Performing to a sea of stovepipe hats

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

The Association of Lincoln Presenters

The folks in Tinsel Town A.K.A Hollywood and surrounding environs may be forgiven for their jaded outlook. In the city where crazy is often the norm, they have seen and usually yawned at it all. But not even they could breeze by the hotel lobby in Burbank that day. A sea of stove pipe hats crowning dark beards, black suits and often long lean Abraham Lincolns froze them in their tracks. I know. I was there

I am a member of the Association of Lincoln Presenters. As Lincoln drew his final breath that April 15 morning in 1865 Secretary of War Edwin Stanton standing at his bedside spoke this prediction, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

For us of the ALP, The motto is, “Now he belongs to the stages.” Our purpose is to keep the life and words of Abraham Lincoln alive through public performances. The assorted Abes and others convene every year, usually in Kentucky or Illinois at locations significant to the Lincoln legacy. The group now also includes a few Mary Todd Lincolns, one Laura Keene (star of Our American Cousin when it played Ford’s Theater the fateful night of April 14, 1865) and other historic notables; even a few confederate generals. There are no John Wilkes Booth presenters, nor would they be welcome.

I was in Burbank California at the request of the association to present my show on Lincoln. It was different from the other presenters in that I include the voices of other people as they interacted with Lincoln. I also perform music of the time, accompanying myself on guitar, to set the scenes and add to the emotions of the stories.

My life and my performances were both brightened when Sharon and I were married. She sings, accompanies us on piano banjo and autoharp, and takes the part of Julia Ward Howe as we recreate the night when Howe wrote The Battle Hymn of the republic.

The late Dan Bassuk, founder and former president of the organization asked me to participate in an essay contest on the subject “How Lincoln changed my life.” I won the contest with this contribution.

How Lincoln changed my life

“You. Please come up here.”

I looked behind me. No he really was pointing at me. Gangly, tousle-haired, bony-faced me. Normally our group of fourth grade boys tried to keep a low profile. If some adult with authority took notice of us there was usually work or trouble brewing. But this was an assembly, and the presenter was an expert in theatrics. So I popped up to the stand. He sat me down and a few minutes of makeup later had me looking like a ten-year-old version of Abraham Lincoln. My friends hooted and called me Abe. It took them a few days to get over it. I never did.

As a boy I remember the magazine ads the Lincoln Life Insurance Company ran for years. Well written and ending with a line that made me feel closer to the great man. “Abraham Lincoln. He was all of us grown a little taller.”

I grew a little taller, then still a little taller until I was the same height as Mr. Lincoln. I was also, “lean in flesh, weighing on average 180 pounds,” as he once described himself. Actually it took me a more than a few years to make 180 pounds but I finally did.

The more I learned about Lincoln the more he inspired me. I admired his integrity in business, law and politics, his fidelity to Mary even though she wasn’t the easiest person to live with. I was impressed that he would shun alcohol and tobacco in a frontier society that considered those things food and drink. I enjoyed his sense of humor.

Later as an entertainer and writer I used stories and situations from Lincoln’s life to present the best of what America stands for. My partner and I reenacted excerpts from the Lincoln Douglas debates. We recorded an album of music from American history that featured songs he loved; including “Dixie” which he called one of the spoils the North won in the Civil War. Later I would develop my own presentation on Lincoln’s life and times and be privileged to associate with the good people of the ALP.

Of late I am more and more impressed by the greatness of Lincoln’s soul. His choice of Edwin Stanton, William Seward, Salmon Chase, and others in his cabinet despite their initial condescending and insulting manner; Lincoln’s personal suffering over the sickness, wounds and death of soldiers on both sides of the conflict moved me. His agony when he lost his son Willie, his willingness to wear himself into the shadow of the grave for his beloved country, his wisdom on when to compromise and when to stand firm; his ability to hang on when success appeared impossible, these virtues are beacons to my life as I seek wisdom to guide my maturing years.

