Counter Culture

S1 E18 | FULL EPISODE

Counter Culture Ep. 18

Counter Culture: A talk show in a diner with PBS39's Grover Silcox. This week's guests are Ray Didinger, Sportswriter and WIP SportsRadio - Comcast; Commentator; Joey Callahan, Comedian; Dr. Ronald Demkee, Conductor, Allentown Band

AIRED: June 04, 2019 | 0:27:50
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

-Welcome to "Counter Culture," a talk show in a diner.

On this episode, I welcome award-winning sports writer

and Phillies sportscaster, Ray Didinger...

-If you ask me what is the -- the most popular sport

in this city, I think it's the Eagles.

I think the Eagles are number one.

-Funnyman Joey Callahan...

-How bad are loads are your family that you have

to stay in a casino dry out?

-And the conductor of the oldest band in the country,

The Allentown Band, Ron Demkee.

-The band has played in Philadelphia

for Abraham Lincoln.

-Really? -Yeah.

-All right here on "Counter Culture."

♪♪

Welcome to "Counter Culture," a talk show in a diner.

I'm Grover Silcox, coming to you from Daddypops Diner

in beautiful downtown Hatboro.

My first guest's name is synonymous

with Philadelphia sports.

He's an award-winning writer, author, sportscaster.

You may have heard him on 94WIP or NBC Sports on TV.

He also is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

And as if that weren't enough,

he is also an award-winning playwright.

And not only that, and you're not gonna believe this,

he's really a nice guy.

Ray Didinger, how are ya?

-Hello, Grover. How are you?

-Very good.

Nice to see you at this kind of counter.

Usually, I see you at a, uh,

you know, console with a few other commentators.

-Buried behind a lot of statistics.

-That's right.

So, uh, how is Glen, Glen Macnow,

your sidekick on WIP in the Midday show?

How's that going? -Great.

Great. We, uh -- we've been together

now doing the weekend show for, um, 17 years.

-Wow. -That's a long run in radio.

-That is a long run. That's a long run on anything.

-We really didn't know each other when they put us together.

Uh, the radio station assumed that because we were

both sports writers that we knew each other.

We really didn't.

I was working at the Daily News, Glen was at the Inquirer.

We were competitors, if anything.

-Yeah?

-Uh, but they put us together and it clicked.

-You're a writer, you're an author, you're a playwright.

How do you define what you do?

-Writer. -Writer?

Yeah. Essentially, at the core of it?

-I mean, I've -- I haven't written

for a newspaper, uh, for more than 20 years,

but yet, people still associate me

with the either the Bulletin or the Daily News.

Well, even if you're on TV and radio, um,

I think you're a storyteller.

You know, and whether you're writing it or talking it,

it's all about telling stories.

And that's kind of --

I think that's kind of really what I've been.

-You grew up in and around Philadelphia?

-I was born in -- I was born in Philadelphia

and grew up in Delaware County.

-Right. So, you grew up as a --

a Philly sports fan? -Oh, huge, yes.

Yeah.

My mother and father were huge fans.

-Mm-hmm. -And, uh, my grandmother

and grandfather were huge fans.

And, uh, yeah, we used to go

to Eagles training camp every summer.

We would go to Phillies games, we never missed an Eagles game.

So, there -- there wasn't a sport

in the city that we didn't follow.

And -- and everybody in the family, men, women,

young, old, it didn't matter.

So, one of the things I learned going to the games

with my family and -- and sitting with my parents

and my grandparents was you never boo.

In our family, you never boo.

I remember going to an Eagles game

and I was just a little kid and this was the '50s

and the Eagles were still at Connie Mack Stadium,

that's how long ago it was.

And being there and the Eagles weren't very good then.

And the game was going very badly

and there were fans sitting around us that started booing.

And, uh, my grandfather said, "You never do that."

You know, good times or bad times,

it's still your team and you never boo 'em.

And I think that the Philadelphia fans,

um, people say they get a bad rap.

I think they do, to a point.

But when you have a season

like the Eagles had a couple years ago,

when they actually win the whole thing,

you can see the way the city responds

and what it means to the people in this city.

