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Why Doesn't New Rochelle Honor Don McLean?

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Why Doesn't New Rochelle Honor Don McLean?

February 27, 2011 - 18:29
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Don McLean, a former New Rochelle resident, wrote American Pie, one of the most memorable songs of all-time. Not only did he grow up in New Rochelle but American Pie is set within the context of own life experiences growing up, working and going to school in New Rochelle. American Pie's lyrics are arguably the most discussed, debated and decoded lyrics of any pop song ever written.

The opening lines of the song are about working as a newspaper boy for New Rochelle's Standard-Star. The Standard-Star building still stands today. The gym where he watched a girl kick off her shoes was at a high school dance in New Rochelle. The levee that was dry where he famously drove his Chevy, was, and still is, a bar in New Rochelle across from Iona College where Iona Prep was located at the time although the building has since been torn down.

How much imagination would it take to devise an "American Pie" experience for visitors to New Rochelle? Why is there not even a plaque to honor McLean for not just the song American Pie but a forty-year catalog of exceptional songwriting and singing?

Much of the same argument could be made about Norman Rockwell who lived in New Rochelle and included New Rochelle places and people in his illustration but even Rockwell was not raised in New Rochelle.

New Rochelle has done its best to lay claim to the legacy of Thomas Paine but Paine really had little to do with New Rochelle. He came to America from England to Philadelphia in 1774 at the age of 37. He travelled with Washington's Army and worked for the American government in Philadelphia, France and the Netherlands, eventually ending up back in England, returning to America in 1803 then dying in 1809. During the last 6 years of his life, Paine was given the property in New Rochelle but he maintained a residence in New Jersey eventually dying and being buried in New York City.

Unlike Rockwell or Paine or many others the City seeks to associate with New Rochelle, McLean is from here and wrote one of the greatest songs of all time based on growing up here. I am sure some readers have photographs and memories from that time to share. If you have pictures or can help add some insight into the song lyrics please share them here.

What do you think? Should the City of New Rochelle do more to honor Don McLean?

There are 48 Comments

Don McLean is one of many New Rochelleans who should be honored.

I know that in the late 1960's, prior to his recording 'American Pie', McLean was a student at Iona College, who regularly performed locally. I have never seen him perform, and compare my missed chances to see McLean, as an unknown, performing locally, to my missed opportunities to see the Billy Joel performing in Oyster Bay, in the early 1970's, back when I was in college and living in the village of Oyster Bay.

I am curious where you got your facts on McLean, and would like more specifics. As far as I know, Don McLean didn't attend public school in New Rochelle, and I am uncertain if he attended any school in New Rochelle other than Iona College. Do you have more information, and if McLean did attend New Rochelle schools, which Elementary, Junior and Senior High Schools did he attend, and when?

Back when I graduated NRHS in 1969, alcohol was legal at 18, and I was aware of 'Bar Row' on North Avenue near Iona, but I have never heard of a Bar anywhere in New Rochelle, called the Levee. Most of the buildings existing on 'Bar Row' in the 1960's still exist, so I wonder if anyone can provide the address of where the Levee used to be. Without a specific address, I question the accuracy of a bar named Levee, existing in New Rochelle.

As to other information stated at TOTS, what is the accuracy of the girl kicking off her shoes, being about a specific person, at a specific bar, in New Rochelle? It could only be accurate if Don McLean has stated this as the source, and only if he's telling the truth. Certainly, many song writers make up stories as to the history and meaning of their lyrics.

I agree that American Pie's lyrics are arguably one of the most discussed, debated, and decoded lyrics of any rock song ever written, although I won't demean the song by calling it 'pop'. I also think there are other rock songs equally discussed, with equally disputed lyrics, and of course the Kingsmen’s version of 'Louie, Louie' comes to mind. There are a vast quantity of Dylan, Beatles, Rolling Stones and Kinks songs, whose lyrics are arguably among the most discussed, debated, and decoded lyrics of any rock song ever written. Bob Dylan’s lyrics, no doubt are at the very top of the list in importance, discussion, debate and in decoding, but of course Robert Zimmerman is not even from NY State, let alone New Rochelle.