My love of Lincoln began as a child when somebody thought I looked like him. My goal as an adult is to be like him.

Your next installment is: Twenty-six years, 17 pregnancies, 15 children

Everybody I know is busy, including me. Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Writing for presidents of The United States

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

A time to ad lib, a time to stick to the script.

One thing is about as certain as death and taxes. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir will be honored every ten years as the longest running radio program in America, probably the world. Long ago they outdistanced their rivals; beginning with Amos and Andy, and Lum and Abner in the 30’s; then in the 40’s and 50’soaps like “Oxydal’s own Ma Perkins,” “Our Gal Sunday” and “The Guiding Light;” comedians Bob Hope, Jack Bennie, and Red Skelton; dramas including “The Lux Radio Theater;” mysteries such as “The Shadow”, and “Inner Sanctum.: Bands, singers, and “Your Hit Parade”; all signed off long ago. But glory, glory hallelujah, The Mormon Tabernacle choir keeps marching on.

I was hired to write the script for one of these decennial productions. There was an interesting twist to the assignment. The show would include tributes from prominent people in America. They wanted these short speeches to be scripted, but also to sound like the person presenting them. The high point of these tributes would come from the President of the United States George Bush senior, and from former president Ronald Reagan.

I have done a fair amount of ghost writing in my day, and I like to think I can capture the vocabulary, syntax, and rhythm of my subject. I often talked to the person on the phone until I felt I had the essence of what they wanted to say, and how they would say it. I did not have access to the president or former president, but felt I had heard them enough to catch their persona and their ideas. I wrote the script, submitted it, and Bonneville Productions, the church’s broadcasting arm approved it. They sent the material to each speaker who approved and recorded their messages.

The program went smoothly. Everyone seemed pleased. The audience response was positive. I confess to a human weakness however. It is a small observation perhaps borne out by history. Ronald Reagan, one of the most esteemed of presidents by many Republicans, and some Democrats, delivered his speech masterfully down to the last comma. Sitting by my radio, I was basking in the satisfaction of it all.

George Bush started out well, then tossed the script and adlibbed. He said essentially, “The Mormon Tabernacle choir is ok, but I’m a country boy. I prefer Dolly Parton.”

Nothing against country boys, or heaven knows Dolly Parton, and I don’t know that there is any connection, but Ronald Reagan served two successful terms in the eyes of his supporters which would include me. George Bush tried for a second term, and we all know how that turned out.

Your next installment: Performing to a sea of stovepipe hats

Everybody I know is busy, including me. Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Glory, Glory Hallelujah

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

Outside a drunken mob milled restlessly, thirsting for blood. Inside friends gathered and waited, grim faced and determined. Each man was ready to give his life to protect their friend. The ranks of the men inside were thinned as their leader sent one and then another of his protectors out for an errand. Each time the mob prevented them from returning. The remaining men at length understood. Their leader was resigned to his fate, and wanted as few as possible to be killed with him. They were reluctant to go, but complied with their leader’s requests.

One of them was a feisty Welshman named Dan Jones. He was committed to die if necessary, but his friend and leader told him, “You will yet return to your native country and do a mighty work.”

Reluctantly Dan Jones left the prison, and later learned that his beloved prophet Joseph Smith and the prophet’s brother Hyrum had been assassinated. Dutifully he fulfilled the call he later received to preach the gospel in his native Wales. Many believed, were baptized, and came to America under his leadership. Being Welch, they came singing, across the sea, across the plains, over the mountains and into their Zion.

In Salt Lake City they joined others who loved to express themselves in song. The chorus grew, and eventually morphed into a singing group you may have heard of, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

I was privileged to be associated with the choir for a number of years as a writer of “The Spoken Word” for their weekly broadcasts, and I also wrote other introductory material for their songs. I was offered the position of television and radio director of their broadcasts, but I chose to stay at Brigham Young University.

The Choir has given its many audiences inspiring moments. Those who have experienced these may not be aware of the planning and logistics required to present the magic.

