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Date Posted: 10:25:56 01/15/08 Tue
Author: Eddie Shaw
Subject: My last visit with Dave
David once told me that his life began when he heard Elvis. “When I heard him, it was then that I knew what I wanted to do,” he said.
I had not known Dave long when he said it. It had no meaning to me because I was a jazz person. And yet I found myself playing rock and roll with this guy. When you’re in the army and you’re a musician, you will play music, one way or the other. I didn’t know it then, but we would end up being brothers. It’s like the old saying, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” Dave fits into that category and I am sure that those who have met him, have also found themselves invited to be involved in his life - and they do become involved, whether they like it or not. For the most part, you can’t pick who’s gonna be in your family. That’s only one of the things that David taught me.
He became a factor in my life, lasting forty-five years, with perhaps more to come – in a fashion that was totally unexpected. To make it simple: In the beginning there were five monks (an appropriate name for this group), all committed to making music for one reason or another. We didn’t know it then, but this relationship and experience would have a long lasting effect on not only us, but also many others. For the first year and a half of our relationship in this “beat” band as it was known in Germany, we spent every night on stage, performing six hours onstage on week-nights and Saturdays. On Sundays we were onstage eight hours because of the Sunday matinees. Working seven nights a week, in that first year and a half, we had three nights off, only – and on those nights we didn’t know what to do. Dave would get on a train and ride in one direction until half of his free time had been spent. Then he would get off the train and catch the returning train to be back onstage for the next performance.
This group, The Monks, played in Germany in the 1960s. We performed with many of the notable groups of the day, including Jimi Hendrix. In fact there is a photo of Dave and Jimi, sitting at a table; talking to each other, in the dressing room at the Star Palast in Kiel, Germany. I remember it well.
“I hear you’re from Renton,” Dave said.
“Yeah,” Jimi replied.
“So am I.” Dave said.
That photo of them has disappeared for some reason, but when it does turn up, it will be an icon, a visual testimony to a time and a place – an idea and a movement.
No matter what the outcome of David’s professional life was, there is a well-known factor in his life that was constant. It was the emotional relationship between himself and Elvis. He knew the words and lyrics to all of Elvis’s songs. In fact, after he returned to the USA, to live in Renton, Washington (his hometown), he converted one room of his house, as a shrine to Elvis and to that other band, The Monks. Like his soul-mate, Irene (his loving wife and life-line), Elvis was an every day part of David’s life – extending to and even past a recent Sunday morning.
On January 6th, 2007, after a night at home, having had a few drinks, smoking some cigarettes and playing guitar, Dave Day suffered a heart attack. Two days later, on Elvis’s birthday, January 8th, he lay in the hospital in a coma. For two days, friends came to the hospital room to pay their last respects, including Shirley LaBoyne, a noted local performer; Dale Marwood, who had performed with Dave in Renton, in fact planning to rejoin Dave in a new band to be named the Renton River Boys. Also present was Gary Burger of The Monks; Jerry Lee Havlicek, David’s son; Raymond and Lynn Havlicek, David’s brother and sister-in-law; Diana, David’s sister; and many others including Lyle Carpenter, one of Seattle’s most notable Elvis look alikes – no longer performing, but still a physical embodiment of the Elvis persona.
The scene was ironic. Elvis was at Dave’s hospital bedside, staying to the end, until Dave was taken off the life support system. David died two days after Elvis’s birthday, October 10th.
My wife Sherrie and I drove to Renton, Washington, to be at the memorial. Besides the impressive eulogy, slide show presentation and display of memorabilia, there was a feeling of spiritual presence. Outside the chapel, as the eulogy was being spoken, Lyle Carpenter, dressed as Elvis, stood vigil in the wet grass of the cemetery, unwilling to go inside, surely the ghostly presence of Elvis, preparing the ground for David’s interment – perhaps even having a quiet conversation with Jimi, at his nearby tomb.
