Saturday, July 09, 2011
Not a day goes by during every year when I don’t think of my boy. Just walking down the hall from the family room to the laundry room brings a rush of memories because the Jay walls are there. Every individual photo, whether a part of the collages that some of you helped Wendy construct right after Jay died or lone photos of him playing at Trinitys or at Cinco de Mayo, brings back a memory. So many good memories!
This year, though, I’m not going to reminisce about personal memories or insert photos to talk about; instead, I’m going to use words of his friends and relatives to recapture Jay. Some of you know that soon after Jay died in 1992 that Angela Hinkley got in touch with lots of his friends and asked them to help her with a project. But let me share Angela’s words with you instead of trying to paraphrase:
Since I met Jay through my writing, it seemed really appropriate to summarize my relationship with him in writing also. As I began writing, I recalled so many memories of Jay. It made me think of how many other people must carry within themselves an almanac of “Jay” memories. If only I could unleash them!
I started the idea for this book by wanting each individual in Jay’s life to write down their own favorite memories. It became apparent, almost immediately, that this was going to be an impossible task. If I excluded those who were not in this area, I would probably have created quite a simple publication. I realized that the phone would be a helpful tool in compiling all the information necessary. I knew that people would need a little help and a little prodding to begin their personal thoughts about Jay with me. I hope I succeeded.
For the past month, I have totally immersed myself in the life of Jay Young. I have laughed with, cried with, listened to, comforted, and assured these people who would be so kind as to share private times of their lives with me. I’ve never before been so involved in the investigation of a human life, other than my own. During this time, I haven’t even been able to converse with Frank and Sandy for fear of “spilling the beans”! I’ve learned so much I wanted to share with them. I’ve had to hold everything in, except for sharing with Wendy, who I know has probably heard every account in this book five times each!
I really thought I knew a lot about Jay. I probably did, but there was so much more to learn and to appreciate about this profound human being. The people he touched through his life and music were far beyond anything I’d imagined, even after witnessing the lines at the funeral home. People genuinely love him. I’m so pleased to have been able to compile these recollections. I want Jay’s memory to live on, not in mourning but in the wonderful celebration of a life—his life.
What a beautiful “giff” (to use Jay’s pronunciation) Angela gave Frank and me! Wendy helped her by designing the cover of what we have titled The Jay Book.
It is one of our most prized possessions, and I can assure you that if we ever had to evacuate, it would be one of the treasures that I’d take with me.
Choosing which of your memories to include was a task that almost wiped me out, I’m afraid. Why? Just the choosing itself was very difficult because I wanted to quote each of you. The main wiping out came, though, in the reading. Such beautiful memories! But my “rememberer” is attached to my tear ducts, I’m afraid, so the mama shed lots of tears during the choosing. But that’s okay. They were happy tears. The ones that I’ve chosen will give all of you, both those who knew Jay and those who didn’t, a glimpse of my boy.
• Suzy Ward: Jay had a wonderful love-hate relationship with New York. He worked so hard to make a got of it there. In spite of his irritation at life in the City, financial problems, Winnebago problems, his eyes lit up whenever he saw the night lights or walked down Bleeker Street. He loved the music scene. He loved the weirdness. Jay always loved the crowds. He gave money to homeless sax players, turned cartwheels in the subway, drove through Harlem at 2:00 a.m. so Wendy could shoot photos, and spoke to every celebrity and pseudo-celebrity he would recognize on the street. Living in New York is a thoroughly exhausting endeavor. Jay made it energizing for me.
• Patrick O’Donovan: The night I decided to leave Velvet Melon was perhaps the most difficult decision of my life. I was so afraid of what everyone, but especially Jay, was going to think of me. We had rehearsed and then I told Jay I needed to talk to him. We went for a drive. I was so scared to tell Jay I was leaving. I was afraid he would be upset with me. Most of all, I was afraid of Jay being disappointed in me. Jay had grown to become my brother. His opinion and views affected and meant so much to me, both professionally and personally. I slowly told Jay the news, carefully outlining all the reasons I needed to leave Velvet Melon. Expecting disappointment, anger, and even despair from Jay, I was so surprised to hear what he had to say. He told me he understood. He said he was disappointed I was leaving the band, but he was proud of my desire to return to school. He told me I had to follow my dreams. I’d been with Jay Young every day for the previous many months. However, I’d never felt closer to him in my life.
