Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Talented musicians, including Willoughby mayor, bring people together

I always knew Dave Anderson was a multi-talented guy. He does a great job as mayor of Willoughby, he’s a great musician and a great family man.
I never knew until a little over a week ago, though, how great a guitar player he really is.
I was sitting near the gazebo in front of the former Willoughby Union High School with my brother-in-law, Larry Whinnery. It was the Thursday night concert in the park, and we were listening to Dave play the guitar.
Dave said his three favorite guitar players of all-time are Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed and Tommy Emmanual. Larry nodded his approval.
I whispered that my three favorite guitar players are Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel and Mundell Lowe. But what do I know? Dave and Larry are the real guitar players.
Many years ago, Larry’s band, Three’s Company, played Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at the Beachcomber in Grand River. Dave’s band, Heads and Tails, played at the same place on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Larry and my sister, Molly, moved to Nashville 33 years ago to be closer to the music business. After all, it is called “Music City.” They “come home” once or twice a year. This year, Larry especially wanted to hear Dave play solo guitar at the Thursday concert.
Seated on the stage, Dave explained how he was going to use a Chet Atkins technique. He was going to play the bass notes with his left thumb and the melody line with his left fingers.
I was waiting to hear how he could do it. Larry was captivated. “There are few, very few, guitar players who can do that,” he said.
“Can you do it?” I asked. “No, I can’t,” Larry replied.
Dave began to demonstrate the Atkins technique by playing a couple of songs. It was outstanding! I was impressed. Larry was more than impressed. He was captivated. He talked about it all night, including a couple of hours later at my brother’s birthday party at Pranzo in Downtown Willoughby.
Dave and Larry have both come a long way since those days of their flaming youth, when music was not only their passion, it was their obsession.
So I asked them a little bit about their bands. It’s not as if I hadn’t heard them play a zillion times. But some of the names escaped me.
Dave had Rudy Kastelic on organ, Mike Sulkey on drums, and (pause here for a deep breath) the lovely Kathy Williams on vocals.
As Dave has told me so many times, when she walked in to Anderson music on Vine Street to audition for the job, he took one look at her, lifted his eyes toward the sky, and said: “Please, Lord, let her be able to sing on key.”
Well, she could and she did. I have a couple of their CDs. And Heads and Tails played every bar along Route 20 from Euclid to Ashtabula and a few places farther out, including Sandusky and Warren.
I will take only a moment to tell you how much Dave has meant to Willoughby at its mayor. I do not want to make any invidious comparisons, because one of the former mayors was my closest friend.
I will say this, however, without fear of contradiction: Willoughby has never, ever, had a better mayor than Dave Anderson. Of course, I only go back to Cec Todd. But that gives you some perspective, and tells you of the high regard I have for the city’s current top administrator.
In Larry’s band, Three’s Company, Larry played guitar, Dave Temple played the keyboad, Wayne Major played bass and sang and Dave Powalski, the famed one-armed drummer, held his own on drums.
The group didn’t travel afar as did Heads and Tails, playing mostly at the aforementioned Beachcomber in Grand River, the Wine Press in Downtown Painesville and at Lake Shore Sands in Euclid.
Larry and Dave also have this in common: Both have two sons.
Dave’s two “boys,” Eric and Dan, look as if they could play defensive tackle in the National Football League. In other words, they are young giants, not to be confused with the New York Giants. I don’t know that either of them has even taken up music.
Larry’s two boys, Colin and Jason, are musicians, but for Colin it is a career, while for Jason it is merely a pastime.
Colin tours the nation with well-known country music bands. I have seen him a couple of times at the House of Blues in Cleveland.
All four of the Anderson and Whinnery lads are extremely good looking.
And fortunately for them, they have exceptional families. Donna Anderson’s father, Arnie Southall, was one of he nicest guys I ever met. Dave’s father, Earl, consistently beat me shooting pool in high school. And what can I say about Molly Whinnery? We had the same mother and father.


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