Louan Lechler – A Friend To The End
I just got off the phone with Jim Crockett…
remembering our friend Louan Lechler.
So much came back.
Somewhere between 45 and 50 years ago there really wasn’t a ‘music scene’ in Traverse City, but there were five or six of us long-haired, hippy-dippy wandering guitar picking songwriters hanging out whenever we could, singing our own songs around a campfire or in a living room and so often, ‘until the sun came up’. Across town Jim Niessink played dinner music on his 12-string at a dark little spot called the Keller, and maybe a few other social events here or there.
Then along came the Sawmill … a clean, rustic-looking hole in the wall on downtown Front Street that set up a stage and some sound equipment. In the first weeks it was open we ‘locals’ all got hired to take the new stage – Jim Crocket (Crockett, David Newsome and Rick West), myself, Sally Rogers, an old hillbilly oversized man named Ira Mathews and most dependable of all of us, Louan Lechler.
We were part of a greater tribe of artists, novice activist philosophers and poets which quietly and in the background has managed to still exist today, and though not as shiny and lustrous as we once may have been, those of us remaining remember how it was, how close we were, all those wonderful nights on-stage together or playing solo in this (then) quiet little town. The music. The songs. The late night conversations. The friendship. We loved it all and we loved each other. … all these years.
I traveled a lot in those years, playing in Colorado, Texas, New Mexico and in between for weeks at a time and then looping back home to TC to play a few nights for enough money to keep moving along, and whenever and wherever I came to play, Louan would show up to listen and to sing. Her lovely, always in-tune voice could warm a cold room in a minute’s time… so good there was no choice but to stop what you’re doing and just listen.
We stayed friends all these years… a weave from the same rough cloth – Jim, Rick, David, Sally and I, and Louan. I’d bump into her at the market, or downtown, or anywhere and we’d always drift into the same sharp as yesterday memories we’ve all kept close to heart through the years. She was a treasure to me… she was an anchor.
I last played with Louan (+ MaryAnn Rivers and Jim Crockett) in Northport a few months ago.
No way of knowing it would be for the last time.
And, now she’s gone.
Louan Lechler was the real deal. A real folkie. A real poet. A real friend. She gave it any time she had the chance, and she never once asked anything for it. She didn’t try to be famous. She never showed off. She didn’t look for attention. She just sang and smiled and told her wonderful stories, right to the end, because that’s who she really was.
I will remember and love her for that until it’s my turn to leave the planet.