|How I Met Marvin Rainwater
by Jim Gorichanaz
In 1957 I was only eight years old. My parents had a small, coal grey, metal Arvin radio which was kept on a buffet in the dining room. It was tuned to WOKY radio in Milwaukee…a pop station that played all the latest hits. I would stand at the buffet and listen intently to the music the stars made. Bill Haley would rock around the clock! Jerry Lee was there, Elvis too! Patti Page would sing about the Doggie in the Window. Les Paul and Mary Ford were sittin on top of the world. And a young man in a headband and a buckskin shirt sang a beautiful song about a bluebird!
“Gonna find me a bluebird, let him sing me a song, ’cause my heart’s been broken, much too long.”
That was the beginning of a life long love affair with a man who was to become my musical hero, and later , become one of my dearest friends.
It was a fortunate thing that Milwaukee was a city that Marvin would play regularly. WMIL radio would bring in package Grand Ole Opry shows to the Milwaukee Auditorium. Every few months for many years, one of the great packages would come to town . Virtually every great Star of Country Music would appear . I saw them all! I am a fortunate man! You name the great Legend..I’ll bet he or she appeared. And because he was such a great entertainer, Marvin Rainwater was brought in often. Many times he would steal the show! Marvin could hypnotize the audience. One minute they would be roaring with laughter, a song later, tears were seen in everyone’s’ eyes. Marvins’ appearance made the evening special for me, and many others. Milwaukee loved this man!
As I entered my teens, the shows continued. Marvin would often act as Emcee, introducing and cutting up with the greatest names in Country Music. I remember a time when Carl Smith was the headliner, but was too ill to appear. Marvin Rainwater and Bill Anderson came out and did an extra show. They were great, and no one went home disappointed.
Time passed and Marvin appeared regularly at the package shows, as well as the night clubs around town. I don’t believe there was ever a six month period without an appearance somewhere. Then the magic year of my 21st birthday arrived . Although I had gotten Marvin’s autograph a number of times at the package shows, I had never gotten to talk to him at any length. This was about to change!
A month or two after my twenty -first birthday, I read that Marvin was to appear at Little Nashville…a Country Music night club in West Bend Wi., about an hours drive from my home. And I was old enough to go!
I packed up a couple of friends and we were among the first to arrive. We paid our cover charge and grabbed a table up front . It was gonna be a great night! After a beer or two, the house band started playing. After a beer or two more, it was time to visit the men’s room. I chose a comfy looking urinal, and went about my business. As I was about to finish, this big man dressed in a black coat and bolo tie chose the urinal to my right.
It was Marvin Rainwater! I was almost without words……almost! I did manage to sputter…..”Well, I never thought I’d take a LEAK next to Marvin Rainwater!” We finished up and I introduced myself, somewhat embarrassed. However, Marvin found the whole thing very funny. He did his first show, and after the show he came and joined us at our table.
The next time I was at one of his shows, he remembered me. He invited me to his home in Minnesota for some fine fishing, and a friendship of many years was born. Marvin Rainwater , from musical hero to great friend! and He still is …..BOTH!