When a diva speaks, you listen. And so when Aretha Franklin requested a “shout-out” to childhood friends she would like to see again, The News vowed to do our best to help out.
The family’s name was Blassingame – she spelled it out, meticulously – and they lived across the street from the corner house on Lyth Street where her family lived.
“Charlotte and Gordon, and they had a younger brother by the name of Wayne,” she said.
Her voice grew dreamy. “I had often wondered if they were still in Buffalo, if they ever attended any of the concerts. Charlotte and I were friendly – and Gordon, I must have been about 11, and I used to kind of wait to see him come out of the house.” She sighed, seeing the humor of it. “He didn’t know I was alive.”
Thanks to the Internet, details emerged. Gladys Blassingame, the family matriarch, passed on in 2004. Her obituary shows that this family, like many others, are now all over the map. Charlotte, married to James Rushin Sr., lives in Memphis, Tenn. Gordon lives in Atlanta. His wife is named Marilyn.
It appeared that Wayne Blassingame, the baby brother Franklin remembered, still lives in Buffalo.
We found his phone number and, excitedly, called. Alas, the number was no longer in service. Next we found an email address, but a message went unanswered.
What about Facebook? We found Wayne Blassingame there and, this being Buffalo, we had a bunch of mutual friends. We sent him a message. Next, we searched the Atlanta phone listings for Gordon Blassingame, the boy Aretha Franklin had thought was so cute. His number turned up and we left a message.
There was one stone still unturned. Under “About” on Facebook, Wayne Blassingame had written, “Very active member of the only African-American Episcopal Church in Buffalo, N.Y., St. Philip’s Episcopal Church.” A phone call to St. Philip’s was answered by a recording stating the times for services. Though uninvited to leave a message, we left a long and wordy one at the beep.
This is Buffalo. How can you not locate someone? And so we are not giving up.
Blassingame family, have a heart.
Let’s not disappoint the Queen of Soul!
– Mary Kunz Goldman