Iona Prep moved to its current location in the mid-1960's, but I am pretty sure its old location was on the grounds of the current Iona College campus, on the east side of North Avenue, but not across the street from Iona, which used to be Mayflower Elementary, a public school whose building is now a dorm. I think you have indicated this, but the unclear phrasing of your sentence also seems to indicate Iona Prep was located across the street from the college. Are you asserting that McLean attended Iona Prep? If so, did he also attend Iona Grammar School?

I also wonder how you know that the newspaper McLean delivered was the Standard-Star, and was delivered in New Rochelle, as opposed to McLean delivering one of the many NYC newspapers that still existed back then, or as opposed to McLean delivering Newspapers in another city or town? Or that McLean ever delivered newspapers anywhere?

Is there a definitive source for all this information, hopefully from McLean himself, or is all rumor? After all, much of the meaning of the lyrics of American Pie, is still in dispute, even as to what day it was "when the music died". Many people believe it was a reference to Buddy Holly (who died along with 'The Big Bopper' and Richie Valens). Of course, Buddy Holly died in the early days of Rock 'n' Roll, and before the beginning of Rock, and it was only Buddy Holly, 'The Big Bopper' and Richie Valens, that died on February 3, 1959, but not their music which lives on still. Buddy Holly is more important for influencing the later music of others, in particular the early Beatles, than for being a major star at the time of his death, and so I find it hard to equate his death with "the day the music died". I do recall reading of Holly’s death in the Daily News, but to me, being just short of eight at the time, the important loss to me was ‘The Big Bopper (‘Chantilly Lace’). When Buddy Holly died, the oldest Babyboomer would have been 13, the age of Don McLean at the time.

On the other hand, it's hard to figure what else Don McLean meant by his reference "to the day the music died." On some level, the relatively primitive Rock 'n' Roll music died the day the Beatles' records first reached the USA, heralding the beginning of the more sophisticated Rock music that replaced Rock 'n' Roll around late 1963. The Beatles popularity began concurrently with the assassination of JFK, so it could be argued that the music died on 1963-11-22 with the death of John Kennedy. Most Babyboomers only first became aware of Buddy Holly via the early Beatles’ covers and emulations of Buddy Holly songs, and this is also true of Chuck Berry (who was also covered and emulated by the early Beach Boys and Rolling Stones).

I am surprised to hear that Don McLean has been writing music for the last 40 years, because I am a follower of music, who often attends concerts, and I have heard of nothing new from McLean in decades. I will have to track his music better, I guess, but most people think of him as a one-trick pony, although American Pie is something for him to be quite proud of. The only other major song I am aware of, that he had written, is ‘Vincent’ aka ‘Starry, Starry, Night’.

Whatever the meanings of American Pie, and aside from any of its lyrics referring to New Rochelle, I agree that New Rochelle should be honoring its great citizens such as Don McLean and Norman Rockwell. Of course New Rochelle should also be honoring a number of others who lived or were educated in New Rochelle, such as the great 19th century painter Frederic Remington, and Mad Magazine artist Dave Berg (“Lighter Side Of…”, and Paul Terry (Terrytoons cartoons), and journalist Andrea Mitchell, and the novelist EL Doctorow, and so many other important people, even the tainted-but-great Broadway and film director Elia Kazan.

For most people, these are all much more important and far better known than the Thanhouser Company movie studio that New Rochelle always seem to push. Of course, Thanhouser was known in its day, but there is probably no one alive who saw Thanhouser movies at the time of their release, and the creaky silent movies are rarely seen today, making Thanhouser quite obscure.

Robert Cox's picture

Name me a specific song where the lyrics are as debated and discussed as American Pie and I will respond.

I did not say no one else should be honored, I was making the point that Don McLean has as good a claim as some of those who are often cited like Rockwell and Paine.

I went to Iona Prep. As yearbook editor I had access to his yearbook from when he graduated in 1963. His entry says he was going to Villanova.

I don't know if it is true, but I was always told that the levee was the beechmont tavern.