Among the mourners, inside the building, was Clayton Magy, a current Elvis performer, notable for having placed third in a nationally televised Elvis look-alike competition. Everyone, present, kept their eyes open, looking for Elvis – and finding him.
As planned, after the memorial, the mourners went to Moe’s Bar, the place David always went to drink beer and watch the Seattle Seahawks on the big TV screens. An employee there, Cathy Sue, had organized a wake, with a very elaborate potluck banquet. As David would do, we all watched the Seahawks play Green Bay. For me, it didn’t matter that the Seahawks didn’t win. I was there for David, even as I know he wouldn’t have approved when I asked someone, “What inning is this?”
As this person was questioning my level of testosterone, I could only reply, “I’ve never understood what all the ass-patting between ball-chasing males is about.” Yes, it was time to leave. David would have never said anything like that. Everyone is different, especially David.
I was told later that the party at Moe’s became quite animated. Lyle Carpenter did something unusual. He went onstage, looking just like Elvis and played Elvis songs until closing time. Clayton Wagy was there as well, hovering in the background like the vision of the second coming of Elvis. As I understand it, everyone drank beer and whiskey, and smoked cigarettes.
Someone said when the party was over, there were at least ten brain dead people found underneath the tables – found by the employees, cleaning up before going home. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but the person who said it, explained, “We did everything Dave would do. I survived because I didn’t smoke the cigarettes. I cheated.”
After leaving Moe’s, the remainder of the night was one of quiet reflection. We had a philosophical gathering at Dave’s and Irene’s house. There was Irene; her daughter Laura and her friend, Wayne; Gary Burger (monk); Len Curiel, (replacement monk for deceased monk, Roger Johnston); Jerry (David’s son); and Sherrie and I. It was a quiescent soiree, consoling Irene and remembering David. We talked about his family and his childhood.
Irene talked about the funny experiences. She said, “He took his guitar everywhere we went. Some nights after a long party, he’d take it to bed and I’d fall sleep while he’d still be playing it and singing. Sometimes I’d wake up, after he went to sleep, and there the guitar would be, in bed with us.”
To which I responded. “You felt something hard in bed and it was a guitar?”
“That and other things,” she replied.
Then Gary and I talked about the things we had done in Germany, in The Monks. He and I stood, side by side, in the kitchen. For Irene, we did the square box-steps that Dave had taught us. In the German nightclubs, we had done this on stage. Dave had always insisted that we do some kind of show. Together Gary and I, with the spiritual essence of David at our side, played air guitar; in unison placing the left foot in front of the right foot – step right with right foot, swing guitar - step back with left foot - step back with right foot - swing guitar. Now that you’ve made a complete square – repeat while always swinging guitar in time to the music, always moving feet in rhythm with the music. And we sang, “When you’re smiling. When you’re smiling. The whole world smiles with you.”
And now that it’s done and I have returned home, I have to say it. The idea of Dave’s passing, just totally pisses me off. I don’t know why, but it does. It’s very hard to think when the fists are clenched in anger. In Renton people told me that David was a teacher, offering different lessons to different people. As one who learned how to do the box steps from him, I have to consider what other lessons, he might have been able to teach, if he had not gone away.
Yeah, I’m pissed and I’m sad. While it’s true that everyone looks for all the good things a person’s life stands for, it’s also true that the life is examined by the death. By recognizing the weaknesses, only then can the real good be described. Only then can an improvement on life be made. Regarding this question - “How does a person stop smoking?” – I wonder what his answer might be now.
As it is, David is interred, not more than seventy feet from Jimi Hendrix’s tomb. They are within eyesight – even within speaking distance to each other. And I can hear them talking.
“I hear you’re from Renton, Washington,” Dave says.
“Yeah,” replies Jimi.
And David softly says, “Me too.”
Only you, David, could have invented this story. Like your friends, Elvis and Jimi, you are a rock star. We all will miss you
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