I think it's a very special place.

I think they're the best sports fans in America,

I think it's the best sports city in America.

I've always felt that and I still do.

-Right. They certainly, uh, have their own signature.

-Oh, yeah. -Football.

And the Eagles became really something special for you.

-Well, yeah, and I -- and I think

that's fairly common, I think, through the city.

If you -- if you asked me what is the --

the most popular sport in the city

and not just for our family,

but all families, I think it's the Eagles.

I think the Eagles are number one.

And I think they've been number one for a long, long time.

Um, I think it's a football town.

I think people here, uh, love the game

in a very particular way.

They're smart fans, uh, and they're very demanding.

But when you give 'em a good team

and you give 'em a good ride

the way that team did two years ago, man, that's special.

I will always, always remember that parade

and I'll always remember that day at the art museum.

One of the things I really remember was being there

at the -- at the oval, at the art museum

that morning walking to where our broadcast location was.

And a gentleman, uh, was behind a police barricade

and he was all wrapped up in a blanket.

And he said -- he called me over and, uh, he said,

"I want to show you something," and he said,

"I slept out here all night to get --

to get this place, to be here for the parade."

And he reached in his pocket and he pulled out this picture.

Uh, and it was a picture of a man

and a little boy at their Franklin Field.

Uh, and he said, uh -- he said,

"This is me and my father at the 1960 championship game.

We were there the day the Eagles won their last championship

and we had made a promise that we'd,

the next time they won it, we'd be together."

Uh, and he said, "You know, my father died five years ago,"

uh, and he said, "But I felt like

I had to be here with this picture

and it's like, we're back together again."

And -- and he said to me, "Do you understand?"

I said, "Yeah, I understand perfectly well."

That, to me, told so much the story

of what that meant to the people of the city.

Uh, obviously, it meant a lot to the players,

it meant a lot to the coaches and the ownership and all that.

But, um -- -That's when it's --

you're realize it's more than just a game.

-Sure.

Way more. Way more.

The power that that had and the way it --

it cut across, uh, all lines in the city

and the way it united the people of this city

was a very, very special thing.

-I thought it was very touching on NBC Sports

when the Eagles won the Super Bowl

and the reaction that you had and your son David came on.

-Yes. -And you shared that story

about, uh, the eagle that landed on your --

the garage. -Yeah.

We lived in the city and not that far from Fairmount Park,

so it wasn't that uncommon for falcons

and for hawks and pigeons and geese

and all that stuff to fly over our house.

But, uh, never had we ever seen an eagle, in 30 years.

And the day before that game, uh, I was already in Minnesota,

I was already out there for the game.

My wife said to me yesterday, she said,

"I woke up this morning and I look out

and there was an eagle sitting on our garage."

And look, I don't believe in mysticism and things,

but and she said -- she said, "That's gotta either be

the spirit of your father or your mother."

And I -- I already kind of, more than kind of,

I really felt the Eagles were gonna win the game.

I had felt that all week.

I just felt like they -- they were ready to play.

I thought the Patriots were a little overconfident.

Uh, and I thought the Eagles were gonna win the game.

But after that story about the eagle, then I knew.

-You knew for sure. -I didn't --

I didn't put any money on it, necessarily, but I --

I really -- that sort of confirmed

what I was already thinking, that this was their time.

-Right. Well, among your several books,

you wrote "The Eagles Encyclopedia,"

and "The New Eagles Encyclopedia,"

then this latest version.

Is that correct? -This is the latest version.

This is -- and this is the one that

everybody's been waiting for, which is the Champions Edition,

which is the one that provides the happy ending, yeah.

And it was -- writing that was, uh --

it was a tough deadline,

'cause I had to write 65,000 words in 3 1/2 weeks.

That was what I was waiting to write,

was the story of them finally bringing

the Lombardi Trophy home.

-Right. Wow.

Now, how about your play that you wrote,

uh, "Tommy and Me"?

-Right. -It's sort of autobiographical.

-Very much so. It's a story about me

and the relationship I forged with Tommy McDonald,

who was the great player for the Eagles in the '50s.

