This past week, the Philadelphia Music Alliance gave its annual nod to ten contributors to the music industry with Philadelphia connections. Honorees are commemorated with a plaque installed along a several-block stretch of Broad Street, right on the sidewalk in the shadow of the Academy of Music, The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and the Merriam Theater. Past recipients include diverse personalities from Dick Clark and Solomon Burke to Marian Anderson and DJ Jazzy Jeff. Some names emblazoned on plaques are head-scratchers like Joan Jett (born in Philadelpha) and Dizzy Gillespie (moved to Philadelphia with his family in 1935), but their inclusion is revealed with a simple Google search.
On this particular chilly October afternoon, I skipped out of work a little before noon and walked down to Broad and Locust to witness Gene Shay take his rightful place among the other legends in Philadelphia music history. Gene is the co-founder of the Philadelphia Folk Festival (now in its 53rd year) and a staple of Philadelphia radio. He currently hosts Folk Alley (heard on Sirius XM on Sunday evenings) and a local folk show on WXPN radio in Philadelphia (for which my son served as engineer for several years). Gene will proudly tell you (and anyone who crosses his path) that he was first to bring Bob Dylan to Philadelphia in 1963 for his debut concert. Gene is a great guy and most deserving of this honor.
I met Mrs. Pincus in the crowd just as the ceremony was beginning. Although I couldn't get his attention, I spotted my son's shock of auburn hair about ten feet away, front and center in the crowd, as he was designated by WXPN to take photos of the event. For a brisk afternoon in the middle of a work week, a fairly large amount of onlookers had gathered. My wife and I pushed in close, still leaving a comfortable distance to the couple standing in front of me. Despite being electronically amplified, the speeches were, at times, difficult to hear over the ambient crowd conversation and constant motor traffic just feet away on Broad Street.
The gentleman in front of me suddenly turned around, facing away from the presentation podium. He seemed to be scanning the crowd, searching for someone. As he turned back to concentrate on the ceremony, he caught a glimpse of my denim jacket with a WXPN logo embroidered above the left breast pocket.
"You work there?," he asked, poking a chubby finger in my direction.
"No. " I smiled and replied, "Actually, my son is a DJ on WXPN."
"Really?," he leaned back and nodded, then said, "I know David Dye." He curled his lip, obviously impressed by his association.
David Dye is a respected disc jockey, a mainstay in Philadelphia radio for five decades. He currently hosts World Cafe, a show syndicated to over 250 public radio stations across the country. In addition, he maintains his Philadelphia roots by logging time at WXPN as host of the weekly Funky Friday show that's had Philadelphia shaking its booty for years. David, along with WXPN colleagues Helen Leicht and Michaela Majoun, was scheduled to introduce and present Gene Shay with his replica plaque. David was seated not more than five feet from where we stood.
"Well, there's David right there." I said and directed the gentleman's line of vision towards Mr. Dye with my extended index finger.
"Where?," he asked, his head swiveling on his neck, "Where is David Dye?" He spoke the name as though it were one word.
"There!" David is quite noticeable with a full white beard and a head of brilliant white hair. I pointed again, this time leaning in close to the man and raising my arm and finger to his eye-level, so he could follow it like he was aiming a rifle at a prize deer. "Right there!," I repeated.
"Oh.," he acknowledged with a half-hearted and confused tone.
The three WXPN staffers were introduced by the legendary Jerry Blavat, a DJ who, although younger than Gene Shay, has been on the Philadelphia airwaves for nearly as long. David, Michaela and Helen approached the podium. As David apprised the crowd of Gene's folk music accomplishments, the man in front of me responded with a loud whoop of "David Dye!" and clapped his hands together enthusiastically. When a humbled (but not too humbled) Gene took the makeshift stage and accepted the facsimile plaque, the man, again, applauded and hollered "David Dye! David Dye!"
Gene was sporting large yellow-lensed sunglasses. My crowd-mate leaned back and asked me if David Dye was blind. I replied in the negative, adding that I believe I have seen David drive a car.
At this point, it occurred to me that this confused gentleman had never met David Dye or Gene Shay and obviously had their achievements and resumes mixed up.
Or maybe he was just plain clueless.