The Story Behind
Say You Remember Me
by the composer Patty Waszak

How It Began

When I wrote Say You Remember Me, it was intended to be a simple song about aging. Taking on a personality and life of its own, it has steamrolled into a very special project. Special, because I decided to record the song, make it available to the public, and donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of cassettes for the research of Alzheimer's disease. To date, several thousand dollars have been donated.

It all began late one evening in January, 1990. I said a little prayer asking God for direction and guidance. I asked: "What should I do with the rest of my life"? I've traveled, I've accomplished so many of the goals I had set years before, what do I do now? So many of my dreams either came true or were discarded after they were redefined by the reality of life. The recurring question was, "what do you do when the dream is gone?" Without realizing it at the time, God heard my prayers and answered them by inspiring me to write, Say You Remember Me, and by inspiring me to follow this new dream.

That same evening, after making my request (as described), I began thinking about my family's background and how things have changed. My grandparents left their homeland of Poland and came to America hoping to make a better life for themselves and their children knowing they would probably never see family and friends again. They came with no possessions other than the clothes on their back. What a tremendous sacrifice. Both parents and grandparents survived the Great Depression and experienced the WWII era with my dad leaving his home to serve his country for 3 years in India (1943 to 1946).

When I was growing up, our holidays were usually spent visiting both sets of grandparents often on the same day. Thus, many times we stuffed ourselves twice in 24 hours with some of the best Polish cooking in town. This was the ritual every Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I cherish those memories and find it odd to think that, because of the thousands of miles that separated them, my mom and dad never once were even able to just meet their grandparents. How proud I am of all of them for their sacrifice and love.

As I continued with my meditation, it occurred to me that mom and dad, now in their seventies, were not quite as strong as in those early days. That is when I began jotting down a few notes about my mom's forgetfulness and the many memories made through the years. As I began to write, the words came so fast it was as if someone was dictating them to me. A very strange feeling came over me. As I read what I wrote I began to cry. This stuff was really good! Then the melody came to me in the same fashion, as if someone was dictating it to me. In about an hour, the basic song was written.

I wanted to record it but thought no, this would be just another one of those expensive "projects" I would be getting myself into. Forget about it, forget the dreams. Let's deal with the reality of dollars and "sense"! I decided to file the song away. A few weeks went by. Then, one day while waiting for my mom in a doctor's office, I picked up a magazine to pass the time. It was a copy of the July 16th, 1990 edition of NEWSWEEK. The cover photo caught my eye. It was a picture of an older woman and a younger woman. I proceeded to read the story. It was about aging and role reversal. This article became the main catalyst inspiring me to record, Say You Remember Me. "Forget the cost," I told myself, this was something I was supposed to do! Again, I felt like someone or something was guiding me. I could write a book, and maybe someday I will, about all of the other unusual events that kept happening that encouraged me to complete this project.

For example, in January of 1991, I went to Nashville, TN to record Say You Remember Me. Just as we were about to begin, Dan Schafer, who co-produced Say You Remember Me asked the musicians, the engineer, all of us to bow our heads. He proceeded to lead us in prayer asking God for a good session and for the song to be successful in doing whatever it was that He wanted it to accomplish. In all of my years as a musician, never have I been part of a recording session that began in such a beautiful way.

Once recorded, many who heard the song thought I was singing about someone who was afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. That is what inspired me to donate a portion of the proceeds for the research of Alzheimer's disease. At the time I wrote the song, I didn't think my mother, who was the inspiration for the song, had Alzheimer's. She was a little forgetful, but aside from the aches and pains that generally accompany the aging process, mom was doing just fine. However, several years later, I took my mother to Rush Presbyterian St Luke's Medical Center in Chicago for an evaluation and they then confirmed that she did in fact have Alzheimer's.

Every time someone heard the recording or heard me sing the song live, they said they felt it had a special message and that the song needed to be heard by as many people as possible. I wasn't quite sure how to do that. After all, the song wasn't appropriate for weddings and other private parties which is where I most often performed. It wasn't going to fit in at the lounges where I would occasionally work. The song needed a setting in which the audience could just sit and listen to the words without any distractions. That's when I got the idea to create a variety show, a live stage show, to be presented in a theater. A live stage show or theatrical concert would be a perfect vehicle for performing my song. Because, Say You Remember Me, was such a serious song, my goal was to keep the rest of the show upbeat and lively. But I wasn't sure how to go about doing this and just kept the idea in the back of my mind.

