The Day I Met Keith Emerson ► Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be

I told this story on my facebook wall and someone asked, “Why didn’t you save that for your blog?” <facepalm> Of course!!! Here’s a slightly edited version:

Over the years I’ve threatened to tell the story of meeting Keith Emerson in his living room in Nassau, Bahamas, way back in the ’70s when I was a vacationing Rock and Roll journalist from Toronto. Now seems as good a time as any.

My friend Larry Ellenson, owner of Toronto’s Round Records, had a rental property on Nassau Island in the Bahamas that he wasn’t using. I agreed to rent it from him for 3 weeks one winter when I really needed to get away from the cold. The price was reasonable, far less expensive than a hotel would cost. And, because it was a house with a functioning kitchen, I could have most meals on the cheap from groceries picked up fresh at the outdoor markets. Hanging out in a private home is far more relaxed than being a tourist in a resort, hanging out with people just like myself. My neighbours were all Bahamians, or transplanted people now calling Nassau their home.

The house was on the south side of Bay Road, across from the houses  right on the beach, west of the bridge that goes across to the fancy hotels on Paradise Island. Although there were houses all along the beach, I was told that those people only owned the property their houses sat upon, but didn’t own the beach behind their houses. Therefore, when I wanted to go to the beach I took the shortcut; I just walked across the street and down someone’s driveway to the sand, as opposed to taking the long way around. The long way was to walk a block east to the local park that connected to the beach. Consequently, I walked up and down the same driveway many times a day because in my fridge was a pitcher filled with a Kahlua and milk concoction. I kept going back to refill my glass.I was on vacation!

That’s who she worked for.

There was this a beautiful woman I saw on the beach every day. She was a nanny for the
family that lived in the house whose driveway I walked down many times every day. I’d read or swim, but occasionally we’d talk as I watched her play with the kids. After more than a week we got, shall we say, more friendly, and spent some evenings together after she was off duty.

At first, she had been really leery about the fact that I was a Rock and Roll journalist on vacation. However, she eventually found out I was truly just there for a vacation (and to meet Third World at Compass Point Studios) she relaxed somewhat. However, it’s obvious she didn’t trust me completely because she never told me who she worked for.

So, it was her day off and the family she worked for was elsewhere. She invited me across the street to hang out. We were on our 2nd or 3rd beer when suddenly a man came rushing into the house yelling something like, “Don’t mind me. I just need to pick up something.”

As he walked into the room, I recognized him immediately. Keith Fucking Emerson!!! His nanny introduced us. “Keith? This is Headly. Headly, Keith.”

Check out this supergroup playing in Japan in 1990: Keith Emerson – Keyboards,
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter – Guitar, Joe Walsh – Guitar, John Entwistle – Bass Guitar, Simon Phillips – Drums

I was sprawled back in his beanbag chair with his nanny and a beer in my left hand. As I awkwardly tried to get onto my feet, Keith politely reached out his hand to shake mine. I took it and he pulled me to my feet as we continued to shake hands. Then he grabbed whatever he came home for and, in less than 2 minutes, Keith Emerson was gone and I never saw him again. Not even in concert.

When I acted like a total Rock and Roll fan boy — and not a journalist — the nanny relaxed completely. She told me how difficult it could be, at times, to protect the family’s privacy. I assured her I wasn’t there to infiltrate the family and write about Keith Emerson and promised her I wouldn’t. I kept that promise until now. I think the statute of limitations is up.

EPILOGUE: A few minutes later we walked to the kitchen fridge to get another beer. I had seen the fridge on a previous walk to the kitchen, without really looking at it. However, this time I did. There’s a snapshot of Keith Emerson with Peter Frampton. There’s a snap of Keith and a Rolling Stone on the beach. There are snaps Keith and all kinds of Rock and Rollers on the fridge, posing on boats and the beach, with wives, children, and pets, just like the snapshots on everyone’s refrigerator everywhere.



About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.

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