I believe I’ve told you how the holiday season can get me down. There was, however, one Christmas event that is hard to forget even though it was several years ago. Brewer and Shipley were invited to perform at the Kansas City Plaza the evening they turned on the Christmas lights. Anyone who has ever been to the Plaza during the holidays knows what an incredible sight it is. And the ceremony the night they turn on the lights has become a major event on the Kansas City calendar. Thousands of people from Kansas City and all over come to see the event. The lights on the buildings in the Spanish/Moorish look of the Plaza have to be seen to be believed. I once read how many lights were used but the number was so astronomical that I never really comprehended it. One has to see it to understand what an incredible sight it is.
There is always a celebrity that turns on the lights and some entertainment to go along with it. The latter was Brewer and Shipley backed by a children’s choir. The song, John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas.” It was truly one of the best events I had ever been part of. The only downside of the entire undertaking was learning the song. For that, I had to listen to Yoko a lot but it was worth it. It is the first time we had ever sung with a choir and probably the last. To hear those beautiful young voices singing behind us is something I will never forget. I would say enthralling but there aren’t enough words in the English language to explain the feeling one has hearing those young singers doing background parts to the harmonies I have heard with my singing partner all those years. Not enough words!
I believe the coolest part of the evening actually took place in the dressing area. The person chosen to turn on the lights was Buck O’Neil. Player, manager, and coach of the Negro League’s Kansas City Monarchs. By this time Buck was a very cool white-haired old man in a mink coat. Our sons, Matt and Marc were with us and they played catch with him in the dressing room using oranges from the fruit basket backstage. At that time they were just little kids and had no idea they were playing catch with one of the most famous baseball players in the history of the sport. Buck seemed to love kids and they kept it up for at least half an hour. I’m not sure they were that impressed but their dad sure was.
So it was time to go on. There were tens of thousands of people there for the event and we wondered if this was possibly the largest audience we had ever played for with the exception of the time we opened for Elton and Arrowhead stadium. It truly was a “Happy Christmas” and I hope this year will be a happy one for all of us…Happy Christmas…Tom
I’m so glad to have this opportunity to chat with you. I always liked your song ‘One Toke’ and unfortunately because I live in Australia, I never heard any more of you…now I will. We are all in the same age group…this year this old fart will be turning 80…it’s really good to know you have both been together for so long, and still are performing. I must say, I like your harmonies…the blend is so close, guess that comes from singing together for so long…anyhow, I’m glad to be in touch…regards, Rob Mounsey