Passive Echoes

1968-1969

 

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 Excerpts From: "Our Journey Begins"  

 (Based on their letters, conversations, and journals)

Marcia Lynne Epps and Larry Brian Binns met for the first time during an nine-week summer music institute camp held at A&T State University in June 1968. They were only fourteen and fifteen years old. Both started their formal music training at an early age. Their meeting seemed inevitable in that they were born in the same year in Hampton Roads, Virginia, approximately ten miles apart.

Marcia was born in a historical and the second largest city in Virginia, Norfolk. As is customary with Larry, he shortened her name to simply "Marcy", which is what most of their friends call her today. Larry was born on a historical military base and national monument on the tip of the Virginia Peninsula, Fort Monroe, located in Hampton, VA.

They spent their summers months on the Peninsula, Newport News, VA, visiting with relatives who lived only eight blocks apart. Yet they never formally met each other. However, they likely passed and eyed each other on numerous occasions because they went to the same ice cream and candy stores and played on the same streets during their youth. Their families migrated to North Carolina where ultimately their paths finally crossed. 

Also, because of their common interest in music, they first began attending the Hampton Jazz Festival as teenagers during its embryonic stage in the late 60's, a staple event in their lives today.

A rich musical tradition was deeply embedded and interwoven into the fabric of their lives. Larry's father and his father's two older brothers were excellent trombonists. His first encounter with the instrument, he recalls, occurred when he attempted to play his father's "Bone" when he was four years-old. He nearly ruined the slide when he lost his balance and fell on the instrument.

His father bought him his first brand new "King" trombone when he was eight years-old as he started taking music lessons at Pearl Elementary School during his third-grade year in what is often referred to as "Music City", Nashville, Tennessee. His family moved there during the period when his father attended Fisk University and Meharry Medical School.

GoodrichLarry's formal musical training began with the esteemed Dr. Andrew L. Goodrich (Also: Scholarship) as well as being taught by his father and older brother, Carl, who was a fantastic percussionist and was also taught by Dr. Goodrich. This training commenced from 1961-1965. He vividly remembers struggling to carry the instrument to school and could only reach fourth position due to his short arms. The beautiful brass instrument was kept immaculate and Larry often put it in bed with him at night to keep it warm.

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He progressed in elementary school to where he was accepted to the all-city band as section leader in the fifth grade. Throughout middle and high school he performed in the concert, jazz, pep, and marching band. Also, in elementary school Larry performed in his school's chorus and was a member of the all-city chorus in Nashville for elementary school students. 

In 1967 after residing in Nashville for eleven years he moved back to Newport News where he played in the Band at Huntington High School under the oft' "broken" baton of Mr. Wray Herring. After eight months they moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina where his father was completing his residency as a trauma physician.  

Larry began attending Anderson High School where in time he became section leader, the band's president, and student director during his junior year. At fifteen, he also began receiving formal composition and orchestration instruction from his high school band director, Robert L. Hunt. His private lessons continued for two years prior to being accepted to NCSA for his senior year in high school as a composition student. 

Marcia's father was a popular and very prominent high school band director. Additionally, he taught and performed as a pianist. Her mother possessed a lovely mezzo soprano voice and would often sing in her church choir and to Marcia and her sister.

Their father began giving them private piano lessons when Marcia was four. She discovered at a very early age that she had inherited her parents musical gifts and talents, especially an innately beautiful soprano voice that caught the attention of all who heard her sing. Marcia also sang in their church choir, school chorus, performed as a soloist for numerous other events, as well as played flute in the school band, and the violin in her school's orchestra.  


Larry:

"Marcia is the most naturally gifted, studious, multi-talented individual that I have ever encountered in my lifetime. It appears that she succeeds at every endeavor almost effortlessly!

Among her sundry gifts are her magnificent voice and musicianship, splendid dancing ability, she draws superbly, and writes with a passion and ease. She is nearly flawless when she sets her mind to nurturing a craft or cultivating here innate gifts. I truly do not believe that Marcy has come close to tapping her God-given potential.

Besides her natural abilities, she is a superb cook, gardener, and just the nicest person that I have ever met, and I know many extremely talented and good people. There are not enough accolades that I can bestow on her to adequately describe this wonderful lady."


