Music’s Last Hurrah…………….#175 (80’s)

The Kiowa Supper Club

Music having been indelibly inscribed in Gary’s past life although dormant since his residency in Kiowa.  He still retained all the necessary band equipment to engage in a piano bar or bandstand presentation.  In Gary’s vision, Kiowa was disemboweled of performing musicians with exception of Roger Powell, who in the past recorded and complimented professionals, but currently was inactive.   The only establishments currently with a Juke Box was  Uptown Recreation and Supper Club.  Uptown Recreation was  a beer serving pool room,  providing sandwiches and accessories,  positioned on 6th St., better known to the local town  inhabitants as Bruce’s,  Bruce Koblitz  the enunciated proprietor. Entering Bruce’s  domain one is immediately subjected to an atmosphere permeated with cigarette smoke,  centered in the room are two pool tables opposite a long bar addressed with stools.  Lined up on a shelf behind the bar, gallon containers of pickled pigs feet and dills and rack’s of various chips.  Adjacent to the end of the bar was a small open cooking grill providing sandwiches.  Several table with chairs fulfilled the remaining expanse, excluding a door leading to a unisex single restroom, the juke box positioned beside it.


Gary wasn’t evoked by Bruce’s,  having discerned public taprooms of its accord in his past music experiences,  but on occasion given the special circumstance he joined the other Service Company employees for pitcher of beer.  The special circumstances was an expostulation  constituted by owner Steve Miller.  Friday’s were payday at the Service Company,  the weekly checks being dispersed between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. by management,  either John or Steve Miller or when neither were available, by Sandi Palmer.   Unlike Steve who was strictly business and punctual,  good-natured John Miller was not a temporal person and most Fridays was late in relinquishing the company payroll checks which for some reason got under his brother Steve’s skin.   Steve initiating an authoritative rule, if John was late with the checks he would have to provide a round of free beer at Bruce’s for all those wishing to participate..   It was soon realized one could look antecedently to an after work beer whenever John handed out checks.   Gary surmised that instead of a chastisement, John thought it was a vindication, thoroughly enjoying the Friday convergence on Bruce’s Uptown Recreation with the employees.

Kiowa Train Station across from the Supper Club

 The other established conception a definitive contrast, the Supper Club, occupying the remnants of an old hotel on Railroad Avenue,  bordering the Sante Fe Railroad tracks,  across from the defunct relic of the once prestige’s  Kiowa Railway Station.  The Supper Club,  a unique dining and lounge facility with a full service kitchen, dining room and special catering area, a separate lounge component opening in the afternoons.  The regal upstairs hotel accommodations a thing of the past having been obstructed and excluded long ago,  Lynn and Gerva Hargett the amicable title-holding host.  Upon entering the main entrance,  a small anteroom with restrooms and two entryways, the first an emergence into the lounge and  to the right the dining room entrance.  Past the table and chair dining room was another entry, a large private dining and meeting room addition.  The lounge radiating a warm but not overly plush atmosphere, a small dance floor and jukebox adjacent to entry,  both sides of the room adorned with booths, the center section with tables, the far end of the room hosting the bar and stools.  The Supper Club and Lounge not an overt  atmosphere of sophistication,  but one of small town contentment.

Larry Swonger

Doug Swonger

Gary having retain his band equipment, it laying dormant stored away in his residence, discovering an opportunity to resurrect it from it dormancy.  Gary and Larry Swonger visiting with the Supper Club owners, Lynn and Gwen Hargett about the possibility of them entertaining at the Club Lounge.   Gary recalling his musical background in Kiowa,  his first acquaintance 9 years earlier, Judy Jantz hiring his band for the Chamber of Commerce Labor Day Dance,  appearing as The Traditions.

