Rock & Roll is wasted on the young!

The year was 1970 and Zack Black & the Blues Attack was poised to be the hottest band in America. Radio loved them, demand for their record exceeded supply, and everywhere they played seats were sold-out. But when stardom seemed within their grasp, they let it slip away. Will Black thought that chapter of his life was closed forever. He had not been in touch with his former bandmates since he moved to New York some forty years ago. But now a mysterious woman has approached him with an unusual request: will he help her carry out her husband’s dying wish?

Incredibly, Will finds himself tasked with putting the Blues Attack back together to prove to the world, and themselves, that they still have what it takes. But to do so means that the one-time friends will have to confront the secrets and lies that had contributed to their demise. Given a second chance, will they make the same mistakes?

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Hello, I Must Be Going by David Meyers, Will Black was a member of the band, Zack Black & the Blues Attack. Forty years ago, they were one of the hottest things going. Then egos and petty jealousies broke them up. Now, the widow of the band leader wants to get them back together to finish the tour their breakup interrupted forty years ago, and she wants Will to help. But will their adoring fans from so long ago remember them? And if they do, will they even care?

A warm, sensitive, and entertaining story of camaraderie, friendship, betrayal, and tragic misunderstandings, this is one you will enjoy all the way through.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Hello, I Must Be Going by David Meyers is the story of a widow’s quest and the effect it has on the lives of all those involved. Audrey Taylor’s late husband Zack was one of the leaders of a band called Zack Black & the Blues Attack. Forty years ago, they were on the verge of success with a hit record and a sold out tour. But the band broke up mysteriously in the middle of the tour and left fans and backers hanging. Now Zack is dead and Audrey wants to revive the band in his memory and finish the long over-due tour. She gets Will Black the other leader of the band to help her, offering to finance the whole thing. Will is unsure at first, then he meets Audrey and discovers that Zack truly regretted the breakup of the band.

Giving us glimpses into the far-from-glamorous life on the road for new bands, ones who haven’t yet found stardom, Hello, I Must Be Going seamlessly combines the past and present for a tale that will keep you enthralled from beginning to end.


She’s the Kind of Girl

It was a typical crowd for a Tuesday—typical, that is, until she showed up.

I was a couple of songs into my second set, working the piano bar at Joe’s Pier 52. For the past two weeks, I had been holding down the bench for Teddy Robinson while he took a well-deserved vacation. But how do you fill in for a legend? You don’t. You can’t. The most I could hope for was that no one spilled a drink on me. Or threw one. Not very likely in place like Joe’s, but in a career spanning four decades you learn to expect anything.

Teddy was one of the first people I looked up when I got to New York. I had been given his name by a mutual acquaintance. All I knew about Teddy was that he was from Columbus, got discovered by Jackie Wilson when he was sixteen, and could sing and play with the best of them. And he was blind. Comparisons with Ray Charles were inevitable. And deserved. Played a mean harmonica, too, kind of like that other kid—Little Stevie-something.

Once Teddy was satisfied, I wouldn’t embarrass him, he began tossing jobs my way, ones he couldn’t do. And I became his walker, though he really didn’t need me. Through our excursions up and down the streets of the Big Apple, I quickly learned the ins-and-outs of his adopted city and, in time, mine. That first year, I would have starved if it hadn’t been for Teddy. You don’t forget things like that. At least I don’t. We made it a point to keep track of one another, Teddy and I. But I had always gotten far more out of our friendship than he had. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for the guy. Give him a kidney, even.

Always working, that was Teddy, but it had started to catch up with him. So when he decided to take a vacation, he asked me to cover. Which is how I chanced to be at Pier 52 when she walked in: tall, willowy, and wearing a black dress—the kind a woman keeps in her closet as a reminder of how slim she used to be. She immediately called to mind a Hollies’ song. But, then, I tend to associate song lyrics with nearly everything. That’s what happens when your mind is a jukebox.

It was a slow night. The regulars knew Teddy was off, and I didn’t have any regulars. I spotted her as soon as she entered the room. That is, I saw the reactions of the other red-blooded males—straight, gay, or whatever—and my eyes followed their gaze. She was alone and sat at a table in the back. A Hitchcock blonde, the kind that could class up Tiffany’s. I took her to be in her thirties or well-preserved forties and wondered if she wasn’t a model or a movie star. Not that I’d recognize most of the current crop. But Joe’s gets a lot of theater traffic.

I thought I’d drop by her table on my next break, just to exchange a few pleasantries. Buy her a drink, maybe. I didn’t flatter myself to think anything would come of it. Though I was wearing my best suit, the powder blue number, the one I always wore when I was performing. It marked me as a professional. And would have made me feel like I was part of the Rat Pack if I had owned more than just the one.

