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Forrest Gump of DeGraff

I really like the movie Forrest Gump. So many of us can quote lines from the film but to me what makes it interesting is how Forrest becomes (often comically) ingrained in so many historical moments. Rolling Stone called the movie and Tom Hanks portrayal of Forrest, everything we admire in the American character – honest, brave, loyal...

I recently read a book that made me think of Forrest Gump, not that the main character is dim, in fact he goes on to be a university president, but that he comes of age during the post-war period and lives more common, but still important, bits of history.

Dr. Rick Niece's second automythography, "The Band Plays On," takes place in rural DeGraff, Ohio. Where, thanks to my review of his first book, he is now so famous he has been invited back to be the grand marshall of the parade opening the DeGraff Country Fair this fall.

Back in 1950-something Rick Niece moved to DeGraff, Ohio with his family. His first book tells the tale of a young paper boy who took the time to care about the people of his town while they took care of him. In this book, it's now 1960-something and Rick Niece plays taps with his father the band director and eventually leaves DeGraff for college.

While reading this book I kept thinking, I know a dozen men Dr. Niece's age who grew up in rural Ohio who could have written this book. But they didn't. And then I realized that Rick wrote this for them. He wrote this for all of us to better understand a moment in time. A moment in history.

History is not always kind to Rick Niece and the people he loves but the book ends with a heart-warming reunion--providing closure in real life and for readers of the book.

The theme for the 2012 DeGraff Country Fair is We welcome the new and embrace the old. I can't think of a better theme for a hometown parade featuring fire trucks, marching bands and Rick Niece.

UPDATE: Here's a real review by a real journalist at the Springfield News-Sun.

I received a free copy of the book to read and enjoy, but you probably already figured out that this review is entirely my own. Learn more about "The Band Plays On" at


  1. AnonymousJune 27, 2012

    Found this blog via OU alum site - I'm a bobcat, too. I know Rick Niece personally - he graduated in same HS one year after me and is a good friend of my brother. His dad is still revered by those of us who had him as band director back then. What treasured memories we all have of those days! Can't wait to read his second book about the HS band and DeGraff a long time ago! Thanks for your comments about our Forrest Gump.


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