-The wide receiver. -Wide receiver.

Uh, and they called them flankers back then.

And, um, this all grew out of our family going to Eagles

training camp every summer.

Was -- back then, he was just a rookie in 1957.

I was only 10 years old.

And I used to wait for him outside the locker room and, uh,

he would come out, we would meet and he would hand me his helmet

and I'd walk with him to the practice field.

-Wow.

-And so, we developed this thing.

He started calling me little brother.

-Right. -And, uh, over the years,

when I became a sports writer,

I became a voter for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

and I was actually able to kind of get in and campaign

a little bit to try and get him in the hall of fame,

which he really deserved.

It shouldn't have taken 30 years, but it did.

And then when he got in, he turned around and asked me,

he said, "Look, I want you to be my presenter."

So, I wound up, here's me and my boyhood hero

sharing that moment on the steps of the hall of fame.

That was pretty -- that was pretty great.

So, I thought it was such a great story

and such a wonderful feel-good story

that, um, I thought, I'd like to tell this somehow.

Said, you know what? This might work as a play.

So, I sat down and I wrote it

and brought it to a theater company, Theatre Exile.

They liked it, we staged it,

and it's now been brought back four times.

-And it's garnered a couple of awards, I think.

-Broadway World, which is a big website for all plays,

and we won for Best Play, we won for Best Lead Actor,

Best Supporting Actor, and Best Ensemble.

-Man, you must've been like, thrilled.

Like, I just tried this and, man,

I knocked it out of the park. -It was really exciting.

But the best and most exciting thing was the day

that Tommy McDonald came to see it.

He came with his wife

and the kids and all the grandchildren.

They took up a whole row in the theater.

-Right.

-Uh, and they had a great time and Tommy really loved it.

-And he led the Eagles to the championship

in '60 against Vince Lombardi's Packers.

-And beat Lombardi's Packers in the championship game.

It was the only post-season game Lombardi ever lost.

-Wow. -Uh, and after the game,

uh, Lombardi had the great quote where he said,

"If I had 11 Tommy McDonalds,

I'd win the championship every year."

And Tommy said that was the greatest compliment

he ever received.

-Ray, I want to thank you for coming to the counter...

-My Pleasure. -On "Counter Culture," here,

and, uh, keep doing what you do.

-Thank you, Grover. -Keep, uh, storytelling...

-I will try. -...about our Philadelphia

sports, uh, teams. We really appreciate it.

-So do I. -Ray Didinger,

award-winning sports writer

and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Like most people, my next guest started out as a child,

a child who watched sitcoms and said,

"Someday I want to make people laugh and make money doing it."

And since that time,

he has performed stand-up comedy all across the country

and has opened for some of the biggest names in show business.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Joey Callahan.

-Grover Silcox!

My buddy! How are you?!

You are my comedy Yoda. I'm so glad to be here.

But the thing I gotta say is, very egotistical,

with your picture on a mug.

You realize, everything's about you.

-Yeah, that's right. -You really disgust me.

I tell ya.

-Well I see, you're following in my footsteps.

-We have a little action figure.

We could have our mugs interview each other.

That'd be great.

-Two mugs with mugs, talking to each other.

That's the name of a show. -Fair enough, let's do it.

-You know, if they can have a show with two ferns,

they can have a show with two mugs, okay.

If I remember correctly, we both come out

of the Philadelphia comedy club scene.

But you're a lot younger than me.

-Well, yeah, but you were the guy -- you were the --

you were the guy and I will tell you

that right now -- get a close-up, Steve.

Let me tell you right now, if you wanted to see

one of the best stand-up comics you'll ever see,

Mr. Grover Silcox, hands-down.

-Well, I remember Joey.

You used to sneak into comedy clubs, you were what, 10?

-I remember sneaking in -- -You wore big suits.

-I did. I walked in like one of

the little "Our Gang: Little Rascals."

I went, "Oh, I'd like to see Mr. Silcox, please."

Yeah. And I used to watch you and --

you, Jeff Pirrami, and Steve Shaffer,

two other guests that you've had on this show.

