Friday, September 27, 2019

Thursday, September 19, 2019

My Mom's Always Hot! by Sandy Young


      My Mom’s Always Hot!
A Mother’s Memories
Sandy Young

There is an endearing tenderness in the love of a mother to a son that transcends all other affections of the heart. It is neither to be chilled by selfishness, nor daunted by danger, nor weakened by worthlessness, nor stifled by ingratitude. She will sacrifice every comfort to his convenience; she will surrender every pleasure to his enjoyment; she will glory in his fame and exult in his prosperity; and if adversity overtake him, he will be the dearer to her by misfortune; and if disgrace settle upon his name, she will still love and cherish him; and if all the world beside cast him off, she will be all the world to him.
—Washington Irving

Jay Young
February 10, 1968 – July 2, 1992



For Frank and Wendy, who have their own memories
Corey, who remembers through our memories
Melonheads the world over, who may remember what Frank, Wendy, and I don’t even know about






Chapter 1                        Here’s Jay!                                                                                    

Chapter 2                        The Last Week

Chapter 3                        The Days After

Chapter 4                        A Mother’s Memories

Chapter 5                        Afterthoughts

Suggested Reading and Viewing                                   

With gratitude to



Don’t let the subtitle of this book throw you off: A Mother’s Memories. It sounds a bit maudlin, I know, but this won’t be a book in which I’ll endeavor to make you sad. You might shed some tears, though, because of the loss of a talented young man at such an early age. Or your tears may come from funny incidents in his life, some of which, if you knew Jay, you might have lived through with him. And if you lived through the adventures personally, you probably know more than I do! I hope you smile as you read because he’d want you to do just that—smile and laugh and relish the adventures.
This will be a book of memories, mainly mine, but also some memories of others who loved Jay. When children die, the only thing parents have is memories, and all are precious, whether good or bad.  Bereaved parents don’t want to forget anything. That’s why some of us write books about our children. Granted, some families throw away everything that belonged to their children. Some move to new houses, even to different cities. Some divorce. But those parents seldom write books. Those of us who want to remember every little detail are the authors.
Jay died on July 2, 1992, a quarter of a century ago. Soon after he died, I began to read books by parents whose children had passed away. My friend Martha Dickson, who worked in the library at First Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida, gathered all the books  she could find addressing the grief of parents whose children had died. She had a stack a mile high waiting for me when we returned to church a couple of weeks after Jay died. They had no return date on them.
I also went to the Family Book Store at Cordova Mall every time I could find a few minutes, scouring their shelves for a new book by grieving parents. I devoured  Andrew, You Died Too Soon by Corinne Chilstrom, who lamented the fact that she had waited eight years to write about her son. At the time I thought waiting that long was a shame. Do you see where I’m going with this? My shame is that I’ve waited much longer than she did, a quarter of a century. I hasten to say, however, that I began writing about Jay almost immediately after he died. Writing was a catharsis. It forced me to examine my feelings and to get them on paper. What I’ve waited so long for is collecting my journals and other writings into book form so that Jay’s friends would have a complete story about him.
This book is an assembling of many pieces that I’ve written about Jay and about my grief during these years. These are writings from my heart, from the heart of a mother who, after all these years, still cries when she writes about her boy and when she looks at certain pictures of him; who still cries when she views one more time the videos that Jack Canavan made at Seville Quarter, some of which are posted on YouTube; who even cries when she hears songs by Billy Joel, The Police, Crowded House, INXS, David Bowie—songs that Velvet Melon, Jay’s band, played. I’m not sure a parent ever quits grieving. After all these years, I still remember something Paul Newman said in an interview sometime after his son died. The person interviewing him asked him when the grief got better. Newman said it never got better; it just got different.
Though I’ve mentioned that I want to assemble the writing that I’ve done during the years since Jay died, I have another more deep-seated and just as important a reason for gathering together my feelings, emotions, and memories: If bereaved parents happen to read this book, I want this collection to be an encouragement to them. I want them to know that, indeed, there is life for them after that death. Will it be easy? Absolutely not! For my survival, I relied on God.
Sometime during the days immediately after Jay’s death, God gave me some words that I’ve used over and over again. I first used them at the funeral home at the viewing. I don’t know how many friends hugged me and asked, “How will you ever get over this?”—this referring to Jay’s death. My reply came straight from the Lord: “I’m calling it a lesson in prepositions. (Good thing for an English teacher!) I’ll never get over it; but I will get through it with the help of God, friends, and family.” And that’s exactly what has happened. God, friends, and family continue to help me today.
Each bereaved parent heals differently. The important thing is to find the way. As you read this collection of memories, I hope you can see my mother’s heart and my healing that is still in progress. I never want to “get over” Jay. That would mean that I’ve forgotten him. I want my memories to keep him alive forever!