I did name a song whose lyrics are as debated as American Pie, and that's the Kingsmen's version of 'Louie, Louie', pronounced Louie, Lou-eye. The wording of the Kingsmen's version of this song has a mystique to it, and should not be confused with the many other versions of this song.

No doubt, the Kingsmen's 'Louie, Louie', is the most well known version. It's a song that still gets at least as much radio play as 'American Pie', probably more, and has done so for much longer.

It is a very difficult song from which to make out the words. The words have been ever debated since the release of the Kingsmen's 'Louie, Louie' in 1963, but are generally perceived to be somewhat obscene, despite the song never being censored although it continues to have frequent play on the on the radio.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Vae_AkLb4Q

As to what the Kingsmen's words actually are, it's been a continuing worldwide matter of debate for 48 years, and no one knows for sure.

The Kingsmen's 'Louie, Louie' is probably a more popular song than 'American Pie', because it really rocks, and in a very primative way, kind of like 'Wild Thing' by Mamaroneck's Chip Taylor (brother of actor Jon Voight), an even more popular song whose lyrics are obvious and undebated.

Most people tired of American Pie long ago, because it was over-played and over-hyped, and is rather pretentious, and not really great rock, nor great folk, although it is fun. Although it got less play I think Don McLean's 'Vincent' (about Van Gogh) is a far better song than 'American Pie'.

I do think New Rochelle has much to be proud of, in Don McLean, and that along with other notables, he should be better recognized and honored in New Rochelle.

I did not state that you said "... no one else should be honored..." besides McLean, and I have no idea why you accuse me of stating that you said that.

I was under the impression that Don McLean attended Iona college in the mid-late 1960's, for at least some time, and was performing in New Rochelle at that same time.

Did McLean attend Iona Grammar? From where he lived in Larchmont Woods, if he went to public school, it probably would have been Barnard Elementary. If he attended Junior High, it would have been Albert Leonard in the current City Hall building.

Thank you for the interesting digressions.I always thought McLean lived on Calton Rd,but that was second-hand information.Don McLean's website has a sad recounting of the death of McLean's father in 1960.I'm not sure Barbara Davis can find any more information than you have provided,but it will be worth inquiring.-Joseph McNelis

I don't know if it is true, but I was always told that the levee was the beechmont tavern..

With everything I read here, it sounds like Don's "roots", if you will, were not fond to him.
i don't know about honoring him, but it is a part of music history NR can be proud of.

McNulty, I am glad you brought this up.

I've been a big fan of the Beatles, since November 1963 when I saw a short film of them at the Cavern, in Liverpool, on the Jack Parr Show. This was a few months before the Ed Sullivan, the shows of which I taped with my reel-to-reel.

But, bringing us more into the future, say 1967, the Beatles released their album, Magical Mystery Tour, and tried to release the movie of the same name. I think in the USA, the film was unreleased in the theaters, and only appeared on TV several years later, but pictures from the film are attached within the record album.

In those pictures, and within the movie, one sees the Beatles' psychedelic fantasy, with the Beatles in very odd costumes. It is clear that in the movie Magical Mystery Tour, that the Walrus is John. And after all, at that time John had a walrus-looking mustache.

But there is a controversy.

For in more modern times, in 1968, the Beatles released an album called ‘The Beatles’, their first on their new label Apple. Everyone has always called that double album the ‘White Album’. I have always presumed that was because the album was white.

On the White Album, there is the much debated song 'Glass Onion', which by its sound and lyric would seem to be a John Lennon song, with the lyric "and here's another clue for you all, the Walrus was Paul". Of course that song is loaded with clues of all sorts, out-of-sorts and imaginings, and in particular, to the rumored death of Paul McCartney, supposedly in 1966, from a car accident where he had blown his mind out in a car, an earlier clue from Sgt Peppers' ‘Day in the Life’.

A Glass Onion is a fortune teller's crystal ball, but the song is certainly one of the most debated of Beatles songs, because Lennon's lyrics were so odd, which come to think of it, was true of Lennon himself, probably due to something he had ingested.