With this affinity in upbringing and the aura of the tepid and sultry sea breeze branded in their minds, it seemed only natural that the consummate love story would unfold. Because music was such a vital force in their tradition, it is no surprise that it would be the catalyst for most of what transpired between them


Larry first heard Marcia perform during a recital on the campus of A&T State University in Greensboro, NC, during their first week as summer music institute students. Although Larry had always thought her to be quite lovely, an exquisite beauty in form, he initially assumed that she was only twelve or so because of her petite stature. Thus, he refrained from acting on his attraction.  

On this particular day, she suddenly emerged and walked confidently to center stage. With poise she clasped her hands as vocalist are taught and postured herself to sing along with her accompanist, one of the voice instructors. She immediately captured Larry's attention and he whispered to his best friend and roommate, Luke: 


"Hey, that's the pretty little girl that I tease all the time in the cafeteria! I guess she is going to sing us a little nursery rhyme". 


However, Larry ceased joking and his preconceived notion was quickly dispelled once the first few notes of music sweetly flowed from her lips. Entranced and listening on the edge of his seat he was captivated by her polished and massive operatic voice.

Initially he mentally rejected as reality that this barely five-foot "little girl" could produce such intense and beautiful music from her less than ninety pound frame. He whispered to Luke, "No way she is singing like that...no way!" For a few moments he reasoned that she was simply lip-syncing to the Italian aria, "Caro Mio Ben". Marcia received a standing ovation with Larry clapping the loudest.


He had never heard a voice more beautiful and sensual, nor seen any girl so graceful and charming as this lovely little lady. He studied her from afar and made mental notes of every gesture and physical attribute and concluded that there was a maturity that had eluded him. He then sought confirmation of her age from a female classmate from Anderson.

Larry was pleased to discover that she was fourteen and would be fifteen in September, just two months away. Also, she was a rising junior in high school because she had been "skipped' a grade. Teasingly, the girl that informed Larry told him that he didn't stand a chance because not only was she extremely talented but also "very smart and intelligent enough to avoid the likes of you."

Then she joked with him about being fifteen already and just a rising sophomore and asked why hadn't he been skipped since he was considered to be "so smart and gifted." (Earlier that year it had been announced at Anderson High School that he was a scholarship finalist to both Exeter and Deerfield academies).

Several days after the performance and affirmation that she was "age appropriate", Larry was desirous of expressing his delight and admiration of her vocal abilities. Oddly, he discovered that he was too shy and somewhat intimidated to approach the "little girl" that he had often teased and who later admitted to Larry that she would hide from him to avoid his teasing.   

However, in this instance it was he that hid beneath the main music building's stairwell for two days after class until he could approach her when she was unaccompanied by her many girlfriends and admirers. Finally the day came, but he could only open the door for her, stare, and finally utter the sentence, "I really enjoyed your singing the other day". Marcia briefly looked into his eyes, smiled, and graciously said, "Thank you".

This was the first time that he had actually heard her speak to him and he admired how proper and well-spoken she was. In the past she merely "rolled her eyes" at him because of his teasing her and calling her "short stuff" or "little bit". As she began slowly walking away Larry struggled to call to her to ask if he could escort her to wherever she was going. He did not succeed in this endeavor on that day and was rather disturbed by his absolute lack of composure.


A&T to NCSA: 1968-69

Marcia in 1969

(Click Photo to Enlarge)


  Memorable Music: Stay in My Corner 

(Our First Dance at A&T was to this song)

In later years, Marcia confessed that when she first met Larry at A&T she felt that he was not one to be trusted. She had warned a girlfriend who had very briefly dated and professed to be very much "in love" with him that she sensed that he possessed a "player" mentality and wasn't "worth it" after telephoning Larry on her behalf. This took place only a few days after he had complimented her and inquired about her age. In fact, the female classmate whom he had asked to investigate matters had also informed Marcia of his interest in her.

During their first telephone conversation, Larry made it abundantly clear that he was interested in Marcia rather than her girlfriend. She attempted to steer the conversation back to her girlfriend, but he only wanted to get better acquainted with her. For instance, she asked him if he thought that her girlfriend was pretty. Larry responded, "Yes, but I think you are prettier."

Attempting to diffuse this "come on"  and flirtation, she informed him that she already had a boyfriend in her hometown, Ahoskie. Larry simply dismissed it and stated, "That's nice, but he's not here." Marcia merely smiled aloud and expressed amusement at his persistence and boldness.

Next, she asked why he was not interested in her girlfriend. Larry responded that she was not his type. Curious, Marcia inquired, "What is your type of girl?" Larry simply replied, "You are." This left Marcia momentarily speechless which she concealed by nervous laughter.

