Still in the hopper is an unpublished book called “GIG.” It’s the story of a garage band its struggle to keep together as Father Time pushes them out of high school and into the turbulent sixties. Stay tuned for its release date.
Cory Wallace and his band Cornerstone’s dreams of glory are tested upon high school graduation into the turbulent late 60’s. So is his relationship with childhood sweetheart, Mary Ellen, who is also his song-writing partner. Will the bonds of music and love survive the onslaught of a world of work, war, and social revolution. Cory’s grandmother, Winnie Rockwell, is the one constant who’s spiritual guidance helps him to discover his true soul.
Gig is the story of Cory Wallace, a Tom Sawyer-like kid who, like many teens growing up in the 60’s, dreams of becoming a rock star. An only child, he inherited his piano teacher “Ma’s” perfect pitch, and can play any tune by ear. She dutifully tries to raise him to “live life in crescendo” – the dying words of his grandfather, Christopher Rockwell—classical music critic for the Chicago Tribune. To her dismay, Cory joins Cornerstone, a Chicago garage band of greasers, who overlook his suburban innocence because they all share a bonding passion for music. Cory’s grandmother, Nana, the story’s spiritual leader, imparts her Christian Science “knowing the truth” guidance to Cory and later to his band mates, helping them navigate the tangled byways of puberty, the high school establishment, bullies, romance, and turbulent times such as the Martin Luther King riots and the Viet Nam War.
Cory’s “Jimmy Stewart” personality intrigues a starry-eyed Mary Ellen, a shy but brave little girl. Their relationship evolves from two kindergarteners playing in a sandbox to young adults co-writing music together and fervently nurturing a romance through letters, phone calls, and co-written music after Mary Ellen’s family moves away from Cory’s hometown of Brickton, Il.
Cory, Mary Ellen and Cornerstone band members ultimately face their individual crossroads, where each must decide whether to stay together or go their separate ways once and for all.
Gig also provides the songs that Cory and Mary Ellen co-wrote on www.CraigSWilson.com , so that any reader can resonate with the character’s passion and creativity. I have written more than 300 songs and performed over 1000 gigs, starting from the age of 12, and I truly understand the world in which I write. Gig will inspire young adults through baby boomers who make music and romance an integral part of their lives. I’ve built a platform of thousands of these individuals through my website, blogging, recordings, and tweets.
A BRIEF SYNOPSIS
Gig begins in 1970 at the memorial service for Winnie Rockwell, the beloved grandmother of Cory Wallace, an eighteen-year-old musical prodigy. As Cory carefully packs away her memorabilia, his mind flashes back over Nana’s life, and the legacy of his grandfather Christopher, who, on his deathbed, advised his family to “Live life in crescendo.”
Winnie fell in love with Christopher Rockwell in 1921 against the historical backdrop of the early twentieth century, amidst the some of the greatest musicians, composers and conductors of the time: Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Horowitz, and Serkin. Rockwell led a storied career as the classical music critic with the Chicago Tribune. Winnie and Christopher Rockwell marry, and eventually settle in Brickton, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. In 1926, they’re blessed by the birth of their only child, Joanie, who soon proves to have musical virtuosity. Her father has high ambitions for his daughter, but life leads them in unplanned directions.
Joanie marries a brilliant journalist like her father, though Richard Wallace is more interested in sports and statistics than music. The newlyweds move to Philadelphia in 1948 to pursue their dreams, but abandon them a few years later to return home to help Winnie care for Christopher, who has become gravely ill. Cory is born in 1951 only a few weeks before Christopher passes away. His death leaves the family financially strapped, and Joanie becomes a piano teacher to help with expenses, while Richard takes an accounting job with higher pay.
Two-year old Cory toddles to the piano and plays-by-ear the melody of the neighborhood church bells, and Joanie immediately starts teaching her son classical piano. But by pre-school, he’s a lot more interested in this new thing called Rock-and-Roll. Cory’s dad, a World War II veteran, becomes disillusioned by his unfulfilling career, and turns to alcohol to deaden his frustrations. This leads to considerable family conflict, particularly with his mother-in-law, who has become a devout Christian Scientist since the death of her husband. Cory’s parents eventually divorce and Richard takes an apartment near the home that Cory shares with his “Ma” and Nana, a cordial arrangement that appears to work well for everyone involved—everyone except Richard, who is lonely and pines for his ex-wife and son, though he hides his feelings with his drunken humor.
