A Saturday Night With the Music of the Stan Kenton Orchestra

Sometimes, where words fail, music speaks. And the melodies are the memory.

It’s been three months since G.G. left us – I imagine her once again chasing rides in stylish cars and searching out the perfect tan at the water’s edge, while her once and again rock star pursues her. I miss her.

So on Saturday night, I got dolled up and headed out on the town. The Stan Kenton Alumni band was playing at Santa Clara – my own alma mater. (Ok, so the town was two miles down the road.) We were ready to take in some classic big band jazz. And relive the memories in the melody.

This retro excursion seemed like something G.G. would have enjoyed. And as soon as we walked up, I could hear her in my head. Which is why I was the crazy young kid laughing out loud.

Apparently, all the original fans were there. The average age of this audience was 85. “Who let the blue hairs out?” G.G. would inevitably ask when we ventured forth on any excursion. Despite the aforementioned blue hairs often being decades her junior, she was determined never to become elderly. I’m pretty sure snarky comments are what kept her youthful.

As we sat there beneath the wisteria, taking in the pleasant spring evening (this was CLEARLY G.G. weather), an elderly gentleman arrived. He may have been Stan’s No. 1 fan. In fact, in his pale blue pants and white comfort shoes, I’m pretty sure he was *still* Stan’s No. 1 fan.

“Oh Good Grief!” G.G. said in my head. “They’ve sent the residents from Seizure Village.” (I am not making this up. This is what she called the Assisted Living facility down the street. I told you – snarky. It runs in the family.)

“Are they open yet?” the excited gentleman announced to the world at large. No. (I know G.G. rolled her eyes toward the closed ticket window with blinds drawn and CLOSED sign displayed prominently. I know she did this because it made me snicker and as mentioned – family…running… Genetics people.)

Leaning down in a vain attempt to peer under the blinds, Stan’s fan yelled, “When are you going to open? I need to get tickets. I’m here to see Stan Kenton! Do you whippersnappers even know who that is?”

He actually just used “whippersnapper” in a serious manner. I know. I shook my head in agreement with G.G. People are odd.

Shortly thereafter we were distracted by another conversation in progress. “Well, Herbert was dating my roommate when we first moved out here. But Herbert died. I’m going to tell him I saw you.”

It remains unclear if Herbert died while attempting to woo the roommate, or some decade later. Apologies. My investigative eavesdropping skills were interrupted as a couple burst out of the theatre in a full song duet. “Are we on the Love Boat?” Jon inquired incredulously.

“Can I see where my seat is? I asked for a good seat. This looks like we’re in the boonies,” hollered another early-arriving concert-goer. (Keep in mind this was the University Theatre. The Kodak it is not.)

The entire contingent of the Seinfeld parental stereotype was in attendance.

Also, Statler and Waldorf were canvassing the lobby. I am not making this up. I was eyeing them while residents of Del Boca Vista descended en masse shouting, “We’re gonna see Stan Kenton.”

I wonder if anyone told them this was the Alumni band. Because, you know, Stan passed away in 1979.

“Oh. My. God. This is the best concert EVER!” Jon laughed hysterically. “I’m so going to hell, but this is AWESOME!”

And the doors hadn’t even opened yet.

Grandma would have thought this was all a tremendous hoot. I smiled thinking of the stories she would return with, to tell the Ladies during cards, had she been here.

As the cattle drive retired hamster shuffle (her words, not mine) began into the auditorium, a middle-aged couple looked at Jon and me and laughed. With a knowing look, the wife nodded toward us and said, “See honey – they’re young!”

“Yeah,” retorted her husband. “But someone probably forced them to come.”

Jon promptly pointed at me without hesitation. “But she has an excuse. She’s related.

“I just like good jazz,” shrugged the only other non-AARP-card-holding member in attendance as we settled in to watch them trumpets blow.

But full disclosure – Bob Ahern was a guitarist for the Stan Kenton Orchestra. Bob Ahern was my grandfather. I was there for them. For the music. AND the memories.

Sure enough, they closed with the Peanut Vendor. And, while I was disappointed that there was no guitarist with the alumni band, I know the Ahern’s were laughing and playing along.

Check out Stan Kenton and His Orchestra. Complete with guitar.

Grandpa Bob Ahern



Filed under Family Stories

2 Responses to A Saturday Night With the Music of the Stan Kenton Orchestra

  1. Gramma J

    Sounds like a “hip” evening.

  2. Joanne Hamann

    OMG – GG’s comments via you were right on! Too, too funny. That pic of Grandpa is great – can’t wait to show it to Mitch. Where did you get it???

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