Friday, October 24, 2008

Kyle McGehee


I read the other day of the passing of Kyle McGehee, which brought back a lot of fond memories. I met Kyle some 32 years ago when he hired the Cracked Wheat Band to play at his bar, Kyle's in Bellevue, in the summer of 1976. The band consisted of wife Nancy Gene Reppond, Stacy Reider and myself.

Initially, there were some problems that had to be worked out. Primarily, there were bats in the club. The bats would fly blindly all over the place, which made dancing a little like dodging incoming fire in Afghanistan. When roused, they would swoop in causing many a late-night local party animal to lose his balance and careen over a laden cocktail table. Kyle would leap over the bar with his Louisville Slugger baseball bat, track the marauding mammal and smash it against the wall with one blow, sometimes right next to where we were playing on the bandstand.

Secondly, he wondered whether he'd hired the right band for the venue. We were essentially hippies who played a lot of folk rock. One night, we opened with "Suite Judy Blue Eyes," an intricate, four-part harmony piece, that took us more than a month to learn properly. At the end of the song, there was just quiet. Then, an elderly woman with a cane limped over to the stage and yelled, "No more freakin' Calypso!" The next night, we opened with "Please Release Me," a slow country song we thought would be safe. At the end of this song, the audience erupted in cheers and applause. We grinned and felt we had finally won the crowd until we found out that someone had just sunk the eight ball on the break at the pool contest. One night, we tried comedy. I'd like to forget that night. Through all this, Kyle was always cool and smiling.

One Saturday night, as three fights raged on in the club, I said to Kyle who was just shaking his head behind the bar and said, "Dance?" Kyle looked up, leapt over the bar and said, "By God, I think I will." We began to dance and all three fights ceased as the customers looked at us with mouths agape and arms akimbo and then, broke out laughing.

He was always a gentleman, always a clown, always paid us on time and conducted his business with a twinkle in his eye. He was a friend to all down in Bellevue in those years. As one patron used to say, "You got to love that guy."

Kyle was killed when he stopped to help a stalled trucker who needed help. The world is a little sadder today.

Nice talking to you.

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