My friend Bill Critchfield shared with me one of those moments and the negotiations it took to pull it off. Bill was president of Osmond productions at that time, and I was doing some writing for them. The setting of this story is Washington D.C., so already you suspect there may be skullduggery afoot.

The 1980 presidential election saw a surge of support for Ronald Reagan from some conservative churches. While the Republicans appreciated the support, they didn’t want to overemphasize it, and perhaps alienate other power bases of the party, so they ruled that no churches could be represented in the inauguration parade.

The Osmond organization had helped with Reagan’s campaign, and they wanted to have the Tabernacle Choir included in the parade. Bill was a fearless and effective bargainer. He told the Republican powers that the choir was not just the Mormon Choir. Reagan himself had dubbed it “America’s choir.” Bill rolled out his heavy artillery. The choir was born in the cowboy country of the old west, had performed for 10 previous presidents going back to William Howard Taft, consoled the country for the whole day on CBS radio when Franklin Delano Roosevelt died. The Choir has won gold and platinum records, and a Grammy. It is an unofficial American ambassador to millions in other countries, has the longest running program in American radio history, and is the standard against which every performance of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” is measured. He convinced them that the world and the inauguration would be bleak indeed without the choir in the parade.

The party officials capitulated, but with one stern stipulation. The choir could not stop to sing in front of the president’s box. Nothing would stop the parade.

Ironically, I had worked with Bill when I was president of America’s Freedom Festival at Provo. Bill was our parade expert since he had been an official at the Rose Parade in Pasadena California, probably the world’s premier parade. Bill was adamant with us that our parade have, no gaps, and certainly no stops. When the Republican bosses told Bill the parade would not stop, they were preaching to the choir (no pun intended)

But even people of integrity have to weigh one virtue against another. To build the massive float (actually one float the maximum size that would make it around the corners, then they hooked on a smaller trailer float to hold the rest of the choir), to transport the choir and their entourage to Washington D.C., bus them around, feed and house them, and then not sing “Glory, glory hallelujah” to the president was like writing the Declaration of Independence and not signing it.

Good fortune sometimes smiles on worthy deeds. Fortunately as the choir float came abreast of the president’s box its tow truck’s engine died. The driver jumped out, threw open the hood and worked frantically to correct the problem.

Fortunately he fixed it, just as the last, “His truth is marching on” echoed over the crowd, and president Reagan wiped a tear from his cheek. The truck engine roared to life, and the parade rolled on.

Fortunately the mechanical problem only cost $50 to fix. And fortunately the repair bill had been covered by an anonymous donor a few hours earlier in this exchange:

Anonymous donor, “How much to have engine trouble in front of the president’s box?”

Truck driver: “Fifty bucks should do it.”

Bill told me later that somebody blew his cover to Church president Spencer W. Kimball. The whistle blower apparently hoped to whip up a scandal. President Kimball listened then replied with a twinkle, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.”

Your next installment is: Writing for presidents of The United States

Everybody I know is busy, including me. Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Songs and scenes in the theaters of the mind

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

I have played some beautiful and well appointed theaters in my day, but my favorite is the one that resides inside your head and heart. The theater of the mind, can go anywhere and anywhen and put you in a better seat than front row center. You can be at Gettysburg with Abraham Lincoln. You can wield your mighty “vorpal sword” to dispatch the fearsome Jabberwocky with Alice in Wonderland, or ride the waves on Noah’s ark.

With The Three D’s, dueting with Dick, in one man shows supported by my talented wife, as a radio announcer and even putting words on a page, my best moments are when the audience agrees to jump on the magic carpet of the mind, and we sail off together on an adventure.

Words can propel us there. Music kicks in the afterburners to action, or wafts the perfume of emotion over us in pensive moments. Music enhances the journey.

My major and post graduate work in college was in mass communications. But when artistic images really happen on stage, on the page or through a studio microphone, the result is less like mass communication, and more like a collection of many personal communications.