• Jimmy Mills: My memory starts with picking on Jay in middle school, through the good times in high school, where we both developed our skills as musicians and best friends. Later, in 1984, we bonded even more on our trips every other weekend to Tampa to further develop our skills in Suncoast Sound Drum and Bugle Corps. We never quit looking for ways to be better as musicians. All my memories of Jay seem to always center around music, but there are a few occasions where we were just buddies having fun. I’m pretty sure we all know which nights those were! (When I woke up on the floor of Sandy’s bathroom one morning in my underwear! Ha! Ha!)
• Nathan Tracy: My best memory of Jay . . . so many. Jay did a perfect imitation of Pete Payton. He would talk and gesture just like him. It was so funny! Jay used to say there was nothing like going to Mariner Mall and licking the telephone receivers. He was so crazy!
When we played soccer together, we always ragged Jay because he would leave early for piano lessons. We called him a “girlie” and just gave him a general hard time. Jay always took the heat. He turned out to be the best musician any one of us ever knew.
• John Buck: To remember Jay is to know how spontaneous a person he was. He was so tremendously talented and such a positive person. I think Jay may have been the most talented kid I ever taught in all my 22 years of teaching. There is not enough I could say about him.
• Lisa “Farmer” Hall: In 1989, Velvet Melon was playing at Apple Annie’s in Seville Quarter. Jay and I had had a disagreement, and Jay really hurt my feelings. I knew, however, that all my friends were going to be there listening to Velvet Melon. I decided to go to Seville anyhow and worry later about the deal with Jay. I arrived and the guys had already started playing. I went over to the bar for a drink. About halfway there, I heard Jay announce, “This next song is for Lisa Farmer. I did something really stupid and hurt her feelings. I’m really sorry.” The next song the band played was for me. I couldn’t believe Jay had humbled himself to me in front of hundreds of people . . . and on stage. It showed me just what kind of person he really was.
• Tim Weekley: The first time Jay came to Bible Study was so memorable. We had been holding Bible Study for a few weeks. Jay showed up and listened intently. I didn’t know Jay spiritually at all at that time. I knew he was raised a Christian. However, not knowing exactly where Jay stood, I did not want to direct any questions of comments directly to him. During Bible Study, we would always ask people to read a passage from Scripture to exemplify our discussion for the evening. I asked who would like to read this rather obscure Old Testament passage. To my surprise, Jay immediately volunteered, located the passage without hesitation, and began to rread. I was amazed. After that first Bible Study, Jay expressed a great appreciation for the group. He came as often as possible and we enjoyed his presence and participation so much.
Right before Velvet Melon left for New York, they were scheduled to play at Trader Jon’s. Jay asked me to come down after the gig and pray with the band before they left for New York. I woke up at 3:00 a.m. and went to Trader’s to pray with them. I really appreciated that opportunity. Once the guys moved to New York, I would call regularly on Monday nights to get their prayer requests for the week. I’d always remind everyone at Bible Study to pray for the band and their success.
• Kevin Totowian (Tall Stories band): Jay was such a profound and outgoing person. He was really positive and sincere and that came out in his music. In New York, there is a great competitiveness between bands which is almost vicious. There was never any of that with Jay and Velvet Melon. There was a real professional respect and friendship present there. Jay was so extremely talented. He stood out to us all as such a brilliant musician.