Chapter 1 -- Here's Jay!


As I mentioned in the Introduction, memories are all parents have after their children die. I’m trying to keep those precious memories alive for as long as I can. The memories I’m including are not necessarily the most important ones or ones that others will remember, but they are ones that keep coming back to me. Even though my recollections are long, they won’t be exhaustive. My intention is to give you a little flavor of Jay and his mom.
I believe Jay and I had a special bond even before he was born. On Thursday, February 8, 1968, at my weekly checkup, my obstetrician, Dr. Girard, told me three things: (1) that Jay wouldn’t arrive for two weeks, (2) that he would be out of town when the baby was due, and (3) that the other doctor—the one with the big hands—would deliver our baby. I wasn’t pleased with not having my regular doctor in the delivery room, so I told him  the baby needed to arrive sometime before he left town. “There is no way that this baby will be finished ‘cooking’ by the time that I leave,” he told me. And I said to myself, “We’ll see.” I honestly believe that Jay was determined to arrive when I wanted him to, evidence of the bond.
At 4:30 in the morning two days later, Jay made it known that he’d arrive that day, a great day for me because it was my dad’s birthday. Since our daughter, Wendy, was my daddy’s heart, my boy would need something special to tie him to his Papa. Two things gave Jay that special tie: (1) he was a boy (we have very few boys in our family), and (2) he was born on Papa’s birthday. Don’t get me wrong . . . he didn’t edge Wendy out—he was just welcomed with open arms.
Throughout his life, Jay was determined, and I think that determination reared its head before he appeared on the scene. He knew that he needed to enter the world on February 10, 1968, so that his mom didn’t have to face the “other” doctor.
Jay loved me right from the start. You see, I was his only source of nourishment. He came into this world fascinated with a certain part of my anatomy. I wonder if that was a foreshadowing of his later interests. Anyway, he just about wore me out. He’d nurse on and off all day long, with short periods in between feedings, and then just when I’d be certain that I’d get a long nap around midnight, he’d be yelling for me again. We developed quite a relationship right then. We talked a lot during the night. He’d look at me as though I were the only important person in the world. He always had a special look for me. I remember that I worried a lot because he wouldn’t eat “real” food, but the doctor assured me that if he continued to gain weight at the rate he was going, he would weigh fifty pounds when he was a year old. I quit worrying. Eventually, he ate, but he never “lived to eat,” as some of us do. I sometimes thought he was part camel, storing up food so that he wouldn’t have to waste his time on such mundane matters as eating. He had much more important things to do.
I suppose Jay’s life really began when we moved to Pensacola because he had no memories before that time. The only house he could ever remember living in was the one at 2720 Wilde Lake Blvd., in Pensacola, Florida. This was truly home to Jay. I  remember him running from room to room when he returned after being gone for seven months to New York, ostensibly to make his fortune, shouting, “My house! My house!” It was always his house.
Jay did not like for me to leave him when I went to work each morning. Can you imagine how I felt each day when I left him squalling and clinging to me either with a maid at home or at the baby-sitter’s house? We mentioned to Frank’s mother that Jay was a miserable little boy. Her reply was that she’d ask her sister, Aunt Bill to us, to help us. Aunt Bill headed to Florida from Maine right after Christmas. He had no reason to cry with Aunt Bill as his “sitter” because they spent days reading stories and playing games and going to the beach. If he woke up during the night, they got up, read more stories, ate cookies, and went back to bed eventually. What a life for both of them!
After Aunt Bill left, we began to leave him at Children’s World daycare center. He really liked it there although he didn’t like taking a nap with the other children: the teacher would put him in a room by himself. Independent little kid! Actually, some of the children misbehaved during naptime, and it scared him to hear the teachers yelling at them.
When he was a little older, I almost enrolled him in one of the Pensacola Christian day care centers so that he could get some teaching, not just babysitting; however, when I investigated, I learned that if he talked on the bus, he wouldn’t get any dessert at lunch. I changed my mind. That probably wouldn’t have been too much punishment for him, though, since he never did care much for sweets. If you knew Jay, can you imagine anyone’s trying to squelch Jay’s talking? We used to tell him to play the quiet game during meals at home. Otherwise, he’d still be sitting there talking when Wendy and Frank and I had finished eating.
A man named Dale Godbold used to work in our store. His brother died, and Jay heard us talking about someone named Godbold having passed away. You can imagine Jay’s surprise when Dale walked into the store a couple of days later when we were there. Jay turned to him in complete consternation and said, “Why, Mr. Godbold! I thought you died!” Whatever came into his head came out of his mouth.
One of my favorite memories of Jay took place in our car one afternoon. He must have been about five years old, and evidently he and his dad had had words about Jay’s climbing on Frank’s truck. We were riding toward Frank’s store in Brownsville when he announced that he was going to be a fireman when he grew up. He said he was going to be married and he and his wife would have at least twelve children. He’d take his fire truck home at night, and he’d let his children climb all over it. I said that that was nice and asked him if he knew that those children would be my grandchildren. How did Jay answer? “Of course, I know that.” Then came the important question. “And will you bring your children to see me?” He looked at me, astonishment written all over his little face. “Oh, Ma, you plolly be dead by then!” Out of the mouths of babes!