So tell me, who was really the Walrus?

Also, if Yoko sang in the woods, and no one was there, would it be music?

Excerpt from the same article link.

f.a.martorana 68 Iona:
Do you ever socialize at all with your Iona friends or is that not possible? Anyway if you could take the time to answer that question i would appreciate it. I remember you in 68 as wearing somewhat of a cashmere coat with your guitar strapped around you neck who knew 4 years later all the world would be singing your classic hit American Pie.

Don:
No, I don’t really have any friends from Iona. I basically lost touch with high school and college immediately after I graduated. In fact I saw a very interesting biography on Weird Al Yankovic, who is a terrific guy and friend of ours. He got a degree in Architecture and he said that I knew when I got my degree, standing in cap and gown, I was getting a degree I would never use and it was the only time I’ve said heard someone say exactly what I thought the day I got my degree in Business Administration. I knew the first thing I was going to do was to get as far away from New Rochelle as possible and start pursuing my singing career. I never like the word “dream” – I never pursued a “dream”; I pursued a reality - I had goals. I really don’t like the term the “American Dream” – the problem with my country is that people really do dream too much and now they’re getting a very rude awakening. I therefore prefer to set goals for myself and try to achieve those goals so I couldn’t wait to get at those goals and try to achieve them the day after I got out of college.

Here is a link from which the following quote was taken from.It pertains to "the day the music died"

http://www.don-mclean.com/interview.asp

Lise Mitchell:
The day the music died happened on my first birthday. JP Richardson was best man in my sister-in-laws' second wedding, and one of Buddy Holly's cousins works for my aunt and uncle in Gainesville, Texas - they have a commercial florist growing business. I've memorized the entire song......and have always felt a particular closeness to it.

My question - how you ever been to that place -
where the plane went down? What did you feel there? How does Buddy influence today - in contrast with the way he influence you so long ago.

Don:
In the eighties there were some pictures that surfaced of the plane wreckage and I was appalled. No I have no interest in going to where the plane went down or any of that stuff and I think it’s tacky and I think people shouldn’t do things like that. I’m sure it’s not a place Buddy Holly wanted to be so I don’t think there’s any reason to go there.

Don McLean referring to his N.R. school attendence.

Don:
This is a very interesting. Well I would say that we don’t understand Muslims as well as we should. I would also say that we don’t understand other countries as well as we should. We definitely, and I’m speaking as an American, do not respect the strength and the traditions of people in foreign countries. We have learned the lesson repeatedly in America that we think we can go over to a country like Vietnam or to Iraq and step on these people and think they’re just going to roll over because they’re poor and we’re rich and they’re weak and we’re strong. In fact we find out that they are strong and we are weak. We need to learn this lesson and it’s a very important lesson to learn.

A guy like George Bush never learnt this lesson because a guy like George Bush never went to public school. In my public school in New Rochelle, if a guy like George Bush was around he would have been beaten up once a day every day until he didn’t have the attitude that he has. But he never had that happen so he avoided that part of his education which we as public school kids had to learn and that is to respect the other guy; respect the little guy; respect the quiet guy; and don’t think that you’re a tough guy just because you’re a rich guy. Anybody can be rich but it takes a lot of character to really be tough.

I would say that this individual should do what his heart tells him to do. I would love to meet him and to have him come to one of my shows and I’m sure when the show is over he would not hold me in too much esteem but he would say he had enjoy it.

I enjoyed your post but am a bit confused. Are you somehow quoting McLean or is this one of those 'this is what he would say' things, similar to what pundits write occasionally?

Did Don McLean actually attend New Rochelle public schools, and if so, which ones?

I agree with the assertion that GW Bush would have ended up as a more decent, understanding person if Bush had attended NR public schools. GW Bush's parents are from nearby Port Chester and Greenwich, so it could have happened, if they had not moved to of the most ignorant states in the USA, Texas. It is obvious to most thinking people, that GW Bush must have majored in ignorance.

