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new york 1986

New York, 1986.

Right around 1986, I was reading my favorite Seattle newspaper (yes, at that time, we had two to choose from), the Post Intelligencer, or “PI”, when I spied a human interest story that really piqued my interest. — Ultimately, it also inspired me to write a song.

It seems a couple of small town newlyweds who were honeymooning in New York City had their hotel room broken into while they were out sightseeing. They were robbed. Much of their clothing, jewelry and other personal items disappeared. And their airline tickets, which they were relying upon to get them back to their Midwestern home, were also taken in the break-in. The couple called the NYPD to report the robbery. Eventually, someone notified the local media about the young couple’s plight.

New York Times 1986

It wasn’t long before a sympathetic newspaper reporter interviewed the two, and then wrote about them. New Yorkers read the story, and immediately, donations started pouring in for the young newlyweds. The donated funds more than made up for their losses; and this ensured that the pair would be able to fly home, as originally planned. What a wonderful turnaround to a story which started out so sad!

small town sign

When asked by a newspaper reporter to share her thoughts about the generosity of the Big Apple’s citizenry, the bride said, “I knew people would help us, because there’s a small town in every big city”.

There's a small town lyric sheet 010

My hand-written lyric sheet from 1987.

After I read the PI’s story, a light went on in my head. And I said, “Hey, I have a song!” So I sat down and wrote a simple little number, which I obviously entitled, “There’s A Small Town In Every Big City”. After I polished the song to my satisfaction, I grabbed my guitar and played it for my then-wife, Sally Jo Davis. Sally Jo (may she rest in peace) was my partner in the folk duo, Spirit Ridge. She liked my little song. So I taught it to her, we played it at our Seattle gigs, and folks seemed to relate to it. (It’s really a country song; but SJ and I played it in our folk duo format. I’d love to hear it fleshed out with a steel guitar and drums.) The song received a lot of positive comments from our audience members. — It’s just a simple, non-commercial number. Its message is universal and easy to understand: even when you’re in a big city, if you make an effort, you can find that small town which exists in every big city. (This was before “Siri” and smart phones and all that; so you would have indeed had to do a little looking around.)

spirit ridge first cassette 002

Sally Jo and I earmarked the tune for future recording. We had been planning to go into Triad Studios in Bellevue, WA (owned by three airline pilots) with engineer Mike Tortorello, to wax our debut release, and we were thinking of what songs we should record. We thought “Small Town” would be a fine addition to the album’s lineup.

Olympic Sculpture Park and Selfies 089

The iconic Seattle PI Globe. I took this photo from our Olympic Sculpture Park.

Well, a couple of months passed, and I came upon a follow-up article in the Seattle PI. It turns out the young couple were scam artists! Their hotel room wasn’t robbed. They didn’t have their airline tickets stolen. It was all a scheme, concocted to bilk kindhearted folks out of their hard-earned funds. — And that was that.

But you know, I got a great song out of it!

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Sally Jo and I eventually recorded “Small Town”, and did indeed include it on our award-nominated cassette album of folk music, entitled “So Ready To Go”, which we released in 1987. Please click the arrow to see the video, made by Peter Garami, young genius. I’d love your feedback, in the Comments section!

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