• Lisa Lassiter: Before I knew Jay, I was at Trinity’s one night when Velvet Melon was playing a gig. We all noticed this kind of unattractive girl who was just really taken with Jay. She was staring at him the entire first set. After that set, at least six girls came at Jay, most of whom were really attractive. However, Jay excused himself and went over to this girl, sat down, and began talking with her. Everyone could see that this girl was just beside herself. Jay was making her day! There were several beautiful girls around, but Jay chose to notice someone who probably wouldn’t be noticed by anyone else. I was so amazed at what a down to earth person he was.
• Andi Olsen: Velvet Melon played at my beach house in the summer of 1987. While the guys were playing, the balcony attached to the house collapsed. When the police came to investigate, their report states that the vibrations from the band’s music made the balcony fall off the house. From then on, we knew Jay and Velvet Melon as the “Band That Rocked the House Down”!
• Gary Powell (d. 2009[?]): Back at the time of my accident, all my friends kind of dumped me. (Gary was paralyzed after his accident.) My sister’s friends kind of picked me up. Jay was one of those friends. Jay always, no matter where he was or how busy he was, would take the time to sit down and talk with me. Not everybody did that. Even if Jay was running late and supposed to be someplace else, he would make time for me. It was enough to know that he cared that much for me.
One time in high school, Jay was late for band practice. I was in the commons and Jay sat down to talk. We were discussing running before my accident. I was telling Jay that although I could not run any longer, I would often push my wheelchair on the driving range for exercise. I would go fast, then pop the brake to spin around. I told Jay I couldn’t really go very fast, though. Jay got up and told me to get ready because I was going to come as close to flying as I would ever get! Jay took off, driving my chair at top speed through the hallways. We flew so fast I thought we were going to crash! I was so scared I almost lost my water. My heart was in my britches!
I really appreciated that no matter how large the crowd around him was, Jay always made time for me. He wanted to get personal with people.
• Phyllis Anderson: My fondest memories of Jay were when we played at Seville. He would come and sit in with us. Just when I thought I couldn’t go on another song, Jay would fly through those swinging doors and totally light up the room. He would blow that horn and remind me of why I do what I do. Jay would play that saxophone and the entire room filled with his energy, his power.
Jay and I talked many times about the Lord. In our business, it is so difficult to express and share your feelings about much without the use of music. I knew Jay was a Christian, and he was so refreshing! It was like Jay knew I needed to converse and share my words and feelings about the Lord. We talked one night until 3 a.m. about being able to feel close to God and carry on a personal relationship with Him, despite our occupation.
Jay Young was a refreshing, wonderful human and a tremendous musician. I know that the Lord is caring for Jay and that Jay is with Him.
• Todd Vannoy: Jay was always an individual. He went to church with long hair and an earring. I’m sure a lot of people stereotyped him for that reason. Jay showed everyone that you could love God and be a Christian just as you are.
• Doug Stiers: My most memorable time with Jay was the moment I met him — until the day he died.
• Scott Miller: Jay and I were in ninth grade and we were entered in the school talent contest. We dressed up in Long Johns and sang “satisfaction” with some guys from jazz band. This was before we had ever thought of bands or singing or Velvet Melon. We were just a couple of crazy freshmen with enough nerve to get up in front of the entire student body and sing our hearts out. There we stood in our pj’s doing our Mick Jagger imitation. It was the most exhilarating experience of my life. And we won the contest!
When I entered public school in third grade, Jay was the first person to walk up to me and say, “Hi! My name’s Jay.” The rest is history. It is a history of which I am so proud to be a part.
• Andy Waltrip: Jay was a true friend to me and he made me laugh so much. I enjoyed our friendship immensely and still do, when I look back on those times. One of the things about him was that he always made me feel like I was supposed to be there, that he always had time for me. Jay made everyone feel that way. Out of all the people I’ve ever met, I have never met anyone else who had such a magnetic, energetic, charismatic personality. I, just like so many other people, miss having that personality around to make the day more enjoyable. I looked up the word charisma in Webster’s Dictionary. It’s incorrect. It should have a picture of Jay next to the word. Jay Young defines charisma. I can’t wait to see him again.