In the summer of 1973, we began preparing for Jay’s kindergarten year at Beulah School. Days at the old Beulah School were wonderful years for both Wendy and Jay. They loved the school, and they loved their teachers, who gave them elementary teaching that carried them through all of their public school years. I loved it out there. Everything was so much more peaceful than it was at the big schools in the city. Both Wendy and Jay had Eugene Winters for their principal at Beulah, Wendy the whole time and Jay until third or fourth grade. I have some very specific memories of his years out in the country.
Jay, like Wendy, loved going to school. Once, Mrs. Gunn, his first grade teacher, had jury duty for a whole week. Jay cried every day before he went to school because she wouldn’t be there and he didn’t like the substitute. I went by one day to surreptitiously get a look at her myself, and she was pretty scary, both in looks and in action. I could hear her screaming at the kids, and you remember, I’m sure, that he didn’t like hollering teachers. There really was nothing I could do except encourage my little boy to be patient, that Mrs. Gunn would be back in a few days.
By the time he was in second grade, we had so many kids at Beulah that Mr. Winters, the principal, had to form a second section of second graders after school started. Jay really didn’t like the teacher whose class he was originally in, and neither did we. She insisted on calling him “Frank” because that was his real name. Jay cried about that, too, so one day I wrote a note asking her to call him Jay. I also dressed him in his shirt that had Here Comes Trouble! written on the front and Jay on the back. Shortly after, he was moved to the newly formed class. I have always thought Mrs. Gunn had something to do with that. Even if she didn’t, I’ve always thanked her in my heart for it.
Third grade was Mrs. Vickery for both Wendy and Jay. What a lady! All he ever mentioned in later years was boobs and breath when her name came up. I’m forever grateful to her for making both of our children learn their times tables before they could be promoted to fourth grade. She was a rather old-fashioned teacher. I like old-fashioned!
Also, when he was in the third grade, Jay began two activities that he continued throughout his life—kissing girls and playing the piano. I didn’t actually see the kissing activity, but I heard about it. I believe it started at the Beulah Fall Festival that year when he and his best friend, Walter Glenn, talked girls into going behind the portable buildings with them.
I was right there for the piano playing, though. From the beginning, he was good. I can see him at the piano, sitting there with his legs dangling from the bench, playing songs that really were too hard for such a little boy. But he was gifted. Always gifted. Frank and I recognized his gift, and later in life, he did, too. His piano teacher recognized talent and entered him in many contests. One that I remember so well might have been a catastrophe except for Jay’s positive attitude. Jim Hussong, his piano teacher, realized about three days before a contest in Tallahassee that he had given Jay the wrong piece to learn. Jay’s reaction? “No sweat, Mr. Hussong. I can learn the new one.” And he did. Jim was more than pleased with both Jay’s attitude and performance.
I made sure that he was placed in Mrs. Gainey’s room in fourth grade because we had loved her for Wendy. Mrs. Gainey allowed him to be creative, just as she had Wendy. Jay was happy in her class. Unfortunately, the new principal, Lynwood Kent, was very much unhappy with me because I told all the mothers in the neighborhood to call the school and request Mrs. Gainey for their fourth graders. Lynwood stopped by our house one afternoon after school to tell me that when he needed a curriculum director, he’d hire me.
Can a person inherit headaches? I think so. My dad passed them on to me, and I shared them with Jay. Mrs. Gunn mentioned Jay's to me. These were agonizing times in my little boy’s life. One of these memories actually covers many instances. Every time he had a headache, he and I would sit in the rocker in the living room and rock in the dark. That’s the only way he got relief. Those were special times to me. Rocking my boy was one motherly thing I could do.
When we took Jay to the doctor to find out what caused the headaches, we were told that he had classic migraines. While we were sitting in the examination room with him, the doctor noticed some little red places on his arms and legs. When asked what they were, Jay looked innocently up at the physician and said, “Child abuse.” You can imagine our chagrin. The doctor, however, was smarter than Jay thought and said he didn’t believe that (Whew!); he had had a sister, and the doctor recognized the signs of sister/brother horseplay when he saw it. That kid!
Another headache memory comes with thoughts of Jay’s one and only attempt at football. All the other kids, Walter Glenn and Joe Jacobi probably, were playing, so Jay wanted to play, too. We outfitted him and began going to practice. His football “career” lasted about two weeks. He had a couple of headaches during that time, and the coach accused him of trying to get out of practice and made him go out on the field even though his head was splitting. Jay never liked to be accused of lying if he wasn’t, so he said that he’d had enough. I admitted readily that I had, too, and we both threw in the towel . . . excuse me . . . uniform. The closest he ever came to football again was playing xylophone in the high school band.
