My Best Buddy

I have many friends within the Frankie Laine circle. It is no surprise that these friends are located around the United States and even in other countries. I have always yearned for a Laine pal, living in Iowa. Obviously, we could share Laine experiences, listen to Laine recordings, and peruse collections—and all this face-to-face! Alas, this has never happened, yet. But I can dream, can’t I?

When I think about my personal list of friends, outside of the Laine group, I find that my beautiful wife, Marlene, is the only person I can truly refer to as my “friend”—my closest friend and life-long partner.

But I consider myself blessed because I do have a “best friend”!

A best friend is special. Even though a person’s friend pool may be sparse, the label of “best” signifies someone with whom you have a special bond with and someone who is genuinely cherished.

Dan Boddicker is my best friend. I met Dan over 20 years ago—just after I had begun working as a Legislative Information Officer at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. Dan now lives in Laramie, Wyoming, with his lovely wife, Maureen.

At the time we first met, Dan was a representative with the Iowa House of Representatives. I had learned that Representative Boddicker was a musician. I had played drums professionally for 16 years and knew quite a few musicians around Iowa. Thus, I certainly knew that the Boddicker family was, indeed, a musical family.

Dan is a talented piano player, singer, and songwriter. When we initially met, he was a member of a band called Blue Zone. This group featured Dan’s best friend, saxophonist Mitch Smith. Besides being a busy lawmaker at the Capitol and working a full-time job during the legislative interim, Dan still had time to make great music with his fellow band members.

In short order, Dan began to learn about my friendship and association with Frankie Laine. Intrigued, Dan asked me to make him a copy of some of Frankie’s recordings. After Dan had a chance to hear the recordings, he immediately became another Laine admirer!

At this time, Dan had recently recorded his own musical composition, a Christmas song. As a solo artist on this particular recording, Dan’s wonderful talents in composition, voice, and musicianship are presented.

Dan asked me whether I thought Frankie might be interested in listening to this song. I agreed to contact Frankie Laine and ask.

What follows is Dan’s own account of his brief, but very special association with Frankie:

“Epiphany”: My Frankie Laine Encounter

By Dan Boddicker

Almost immediately after starting piano lessons in the second grade, I began to make up songs. I use the term “make up” because I really wasn’t composing complete songs and I certainly wasn’t scoring any music. A prodigy I was not! I worked hard for every piano skill and for the most part did not like or enjoy it.

Oh, I did enjoy music and enjoyed playing music, just not some genres or songs I had to learn. To keep my interest, some melody or lick would get in my head, and I would figure out how to play it, then compose more around it. Fortunately, my teacher was wise enough to encourage me to continue making up tunes … as long as I practiced my assignments and kept learning the basics. While never a good student, I did get better at “making up” complete songs.

By 5th grade, I was entering local talent shows and performing my originals. Sometimes, I even placed in the money! But, by 7th grade, I was into sports and piano lessons didn’t fit my schedule anymore. However, I still made time to sit down whenever a lick or a melody got in my head and hammer out a song.

In the summer before 8th grade, my soon to be best friend, Mitch Smith, and I decided to try to form a band with piano, sax, electric guitar, and drums. Later that year, we “brought the house down” at an 8th grade variety show, playing two of my originals. That was it! I knew my destiny in life was to be an international rock star, and I spent the next six years doing my best to make that happen. Our band, Ratler, played original music for much of our show.

Needless to say, traveling for three years throughout the Midwest performing (screaming my head off!) took its toll. Reality dictated that I needed to get an education and trade and give up the music scene.

I kept tinkering on my old 1908 upright piano I had bought at an auction for $10. Sometimes one-handed, I would play as I bounced my children on my knee. Over the course of a decade, I had written many songs that I felt needed to be recorded.

In 1995, Mitch and I recorded a 10-song cassette entitled Windows. It was a compilation of love songs, broken-heart songs, piano solos, and a Christmas song titled “Epiphany.”

“Epiphany” was a song that told the story of the three Wise Men from the perspective of one of the Magi. Like most of my “best” songs, it was a gift that came quickly from my head to my fingers and to pen and paper.

How I met Craig Cronbaugh is another story. (He wrote about our initial meeting in his book, Reaching for a Star.) I could say we met and became friends, but it would be more accurate to say that we always were friends, we just hadn’t met yet. We both mutually knew many local musicians from over the years, but for some reason, our paths had never crossed. Not long after getting acquainted, he shared his story of meeting and forming a friendship with Frankie Laine.

I knew of Frankie, mostly because of Rawhide and Blazing Saddles, but I really didn’t know the depth of the music this man had shared with the world. After Craig gave me a CD with old recordings by Frankie, I was hooked. “Rocks and Gravel” stuck in my head for days and as an outdoorsy type, “Old Blue” reminded me of every bird dog I’d ever owned that was now hunting in a better place.

Craig and I soon began to play some music together, and I shared many of my original songs with him. I also gave him one of my few remaining copies of Windows. It was soon after that Craig sent my Windows cassette tape to Frankie, and to my utter shock, my phone rang one evening.

A gravelly voice asked for Dan Boddicker, and I responded, “Speaking!”

“This is Frankie Laine, Craig gave me your cassette, and I wanted to talk to you about it.”

It’s been 20 years or so ago that this conversation took place, but I remember it pretty well. The first thing that I recall was that though being very kind, Frankie was also very professional in criticizing my song writing technique. My first reaction was to laugh! I immediately told Mr. Laine that my laugh was not intended to be dismissive or insulting, but it was because his call had caught me so off guard and unprepared. I also remember telling him how much I appreciated him taking the time to listen to my music and especially how much I appreciated his professional opinion of it.

The ice was broken, and we chatted about our friend Craig. Frankie truly appreciated what a good friend Craig was to him. It was apparent that Frankie was a person that had not let fame go to his head.

At the end of our conversation came the words I had wanted to hear for most of my life, “I want to record your song ‘Epiphany,’ but I need a score, and I need it transposed to B-flat. After my next recording project is finished, I want to record a Christmas album with all new stuff, and I want your song on it.”

“I will get that to you as soon as I can, Mr. Laine. This is a true first for me, and I am very excited and honored to be part of this project,” I quickly responded.

The next day, I contacted the music department at the University of Iowa and asked if there were any music majors that might be interested in helping me score my song and transposing it. Within a day, Eric Durian, a young music theory student called to accept my offer, and soon I had the score in the original key and in B-flat, ready to send to Frankie Laine. As I mentioned earlier, I was never good at sight reading music, so I actually had my daughter play the score for me to make sure it sounded like it should!

When I sent the score off to Frankie, I included an extra copy and asked him to autograph it and return it to me, which he graciously did. I still treasure it to this day. We did speak again after I had sent him the score, and he assured me that the song would be on the recording. He would let me know when that would begin to happen.

Unfortunately, soon after his last CD was finished and released, he was no longer able to sing or perform. He wasn’t with us much longer, and the Frankie Laine Christmas album of new material with my song included was never to be.

In my music “career,” spanning from piano lessons to garage band to traveling, long-haired rock and roller, to raunchy blues bands, to my current group of friends called the Boogie Woogers—the fact that Frankie Laine was going to record one of my songs was one of my biggest thrills.

Thank you, Frankie!

—Dan Boddicker

Click on this link for the title page of the score for “Epiphany,” autographed by Frankie Laine:

 Autographed Epiphany Score 06OCT2020

Note: This is an audio link to “Epiphany” only. No promotion or sales are involved. Artist and composer: Dan Boddicker