Fantastic comedians.

I used to think, I'll never be that good.

And so far, I've been consistent.

-You will climb... -No.

I'm a working comic. I'm a working comic.

-Hey, a working comic is a comic who's working.

-That's right. That's all we can ask for.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

-I'm quick, huh? -You are.

You're a very funny man. -Thank you.

But anyway, how long now have you been doing stand-up comedy?

-I did my first open mic, uh, April 11, 1988.

-People hear "open mic," and they go, ooh.

What was the experience like for you?

-For me, it was -- it was uh,

at a place called The Comedy Works

at 2nd and Chestnut.

-Philadelphia. -Yeah, and it was, to me,

it's always been an adventure, like whenever --

whenever I do it in and I do a show,

uh, where there's like dancers and everything,

I giggle at myself like, I always just to wanted to be

the Sid Caesar, show of shows guy.

I wanted to be Rob Petrie. I love it all.

And the fact that, here we are,

at Daddypops Diner Hotel and Casino, right here --

-This is the end of the dreaming.

-I got a comp room upstairs.

I'm very excited about that.

And all the frizzled beef I can eat.

-So, then, you -- you went to open mics

and then how did it progress from there?

-Well, I happen to get great mentors like, Grover Silcox,

who took me to the side

and really mentored me and helped me out.

I became a working comic.

Got a chance to open up for a lot of cool people,

like B. B. King, The Smothers Brothers,

Dionne Warwick, my favorite, Weird Al Yankovic.

Got a chance to go over

and do the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in Scotland.

I love Scotland, 'cause it's like Ireland

without any relatives.

It's all the drink and none of the aunts I gotta visit.

-Right. Yeah, 'cause "Callahan" is Irish.

-That's right. That's right.

-And then, you also sort of got into come--

well, of course, you're writing comedy for yourself,

but you've written for other people, too.

-Unless you ask my children, they're "When you are gonna

get new dope jokes, Dad", I'm always trying to write.

I had a chance to write for other people, corporate clients,

I got a chance to write for other comedians.

I had a radio service job where every week,

I had to write, uh, song parodies,

which I was horrible at.

Thank God for my wife, she could help me do it.

-Right.

-And then eventually, phone scams.

We got two kids with college tuition and a mortgage.

You'll do -- I'm surprised

I'm not out selling pretzels on a corner somewhere.

-Which brings me to, uh, one of the big sources

of inspiration for your act, which is your wife...

-Yeah, my lovely -- -Who is a first grade teacher?

-The lovely Mrs. Callahan.

Donna Robinson Callahan, who I met when I was in college.

We met at Lock Haven University in Central Pennsylvania.

And a lot of people don't know this, but it's considered

the Harvard of the Pennsylvania school system.

That's right.

Yeah, anybody can go Cookstown.

No, this Lock Haven is the elite, the vanguard

of the guys who couldn't get into any other school.

I'll tell you that right now. -Right.

-I met her. We dated for five years.

We've been married now for 28 years.

I have two daughters, so it's -- I --

I live with all women, so I have it down to a science.

I just apologize to the first one I see.

"I'm sorry, what was I..." Yeah, yeah, yeah.

And I know things men shouldn't know.

I know what an Espadrilles is.

No man should know what that is.

Don't ask -- if you don't want to know -- you can't --

you can't unring that bell, my friend.

-Now, when I first knew your daughters,

you have two daughters,

uh, they were only little -- -They were wee little girls.

I think I have, uh -- I have here.

This is my daughters right here.

That's, uh -- -On your CD.

-That's Robin.

I'm not just self-promoting, by any stretch

of the imagination. I'm just a state fan.

Get right in here, buddy.

And there's Emma.

Emma is now 22.

-Oh, my gosh. -And, um, Robin is 19.

And they're both gonna kill me.

They're really -- Look how light my --

look how dark my hair was there, look how white it is now.

-Yeah. -Daughters.

-Right. Are you one of the comedians

who'd rather not have family members in the audience?

-It depends on the family member.

