Complete text -- "Finally Realized Dreams"

01 January

Finally Realized Dreams

Billy Bucher, Dallas, TX, January, 2004:

Happy New Year's Day. I don't think I can start a new year in a better year than to tell you about a newly constructed web site which deals with a person who I feel was a very great musician.

I guess we can argue that everyone we encounter during our lives has some effect on us. Reactions can certainly vary from positive to negative and sometimes the effect is so minimal it is only a fleeting glance at someone with an interesting appearance or an odd or curious look. For the most part, the majority of our acquaintances disappear forever. But, once in a while, you'll meet someone you feel you'll know for the rest of your life.

I was writing my first music articles for a magazine called "Austin Rocks" in Austin in late 1972, when I became interested in a group which had moved to the Lone Star State from Kansas City via Florida via Chicago. The group was called Ewing Street Times and from the first time that I heard them, they seemed to have a truly beautiful and magical approach to music in a myriad of ways. They covered everything from progressive country and rock to folk and gritty down home blues. The music was all finely intermingled with wit and humor yet they always retained a serious feeling of trying to present a really good show.

At that time, the group consisted of singer John Vandiver from Dallas playing guitar along with another vocalist Shake Russell who hailed from the Kansas City area. Shake also could play a mean bass and gentle acoustic guitar. And finally, Michael Mashkes from Chicago rounded out the trio on the electric guitar and the pedal steel. Both Vandiver and Russell also wrote a lot of material for the group. It was certainly one of the best combination of players I'd ever seen, even to this day.

When I approached John about doing the article, he seemed more than happy to sit down with me. There was something about John that was immediately captivating. He seemed a very honest and straight forward person. We talked for a long time that day after I did the interview and there was a feeling of genuine camaraderie.

I did the article but before it had time to come out, John found out that I played the drums and asked me to sit in with them at a club at Dobie Center. Due to an ice storm, I almost didn't make it but my training from growing up in Iowa helped me to slide across back streets of Austin to do the show.

After the second set, I was talking with Mashkes at the bar while John and Shake were standing on stage and chatting or so I thought. In another minute, John came over, put his arm around my shoulder, and asked if I'd like to join them.

"For another night?" I asked.

"No, we're leaving for Kansas City Friday. Do you want to go along?"

I looked at him to see if he were joking but his eyes were serious. I already was in love with the music of the band. I already had a great fondness for all three of its members.

"Sign me on," I said, immediately.

I played with them for two years. I hated it when we went our separate ways, as is always the case in the end with bands. And in about ten years, John was dead. He died tragically and far, far too early.

I have missed him greatly over the following years. I have seldom felt so close to someone in so short a time. I had a brother who died a couple of years before I was born after he had only lived seven days. I always rather felt that John could have been the brother I lost early on. I have felt that way about only a couple of other people. And I miss Debbie, his common law wife, with her quick smile and her gentleness with animals which will become apparent on the web site.

Luckily for us, Joanna Vandiver, John's daughter from his first marriage to a wonderful woman named Diana, has put together a truly captivating web site. It contains photos and press (of which I have a couple of stories I wrote after I played with Ewing Street for "Texas Jazz Magazine" and the "Dallas Observer" in Dallas) and also memories from different people. Joanna is also planning to have the first of hopefully several CDs available in the near future.

And fortunately for Jojo, she was lucky to hook up early on for help on the web site with an excellent photographer named Charlotte A. Pickett. Charlotte has worked on the web sites and added photos to various musicians pages including excellent work for Shake Russell and Austin singer/guitarist Jake Andrews.

"Charlotte not only got me started," Jojo told me, "but she'd teach me things about creating a site as we went along. I'm certain I wouldn't have been inspired to learn all of the possibilities of doing a site without her."

When you read the articles you will see that John was a powerful and dynamic player. Hopefully, when you hear the CDs later on you will hear just how strong John had truly become by his death at age forty, particularly with blues music and flat picking. As with Ewing Street, he played a wide variety of material and continued to play a show with a blend of humor and wit. I believe with all my heart that John Vandiver could well be one of those players who will finally receive his recognition and great praise after his untimely death. And I further feel that Joanna has done her Father proud by putting together such a good web site.

It is certainly refreshing to see a daughter who has so much reverence and love for her Father to put so much work into a gift of love and a memorial to the live and music of John and his last constant companion, Debbie Davis.

Please check out the site at: John Vandiver's Website.">

Posted by billybucher at 17:34:30 - Category: General

Jim Tieman wrote:

Being an ex-member of the Shake Russell (and Dana Cooper) Band, I periodically peruse his Web site to keep up, reminisce, and occassionally respond to peoples entries. When I discovered John's daughter, Jojo, had created, I immediately checked it out. I too, was blown a way by the thought of her constructing this tribute web site to her father. Looking through the photos books and remembering the various people John touched during his short life brought back a flood of memories of places, stages, and moments we shared with him and Debbie. I told Jojo that I am sure John and Debbie are proud of her. How cool is that! Not content to just store photographs and letters to be looked at on special occasions and holidays. But a lasting memorial to her Father, his music and his loves and to realize that this should be shared with the world. Then to work to get one of his last performances on CD. She graciously sent me a pre-mastered copy of John (with Michael on bass) live at Poor David's Pub, recorded in 1984 not long before his untimely death. How many kids these days are that thoughful. I told her that as I closed my eyes and listened to the CD, I thought I could smell Corky's, a Houston Montrose Bar, favored by local Houston area musicians in the 70s & 80s. She wrote back that she could too, even though she was quite young at the time. John opened hundreds of Shake and Dana's shows around Texas and I still remember the joy we took in sharing the stage with him. One of our albums was named for one of his songs, "Comin' Home". The best time I had recording in my life was on that song which John sang as we back him up. Jojo asked if I remembered you, Billy. Well, I've seen your picture and heard references to you (all good) so often that for a moment, I thought I knew you well. Truth is, you joined Ewing Street not long after Shake, Dana and I broke up our Kansas City Band called Cherokee. Eight or nine years later, I joined back up with them just after they got back together. So I doubt we ever met but we have some things in common, for sure. I just moved to the Dallas area (Lewisville) so maybe we will get a chance to meet up sometime. I would look forward to hearing about your times with John, Debbie, Michael, and Shake.

Take care,

Jim Tiemann
01/26/04 19:29:03

billybucher wrote:

I have read your comment about a dozen times since you submitted it. Sorry to have been so slow in responding but things have been a bit crazy lately.
I was so deeply touched by your comments and you certainly have a wonderful ways with words, as do so many musicians.
I did have the pleasure of meeting you at the album release party for "Comin' Home" and later, I believe, when Shake and Dana released their first album. But, sigh, I had lost my infamous sideburns by then and it was a very hectic gathering but I did sit in on a couple of songs. I have wondered if I didn't even meet you before then when I played at the Nexus in Kansas City with Ewing Street?
Anyway, in the last couple of weeks Jojo has given me a page on the John Vandiver site and I wrote three stories for the page about my memories of those times for her and in memory of her father, John. It is under the "Memories of You" section.
I talked with Jojo tonight, as a matter of fact, and I continue to hold her in the highest regard. She has done so much and she has learned so much and I am so proud of her. And I'm just a lot in awe of her, too, for all the work she has done. The site is just looking like a million dollars and work on the master is moving along. What a tribute to the love she has for her Father.
I really appreciated your warm comments, Jim, and I will be in touch as we don't live too far apart.
And you were right about recording with John and Shake and Michael. My studio time, to say nothing of the gigs, comprise some of the best memories of my life.
All my best,
Billy Bucher
02/07/04 23:34:13
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