My Dad Was The Greatest Person I Have Ever Known - by Ricki C. (Vet's Memorial pt. 4)


When I went to see rock & roll acts at Vet's Memorial in the 1960’s, it wasn’t all Bob Dylan & the Hawks, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Who; occasionally there was a little Vanilla Fudge mixed in there.  Vanilla Fudge – for the uninitiated – were a second or third-level rock band of the 60’s who specialized in Heavy Versions of soul & Motown tunes.  (Their biggest radio hit was a proto-prog-rock cover of The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”)  

I had to have a hook and a date to hang this month’s Vet’s installment on, though, so Vanilla Fudge got the nod.

What I really want to write about this month is the reason why I got to see all those 60’s rockers for free, and that reason was my sainted Italian father, Al Cacchione Sr.

My dad was the greatest person I have ever known.  He died 45 years ago this week, of a heart attack at the age of 56 when I was 17 years old, in my senior year of high school.  My dad gave me my whole world.  Starting when I was 13 years old in 1965, dad started to get me into shows at Vet’s, where he worked in the ticket office.  It was my father's nighttime job after his day job at Columbia Gas of Ohio.  Dad saw how interested I was in rock & roll and started bringing me along with him to shows.  I was an incredibly shy, introverted child and I think the fact that I was willing to leave the shelter/womb of our home on Sullivant Avenue to see a rock & roll show heartened my dad so much he'd have brought/driven/conveyed me anywhere, let alone the three or four miles it was from our house to Vet's Memorial.

Dad gave me other stuff: he bought me my first guitar and he instilled in me a love of traveling.  In 1962, when I was 10, a couple of years before The Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and Changed Everything, dad had started to take my older brother and I to Cleveland Browns football games.  We would stay at the Sheraton Gibson Hotel right off Fountain Square.  The Sheraton Gibson, and hotels in general, became MAGICAL to me.  You could LIE IN BED and watch television.  You could TAKE SHOWERS.  Our bathroom at home sported only a claw-foot bathtub, so you have no idea what an impossibly decadent extravagance a shower was to the little West Side boy I was in 1962.  

My dad was absolutely the reason I became a musician and roadie.  I remember very clearly one night in 1965 on the way home from Vet's, when dad was explaining the concept of touring to me: that musicians had to be on the road all the time.  I just looked at him wide-eyed and said, "You mean all these guys do is play guitars & drums in a different city every night and stay in hotels in between?"  I was incredulous.  I was dumbstruck.  Dad couldn't have possibly realized what he had just done.  He might just as well have stamped Unfit For A Normal Job Of Any Kind across my 13 year old forehead right at that very moment.

When my father died I think I had a little nervous breakdown.  There are big gaps in my memories of my childhood and teenage years.  It’s one of the reasons I haven’t yet been able to bring myself to go downtown and witness for myself the absence of Veteran’s Memorial from the West Broad Street cityscape.  There are just too many things in my life that are gone forever, I can’t take the big gap that Vet’s Memorial represents, where my dad took me to see the rock & roll.  - Ricki C. / April 25th, 2015

(a different version of this piece ran as Birthday Blog in Ricki C’s site, 
Growing Old With Rock & Roll, June 30th, 2013)



April 23rd, 1968 / The Turtles, Neil Diamond, Every Mother’s Son

April 17th, 1971 / Elton John (when he was still a rocker, before his interminable weekly singles off his monthly albums later in the 1970's)