One night I was building to the climax of a show on Porter Rockwell, probably the best known quick draw, dead shot law man in our part of the west. His life and legend have blended together which adds to the intrigue of his story.

According to one account a sidewinder got the drop on Port by riding up to him with his gun hidden behind his horse. The bad guy leveled his six shooter straight at the lawman’s heart. “I’ve come a thousand miles just to kill you Rockwell,” he snarled.

Port saw the man was shooting an old time cap and ball revolver that had a firing cap stuck on a nipple on the back of each of the six firing chambers. Riding along, sometimes that external cap could fall off; a deadly embarrassment in a shoot out.

Porter drilled his gaze into the man’s eyes. “You can’t kill me without a cap on your gun.”

“You’re bluffin’.”

“Try me and see,” Port challenged, “But you’re only gonna get one chance.”

The killer bought the bait for a millisecond. Porter’s lightening draw and deadly aim settled the argument.”

As I went through the scene, an older gentleman on the front row was transfixed. Inspired by his wrapped attention, I pumped the story for all it was worth. After the show he was out of his seat and first in line to shake my hand.

“That was great,” he said. “Let me tell you my favorite story about Ol’ Port. One day a sidewinder rode up to Port and said, ‘I come a thousand miles just to kill you…”

He proceeded to tell me the story I had just told him. I was complimented. I had gone a step beyond just entertaining him. I had helped him saddle up and ride off on his own with his hero.

I first developed what we called the “Songs and Scenes” format with The Three D’s to showcase folk songs from the pioneer days.

Dick and I used it to dramatize “Songs and Scenes of the Old Testament.”

I later used this format for shows about Abraham Lincoln, Porter Rockwell, American History, stories from The Book of Mormon, and verses from the song, “Follow the Prophet.”

Enacting stories and singing songs are the oldest and simplest forms of entertainment, and I believe they are the basic building blocks of every other form.

I have made a career out of words and/or music. Performing with a pen in solitude may not be as exciting as delivering to an audience from a stage, but it can be equally fulfilling. Freelance writing can be downright fascinating.

Your next installment is: Glory, Glory Hallelujah

(No place like Washington D.C. for a tale of intrigue)

Everybody I know is busy, including me. Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

Blue bus blues

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

The first part of this book’s title is, “Live Long *. The asterisk refers to the definition of “long;” not long in years necessarily, but in perspective. My experience has been that the longer the perspective the wiser the decision. Sometimes the elevation of our focus is also important.

“Your bus needs some mechanical repairs. The best thing would be to jack up the radiator cap and drive a new bus under it.”

Paraphrase from our mechanic.

As The Three D’s we played a number of instruments, we provided our own accompaniment, and we brought our own sound system, including two “Voice of the Theater” speakers that produced wonderful depth, range, and clarity. They were each about the size and seemed like the weight of a refrigerator. All this meant flying was usually not logistically or economically our means of travel.

We purchased a truck and camper for our first extended road trip, not elegant but it got us to the gigs. We did spin the tread off a rear tire now and then, and sometimes broke a rear wheel rim (See “Voice of the Theater” speakers.)

We soon upgraded to a more heavy duty truck and a bigger camper. We generally wore out a truck a year, and loaded the camper on to a new one.

One day I got a great idea. People have been institutionalized for ideas less crazy than this one. My stroke of genius (or maybe it was just a stroke) was that we should get a new customized bus like some big name stars traveled in. The idea sounded intriguing. The devil was in the details as they say. The details included that both “new” and “customized” were words out of our price range.

We decided to get a used bus and customize it ourselves; “ourselves” being Dick and me. Denis had gone into other business interests at this time, so Dick and I were performing as The D’s, Dick and Duane.

I didn’t think a yellow school bus with boarded windows was exactly the image we were looking for, so I shopped the want ads and found a used blue 29 foot highway bus that looked like it had potential. Potential for what, I forgot to ask.

We, of course took it for a test drive before we bought it.

