SIOUX CITY -- Jack Langley quit Central High School as a sophomore to see the world.

A half-century later as a successful musician, Langley is coming back to raise money to preserve his old stomping grounds.

"I grew up wanting to be just like Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins and Duane Eddy," said Langley, 73. "Didn't think that would happen in little old Sioux City."

Langley is scheduled to be part of a fundraiser at 7 p.m. Saturday to benefit the 610 13th St. building, known as Castle on the Hill. The 1893 structure was turned into apartments in 2003.

Langley said it will be nostalgic walking across the stage of the red brick building. It was at Central that he first fell in love with Sheila Davis, the girl who he would one day marry.

It was also the place that Langley thought was stifling his rock 'n' roll dreams. So Langley joined the U.S. Navy, working as a mechanic on destroyers.

"That sort of work will either finish you off or make you a man," he said.

Following a four-year stint, Langley returned to his hometown to marry his high school sweetheart. ("We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary last November," notes Sheila Langley.)

But without a high school diploma, he was forced to take a series of low-paying mechanic jobs.

"I learned pretty early on that it was a mistake dropping out of high school," he said.

Eventually, he earned a GED diploma and, at Drake University in Des Moines, a bachelor's degree in art education.

Even though he spent a few years at the front of a classroom, living the life of an art teacher wasn't fulfilling for a man who aspired to become a performer. He moved to Nashville, Tenn., and made a name for himself as a singer-songwriter.

Either as a soloist or joined by sons Mike Langley and the late Jon Langley, he eventually saw the world as an entertainer, fulfilling the dream that began as a student at Central High School.

"Guess I've come full circle," Jack Langley said, recalling his first performances as a harmonica player on the stage of North Junior High School. "I've seen the world and now I'm back where it all began."

He was inducted into the Iowa Rock n Roll Music Association Hall of Fame in 2005.

Walking the second floor music room of his Westside Sioux City home, Langley shows off mementos of a lifetime spent on stage. There are photos of him with fellow Sioux City musicians like the Velaires' Danny Matousek and family members.

"Music has been pretty good for me," Langley said, glancing at photos that represent every aspect of his life. "There isn't a day that goes by when I'm not picking up my guitar or writing a new song."

Even though many of his former high school contemporaries have long since retired, Langley is still going strong, performing several gigs every year.

"Nobody said you couldn't be a wild child long after you stopped being a kid," he said with a smile.


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