Even though Jay had taken piano for several years during his elementary school days, his real love of music probably began in middle school, for it was at this time that he joined the Bellview Middle School band. He “blew the sax.” I know that’s a strange way to put it, but it was such an awful sound at first. However, the screech didn’t last long. Soon he was playing really well, so we didn’t have to put him out in the barn to practice, as I thought we might have to. I don’t remember any specific instances of Jay in band in middle school, except for going to concerts at Christmas time and at the end of the year.
He also was tremendously interested in running during this time. Soccer was a love, too. Jay never wanted to be anything but a star, and during these years, he aspired to be another Pele. I took him to countless soccer practices and games. I remember one particular game when I was sitting in the stands cross-stitching and watching. (Yes, I could do both at the same time.) I looked up just in time to see Jay butt the ball for a goal. I yelled, “That’s using your head, son,” and was immediately relieved to know that he hadn’t heard me because he would have been really embarrassed.
He was so little in middle school. One of his teachers called him “Too-Tall Young,” after some famous athlete; he even had “Too Tall” written on the back of one of his jerseys. Jay didn’t mind being short; in fact, I always felt that he took pride in being the smallest but often the “tallest” in accomplishments. He never longed (pun intended) to be tall. I recall once his telling me that he had no desire to be a big person. But he was big in many ways.
I think it was probably during his middle school years when he rushed into the house crying about something that had happened in the neighborhood. After he was about eight or so, he never cried much, so I was really surprised. It seems that one of his friends had thrown Jay’s new Nikes into Walter’s pool. Jay was so angry. I can’t even describe it. Thank goodness I don’t think I ever saw him that angry again. The only time after this one that I recall him crying was when he was much older. He and Suzy, his girlfriend, had had a horrible falling out on the phone on Christmas Eve. The only solution that I could offer was for him to call her to apologize and then to come home to spend the night with us. He did both. We all felt better.
I told you earlier that Jay loved school. Don’t get me wrong: He was not a wonderful student. I’d never try to convince myself that he was. However, he loved people and fun, and that’s where both were—at school. He also loved his teachers, like Mrs. Gunn, Mrs. Gainey, Mrs. Jackson, Mr. Whitten, Mr. Ewing, Mr. Buck, Mr. “Longwoit,” Mrs. Crumpton, Mrs. Thompson, Mrs. Livingston, and lots of others. But there was one teacher in middle school that he did not like at all because she embarrassed him. I think she taught math and science. Once when he made an F on a test, she told the whole class. He just couldn’t stand it. His grades plummeted in her class, so we went for a conference. She was not a delightful person, and we understood why the kids would misbehave. They wanted to be put into the “hole,” a solitary place behind bookshelves, for punishment to get away from her. Jay spent a lot of time there. After the conference, we never complained about his grade. We just continued to demand the best that he could do, realizing that he was working under very much adverse circumstances with that teacher.
Just before he left Bellview Middle School to go to Pine Forest High School, Jay announced that he wouldn’t be in band in high school. Instead, he’d run cross-country. He didn’t think it would be “cool” to march and play his sax because he might damage his teeth. Don’t ask me where he got that idea. But if he got an idea in his head, it was there to stay. Well, Wendy would have none of that. I remember that she took him outside at home and talked to him for a while. When they came in, she announced that Mr. Buck had an opening for a xylophone player and that Jay was going to fill the spot. Had Jay ever played mallets before? No. Did that discourage him? No. He brought the xylophone home and taught himself to play. I don’t think he ever missed a Friday night “gig” in the Pine Forest band during his four years there.
Most of my memorable moments with Jay in high school involved band. The PFHS band was not new to us. We had been through four years with Wendy, so we were very much familiar with meetings and duty at the concession stand and contests and last-minute ironings of uniforms . . . and on and on and on. We loved John Buck, the band director, and his band. I must admit that it was difficult for me to be a teacher at Woodham and a parent at Pine Forest. I had to work really hard not to mix the two. When he and Jimmy Mills were in Suncoast Sound Drum and Bugle Corps the summer of 1984, Jay learned to play drums. That completed his percussion education. He wrote the cadence for drums his senior year, and my heart beat right along with the drums as the band marched into the stadium. Pride!! The night that he played his trap set on the field was almost too much for this mother’s heart. The time that my heart thrilled the most, though, was at Honors Night when John Buck gave him the Band Award, saying simply that he had never known a student with so much talent. In 1992 Jay still held that place in John’s heart. He told me so when Jay died. Again, John brought joy to a mother’s heart.
Of course, I remember the night in January of 1985, when Joey Allred called Jay. I was doing dishes, and I heard Jay say something about a band. That’s when Velvet Melon was born. The name of the band didn't come that night, though. It was months later when Jay's girlfriend at the time, Gina Forsberg, told him that she had seen something strange carved on a desk at Tate High School: Velvet Melon. "That's it, Gina. Our band is Velvet Melon!" And he announced it to the guys that evening . . . immediate acceptance.

