Archive for December 31st, 2007

Farewell To A Mentor, Cheerleader, And Dad

Monday, December 31st, 2007

My father passed away yesterday at the age of 84.

A veteran of the Big Band era, Bill Tanner was my first musical mentor and role model. World War II and a growing family led him out of the music business and into a “real” job, but he never lost his love of playing or his belief that it was actually possible for someone with a modicum of talent and a good work ethic to thrive in showbiz. Without the experience I gained working with him as a teenager – and without his rock-solid conviction that I possessed both of those necessary ingredients for a pro – I’d have never seriously considered music as a full-time career.

Until my mom’s advancing Alzheimer’s caused him to retire from his last combo, he continued to play “his” music – Big Band Swing – a few nights every month for appreciative audiences of the Greatest Generation. Long after Mom could no longer speak, she would still pat her foot every time he sat down at his keyboard and played “I’m Looking Over A 4-Leaf Clover.” His music allowed the two of them to communicate in a way that nothing else could, and continued the bond they shared through 65 years of marriage.

Thirty years ago, I wrote a song simply titled (in true Southern fashion) “My Daddy.” The chorus went like this:

My Daddy starts on time and plays what they wanna hear
If he ever talks, he keeps it clean and sincere
And he acts like he plans to be invited back someday
He smiles when he’s happy, and he’s happy a lot
And he always gives the people everything that he’s got
And there’s one thing more, I’m proud of my daddy for
He knows when it’s time to go, And when it’s time to stay

Yesterday it was – at last – time for him to go. Thanks, Dad. Thanks for everything.