Air Play

In 1990, I wrote the song. In 1991, I recorded it in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1992, I gave a copy of the cassette to Mary Lipien, my next door neighbor in Chicago. She said there was a lady at work who's husband had something to do with a local radio show. I really didn't believe this would lead to anything but I called the man. His name was Len Petrulis and he co-hosted a show called the "Chet Gulinski Show." It turned out to be a "drive time" polka radio show hosted by Chet Gulinski and heard every weekday morning all over the Chicagoland area. When I talked to Lenny, not only did he get the song played on the show, he also called me in to appear on the show for an interview.

I remember my dad used to talk about Chet Gulinski. My dad loved to get involved with functions at our parish, Five Holy Martyrs. I think he booked Chet to come out and do some live radio broadcasts at our parish festivals. So I knew Chet Gulinski was well known in the polka music field and well known not only in Chicago but all across the country. I thought this was a perfect opportunity to get some experience on the radio so I began putting a polka music album together. When it was finished, I returned to the Chet Gulinski Show which led to other interviews on other Chicagoland polka radio shows. For a short time I even hosted my own polka radio show.

The Patty Waszak Show

During that time I was also working on putting my live show together. In February 1993, I had an opportunity to give the show a sort of test run at a place called Drake's Farm in Morris, IL, owned by Mary Lou Cookas. I was living in Wilmington, IL at the time and Drake's was just down the road a piece. My friend, JC, and I met with the manager, Geri, because she was interested in booking JC as a DJ for their Valentine's Day party. I did not say a word about the show because it wasn't ready. But, without any good reason, she said something about wanting to book a show and we told her what we were working on and she booked the show! We walked out of there completely surprised and wondered what exactly would we do for a show!

But, the show went well. There weren't many people, maybe thirty or forty if even that many. It was a terribly cold and slippery night. The streets were sheets of ice and this was out in the country. But the audience response was encouraging and it got us started.

In March, I performed as a mobile DJ for an organization at a VFW hall in Summit, IL on 63rd and Harlem on Chicago's south side. People weren't dancing because the majority of the guests were women and it was an older crowd.

I decided to do a few things from the show we were developing and they loved it. A few days later I got a call from the manager of the VFW and she asked me if I could work for their New Year's Eve party that year. She book me as a DJ but then asked, "will you be doing your show too?" I thought to myself, "what show?" When did she ever see me perform my show? I asked her about it and she said she wanted me to do what I did for that woman's club the other day. So I had from March to December 31st, 1993 to come up with a show. I knew there would be several hundred people there. It was a big hall. I began working on the music, the lighting, costumes, the script, etc. I never really did anything like this before, certainly not to this extent. It was a challenge. I loved it and I'd be following my dream.

New Year's Eve, December 31, 1993, is the date that I consider to be the start of The Patty Waszak Show.

Making Progress

In 1994, I presented three shows, each of which drew about 200 people.

In 1995, convinced I was on the right track, I spent time learning more about marketing and promotions, study other shows, in other words, learn everything I could about the theater and concert business.

In 1996, I presented five shows, one per month beginning in January. Again, each show attracted reasonably good crowds. But I kept using different locations trying to find just the right one. In June, unexpectedly, I met the manager of White Fence Farm Restaurant and we scheduled four shows for the fall. Those shows sold out quickly and we added two more. Those shows also sold out. We were invited to come back the following year presenting our show on a regular basis.

In 1997, I was happy performing at White Fence Farm, but my goal was to perform Say You Remember Me in front of as many people as possible. We were only reaching a small part of the Chicago market. I decided to learn more about tourism and begin reaching out to a national audience.

In 1998, I began marketing overnight packages to senior groups and organizations that travel all over the country by motorcoach.

In 1999, the first two overnight groups arrived. One from Wisconsin and one from Ohio.

In 2000, thirty overnight groups came to see my show. In just one year my business increased nearly 1500%. They came from southern Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa and Canada. I exceeded my goal. I wanted to reach a national audience but with Canada, I was now reaching an international audience.

I was happy to have accomplished this but I was thrilled when many of the groups wanted to come back for a second time.

In 2001, I wanted to increase the numbers but realized it was too much for me to do alone. I didn't have the financial resources to afford a full time office staff because every penny that was made went back into marketing. If business increased another 1500% in 2001, I would not have been able to handle it all. I was the entertainer, and I worked as a sales person, a reservationist, a tour guide, a motorcoach greeter, the accountant, the ad design department, the public relations person, etc. I wasn't completely alone. I had some help. But not enough to handle any more business.

Once again, I worked hard and planted all of the seeds I could. Now it was time to wait patiently for help. I got it by way of a flat tire!

