Sky Full of Angels
by Dayna Wills

December, 1968. I am about to go "on the road." I can’t wait. Just to be able to say, "I’m going on the road" was the most exciting thing in my life. Not, "I’m taking a vacation," not "I’m traveling for business," but I am going ON THE ROAD WITH A BUNCH OF HAIRY LEGGED BOYS, SCREAMIN’ THAT ROCK & ROLL MUSIC!!!! The downside to this road trip was that my cousin John David was in the band. Actually, he was responsible for getting me the gig, but that nice gesture didn’t fool me. I knew that he would make my life miserable before we were five minutes out of town. It was his mission in life. The teasing started before I even got out the door when my mom said, "John David, take care of my baby." I was MARRIED, for crying out loud.

The first gig we played was in Rochester, Minnesota at a bowling alley called the Out Rigger. In 1968, musicians had a hard way to go to rent a room. Due to the 60’s drug scene, NOBODY wanted to rent rooms to those "Hippies". John Speed, (yes, Speed is his real name) was the bandleader, and 10 years older than the rest of us. John was a functioning alcoholic. He did all the driving which consisted of pulling a U-Haul trailer behind a 9 passenger station wagon, carrying 7 people, in the snow. John was a charmer and he convinced Mrs. Johnson, the motel owner, that we would be quiet and not destroy her property. The first week we had to do our own room cleaning, the second week she lowered our rent a bit, and by the third week we were getting maid service. In fact, when we checked out, she asked us to stay with her if we came back through town.

The band members consisted of John on bass, my cousin John on sax, Greg Coutant on trombone, Rex Bushman on guitar, Darrell Clayman on drums, Janice was the dancer, and I was the lead chick singer. John Speed and Rex also sang lead and we all sang harmony, even Number 4. (I called Janice Number 4 because she was John’s 4th wife).

My husband Eddie was on a nuclear submarine on what was known as the West Pac tour. We had agreed that I would go on the road while he was overseas IF I got a gig. As luck would have it, one month after he shipped out, I got a gig. It was my dream to be a professional singer and it was coming true.

The Out Rigger featured a large dance floor, lots of seating and a big stage. There was even a pay telephone booth at one corner of the dance floor. We had played New Year’s Eve and now it is Jan 4th of 1969, Saturday, our last night. It was around 9 P.M. when Number 4 came up to the stage and motioned to my cousin John. Suddenly, John puts down his sax and leaves the bandstand. A few minutes later, Janice comes up and motions me over and tells me that I have an emergency phone call on the pay phone. All the way to the phone I am preparing myself to hear that something has happened to my husband. When I get to the phone, it’s my Aunt Lizz in Stockton, CA. She tells me to get someone with me as she has some bad news. Number 4 is walking by, so I grab her hand and say, "Ok, what has happened? Is it Eddie?" She said, "No." Now, I am at a loss because I can’t imagine what the bad news could be. So I say, "what is it, what is it?" She said, "Tonight, about 6 P.M. your father shot your mother and committed suicide." I asked, "How is Mom?" She said, "They both died instantly."

I couldn’t talk, and I hung up the phone. Meanwhile, the jukebox was playing and when I stepped out of the phone booth, there were all these happy people laughing and dancing. Just a few minutes ago I was laughing, too. I couldn’t grasp the finality of it. Not yet. As I blindly walked along the bar the bartender stopped me and handed me a drink, a Harvey Wallbanger. I took the drink and went to sit on the edge of the stage. Our trombone player Greg Coutant sat beside me and put his arms around me. I realized that I was shaking and he was trying to help me maintain. Our break was over and I went onstage. There was no way that I could remain alone with my thoughts.

As it was our last night, we packed up and headed out for the next gig which was in Kalamazoo, Michigan. They dropped me off at O’Hare Airport in Chicago to catch a flight home for the funeral.

O’Hare is a big airport. First thing I know, I can’t find my gate. I stepped onto one of those electronic walk-ways where you can walk really fast. As I was walking, really fast, I noticed this bum sitting against the wall, smoking. He was dressed all in black, had scraggly black hair and an equally scraggly black beard shot with streaks of gray. When I got to the end of the walk-way, I stepped onto gravity, and down I went. My suitcase went flying and when it hit the floor, it popped open and all my unmentionables fell out. People were stepping over me to get to their gates.

I was tired, frustrated, lost, and crying. Of all the people who could have come to my aid, the one who came was the bum. He had a real soothing voice, and as he picked up my undies and stuffed ’em back into my suitcase, he asked me where I was going. I hiccupped, "Ccccon cccourse GGG." He said, "Come with me" and off we went. He brought me to the check-in station and stood right next to me while I got my boarding pass. I turned to thank him… and he was gone! I mean, GONE! I looked all over the area, even stood by the Men’s room, but he never came out. I didn’t see him again. I began to wonder if, maybe, I was the only one who DID see him.

That was 44 years ago and since then I have been guided by many Angels. So far, the "bum" was the only one I have met, but there has been a sky full of Angels watching over me.

I believe that everything happens for a reason, and in my best interests.
I believe that when my efforts are blocked, the timing isn’t right.
I believe that my Angels introduce me to people who will teach me things.
I believe that when I die, all my questions will be answered.
(And if I didn’t believe that, I WOULD go nuts!)