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Rear View Mirror: The True Story Behind Fastball's "The Way"

Alex Redekop

Each week on Rear-view Mirror, Rich Terfry and the Radio 2 team look back at a great song from the good ol' days. Today, Talia Schlanger steps in for a story behind "The Way" by Fastball.

In 1998, when Fastball released their smash hit song "The Way," most people heard the romantic tale of eternal youth and an endless road trip...

But listen to the story behind the song… and I promise, you'll never hear it the same way again.

Rear View Mirror: Fastball's "The Way"

Click play for Talia Schlanger's story behind Fastball's biggest hit song


We begin in 1986. Salado, Texas. Lela and Raymond are strangers. They're both grandparents, both in their 70s. Both of them lose their spouses. And they each resign to spending their golden years alone. That is — until they meet each other.

Lela and Raymond fall madly in love and get married. They share everything. Their last name, their families, their love of music.

Every summer, Lela and Raymond pack up the Oldsmobile and drive 15 miles from Salado to Temple, Texas, for their favourite fiddling festival.

And in June of 1997, that's exactly what they set out to do. It's tradition. Even though Raymond was 88 and recently had a stroke, and Lela is 83 and starting to show signs of dementia, that day they hit the road to the festival like a couple of crazy teenage lovebirds.

Days later, in another part of Texas, Tony Scalzo — the bass player for the band Fastball — sits down at the breakfast table with a cup of coffee and a newspaper and reads the headline: "Elderly Salado couple missing on a trip to nowhere." Lela and Raymond Howard set out for a fiddling festival, and didn’t come back. Their kids are worried. The search parties are out.

A few days later, Tony reads another headline: "Family still mystified by disappearance."

Tony becomes obsessed with the story. Who were these people? And where were they going without ever knowing the way?

Tony writes a song about Lela and Raymond. And it isn’t until after Tony plays that song for his band Fastball and they decide to record it, that he reads the final newspaper headline: "Elderly couple found dead in car two weeks after trip to festival."

Lela and Raymond Howard's bodies were discovered in that Oldsmobile, at the bottom of a canyon, hundreds of miles away from where they meant to go.

And the next year, 1998, when their children and their grandchildren got in the car, flicked on the radio, you can only imagine how they felt to hear their family story immortalized, romanticized in this song by Fastball: "The Way."

More Editions of Rear View Mirror:

Marvin Gaye - "I Want You"

Steve Miller - "The Joker"

Ian & Sylvia - "Four Strong Winds"

Darrell Banks - "Open the Door to Your Heart"