The Flat Tire

Ever since 1997, I had been performing in Florida over the winter months. I knew about the "snow birds," people that went to Florida for the winter months, and figured performing in Florida would be a good way to meet some of them. That first year I went to Florida in November. Then I went in January 2000. In 2001, I was there January, February, and March, but because I was so busy the year before, I didn't have a chance to get on the phone and fill up my schedule like I wanted to. So for January, February and March 2001 I was forced to commute between Illinois and Florida. I didn't want to cancel the shows that were booked. But it would be too expensive to stay in Florida without any work. So I chose to make the commute. Three weeks in Florida, one or two weeks at home in Illinois, then back to Florida. I'm glad I didn't cancel my Florida jobs because it was during my time in Florida in 2001 that I got to witness a shuttle launch at the Kennedy space center. It was awesome. An incredible site. Absolutely beautiful.

As it turned out, not having the time to fill up my Florida schedule like I usually do was a blessing in disguise.

Between Illinois and Florida, a good half way point is Knoxville, Tennessee. I booked a couple of shows in Knoxville and stayed in a town called Pigeon Forge. It's a major tourist destination near Gatlinburg and Smoky Mountain National Park. I stayed there because in January, the off season, the hotel rates are extremely reasonable. JC was with me, as he always is, and on our second or third trip back to Illinois, we wanted to get to Pigeon Forge early so we could spend more time there and check it out. They had a lot of theaters, although not as many as the popular Branson, Mo, and we wanted to see if there was some opportunity for us in Pigeon Forge. After all, this was a major tourist area, an international tourist destination. Millions travel through Pigeon Forge every year. What better way to I fulfill my dream than to perform in a major tourist area. But we didn't get there early like we wanted to because just as we got into Georgia we got a flat tire. It was three o'clock in the morning. There was an exit ramp and we were able to pull off of the expressway. There was a motel but the office was closed for the evening and it didn't look inviting. The truck stop across the street was deserted. The tire repair shop next door looked vacant. We decided to just change the tire and be on our way. But the spare tire was stored under the truck and you lowered it by turning a bolt. But to get to the bolt you had to remove a security plate which was held into place by a wing nut. When JC tried to turn the wing nut it wouldn't move and eventually broke. We could still get at the tire if we wanted to break off the other piece but we decided to wait patiently for help in the morning.

Everything worked out fine. The local Ford dealer took care of us and we were on our way again. However, the flat tire incident delayed us about eight hours. When we got to Pigeon Forge it was late in the evening. We were hungry. When traveling we like to go to independently owned restaurants and not franchises, but because it was the off season, about the only place open was a Denny's. At the Denny's, the waiter was very nice. Very friendly. He kept asking us where we were from and where we were headed. We told him we were from Illinois and that we were returning from Florida. He said lived in Florida for awhile. He sold cars. He asked what business we were in. We explained that we were entertainers and had a show. He suggested we bring our show to Pigeon Forge. We told him we would like to but we don't know anyone in the area. He said he knew of a fella who had some kind of company that brings motorcoach tours to Pigeon Forge all of the time. He didn't know this guy personally but he gave us his name and said he was in the phone book.

The next morning we called the offices of Steve Ellis Tour and Receptive. We got an appointment that day with one of the people in the office. Her name was Joy and she was very nice. I didn't want to say too much. I first wanted find out more about them. I also didn't want to overwhelm them with information because sometime I get started and the entertainer in me comes out when I should be presenting myself as a business person. So I promised myself I would behave.

To perform in a place like Pigeon Forge would be a dream come true. But in order to merit a spot on the much sought after marquees, you have to be able to draw a crowd. You have to do well with ticket sales. I thought that if I could bring groups to Joliet, an unlikely vacation spot, I should be able to bring groups to Pigeon Forge, a major tourist destination. If I could do that I might be able to eventually perform in Pigeon Forge on a regular basis. In Pigeon Forge, being the major tourist destination that it is, I would have the opportunity to perform, Say You Remember Me, in front of a much larger audience than I had ever dreamed of. Millions, potentially!

So I began our meeting by explaining to Joy that I wanted to bring a group of people to Pigeon Forge. I outlined the itinerary I had in mind which would include my performing my show at one of the Pigeon Forge convention halls. I knew we could bring out at least 6 or 7 motorcoach groups from the Chicago area alone so when she asked how many people would be coming, I said 300 and her eyes lit up. With every question she asked, I found myself having to give more and more information. I wanted to tell her everything but I knew giving her everything at once would be too much and too confusing. So I just kept giving her little bits and pieces and avoided going into long stories. After all of the times I brought my promo packs in to agents, theaters in Chicagoland, theaters in Branson, theatres everywhere and knowing what it feels like to be one of thousands of entertainers looking for their big break, I wanted to first schedule a tour I would promote, sell it successfully to prove that I could draw a crowd, and then maybe someone would offer me a contract to perform in a theater.