 Jay and Joey had a dream, a dream to have the best rock ‘n’ roll band in Pensacola. The dream began to develop every Saturday morning around 10:00 and went on for about four hours, letting up only for the guys to consume dozens of hot dogs. That was all I could afford to buy that bunch of boys who all looked and sounded alike to me. Even though Joey and Jay together formed Velvet Melon, Jay was always in the lead. I could hear him giving orders as I set out the food. It’s so funny that a month before the band came into existence, Frank was preaching about the ills of rock music, and I was shouting “Amen” to what he said. According to Frank, that rock beat would mess up your heart. I wonder. Somehow, though, when our boy began to play and sing the “stuff,” it wasn’t quite so bad.
 I was in love with all that Jay did. Frank, Wendy, and I were Jay’s #1 fans, and Steve, Wendy’s first husband, was right up there with us. Naturally, certain gigs stand out more than others. We went to all of them, except for the private parties, which, by the way, were usually broken up by the police, who were responding to the complaints of neighbors. It’s probably a good thing that we weren’t invited to those gala events anyway because we might have seen some things that our tender eyes didn’t need to see yet. We did see some things that we shouldn’t have; however, we thought it best to ignore them.
The gigs that I enjoyed most were those at Pine Forest (sock hops, talent shows, even concerts). I can’t remember when Velvet Melon started to play in clubs, but it was probably after Jay was out of high school. But the clubs that I enjoyed most in the early days were Longnecker’s and Fennegal’s. I never did care much for The Rex, an old theater where I went to movies when I was a teenager. None of these are in existence now.

