|This is literally the only image I have of John and me singing. I honestly have no idea who the the guy on the right is. This a scan of a scan from the 1960 ASU yearbook .|
Sunday, May 01, 2016
Better late than never
Every decade or so I Google my old singing partner, John Ellsworth, the artist formerly known as John Acuff. Who knows what prompts me? Our duo broke up in the summer of 1960 when John wearied of couch surfing across Hollywood and West LA, fell in love with Becky something or other and retreated back to Arizona. It felt like the end of a friendship though I think we limped along musically a little while longer. Still the intensity and heady moments of our youthful half steps reverberate and the connection continues however frayed.
Losing, as I saw it, our chance at stardom made me resentful, a sentiment that persisted for a while, if “a while” can describe 56 years of what might have beens. The big time was a long shot but I know “I coulda been a contender.”
After our conscious uncoupling we lost touch except for crossing paths as solo acts around Phoenix. The last that I remember was at the bandshell at Encanto Park where we each performed and felt the awkwardness of superficial pleasantries. John may remember it differently
I floated in and out of the folk music world into 1964, most notably opening for John Denver at the Lumber Mill in Scottsdale, Hoyt Axton at some bottle club in Salt Lake City and auditioning at The Abbey in Aspen when Buffy Sainte Marie was headlining. I didn’t get the gig and began to get the message. It ain’t happening.
When the Beatles landed in the spring of 1964 it was sayonara baby. I hung it up for good.
For the longest time I tried to find a copy of our record, Once Upon a Time, and hoped that John might have it. Just as he and I would start a web conversation it would end the moment I asked if he had the record and if we would make me a copy. A lot of baggage comes with that little 45. In advanced middle age I’m more sympathetic than I once was about it. So, forget the vinyl, buddy. It’s not that important.
From our infrequent interchanges over the years I knew that John and Becky moved to her home state of Illinois, that he had divorced and remarried somewhere along the line and that he had become a lawyer near Chicago. That’s about it. Then came this week’s revelation. When I did the aforementioned search up popped John Ellsworth and, in pictures associated with that name, the lanky dude with whom I harmonized so sweetly appeared, still 6’4” or so he says and with all his hair. I didn’t expect that for some reason. But hey, I’ve got all of mine, too.
When I clicked on the pic a link to the author named John Ellsworth appeared and I discovered that my old singing partner has become a prolific crime novelist with 500,000 copies sold so far and a new volume published daily. Well, not quite. I tend to inflate.
This doesn’t completely surprise me. John was the wordsmith of the twosome.
His tale is aspirational. Becoming a best-selling author at our age boggles what's left of my mind and knocking out a new one every 40 days blows me away. And to think I’ve been talking about one simple book for a year and a half.