Category Archives: professional musicians

Paul Yoculan Younger, Epic Prince of Entertainment.

 

Pop was never my thing, back then.  But, I secretly wished it could be.

Raised on two part a capella worship music, sung by the untrained, first listening to my father croon into my ears while he fed me the bottle I always had an affinity for a grown man who could really sing.

Paul was definitely grown. His skin betrayed his age, but he still wore a shag to the shoulders as if it were the coolest, and a denim jacket same.  And I think, but I’m not sure, that the day I stepped into Larry’s basement for my keyboard “audition” he might have already been there.

The Classmates were a vocal quartet of high school friends circa 1957, which was the year I was born. Frank, Jim, Larry, and Ronnie, three out of four second generation Italian and one black American with voices to blend. But, Paul was their friend, and became a final set fixture at nearly all our gigs. The reason he was in that set was because we always closed with “Peppermint Twist”/”SHOUT” – and, these were his signatures. Paul had spent his heyday singing them with his band, The Epics, both in Vegas and at the “World Famous Peppermint Lounge” – in New York City. The Epics were the band The Beatles came to see and hear after they played New York. It’s true; look it up.

I’d always had a solo voice, of sorts, suited for weddings and funerals, a solid Debby Booner. But, when our tenor couldn’t quite carry the Frankie Valli leads, and Frank asked me if I could, these became my own semi-signature tunes from behind the keyboard for the second set. “Big Girls Don’t Cry”; “Sherry, Baby”; my choice, the Ronnie Spector “It’s My Party” and, nod to the Beatles, “Twist and Shout”.

To Paul, I was probably the furthest cry from a female singer. I didn’t dress the part and, worse, I didn’t carry it. Frank had saddled me in the shoes of the same name when I produced my own pair and, when he acquired royal blue bowling shirts with white cuffs and collar for the guys, I got one too – along with one each of the violet and pink ruffled tuxedo long sleeves to match with black pants.

Never sure if this were on consult or his own idea, but one day Paul had me come over to his house and meet him in his basement. He wanted to coach me into singing lead. Out front. Like a real girl singer.

His wife, sweet and accommodating, provided iced tea on a serving tray. I squirmed. This man sucked on a Throat Disc and wailed like his life depended on it; how could I possibly learn from him? Ah. The arrogance of youth.

I actually don’t remember all of what happened during that session. He told me stories of his days in the circuit, and we listened to some forty fives and he talked about style. I concluded that I was probably the only female singer he’d ever met who would not be groomed for the front. He must have been convinced; we never met again, over iced tea or anything else.

But, what we did do was play out. Paul got us the best work in the big bars. He’d always be our finisher, and he was so good at it – stirring the crowd into a frenzy, pushing his cords until I thought they would just splinter out every time, I was content to crank the keyboard bass until the woofers jumped from the floor and ride all the way to the end on that Roland Hammond B3 preset like a boss. I was so happy just to be part of his show.

Paul’s show kept on, too. Long after I left that band to accept my first public school teaching job, he’d still be found singing. Few of us musicians knew he also coached baseball, and well enough to do so for major high school programs in our region. But, he would not stop singing. That voice which, to my ear and experienced vocal nodes, was always on its last legs just never gave out.

I don’t know what happened, really. Something about a heart problem, requiring major surgery, and complications, and the ICU, and then death. How does that occur, in our time, anymore? Yeah. Paul was 82. But, from the first time and every time I’d seen him over the years he was always, already older than me, old – but young. Younger than all the rest. Paul Younger.

Rest in Peace, you old crooner. Or, keep on wailing. It’s your call, Paul. You were our prince of Pop.

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© 12/29/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose first hand story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Please respect this tribute, exactly as it is written. Thanks.

 

 

The Last Trombone.

 

© 12/21/19     Ruth Ann Scanzillo   AF of M Local #17  Member since 1986.  No make up.

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The Sonata.

 

Introduction.

He was familiar.

In the wake of fake widowers, oil magnates, and satellite engineers, he was just the guy who’d cut her hair. Her father had also cut her hair; he’d cut hair, every day, for a living. They were both barbers.

And, like her father, he was Italian.

In a sea of fluid sexuality, snakes, and white supremacists, he shared the blood of her heritage. Like most of the rest of the traditional Italian American men, he liked women, and he remembered her.

She thought being remembered, after two haircuts and a perm, was meaningful. He recognized her. And, he didn’t forget.

Thirty years had passed, but he remembered.

And, she remembered him.

From this one, momentary flash of commonality she took her first step.

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1st Mvt:  Andante  “Courtship.”

It was his face.

Appearing online, with a short greeting, his photo.

She’d always recalled a certain boyish beauty, but this was an expression. She wanted to call it apologetic, yet resigned; he seemed to be telling the camera to take or leave him.

They began by writing to each other.

Though he only lived twenty three minutes south, she had a major performance two weeks from the day he surfaced and knew, in her gut, that if they met up her focus would significantly shift. So, they messaged each other.

Long paragraphs. Outpourings. Every day, for two weeks, earnest exchanges between them. The face she’d seen in the mirror, as he stood behind the barber chair emanating it’s subdued chatter now replaced by the poetic revelations of a philosopher. The man had depth. This she had managed to miss, entirely, during that first impression.

And now, he promised to wait for her.

Thirty years had passed between that first meeting and this encounter, yet he was still able to wait for her.

Though this aspect had a tremendous effect on her attraction to him she would not, ultimately, learn to appreciate it.

She invited him to her recital.

