DC & Culture Shock
It’s safe to say that the move from Dubuque to Washington was a pretty big change. It was a major international city, it was wildly more racially and culturally diverse, and as a practical matter, we all had to start from scratch to make friends. As in Dubuque, we all went into parochial schools and found there were a lot of kids in exactly our predicament – new to the city, new to the school, and their parents had just taken jobs in the government. Early on I became friends with Joe Kennedy, Robert Kennedy’s oldest son. As much of a stretch as that was from life in Dubuque, it didn’t seem odd at all. We were just in the same school, had similar interests, loved to play football – it seemed pretty natural.
I continued to dig deeper into the folk songbook. An early revelation was that these acts actually performed in DC! You could go see them. I particularly loved the Kingston Trio shows.
I was familiar with the songs, they performed them flawlessly, their energy was infectious, and they were very funny - especially the banjo player, John Stewart. I used lawn mowing money to buy my own ticket and my mother would drop me off and pick me up at the Carter Baron Amphitheater. I remember those shows vividly.
Then in late 1963, the Beatles hit and if you were an American teenager who knew three chords on the guitar there was only ONE THING you were going to do. You were going to find some way to get an electric guitar, you were going to form a band in your parent’s basement, and you were going to learn “When I Saw Her Standing There”.
And that’s exactly what I did. And what glorious band names! The London Heirs. The Fifth Amendment. Rhythm’s Children (imagine, 5 Catholic kids in a band called “Rhythm’s Children – and we didn’t even get it!) I played in bands all through high school, learned a thousand songs from almost every genre. DC was a great live music town. In my high school years, I went to live shows by James Brown, Wilson Pickett, the Supremes, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Hollies, The Beatles (yes, true), The Who, The Young Rascals – to name a few. At home, I still shared a room with my older brother and we go to sleep with a stack of Beatle records on the phonograph, literally burning “Rubber Soul” into my subconscious.