Steve Hudson was curious how many people really know Harry Chapin, the singer-songwriter who is recognized as the inspiration for the Harry Chapin Food Bank in Fort Myers.
That food bank helps replenish food pantries in Charlotte County and all over Southwest Florida.
Hudson is a fan of Chapin’s music and offered the fact that the singer’s sister thought it would be a great tribute to him to name this food bank after her brother, who was dedicated to feeding the hungry. Chapin was known for his folk and pop music and sold over 16 million records, won a Grammy and is in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Before he died in a car accident in 1981, at the young age of 39, he was known for giving the proceeds from many of his concerts to end world hunger. He was even on the Presidential Commission on World Hunger in 1977.
Chapin was truly someone who walked the walk.
But Hudson is a pretty interesting fellow himself.
A trumpet kept him from being shipped to Vietnam after he graduated from high school in 1965. He tells a good story about his love of music and how he came to play the trumpet and end up in Punta Gorda, and now Deep Creek.
Hudson loved baseball and playing the trumpet in high school. One of his greatest memories was meeting his idol, Al Hirt.
“After I cut the grass one day, Dad told me we were going to see Al Hirt,” Hudson said. “He didn’t have enough money for Mom to go so it was just us. I was the only kid there. It was a candlelight event and Dad and I were eating popcorn and drinking ginger ale.
“When Hirt took a break, he noticed I was the only kid in the room. I wanted an autograph, but he took me to the side of the stage to a table and we sat there for 20 minutes talking. He signed a photo of himself and told me how he got started in New Orleans after his dad found a trumpet in a dumpster.”
Hudson said he was really hooked after that encounter with the late, great trumpeter.
When he graduated high school, his Dad urged him to try out for the Army band. He did. And he got in. That tour of duty kept him stateside during the Vietnam war. But being a bugler in the Army back then was no piece of cake.
“I spent two years playing at funerals,” he said. “We had four trumpet players and we each played at about 250 funerals a year.
“Once we went to the home of a Vietnam casualty and the father came out of the house with a shotgun,” Hudson said. “He was mad about Vietnam. But my sergeant in charge of the detail was able to calm him down.
“At another funeral, the mom jumped into the grave. And at another, they buried their 11-year-old daughter who was killed at the same time they buried their son whose helicopter was shot down in Vietnam.”
Hudson has played in area concert bands and taught music at Peace River Elementary for a spell. He sounds like he loves life in Charlotte County.
It’s good to have people like Hudson — who want to get involved with kids who cannot afford instruments and who is willing to still play at local veterans’ functions — around.