CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter
A lot of my stories recently have started with, “We were sitting around, late at night…” That’s when everything is mellow, and people remember, and tell about…
We were sitting around late at night on the cruise with The Chad Mitchell Trio. John Martin Meek was there. So were banjoist Paul Prestopino and his wife Sara, and bassist Ron Greenstein, and a few others. Primarily, though, it was John Meek who was telling the stories, quite a few of them, starting with when he was a speech writer for John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
You know he was old in 2006, even older than I, if he wrote for JFK and LBJ. [Actually he was only three years older than I.] The great thing about being old is that you have been so many places and met so many people that you have a lot of great stories. Especially if, after a career in journalism, you started and ran the most powerful and prestigious public relations firm in Washington, D.C. John Meek had been plenty of places, and known lots of people, including Arlo Guthrie and Steve Goodman.
“It was after an Arlo concert. This kid went up to Arlo and said his name was Stevie Goodman and he had a song he wanted him to listen to. Arlo said, ‘Buy me a beer, kid, and I’ll listen, but only until I’m done with the beer.’ Stevie grabbed a guitar and started to sing. When he was done, Arlo said, ‘I think I'll have another beer.’
Arlo was the first person to hear “City of New Orleans,” the quintessential song of the American journey. It became his biggest hit.
Hello, America, how are you?
Don’t you know me, I’m your native son.
I’m the train they call the City of New Orleans.
We’ll be gone 500 miles when the day is done…
John Meek died March 11, 2016.