They Were Looking For An Echo

“We used to practice in the subways, in lobbies and in halls,
even in the doorway, singing doo-wops to the walls…”

— The Persuasions, “Looking for an Echo

I was running late, but I stopped anyway.

It’d taken longer to get the cats to the vet up in Seven Locks, then back home, and the speeding ticket I got didn’t help, either. I missed the train at Courthouse, so it was almost three by the time I got to Metro Center, and I rushed off the train, only to stop. To hell with the meeting.

Three older African-American gentlemen were singing doo-wop on the middle of the lower platform. I’d seen them before on the corner above the 13th & G exit at Metro Center, but this time they were inside the station. The way they’d positioned themselves, they were able to take advantage of Metro’s ridiculously awful acoustics, pushing their crystal clear motown sound into a small space right under the red line platform, a perfect theatrical space for their vocalizations.

There was an appreciative audience of about 20 on the platform, waiting for the orange line train back to Vienna, standing and nodding their heads. I crossed by the men, and on hearing their tight harmonies, I stopped, and I listened. I remembered the piece from the Washington Post about Joshua Bell and his violin, and I relished their voices, even though I was getting later by the second, it didn’t matter.

Thanks guys for reminding me why I love DC, again.

1 Comment so far

  1. Mike Licht (unregistered) on September 25th, 2007 @ 8:49 am

    Street-corner harmony preceded Motown by more than two decades. The DC area had the Clovers, Pookie Hudson and the Spaniels, the Rainbows, Masked Man and the Agents, the Veltones, and others. The Jewels and Orioles are still performing, and veterans of other groups can be found in our city’s many Gospel Quartets, the immediate source of this great African American vocal style.



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