But before I had the chance to act, Marcie, one of the wait staff, handed me a cocktail napkin with a brand-new Benjamin folded inside. “Looks like you’ve made an impression,” she said, nodding in the direction of the mystery woman.

I sat up straight and looked across the room at her. Holding a martini glass at eye level, she seemed to tilt her head and smile slightly in acknowledgment. When I glanced at the napkin, I saw that it had the words “Broken Wings” written out in neat, block letters.

“Broken Wings” was a song by John Mayall, the godfather of British blues. I hadn’t thought about it since I was in my old band, the Blues Attack, when I was still in my teens. It had been the flip-side of our first record. I had heard it on the Blues Alone album and studiously applied myself to learning it as a showcase for my developing organ chops. It was heart-breakingly sad—and obscure. Certainly not the type of material I’d normally choose for the patrons of Pier 52. On the other hand, it was my last night. No matter what I did, Teddy would be occupying the piano bench tomorrow. I stretched my fingers and prepared to pour on the charm.

“This is a special request,” I said in my best Barry White voice, “and I always try to honor requests—as long as you don’t ask me to stop playing.”

The reaction to my little attempt at humor reminded me why I was better off leaving the jokes to others.

I couldn’t remember ever attempting “Broken Wings” on the piano before. I didn’t have the lush organ fills and I struggled to retrieve the stark lyrics from the deepest recesses of my memory. Still, I was a little better keyboard player than Mayall—although not half the musician. I eased into it with this improvised introduction, starting on the high end and stair-stepping it down until I reached the opening chords.

“Some-buh-uh-uh-uh-dy,” I sang in a bluesy murmur with just a touch of grit. The lyrics were a little awkward—the ones I could remember—but Mayall made them work. I tried to emulate his phrasing, syllable by syllable, as best I could. Even as I was singing, I couldn’t help but wonder why the mystery woman—I dubbed her Goldilocks—had wanted that particular song. There was no reason for her to expect me to know it unless she knew something of my history. But she was too young to have ever seen my band. And the record had barely been released. She certainly didn’t impress me as someone who collected garage band 45s. I didn’t even own a copy of it anymore. The last one got away from me during the nomadic phase of my life, which as pretty much the last forty years.

Eyes half-closed, I whisper-sang my heart out, hoping to make a psychic connection with the one person in the room I knew would care. I didn’t realize how much I had missed the song until I found myself awash in associated memories. Mostly of playing in the band. But also of young love. A trace of a smile may have even bowed my lips. Someone once said that the interruption of a song was like the stopping of time itself. That’s the way I felt. For a few moments, our souls had touched.

Or maybe not.

Because when I looked up again, Goldilocks was gone. She hadn’t even stayed for the last verse. There was something I wasn’t seeing in this picture.

Even without the Hammond B-3 and with some muffed lyrics, I had acquitted myself fairly well. I had tried my best to give Goldilocks her money’s worth, although I doubted I had won over any new fans.

When Marcie passed by me in her orbit again, I hailed her. “Did the customer who made the request say anything before she left?”

She shook her head and mimed, “Sorry,” the way women do.

She wasn’t the only one who was sorry. Like the Hollies sang, she had it all.

As I turned it over in my mind, the whole thing didn’t make much sense. I might have thought I had imagined it all if it weren’t for the $100 bill stuffed in my breast pocket. Taking it out, I noticed a phone number written on the inside of the napkin. The area code was Westchester County—at least it was before the cellphone era. Westchester usually meant money. Paul Newman and Joan Woodward had lived there and lots of other celebrities still did. And a mobster or two. Or so I read in the Post.

As I thought about Goldilocks, I flashed back on a song I had written when I was still in high school, one of my first. I had “written” it—in my head, not on paper—for a doo-wop group I had joined, the Clintones, although I would quit when they went barber shop. Even then, I knew most girls were allergic to boys in striped vests, sleeve garters, and straw boaters.

It was a bouncy affair.

She’s the kind of girl that you wanna
take home to meet Mama.
She’s the kind of girl who will only have eyes for you.
She’s the kind of girl makes you pinch yourself
to see if you’re dreaming.
She’s the kind of girl who is almost
too good to be true.

I remember trying to teach it to the other three Clintones, singing the different parts as best I could. Actually, I only had the melody and the bass part. I wasn’t much of an arranger, yet, so it was kind of every man for himself.

She’s the kind of girl always looks like a million dollars.
She’s the kind of girl who could never be a sometime thing.
She’s the kind of girl that you only find once in a lifetime.
She’s the kind of girl who can make a guy feel like a king!

