1976 proved to be both memorable for its current events, and its significance for me personally. It was the bicentennial of the United States; what sports enthusiast could forget the Pittsburg Steelers beating the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X, 21 to 17? And what about the Cincinnati Reds, they won the World Series against the New York Yankees, 4 games to 0? Also, there was Muhammad Ali’s “KO” win against Richard Dunn in Munich. “Rocky” won best movie that year; and George Benson’s album, “Masquerade” won best record.
During the year of 1976, I was truly embraced by the Catholic churches in the bay area. Most Sunday mornings I would sing at St. Andrews in Oakland, California, or St. Columba in Berkeley, California. Singing regularly at those churches gave me great exposure, which is significant to the success of any up and coming artist. Another benefit of singing regularly, which is of equal importance to a striving artist is, it allows the musician to hone his/her craft.
Remember, my parents would not hear of me sitting around the house all summer with nothing constructive to do. So I became proactive and got a job as a counselor’s aide at St. Andrew’s Summer Camp. For me, this was much better than my parents choosing how I spent my summer, because along with having something to do, I also earned my own money. One of the kids who attended the camp that year was Angela Ray; she is the younger sister of Harriet Ray, the young lady who years later approached me about auditioning for her wedding. Now for the “great reveal”, both are the sisters of who would become my future wife. Another interesting tidbit, I met my future mother-in-law approximately five years before I met any of her daughters. She saw me sing at one of the churches when I was only 16. When my wife and I started dating, and I was introduced to her family, her mother recognized me as the young man she heard singing years prior. My mother- in- law would often share how she rushed home to tell her oldest daughter how she thought her voice would blend with this young man she had heard at church that morning. She laughed each time she got to the part about her daughter showing no interest. We were married five years later. True story! God has a way of “having His way”.
In September of that year, I started attending a school closer to my home in Oakland. I had been attending a Christian school located in South San Francisco. Many of us whose parents are from the south, recount similar stories told by our parents of how they walked for miles to go to school, come rain or shine. As children we were amazed at how all our parents had similar stories. Hmmmm! With that being said, this is a true account of my daily routine to get to school. I got up at 5:00 a.m. each morning in order to catch my first bus, which was some walking distance from my house. I would then have to transfer to the Muni bus on 1st street in San Francisco. I would get off at Ocean Avenue in South San Francisco. Most mornings the bus would be jam packed with standing room only. I hated the commute, it was exhausting! I was excited to learn that I would be enrolling in a school closer to where we lived. Now instead of 3 hours to get to school, it would only take 1 hour. That excitement was short lived. On my first day of school, a boy, for no apparent reason, challenged me to a fight. I’m thinking, “come on, it’s my first day”. Once again I was placed in a position of having to prove myself. Without recounting blow for blow, let’s just say, I was never challenged to a fight again. However, I was sent to the Principal’s office even though I wasn’t the instigator. That was my first and last encounter with what I call the “board of education”. The “board of education” was a paddle with holes drilled in it so the air could freely pass through them, causing the most pain. I was swatted three times, leaving my behind sore. I quickly learned that this was not the education I needed, nor wanted. This experience taught me that I must figure out a better way to resolve my conflicts, and I did! By the end of that year, my eyes were opened to something new, “GIRLS”.