I mean, I -- I grew up, uh, with aunts and uncles

and they were way funnier than I -- I'll ever be.

So, they've come. I've had my --

Here's a funny story. I was at -- in Atlantic City,

right, and my cousins are all in Brigantine.

So, I go to visit them on Sunday, we start drinking.

I can't drive to the Borgata, they've gotta drive me.

Go back Monday to get my car, drinking again,

they gotta drive me to the Borgata.

I -- I can't.

Tuesday, same thing.

Wednesday, I say I'm gonna hide out

in the casino and stay away from 'em.

How bad are loads of your family that you have to stay

in a casino to dry out?

-Where do you perform now? Where are some of the places?

-Wherever a check will clear, my friend,

but I've been fortunate enough to be casinos,

I've been fortunate to go -- -I know you've been

at the Borgata. -Been at the Borgata.

-You've actually substitute hosted for, uh, Jeff Pirrami

at the burlesque show. -At the Bur-- That --

that was tough work, I'll tell you.

You know what was tougher, trying to explain to your wife

how you're gonna emcee a topless review.

That's -- that's -- -That's right.

And Jeff is the one who was topless.

-Well, yeah.

It has a ying and a yang, that's all I can tell you.

-Right, right. What would you, uh,

advise would-be comedians who are trying

to get in this business, from your own experience?

-I think the number-one thing is stage time.

The more you can get on stage,

and you taught me that, the more --

And the other mode is when you're on stage,

another Grover Silcox lesson, lead or be crushed.

There's no middle ground.

You don't have to be aggressive, but you have to take control.

You walk out on that stage and you're -- you're like a lion.

You're regal when you walk on stage.

-Now, when you went to Edinburgh to perform comedy --

-I did. -And we often think of comedy

as being very provincial or tied to the culture.

But now you're in another country.

How did you have to customize your jokes to the --

to the Scottish? -Ever so slightly.

Same with Canada.

Like, so, for instance, we say pants, they have trousers.

They talk -- we have diapers, they say nappies.

Other than that, it's universal.

People -- I used to love it when I would be --

I did my show in Scotland called,

"Don't Hate Me, I Might Be Canadian."

There for a month-and-a-half, and in Canada

where people would come up and say to you,

"Wow, it's like you grew up with me.

It's like, it's so amazing the similarities you had."

And I think that was so cool

that there's a universality in comedy.

We all pretty much the same. -Right.

Did they have hecklers in Scotland?

-Yeah, they're tough. The Scottish.

"I don't like ye.

You're not funny.

I can't understand a word you're saying."

Like, oh, yeah, I have the problem with diction, yeah.

It's clearly my fault.

-That's why I think comedians are among the bravest,

If I say so myself,

performers, because -- -I think knife throwers.

Or the assistants of knife throwers.

Yeah, yeah, we're up there, too.

-Some people might think it's even more risky than, uh --

than being a knife thrower, but, uh, you know, to go to,

uh, another country, to go to even another market.

And this is why it's, I think important for comedians

who're really interested in having a whole career

to go to other markets, be road warriors.

-Most definitely.

You want to embrace all cultures,

all diversity, you want to --

I love performing to different groups.

Uh, the more different, the better, right?

And -- and be honest with you, I can't do colleges anymore.

I'm too old. -Right.

-But give me a senior center, I'm killin'.

-Well, Joey, I want to thank you

for, uh, coming -- -That was vodka.

-That was a spit take. -That was vodka!

-That was a beau-- Did I teach you that spit take?

-No, you -- you did. -That was right on.

-You remember, you went like that, I actually got you.

-You did get me, yes.

Well, I want to thank you for coming to the counter.

-You are a sweetheart of a man. I love you, man.

-Wow. Same here. -Thank you.

-It's been a long road and a fun one.

Keep going. -We got more gigs.

-More gigs to do. -That's right.

See him live.

-Joey Callahan, a man who, from day one said,

"I want to make people laugh," and he has.

[ "Stars and Stripes Forever" playing ]

My next guest's job is to make sure

that you get that wave of emotion

as the flag goes by or at a special event or concert.