Homecoming at PFHS -- He had on the whole tux when he escorted a friend at halftime.

Before I begin to tell you about Jay’s years after high school and in Velvet Melon, the best years of our lives with our boy, I need to mention some disclaimers.
When a parent writes about his or her child after the child has died, it’s very easy to make the child out to be an “angel.” I assure you that Jay wasn’t an angel, that he did things that later he wasn’t necessarily proud of and that I certainly wasn’t proud of. I didn’t know about much of the trouble that he got into during his young adult years because he and Wendy and his friends kept me in the dark. They protected the mother who worries much too much.
Because I wasn’t involved in most of the trouble that Jay got himself into, my memories don’t involve the scrapes with the law and the underage drinking. I found out in later years that we didn’t escape some of these “events”; we just didn’t know what was going on. Even though we discovered later some of the things Jay did, things we didn’t approve of, we were happy to know for sure that he was not involved in drugs. It really is a miracle in the twentieth century and especially in the rock music scene for a person not to be involved in this aspect of the lives of young people. I never feared that Jay would have anything to do with drugs; in fact, I can remember telling him that he might get in trouble because of his outspoken abhorrence of them. I feared that someone might slip something into a drink just to prove to him that he, too, would do drugs. That never happened. Thank you, Lord! One line that he wrote in an original song has always comforted me: “I don’t mix drugs with rock ‘n’ roll/I’ve got Jesus in my heart to save my soul.” Isn’t that a wonderful line? Another precious memory for this mother.
In 1989, Jay moved his band to New York to make their fortunes playing in clubs in the Village and on the Jersey Shore. They all needed steady jobs to support themselves while playing music in clubs so that they could be discovered. The job that Jay thought would earn him the most money was that of a messenger. He had seen the movie Quicksilver, about a young man who made good money and had an exciting, dangerous life delivering messages. Jay was sure that he could do the same, especially in the area of money. Wrong! He got the job. Actually, anyone who showed up for work could have a job. The problem was that when he reported for work, most of the time there wasn’t anything for him to do; therefore, he wasn’t a messenger for long.
Andy Waltrip, one of Jay’s best friends, was already in New York City when the guys arrived and had a job at The Beanstalk Restaurant in Rockefeller Center. Andy told the manager about these starving Southern musicians, and the manager agreed to interview them. Each went individually to talk to the manager. Each was hired. I don’t know how the other guys touted themselves, but Jay laid it on thick about all the experience he had had. His little job during high school, washing pots and pans at Adrian’s Barbecue just down the street from our house, turned into a fantastic job in an upscale restaurant in his hometown. Jay could always stretch a story!
All the guys liked working at The Beanstalk Restaurant and for good reason: they had at least one meal a day. If they were blessed enough to get a double shift, they ate twice. Obviously, part of their reward for working a shift was being able to order what they wanted to eat, taking time during a break to devour a real meal. In addition to getting their earned meals, they watched carefully when a family with small children were eating. They eyeballed the kids to see whether or not they touched their food much and took dibs on their plates. Not being afraid of germs or disease, if Jay, for instance, said, “Dibs on that kid’s plate,” it meant that he could eat whatever he wanted of what the kid left. As far as I know, none of the Velvet Melon waiters ever got sick from cleaning the plates of kids.
The only day they didn’t like being waiters was Thursday, the day they dubbed “Blue Hair Day.” The Blue Hairs were little old ladies who met for lunch on Thursday. You may not remember when older ladies went to the beauty parlor to have their gray hair colored . . . blue. I remember, but I never understood why my mother did this. And so did elderly ladies in New York City. I’m sure that the guys were very polite to them, even treated them the way they’d treat their grandmothers; however, they dreaded it when these ladies sat at their tables. And why would they dread these sweet little old ladies? Because they sat at the guys’ tables for hours (or so my story-stretching son said) and were the stingiest tippers ever.  Waiters have always depended on tips because they seldom get paid much by their employers. I can remember answering the phone at home from time to time and hearing a very excited Jay saying, “Guess what, Mom! I tipped out today at a hundred!,” meaning that he made a hundred dollars in tips. Never on Thursday, though.
Since the main reason for Jay and the guys moving to New York was to play music in hopes that an agent would hear/see them. (Another main reason for Jay’s going was to be with his girlfriend Suzy. She and Andy kept the guys afloat lots of times not only with money lent—and probably never repaid—but also with encouragement.)

