Last October I posted an oral history of a local band from the ‘60’s, The Coachmen, who were a band consisting of Jon Asher, Robyn Sleeth, Tom Cain, Terry Walters and a kid you may have heard a little bit about through the years, Dan Fogelberg. Well that post turned into the most popular piece I’ve ever run here on the MBIP blog. Here’s the facecrack post I put up that day last October:
That post reached over 17,000 people, it got 280 “likes” and it was shared by 98 people. The actual post on the blog here got over 25,000 hits and I got comments and emails from people all over the country and it blew me away! It also got me thinking about how Dan Fogelberg’s journey started out right here in Peoria. I thought that today we’d take an MBIP Dan Fogelberg Tour around Peoria and so here we go!
Stop Number One: The Internet
For the first stop of this tour, you don’t even have to leave your home, all you have to do is click here or on the graphic above. This is a link to an article that PJ Star writer, Phil Luciano wrote and it was published on December 22, 2007. The article is about the song, “Same Old Lang Syne,” which came out in 1980. It's one of Dan Fogelberg’s most popular songs and it’s based on an actual encounter that Dan had right here in Peoria.
In 1975, after Dan’s musical career had taken off he came back to Peoria to celebrate Christmas here in Peoria. Sometime during his family’s celebration they discovered that they were out of whipped cream, which they needed to make Irish coffee drinks, so Dan volunteered to drive to a nearby convenient store to get some. When he got to the store he saw an old girlfriend and they bought a six pack of beer and drank it in her car and they had some laughs. This encounter inspired Dan to write the song, “Same Old Lang Syne,” which was released five years later and became a huge hit and a song that’s played regularly every Christmas. The identity of the girlfriend was never known and Dan never revealed her name. It was one of pop culture’s mysteries until Phil solved this mystery.
Phil found out who the mystery woman from this song was. Her name is Jill Greulich and Phil got the exclusive story on this legendary evening and it was published in the PJ Star on December 22nd, 2017. I contacted Phil yesterday and asked him about how he was able to get this scoop and here’s what he had to say.
“Though I usually avoid talking about my own writing, it's fair to say this: I've never written a column that has been so evergreen. At any time, I can check our online readership, and that column always —always—is being read by someone, somewhere. I kid you not. Sometimes more than one person. Think about that. On, say, a lazy afternoon in June, or early morning in September, or whenever, someone is reading that column.
As for the interview, I can't recall exactly how I tracked down Jill: it was 10 year ago. I know that I talked to some local people and eventually got a line on her in St. Louis. I recall chatting with her by cell phone while parked at the Kroger on Wisconsin, not far from the convenient store where Fogelberg bought the famed six-pack mentioned in the song. (In a note you'll appreciate, I later pinned down the brand of beer: Olympia.)
She didn't seem reluctant to talk to me. As the column mentioned, she'd not wanted to talk while Dan was alive, out of respect for his marriage. To my knowledge, that interview with me marked the first and only time that she has talked about that night and that song. I've found no other references to her speaking about it.
Every Christmastime, I get emails from people just discovering the story. One guy (and he reminds me each year) reads the original column to his family, just like some families read "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Humbly, I'm blown away by that sort of thing.”
Okay, time to leave the internet and start off on the second part of the tour which involves actually leaving the MBIP World Headquarters. And as you can see it’s a little rainy outside, but that’s not going to put a damper on the tour!
Stop Number Two: Sheridan Village
A couple stops on this tour involve my personal Dan Fogelberg memories and those memories start right here. This place, like most of Sheridan Village is vacant and for rent, but years ago it was a record store. I can’t recall the exact name of it, I always called it, the record store. Anyway, one day in the fall of 1972 I was in the store looking at albums and talking to the kid behind the counter. He told me to go look at the green album with the drawing on it in the new releases section. I went over and picked it up and asked him who it was. He told me it was a singer/songwriter named Dan Fogelberg and he was from originally from Peoria. I saw it was on Columbia records and was impressed. I asked the kid what else he knew about him and the kid said he had heard he grew up near the East Bluff and that’s all he knew. I bought the album and went home and looked at the photos inside and read the lyrics. I really liked the songs and told my friends about the album. At the time it wasn’t a hit, but later it would go platinum.