She then attempted to encourage him to reflect on the many positive qualities of her girlfriend such as her intelligence, friendliness, and her affection for Larry. Realizing that he needed to back off of the obvious flirtation with Marcia, he simply listened and pretended to be responsive to her request that he talk to her girlfriend and give her an opportunity.

Attempting to spare her girlfriend disappointment and creating the potential for jealousy by revealing Larry's flirtation, she simply expressed the opinion that she should not waste her time and could do better. Her girlfriend was insistent that Marcia continue to help her by serving as a mediator.

Larry used this to his advantage. Whenever Marcia would call they would initially discuss the other girl. However, they would covertly communicate more about themselves. Physically, there was always a mutual attraction, However, the more they talked an emotional and mental connection was becoming mutual, this was despite vigorous attempts by Marcia to deny and resist it.

In fact, Larry would call and speak initially to Marcia's girlfriend and then ask her to put Marcia on the telephone under the pretense that they were discussing some suggestions that Marcia had made to him. Marcia went along with Larry's pretense until it began to bother her sense of loyalty to this girl.

Ultimately, Marcia informed Larry that if they were not going to genuinely discuss the other girl they needed to cease with their pretension. The telephone exchanges ended but Larry's pursuit of Marcia was just beginning.

Additionally, during this period of time they began spending considerable time off stage together behind the curtains during rehearsals for various scenes in an all-institute production of Kurt Weill's operetta, "Down in the Valley". In time their mutual attraction became more intense and even apparent to others who observed them talking and interacting between scenes.


On one of these occasions, Marcia for the first time let her guard down. They were sitting backstage alone on a bench observing the rehearsal of a scene that they were not involved in. Marcia flirtatiously grasped hold of an English honors medallion that Larry was awarded for academic achievement.

He wore the medallion on a short chain close to his neck and as she held it and gently pulled him closer to read the inscription they were face to face, a few inches apart. They were so close that he sensed the warmth of her breath as she spoke and inquired about the medallion, his family, and his plans for the future. Most of the information she inquired about was already known by her. It was her effort to become familiar with him more intimately and directly.


At this particular time she revealed to him that she was perplexed by his conduct. Marcia expressed that she was puzzled that despite his intellect and mental maturity he acted so silly and crazy most of the time. Larry simply replied that he liked to have fun, yet never addressed the issue of his inappropriate behavior.

Rather, they mostly gazed silently into each other's eyes for quite some time, like the moments before a kiss. However, the spell was abruptly broken when they were interrupted to rehearse their scene. Marcia in recent years confessed to Larry that she wanted him to give her the medallion as a keepsake, that she would have worn it secretly at A&T, and would still possess it today.

Also, after the summer she confessed that she was very attracted to him from the beginning of the summer session but the rumors were abounding that he was already taken. She later admitted to Larry that they would have dated that summer while at A&T if they had met first or if not for the rumors and her "girlfriend's" claim on him.

For the play Marcia was cast in the leading female role of "Jennie". Larry was cast, actually forced to play the role of her "Father" by the Institute's director and the chairman of the Music Department at A&T  Dr. Howard T. Pearsall to avoid expulsion for various rule infractions. Several weeks or so after rehearsals began Marcia was called into the office of the director before classes one morning. Evidently he had observed her spending time with Larry talking alone during rehearsals. During their meeting he cautioned her: 


"A nice, sweet, and very talented girl like you should limit your association with Larry Binns. He's bad news". - Dr. Pearsall


As he was speaking to her, Marcia sees Larry out of the corner of her eyes "on all fours" sneaking by the director's office. Their pupils momentarily embrace and lock in and he raises one finger to his lips in a silent shhhh gesture. He was late for class again and stll had his pajama top on. She sat quietly (restraining amusement or laughter) while listening to the director's caution to her about him.

Later that day Larry jokingly asked her what had she done so bad that Dr. P had to counsel her. She informed him that their conversation was actually about him. Although she essentially ignored the warning and informed Larry about the essence of their conversation and his caution to her, she was disappointed and shocked to discover that Larry had a premature penchant for products of the vine. This played a part in his violations.

Marcia had observed Larry acting wild, loud, clownish, flirtatious, and as a devilish prankster. However, never in her wildest imaginings had she conceived that a 15 year-old would be drinking, smoking, and acting with such a lack of restraint. Indeed, they were from different worlds. The small town that she was from, boys his age did not behave in such a manner and she was often shocked by his behavior.