My own experiences at Trinity (1956-58) and Davis (1958-63) schools, as well as at ALJHS (1963-66) and NRHS (1966-69), is that there wasn't much fighting going on among the students, and things were pretty much oriented towards non-violence, probably partially due to the influence of Martin Luther King jr (whose peaceful influence seems to be continuing in the recent and on-going Arab revolutions in the Middle East).

What the New Rochelle school system excelled at (and hopefully still does), far beyond the lesser quality education offered at most non-New Rochelle schools, that would have made GW Bush a better, perhaps even decent, person, is the focus on things like civics, current events, history and the arts.

and to quote further from don-mclean.com

About Don McLean

Don McLean was born on October 2nd 1945 in New Rochelle, NY to Elizabeth and Donald McLean. By the age of five he had developed an interest in all forms of music and would spend hours listening to the radio and his father’s records. Childhood asthma meant that Don missed long periods of school and while he slipped back in his studies, his love of music was allowed to flourish. He would often perform shows for family and friends.

As a teenager, he purchased his first guitar (a Harmony F Hole with a sunburst finish) from the House of Music in New Rochelle and took opera lessons paid for by his sister. These lessons combined with many hours in the swimming pool, helped Don to develop breath control, which would later allow him to sing long, continuous phrases, in songs such as “Crying”, without taking a breath. The exercise also meant his asthma improved.

In 1961, Don took his only vacation with his father – a trip to Washington D.C. Sadly, a few months later his father died. Don was just 15 years old.

By this time, Don's musical focus was on folk thanks, in part, to The Weavers landmark 1955 recording "Live at Carnegie Hall". Don was determined to become a professional musician and singer and, as a 16 year old, he was already making contacts in the business. After managing to get his home number from the telephone directory, Don phoned Erik Darling. They become friends and Don visited his apartment in New York.

Through Erik Darling, Don recorded his first studio sessions with Lisa Kindred and was invited to join a group with Darling and the other members of the Rooftop Singers. However, even at that time, Don saw himself as a troubadour and turned down the offer.

While at Villanova University in 1963 (he stayed for just four months), Don met and became friends with Jim Croce and President Kennedy was assassinated.

After leaving Villanova, Don worked his 'apprenticeship' for “Harold Leventhal Management”. This started a six year period during which time Don performed at venues like the Bitter End and Gaslight Café in New York, the Newport Folk Festival, the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., the Main Point in Philadelphia, the Troubadour and Ash Grove in Los Angeles and over forty colleges throughout New York and New England. He appeared alongside artists like Herbie Mann, Brownie McGee and Sonny Terry, Melanie, Steppenwolf, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Janis Ian, Josh White, Ten Wheel Drive and others.

Don also found time to attend night school at Iona College and, in 1968, graduated with a Bachelors degree in Business Administration but turned down a prestigious scholarship to Columbia University Graduate School in favour of becoming resident singer at Caffe Lena in NY.

While resident at Caffe Lena, the New York State Council for the Arts invited Don to become their Hudson River Troubadour. He accepted and spent the summer travelling from town to town in the Hudson Valley, giving talks about the environment and singing songs for whoever would turn up to listen.

A year later, Don was a member of the first crew of the Sloop Clearwater. With Pete Seeger, they travelled the Atlantic seaboard giving concerts at each port and featuring in the news wherever they went.

In 1969, Don recorded his first album, “Tapestry”, in Berkeley, CA. The student riots were going on outside the studio door as Don was singing “And I Love You So” inside. The album was first released by Mediarts and attracted good reviews and achieved some commercial success.

The transition to international stardom began in 1971 with the release of "American Pie”. "American Pie” was recorded on 26th May 1971 and a month later received its first radio airplay on New York's WNEW-FM and WPLJ-FM to mark the closing of The Fillmore East, the famous New York concert hall.

Thirty years later, “American Pie” was voted number 5 in a poll of the 365 “Songs of the Century” compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.

To NR Resident -

Thank you for that wonderful Don McLean link.

The Don McLean interview was quite lengthy, but well worth reading.

I got a lot of information from it, and a better understanding of Don McLean. He is amazingly modest and humble, considering his fame.