From the beginning, I was a stickler for true rhymes: moon, June, spoon. It killed me if I had to resort to a slant rhyme: town, bound, fount. That’s because I grew up with show tunes, the whole Great American Songbook. Lyrically, guys like Cole Porter and Lorenz Hart were my idols. Stubbornly—make that stupidly—I kept myself aloof from blues and rock and roll for a long time.

So is it any wonder my head’s in such a whirl?
All the world’s an oyster and I have found the pearl
Ev’rytime I see her my heart begins to twirl.
She’s got that kind of magic, she’s that kind of girl!

Why I threw in a bizarre bridge, I can’t say, except I was something of a geek—science fairs and all of that. Even built a cloud chamber. I remember I had been intrigued by the mnemonic Mr. Wood, the science teacher, taught us so we could remember the planets back when Pluto still qualified: Mercury (Mary’s), Venus (Violet), Earth (Eyes), Mars (Make), Jupiter (Johnny), Saturn (Stay), Uranus (Up), Neptune (Night), Pluto (Panting). So I dropped it into the song.

Mary’s violet eyes make Johnny stay up nights panting.
Johnny has never seen eyes that looked so enchanting.
Sometimes you can hear Johnny when he’s ranting.
And chanting and descanting and….
She’s got that kind of magic, she’s that kind of girl!

I especially liked the abrupt change after “descanting.” It was like the record skipped.

She’s the kind of girl always looks like a million dollars.
She’s the kind of girl who could never be a sometime thing.
She’s the kind of girl that you only find once in a lifetime.
She’s the kind of girl who can make a guy feel like a king.
Can make a guy feel like a king!
Can make a guy feel like a king!
Can make a guy feel,
Make a guy feel,
Make a guy feel like a king!

I may have had a specific girl in mind, but at that stage of my life it was more likely any girl who reciprocated my interest. I was extremely shy, which was another reason I dropped out of the Clintones. Surprisingly, a lot of musicians are—except for the ones who aren’t. Most bands had at least one member who will do anything to hog the limelight, several who are happy to let him, and at least one who hates him for it. I always believed that my musicianship would bring me more than enough attention. But in rock and roll, a keyboard can’t compete with a guitar unless you set it on fire or knock it over a la Keith Emerson.

A few years later, I revived the song when I joined my first serious band. Because I knew most people weren’t interested in hearing our originals, I combined it with “Expressway to Your Heart,” the Soul Survivors hit. The bass parts are almost identical so it was easy to start out playing “She’s the Kind of Girl,” switch to “Expressway,” and then back again. I thought I could fool them into liking my song by camouflaging it.

After “Broken Wings,” I sleep-walked through my last set of the night, reminded everyone that Teddy would be back on Wednesday, then headed downtown to my apartment. I decided to hoof it just to clear my head—and think about Goldilocks.

The whole thing was a puzzle. Who was this person? Rich, beautiful, a lover of English blues. Of all the gin joints in all the towns, right? Clearly, she was either the perfect woman or a whack job. I wanted to call her right then, but decided tomorrow would be soon enough. Musician’s time. Late morning.


Top of the Mark

She picked up on the third ring, catching me by surprise like an errant fishhook in the ear. I was expecting a maid or a husband or, more likely, a recording. But I knew it was her—Goldilocks—even though I’d never heard her speak before. Her voice was perfect.

“Hi, this is, uh, Bill Black,” I stammered. I should explain. Billy Black was the name I used professionally. For a time, I went by Billy Martin until I learned Billy Joel called himself that back when he was playing piano bars in LA. But my real name is William Blecker—Blecker being German for someone who shows off his teeth. I picked up the nickname Blackie in my childhood.

“Oh, hi, Bill,” she said. “Thanks for calling. I wasn’t sure you would. I don’t usually give my number to total strangers, but I don’t feel we are.”

“I’m sorry, but have we met?” I couldn’t imagine how, but there was always that chance. She could be a cousin, for all I knew. I’m not really good at keeping track of such things.

“No, but I feel like I know you. My name is Audrey Taylor—Mrs. Zachary Taylor.” Her words hung in the air like the chiming of an antique clock.

“You’re Zack’s wife?”

Zachary Taylor had been my best friend growing up, although I hadn’t seen him in years. He was responsible for my becoming a musician. We formed the Blues Attack when we were in high school. He was the smartest and most-talented person I had ever known. I immediately began kicking myself for not keeping in touch.

“I was,” she said, followed by a long pause. “He passed away.”

“Passed away?” I struggled to remain upright in a world that had suddenly turned upside down.

“Seven weeks ago.”

