Ray Duckler: Roger Daltrey asks, Who are you?
Twelve-year-old Josey Murayda-Pelillo of Concord poses for a photo with Roger Daltrey, lead singer of the Who, after their concert at the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester on Sunday night; February 24, 2013.
Josey Murayda-Pelillo sang The Who song quietly with her mother, Lucy Murayda, backstage at Sunday night’s show.
They hugged tightly on a couch, their cheeks pressed together, their words in sync, their minds racing, trying to stay cool after their world had been turned upside down.
Was this real? Did Roger Daltrey, The Who’s lead singer, really ask to see them? Was Pete Townshend, the band’s songwriter and guitarist, truly on his way, to a room so private it seemed miles from the 10,000 fans above in the Verizon Wireless Arena?
Daltrey is smaller than you might think, but his heart is huge. He dedicated this show to Josey, a 12-year-old girl, blind since birth, who sings like a bird and charges forward in snow like George Patton.
That’s what Daltrey saw from his limo, before the show. He saw a young fan with a walking cane and a Who T-shirt.
He also saw Lucy, a British native who moved here with her family 30 years ago and settled in Concord. He saw Lucy’s other daughter, 21-year-old Ali Murayda, a petite young woman who juggles work as a nanny with her studies to become a special education teacher.
And he saw Ali’s father, Richard Snair of Hillsboro, a quiet man whose love for his daughter and Josey is obvious.
There also happened to be a local columnist in the mix, at the right place at a great time, pulled aside at the door and escorted with the others to a place reserved for people with some attachment to the band.
The columnist had written about Lucy and Josey last week, about the Unsung Hero Award Lucy received from the New Hampshire Children’s Trust, an agency that fights child abuse and neglect.
We learned about Lucy’s full-time job, that of caring for Josey, of making sure her blindness in no way prevents her from fulfilling her potential. Lucy now sings the national anthem at New Hampshire Fisher Cats games and Manchester Monarchs games, and she’s scheduled to sing next month before the annual Battle of the Badges charity event.
“(Lucy) loves me so much,” Josey said at the time. “She makes sure school is going well and she feeds me healthy food.”
She also feeds Josey a steady diet of The Who, Lucy’s favorite band. Neither her accent nor her love for this group, born in the 1960s, has faded as she’s moved into her 40s.
The background on Lucy’s Twitter page displays the band’s four original members, including late drummer Keith Moon and late bassist John Entwistle.
She chats online via Facebook with Simon Townshend, Pete’s brother and a guitarist for the present-day Who. She met Townshend’s longtime partner, Rachel Fuller, seven years ago at a show in Boston.
Daltrey and Townshend?
Leaders of the group that appeared at Woodstock? The lads responsible for the rock opera Tommy? The band that featured Moon’s drums exploding live on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour? The band that Rolling Stone magazine included in the holy trinity of British rock, alongside the Beatles and the Rolling Stones?
Daltrey and Townshend?
Josey caught Daltrey’s eye. She was easy to spot on that snowy night, her sister on her arm, a white fedora on her head, a white cane extended out front, waving left to right, boosting her confidence to move in the darkness.
‘He wants to meet you’
At the turnstile, a security guard with a big smile and big biceps motioned the entourage to the side, causing a burst of panic within the family.
The drugs, synthetic growth hormones, in Lucy’s purse, needed for Josey?
“Roger Daltrey asked us to look for you,” the security guard said. “He wants to meet you.”
Lucy cried, realizing a lifelong dream waited down a long hallway, full of right-angle turns, a walk that seemed endless because of adrenaline and shock.
In truth, the columnist wasn’t invited, but he snuggled in close, willing himself into the group, and, thankfully, was adopted for the occasion.
We moved to a small lounge area, with a large bathroom hidden by a curtain and another room stocked with water and wine and beer.
“Roger asked us to wake him at 7:30,” the man with the British accent said. “Relax. We have drinks over here.”
So we waited, through the opening act’s short set and through introductions to others backstage. They told us who they were, why they were there, and we nodded and smiled and heard absolutely nothing they said.
Then mother and daughter moved in close and began singing “I’m One” from Quadrophenia.
Others in the room turned toward the couch, probably surprised that someone so young knew the lyrics to a song written by a British rock band 40 years ago.
Townshend walked in after about an hour. He was tall and slender, with wire rimmed glasses, white stubble and a pocket chain. Polite and imposing, he shook hands and posed for pictures, wrapping his arm around Josey before leaving to prepare for the show.
We were then ushered outside, into the hallway to wait for Daltrey, who had requested this meeting, and who soon showed that Josey had deeply touched him.
He emerged from a back room with a blue denim jacket and an air of accessibility that immediately put everyone at ease. He crouched to greet Josey, whose sandy blond hair flowed from beneath her fedora, and whose smile told you she saw fine.
Daltrey asked how she felt (good) and if she had earplugs (yes). He posed for photos, with Josey and Lucy, and Josey and Ali, and all three, and Josey alone. He gave Josey a signed tambourine.
He told Lucy and her family they were welcome at any Who show in England, where the band’s tour continues this summer.
“Call and there’s a place for you,” Daltrey told them.
Soon, Who drummer Zak Starkey, son of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, roared down the hallway, took a sharp left and disappeared through a door.
Then Daltrey gently took Josey’s arm and led her through the hallway, through curtains that dangled from the ceiling, through the fans who wanted to be where she was.
Showtime was 8:30 p.m. The columnist wandered off to his seat, in another ZIP code, while the family received a personal escort to their seats, in the fifth row. For the next two-plus hours, with no break, The Who played Quadrophenia in its entirety, then moved into classics like “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
Townshend showed off his signature windmill motion while striking chords, power that could have lit all of Manchester and Concord, too, during the worst blizzard.
Daltrey swung his microphone high, as he has done for decades, catching it like a first baseman on a foul pop, then moving straight into vocals that would blow your hair back.
Through it all, a 12-year-old girl sat close to the stage with her family, singing songs few girls her age know.
After the final song, a touching nostalgic acoustic melody called “Tea and Theatre,” Daltrey dedicated the show to Josey.
He waved to Lucy, who blew kisses back.
Then she told Josey, the star of the show.