Cool Hand Leuk In Old Town Seal Beach

Steve Goodman

July 25, 1948 – September 20, 1984

It’s Monday night, and I’m working on Tuesday’s post while listening to Steve Goodman music on the twenty-sixth anniversary of his death.

You may have heard one of his songs sung by other musical artists.   His most famous song, “City of New Orleans,” was a hit for Arlo Guthrie in 1972 and has been covered by Johnny Cash, Chet Atkins, Judy Collins, and Willie Nelson.  Jimmy Buffett recorded many songs by Goodman, including “California Promises” and a favorite of mine, “Banana Republics.”  Or if you’re a baseball fan, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard at least one of the three songs written by Chicago-born Goodman for his beloved Chicago Cubs, “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request,” “When the Cubs Go Marching In,” or “Go, Cubs, Go.”  He was a versatile songwriter of enormous talent and skill.

As good as Goodman’s songs are when covered by other singers, I still prefer Steve Goodman songs sung by Steve Goodman.  He brings an affable intensity to his performing that is hard to resist, especially during live recordings.  That’s where his charm and enthusiasm is irresistible.  To give you a flavor of his performing style, I’ve found at clip from one of his Austin City Limits shows from the late seventies.

Since this is history blog, I think this song is particularly apt.

The Twentieth Century Is Almost Over

So why am I writing about Steve Goodman in a blog about Seal Beach?

Although he lived in the Chicago area most of his life, Goodman was a resident of Seal Beach during the early eighties.   When I worked at The Bookstore on Main Street from 1981 to 1983,  his wife, Nancy, was a regular customer, buying a copy of the Sunday Chicago Sun-News each week.  His three daughters, Jessie, Sarah, and Rosanna, were all students at J.H. McGaugh School where Goodman gave a handful of classroom concerts to their lucky classmates.  Red Pajamas Records, the Goodman’s private record label, was based in Seal Beach, and each day the Goodman family would cart mail order shipments to the Main Street post office.

Goodman also wrote a wistful song called, “California Promises” about empty promises.  He once introduced it by saying, “This is a song about a couple who meet by the Seal Beach pier in Seal Beach, California, before the wind comes and destroys the pier.  She says, ‘I’ll be right back.'”

California Promises by Steve Goodman, 1983

Beneath the moonlit sky
Shadows walk beside the water
Sad goodbye whispered on the shore
Hear those wind chimes play
They serenade the shadow lovers
Ring and fade away
Like California promises

I will never love another
Wait for me, ’til I return
But she never will
He waits for her beside the water
Faithful still
To California promises

I will never love another
Wait for me, ’til I return
Though she never will
He waits for her beside the water
Faithful still
To California promises

While the woman never comes back, the pier did get rebuilt.  Sadly, Steve Goodman wouldn’t be around to see it.

(There isn’t a video of “California Promise” available for embedding, but you can listen to it directly on YouTube by clicking here.)

Back in Chicago, Steve Goodman was nicknamed “Chicago Shorty” and “The Little Prince,” but later he jokingly gave himself another nickname, “Cool Hand Leuk” in honor of his guitar prowess and the leukemia diagnosis he had been given in 1969.  His illness was in remission during the seventies, and it remained a secret until the illness returned while he lived in Seal Beach.  Steve Goodman was only thirty-six when he finally succumbed to the disease on September 20, 1984.

If you’re interested in learning more about Steve Goodman, Clay Eals has researched and written an exhaustive 700 page biography, Steve Goodman, Facing The Music, available direct from the author’s web site.  There is also the official Steve Goodman web site and treasure trove of information to be explored at The Steve Goodman Preservation Society.

You can find more of Steve Goodman’s music at Music Fans Direct or at iTunes if you’re a downloading  sort of person.  I recommend the No Big Surprise double CD album for a starter or the Steve Goodman: Live From Austin City Limits… And More! DVD if you want more of the concert shown above.

Next year in Wrigley Field, Steve.

Be sure to check back each week for more historical photos and stories of Seal Beach.
– Michael Dobkins


Have you enjoyed this and other This Date in Seal Beach History posts?

If so, please consider making a small donation of a dollar or more to help defray the online subscriptions and other research costs that make this blog possible.

Donations can be made securely with most major credit cards directly through PayPal. Just click on to go to PayPal. Thank you. 

Bookmark and Share



This entry was posted in Seal Beach History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s