What a day...
It was Saturday, June 24th. My grandson Joey and I had planned to visit The Guitar Center in Springfield, NJ. Duane Eddy was going to be there to sign autographs and endorse Gretsch guitars. I met Duane for the first time only two months before at the Witness History concert in Nashville. I was hoping to get a chance to say hi again and wanted Joey to meet Duane as well. We arrived about 11:30 am hoping to be there well before Duane's 1:00 pm scheduled arrival. I had been tipped off by Jim McDowell that there might be two other "Circle" members at the event and I should keep an eye out for a couple of guys "around 50". As it turns out the store was FULL of guys around 50. We played a few drums, checked out the mixers and strummed a couple of guitars for about an hour before I got tired of carrying my camera case and decided to take it out to my truck. In the parking lot, as I walked around the rear of my truck, a white car pulled into the spot next to me. I waited for the passenger to get out and immediately recognized Deed. I talked a few minutes with Duane and Deed and was pleasantly surprised to find out they remembered me. Deed acknowledged a letter I sent them in April as well as a piece I wrote on Tony Borgosano's website about driving 900 miles to see the Nashville concert. Duane then introduced me to Art Vitale who was standing nearby and Art introduced me to Lou and Gail Antonicello also Circle members.
The autograph session was scheduled from 1:00 to 3:00 but went to nearly 4:00 due to the crowd. Art, Lou, Gail and I became acquainted during that time and spent a good bit of time talking to Deed. I made a point to thank Deed for returning the favor and driving 900 miles to see "US" this time. About 4:00 pm Art and I were talking and he came up with the idea of going out to dinner after the autograph session. Art wondered if Duane & Deed might be interested and said that he would like to pay for their dinner. I agreed, and offered to split the cost with him. Lou and Gail said they'd love to come and before we had even asked Duane, Art had decided to pay for everyone, my grandson included. I could see that Art wasn't going to budge on the issue and we still weren't even sure that Duane and Deed could join us. Since Duane was still busy signing autographs, I approached Deed with the idea. "Do you have other business in the area or are you going back right away?" I asked. "No, we're just going to go back to the hotel tonight and will leave in the morning", was the reply. "Art came up with a pretty good idea", I said, "And we'd like to take you guys out to dinner if you don't have any other plans". "We'd love to, thank you", came the reply. You could have knocked me over with a feather.
In my excitement I forgot to tell Art until about a half hour later, when Art asked me if I thought they'd go with us. "Deed already said yes" I replied as Art's eyes lit up. Art picked out a terrific restaurant but they appeared to be getting ready for a wedding reception. The first question was "Do you have a reservation?" They put some tables together for us and we squeezed in. Art made a hasty call to his friend Donna so she could join us. After Donna got there we had a great dinner and continued to sit around and talk about everything. Everything from the time Deed met Frank Sinatra to the time a black bear tore down my wife Kathy's bird feeder. They made us feel like long time friends as they even included my grandson Joey in the conversation, asking about his band, style of music and so on.
It came time to pay the bill and somehow during the intense conversations, Art and I both missed the fact that Deed had grabbed the bill. Art and I immediately grabbed for it and started a tug of war. Art saying "No, I insist!" and me trying to pull it away from both of them. Deed finally won when she almost pleaded with us. She said that we had no idea how much they appreciate our friendship and felt that this was the least they could do for us. With the coffee almost gone, we continued to sit and talk. We had been there for nearly three hours when Joey said, "They're trying to get us to leave." Deed asked him, "How do you know?" Joey replied that he works in a restaurant and knows the signals. We continued to ignore them and just kept talking until 8:00 pm when the hostess came over and politely said, "We have another party waiting for this table, I wonder if we could ask you to leave?"
So we did. We went outside and said our good-byes, and somehow just kept talking. It was 9:15 before we finally got to our cars and actually left the place. Over four hours of friendship that I still find unbelievable to this day.
You can find more pictures from the show at Tony's