Jay and Suz

 Getting a gig in Greenwich Village in 1989 wasn’t easy. In order to play at The Bitter End, for instance, the guys had to walk the streets of the Village, giving out tickets advertising the band, and they had to make the tickets themselves. If—and that’s a big IF—the people showed up for the gig and presented the tickets along with the cover charge, the guys received a dollar for every ticket collected. Wendy, Frank, and I were at one of those gigs, a gig where there were about ten or fifteen people in attendance. Ten or fifteen dollars for five guys to divide hardly foreshadows fortunes. They also played at Kenny’s Castaways in the Village, but I don’t remember the process for playing there or at a club on the Jersey Shore. What I do know is that these young musicians gathered fans, but I also know that they couldn’t make enough money to pay bills; therefore, in August 1989, they headed home, where they knew they could stay booked as much as they wanted. I can assure you that Pensacola welcomed the hometown boys back with open arms. Frank, Wendy, and I were overjoyed to have Jay and Velvet Melon back where they belonged, at least for a while.
Not too long before Jay moved to New York with Velvet Melon, he told me that he wished I’d think of something besides roast beef and fixings for lunch on Sunday. So when he moved home after eight months in the North, I asked him what he wanted for lunch on Sunday, certainly not planning to prepare roast beef. Roast beef, of course was his answer! He was ready for Mama’s Southern cooking, and he got it. Here’s another funny thing about his return to Pensacola. When he walked into our house as soon as the long trip was over, he walked from room to room shouting, My house! My house! My boy was overjoyed to be back in his Southland, and overjoyed is an understatement for what his mom felt.
I believe it was the Christmas after the guys returned from New York when we had a wonderful surprise. For many years on Christmas night, the guys had gigs, and Jay usually left for the gig around 7:00. On this particular Christmas, Jay got up from the lunch table and announced that he had to leave. We assumed that he was going to a practice before that evening’s gig. Not so, though. About two hours after he left, we heard Christmas carols outside. Upon checking, we found the guys playing the carols for us. What a sweet Christmas surprise for the families of all the guys. They were going from home to home to give this special “giff” to families.

I have a few more memories that I must share with you because they show so well the kind of young man Jay was. Gigs were so important in Jay’s life, and they were in ours, too. We went to all the gigs in Pensacola, especially the ones at Coconut Bay on Sunday evenings. If I hadn’t finished getting ready for the week ahead in my classroom, I sat and made lesson plans on cocktail napkins while Velvet Melon entertained the raucous crowd. Jay didn’t mind that I worked while he played, but he told me not to grade papers. I wouldn’t have dared since my students would have questioned where I’d graded them because of the lingering smoke and alcohol smells that would have permeated the pages. Specific gigs are indelible in my memory.
I dreaded one of the nights at Coconut Bay because I knew what would happen that evening: He was going to let one of the band members go. During the first break, I kept looking around for Jay, but he was nowhere to be seen. Finally, I spotted him, do-rag on his head, huddled in fetal position off in a corner, obviously praying for help with his task. How my heart hurt for him. He knew what was best for his band, but that guy was his friend, and he couldn’t stand to hurt him. So many times he said to me, “Please pray, Mom. I’ve got to have help.” And I prayed. And he did, too. I wonder how many people know that about my boy. A few do.
This gig is different. I call it a No-Gig Gig. One Thursday, not too long before Jay died, a friend called him to ask a favor . . . a favor with $100 attached to it. The friend had been asked to be in a video on Saturday at Seaside with the Bellamy Brothers. The track had already been laid down, and the Brothers were making the video to go with the music. All Jay had to do was to pretend to be playing the saxophone. For $100? Of course, he could do that! But to satisfy himself and the musician in him, he had to do something first. He went out and bought the tape of “I Could Be Persuaded,” the song that he would be “playing,” listened to it who knows how many times, memorized it on the way to Seaside (about an hour away from Pensacola), practiced it after he arrived, and fingered the song correctly on the video. He couldn’t bear the thought of a sax player watching the video and seeing that Jay wasn’t really playing the song. One of the production guys from the Bellamy Brothers told Jay, after hearing him practice, that he’d like to talk to him soon about doing some work with his musicians. That didn’t happen, maybe because the guy forgot or didn’t really mean it or Jay died too soon.