The interview makes it clear that Don McLean graduated Iona College in 1968, which is the college graduation year one would expect from someone his age. It also confirms my memory that Don McLean was attending Iona College during the same time period I was attending New Rochelle High. I had a friend, Gerry Kolpan, who was friendly with him at that time.

The interview doesn't at all refer to Iona Prep, although it strongly implies that he attended New Rochelle Public Schools. So my impression is that perhaps he did not attend Iona Prep, and that based on his living in Larchmont Woods, that possibly McLean attended Barnard Elementary and perhaps Albert Leonard JHS and New Rochelle HS.

It would be great if he performed in New Rochelle sometime in the future.

Unfortunately, the people who run New Rochelle, are fearful of such concerts. Really New Rochelle should have major concerts on a regular basis, but the government is so so constricted that it is hard for a band with more than three instruments to play here, except local bands, hgnerally jazz, at the Library Green or Hudson Park.

Personally, I think the Armory should be converted to a concert hall. I think Davids Island should become a park that during the summer has daily, weekly or monthly concerts or music festivals, like Jones Beach or Croton Point. New Rochelle is a city with a highly cultured population, but its government tends to be neanderthal in its appreciation of good music, other than the jazz it permits during the summer.

Then again, the NR government often seems to be run by people who are not originally from New Rochelle, have no appreciation and even an embarassment of what makes New Rochelle great, and who seem to want to turn New Rochelle into something ugly-looking like Co-op City. Excuse me while I puke.

Robert Cox's picture

Brian,

Don McLean graduated from Iona Prep in 1963.

If you doubt me, pick up the telephone and call the Prep and ask them.

To R Cox -

Thank you. I realize now, you had stated you seen him listed in the 1963 Iona Prep yearbook.

I hope someone provides information as to whether and which public schools Mclean atteneded in New Rochelle. I guess the Board of Ed would have a record of that.

In a printed interview with Don McLean that I read a few years ago he stated that he bought, I believe his first guitar, in Caruso's Music Store (also known as The House of Music) on Main St. in N.R.

Where was Caruso's music store actually located on Main Street?

If you were driving up Main St. from Pintard it would have been a door or two past the old Lowes Theater on your left.

Thanks. Does anyone know of any actual documentation, photos or personal stories of the Levee existing on North Ave. in New Rochelle?

I thought Caruso's House of Music was located on North Ave and Frank's on Main St. Was it actually the opposite?

Both of these stores were on Main Street, right now I don't recall a Caruso's Music just Carusio'd Deli on Centre, Main and Union Avenue. As an old cab driver.

Yes, it was located right next to Lowes Movie Theater.

As a teenager in the early 80's, I spent a lot of time in the House of Music, which had relocated to a store front on Main St near Lawton St by then, and the owner of the store was a man named Lewis Fink (sp??). He used to tell us a story that Don McLean used to work at the House of Music when he was a teenager, and that the line about the "sacred store where I heard the music years before, but the man there said the music wouldn't play" referred to the store, and more specifically that he (Fink) was the person that broke the news to Don McLean about Buddy Holly when he came into the store the day following the crash.

I don't know how true it is, but if it's true, there is one more New Rochelle reference for you. He did claim to have a hand written copy of the lyrics, referring to the whole thing, but I don't recall ever seeing it.

Allow me:

A long, long crime ago
I can still remember
How Main Street used to make us smile
And I knew if we had room for more
They'd give us another shiney dollar store
And, maybe, we'd be quiet for a while

But February made me shiver 
With all the bs they delivered
Bathrooms locked down on me
I couldn't take one more pee

I can't remember if they tried
When I read about Cox's threatened life
But happy endings never fly
The day that Bramson lied

So why-why is New Rochelle a pigsty?
Drove my Honda just to ponder how the MOU died
And good ole Noam was drinking Kool aid and high
Singing this will be the day that I whine
This will be the day that I cry...

Everybody!

I agree Don McLean should be honored in New Rochelle. Jim Killoran wasts to establish a museum for Norman Rockwell, why can't McClean be included?

i dont know if it is true, but ive been told that the levee was the beechmont tavern.

i dont know if its true, but i was always told that the levee was the beechmont tavern on north ave.

