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A fan in ‘Train’ing

Lunch proves rock stars like Stafford people, too

Jimmy Stafford of Train, left, poses with Christina Chapman outside Turtle’s Tap in Morris on Sunday afternoon.
Jimmy Stafford of Train, left, poses with Christina Chapman outside Turtle’s Tap in Morris on Sunday afternoon.

As a reporter, I have had some really cool experiences.

I’ve flown a plane several times, taken a couple of rides in hot air balloons, met Barack Obama (although it was before he was president), and most recently had lunch with Jimmy Stafford, Morris native and guitarist for the rock band Train.

For those of you unfamiliar with the band, I’m sure you have heard its hits “Meet Virgina,” “Drops Of Jupiter,” and one of their most recent, “Hey, Soul Sister.”

This time, this awesome opportunity did not present itself because I am a reporter... well not directly. About two years ago, at the annual Morris Rotary Ball, which raises money for its charitable programs and We Care of Grundy County, Stafford donated a lunch with him as a live auction item.

I wrote an article before the ball previewing the unique auction item and decided I would save some money and bid on it. So, at the event, I had my bid number all ready and even practiced raising it into the air as quickly as possible.

Practice does not make perfect, at least not in my case. Judge Robert Marsaglia beat me to it. And then out bid me. Marsaglia and I were sitting at the same table, but he was in front of me and claimed he didn’t realize he was bidding against me. So he says.

Probably because I sat across from him the rest of the evening with a sad face, he offered to take me along.

Although I struggled with whether I should take advantage of his guilt, the struggle only lasted about 30 seconds before I agreed. I’m sorry, but my love for Train overpowered my conscience.

It was almost two years before Strafford was able to return to his hometown, so it was just this past Sunday when I had lunch with Marsaglia, his lovely son, and rock star Jimmy Stafford.

The experience was one-of-a-kind and, from this point forward, I will thank Judge Marsaglia every time I see him. Except, of course, when he’s in court, but even then I will try to do it telepathically.

We had lunch at Turtle’s Tap in Morris and I can honestly say — although he arrived looking like a classic rock star in a leather coat and dark sunglasses — Stafford was definitely down to Earth.
Like any good father, he bragged about his daughter and, although he has been all over the world, home with her is his favorite place.

In fact, the Marsaglias and I owe his daughter a special thank you. Stafford said he asked her whether she wanted to spend her Spring Break at home in Nashville or in Morris to see her grandparents and she chose both, which enabled him to have lunch with us. So a very special thanks to McKenna for sharing your dad with some fans.

Stafford was very open with us, sharing how the industry has changed. Bands used to hold concerts to sell CDs, he said, adding, “Now you hope to get on the radio to sell concert tickets.”

Although he moved to California shortly after high school and played in different bands trying to make it, he is appreciative that he and Train didn’t become hugely famous until he was in his 30s.

The band members now are all in their 30s and 40s, and are mature enough for what fame brings, he said.

If they had reached their prime in their 20s, who knows where they would be today, said Stafford, using as an example the band Hanson, which is remembered for the song “MMMBop,” but then fell out of mainstream.

As they are preparing for their new album, “California 37,” to be released April 17, Train is on a publicity tour. Next week, they will be on the Tonight Show, Rachel Ray and Sesame Street. Sesame Street was the big one for Stafford — he really knew they were big when they were invited on the kids’ show. He said everyone who is anyone has been on Sesame Street.

In addition to a press tour, the members of Train will be hitting Europe soon to start their year-long concert tour. I have never seen Train live — hint, hint to my loved ones reading this; my 29th birthday is in 76 days.

Although I haven’t been to their concert, I often check out the online videos of them playing and remember the first time I saw one of Stafford playing the ukulele for “Hey, Soul Sister.” I’m not a musician and quite literally can’t carry a tune, so when I saw Stafford on the ukulele I couldn’t help but think how funny it looks. But then you hear the sound and how it really just makes “Hey, Soul Sister” and you see that it just fits.

Apparently Stafford had to learn this instrument specifically for the song. Something he wasn’t necessarily a fan of at first. In fact, he had to Google it to figure out how to play it because when he was using a pick, it didn’t quite sound right. But through the power of Google, he learned you just use your finger tips to master the ukulele.

It’s the hits like “Hey, Soul Sister” that are the most fun to play live, he said, because the fans go wild. But he doesn’t have a favorite to perform. The new hits are the most exciting for the band, though, because they’re new to them and still a challenge for them to play.

“You can still mess up,” he said.

The experience was amazing to say the least. Even rock stars are human, although I was a little more human than him and was a bit shy during our lunch. But thanks to Judge Marsaglia’s music knowledge, I learned more than I could have imagined.

I’m hoping as I continue in my career as a reporter I’ll have more of these awesome opportunities, but I’m not sure how it gets much better than this.

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