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By DC Duncan
Special to The PREVIEW
Professor John Graves is a true gentleman, by definition: “Someone who knows how to play accordion — but doesn’t!”
In the old days, John was a onetime piano man with Red Fox and His Musical Hounds and was known as “Deadpan Digger Graves” (have you noticed that trademark frown of his?).
According to John, “part of the format consisted of funny hats, false noses, a bedpan and a musical tree in which each branch sounded a tuned ‘honk’ when pushed down and, as a grand finale, a brassiere on a spring flew out of the birdhouse on top. A real class act! (Don’t laugh. I once played with Joe Banana and The Bunch: “Music with Appeal.”)
These days, we both play in the venerable, swinging jazz band, John Graves and Friends at fabulous Nello’s restaurant. (Hats off to Daniela for giving us a home for nearly six years.) Every Wednesday at five, we wowed increasingly larger crowds of adoring fans, bill collectors and process servers; and now, we have a group of fans that we consider our dear friends.
John Graves has become something more than a mere local celebrity; he is a treasure and an institution (sort of like the institution of marriage without all the yelling and screaming). We felt that it was high time to present a festive and nostalgic tribute to the great one.
Sentimental Journey: A Tribute to John Graves will take place at the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts atop Put Hill, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 1. Remaining tickets are for sale at the box office at the Center for the Arts, and can be purchased online at pagosacenter.org.
This show is going to be bigger than Dallas! We have a tremendous band consisting of Lee Bartley on piano, Dan Fitzpatrick on upright bass, Larry Elginer on trumpet, Bob Newnam on yet another trumpet, big Bob Hemenger on sax, and little old me on drums. Vocalists include Larry and Dan, June Marquez, Debbee Tucker, Bonnie Runyan, Lisa Saunders, Jim Horky, Phil Swearngin, Sandy Graves, Kathy Keyes, and Jerry Mathers as the Beaver. We might even be able to coax a certain old curmudgeon up on stage for a trip down memory lane. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?
I have been coordinating the show with the relentless efforts of musical director Lee Bartley of Rio Jazz fame, video cameraman and bon vivant Phil Swearngin of Parelli International, and my bandmates, M.C. Larry Elginer and bassist/vocalist Dan Fitzpatrick. They’ve been great, and it’s been a labor of love.
Come and toast one of the finest men I have ever known, my surrogate father — and a gentleman — Professor John Graves.