Mike Aiken; On The Road

The last piece I wrote, we were just beginning this tour and were in Europe. Two months later we are still on tour and rolling through Missouri. During this run, life, or maybe I should say, death happened. We were just entering Texas when we received a call that my mother in-law had passed. While on tour this creates a situation that you would rather not have to deal with. Let me first say, Vicky Palmer, my mother in-law, was an amazing woman, whom Amy and I both loved and to whom we wanted to pay our last respects and support our extended family.

Ok then, how do you do that; In the middle of a tour? Do you ignore the family, and play the shows? Do you cancel and go? What about band mates, venues, fans etc? All tough questions; and ones that need to be answered, bearing in mind that every tour is different. For me, I hate cancelling shows but this was my chance to say good-bye and be with family. After much thought, reflection, and many phone calls, we decided we could pull it off. We had just pulled into Texas from Louisiana. We managed to keep the weekend shows in Huntsville and Crockett. We did have to cancel a mid-week show in Austin so we could push the bus to Kansas City, MO (where we were booked the following weekend). We flew out and made the burial and returned on the first flight Saturday to make load-in and sound check Saturday afternoon in KCMO. We missed part of the funeral service and only one show…a nice compromise.

Part of why we could make it happen was because of good relationships with other artists and presenters. We were booked to do a co-show (songwriters show) with Steve Brooks in Austin and Steve graciously covered for us. We let fans know we were cancelling via social media so they weren’t upset. We also had an amazing presenter in Belton, MO who let us keep the bus in her driveway and guitars in her house! So with some quick flight arrangements and the cooperation of others (everyone knows the family emergency), we pulled it off and made it back to the show in MO.

It’s true, you have to weigh the pros and cons in this type of situation and go with your gut.

But that’s not the whole story. Who was this Vicky Palmer?
Vicky was Amy’s stepmom’s stage name. When she passed, she was 94 and lived an amazing life. In 1947-48 she was the ABC Radio singer, every Sunday, live coast to coast, with the Buzz Adlam orchestra. This was long before the Voice, American Idol, and all the other talent shows of today, before ProTools, before being able to fix-it-in-the-mix etc. She had one rehearsal with a pianist on Wednesday and was live with the orchestra on Sunday nationwide on ABC. Think about that for a moment … Vicky on one microphone and the 30-piece orchestra on three others. Bam, she/they knocked it out of the park! Talk about talent.

Over the years, Vicky would tell us her story, always modest and humble. Except for her voice when she sang around the house, the voice that killed you with its pitch, emotion , control and quality. It was amazing to hear!

One night she pulled out a dusty, yellowing, cardboard box filled with memorabilia. Photos of her with Groucho Marx, contemporary of Doris Day, Robert Mitchum and more. She captivated us with stories of Hollywood in the Golden Age of Radio, just before TV. She was part of RKO Studios when Howard Hughes took it over. I could listen to her stories every night. But then she pulled out a stack of original acetates of her shows. Some were in good shape, others not so much. Amy ( owner Northwind Records) and I went through them all and produced a CD for Vicky when she was 83. We wanted her to have a way to hear her work and for her family to know who she was. At that time we never thought of how that might be the only way to continue to hear her voice, or to save her story, but as it has turned out, it is. I have had many lucky things happen in my life and knowing Vicky Palmer is one the best! She always pushed me to succeed with my music and to believe in it. She was beautiful, vivacious, loving and positive, with a backbone of steel.

Go! Show them how it’s done Vicky! Thanks for the lessons and memories.

By Mike Aiken