My friend Scottie

This is an entirely personal note about my first friend in life — Scott Sansby. We have been friends since my family moved from Moorhead to St. Paul in 1958.

Let me put it this way. We have been friends since the Eisenhower administration.

We became friends that summer and then went to grade school together for the following five years. Scottie has a wide world of friends, but we stayed best friends through high school and have remained friends ever since.

We get together at least once a year to celebrate the birthday of our mutual friend Jay Applebaum. The photo below depicts the three of us following a happy lunch together on Jay’s birthday this past July 13. Jay is in the middle flanked by Scottie on the right and me on the left.

Scottie took up drumming around the time the Beatles hit it big. He studied for years with Connie Villars and went on to anchor the rhythm section of just about every great local band at one time or another. I was there at the beginning when the best musicians in Highland Park formed and named the Aristocats in the mid-1960s. I followed every one of the several bands that Scottie anchored thereafter.

When I came back to town from college the summer after my freshman year, Scottie told me that he and his musical friends had found a guy they knew was going to be a star, and right they were. The guy was Al Jarreau.

They followed Al from Minneapolis out to Los Angeles. When Al last came through town to perform at Minneapolis’s Pantages Theater in 2011, they reunited at Al’s party after the show. From left to right in the photo below are Dik Hedlund, Rich Dworsky, Scottie, Al, and Bobby Schnitzer.

Out in Los Angeles Scottie entered Leon Russell’s world at Shelter Records. Scottie recorded with Leon’s wife, Mary McCreary, and with Shelter artist D.J. Rogers. Leon told Scottie that he was “my old lady’s favorite drummer.”

Although we pursued separate paths, Scottie always invited me along for the ride. When Leon performed with Mary at the St. Paul Civic Center on September 25, 1976, Scottie had me put on the guest list to join them all backstage. Leon’s friend Gary Busey was there. I heard backstage that Busey had starred in a then unreleased film in which he portrayed Buddy Holly.

I could go on. I share so many memories with Scottie I feel like they fill half my brain. We have been revisiting them recently with the help of Bill Janovitz’s new biography of Leon.

Five weeks ago Scottie suffered a catastrophic accident that resulted in the bruising of his spinal cord. Out for a walk near his apartment in Minneapolis, he felt dizzy. He sat on a retaining wall with his head between his legs to get over it. Scottie tells me he fell face forward. When he came to, he was unable to move his limbs. When he was taken to intensive care at Hennepin County Medical Center, his injury was diagnosed as central cord syndrome. It is an injury with uncertain prognosis.

Scottie has relied on friends to get out the word about his accident and injury. He has given me his blessing to write about them on Power Line.

Scottie has been on my mind day and night for the past five weeks. He is in my waking thoughts and troubled dreams.

I visited him every day in the hospital and have continued to visit him every day in the temporary care unit of the nursing home to which he has been moved. I can only say that his injury has made me more aware of the suffering of others around me.

My thoughts return over and over to the comment of George Eliot’s narrator in Middlemarch: “That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.”

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