“The linkage just needs a little adjustment,” one of the two owners told me as the transmission under us chattered like a giant blender grinding scrap metal.

I smiled and nodded. He knew he was lying, and so did I, but I had already figured we would have to repair or replace the engine and transmission. Dick agreed, or maybe didn’t disagree strong enough to curb my enthusiasm or mental instability.

“Once the engine and running gear are in good shape, we know we can at least get to our destination no matter what else might go wrong,” I said.

What else could go wrong? I will tell you. First take out a large, thick yellow pad, and number the lines from one to a hundred. On the top of this page write “Page 1.”

The bus apparently had previously been owned by Mr. Murphy originator of Murphy’s law, “If anything can go wrong it will.” Much could, and did.

We bought the bus. The owners required payment with a non revocable cashier’s check. As we ground the “linkage” into first gear and pulled away, I thought I saw the former owners hastily stuffing their belongings into a carpet bag and driving into the night.

As planned, our first destination was “the best garage in town,” according to a shaky source we shouldn’t have trusted. They overhauled the engine and transmission, and checked out everything else.

Our first road trip was about five miles. The engine coughed and sputtered. We returned, reloaded our stuff into our faithful truck and camper, and did the trip in that. O.K. even the great ships can have a little rough sailing on their maiden voyage. Maiden voyage plus one went a few miles farther; followed by hustle back, repack into the camper and floor board it to the next shows. Subsequent voyages went a bit farther before mechanical complications. We began to notice a pattern here. The bus never broke down until we turned the ignition key on and started the motor. An interesting correlation we should have paid more attention to. Instead we kept fixing things and getting farther from home before breakdown. Finally we crossed the point of no return. We had to fix it on the road and keep moving to make it to the next show.

Some fixes were fairly doable, a fan belt, a tire, a battery. But even the affordable fixes seemed to happen at night when the garages and auto parts stores were closed, and we were usually on a tight schedule.

A condensed list of our roadside repairs would include: The lights dying on the Columbia River interstate in Oregon on which there are few exits and fewer garages around midnight. I limped along until I lucked on to a garage with insomnia. The new battery we purchased died not long after starved of electricity that the busted alternator didn’t produce. On another tour to the Northwest a bad fuel pump stalled us halfway up the big climb out of Pendleton Oregon; another fuel problem in San Diego was fixed temporarily by a Good Samaritan sailor stationed nearby. This was a four-day gig. He came every day to our shows and spent his off-hours time in the rear engine compartment. Bless his heart. He got us back on the road.

On a combination performance and vacation trip to Southern Utah we had our families along. Dick was driving his own truck and camper, and I was behind the wheel of “Old Faithless.” The instruments were acting funny, so I stopped threw open the rear hatch and flames leaped out at me. I sprayed the fire extinguisher on it, tightened the fuel line on the carburetor, reloaded my shell shocked family, and on we went.

Between trips we took the bus to the garage who had worked it over for us. I emphasized to them again, “If you see any real or potential problems, fix them. The bus has to be dependable.” They accomplished that. We could always depend on the bus breaking down. We just didn’t know what, where, or when.

Come with us on a clear sunny afternoon in Kansas on Interstate 70 smooth and level as a pool table top I hear the crunch of heavy metal separating. The rig lurches to the right as the rear quarter sags. I muscle the steering wheel and hit the brakes. We arrive alive at the shoulder. Checking under I find the main leaf spring about six feet long has sprung its last spring. We are riding on the rear axel. It is, of course, Saturday coming on evening. The prospect of spending the night on the freeway shoulder is unappealing. I doubt the little towns along the way have a bus garage, and certainly not at this hour.

A kindly trucker pulls his eighteen wheeler over, hauls me into the next town where he happens to know some folks. He calls the owner of a hardware store who opens his place and allows me to shop. I walk the store buying anything that might possibly help us, a big jack, a long length of logging chain, the biggest clamps he has, a couple of tighteners used to cinch a load of logs on a truck. I have little idea what I’m going to create back at the bus, but with the prayer of the humble and naive I pay the hardware man, the trucker takes me back to the bus, but refuses to take any money. There is a special place in heaven for kindly truckers.

