Jay Meehan: Remembering a true pal
Actually, Ron Corbridge and I should have met at Compton College long before I became his fraternity brother. He was the editor of the school paper, to which I contributed a semi-regular sports column but the fact that I “audited” other friends’ classes rather than attend my own probably played a role.
I had also met many of his friends through a local garage-and–herb-oriented acoustic music scene that my brother McGee introduced me into following my return home from my three-year stint in the Army. But once we did meet, it didn’t take long to make up for lost time. We became pals.
So, kind of skipping over the interim and without too much effort to get the chronologies straight, Ron and I found ourselves in Park City. Ron shared digs with a crew of Compton tribal mates up on Marsac while I hunkered down with my relatively new bride, Virginia, at a place behind the old Miner’s Hospital at the base of the ski area.
We would take Ron’s Collie, “Lassie,” and our Newfoundland, “Nikos,” up to Mirror Lake along with other High Uinta waters to play “fetch” with sticks from shore or off the docks until our arms wore out.
In those days, we also sat around living rooms while Ron and our other guitar-playing friends, both new and old, would serenade those of us (ahem) less musically inclined. At some point Ron acquired a quite singular Gibson six-string and began performing with small groups and solo around town (mostly the Car-19).
My memories of musical happenings shared with Ron are many. As a Salt Lake DJ with a highly-tuned “schmoozing” skill set, I acquired backstage passes through longstanding relationships with record label reps as a matter of course. And Ron, I might add, was all for us taking advantage of the entrée provided.
Strutting through venue load-in areas like we owned the joint became par for the course – an afternoon sound check at the Special Events Center with Emmylou Harris and the Hot Band on their first Salt Lake stop comes to mind.
As do our many fanboy encounters with Merle Haggard. It didn’t matter where or when, all it took was a rumor of a possible “Hag” sighting and we were there. From a ballroom press conference at the downtown Hilton to interviews with iconic sidemen, Ron and I, like the good boys we were, lapped it up.
Once, at Ron’s prodding, we followed Hag’s bus from the Terrace to their hotel parking lot. There we stood in the drizzle until they emerged from their rooms, whereby the two of us “clapped” each member of the band, rugby style, onto the bus.
Roy Nichols, Hag’s lead guitarist and one of our favorite humans, bought up the rear. So we brought up the volume. He didn’t quite know what to think. He stopped, set down his guitar case, and, grinning ear-to-ear, shot the breeze for a spell. We didn’t need no stinkin’ umbrellas.
Then there was the noontime interview with Doc & Merle Watson backstage at the Terrace Ballroom. Ron never jabbered but he wasn’t averse to, almost perfectly, keeping dead-air space filled. Awkward silences never stood a chance.
And Doc was way kicked back. Blind as a Louisville Slugger (bat), as he boasted in an earlier interview, he went on-and-on about the film “Raid on Entebbe” which he had “seen” on the motel room TV the night before. Ron loved it.
But it was Doc getting me to exchange footwear with him prior to adjourning for lunch that Ron recalled most vividly during one of our final communiqués a few weeks back. Doc had recently acquired a new pair of Wolverine boots and felt I needed to experience them firsthand. So out the door we went, Doc in my Tevas and me in his boots.
During that same exchange, Ron also brought up the time local entrepreneur John Vrable brought Gordon Lightfoot and Leo Kottke to town for a performance at the base of the Resort. With the stage situated near where the Payday base terminal would later be built, Ron and I had acquired a perfect hillside perch from which to catch sound check.
When Lightfoot left the stage to ask us our thoughts on the sound quality, Ron was right in his element. He would follow “Gordo” from that moment on.
Ron, his mind sharp to the end, passed from a longtime ailment about a week ago and, try as we might, all his many longtime tribal mates can do is smile in his wake. In so many ways, he was the best of us.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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“I’ve been writing in this space for over 30 years now, and in all that time, there has never been occasion to write these words: He was beaten senseless by a Polish chef wielding a narwhal tusk.”