Where oh where does the sun go…

It’s been 50 years since the Summer of Love, when Woodstock made headlines and peace on Earth seemed achievable. In 1969 Claude Jones was riding high in the Washington, D.C. area, playing regularly, getting momentum toward recording. The Amoeba was expanding with every passing month.

But now, in 2019, a time of contraction is upon us. In April, over Easter weekend, we lost two of our brightest and most beloved band members, Franny Day and John Guernsey.

Where oh where does the sun go
When it’s gone, when it’s gone?

John Guernsey

John Austin Guernsey was born into a musical family. His father, George, had an enormous jazz record collection, and it was a rare night that nothing was on the phonograph. George would take John, Tom and me to the Showboat Lounge to hear and meet such friends as Teddy Wilson and Charlie Byrd.

There was a piano in the Guernsey living room, and John took to it at a young age, while his brother Tom gravitated to guitar. It wasn’t long before they were making music together. John was unusually single minded when it came to mastering his instrument, spending hour after hour practicing. He mastered the difficult idiom of stride piano at an early age.

John also wrote beautiful songs with haunting lyrics. In the late 60s, a band called Claude Jones was among the first to play clubs with a repertoire heavy on original material, and John was a natural fit. Eventually John joined the band as a performer as well as a writer, and subsequently the band recorded several of John’s songs. Later, The Mystery Band recorded “Twelve Songs By John Guernsey.”

John’s legacy extends far beyond his musical contributions. He was a highly respected artist, wrote a novel, wrote and produced a musical, and performed nightly at the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt for many years. He was a sought after piano teacher, and many of his former students remained dedicated friends throughout his life.

John Guernsey died on April 22 after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease.

Francis Day

Francis Day was a beautiful singer. A soprano in the Boys Choir, he was a soloist in a performance of Handel’s Messiah backed by the National Symphony Orchestra and The Washington Choral Arts ensemble in the National Cathedral, at age 12.

In 1969 he joined the legendary Claude Jones Band as singer and guitarist. With that band Fran performed on the Mall for 35,000 protestors gathered for the 1971 May Day anti-Viet Nam war demonstration; in the Sylvan Theater for Earth Day; for parties at Kay Graham’s home, the Saudi ambassador’s residence, and the British Embassy; the P Street Beach, The Cellar Door and Emergency in Georgetown, The Showboat in Adams Morgan, and the Rt 1 VFW hall. A photo of the family band, taken by Steve Szabo of the Post, won the White House Press Photographers Award and was displayed in the Nixon White House. Fran later became the front man for the Mystery Band, a reincarnation of the Claude Jones Band, and lead a band of his own called The Manports.

On guitar and piano Fran’s touch was exquisite, but his real strength was his singing. His voice was soulful and haunted, had qualities of Rick Danko and Richard Manuel of the Band and also Smokey Robinson, but was immediately identifiable as his own. Though he loved and admired Bob Dylan the most, Fran’s expression was direct and clear. His performance of I Shall Be Released, for instance, had an emotional power Dylan seldom offered.

Fran Day was a graceful man. He was a varsity swimmer and all-around athlete, a smooth and confident dancer, and debonair dresser. He was compassionate and democratic and always for the underdog. He didn’t tell them well but he loved jokes. And dogs, to the point of misanthropy. He was a devastating commentator on the bad taste and delusional conceits of strangers and friends. Fran was a devoted consumer of books and alcoholic beverages and so a gimlet-eyed prosecutor of crimes against literature and language. He was loved and admired by his many friends, ex- and late wives, girlfriends, and dogs.

Francis Bigelow Day died of ALS on Good Friday April 19, a quarter mile from his childhood home on the Rockville Pike. He was born in Baltimore on March 25th 1949, the 3d child of Dr. Robert Day and Joan Goodin Day. In 1955 the family moved to Newark St, NW. Fran attended St. Albans School and Wesleyan University. He lived in DC the rest of his life until 2014 when he moved to the Moyaone Reservation in Accokeek Maryland.

He is survived by his sister Dr. Deborah Day, and two bothers, Robert Barton Day of McLean, and John Anthony Day of Melk, Austria.

New Moon Suit

From Joe Triplett back in 2013…

“Them old scientists don’t know squat.”

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