Cory continues to grow as a musician under the tutelage of his mother and the venerable Esther B. Hopkins, a Brickton matriarch and choir director who takes over as his piano teacher. He dreads his lessons with the stern old lady, who detests the music he listens to on the radio, songs by Elvis Presley and other rockers. Cory’s first gig is jamming on the upright piano at pre-school with his best friend, tone-deaf Tommy, who plays tambourine. They earn applause, especially Cory’s number one fan, a chubby, shy little girl named Mary Ellen, who adores his music—and him. Perhaps this is the reason that Mary Ellen begins to take piano lessons from Cory’s mother.
Encouraged by his elders, Cory also takes up cello in third grade, though the stringed instrument he really wants to play is the guitar. Still, the cello comes in handy as a weapon against his nemesis, the playground bully Bill Upchurch. Cory switches to trumpet in the fourth grade, and even accompanies Mary Ellen in her piano recital. Though she’s still pudgy, and even has braces now—she is a favorite of Nana and Ma, who convince Cory to give her his dog tag before summer break, 1962. Tommy gleefully razzes him about “going steady.”
Shortly afterward, Mary Ellen moves away when her father’s GE career takes her family to New York City. She and Cory take up writing letters to one another, and she also mails him her dog tag. Cory stays busy with sports and music, and playing the lead in an opera directed by Esther B. He’s constantly torn between playing the classical music prescribed by his mother, his grandmother, and his teachers—and the kind of music he and his friends love, music that reflects the tumultuous events of the time, such as the assassination of President Kennedy and the escalating Vietnam war. Cory sees the Beatles on TV, and finally gets a guitar for Christmas, a dream come true. In the spring of 1964 he joins a pick-up softball game at the park and meets a greaser named Rocco, who boasts of playing drums in “Cornerstone,” a real rock band. Cory and Tommy find themselves face-to-face with Rocco’s older and tougher greaser crew—Mick, Bob, and Fuckin’ Howard, who are skeptical of these “dupers.” What could they bring to their band? But they’re soon convinced when they discover Cory’s perfect pitch and his other musical talents, and that he can play the Hammond organ, as well as guitar and trumpet. Tommy distinguishes himself on tambourine, as well as lighting, sound, and management. Before long they’re playing their first gig for a local fundraiser, and in their minds they, too, are performing on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Cory and Mary Ellen continue to correspond, and their long-distance relationship deepens. School, church, music, and sports take up his time, but Cory lives for playing in his band. It’s a dream come true but creates a new set of frustrations including finding places to practice and getting parents to drive. When Cornerstone finally gets another gig, Tommy’s lightshow proves to be more spectacular than planned, as a shorted fixture showers the audience with sparks.
Cory deals with another set of frustrations dealing with coming of age in high school. Mary Ellen pays him a surprise visit, and he’s discovers that she, too, has come of age and is no longer the pudgy little girl with braces that he remembered. A walk in the park culminates in a romantic first kiss, but the moment is nearly ruined when they are suddenly surrounded by thugs. The night is about to turn ugly when Fuckin’ Howard appears and defuses the situation, and Cory becomes a hero in Mary Ellen’s eyes. When she returns home to New York, she sends Cory a poem about dreams, and asks him to compose music for it. He’s at a loss how to do it.
The band decides to add a brass section and Cory recruits some top-notch horn players from school. The band is becoming an eclectic mix of types and personalities, with greasers, dupers, an Englishman, a Pole, an Asian, and—when professional musician Reggie joins up—an African American. Relations between the guys are tense at first, but the bond of music soon proves to be stronger than suspicion and prejudice, and they become brothers in the band.
Cory struggles with the stresses of his long-distance love affair, and closer to home with Mr. Strunk, the orchestra director at school. The bureaucrat was never able to realize his own ambitions and is openly hostile to Cory’s musical genius. But the other adults in Cory’s life are supportive, if somewhat rigid about making sure the classical training is never neglected. Cory’s dad helps him learn how to compose music for the lyrics Mary Ellen has written, and even offers some lyrics of his own. At fifteen years old, Cory is beginning to see his parents from a new perspective, and he’s growing to understand how life and history shaped them and contributed to their current situation in life.