We use the jack, plus the one we carry with us to lift the spring off the axel. I wrap the chain around the frame and the broken spring like a splint, tighten it with the log locks, put a clamp any place I can find to fit one. Dick and I hold our breath, say a silent prayer apiece and slowly open the hydraulic jacks. The fix job groans, squeaks, and miraculously holds.

We slowly ease back on to the freeway and look for the first exit. We make it, but the town is so small and dark we take another prayerful breath go for the next exit, then for a bigger town, then checking our schedule and realizing we don’t have a lot of options, we head for Atlanta Georgia and a big show for the National Boy Scouts of America.

Periodically we stop and retighten the clamps, and measure how far the log clamp has bent since we saw it last. It is not healthy, but is holding. Winding through the Appalachian Mountains, we notice the speedometer has gone out again, but we’re not making enough speed to worry about. There is also a truck strike in this area, and some of the disgruntled drivers are taking sniper shots at every big rig on the road figuring it is piloted by a non union scab driver. We study the dark hills behind the headlights, but nobody tries to shoot us.

We make it to Atlanta. The spring splint is on its last legs, but holding when we pull into the convention center, unload our gear, and take our portable “breakdown” to a bus repair. The show goes well, and a couple of days later the garage has hammered out a new leaf spring, installed it, and we are on our way, hastily to Washington D.C. for our next show.

Dick is a good driver, so sitting in the back of the bus on one of the beds we have built. I am surprised to see the roadside highway markers brushing by my right ear, or so it seems to me. I figure Dick may be distracted trying to hurry. We get to Washington, hit the semi gridlock, and begin to crawl from one traffic light to the next. At one tight spot, a stretch limo pulls up next to us on the right. I assume it has somebody’s ambassador inside. The light changes. Dick is about to pull out past the limo. I holler. He stops, and we both see our back bumper is about to redesign the side of this elegant limo. We wait. The ambassador’s chauffer drives on unaware he came within millimeters of an international incident. Meanwhile cars honk behind us. We find the first turn off, pull over and take a closer look at our limo eating bus. The thing is dog legging. That is the front is in one lane, the back half way into the next lane right. Turns out there are two sets of holes in the frame to attach the rear springsOur Atlanta mechanic chose the wrong set.

After that discovery we stick to the right lane as much as possible preferring to wipe out a road sign if necessary instead of another car.

Flash back; to Oregon the night the alternator went out, and I spent a good part of the night feeling my way along the road like a blind man reading Braille. We bought a new battery. Somebody had replaced the original battery box with a home made iron container big as a medium sized casket. We filled it with the biggest battery we could find. We might blow every fuse in the bus, but we wanted enough juice to drive home on the starting motor if we had to. Figure of speech, of course, but that battery looked like something out of a Boeing 747, and cost about half as much. At least we wouldn’t have to worry about dead batteries again.

Flash forward; to Washington D.C. Flash in the back of the bus. No more forward. All systems dead. We coast to the side of the road. Fortunately we make it over a bridge spanning a chasm below us. Back to the back of the bus, the monster battery compartment has a problem. The exit hole for the battery cable was too high. It had rubbed the insulation off the cable, launched a lightening bolt, fried the battery, and sent us hiking for a replacement.

With the new battery, we say a prayer, take a deep breath, start up our rolling bag of tricks and head for Chicago. Except for looking like we are constantly making a left turn, and panicking a few thousand fellow drivers, the trip is uneventful. I pull into the parking lot where we are going to do the show, and push the brake pedal. Good sign, it doesn’t spew brown oil out of the power brake unit this time. The bus slows gently to a stop, mainly because at that moment the connecting rod to the accelerator pedal breaks. Later I fix it with a coat hanger wire as I remember.

There is more, but I’m sure you more than have the idea.

