The lost song
——- spring 2018
O those years back, when I lived in Madison Wisconsin, my pal Dory and I were regulars at The Cellar Bar. We had a favorite song on the jukebox, and played it at least once every time we arrived.
I tried to recall what song ’twas, last week when at The Kickstart Saloon in Topeka, holding a $5 bill at this jukebox and pressing for options. That favorite song back at The Cellar had meant so much, yet here with other music already playing loudly and all the stir around, I could not grasp what song it was.
I could see the jukebox that Dory and I plugged then, and the black and white tile floor, brick walls, and the bar where we ordered beers. I could see the bar owner and bartender, Gino. He was an Italian man, who had black hair, Rasta-man style. He stood about my height. He had a broad frame, a broad face, and a relaxed demeanor. He gave a smile, mostly with his eyes every time we approached the bar to order.
The Cellar was located in the basement of the Italian Workmen’s Club building on Regent Street.
Dory and I played darts there. We mingled with other patrons, and other times sat across from each other to discuss perspectives and anticipations. No matter what we planned for our nights at The Cellar, one of the first things we did was plug that song in the jukebox and sing to it, emoting the lyrics at our voices’ top volume.
The song was part of our Cellar experience! …. Until one night we arrived, and it was gone from the jukebox selections. Dory and I re-checked. The song was definitely gone.
We looked to Gino; he shrugged. His relaxed demeanor remained solid as his frame, and final.
Dory and I giggled to each other, and blushed. Perhaps our singing along to the song — beautifully and loudly — resonated beyond our own relishing. Perhaps our relishing in the song one or more times every night we were there … was not appreciated, to put it delicately. We played darts, and nothing more was said about it.
Yet over the years, whenever the song popped up via radio or online music formats, I thought of Dory and I at The Cellar, closing our eyes and singing to it. I thought of Gino, who in retrospect, was behind the bar every time we did. I felt again the little heartbreak of the song being suddenly unavailable.
I had not heard the song in a long time, and tried to recall it last week at the Kick Start. I told my friend Ed who was with me, about Dory and I and the song, and Gino. Ed asked, “What song was it?”
“I can’t remember!” I tried to pick it up by envisioning those nights at The Cellar. To no avail.
Meanwhile, other songs played loudly at the Kickstart. So that I had to shout when I told the bartender the story of Dory and I, and the night the song disappeared from The Cellar jukebox. “What song is it?” the bartender asked.
“I can’t remember!”
“I wish you could,” he replied. “I’d play it for you.”
What song was it that Dory and I sang all those nights? I tried to recall. Meanwhile I tried to put a couple other songs into our mouths to see if they fit. For example, perhaps we sang to “Many Rivers to Cross,” sung by Bob Marley.
Nope; didn’t fit within the memory of Dory and I singing. Yet it had the same mood, the same, upper reaching of notes.
That song I was trying to recall was lost, from The Cellar jukebox then, and beyond my grasp now. I had to accept it. That song had to find me, as it had done here and there over the years.
… and found
And crazy enough, it did! Last night — when in the car with Ed and he played one of his Pandora stations. There ’twas!
The song: “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes.
O yes, that was exactly what Dory and I sang those nights at The Cellar, while playing darts, mingling, and loving life.
Next time I’m at Kickstart, I will look for it on their jukebox — and if so play it for the bartender … and well, sing to it!
Meanwhile, now I have a link to it online. Here ’tis: “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”