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VOLUNTEER VOICES: Paul Armstrong of Palermo

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Paul Armstrong, in blue, with members of Yes.
Photo courtesy of Paul Armstrong

VOLUNTEER VOICES: Paul Armstrong Reminisces About His Days Following Some of the Greatest Rock and Roll Bands in His Renovated Mail Truck

I’m the youngest of seven children and I grew up in Southern Connecticut. When I was a kid, my older brother was supposed to be babysitting me while my parents were away, but instead he drove us to Woodstock. I was too young too really get it. I remember that we got stuck in traffic and that it was hard to hear. I went to my first concert when I was 11. I saw Blood, Sweat and Tears. Living in Connecticut, it was easy to go into New York City and see a lot of shows. Those were the days when even Madison Square Garden was affordable!

I loved the music, but my background was in classical music. I played the cello and the piano for many years. I wasn’t really a fan of any rock bands until one day I heard “Seen All Good People” by Yes. I was blown away. No one was making music the way they did. It was different from anything we had ever heard.

In the ‘70’s, I bought an old bright blue mail truck and my friends and I transformed it into a camper. It even had a fold down patio on the roof! We were such fans of Yes that we painted the band’s logo and other features from their album covers on the sides of our truck. It looked amazing! In 1977 we decided to follow the band on their East Coast tour and we saw them perform 18 times in one summer. Our big truck made quite a scene and people started talking about it and looking for it in the parking lot during each tour stop. Imagine how excited we were when members of the band decided to check it out, too! They had heard about the truck and couldn’t resist taking a look. That happened more than once during that tour. They were all really nice and they signed our albums. Even now, if Yes is on tour I still go to see them. The lineup of musicians has changed over the years, but I’ve seen a total of 47 of their concerts.

After the Yes tour, our goal was to see as many bands as we could and we all worked odd jobs so we could buy as many tickets as possible. I really liked the Moody Blues and saw them a bunch of times. I remember one winter in New York City we went to see Carlos Santana perform and there was such a huge blizzard that only about 200 people showed up. Mr. Santana called us all down to the front rows and he played for over four hours. He said “We’re stuck here, too, so let’s have fun!” He will always be one of my favorite guitarists.

I’m still in touch with my friends from those days. We’ve found each other on Facebook and just enjoy getting together when we can. We usually end up talking about that mail truck and the concert tours we experienced. I wish I still had the old truck – just for the memories.

Paul Armstrong, AARP Maine Lead Advocacy Volunteer, lives in Palermo with his dogs Ellie and Kasha. He was kind enough to share his story with Jane Margesson, AARP Maine Communications Director, who is a fellow Yes fan.

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