Bob wrote the following during August 2004 while touring with the Kingston Trio:
One of the fascinating things about the business we’re in is the variety of venues that we have the opportunity to play. We’ve performed in brand new, state-of-the-art theaters, tiny little night clubs, restored vintage vaudeville theaters, outdoor arenas and parks – just about anything you can imagine. We’ve performed all over the United States and Canada, and occasionally we’re called to perform internationally. Such was the case just last month when we received an offer to play a one-nighter in, of all places, Italy!
This booking came on rather short notice, but it came at a good time for us – right in the middle of a 6-week break in our schedule. We were all glad to have a chance to stretch our vocal chords again, and the prospect of visiting Italy was intriguing. This was to be the 50th wedding anniversary party for Jim Morris, formerly “the voice” of Notre Dame football, and his lovely wife, Leahray. The party was going to be held at a mountaintop resort in Ravello, about an hour from Naples.
We left our respective homes on July 31st, with the plan of meeting in Newark to catch a Continental flight to Madrid, connecting to Rome and then on to Naples. Paul had it easy, taking the train from his home in The Big Apple down to Newark airport. George flew from Las Vegas to Phoenix, meeting up with Bill for their flight on to Newark. They arrived around 5:15 PM, allowing plenty of time before our scheduled departure at 8:25. My situation, however, proved to be quite a bit more hair-raising.
I flew from Denver to Chicago Midway and had a three-hour layover before my flight on to Newark. My scheduled arrival in Newark was 6:55, giving me an hour and a half to make my connection to Madrid. They started boarding my flight from Midway at 3:00 and then, without warning, asked us all to deplane. The explanation was that there was bad weather in Newark and the FAA was delaying all inbound flights due to the traffic that was building up. We were told that our flight would be delayed by two hours. Hmmm…there goes my comfy layover –now, how do I get to Madrid?
I called Nikki Gary, our manager, and she found me a seat on a later flight from Newark to Rome, where I could hook up with the other boys and fly on to Naples with them. This, however, was an economy class seat, as opposed to the business class seat on our scheduled flight. Bummer!
As it turned out, they ended up boarding our plane around 4:30 and there appeared to be some hope that I could possibly make my international connection. I arrived in Newark and was off the plane at 8:00, leaving me twenty-five minutes to make it. I noticed on the reader board that they had delayed my departure by ten minutes – even better! I caught the train from A concourse to C concourse and headed for security. There I was informed that I didn’t have a boarding pass, so I had to go back up to the Continental ticket counter and beg the other customers to let me go to the head of the line. The agent informed me that the flight was closed – no way would I make it. I asked her if she could call the gate, as I’d noticed a ten-minute delay, and she obliged. Good news – they were still boarding and they were holding the door for me.
Back down to security, where they tore my carry-on apart while I sweated bullets. I crammed everything back in and did the O.J. down to the gate. True to their word, the door was still open and I fell into my seat with a huge sigh of relief. We were finally all on board and as they closed the door we toasted our impending adventure.
Being a mostly vegetarian (I do eat fish), I had ordered vegetarian meals for all my flights on this trip. Dinnertime came and, as Murphy would have it, there was no vegetarian meal for me. I decided to order the halibut, which turned out to be rather unappetizing. In fact, I think it was bad, because by the time we got to Madrid I was living up to my nickname, “Chunks.” The rest of the trip to Naples was pretty miserable for me and all I could think about was getting into my hotel room and lying still. But enough of that – I kinda beat that horse in my last “Tale.”
Our connection in Madrid went smoothly and we were off to Rome on Alitalia Airlines. Everything was going like clockwork until we were starting to board our flight from Rome to Naples. Paul suddenly realized that he’d lost his boarding pass. As George and I boarded the bus that drove us out to the plane, Bill waited with Paul’s luggage as he retraced his steps looking for his boarding pass. No luck! I’m sure this could only happen in Rome, but somehow Bill and Paul were able to persuade the airline to let Paul board the plane, despite his missing boarding pass. In the meantime the airline found it necessary to search for Paul’s baggage so that it wouldn’t fly without him in case he was grounded. Maybe it was just the language barrier, but Paul had no checked luggage, so the search was in vain. This did delay our departure by a good hour, though. Thanks, Paul!
Just to backtrack a little, the weekend before this trip, Meri and I had been the guests of Rich and Linda Kelley at their ranch in the Rockies outside of Granby, CO. Rich went to school with Bob Shane in Hawaii and Rich’s father owned the property where the elder Shane had his sporting goods store on Waikiki. The Kelley’s are the owners of the Outrigger Hotel chain, with properties all over the Pacific Rim. As world travelers, they advised me that if I checked any luggage I should not expect to see it after landing in Rome. I took their advice and arranged to carry everything with me in a small roller-board and a gig bag for my guitar.
Paul, as I mentioned, also traveled light with a backpack and a gig bag for his bass. However, Bill had checked a suitcase and his guitar and George had checked his guitar and banjo. And just as I had been warned, their checked luggage was nowhere to be found once we landed in Naples. They filed their lost baggage claims and hoped for good news before the next day when we were scheduled to perform.