Cory and Mary Ellen grow closer than ever, with their songwriting uniting them creatively. But just when he is most determined to make it work with her, she gives him the news that her family must move to England, and he fears he may never see her again. At the same time, Cory’s father suffers a heart attack, a frightening life-altering event for the family, exposing the fragility of human condition.
Cory would like to devote even more of himself to Cornerstone, but the other guys in the band, most of whom are older than he is, are beginning to develop other careers and interests. Cory and Mary Ellen continue writing songs together and hold fast to their long-distance love. Richard begins to pursue his dreams of writing again, while Joanie evolves into a community activist, and Nana continues to nurture them all with her home-cooked meals and her sly, homey wisdom, even as she struggles with her own health problems.
The band develops one of Cory’s and Mary Ellen’s original songs, and schedules a studio recording session with the hope of securing a recording contract,. Unfortunately, the band’s exciting live show doesn’t translate so well on tape. Mary Ellen also visited from England and she and Cory record their other songs in a very effective demo. Undaunted, the band gears up for their biggest gig yet, in an important new venue—an opportunity that could launch them into the big time. But two days before the big gig, Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated. Several guys in the band, caught up in the resulting violence and rioting, are arrested and thrown in jail. They miss their gig and Cornerstone falls apart; Howard goes to Vietnam and Reggie joins another band. Even Tommy moves away to New York. It’s senior year for Cory, and he feels like he’s losing everything. Even his dad seems to be backsliding again.
Nana has been in contact with a publisher who wants to buy Christopher Rockwell’s memoir that defines the era and sheds insights as to what made the musical greats truly great. She enlists Cory’s dad to help finish the manuscript. She also encourages Cory to try out for Julliard, and plans to use the advance from the book to pay for his education. Cory goes to New York city to audition, meeting up with Mary Ellen, who flew in to tour NYU with her mother. During a stolen couple of hours together in her hotel room, Cory and Mary Ellen make love for the first time.
Cornerstone re-forms with some of the original members. They are stunned when Howard returns from Vietnam, having lost one of his legs in combat. Cory is accepted to Julliard and Mary Ellen admitted to NYU; they’re ecstatic, and make secret plans to live together in NYC. Then Nana is stricken by a stroke, and Mary Ellen’s mother, who has lived in her husband’s shadow for too long, becomes depressed and decides she needs her daughter to stay close to the family; Mary Ellen is enrolled into Oxford instead. With the dream of New York dashed, Cory decides to attend Northwestern University instead of Julliard so he can help attend to Nana.
An English promoter working in the music business begins courting Mary Ellen, and fraught with worry, Cory devises a scheme to win her back over a spring break in Nassau. Once there, they meet a mysterious musician who later turns out to be the famous rock poet Jim Morrison. At Morrison’s request, Cory sends him the demo tape he made with Mary Ellen. Though their time together in Nassau is idyllic, Mary Ellen returns to accept a possible trip with the promoter—
Cory has to accept the possibility that she may chose someone else over him.
The guys in the band have continued to develop their careers and their own romantic relationships, starting businesses, falling in love—and find themselves supporting each other in surprising new ways. Cory’s dad and Howard even become roommates—drawn together by a mutual understanding that only two war veterans could share. Richard continues to show promise, despite his lapses; he’s inspired and uplifted by his creative work on the memoir and his friendship with Howard. It appears that Cory’s mom and dad might even have a chance to rekindle their love.
Cory’s youth is brought to a sudden end when Nana dies. It seems he’s lost the dreams he once cherished for his band and for his girl, and now he’s lost the lady who was his spiritual mentor all his life. As the flashback returns to Nana’s memorial, Cory’s band-mates come together, having traveled from near and far, to take the stage in honor her. Afterward a heart-felt memorial concert, the party is over, but Cory is startled when Mary Ellen suddenly appears, having traveled from England to be with him for this important occasion. He’s relieved and overjoyed when she tells him she’s only interested in him, and no other. She’s brings a letter from the president of Jim Morrison’s record company, who listened to their song demos and beckons them to visit him. In the mix of emotions—sadness and grief, excitement and love, Cory now truly understands the meaning of his grandfather’s last words, and his family’s motto: Live life in Crescendo. He and Mary Ellen embark on a shared quest toward their dreams, passionate to pursue a future that is yet completely known.