A tribute to Mom, Garry and my music

A tribute to Mom, Garry and my music

By Rod Myers, Naturalist

What this story has to do with the great outdoors and nature is that part of it is about my mother, who gave me life and half her genes, and that’s natural.

My mother, Charlotte, has been listening to Garry Meier and Roe Conn on WLS afternoon radio for several years now. In fact, Dad even listens pretty regularly, and I listen to them two or three times a week.

On May 2, Garry and Roe came to Rockford’s Coronado Theatre and did a live broadcast of their 2 to 6 p.m. show in front of a standing room-only crowd. Garry and Roe’s show is the No. 1 rated afternoon show in Chicago, and Mom swears she heard it’s syndicated, and it has become the most listened-to talk show in the world. In April, my dear mother heard the Roe and Garry Show was coming to the Coronado, but they weren’t selling tickets; you had to win them on the radio. We didn’t win any on the radio, but I scored a two-person pass to the show from a WLS ticket giveaway at Cliffbreakers.

Wouldn’t you know it, though, on the day of the show, Mom was incredibly sick and couldn’t go. Darn, I was so looking forward to seeing her reactions to Gary and Roe’s performance. We’d planned on being there at 12:30 when the doors opened to get good handicapped seating because Mom walks slowly with two canes. But Dad decided to go in her place, and we both expected a good show.

I was looking forward to seeing Garry again. I’d been listening to him since 1984. He was Steve Dahl’s sidekick on WLS. Dahl, who was famous for blowing up disco records at White Sox Park, was off-the-wall funny, but Meier had a sharper wit. I remember the first time I heard him talk with a disabled person on the air. Garry asked if she worked. The woman replied, “No, I’m on Social Security.” “Why?” asked Garry.

“Because I’m missing a leg.” In a nanosecond, Garry replied, “Well, I hope you find it.” I liked him instantly; he was an equal opportunity basher. Steve and Garry recorded comical parodies of hit songs, and they were an influence on my comedic song writing. I wrote and recorded a parody of “Wild Thing.” My version was called “Wheelchair.”

In November of ’85, Steve and Garry were to perform at the Midway Theater. I bought tickets for the show and attended with great excitement, but the show was an hour late in starting because Garry broke his ankle stepping off the curb at Henrici’s. Dahl went on with the show while a cast went on Meier at St. Anthony Hospital, where he ended up staying. Weeks before the show, I’d sent copies of my song to several record labels, and I was looking for any opportunity to get publicity.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Garry and push my song all in one motion. It was just one of those strange things where a man in a wheelchair gets to converse with a radio superstar with a freshly broken ankle. Whereupon that man in the wheelchair ends up pushing his song about a wheelchair onto the radio superstar with a freshly broken ankle.

I believe Garry had to have surgery on his ankle when he returned to Chicago, but in a couple months, he was walking normally. In the meantime, Subterranean Records agreed to release my “Wheelchair” parody as a single. Subterranean was an underground label in San Francisco noted for signing the Butthole Surfers, Flipper and the Dead Kennedys, to name a few. We made a music video for “Wheelchair” and sent copies to the only two national networks that aired music videos on a regular basis. These networks were MTV and NightFlight, both based in New York. NightFlight played our video on its fifth anniversary show in June ’86, which was in the middle of a three-month period whern my band, Rod Myers and the Ramps, were the novice darlings of college radio. The Ramps slid into oblivion after ’86, but re-emerged with an album in ’95 called Gimps on Medication, which managed to disable college radio airwaves for several months. Two years later, a Beatle parody called “Yellow Septran Bus,” a track off our album, made Dr. Demento’s Funniest Top Five. In the last two years, I’ve recorded four more songs including two with Rick Nielsen playing guitar. We did a disco version of “Wheelchair” that will dance your wheels off. It’s primed for a movie soundtrack of applicable subject matter.

I thought I’d packed a CD of my last four songs to give to Garry after the show, but you know it’s not 1985, it’s 2003, and I forgot to bring it ‘cause I’m just a little older and forgetful. Anyway, the show went great; even Mayor Doug Scott a.k.a. Carrot Top, came on stage to become part of talk radio. When Doug was walking to the microphones, Garry started doing an impression of Mayor Quimby of The Simpsons, and that’s when Mayor Carrot Stick knew he was about to be sliced by the sharpest tongue in the business. Later, Garry gave our city a great boost when he declared, “Rockford was the home of one of the best Rock and Roll bands in the world—Cheap Trick.” The audience roared.

I got to talk to Garry after the show, and I asked him how the old ankle was doing, which is what I always ask when I talk to him, just to irritate him. The next day, after the show, Mom was feeling good enough to walk around the block with me. So there we went, her with the canes and me in the wheelchair, soaking in the sunny day, watching nature as we and it passed by. While on our labored trek, we thoroughly enjoyed the flowering shrubs, trees, the early flowers, the calling birds, and the Cooper’s hawk that flew by close enough to move my hair as it chased one of those little calling birds. All seemed right with Mother Earth, and all seemed right with Mother.

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associate’s degree in science and a bachelor’s in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.

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