Upon exiting the baggage claim area we came to the conclusion, after about a half hour of searching and waiting, that our pre-arranged ground transportation was non-existent. We decided to brave a cab ride into town, which proved to be an adventure in itself. The driver spoke a little English, and as he was trying to impress us with his language skills he was doing his best imitation of James Bond, whipping through the narrowest streets at break-neck speeds. Luckily, he didn’t take the shortcut down the stairs. We were so thankful to be alive when he pulled up in front of our hotel that we tipped him big - something, he told us, that only Americans do. We weren’t quite sure how to take that.
We checked into our cubicles (our rooms were literally ten feet square plus a small banio, aka bathroom) and I tried to fight off the jetlag and the food poisoning. Paul and Bill did go out for pizza and beer, but I just wanted to sleep.
The next morning we faced the lost baggage issue, with still no information from the airline as to where the luggage might be. With the uncertainty of that issue, we were advised by our local contact that perhaps we should consider borrowing or renting instruments. He gave us directions to a street where there were several music stores, and we set off to see what we could see.
Napoli, as the locals call it (and why don’t we?) is a dirty, busy city, very reminiscent of New York City to me (and Paul concurred). There are street vendors everywhere and cars speeding every which way with no concern for pedestrians. We quickly learned to cross streets in large groups so as to allow a buffer against the traffic. Following our noses and a map written in Italian we found our way to several music stores. Bill and George bought guitar straps, picks, extra strings and capos. We’d been told that the sound company would bring some guitars, but they didn’t know where to get a banjo. Actually, the word “banjo” is awfully close to “banio”, so I don’t know if they really knew what we were looking for. In any case, we saw only one tenor banjo and a couple of banjolas, lots of accordions and mandolins, but nary a 5-string banjo.
We decided to give it up and have lunch. We found a nice open-air pizzeria and ordered the local cuisine. According to the travel brochure, pizza was actually invented in Naples. It was delicious, that’s for sure!
Back at the hotel there was still no word from the Alitalia about the lost baggage. Bill had purchased a new shirt to wear that evening (no stripes) and we decided, even though George and I did have our show clothes, to wear a variety of attire so Bill wouldn’t stand out so much. Our ride to the gig arrived at 7:00 and we hit the road for a spectacular drive to Ravello. Once out of Naples the scenery became very lovely, with views of Mt. Vesuvius and the sea, mountain cliffs and quaint little villages. Our route wound for many miles up into the mountains, eventually spilling out into the town square of Ravello. From there we had to walk about a mile to the villa where the party was being held. George was thanking the airline for losing his instruments, as lugging a guitar and banjo all that way would have made the trek a lot more tedious.
We were scheduled to play after dinner in a beautiful garden, and there we found the sound system, a plywood platform as a stage and a variety of guitars for us to use. Don’t tell anybody at Martin, but Bill played a Fender acoustic and George used some brand of acoustic/electric cutaway. We planned a show and George went over his banjo parts on his borrowed guitar.
Showtime! We opened with “Corey Corey”, with George doing a very respectable banjo imitation on that red guitar. Well, the audience loved it and before we knew it, people decided they wanted to dance. They were a little timid at first, but two tuxedoed gentlemen got the ball rolling by doing some kind of Greek two-step punctuated with belly-bumping. The women couldn’t stand it so they joined in and we became a dance band for the evening. That was allright with us – no striped shirts, no banjo – why not just have fun with it? As we began to play “Scotch and Soda” everybody got up to dance. We noticed one elderly lady walking ahead of her aged husband towards the dance area. As he was lagging far behind, she walked over to a small tree, grabbed ahold and began dancing with the tree. We all lost it so bad we couldn’t even sing.
After our show we had a chance to chat with the guests, all of whom had thoroughly enjoyed our performance. One of the guests was Paul Hornung, a former Heisman Trophy winner from Notre Dame and star running back in the '60s for the Green Bay Packers. George had actually met and partied with him several years ago, and he was in rare form on this particular evening. The Morris’s had flown most of their guests (around forty people) over from Michigan on a chartered 747, and the party was scheduled to continue for another couple of days. We said our farewells, got the check and headed back to Naples.
The next morning we arrived plenty early at the airport to allow George and Bill time to deal with their lost luggage. It had, in fact, shown up the night before, but not in time to be of any use to us. Now they had to recheck it all back to the U.S. I spent the time shopping in the duty-free store and roaming around the airport. At the Alitalia ticket counter I thumbed through a promo brochure and discovered one very interesting page. It was a picture of a woman playing the violin in front of several instrument cases. The caption read: “We transport the most delicate musical instruments there are: the musicians. Alitalia is pleased to place its love for music at everybody’s service.” Well, they did take good care of us, I will admit – but I wish they’d put the same effort into transporting our instruments!
Finally they called our flight to Milano (Milan in English) where we connected with our trans-Atlantic flight back to the good old U.S.A. As we sat on the plane heading for home I pulled out the map that we’d used the day before to find our way around Napoli. I noticed a rather odd statement on the back of the map, which read: “It is written: ‘See Napoli, then die.’ “ Well, okay, then – take me away! We’ve been there – done that. We all carved another notch on our guitar necks.
Copyright 2007-2008 All Rights Reserved Bob Haworth and Crescent Entertainment