In days past when we gathered in groups and sat close beside each other (remember those days?), there was a bi-weekly Open Mic at a small re-conditioned church cum Gelateria in Oliver, BC called Medicis, owned and run by a friend of mine, David.

We would head down to Medicis once a month on a Friday evening and I would perform my three allotted songs.

The place was cozily warm and comfortable with about a dozen or 15 tables scattered about, an inviting atmosphere to play or to listen (think Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe).

One of the really fun parts of attending this was to see and listen to other performers. Listening to their songs, their style, while watching their frayed nervousness or professional polish, was a highlight of the night.

We listened to many dozens of musicians over a few years, but only a few performers really stand out in my mind. There was the: really good, the really bad, and the eccentrics, of which there was no paucity.

One of those eccentrics was an elderly lady with a sweet temperament and a very folksy presence on stage.

I called her Paper Rose which I’ll explain more about in a moment.

She would climb the three creaky stairs to the stage holding her guitar, smiling somewhat shyly out at the audience as she fumbled to slide the guitar’s strap over her head.

Her physical appearance was strikingly reminiscent of Minnie Pearl, the flower-hatted lady on the old TV show HEE HAW, her voice a bit less shrill. And yes, she actually wore a flowered, round-rimmed straw hat, sans dangling price tag!

Once settled a bit, she would begin to tell in expansive detail a narrative of her recent life and health issues. This could go on for some minutes.

In many cases it might irritate an audience to listen to her go on, but her engaging manner just endeared her to us.

By the time she began to play her guitar and sing, the audience was rooting for her, no matter what she sang.

And after seeing her on more than one occasion, it became clear that one of the 3 songs she would always sing was Paper Roses (made most famous in 1973 by Marie Osmond).

Invariably, halfway through the song, “Rose” would lose track of the chords on her guitar and stop playing mid-stride in apparent embarrassment.

She would try one chord and hum a bit, try another chord and hum some more… then the audience (maybe slightly lubricated by this time) would begin to pick up the well-known tune and sing aloud until she just joined back in without any guitar accompaniment.

At the end of the song, a great burst of applause would ring out. Rose would beam in her awshucks folksy way.

Rose may or may not be alive today, I don’t know. I hope so.

I only know that she was adorable and adored.

The following song lyrics I’ve written are an ode, an homage, to the sweet lady that invariably brought a smile to your face… a lady that I call Paper Rose because of this song that she sang.

(NB. Following these lyrics, you will find a new song recording I’m pleased to share…)

PAPER ROSE

by Larry Green

These old church steps are harder to climb
guess it’s a telltale sign
my heart’s grown so weak and tired
the doctor says, “watch your fire
you can’t do everything you desire”
then reaching the top stair a quiet voice draws close
“Sing your song Paper Rose.”

Medicis’ door swings open wide
I’m not so crippled when I come here to hide
but I’m not feeling too good of late
just a whispery shadow of a merciful fate
light upon the smile in my eye
my dancing heart that soon may die
the stage is calling “Sing your song Paper Rose”

CHORUS
Paper Rose, Paper Rose
you’ve shown me this mirror
this window of life
I’ll thank you for singing
I hear Angels singing
I’ll exit this stage with my Paper Rose

Wood floor warm, full of innocence again
sparked to make memories and preserve them
Strum this first chord on my guitar
house holding out to me their dance card
Kind David babysits over the gelato counter
hear my heart it’s fluttering fast
I search to find the song of my past

“These strings just won’t tune” I babble
struggle and giggle, peer up and prattle
adjust my Minnie Pearl hat to where it belongs
Can I remember the darn words to my favourite song?
the song I always sing, that song I always sing
I’ve got it, that mysterious ghost
The words, the music for my Paper Rose

“Oh dear my friends I’ve lost my chords”
burning flush pouring through my pores
wiggle and squirm “oh I’m clumsy as an ox”
Losing my smile on the ragged wrecked rocks
then musical words rise aloud from the house
as they sing along on a moment’s notice
Sweet Lord, “Paper Roses, Paper Roses…”

BRIDGE
The party’s growing wan
the band still plays on
little girl in the photo withering

CHORUS
Paper Rose, Paper Rose
you’ve shown me this mirror
this window of life
I’ll thank you for singing
I can hear Angels singing
I’ll exit this stage with my Paper Rose

…………………………

I’m proud to share this next song with you.

An eternity ago, at the start of the COVID isolation, I got together with a long-time musical collaborator of mine, Marie Delmaire. As a duo, we perform publicly as Green Sea Âmes, a nod to each of our last names and Marie’s birthplace of France.

We recorded this lovely song called GREEN EYES. The song was written in 1982 by American folksinger Kate Wolf. Wolf died a mere 4 years later of leukemia at the age of 44.

I hope you like it.

GREEN EYES