Nevertheless, as a result of her inquiries about Larry she was equally impressed with his background, that he was a honor student and was a very talented musician. Also, during their conversations in-person and by telephone she discovered that there was a gentler, intellectual, and serious aspect of his personality that attracted her. Among his desirable traits was his unpretentious honesty and philosophical approach to life. For Larry, this was one time in his life that he was willing to make changes in order to be more appealing to her. In his mind she was worth it.

Larry and Piano


Marcia:

"It was my impression that good-looking guys like him with his light skin, nice hair, pretty eyes, talent, and intellect often tend to think too much of themselves and expect all girls to simply yield to their every whim.

Larry was also a very smooth talker and I really loved the resonance and quality of his voice when we talked. However, I sensed that he did not invest much in relationships, especially with girls. Rarely did he have to chase after them. The summer that we met in 1968 at A&T prior to my attending the School of the Arts, I discovered that he was involved with three different girls, not counting his flirtation with me.

I had heard about all of his exploits, yet, the first time we talked on the telephone I sensed something unique, special, and remarkably interesting about him. I enjoyed our initial interchange and looked forward to speaking to him again. I knew that he liked me because he told me so and several others including his best friend, Luke, had confirmed it."

"In all honesty, I realized that his teasing was a form of flirtation and understood that it was done to capture my attention. However, I felt that despite my attraction to him, he was just another player."

One of the girls was a 19 year-old college sophomore attending A&T's summer session that he beguiled by strutting down Market Street with one of his dorm companions, whom Larry gave the nickname "Shakespeare" (because he loved to recite poetry and was from a small town named Hamlet, NC). Larry would carry one of his father's voluminous medical books under his arms as a pick-up prop for college girls.

His father was a physician, thus he was very knowledgeable about the courses and procedures adhered to by pre-med students. This very attractive college girl and one of her companions saw them walking and after Larry waved and smiled at them the driver asked if they wanted to ride with them to a popular college hang out to get something to eat. They accepted the ride.

Larry looked much older than a 15 year-old, was intellectual, and conducted himself very maturely when he was not playing the role of class clown and truly desired to impress someone. Thus, he was able to deceive the young lady who was also the driver into thinking that he was a freshman pre-med student at A&T. He deceptively told her that he was taking a human anatomy course that summer in an attempt to apply for early graduation. Needless to say, she was very impressed and attracted to him.

This initial meeting resulted in their dating for several weeks. When she attempted to invite him to several parties at her off campus apartment, his excuse was always that he had to study for an exam or prepare for a lab experiment. Although he and his roommate had a special arrangement with his dorm counselors, they were unwilling to permit him to attend these late night parties out of fear that something could happen to him and they would be held accountable.

Their dorm counselors were senior music education students who were working as counselors for extra money that summer. They resided directly across the hall from Larry and Luke, beside the main door to the dorm. The dorm could only be locked and unlocked from the inside and could not be opened with a key at night. Both of his counselors played with a band and went out on gigs on Friday and Saturday nights at a nearby night club.

They befriended Larry and Luke, provided them with food, booze, drove them around town, and gave them special privileges such as staying out beyond curfew occasionally in exchange for them locking and unlocking the main door. They cared for their responsibilities diligently when their counselors were away on gigs and covered for them while they were away for those four or five hours at night. This involved doing room checks at night. The other thirty or more boys were told that Larry and Luke were in charge whenever they were not available and instructed to obey them.

Also, Larry or Luke would stay awake to open the dorm's main door when their counselors knocked on their window at 2 or 3 in the morning to signal them on their return. Finally they were also given a final monetary reward and a promise to carry them to the club on the last night of school to party and watch them perform with the female dorm counselors. The promises were fulfilled in a large way.


Marcia:
 
"Larry reluctantly confessed to me later that his deception unraveled when she began to tell her friends about him and none of the male regular college students knew anything about him nor was he assigned to the regular college dorms. Their suspicion heightened and their investigation yielded the discovery that he was assigned to Scott Hall, the dormitory which housed the male summer music institute students. They also revealed to this girl that they had discovered that Larry was a mere rising tenth grader."

Shocked, incensed, and totally infuriated, the 19 year-old college "girlfriend" of Larry's telephoned him. Initially she spoke kindly and flirtatiously with him in order to catch him in another lie. Then once she accomplished her goal she informed him that she knew the facts and gave him a scathing rebuke and lecture on deception. She informed him that she could have been liable for legal action if their relationship had become more serious or perhaps intimate.

