The Roof People Ben Partain

Once upon a time pretty long ago there was a circle of friends…ok, more like a gang of young men who thought they were musicians but most likely were out for fun, fellowship and frivolity as much as musical precision and proficiency. They played brass and percussion instruments every day during the summer of 1980 with the promise of a massive southern tour of class A Drum Corps International competitions, the ultimate goal a performance in the class A prems in Birmingham, Alabama.

The unusual name ‘Roof people’ originated because as a group they had hoisted one of their brethren Cliff’s prized motorcycle on top of the city rec center where we lived that summer and told him “Hey man, we don’t know how it got up there”. Ranging from ages 16 to 20 they each had an impressive skill set of humor and it often tended to swing from good-natured kidding to brutal practical jokes. We were all brothers in a way, worked like dogs while even paying for the privilege just for the love of musical performance and forged friendships, many lasting a lifetime, sad to say about a few members.

Tim was a guy from Dalton, Ga he was esteemed with the name “Psycho”. He earned his name from falling in love a gal that played the marching xylophone.When she insisted on friend zoning him he promptly beat the brakes off of an old oak tree, by the way? The tree won. Then there was Jim, he was (and still is) an outgoing good ol’ southern Tennessee boy who was quick with a quip and even quicker to drink a beer. Jim was a Groomsman of mine in ’85, he was so kind as to follow my bride and me up to the 59th floor of the Peachtree Plaza and chided us to “Get this thing consummated”…yeah, he’s pretty one of a kind, thank God. Keith was the one of us who had actual charisma, he loved the electric guitar and worshipped Jimi Hendrix.He coincidentally did bear a striking resemblance, he still plays today, and he was very intellectual back in the day with a knack for charming ladies even at the tender age of 16. Finally, there was Lee, he was from a more affluent area than many of us, his parents were Professors who just happened to travel to Europe for 60 days that summer (Who even does that?). His house was immediately deemed party central and we did get weird from time to time after a hard day of practice in the blazing Georgia sun. My fondest memory of Lee’s house was Cliff crooning to Lee’s Irish Setter Cleo in the tone of Barry White as she shook her long ears and reacted indifferently.

My days of youth have long since passed, so did our friend, Tim, from a long, brave battle with cancer. Cliff was rumored to have moved away while becoming an integral part of a law firm. Keith and I are acquaintances today as he still pursues that rock and roll lifestyle. Now Jim…Jim curates porn sites and looks like the world’s oldest eligible bachelor, we communicate on social media from time to time, he’s as

Decatur Rec

fun-loving as ever. These guys taught me much about life including handling the grief of losing my father to cancer that summer, they taught me kinship but most of all they taught me that life’s too short not to laugh, do it EVERY DAY.


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