The date of the performance came. Looking out into the dark of the hall, she was able to spy the outline of a man’s head which looked like his. Whenever there was a break in the program’s music, she fixed on that man. Surely, he had made the drive over the state line to hear her performance.

When the concert ended, and applause rose, the lights came up as well and she was finally able to see the man upon whom her gaze had settled.

That man walked forward.

It was her old friend Steve, a college classmate – and, his praise came freely. But, she was already in her head; the morning wouldn’t come soon enough, their planned meet up to take his dogs for a peninsula walk kicking her heart rate.

Perhaps she should have taken the sign.

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2nd Mvt: Largo “Coupling.”

The dogs appeared on the landing, first. They were so big. She loved how they wriggled, and pressed in. She laughed, out loud.

It was his face.

He looked ten years older than his photo. Of course, this is because he was, at least, maybe more.

But, beyond that, he seemed tired, maybe dehydrated. And, then, something in her said: “Forgive; accept.” And, she rubbed the top of his head, over his thinning hair.

The rest wrote history.

They talked and walked the dogs, embraced, then reconvened that evening at her house. She played her cello for him; he stood, a bit tense, unmoved. She played the piano. When the song ended, he kissed her. He was quietly eager. He made overtures. He persuaded more.

Now, it was difficult to go back to the beginning. Images of him, arriving at the back door; a gift of food, or a small vase from home. Earnest kisses. And, the attic loft.

She wasn’t completely clear when the first doubts crept.

He worked long hours, at the hospital. The claim was that he had to get home and feed the dogs. She would not know the extent of that which impelled him; she knew only that he had to be encouraged to spend more than a couple hours at a time with her.

Dinners out. Plays; shows. The attic loft. And, stories. Stories, of his ex wife of so many decades ago. Then, stories of the woman who had died the winter before, about whom he’d spoken in his letters. He had so much to reveal, explaining the demise of all his previous entanglements, and she heard him. She remembered being made to feel transcendent in his company, silently pre-eminent in the wake of the remarkably ungrateful women who had preceded her. In her heart, she began to promise him love and acceptance.

Weeks passed. The pattern was set. Then, one day, he arrived with photos of his house and gardens, and an urgent disclosure.

He’d had a deeper past.

Seated across from her on the living room sofa, he began this new story. Tears rolled from his eyes. Decades earlier, he’d committed a felony, and had been incarcerated for five years.

He was utterly contrite. He looked like a sad boy, sitting with his wet face. Her heart surged in her. Commitment to loving him gelled. He had her.

Two weeks of numbness, the euphoric effect of shock.

Then, a visit to the reference library. He’d provided the year, the month, the day. She found the local newspaper microfiche, and scrolled to the bottom of page one.

A New Year’s Eve drama unfolded. This was the kind of story nobody alive at the time could forget. Her eyes stopped blinking.

Silently, she removed the film from the manual device, rolled it up, set it back in its box, placed it into the small drawer and pushed the drawer back into the cabinet.

Life went on.

Death began.

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3rd Mvt: Scherzo “Land of Diminishing Returns.”

It took two years, but she would call them little slips.

What became notable was how deftly he retrieved the ones she managed to catch.

Early on, the short blonde following them back to the green room, curiously smiling at her then him, called his “cousin” when queried. Except that he had no known relatives.

The fleeting reference, to a woman by name, a call he needed to make. Not mutually known. The gaslight: hadn’t she just talked of someone named the same?

The casual recall of their having recently been together. Except that, fact be told, they hadn’t. Some vague excuse about his relative time frame for remembering.

Sidelong eye contact, with his coworker who preceded her into the room, an arresting control. Cool dismissal of the girl upon query as a student shadow, without even the value of a first name. And, no formal introduction.

Eye contact, with women passing in the grocery and department store aisles. Their startled recognition. His reference to them knowing he needed/abrupt modulation to the recipe books at the check out.

Eye contact, with young women in restaurants, out on dates, in doctor’s offices. Their blank stares of deliberate anonymity.

Eye contact, twinkling, with the B&B hostess. Curious attention paid to the sliding lock on the adjoining door, calling to mind a time he’d gone out in the night visiting Italy while his woman companion deeply slept. A jarring juxtaposition.

Dirty dishes, in the sink. Two plates, two bowls, two spoons. One meal. One lone chicken leg, left in the skillet. A bottle of new wine, and a single wine glass never before seen.

The consistently odd nights of spaghetti and fried chicken, from an otherwise experienced self taught gourmet.

The presence of cash, on her bureau, when he stayed over. Not placed there by her. His never having cash, otherwise.

Her toiletry bottle, alone on his kitchen counter. Her toothbrush, always precisely replaced, once on a different cabinet shelf and again out, on the bathroom sink. Then, a new brand of toothpaste, appearing on the sink, the old one still in use.

An alarm clock, going off at an odd hour, found in a drawer, never before seen.

And, always, always, the sudden flame of anger at mentions made, escalating to verbal derision, then shut down.

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4th Mvt:  Funerale/Coda.

She’d given up all honor, including that to love by example he who had never been. By the end, denial was not an option. The music had stopped. The story was over.

Familiarity had inbred with contempt; miscarried, still born. She had forsaken her soul for one who had long since lost his own.

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Sonata (/səˈnɑːtə/Italian[soˈnaːta], pl. sonate; from Latin and Italian: sonare [archaic] in music, literally means:  “a piece played.”

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© 9/18/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  All rights solely those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in part/whole/jot/or, tittle permitted, for any reason at any time.  Thank you for respecting original material.

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