God Bless America!
BY MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
Traverse City Record-Eagle
TRAVERSE CITY — Paul Koss recorded his song, “Veteran’s Day in Lawsonville,” five years after his father died.
Nearly 15 years later, the tune — dedicated to the memory of Francis M. Koss, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II — is his signature song and a favorite of area audiences. It tells the story of a Veterans Day parade in small-town America, back when it was fashionable to be patriotic and when soldiers who marched in parades and those who watched them were friends and neighbors.
It’s a time that has come around again, noted Koss, who will perform the song at a Nov. 10 concert at Sleder’s Family Tavern. The show — part of Sleder’s “On the Porch” concert series — is free to veterans and is a benefit for Operation Injured Soldiers. The Novi-based volunteer organization helps wounded veterans get back to participating in the sports and hobbies they enjoyed before being deployed.
Koss, 57, said he became acquainted with the group last summer, when a friend who runs a charter fishing business in South Haven asked him to help guide an outing for the organization. Funds raised provide free hunting, fishing, sporting, camping and other outdoor events to disabled vets to help with their physical and mental rehabilitation.
“The thing that struck me was how casually they spoke about their experiences and the events that injured them,” said Koss, a founding member of Northern Michigan Songwriters in the Round and a longtime area singer-songwriter who has opened for the likes of Bill Staines and Garnet Rogers. “It was just jaw-dropping.”
He said he wrote “Veteran’s Day in Lawsonville” in honor of the nation’s veterans back when few spoke about their experiences.
“The only stories dad would tell were the funny ones,” he said, adding that most of his father’s service in England, France, Germany and North Africa remains a mystery. “The most famous one is the day the (latrine) blew up.”
The song is only one of the originals Koss and longtime friends and bandmates Patrick Niemisto and Chris Skellenger will perform on the 4 p.m. show. Others include tunes Koss and Skellenger, who play together in the band 3 Hour Tour, hope to record on a new CD.
“It’s kind of interesting looking back, because the song is 20 years old now,” said Koss, who wrote it in the 1990s and recorded it in 2003 at Niemisto’s Holy Wah! Studios in Maple City. “It’s a song that has struck a chord with a lot of people because I’m always getting asked to do Veteran’s Day ceremonies.
“It’s an honor, because it tells me the song has connected with people.”
Tickets for the show are $20 at the door and $15 in advance, at Sleder’s, Oryana Natural Foods Market, Brilliant Books and Mahoney’s Spirits and Edibles. Seamus Shinners of Connemara Concerts said performers, soundman and co-presenters — including Connemara and Perfect World Studios — are donating their services.
Seating is limited, so advance tickets are recommended. Vets should call ahead to 941-8667 to reserve a free ticket.