We all have some particularly fond memories of our years at Hampden-Sydney. Many of those memories involve spending time with a small group of close friends, sometimes just hanging around a dorm room talking like we did so many other days and nights. For Charlie Bowles ’82, Greg Currie ’82, and Ranny Heflin ’82, their thing was getting together to play guitar in the basement of the Kappa Alpha house. When they gathered to record one last jam session just before graduation, they probably had no idea that day would mean so much to them more than 30 years later.
“We knew each other the entire time we were at Hampden-Sydney,” says Bowles. “We were pretty much inseparable, even though we each did our own thing. I was on the tennis team. Ranny wrestled and Greg played football, but we sure did a lot together. All of our personalities just clicked and we got along really well.”
Part of the attraction was music.
Bowles and Currie already played guitar when they got to Hampden-Sydney and as freshmen they brought their guitars to college. Bowles says, “We started playing together when we moved into the fraternity house and we played a lot. If we could skip a political science class and just play guitar, that’s what we would do. It’s terrible, but it’s true.”
Heflin did not begin playing music until he picked up the bass guitar as a junior, but music was much more to Currie. He says his love of music sidetracked a potential career as a doctor.
“That was the plan I was on at Hampden-Sydney: take Mr. Crawford’s biology class, major in chemistry, make great grades, and go to med school. But somewhere along the line I met the arts and I really preferred the arts. So, I went into the music business in my 20s. I moved to Philadelphia and I worked with some guys there who went on to win Grammy awards. Being a rather arrogant young man and an impatient young man, I gave up on the music business when I was just 29. But, I have always enjoyed music and loved music.”
Currie left the music industry for a career in outside sales and he now lives in California. After graduating from Hampden-Sydney, Heflin began a career in the U.S. Army. He retired in 2004 and now works as a contractor for the military. Back in Virginia, Bowles works in on-line truck sales. With their careers taking them in different directions, the three close friends quickly lost contact with one another after leaving H-SC.
Their lives reconverged this past summer after Bowles happened upon that final recording from 1982.
“Ranny had moved out of the fraternity house the final semester and he came over one day and he was like, ‘Let’s just do it one more time.’ So I ran upstairs and got the giant reel-to-reel tape deck and a couple of microphones and we played a couple of songs and that was that. We graduated and all went our separate ways. Thirty-one years later, I was cleaning out the barn and I came across that cassette tape. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t have anything to play it on, so I went to a bunch of stores and finally found a tape deck at Goodwill. I hooked it up to my iPad and made a copy of the recording. I looked up Ranny and Greg on Facebook—we hadn’t had any correspondence—and sent it to them. That just fired it right up.”
Heflin says hearing that recording immediately took him back to Hampden-Sydney. “It was actually being there. The basement of KA at that time was completely empty and you could hear all of that resonance there. I can remember where I sat, where Charlie was, and where Greg was. Charlie standing; Greg sitting, as always. At the very end of one of those songs where he tells me to ‘shut up,’ I never forgot. I put that at the end of the video because that’s just a sweet memory.”
That video, which is now on YouTube (http://bit.ly/KAreunion), is one Heflin made in August when they recorded a new song.
“It’s kind of funny because I was never going to engage in Facebook,” admits Currie. “My wife actually set up an account for me. She saw Ranny on Facebook and reconnected us. I guess I thought I was too much of a big, tough guy to engage in this silly social network thing, but it has been great to connect with other old friends as well.”
Two months after Bowles found the tape, the three long-lost friends were back together again.
Currie flew in from California, and Heflin picked him up at the airport. Together they drove to meet Bowles for a weekend of reliving old times, catching up after decades apart, and making more music together.
Bowles says, “When they drove up it was just unbelievable. It was great to see Ranny and Greg with all their stuff packed in that tiny little Prius. We just had a blast. It’s hard to describe how after 30 years you can see someone and nothing has changed at all. It’s just remarkable. We joked about the exact same things. Ranny still has to be a control freak, and Greg is so easy-going that he can be easily distracted from doing anything. Nothing has changed.”
“I like them for the same reasons now that I liked them then,” says Currie. “The things that you liked about a person back then are the same qualities now. People really don’t change much. It’s just so joyful.“
Heflin adds, “The only thing that happened was that we had all gotten grayer and more wrinkled and have more aches and pains in our bones. But we all had a great time. I don’t think people really change a lot over life. The core of who people are remains fairly constant and that was the case with our visit. We had a lot of fun.”
Since that weekend together the guys have both continued to make music together and continued to stay in touch. Thanks to the technology that helped reunite them, they are able to record on their own and share files over the Internet.
“We’re working on more songs together right now and we’re having fun with it,” says Currie. “We have three or four more songs that we’re working on and I’m kind of excited about some of them. They may actually turn into something decent, which would be great.”
What is more important, though, is that these friends are back in one another’s lives.
Bowles says, “One of the things that we talked about that weekend was that we were so sad that we waited so long to get back together. We are just so joyous now. I mean, we end our phone calls with ‘I love you,’ which is kind of bizarre for KAs to do.”
After waiting so long to do something that has meant so much to each of them, these three guys are not wasting any more time. They are reaching out to other fraternity brothers and classmates who have been lost to time. Just prior to their own musical reunion in August, Bowles and Heflin just missed one another at a KA reunion hosted by Joe Morgan ’82 in Gloucester. Back in 1978, Morgan brought a group of fraternity brothers to his family’s cottage. This past summer he pulled folks together again—just like old times—but Bowles and Heflin, who had not yet had their own reunion, missed one another by only a few hours.
Looking back on the 31 years that have passed since they last saw one another, Heflin is not very surprised that he and Currie and Bowles picked right up where they left off. “Over the years, you meet a lot of people. A lot of people you’ve grown apart from. There’s nothing right or wrong about it. It just is. Those two guys are the same people that they always were. Of course, we were fraternity brothers. There are fraternity brothers, and then there are close fraternity brothers. We were close, and we remain that way, which is really beautiful.”
Now these three friends—these three brothers—have many more beautiful memories just waiting to be made.