He is a conductor of the oldest city band in the nation,

The Allentown Band.

It is a pleasure to have Ron Demkee at the counter.

Ron, welcome. -Pleasure to be here, Grover.

Pleasure. -Wow.

So, the Allentown Band, uh, how old is the band?

-We just celebrated our 190th anniversary last year,

so, uh, formed in 1828.

-Who was president at that time?

-Uh, John Quincy Adams, as a matter of fact.

-Oh, how about that?

John Quincy Adams. Wow.

You weren't at that concert, were ya?

-No, we have no original members.

The band has played for, uh, at least four, uh,

Inaugural parades over the years.

And, uh, in addition to that,

in Philadelphia for Abraham Lincoln.

-Really? -Yeah, so, it's been, uh --

it's been quite a run. -Did Abe say anything?

Did he go, "Love that band, that music's right on"?

-He said, "Keep listening to your better angels."

-You know what?

You might've been his inspiration.

That was a beautiful score. Wait a minute.

Fourscore...

-Ooh. -Hey.

Who knows, right?

Well, first of all, uh, where is home base?

I know it's in Allentown, but where?

-We own our own headquarters.

We, uh, purchased a former city fire station in Allentown.

And that's where we, uh, keep our library

and do our rehearsals and, uh, you know,

it's just our -- our main headquarters.

-And how many members are there all together?

-We have currently 65 members in the band, um,

aged anywhere from 20 to 92.

The oldest member of our band, Ezra Wenner,

joined the band in 1942.

-Wow. -And he's still playing.

He really does play.

-What does he play? -He's a trombonist.

-My gosh. He's playing a -- a...

-He's amazing.

-...a trombone, which can't be easy.

-And he's a guy that doesn't let things slide.

-And you could also -- -...trombone.

-I see that, yes. I -- I got it right away.

-Following that wonderful comedian --

-So, but you started --

you play the tuba. -I play the tuba.

Yeah, and I joined the band, uh, in 1964.

I was still in college.

And then I was elected, uh, conductor in 1977.

So, um,

I'm the second-longest-running conductor in the band's history.

-What does it feel like to be the conductor

of this historic band?

And I think you said it before, you're one-of-four.

Only four conductors in the whole history, is that right?

-Well, no, there've been a few more than four,

but it's -- the longevity is incredible.

Bert Meyers conducted the band for 50 years.

Bert Meyers came to the band in, uh, after,

uh, performing as cornet soloist with the John Philip Sousa Band.

And then Martin Klinger conducted it for 40.

So, I took the -- I got a pretty good gig,

I'll take that.

But, uh, I surpassed what my own expectations.

I didn't know that it would go that long.

And I'm -- I'm feeling very good about it, certainly,

uh, very proud,

very blessed to be involved with people of that caliber.

So, it's just -- it's a wonderful experience.

-What is it like to be a conductor,

I mean, I guess, of anything?

A symphony orchestra, a city band, whatever?

-It covers so many aspects of -- of the whole business.

You get to program, you get to select programs and --

and figure out what in the world might work for this audience

or for that audience, for this venue.

We just, uh, had the good fortune about a week ago,

to play, um, for the third time at Carnegie Hall.

Well, that's -- that's an experience that's --

experience of a lifetime and we've done it three times.

It's incredible.

But for a program like that,

I'll choose something that really, uh, showcases

the, uh, technical proficiency of the band,

the musicality of the band.

Our main areas of performance in the Lehigh Valley

are West Park in Allentown for outdoor performances

and Miller Symphony Hall for indoor performances.

But it's a much wider array than that.

We, uh, play a number of concerts

in, uh, area churches, for example.

The longest-running performance that we have currently

is a place called Waldheim Park in Allentown.

This year will be our 104th consecutive

performance at Waldheim.

-You know, it's part of the culture of America

that is not in existence anymore in so many cities.

-Exactly. Exactly.

And it's an important part of the culture and the heritage.

You know, we keep things alive and interestingly,

it's not just a museum piece.