Furthermore, she now had to suffer the embarrassment of being duped, deluded, and outright "played" by a precocious and deceitful adolescent. Several weeks later he also received a letter from this young lady further denouncing his conduct and the hurt that his actions had caused. 


Marcia:
 

"Larry dating this young woman as well as flings with two other girls and attempting to court me all occurred during a period of just nine weeks! Additionally, he had a steady girlfriend who was a senior in high school and a majorette, waiting for him in Winston-Salem. He had a penchant for older girls or at least those who were in a higher grade level. His reputation was well-known in the girl's dorm in which I resided."


However Marcia was not apprised of the extent of his pubescent and trifling toying with the affections of girls until several weeks before she began dating him. Larry voluntarily confessed his actions during those nine weeks at A&T to her when he wrote her an "eighteen page" love letter in three envelopes a week after they left A&T, not knowing that he would ever see her again. When she responded to his letter and informed him how much she enjoyed reading his lovely letter, even showing it to her mother, she also informed him that she would be attending school in his hometown and desired very much to see him. In her words:

(Click to Enlarge)


After recovering from the shock of her swift response to his letter, her notifying him that she would be attending NCSA in his hometown, and her desire to see him; Larry promptly wrote to her again. He assured her that his actions at A&T were not characteristic of him and that the freedom and circumstances of campus life had clouded his judgement. Furthermore, he stated that he was confessing these things because for the first time he was in love and promised that he would never deceive Marcia in such a manner. Larry has always kept that promise. 


Beginning in late August, 1968, Marcia and Larry dated for three months and developed a binding affection for each other during Marcia's first year at UNCSA, but prior to Larry's attendance two years later. Larry fell deeply in love with Marcia during that two year period, 1968-1970, and often wrote to her to express his affections. She was the first and the only girl that he has ever loved or ever expressed his love for. However, Marcia felt that Larry was far too serious about life and their relationship at their young age of 15.


Marcia:

"Despite Larry's shortcomings, I was falling really hard and fast for him."

Larry:

"By my sixteenth birthday, five months after last seeing her in November, '68; I knew for a certainty that my feelings for her were unlike any other passing infatuation. I still cared very deeply and thought about her daily, despite having a very attractive new girlfriend.
 
I called Marcia on my sixteenth birthday just to hear her voice, talk a little, and hopefully be granted permission to see her that night, during a surprise party for me. When she heard a girl knocking on my bedroom door and calling for me she inquired who it was and I confessed that it was my girlfriend. Marcia said that I should get back to my guest and informed me that she was also seeing someone new.
 
Her statement tore my heart apart. I was still hopeful that we could try again. All other girls were just a pale imitation of her and a casual distraction to bide my time until we could somehow be reunited. I could never open the door to my heart to any of the many girls that I dated before or after her.
 
Before Marcia I was always disciplined and kept my feelings under control with girls, never permitting my heart to become involved or get attached. I was blindsided by her beauty, charm, sweetness, and intellect. I never saw it (love) coming until it was too late."

Marcia in 1969


Memorable Music: Who is Gonna Love Me?

(First love song that Marcia sang to Larry in September 1968)

 Officially Dating?

Marcia:

"Regardless of knowing his history and the fact that his girlfriend resided just blocks from my dorm in Winston-Salem, I continued seeing Larry because I really liked and trusted him. Furthermore, he knew about my steady boyfriend in Ahoskie and made no demands regarding him. His response at A&T when I informed him that I had a boyfriend was: 'That's nice, but he's not here.'
 
Larry was completely different from him in that he was daring, adventurous, wise beyond his years, somewhat cocky, arrogant, philosophical, unpretentious, very honest with me with the exception of one thing, with just a hint of shyness."

The Word “dating” is often a very ambiguous term. Larry and Marcia used terms such as “seeing each other”. They were essentially in an "exclusive" relationship, despite initially not breaking up with their “official" girlfriend or boyfriend. Despite exclusively “seeing” each other they did not use the word dating to define their relationship until years later. Below is how others define this word when it is Googled:

“Dating is spending time together while doing an enjoyable activity and slowly learning more about one another, occasionally thinking about making it permanent by getting married.”

"For me it means getting to know someone better and/or hanging out having fun."
 
"To me dating isn't about buying dinner, or about who asks out whom, or even about sex. It's simply about creating an opportunity to get to know each other and explore possible grounds for common interests. The rest should follow organically."

 


(click Photo to Enlarge)


 

 
 
 
 
 
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