Fortunately in all these breakdowns we could coast to a stop. That is until rolling down from Snoqualmie Pass into Seattle. We almost relaxed. If the engine conked out this time we could at least coast to a good stopping place, maybe even into Seattle. Except to coast you need wheels. Dick driving glanced out the right rear view mirror. He saw our rear wheel was gaining on us. It was starting to go into business for itself. Half the tire was showing outside the wheel well, and heading for freedom in the forest. Dick brought us into a limping landing. Both of us knew this was the end of the line for this bus. If our equipment had not been inside and if we had had a stick of dynamite it would have been a spectacular finish. But the equipment was, and we didn’t have. What we did have was a show to give in a few hours.

From across the broad space between lanes a driver headed up the opposite direction saw us. We didn’t see him until he had gone up to the next exit, crossed over and came back, parked behind us and got out of his car.

Great, just what we needed, a scruffy long haired society drop out ready to steal whatever he could rip off our rig.

Wrong. He was, just what we needed, a scruffy long haired kid with a heart of gold. We gingerly babied our three wheeled bus out of the traffic, and loaded our basic necessities for a show into his car. He took us to our destination in Seattle, and wouldn’t take a penny for his trouble and expense. He wouldn’t even give us his name. There is a special place in heaven for scruffy kids with hearts of gold.

Next day we found out there are a slew of good Samaritans in Seattle; including the local folk who took us back to our junk bus, and a young man who knew things about big rigs that they don’t teach you in mechanic school. I said to him, “I don’t want to ask you to work on Sunday. We’ll go at it tomorrow.”

He said, “Doesn’t bother me. I’m Seventh Day Adventist.”

He combed the forest for semi abandoned trucks he knew about. Found and pulled off what he needed, got them for a bargain price, adjusted his fees to our modest means, and had us on the road the next day.

We made it home, parked the bus, advertised and sold it for something close to the Blue Book junk yard price to a man who said, “Looks like it needs a little work. That’s fine. I like to fix things.”

I said, “This is your baby. You’ll love it.”

In its own way, that perverse mechanical hypochondriac was a stunning success. It taught us auto mechanics, patience, how to make friends out of strangers by the road side. It even enlarged our vocabulary somewhat, and we met some mighty fine folks along the way. And it cured us forever of wanting to be bus drivers.

Your next installment is: Songs and scenes in the theaters of the mind

Everybody I know is busy, including me. Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.

“Three” and The Three D’s

NOTE: We may have fixed the website, if so, you will again be receiving semi-regular emails from Duane.  Thank you for your patience!

Dan Hiatt

Every person’s life is worthy of a book. I hope you are writing yours, or saving and collecting the material to one day write it.

I am in the midst of mine.

For those of you who just tuned in, this is the next installment of my memoirs currently in production. The previous installments are available on my web page duanehiatt.com I hope you find it interesting.

The book is titled, Live Long*, Learn a Little, Laugh a Lot.

The first part of this book’s title is, “Live Long *. The asterisk refers to the definition of “long;” not long in years necessarily, but in perspective. My experience has been that the longer the perspective the wiser the decision. Sometimes the elevation of our focus is also important.

“Three” was a big number for The Three D’s. Not only was it a third of our name, but it seemed to be ruling the entertainment industry of which we were a part. The big gate keepers were all grouped into threes. There were three main movie companies, Columbia, MGM, and Paramount; three record companies, Capitol, Columbia, and Decca; and three radio/television networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS. If you were not connected in with one of them, progress up was a long hard road.

Speaking of which, even the road was dominated by the big three, Chevrolet, Ford, and Chrysler. We toured in our elegant camper on the backs of a succession of Ford trucks, a tough Chevy, and considered a Dodge once but changed our minds.

