning out to be so much better and richer than even the high bar I was expecting them to hit.

They're rare, too.
Jul. 22nd, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC)
Geri! Happy belated birthday, says the slightly abashed friend who didn't say it when she should have, a few days ago...may your next year be full of peace, plenty, love and adventure.

And you're right. Those are, of a certainty, rare times as well.
Jul. 22nd, 2008 04:07 pm (UTC)
Rare enough. Very cool.
Jul. 22nd, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC)
Jul. 22nd, 2008 11:47 pm (UTC)
What a wonderful experience.
Jul. 23rd, 2008 01:41 am (UTC)
It was, indeed.
Aug. 3rd, 2008 04:57 pm (UTC)
Marty Peifer

I apologize for the intrusion, but I couldnt resist. I new Marty after his Chicago Folk days. I met him in that "different line of work" you mentioned. It was September of '88 in Blair NE, just north of Omaha. I'm still to this day unsure of how one transitions from Folk Singer to Nuclear Decontamination Technician, but there he was.

Marty stood out right from jump street, mainly because he was about 15 yrs older than the rest of us. Ours was a business for young punks, not 40ish yr old men. About a week into it, I had heard from a few other guys who stayed at the same hotel with Marty, about sitting around the hotel pool listening to Marty playing guitar and singing. To hear them all talk he was he was some musical god. I didnt think much of it. About a week later, I along with Marty and others were assigned to the night shift, 7PM-7AM. Marty and I hit it off right away, and became pretty friendly. In an effort to save a little money we decided to get out of the hotels were staying in and lease an apartment. During all of our discussions in work, Marty never once mentioned his musical background. We talked about everything but. Anyway, we got our apartment in Omaha. We had rooms on opposite sides of the apartment, and although I new he had a guitar I never heard a peep. I think mainly because he was being courteous to my sleep.

That all changed one morning, when having gotten used to the nightshift, I didnt come home right away and crash. I instead, went into our living room to watch some TV. For the first time I heard Marty hitting a few notes from inside his bedroom, trying to tune his guitar. I sat there, drinking a beer flippin through channels, when suddenly I started to hear music and lyrics from an old Simon & Garfunkel tune, "Kathy's Song". I yelled to him to come on out, no reason to stay holed up in that little bedroom. He came out, sat down. I told him I liked Simon & Garfunkel a lot. I can still see that big smile. He started to play it from the beginning and I couldnt believe my eyes or ears. I'm no muscician, cant play or sing a lick, but I know good when I hear it. I was blown away by this guy. We drank beer and talked for the next few hours and he played dozens of songs for me. Many I knew, many I'd never heard. He told me his story, about growing up in Chicago, about Viet Nam, about all the musicians he'd played with. I was absolutely blown away. I'll never forget that morning. I couldnt believe someone that talented was sitting acrossed from me.

That job lasted about 18 months. Marty and I shared that apartment until it ended. He started doing small gigs around Omaha. A little Irish Pub called the Dubliner was the first I think. He then started playing weekly at a small Italian palce called Trovatos. He had quite a following. Many from work would come out. I went to almost every gig. I think what amazed me the most, in addition to his showmanship you speak of, was the volume of music he had in that huge head of his. I saw him play probably close to 100 times, and it seemed every gig, he'd play something I'd never heard before. Amazingly, I never once heard him practicing...I lived with the guy...he never practiced a lick!. He'd show up about an hour before he went on, have a few glasses of cognac to prime his vocal chords, and let it rip. He'd have the whole place on its feet as he bellowed out a raspy rendition of "House of the Rising Sun" then you'd hear a pin drop by switching gears to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" or "Bring in the Clowns". FRIGGING UNBELIEVABLE!!

Its been close to 20 years since I've seen Marty. I spoke to him a couple times over the years. Last I knew he was living in New Mexico. I dont know what made me think of him this morning, and do a search on his name. I'm very glad I did however. And I'm sorry if I've bored you with my rantings. I've told versions of this story to many. I'm now married with 3 kids, and they've all heard it a dozen times. Marty was quite a character and left me with dozens of hilarious memories in addition to his music.

Thanks for your post and for bringing back such great memories. If you happen to hear him play again or ever by chance speak with him, please give him my regards.

Eric Laning
Knoxville TN
Aug. 11th, 2008 02:55 am (UTC)
Re: Marty Peifer
Please forgive me for having taken this long to notice your lovely remembrance of Marty - normally, I get alerts when someone responds to one of my lj comments, but this one appears to have flown in under the radar. Thanks for contacting me by email! Your comments are not rants, they created a lovely story!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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