Complete text -- "If "Ifs" and "Buts" -- Graduation 2004"
If "Ifs" and "Buts" -- Graduation 2004Billy Bucher, Sunnyvale, TX, July, 2004:
A Preview of My Upcoming Graduation Speech
(All right, all right, North Texas has not contacted me as yet to give this speech but, as my friend Jim Stroud once proclaimed, "Politicians don't have the corner on tomfoolery. Certainly not, to be sure!!!" And bear with me as I conjure up people from the past as I assemble these words of "cough" wisdom.)
"Students, Parents, Mr. President, J.C. Matthews, Dean of Women, Imogene B. Dickey, Phyllis George (who was floating around the campus then and we actually shook hands once), saxophonist Billy Harper and flutist Sharon Wiegel who inspired me to practice my music even more and, of course, a deep bow to the most honorable Larry Burns, keeper of the Hob Nob brew, fast flipper of the burgers. Thank you all for letting me speak here today. Whew!!!
"Yes, I remember, in a time long, long ago, in a land far, far away, (hey, this sounds kind of familiar) there was a time when I actually did have a brief interest in football. It started about 1972 during the heyday of the Dallas Cowboys. I remember being introduced to it by a San Francisco poet named Jeff Shepherd, who later disappeared back to the city by the bay and a wistful blonde woman named Terry Armstrong was a favorite among the weekly living room cheerleaders.
"I admit I particularly enjoyed Monday night football even though it meant having to listen to Howard Cosell. But it was worth it when you were about to savor one of those priceless moments when Dandy Don Meredith, seeing a team had finally been hopelessly crushed into the turf by the opponent, would suddenly begin to sing, "'Turn out the lights, the party's over.'"
"I also remember that Dandy Don would often say, "If "ifs" and "buts" were candy and nuts, wouldn't it be a Merry Christmas?"
"In retrospect, I've had a good life in music and writing, although it has been hard many times. Still, I don't have just a whole lot of "ifs" and "buts." I can instead look back at performing with a lot of good musicians and now that I'm teaching, I hope to motivate a few minds in the right direction. If nothing other than to further their love of music and the arts in general.
"But, lo, I digress. Today I can look back and only see a couple of things I wish that I'd done a bit differently and I would like to share them with you. Of course, you can go with the theory that if I'd change just one thing, I might have been run over by a truck crossing South Congress in Austin in 1991 and not be preparing this speech at all on this surprising cool July afternoon. Who knows?
"I still try very hard to shy away from giving advise to anyone. Ah, but there are a couple of tidbits of wisdom I care to pass on before my ashes are scattered over various destinations. But I hope that part of the story doesn't come too soon.
"One thing I've always remembered is a piece of advise from my Atlantic, Iowa, musical mentor Rex Peer who told me early on, "If there are only three people in the audience when you are playing somewhere, perform as if there are three thousand people in the club. You just never know who those three people might turn out to be. One of those people just might be a person who could have a profound influence on your career!" Thanks, Rex.
A good thought, no matter what manner of profession you pursue, I would say.
"Still, one of the two things I wish that I'd have done a bit differently was to have kept better records of some of the people I've played with along the way. I wish I'd have had a little pocket notebook with me at all times.
As I wrote recently that I was in San Francisco, almost by accident, just when things were beginning to happen and before Time and Newsweek got a hold of it. Jefferson Airplane lived upstairs (that was before Grace was in the band) and I used to see Janis Joplin play on Monday nights at the Matrix for a fifty cents cover charge. Loralyn Baker, the first of my exes who still lives in Texas, worked at a record store for a guy named Blair Hardman. He had put out an album with Country Joe McDonald. It was the first outing for both. I got the chance to later meet and jam with Country Joe, as well as others. Yet, there were a lot of little nameless bands out there that I was in -- sometimes for as little as a day or two -- and I wish I'd written down the names of these people, for God sakes. I remember two twins who were really good from perhaps Lubbock. They were great pickers but I don't even know what instruments they played. I'm sure some of these people went on to various manner of fame later on but I'll never know unless someone stumbles into the Hob Nob. Who knows. I did meet Lee Michaels but I can't remember the circumstances and Tary Owens, who I'll write about later, wandered in and out of another band.
"And, later, and as much by accident, I stumbled into the Progressive Country movement in Austin, Texas, in the early seventies.
"The other day my friend, guitarist Jim Tiemann sent me copies of his tickets from the Beatles tour in 1964. I saw the last Beatles concert at Candlestick Park in 1966. I don't know exactly why that came to mind but I also wish I'd written down some of the other, not so famous, concerts that I saw. I do remember that Bobby Hebb opened the show and the Beatles had these absolutely beautiful, matching, dark green -- probably velvet -- suits.
"The other thing is that I wish I'd written down the names of people I met on the road and just along the way. I remember at Eckerd College that I did work with a very nice woman who wrote an article on the band. John Vandiver had sort of put me in charge of promo at that point. I answered her questions and I still believe that someday I'll find that article -- I've been finding all sorts of stuff lately in my hopeless attempt to sort through piles of old papers -- but I just can't remember her name. I also remember we stayed at Eckerd for a week. It was the longest layover we ever had. I remember some really nice people who took me out on the pier and we watched the blue crabs come up out of the black water and to the surface and then fall back down into the darkness again. I regret not remembering their names. I do remember one person in the group was a midget with a sharp sense of humor. Odd how images fly back at you from so long ago. I remember we played a concert indoors at the beginning of the week and one at the end of the week outside which is shown in that picture on John Vandiver's Website." The students used to sneak us food for lunch. Being a "rock and roll star" isn't all easy. We really were a whole lot poorer than anyone would have imagined but we had a lot of fun.
I remember playing the Blue Ox in Door County, Wisconsin, later with the Genie Stout band. I don't remember the names of the two brothers who owned the club. It goes on and on.
"After a time, I guess, it all does become something of a blur. And, most of all, students of the year 2004 with your bright and hopeful faces staring up at me for wisdom I probably really don't have, please write down the names of people that you find you like when you meet them. After performing one night in Austin, a man asked me to join his band. I told him my band was tight and would be together for quite awhile, thank you. I didn't take his name. I didn't take his number. The band broke up four months later and, in retrospect, I believe it was Billy Joe Shaver with whom I talked that night at the Saxon Pub. It took me a time to find another band. I regret not taking his name many times.
"So, I guess in closing, and trying not to sound like Andy Rooney, make lists and more lists, try to keep track of anyone who was a friend, a lover, and even those that might just have downright hated your guts. Of course, I had none of those, I'm sure.
"And last, but not least, hold on to your muse or your dreams or your schemes for as long as you can. Ideally to the last moment and the ashes are dropped. Hopefully some by the shores of Lake Austin. Hmm, maybe on the banks of Hippie Hollow. Eternal happiness and blissful tomfoolery."
(All right, President Norval Pohl, current President of the University of North Texas, you look like a nice guy. You can write me any time. I am ready to give my speech in August which is the month I graduated from North Texas, incidentally. President Pohl's Website.")