My most memorable moment in college prior to meeting my future wife, Kay Eberle, would be November 7, 1969, the night I met my favorite rock group, The Who. I had returned to Bowling Green State University as a sophomore that fall as a full-fledged freak. The previous summer I had attended four rock festivals – Newport (RI), Atlantic City (NJ), Powder Ridge (CN), and the iconic Woodstock in Bethel, N.Y. It was in this milieu, that I evolved into a stoned-out rock and roller. The music of rock and roll was an essential part my culture and through the influence of my guitar playing fiend, Bob Polanski, I was for a short stint, part of the Bowling Green townie bar band called Baddog. Bob tried hard to teach me guitar, but I could barely play a few chords decently. I’m not a musician.
Then the band, who were all excellent musicians, tried me out as the lead singer for a few songs. In all honesty, like all McAuliffe’s, I do not have a good voice and yet, I love to sing. Later, when I had children, I would sing a song playing on the radio and my daughter Marisa would quip, “Dad, who sings that song?” “Oh, this is Bob Segar” and she would say… “let’s keep it that way.” However, with Baddog, they liked that I sang with passion and I could passably cover songs like Bob Dylan’s, Like a Rolling Stone and Don’t think Twice, Mick Jagger’s Under My Thumb, Van Morrison’s Gloria and Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction. Through pot and booze, I felt at home on the stage and would jump onto the dance floor and despite missing several notes, I was never booed. I was like Alice Cooper without the voice. I didn’t get fired, but we all knew the band needed someone who could really sing, and I cared for them enough to step down and be a fan, not a player.
Bob had a girlfriend also named Gloria, who was a member of the Phi Mu Sorority and she tried to fix me up with her best friend, Koleen Pressler. I wasn’t interested in Koleen because, other than Gloria, I thought sorority girls were shallow, straight and materialistic. I had firsthand experience with sorority girls, working that fall in the Delta Gamma Sorority House as their “house boy.”
Bob, Gloria and I had planned to go see my favorite band, The Who, in Athens, Ohio, home of Ohio University. Gloria begged me to let the ultra- attractive Koleen go with us as my date, but I resisted, because she was a marijuana virgin and we planned on smoking weed all the way to Athens. I relented when Gloria assured me that Koleen was willing to lose her marijuana virginity and would party with us. Koleen kept her word and off we went to Athens in what would turn out to be, as the Who sings on the rock opera Tommy, an Amazing Journey.
When driving through Lancaster, Ohio, we stopped at a traffic light, and I looked at the large van next to us, and there was the Who. You’ve got to be kidding me – was I hallucinating? We were not the least bit cool, as we honked, waved and flashed the ubiquitous peace symbol and they did as well. It was an omen of more to come. We arrived at Ohio University’s Convocation Center, but had the worst nosebleed seats in the house, but no cared, except me. I asked the three of them to go up front with me because “this is my favorite band, and I have to be close to the stage,” but they refused because they were too stoned. I told them to meet me at the front of the stage after the show.
I made it to the front row and they was a five foot gap between the front row and the stage, so I plunked myself down on the floor directly in front of lead singer Roger Daltrey. They started the show with several of their early hits including Pinball Wizard, Summertime Blues and Shaking All Over, before launching into all the songs of my favorite album, Tommy. I was in rock and roll heaven. During the show, Daltrey accidentally dropped his tambourine and it landed in my lap. The guy behind me said “you should keep it” but Daltrey was signaling for me to toss it back, which I did… the show must go on. When the over two hour transcendent performance ended, Bob, Gloria and Koleen made their way to the front
while the arena emptied out. We sat there for 15 minutes, still relishing the show, when a woman emerged from the stage and surprisingly said, “would you like to meet the band?”
She led us into the locker room and there they were, Daltrey, Townsend, Entwistle and Moon, chugging a bottle of Southern Comfort, which they graciously shared with us. After a few swigs and lauding their performance, I told them that I was the guy who caught the tambourine and that I was so thrilled to see them since I had missed them at Woodstock. “You were there,” said Townsend. “Yes”, but I had left shortly before your early Sunday morning set, and I also regret not seeing you oust Abbie Hoffman from the stage.” Townsend said, “I don’t give a shit who it is… nobody should mess with me when I’m playing, especially when I’m in the
zone.”I didn’t realize it at the time, but Townsend and Daltrey were engaging me so that the world’s greatest bass player, John Entwistle, could make a move on Koleen. After a few minutes, she came up to me and said, “John Entwistle just invited me to party with the band.” I wasn’t really surprised, so I said, “wow, that is so cool, what did you tell him?” Her eyes widened as she blurted out emphatically, “I said no… I told him I wanted to be with you.”
I was both stunned and humbled. Perhaps Koleen was still somewhat stoned and I’m sure that later in her life, she regretted her response by choosing me, but nevertheless on that evening she chose me over the rock god and did so by uttering the most romantic words that anyone had ever said to me… “I told him I wanted to be with you.”
We said our goodbyes to the band, left the crestfallen John Entwistle and decided to drive back home to Bowling Green. Koleen and I got together a few times the following week, but we soon drifted back into our own worlds. She was still too much of a sorority girl and I was too much of
a freak. Bob, Gloria and I stayed close friends and he let me sing one more time with Baddog. At the Gigolo, in downtown Bowling Green, I was on key, and crooned, “You can’t always get what you want… but if you try sometimes, you just might find you just might find… you get what you need.” I wanted to be a part of the band, but the truth is, you can’t always get what you want, and by not getting that, I did eventually get to become what I really was born and needed to be… a pastor and a teacher.