       One Monday morning in the spring before he died, Jay called me at school to register a complaint. It seems that he had had it with us! We would go to his gigs, sit through one set, and then leave without telling him good-bye. What greater compliment could a twenty-four-year-old son give his parents? None, as far as I’m concerned. Then there was another time when he called me at school. Becky McPheron answered the phone in the teachers’ work area. He wanted to speak to me, but before she went to look for me, she told him that we were all burning up because the air conditioning wasn’t working properly. She said, “Your mom’s really hot today.” His reply: “My mom’s always hot!” Now, that’s a compliment, too, and a good title for a book about my boy.
And then there was the night of October 31, 1987, when Velvet Melon played “Rebel Yell” for Wendy and “My Girl” for Corey. Corey had just entered the world about four hours before the gig. The guys were dressed in their costumes: Jay was the Punk Monk that year, wearing the outfit that one of my students wore when we were studying The Canterbury Tales, and he had to recite the Monk’s Prologue. Everyone was so excited about their new little mascot. When she was older, Corey was right up there with the #1 fans! So many times Jay played songs for her while she was at gigs, dancing away on the dance floor of a bar. She was a light in his life. He loved her even though he didn’t always know exactly what to do with her.
 The gig that will always be most memorable to me, though, is the one on the night of June 27, 1992, Jay’s last gig. I wouldn’t take anything for that evening. We were at Yesterdays in Chattanooga, TN, heard every lick, saw every wink, loved every minute of it. He came and sat with us during one of the breaks—as he always did—and said, “You’ll never know the feeling, the feeling of having them right in the palm of your hand!” He loved performing—leading the audience in whatever direction he wanted them to go. One of his best friends, Andy Waltrip, was right. Jay had charisma . . . and he still has it. If you’re my friend on Facebook, maybe you’re one of the couple of dozen folks who write beautiful comments about my boy even after a quarter of a century. You’ll never know the thrill that you give Frank and me.

              Jay with the audience in the palm of his hand. Cinco de Mayo in Pensacola.

         For three days after that last gig, we were with Jay and the guys in their new home near Nashville. The guys composed and recorded; I read; we (Jay, Frank, and I) shopped for a washer and dryer. Jay and I acted silly while Frank had to be serious with the saleslady, whom we invited to gigs in the Nashville area (she’ll never know what she missed). My heart soared as I listened to Jay negotiate with Bill Puryear, an agent ready to sign Velvet Melon. We ate out; Jay cooked breakfast for us; he ate my leftovers from the Chinese restaurant that he never had a chance to go to. I was “smitten” with vertigo (thank goodness). I watched him leave for the last time, dressed in the outfit that we buried him in. I thought as he left, “I can see why the girls love him. He is SO cute!”
And now, I hope you know my boy, Jay Young. As Jay always said, as he left home, “I’m outta here!” And so I, too, am outta here, ready to tell you about the last days in the life of a gifted musician, my boy.

                                                                  Jay in Photos

Earliest family photo


       Arab Jay -- dressed by Wendy

Jay and Santa 1971 (?)

PFHS school photo 1984

                                                         Jay and his gang -- PFHS cafeteria

                                             1986 PFHS Graduation with Casey and David

                                       Family Photos

Wendy and Jay -- camping trip                                    Wendy and Jay -- He's trying to lick her!      

                             Corey and Jay -- Can you see the love?


       ZZZZZZ -- Pooped after Christmas

Before church . . . Frank getting ready, Jay just getting home from a gig!
My favorite photo of these two.

Girlfriends -- Jay had lots of girlfriends, some we didn't even know, I imagine. I'm sorry to say that I don't have a photo of Jay and Gina, the girlfriend who named the band. Her mother, Charlene Forsberg, and I cried when they broke up! All are beauties, aren't they?

 Jackie Andress

  Suzy Ward

  Dana Tyson

  Tara Merritt

Four Favorite Photos

Our crazy, crazy children!

One of the few photos of the parents and their boy

Shame on you, Jay!

Nashville, TN, Tuesday, June 30, 1992 -- The last photo of Jay . . . trying to look fat.