Stop Number Three: The Former Trefzger’s Location On Prospect Road
In 1974, Dan Fogelberg released the album, Souvenirs which was produced by Joe Walsh. The first single from that album was called, “Part Of The Plan,” and it became a hit single and helped drive the album to number 17 on the charts and pretty soon everyone knew who Dan Fogelberg was. My brother Jim and I had been fans since I bought his first album.
In 1976 Jim was in college and he came home for Christmas break. My mom went to go to Trefzger’s Bakery to get some Christmas treats from there and he went with her. While he and my mom were waiting, my mom started talking to some woman who was in there with a guy that had long hair and a beard. My brother said he looked familiar but he couldn’t place the guy. After the woman got her baked goods and left with the guy, Jim asked my mom who that woman was. She said it was a friend of our Aunt Myra’s and her name was Margaret Fogelberg. Jim immediately realized that the guy she was with was Dan Fogelberg! He never let my mom forget that since she didn’t introduce him to her friend, he didn’t get to meet Dan Fogelberg. This story has become one that’s told over and over and we still laugh about it because Jim never forgave her for this!
Stop Number Four: Fogelberg Parkway
The city renamed Abington Street in the East Bluff, "Fogelberg Parkway.” They picked this street because he grew up nearby and because of the place across the street from this sign that is stop number five on this tour.
Stop Number Five: The Food Mart On The Corner Of N. Prospect and E. Frye
This is the convenient store where Dan went to get the whipped cream in 1975 and met his former girlfriend and the experience inspired the song, “Same Old Lang Syne.” There’s the beer cooler and the guy behind the counter told me yesterday that people come in all the time because of that song. What’s funny is that online this store is known as the “Dan Fogelberg Convenience Store!”
Stop Number Six: Woodruff
This is where Dan Fogelberg went to high school and he’s one of the “Distinguished Alumni.”
Stop Number Seven: The Dan Fogelberg Memorial Garden And Bench in Riverfront Park
The heart of the memorial garden are these three engraved rocks which have a view of the river.
The first one is the Dan Fogelberg dedication rock with lyrics from the song, “River of Souls.”
In 2011, a group of fans added this bench with Dan’s picture on it and a quote from him on it. It’s really a memorable quote and I love the last line: “The point is following your own creative instincts.” So far Dan Fogelberg hasn’t been inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, but something from that quote tells me he’d appreciate this memorial in Peoria a whole lot more.
Stop Number Eight: MBIP World Headquarters
These are two more personal Dan Fogelberg memories from me. The first one is a picture hanging on the wall from a concert that happened in Spalding Auditorium back in 1966. The starring act playing the concert was Paul Revere and The Raiders and one of the opening acts was the local band, The Coachmen, which featured Dan Fogelberg on vocals and guitar. It was given to me by Diane and Chuck Asher and Chuck’s brother Jon was also a member of The Coachmen and was Dan’s best friend. Chuck and Diane’s daughter, Amber had told me about this and it led me to one of my favorite writing projects which I mentioned in the introduction of this article, The Oral History Of The Coachmen.
After I wrote and published that oral history I started listening to Dan’s music again. I had sold most of my vinyl record collection when I moved to New York including Dan's first album. I was kind of sad I no longer had it and I had been planning to buy it at a used record store or online. This year I went with my friends Amber and Joe to Amber’s parents, Diane and Chuck to have a Christmas dinner with them. One of the gifts Diane and Chuck gave me was Dan’s first album and they showed me where Dan had thanked Jon in the liner notes on the record sleeve. I’ve always been a nut on reading liner notes and I thought I probably read his name in 1972 in the room I shared with my brother Jim while listening to the record. Kind of crazy how things go round and round!
Mucho thanks to Amber, Diane, Chuck, Jon and the surviving members of The Coachmen for bringing back these old and new Fogelberg memories.