I thought the Beechmont had its name throughout the 1960's when McLean would have been old enough to drink. Is there a reason why the Beechmont would have been referred to as the Levee?

Could it be he was referring to something near the LI Sound, such as 'The Barge' on Town Dock road, or perhaps with a name that might indicate a body of water, such as 'Ship Ahoy'?

'The Barge' might well have been near a levee, as it is on Titus Mill Pond, and it used to have at least two tidal dams on it, and there has long been erosion on its north shore.

There was a bar with character all its own. A pool table on a floor with a distinct slant. I am unsure whether it still exists, but The Barge was there when my dad was a young man (or earlier) and he was born in 1920. The barge was still there in the 1990's but I am unsure of its current status.

I guess I have to drive down to Town Dock Road to see what's there these days.

I tried looking up 'The Barge' and found a great link about New Rochelle, which I am posting here:

http://www.topix.com/member/profile/paulmiethner

I don't know Paul Meithner but he sure seems to recall New Rochelle.

I don't remember the Levee but have also been told that it was the Beechmont Tavern.

Yesterday I posted here, that the Beechmont Tavern was called the Beechmont Tavern throughtout the 1960's and into the 1970's.

I also suggested the possibility that the Levee was a reference to the bar, 'The Barge', on Town Dock Rd.

Now I have found a link which I am posting, which indicated that the 'The Barge' was also known at the Levee. Unfortunately, that same link misplaces the Barge as being near Hudson Park, when actually it was (is?) near the Pelham Rd A&P.

As the linke is all about American Pie, it is worth posting here:

http://missamericanpie.wordpress.com/main/verse-1/

Westchester County Legislator Jim Maisano's picture

About Don McLean

Don McLean was born on October 2nd 1945 in New Rochelle, NY to Elizabeth and Donald McLean. By the age of five he had developed an interest in all forms of music and would spend hours listening to the radio and his father’s records. Childhood asthma meant that Don missed long periods of school and while he slipped back in his studies, his love of music was allowed to flourish. He would often perform shows for family and friends.

As a teenager, he purchased his first guitar (a Harmony F Hole with a sunburst finish) from the House of Music in New Rochelle and took opera lessons paid for by his sister. These lessons combined with many hours in the swimming pool, helped Don to develop breath control, which would later allow him to sing long, continuous phrases, in songs such as “Crying”, without taking a breath. The exercise also meant his asthma improved.

In 1961, Don took his only vacation with his father – a trip to Washington D.C. Sadly, a few months later his father died. Don was just 15 years old.

By this time, Don's musical focus was on folk thanks, in part, to The Weavers landmark 1955 recording "Live at Carnegie Hall". Don was determined to become a professional musician and singer and, as a 16 year old, he was already making contacts in the business. After managing to get his home number from the telephone directory, Don phoned Erik Darling. They become friends and Don visited his apartment in New York.

Through Erik Darling, Don recorded his first studio sessions with Lisa Kindred and was invited to join a group with Darling and the other members of the Rooftop Singers. However, even at that time, Don saw himself as a troubadour and turned down the offer.

While at Villanova University in 1963 (he stayed for just four months), Don met and became friends with Jim Croce and President Kennedy was assassinated.

After leaving Villanova, Don worked his 'apprenticeship' for “Harold Leventhal Management”. This started a six year period during which time Don performed at venues like the Bitter End and Gaslight Café in New York, the Newport Folk Festival, the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., the Main Point in Philadelphia, the Troubadour and Ash Grove in Los Angeles and over forty colleges throughout New York and New England. He appeared alongside artists like Herbie Mann, Brownie McGee and Sonny Terry, Melanie, Steppenwolf, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Janis Ian, Josh White, Ten Wheel Drive and others.

Don also found time to attend night school at Iona College and, in 1968, graduated with a Bachelors degree in Business Administration but turned down a prestigious scholarship to Columbia University Graduate School in favour of becoming resident singer at Caffe Lena in NY.

