Decades after that fame is new, the road may not be quite as glamorous, the crowds may not be quite as large. The hours of killing time before riding over to the hall, the putrid vending-machine meals on the run, the way-too-early-in-the-morning vans to the airport -- the dreary parts all become more than worth it when, for an hour or so, the singers can once again personally deliver a bit of happiness to the audiences who still adore their music.
As the years go by, the whole thing may grow complicated -- band members come and go, they fight and feud, some quit, some die. There are times when it seems you can't tell the players without a scorecard -- the Tokens at the highway hotel were, technically and contractually, Jay Siegel's Tokens (you don't want to know the details). One of their singers (not Jay Siegel -- Jay Traynor) was once Jay of Jay and the Americans, a group that itself is still out on the road in a different configuration with a different Jay (you don't want to know).
But overriding all of this is a splendid truism:
Sometimes, if you have one big hit, it can take care of you for the rest of your life. It can be your life.
Sunday's young Grammy nominees may not imagine, 30 years down the line, still being on tour. But they -- the fortunate ones -- will come to learn something:
They will grow old, but their hits never will -- once people first fall in love with those songs, the songs will mean something powerful and evocative to them for the rest of their lives.
And as long as there are fairground grandstands on summer nights, as long as there are small-town ballparks with stages where the pitcher's mound should be, the singers will get to keep delivering the goods.
That is the hopeful news waiting, off in the distance, for those who will win Grammys Sunday, and for those who won't be chosen.
On the morning after that pool-deck encounter in Florida I headed out for a walk, and in the parking lot of the hotel I saw one of the Tokens loading his stage clothes into his car.
His license plate read:
I said to him:
"You sing lead on 'She Cried,' right?"
"Every night," he said, and drove off toward the next show.
The next show.
That's the prize.
That's the trophy, right there.
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