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The Ballad of Sonny & Cher

The Fourth River -

Sonny always had a hell of a voice. He rarely sang anymore though. Once in a blue moon, behind the strength of three or four fingers of Bombay, he would let it out. Old Haggard songs about trains and Al Green songs about love were his favorite. They were his father's favorite too. Not one for attention, most times he was as quiet as a mouse. Most folks usually didn't even know he was in the room until they asked him to scoot over out of the way of their pool cue. And that's just the way he liked it. Sonny had it all figured out. Till he met Sherri.

Cher, as her mother called her, was the polar opposite. Brought up in the low-rent suburbs of Dallas her family was on the higher end of the poor spectrum. But not by much. Their house on the end of the block stood shining during the hot August months in Texas. Shining as a beacon for wayward souls. By the time she was sixteen she had figured out where the money was coming from. And didn't like it. So a year and a drivers license later she split town. Aiming her dull grey Cutlass Supreme north to colder climates, she hoped for new faces and new opportunities. What she got was a day time bar shift in Pittsburgh, and a weekly residence singing cover songs off of the jukebox by night. The club was alright by her. The Fourth River, was by all accounts a dive bar. Seeing the usual stumbling in and outs from eleven, which is when Sherri opened up shop, till around six o'clock. That's when the day shift at the mills came to an end. At that point Cher, the name she preferred to be called after the sun went down, would don a knee high gold sequin dress and start the show. From sweet Patsy Cline-esque to bare knuckle Grace Slick vocals she had the talent. But was far more interested in narrating the goings on in the Fourth River.

She too over-looked Sonny for many nights. Not filled with steel mill bravado like his peers, he seemed to slip under her radar. Till one night, "It's Not Love" was que'd up and Sonny, full of Bombay Sapphire at this point, got up the courage to ask if he could sit in with the illustrious Sherri. Not out of the ordinary for patrons to want to mingle and try to belt out with her, it was usually along the lines of a Stones song or something real slow. She was intrigued, and obliged the quiet mop head. What she got was a new appreciation for the song. Haggard delivered it with a sort of longing, Sonny sang it straight up. More of a protest against love in general. When the track was over Sonny handed her back the microphone and walked back to his seat caddie corner to the closest bar top. Where he sat down, tipped his chair back and lit a cigarette. Not in a way saying "come and get me" but with an air of satisfaction. He got something off of his chest and could continue the rest of his existence in peace. Sherri wasn't particularly impressed by any of this but she took note, and kept on. She would spot Sonny in the River more frequently over the next few months. Not knowing if there was an uptick in presence since the encounter or perhaps she had just always overlooked him. They were friendly. She had been seeing someone off and on for the better part of a year and was growing terribly annoyed with the whole situation. Blasts of passion marked by the heat of anger and jealousy. A recurring dream more than a relationship really. Sonny had never brought another woman with him to the club much less talked to any of the waitresses. She wondered if he may be here for the steel mill workers. But one night he was propositioned by Gary the Gay as everyone called him and Sonny quietly walked through the swinging doors outside and did not come back for several weeks.

"Why do you come here and never talk to me?" Sherri had grown curious to the point of inquisition one night.

"I like the sounds." Sonny replied.

"You mean my singin'?" with a little twist of her dress and a flip of her hair. Exposing what sealed the deal for Sonny. Her jaw started right below her earlobe and ran a straight line to the bottom of her face where it didn't jut, or bend, but curved ever so slightly around to the other side. The chin allowed for light to hit it at an angle he had never seen before on another woman. He saw the one blemish below her left eye she tried to hide with make-up. But didn't care. The curves of her face let him know all he needed to.

"No ma'am, I like the quiet. But you're singing doesn't hurt the selling price of this dump"

"What do you do?" She asked. "I get by with what I have and drive fast" is all he allowed that night. The driving part intrigued her because she had never actually seen him behind the wheel of anything. Other than a Gin bender. But always the curious type she bit.

"Let's go somewhere"

Neither of them knew it, but that "somewhere" ended up being six states, two attempts at going straight, and a story only one of them could re-tell.

Somewhere Fast -

They headed for the mountains. That seemed to be the logical place since coming from Texas flat lands Sherri wanted to see the snow. Sonny was from up-state New York so the snow held little novelty to him. But he agreed anyways. She could have pointed her grey Cutlass Supreme towards the gates of Hades and Sonny would have followed.

To be continued...

NOTE: This was written a year and half ago I believe after having played Robert Keen's "Road Goes on Forever.." for 2 months straight almost every night. One night towards the end of the run, it hit me. What if Sonny and Cherri was REK's version of Sonny and Cher?!? Like the lost story.. I likely will never know the answer to that particular question but I was fired up enough alright to write the beginning of my own saga of S&C. Maybe it'll continue one day. Who knows?

Thanks.


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