Westchester County Legislator Jim Maisano's picture

Over the years, many people have told me that the Beechmont was the "levee" and I always tell them they are wrong. For decades, the Beechmont was an "Iona Prep" bar before the drinking age changed to 21. It was called the Beechmont when Don McLean was a boy and before he ever stepped into a bar. (In the 1980s, the name was changed to Tin Lizzies for a few years).

Also, Bob Cox is correct, Don McLean is a graduate of Iona Prep (Class of 1963). He is in the alumni directory on my shelf. By the way, Bob Cox and I graduated from Iona Prep in 1981, and most Iona students learn quickly that Don McLean was an Iona Prep and Iona College grad. Don attended night classes and graduated from Iona College in 1968 with a degree in Business Administration.

So where was the Levee? Anybody have this info?

yeah, if thats not the levee, then where was it?

or is it ficional place?

Westchester County Legislator Jim Maisano's picture

I conducted some research today and spoke with several prominent and long-time New Rochelle residents that are familiar with the bar scene. They all said they never heard of a bar in New Rochelle called the "Levee."

However, they did have one possibility for "Drove my chevy to the levee but the levee was dry." There was a bar on the water near the A&P on Pelham Road called the Barge. The Barge was built on a levee and that bar was certainly open in Don McLean's days. This was quite a bar: fisherman, bikers, preppy kids - it was a bizarre collection of people. I hear the cheeseburgers on toast instead of a bun and the chedder cheese they put out were yummy. I visited the Barge a few times myself and have good memories!

After hearing that Buddy Holly and Richie Valance died, one other cant remember who died, Don McLean wanted to commit suicide, he was going to drive his car to the end of water st to drown but when he got there it was low tied, he sat in his car for hours waiting for the tied to come in listing to the radio he then feel asleep when he woke up he went home, he took his experience and wrote about it.

There was no bar called levee, but there is a levee at the end of water st

Dude, I'm pretty sure that's not how it went down. You've yet to write something credible or even remotely coherent on this blog. I'd really like to know what "shop" you own in the downtown area. If it's managed anything like your entries on this site I can assume it's not helping New Rochelle in any way. Seriously, reveal yourself. Is this Charlie Sheen?

Dear MR Butler, this is way Mr cox wrote ". American Pie's lyrics are arguably the most discussed, debated and decoded lyrics of any pop song ever written."

Debated is the key word! so do you know?

Please make sense when attempting a debate with the rest of the blog members unless it's just not worth it for us. So who are you, really? Jared Rice? Yea, I bet you're Jared Rice.

I admit i messed up the time frame as it couldn't be right after

I'm going to leave you all alone as i don't fit in to you click any way, i will view the site from time to time but wont comment any more. Wow this is probably the only thing i wrote that made sense

Oh come on now. You've gotta have thicker skin than that. Plus, we all know Bob loves to pass the time with you. Stick around the party. We wouldn't tease if we didn't like you ;-p

He was only 13 and delivering papers when Holly died. There is no way that he personally drove to any levee or bar. Those are just his poetic words trying to describe what was happening somewhere down south to others who were grieving over Holly's death. He was not writing about New Rochelle at all.. just about the loss of Holly's music and about the evolution of music in the 60's.

Don McLean and Dar Williams will perform at Town Hall (NYC) 2011-03-25 8 pm. That's next week at a great venue:

Friday, March 25, 2011 - 8:00 pm

Town Hall
123 W. 43rd Street (between 6th and 7th Aves)
New York, NY 10036

212- 997-1003

http://www.the-townhall-nyc.org

Price: $50.00 and $45.00
(however its possibly cheaper from the right source)

Personally I am going because I am a big fan of Dar, and excellent singer-songwriter, originally from Westchester's Bedford. I've seen her perform many times, mostly solo but sometimes with a band. She was also one third of 'Cry, Cry, Cry'.

I'm sure I will enjoy Don McLean. I've seen many performers in many concerts, but never New Rochelle's Don McLean.

So these two performers represent a showing of Westchester's musical talent (they should have added the great Dave Bromberg to the ahow).

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