During our visit, I explained that I wasn't a tour operator but an entertainer who would like to bring a group to Pigeon Forge so that the folks could see me perform my show there. I explained I've been successfully promoting tours to the Joliet, Illinois area and wanted to do the same thing in Pigeon Forge. I dropped some names of motorcoach groups and tour operators that have been to my shows, talked about different travel shows and the next thing I knew she was on the phone to the main man, the owner of the company, Steve Ellis, calling him away from some meeting he was in at one of the theaters in town. As much as I wanted to meet Steve, JC and I had a show to do that evening in Knoxville and it was getting late. I suggested we just meet at another time and Joy just wouldn't let us go. I said we had a show to do and had to get something to eat first. She insisted we go to the restaurant across the street and come back to her office when we were finished. She said Steve would be back to meet us by then.

Steve was there in a matter of minutes and we all sat down and I laid all of my cards on the table. I explained the whole story of how I got started, told them about my song, Say You Remember Me, what we've accomplished so far and where we hoped to end up. He asked why I wanted to do my show in a Pigeon Forge convention center instead of a theater. I explained that theaters are too risky to rent and too expensive if we don't draw a big enough crowd. A convention center or even a banquet hall would better serve my needs right now. He asked if we had a minute, he wanted to show us something. We didn't have a minute to spare but knew this was important and agreed to follow him over to the Governor's Palace Theater. He took us in the stage door. Introduced us to the theater manager and some of the staff and gave us the grand tour. It was a relatively new theater and it was enormous. It had three stages something like the Osmond's theater in Branson. There is seating for over 2000 people. He asked if I could do my show there at the Governor's Palace Theater. I told him yes, but it was too big for our first time out. Then, out of nowhere, without seeing a video or even hearing any of my recordings, he asked what my schedule was like for the rest of the year and would I consider presenting my show as the morning show at the Governor's Palace Theater for the 2001 season? Wow! Where did that come from?

He took us upstairs to the meeting room and we met with the manager and the owner of the theater and discussed the possibility of a morning show. We all agreed it's something we all would have to think about it. About a week later I thanked him for the invitation but reminded him with group sales you need lead time, and I learned my lesson a long time ago how important lead time is. To bring my show in this year would be okay if the theater already had customers but I wouldn't be able to do anyone any good as far as filling the room goes until next year. I would need time to sell the package. I would rather concentrate on what I've already planned for next year. Let's first see how well I do drawing an audience to Pigeon Forge for just a couple of dates. Plus, I wanted him and the theater owner to see my show to make sure it would be right for what they had in mind.

What an exciting 15 hours. We went from a flat tire in Georgia to unexpectedly being offered a morning show spot in Pigeon Forge all in one day. Incredible!

I did make arrangements with Joy to bring my show to Pigeon Forge in March and September 2002 as a sort of test run. They also made arrangements for me to perform not in a convention center or banquet hall but to perform at the Southern Nights Theater in the adjacent town of Sevierville, Dolly Parton's hometown. My goal was to bring 300 people or 6 to 10 motorcoach groups, depending on the capacity and size of the buses, for each tour. As of May 25th, 2001, the September 2002 tour was already almost sold out. The March 2002 date was also coming along just fine. The first groups to have signed up were from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois.

Looking back, it was a good thing I wasn't booked solid in Florida or I might not have met Steve and Joy.

Song Has Special Message

Yes, Say You Remember Me, is a very sad song but truly a song of love and a song with a special message that effects listeners, touches their hearts, in different ways, unique to each of them. It has already accomplished quite a lot in the short time it's been out and it looks like it will have a very interesting future.

One gentleman, after hearing the song, purchased a copy because his mother and sister weren't getting along too well. He said, "maybe this song will wake 'em up."

Another listener from Washington state sent me a letter explaining that she was at a family reunion and played Say You Remember Me for some distant cousins - two sisters and one of their husbands. In her letter she wrote, "...the sisters had just lost their father to Alzheimer's. The three of them sat and cried all through your song......They found it very healing, and wouldn't leave without a copy!"

As a songwriter I try to write songs that evoke a strong response in the listener. If it's a happy tune, it needs to bring a smile to ones face, or encourage hand clapping or singing-a-long. If it's to be a sad song, it should be strong enough to bring a tear to the eye. When you listen to Say You Remember Me, I suggest you have a handkerchief ready. I hope you enjoy Say You Remember Me, but mostly I hope you can appreciate the story it tells.

Lyrics to Say You Remember Me

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