Gary visiting with Larry Swonger about forming a trio  Gary’s again acquainting the  Fender Rhodes piano,  affording the bass octave, Larry on guitar and his high school son Doug on drums.   Gary and Larry with vocals and Larry entertaining with his MC antics and bad jokes.  The trio’s inaugural presentation accorded an acceptable performance, the Hargett’s impressed,  Gary, Larry and Doug continuing with  several weekend engagements,  Gary providing an added attraction inviting Bob Wallace and Jerry Willis from Oklahoma City to reunite with him on the bandstand for a nostalgic evening.

Bette Midler – The Rose

Iva Beth’s handwritten words to The Rose

Once a musician always a musician even when being sequestered.  Gary’s trio activity as a trio having come to a conclusion, but on occasion Gary would slip off to the Supper Club on a Friday or Saturday night, there was something inherent about the atmosphere of a well addressed nightclub.  The 19 year association with the realm of Wurlitzer and Seeburg having not only provided a means of livelihood but a bonding with a profession that was shared by notables throughout history.  The Supper Club sporting an upright piano placed off to the side of the dance floor, the musician when asked demonstrated that the eighty-eight keys still retained its functional heritage. It was a quiet evening at the Supper Club, the far and few between after dinner patrons who ventured into the beverage half of the Club having left. Gary having been asked to play a couple of songs and was in process of leaving when he noticed that his brother-in-law Shawn mother Iva Beth and another lady entering seating themselves in a booth.   Iva whom Gary was acquainted with, approached the piano asking if he knew the Bette Midler song The Rose,  Gary responding  that he had seen the movie and was familiar with the song and then adding,  if you can sing it, I can play it.  Thinking that the comment would end the conversation, but he was wrong, Iva saying okay, I’ll be right back, I have the words at home.  Iva returning with a handwritten note pad with the words written on it.  Gary recalling the unusual two note right hand intro to the song, Iva beginning “Some say love it is a river that drowns the tender reed” the rest all fell into place, the voice and the piano blending as one, Gary having accompanied many stellar professional vocalist in the past, but this was totally astonishing, Iva was The Rose.  The musician somewhat mesmerized by what had just transpired, bidding Iva Beth and her friend goodbye, but before leaving asking a favor of Iva,  could he have her handwritten words to the song, what wasn’t said was, it would be kept as remembrance of a Rose.

Steve Miller's residence

Steve Miller’s residence

Jerry Willis and Gary

It was by invitation only,  the provincial Kiowa farmers not solicited,  Steve Miller extending a welcome to clientele from surrounding states and locations, providing the availability of his Cessna 172 as transportation.  The celebrated event as appreciation of their sponsorship in his John Deere business endeavors, but an attendance dismissal administered to the local community.  Steve very much aware of Gary’s music and band background presented an overture asking if he could provide the music for the 75 people invited to an upcoming event at his residence.  The petitioned musician placing a phone call to Oklahoma City,  questioning if the guitarist/sax player and friend Jerry Willis would make the drive for  a Saturday night appearance in Kiowa, and having enlisted Larry & Doug Swonger to round out the group.  The night of the event, the h’orderves,  cocktails,  beverages of every imaginable genus flowing,  served in the outdoor area adjoining Miller capacious indoor pool.   A curiosity beginning to prevail, Gary cognizance that there was no provision for a meal, but that was soon to change.   Steve Miller approached the entertainment asking to use the microphone.  All expecting a flourishing announcement for the attendance of the loyal customers but instead there was  a pronouncement.   Steve relating that dinner would be served at the Supper Club,  the Clubs complete menu at the guest disposal, compliment of their host.  Steve Continued enumerating a petition from the Supper Club’s Lynn Hargett,  requesting the assemblage interval their convergence so as not to overwhelm the kitchen and  to better serve the entourage.   Gary finding the Steak and Lobster Tail impressive.

The enjoyable evening accomplished,  Gary’s band equipment once again finding solace in its storage capacity,  making  a decision to bid a farewell to the provisional giver of captivating musical memories.   Deciding to be bestowed his acquired tools of the trade to his eldest son Scott,  a family passing of the melodious baton,  the Steve Miller presentation his music’s last hurrah.

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