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Harris Blackwood: Farewell to Dale Stone Jr., who could play it all
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

When he was in junior high, Jeff Stone would brag to his friend that his dad, Dale, played for the Atlanta Hawks.

“He starts every home game,” he would tell them.

The truth is that his dad played professionally for the Atlanta Hawks, Braves, Falcons and the old Atlanta Flames.

He played the organ.

Dale Stone was never paid to slap a puck, dribble, pass or throw a ball. For most of their first 30 years, he was the organist for the Hawks. He would play a two-cord fanfare when a player would score. He had a little cadence that he played for driving the ball up the court.

Occasionally, he would highlight a bad call by the referee with a few notes of “Three Blind Mice.”

Dale Stone Jr. a resident of Buford, died on March 30. He was 78.

Dale Stone was my friend for the better part of 50 years. I followed in his footsteps and became a horse show organist. He was my mentor.

His talent came naturally. His dad, Dale Sr., played professionally, including a stint at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.

I don’t know about his dad, but the son played by ear, mostly in the key of C. He played some of the chords upside down and sideways. I remember trying to copy down the notes he was playing. I would write them on my hand and then record them on a piece of paper. It took me a few years to realize that my friend was playing the same chords I did; he just did them with a lot of flair.

Dale Stone was cool. It was sort of a ‘60s musician cool. He called everybody “pal” or “buddy.” He would refer to women as “pretty girl,” “baby” or “sweetie.”

Somewhere in that head of his, were hundreds of songs. Some of them he knew from start to finish. Others he knew how they started and he would make up an ending.

There were times that all 10 fingers were playing on the top two keyboards and his left foot was dancing along the pedal board. He could walk that bass up and down with his foot as he progressed from chord to chord. I always thought that rhythmic motion of his foot, he would have been a great dancer.

Dale would always play a few hymns or gospel songs with that boogie bass. It didn’t diminish the song, it just gave it a little touch of his trademark cool.

A few years ago, Dale married Barbara, who introduced him to the Church of God. Dale came to love the music, including many praise choruses. He began playing mostly praise music at the horse shows. Some people balked, but Dale never relented. I guess it was his new cool.

About 25 years ago, I suggested that he record an album of songs. In a list of songs I gave him was “Girl from Ipanema,” a great ’60s bossa nova classic.

“I can’t play that,” he said. “I don’t know it.”

It became a running joke for years. I would see people who were mutual friends and I would ask them to go up to Dale and request him to play “Girl from Ipanema.”

“I know who you’ve been talking to,” was his grinning response.

I don’t know who you meet in heaven, but I hope Dale meets Antonia Carlos Jobim, the Brazilian composer who wrote the song. Dale can tell him how he once played for all the professional sports teams in Atlanta.

“And about that song …”

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.

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