We try not to get involved in playing,

just replicating Sousa concerts, for example, or other things,

but also open it up to Broadway shows,

current things, so it's a real --

it's a real mix, it's kind of, uh, cafeteria programming.

-Right. Like, what would be something,

say, in a popular vein that -- that the band might play,

that they really bring to life in their own way?

-Well, we would do, uh, current Broadway shows, medleys of that.

Or, uh, this year is kind of a big year for the Beatles.

It's the 50th anniversary of "Abbey Road."

There's a great arrangement of Lennon-McCartney things.

So, and fortunately, we have such, uh,

great, versatile players

that they're very convincing, both in the way of, um,

classically trained, symphonic works or whatever,

but they're also convincing in, um -- in jazz, or in pop.

We also include and this is a very important part

of our mission, I think,

and that is to relate to young people.

♪♪

We do programs that are geared specifically

for elementary kids, fourth through middle school.

And at the high school level, we bring in, uh,

students from various high schools throughout the region

to sit literally side-by-side with the band

for half the program.

It's a great experience for them,

because I have always felt as a teacher,

one of the best ways student learn is mentoring.

And that is, if you're sitting alongside a seasoned player,

someone who's been around,

uh, you're gaining some things from that experience

that you wouldn't necessarily get in a studio on a one-to-one.

Not that that's bad, but I think there's a --

there's an element of learning

that goes on sitting next to a person

that's really done it for a long time.

-What do people say to you? How do they feel?

Certainly folks in Allentown and Lehigh Valley

who feel that you're -- you're family?

-We have good fortune, uh, in that.

We have a lot of local fans

who come faithfully every performance and so on.

And they give us a lot of support.

But it's interesting, the, uh, response

that we had at that Carnegie Hall performance

was also exceptional,

because it was part of a festival

that included musicians, well, from Switzerland, uh,

adults, college age, high school,

and virtually everybody in the audience

was a musician, so they've gone through like

a two- to three-day festival performing on their own,

and then culminating in this showcase concert,

which we had the good fortune to do.

So, they were just, uh, ecstatic.

So, you had an energy there that you might not have

had at West Park or Symphony Hall.

-So, has The Allentown Band performed overseas?

-Yes. In the time that I've been conducting the band,

uh, we've taken four tours, uh, of Europe, concert tours.

Uh, we've done, uh, Lucerne, Switzerland, twice.

Uh, another time for

the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles,

that's WASBE.

That was in Schladming, Austria.

And the most recent one was done at the, uh, La Croix Valmer

in the Saint-Tropez Music Festival in France.

So, it's been -- it's been a ride.

-Where can people get a regular schedule?

-We have a website, allentownband.com.

-This is your CD. -This is the recent one.

This is the, um, John Williams tribute.

We did this on the occasion of his 85th birthday

and the 40th year of, um, the release of "Star Wars."

-By the way, do you need a triangle player,

'cause I might be able to join the band.

-I'll keep -- I'll keep you in mind.

-Oh, good. Okay.

'Cause I always wanted to be in The Allentown Band.

-I just may call you. -All right.

I'll be waiting.

Ron Demkee, thanks so much.

-My pleasure. -And keep the music going.

-We'll try. -Ron Demkee, the conductor

of the oldest band --

the oldest city band in the nation, The Allentown Band.

♪♪

Well, that wraps up our final episode for

season one of "Counter Culture."

And I want to thank my guests tonight, Ron Demkee,

the conductor of The Allentown Band,

the oldest band in the country...

-And then I was elected, uh, conductor in 1977.

-...funnyman Joey Callahan...

-Coming -- -That was vodka.

-That was a spit take. -That was vodka.

-...and award-winning sports writer

and sportscaster Ray Didinger.

-After that story about the eagle,

I was already thinking this was their time.

-We'll be back in the fall with season two.

In the meantime, I want to thank,

uh, the whole crew here at "Counter Culture,"

for making this show happen each and every week.

I want to thank Ken Smith and his staff at Daddypops Diner

for allowing us into his diner.

And I want to thank you,

the viewers for supporting the show and PBS 39.

Have a great summer. We'll see you in the fall.

♪♪

♪♪

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