• Ted Berquist: Frank and Jay came into All-Pro to buy Jay a drum set. It seems that Jay was going to learn go play drums. I sold them the set and they were on their way. A short time later, Jay came in to buy a keyboard. This kind of confused me, but, hey, a sale’s a sale. Even later on, Jay returned again to buy a bass guitar. Jay told me he was learning to play bass for his band, Velvet Melon. He invited me out to hear him play. When I finally went out to hear the band, I looked to see Jay playing not one of the three instruments he’d bought. The guy was playing a saxophone!
• Wendy Young: Let’s see, a memory of Jay . . . a memory of Jay . . . a memory of Jay. Well, I guess my first was the night Mom went to the hospital to give birth to my new baby. I hoped and hoped it would be a boy. I remember receiving the phone call at the neighbor’s house where I was staying. Nothing could have made me happier. This new entity in the house brought me great comfort. If I got scared in the night, which I was often, I could go to his room and sleep on the bed next to his crib and be okay.
As he grew, I took great delight in dressing him up in totally outrageous costumes and parading him in front of company. Maybe that’s why he had absolutely no inhibitions in gront of a crowd. We also used to stand on our toy box and lip-synch to Mom’s old 45’s from the fifties, like Elvis’s “My Baby Left Me” and Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons.” Jay’s favorite was “Mostly Martha” by some group I can’t remember and “Ape Call” by Nervous Norvus.
Music was a big part of our childhood, so it came as no surprise that he became an accomplished musician. I can remember him sitting at the piano practicing. His back was always so straight and his fingers always in perfect position. Being his older sister, I could not resist coming up behind him and grabbing him by the shoulders, and giving him a good big sister shaking. He never missed a beat and never told me to stop. I think he enjoyed the challenge.
It seems funny to me that I don’t remember any of the arguments or fights we had. There weren’t very many. All I remember when I think of Jay is fun. Whether we were eating supper, hiking in canyons, or listening to Led Zeppelin albums backwards to hear Satanic messages, we had a blast!
• Angela Hinkley: Jay was such a clown. Clowns enjoy life, seeking only to bring happiness to others through the life they lead. Jay was like that.
I remember that in October 1987 I traveled to Gainesville to sing at a frat party with the guys. We arrived and located our accommodations. Of course, the guys were staying in the dorms. I remember how funny the frat social chairman looked at Jay when Jay asked him where I was going to sleep. It was obvious that they had not planned for me. Jay told the guy I was his little sister and that we were orphans. He explained that I was still a minor and that he had to take me every place he played. Jay went on and on about how we were only in the music business to save enough money to get our granny the operation she needed. Mike and Wes were straining to keep straight faces, while Darin had to turn and walk away. I couldn’t stand it another second and broke out in laughter. As I was doubled over, Jay, who never cracked a smile, told the guy I was manic-depressive as well! Sometime much later, Jay let the poor guy off the hook. However, I can only imagine what stories went around about that band and its manic-depressive, orphaned, granny-saving sister!
Wendy asked me a few minutes if I had decided to copy the whole book here. Sometimes it seemed that I was; however, I assure you that there are lots more memories in The Jay Book. Maybe I’ll retype the whole book sometime so that we’ll have it on my computer, but not right now. Today is the nineteenth anniversary of Jay’s death, so I want to post this piece somewhere so that anyone who wants to can read it.
All of you know how much I love my boy and how much I want to preserve his memory. I think all of us — you included — are doing a good job of memory saving. Some of you have joined me this week in posting photos of Jay, Scott Miller (Mullah) in particular, and I’m very much grateful. Even more of you have written notes to Frank and me today, telling us that you’re thinking of us, and we love all of the messages. Thank you so much. As I copied what some of you said in The Jay Book, some of the dominant themes were that Jay was happy, smiling, funny, caring, exuberant, charismatic. Thanks for impressing these traits indelibly for all to read and remember. These are the things about Jay that I want to remember and that I want others to remember. Because of you and of the memories that you’ve written about my boy, today is a day of celebration . . . celebration of a life that will always be remembered.
Frank and I love all of you!