My Corner, Your Corner: ‘Jammin’ for Jerry’ was a night filled with memories

My Corner, - Your Corner - Tony Callaio
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I love music.

I particularly love live music. When I was growing up, I was spoiled with so much live music from garage bands to even a local group that had a top 17 Billboard hit.

Every high school had dances back in the day and, unlike today where a DJ provides the entertainment, bands would play. It was a special treat but none of us knew how good we really had it.

Bands like Stonebridge, The 8th St. Bridge, Mel Wynn, Eddie Day and TNT, Ralph, Strawberry Jam, Arc Angel and the most famous of them all, The Buoys, could be found playing during the week or on weekends, all year round.

No doubt there are more bands I’m missing, including a bunch of bands my brother Frank played in during his teen years.

Being a musician in the 60s and 70s was very cool and, for many guys, the main reason to be in a band, other than to pretend to be a Beatle, was for the chicks.

Come to think of it, everyone wanted to be a Beatle — even me who couldn’t play an instrument. We had pretend Beatles bands. I was always George.

My brother was the only one in our family who took music seriously. I wish I had, too, but I loved playing sports much more than playing music. Chicks never showed up for baseball games, but it was way more fun than pretending to be George.

My brother played in a ton of garage bands. Even through adult life, he played with some great musicians and had a lot of fun along the way. I guess he did music for art — he already had the chick when he married my sister-in-law.

I enjoy music to make me feel good, happy, better and any other uplifting adjectives I can think of.

I’ve always favored rock more than any other genre but I’m not going to turn the dial if I hear a Pavarotti aria. “Nessun Dorma, “Luciano’s signature song, can and has brought tears to my eyes.

This past Thursday evening, I attended a benefit that also brought me to tears.

That band I spoke of that had the Billboard hit was none other than The Buoys and their hit “Timothy.”

Once the most successful line-up was set, it included two of the leaders in the band, West Wyoming native Bill Kelly and Jerry Hludzik, from the Hazleton area. The duo would play in two other bands together after the demise of The Buoys — The Jerry-Kelly Band and Dakota.

Recently it was announced that Hludzik has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Word of the diagnosis hit Greater Pittston pretty hard.

Kelly announced a benefit concert in honor of his ailing friend that included bands such as Arc Angel, Strawberry Jam, The Idol Kings, Daddy O and the Saxmaniacs and, of course, Dakota.

Kelly’s goal was to raise money to help the Hludzik family with rising medical costs, but as Bill told me, he just wanted to see Jerry smile. I really believe if not one single dime was raised, Kelly would have been a happy man watching Jerry enjoy the evening.

After talking to Bill by phone prior to the event, I wasn’t sure what to expect when Hludzik got on stage to sing. He did struggle during the evening, but when on stage next to Kelly, he was spot on.

The entire time Jerry was on stage, I watched Bill to see how he was handling it. I’m pretty sure he shed a tear or two during the show. But I think he ended up with the biggest smile of the night.

It was touching and sad to see Jerry, the man who entertained so many of us, in this awful way of dementia.

It was also touching to see the entire Genetti’s ballroom filled with well-wishers and fans and friends of Jerry and Bill, including Richie Kossuth of Rock Street Music in Pittston, who donated sound and lights for the night.

I don’t want to discount the other bands that played that evening, or the fact that Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer Danny Seraphine from rock legend Chicago was on hand to perform. Danny has been a friend of Kelly and Hludzik for over 40 years and produced three of their albums.

When Daddy O played a handful of Chicago’s hits with Seraphine’s signature sound on the drums, it was a great ending to the night’s entertainment.

There was only one thing missing. And then it happened. “Timothy” closed the show to everyone’s delight.

My last order of the night was to say my good-byes. As Jerry was exiting the stage with his son Eli holding on to him, I grabbed Eli from behind and whispered in his ear, “My dad was stricken at age 53. I know what you’re going through and you have my heart-filled best wishes.”

Eli let go of his dad for a moment, turned to me and gave me a huge hug. That, my friends, was my big smile of the night and my lasting memory of a night filled with many memories.

Quote of the week

“People who have nothing to do are quickly tired of their own company.” – Jeremy Collier, English theologian

Thought of the week

“The significance of life is life itself.” – Hermann Keyserling, German philosopher

Bumper sticker

“True worth is being, not seeming.” – Alice Cary, American poet

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My Corner,

Your Corner

Tony Callaio

Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at sd@psdispatch.com.

Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at sd@psdispatch.com.