I was stunned. Words wouldn’t come out. Sure, we may not have sent each other Christmas cards, but I still took comfort in knowing Zack was out there somewhere. We had once shared the same dream and, as long as we were both alive, I could maintain the illusion that we still might achieve it. Now, the dream was dead, too. I just hadn’t known it until this minute.

“Are you still there?”

“Yeah.” I didn’t know if I was feeling sad, lonely, or just sorry for myself. I knew I would be spending a lot of time sorting it out.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have been so blunt. I’ve had some time to deal with it. I forget that there might be others who cared about him, too.”

“No, that all right. It just caught me off guard. How…”

“Cancer. Prostate”

“I’m sorry.” And I was. Men don’t like to hear that kind of thing, especially about someone their own age.

“Thank you.” The words sounded tired and worn out from overuse.


“Two years. After he was diagnosed and began treatment, he survived for two more years. It was very aggressive. What’s the word? Metastasize? It metastasized.”

Now, I really felt guilty. I had been in New York all that time and could have dropped by to see him had I known. But I should have done it anyway. Looked him up. Years ago.

“Is there anything I can do?” I asked lamely. “I mean, I don’t really know what, but if I can do—something.” I felt like an idiot. I hadn’t even known Zack was married, and now I was asking his widow if I could be of any help to her. Of what possible assistance could I be? Change a light bulb? Take out the garbage? Paint the kitchen?

“Actually, that’s why I looked you up.”

“Well, I’ll do whatever I can. Zack and I were once very close. Almost like brothers.”

“I know. I know. He felt that way, too.”

I didn’t know whether to believe her. I certainly wanted to, but Zack and I hadn’t exactly parted on the best of terms. When bands break up, it’s like a marriage that has gone disastrously wrong. Over the years, the level of acrimony had subsided only a little. Still, I felt her loss; it was my loss, too. I began to regret every angry word I had ever said to him. I couldn’t have felt worse if I had cut off my hand—my left one. And I have a strong left hand, great for pounding out octaves.

“That’s why I feel I can ask you this favor.”

“A favor. Of course.” I was hoping against hope she didn’t need money. Most musicians I knew weren’t rolling in dough. I started thinking of how I could scrape some cash together, maybe a thousand or fifteen hundred bucks. Pawn something, maybe.

“It’s a little bit hard to explain,” she said. “But if you could come up to our house this weekend, I could show you.”

“Your house?”

“It’s just outside Tarrytown. You can take the train. You’ll come, I hope. I mean, if you’re free.”

She had caught me between gigs, as we say. I used to work three or four nights a week at this jazz club in the Village, but it had gone punk when management realized they wouldn’t have to spend as much money on maintenance. Overnight, the restrooms became vomitoriums. Since then, I had subbed where I could, played for auditions and rehearsals, and took an occasional wedding job.

“Sure,” I replied. “When do you want me?”

“How about Friday? If you can arrange it.”

“You sure I won’t be an inconvenience?”

“No, I have plenty of room. Let me know when you’re coming and I’ll pick you up at the station.”

She hung up when she was finished. I would have preferred to prolong the conversation, just to hear her voice, but she had apparently said what she wanted to say. There were questions I wanted to ask her, but those could wait until we were face-to-face. I would miss Sunday’s meeting of the Roxy Morons—an old timers group—which I didn’t mind, except I would have to let them know or else they would assume I had died. We got together every week to eat, play, drink, and lament the sad state of the music business.

After I got off the phone, I peeked out the window. It was raining. Good, I thought, this city needed a bath, And maybe a good cry. But then it stopped.

For the rest of the morning, I turned my apartment upside down, looking for any mementos that might have survived from the Blues Attack years. Most of them had been stored in my parents’ basement back in Ohio along with other mementos of my childhood and were disposed of in the auction following my dad’s death. At the time, grief trumped any sentimentality I might have felt. Now, I wish I had held onto a few more things. What I was left with was a yearbook and a dozen or so newspaper clippings that were pressed between the pages. Also some fragments of songs.

There was one I had written while I was on a trip to San Francisco with my parents. A tour bus had dropped us off at the top of Nob Hill, right in front of the Mark Hopkins Hotel, and I remember trying to imagine what it would be like to stay in a grand place like that. For some reason, I saw myself looking down from the very top. It must have been fifteen or twenty stories tall. As I read the lyrics, the melody began to play in my mind.

They come and they go,
In the streets far below,
Passing into and out of the dark.
Just who they might be,
Is a puzzle to me,
From here at the Top of the Mark.

Where do they come from?
And where do they go?
And what are their secrets?
Well, I’ll never know.
Still I can’t look away,
From this strange shadow play,
Peering down from the Top of the Mark.