Sometimes in the hours and miles traveling between gigs I burned a few brain cells pondering the threes in our society. Profound questions like, “Why do so many jokes start out, ‘Once there were three…’ Why do they give a gold, a silver and a bronze medal in the Olympics? Why not a zinc medal for fourth place? If there were only two blind mice would the song be one third less popular? Why does the parade queen have two attendants, so she won’t fall off either side of the float? Or this heavyweight theological question, I have heard it said that in the battle for men’s/women’s souls, the forces of good and evil are relatively equal so the individual has to make the choice which side will win. And the weapons in that war, are there three on each side? Faith, hope and charity opposed by wine women and song?

Some people believe good and bad things happen in threes. Could a gambler break the bank by loading up on his next two bets after he has won one? Or is gambling itself so bad that it overshadows his little winning spree? He really has two more “bads” coming and doesn’t know it. #2 he gets robbed coming out of the casino. #3 chasing the crook into the street he gets run over by an 18 wheel truck. Upside, is his spirit winging toward heaven now eligible for three good things at the judgment bar? These are deep metaphysical questions I have yet to resolve. I suppose you could write a funny book or a boring research paper on our society’s obsession with three.

But back to work. In our business our connection with one of the big three of the big three was Capitol Records. We were fortunate to be signed shortly before the Kingston Trio left Capitol, so it was a sweet spot to be dropped into. Having Capitol Records snuggled up next to us on our promotional material opened many doors.

Then came a fateful late night in the recording studio. The song we were working on had the potential to climb the charts our producer kept reminding us. He was experienced in the Hollywood music scene, and we listened to him respectfully when he told us we were cooking up big time hit record material here.

Just one problem, the more takes we did trying to get it perfect, the less it sounded like The Three D’s and more like a formula product rock and roll group. I hasten to add that contrary to what my children would tell you, I’m not against all rock, just bad rock, and to us this rock was starting to sink like a stone.

I said to our producer, “Dave, we feel like we are going the wrong direction.”

“Don’t you think it will sell?” Dave said.

“That’s not the point.” I lost him on that one. “We are not on track to be the next Beatles, but we have fans who love and support us. The way this song is going would be a betrayal of their confidence in us.”

The studio got very quiet. The backup musicians looked puzzled, or looked away.

Outwardly Dave tried to convince us that this was the current trend, and we’d be successful if we went along with it. Inwardly he was thinking, “How did I ever get hooked up with these corn ball country boys?”

Parenthetically, let me add that by today’s standards this song would sound suitable for a church service. But for that day, it was pushing the envelope of good taste, not what we wanted to portray.

We couldn’t reach a meeting of minds, so the musicians packed up. Dave stomped off shaking his head. We left with feelings of foreboding.

But the next day, Dave, the musicians, and the executives at Capitol Records all complimented us on sticking to our values, and assured us we were a credit to their company and had a great future with them.

That’s what they said in our dreams.

In the real world they cancelled our contract, told us how naïve and foolish we were, and showed us the door.

It was a dark day in our career. But we would do it again. When you are a Christian trying to be worthy of the name, and you feel that impression from above as we did that night, there is one three that supersedes all the rest. That would be The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost.

Your next installment is: Blue bus blues

Everybody I know is busy, including me. Where are those golden years I was planning on of sitting on the back porch picking my guitar? So I will send just one little part of the book at a time. You can give it a quick read and tell me what you think if you would like.

I’ve slimmed that process down to two questions, and four strokes on the key board (six if you count “Reply” and “Send.”)

The questions are these:“A” How much did you enjoy this?“B” How much do you think a person who doesn’t know Duane Hiatt would enjoy this?

The rating is:1. Glanced at it, printed it out and lined the bottom of the bird cage with it.2. Sped-read it and filed it with my tax return receipts3. Thought it was about as interesting as a well written obituary4. Could have put it down, but didn’t want to5. Couldn’t put it down. Put it in a magnetic frame and stuck it onto the fridge door

So your response would perhaps be A-4, B-3, (Or maybe A-5, B-5, I’m expecting a minimum number of those.)

Also feel free to add comments if you like.

Also, also, feel free to forward this material to anyone you want to.