Not bad for a ten-year-old kid. A few years later, I had flown out to San Francisco. It was my first time on an airplane. On the return flight, we had a half hour delay when it came time to land at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Later, I made up this song, working out the chords on my banjo—long neck, folk-style—when I got home.

I’m stacked up in Chicago,
Can’t get back on the ground.
Yeah, I’m stacked up in Chicago,
Can’t get back on the ground.
My baby’s down there waitin’,
But this plane keeps circlin’ around.
I’m stacked up in Chicago,
Can’t get back on the ground.

At the time, I had no idea that I would become a musician—or have a girlfriend—but the desire to express myself musically was already evident to anyone who bothered to listen. It just needed a catalyst. It needed Zachary Taylor.

Zack Taylor had been our class president. He was also the valedictorian, homecoming king, and all that other stuff that once seemed so important. In fact, in almost every way possible he made me feel inadequate without ever intending to. Fortunately, when it came to forming a band, he couldn’t do everything—not at the same time, anyway. True, he could play bass, drums, keyboards, and even a little sax, but he preferred the guitar and dedicated himself to becoming a virtuoso. He might have been the best I ever heard. Someone once said that Paul McCartney could play Bach on a tugboat whistle. Zack was better.

Until I took up the piano, I had thought I would be a writer. Then Zack asked me to jam with him one day when he heard me pecking out some tunes on the band room piano. I learned that was a big no-no when Principal Swain came up behind me and dug his talons into my shoulders. According to Kurt Vonnegut, every author he knew would have preferred to be a musician.

I didn’t really know how to play, but Zack could tell I had a good sense of pitch and rhythm. Soon, I was spending all my free time at his house while he was patiently teaching me the fundamentals. Later I added some lessons at Coyle’s Music, but Zack had laid the foundation. I still felt like he was looking over my shoulder when I played.

Because Zack was one of the coolest—no, he was the coolest kid in school—I liked that we hung out together. I would never be cool on my own, but I could pass for it when I was around him. And when he suggested we form a band, I was all in. I began practicing twice as hard so I wouldn’t lose my spot. Along with learning the piano, I began to discover I had a knack for arranging. I had an ear for chords and knew which notes to fill in.

As our friendship developed, we became inseparable. He started calling me “Blackie” while I nicknamed him “Liz.” This was because one of Zack’s few flaws was his terrible handwriting—as bad as a doctor’s—which once resulted in a substitute teacher mistaking Zachary Ellsworth Taylor for Zachary Elizabeth Taylor. As a result, I wound up writing down the arrangements. No one would be able to read them otherwise.

From time to time, other musicians invited themselves to jam with us. A few of them sounded pretty good to me, but Zack wasn’t as easily satisfied. He auditioned various drummers and bass players in different combinations until he found two—Evan Bishop, who we called “Stuka”—and Wes Kennedy. They seemed to be opposite sides of the same coin. The four of us became the nucleus of the original Zack Black & the Blues Attack. I thought we were the heaviest band on earth—or at least in Ohio.

Like everybody else—even The Beatles—we had started out covering other people’s songs. The very first song we attempted was “Hi-Heel Sneakers,” with me on a Farfisa organ Zack had wrangled from somewhere. It had been a hit for Tommy Tucker a year or two before, so we all knew it, in theory anyway. But getting us to play it together was another thing. At first we sounded like so many radios tuned to different stations.

Very early on, it became apparent that this would be Zack’s band because he was the only one of us who had any idea of how to fix what was broken. And there was a lot. But I took it as a good sign that it wasn’t long until we sounded competent enough to be invited to play a sock hop after school. I say “invited” because we didn’t get paid.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to the gym—the gym being where the sock hops were held and the preservation of the gym floor being the reason the dancers had to do their hopping in their socks. We became rock stars. Even before we had played a single note, there was a gaggle of teenage girls ready to swoon over us or, more accurately, Zack, and the rest of us were indirect beneficiaries of all the swoonage. If we hadn’t already decided we were going to be a band, their reaction sealed it.

Other than being warned twice to turn down the volume—with a threat to pull the plug if they had to tell us again—our first gig went well. Afterward, we accepted the praise of our mostly female fans, while their boyfriends glared at us and seemed poised to yank them away if we said or did anything untoward. There was also a nerdy guy who reminded me a lot of myself about ninety minutes earlier. He volunteered to be our roadie. We let him. He went on to start his own construction company and retired a wealthy man. I, on the other hand, elected to pursue fame and fortune in the music business. Fifty years later, both continued to elude me.

© 2019 by David Meyers