©2009 Bill 'Badco' Ott


"Everybody finds somebody someplace
There's no telling, where love may appear
Something my heart keeps saying
My someplace, is here."


After the shock from reading the tragic news of the loss of Sy Sidebotham had slowly worn off, the sound of a long ago forgotten Italian love song with an almost mournful tune started playing in the back my mind. Followed a little later by the sarcastic words and Jazzish suggestions of brothers Steely Dan...

"I'll play just what I feel
drink Scotch whiskey all night long
and die behind the wheel"

The old love song brought to mind the times I overheard 'Sy' call his beloved wife Dottie while sitting at the table in his motor home and sing a song to her over his cell phone as we cruised along the Interstate at a high rate of speed. Sometimes he'd sing a tune I could recall from my younger days. Sometimes it would be something he make up entirely 'on the fly'. But in any case, it sometimes got me to thinking of another song...

"Better to shower the people you love
with love...
Tell them the way that you feel"

Eldon 'SY' Sidebotham wasn't afraid to show anyone how he felt about them. And that's a wonderful thing... and not always a good thing, 'ya know.

The first time I met Sy was at the 2004 Charleston Dragway Reunion. He was already a bigger than life legend in the New England (and national) drag racing circles. The weather that year was less than ideal for an outdoor reunion... rainy and cold. None the less, Sy opened up his huge 'double stacker' trailer for all. **Shelter From The Storm** indeed. Got to meet and make some good friends that wet afternoon... Tom 'Tuna' and Tim Steed, Bob 'Bear' George, Don Roberts, Jeff Howe, and of course Sy.

Upon learning that I had just lost my job of twenty seven years driving the big trucks (and my plans for the remainder of the summer included spending a lot of time with my feet up out on the back porch consuming copious amounts of Tequila while I could still afford to do both) Sy asked if I'd instead be interested in driving his transporter. The beautiful '69 King & Marshall front engine dragster needed to be taken to the York US30 'Muscle Madness Reunion' and the driver's seat was empty.

Two weeks later I found myself leaving the parking lot of Seal Tech (Sy's business) in Manchester, N.H. pointing his absolutely beautiful eighty-five foot long behemoth southbound on the Everett Turnpike. By the time we got to the second toll booth Sy leaned over just slightly from his position in the passenger's side 'Captain's chair' and asked if I'd be interested in driving the rig to the upcoming 50th Annual U.S. Nationals at Indy! Hmmmm... lemme roll that one around for about half a second!

For the next eight hours or so I got to listen to the history of The New England Dragway... Sy's family along with the Brock family built it. I also heard about how Sy got hooked on the drags like so many of us did at a young age. And about how he tried to talk his Dad and uncle into mass producing dragster chassis' at their machine shop... and how they both turned a thumbs down on the idea... convinced that drag racing was just a fad and would soon pass. Then there was his first serious drag car, an Oldsmobile powered roadster. Followed by an Olds powered dragster that morphed into a blown Chrysler powered NITRO burning fuel dragster. Sy told me how he believed the Chrysler powered dragster to be too short. So he lengthened the frame and took it to the races... where it immediately broke in half.

Back in 2004, I was still living in PA. The York Fairgrounds were just up the road from my home in Harrisburg. The Boopster drove over to meet Sy and give me a ride home that evening. He greeted her with his patented hug and insisted she sit, rest, and have a cold drink in his luxurious motor home following her grueling twenty-six mile drive. I never talked to Sy after that without him asking how was "the lovely Miss Betty, the soap lady?" Quite a gentleman he was.

The next day we unloaded the King & Marshall digger from the trailer and parked it in it's assigned spot inside the Main Hall. That was also the day I learned I could fit quite comfortably in the confines of the Don Long chassis... something that would prove again to be a true gift from the drag race Gods (and Sy) in a few weeks.

Next? Lunch at an Italian restaurant in York.

As I'm enjoying my plate of spaghetti, Sy looks across the table, smiles, and asks "Do you know Pat Foster?"

"Nope." I reply.

So... he opens up his cell phone, punches a few buttons, and hands it to me.

"Here... say hello to Pat Foster." he said about the same time the phone on the other end started ringing.

Anyway, that's how I got to meet Pat. Via what started out as one of the most uncomfortable conversations I've had in my entire life. But, when I told 'Uncle Patty' that this was Sy's doing, he said something like "Is that old b*$!@*! there?" and laughed like hell. Soon, we all were having a good laugh. I can't look back on this particular event without having one still to this day. Later that same day I spent a good part of the afternoon listening to Sy and Joe Jacono swap lies back and forth in the comfort of Sy's motor home. Turned out they both competed in the NASCAR (that's right NASCAR!) Drags held in the Daytona Beach area (Flagler to be exact) back in the 50's.

Now none of the above is meant to imply that Sy didn't have a pertinacious side. Sy and myself got into more than one good argument when we traveled the road together. In fact, there were times when he had me so riled I literally caught myself pounding on the steering wheel! Then there was the time I quit and decided to hitch hike home (if necessary) about a half mile from the entrance to Indianapolis Raceway Park. This, after driving most of the way from New Hampshire to Indy. There were witnesses to this.

But fortunately cooler heads prevailed (thanks Todd) and in a matter of minutes Sy had me laughing at both myself and him. Needless to say... I stuck around. After all, this was the 50th U.S. Nationals and even my ill temper knew better than to walk away.

Unfortunately, Sy had pretty poor health to deal with too. He came down with pneumonia during the York Reunion earlier that year. That was one scary ride home. But... his condition, in a very unique way, parlayed into a pretty good thing at those very same 50th Annual NHRA U.S. Nationals. Drag race legend and everybody's favorite good guy Mr. Steve Gibbs had known Sy for years and was well aware of his delicate health. Fearing that Sy might take a turn for the worse and medical help would be too far away if needed, Steve arranged for us to park the transporter right next to the starting line. Bear in mind, this was at the 50th NHRA U.S. Nationals... and we wound up with a front row seat. We could sit in the lounge area of the motor home and look out the right side windows... and see the starting line!

But then again... who else besides Sy... could manage to get his rig parked right beside the starting line, in full view of the ESPN cameras... at the previously mentioned 50th Annual NHRA U.S. Nationals... with "IHRA" emblazoned in eighteen inch tall letters on the side of his trailer!!

Check out Racin' and Rockin' to see how that mess got handled before the TV cameras were fired up.

But... not only did we have an unparalleled view of the starting line, we also got to display the King & Marshall dragster. It was one of the 'Golden Fifty' featured cars that weekend.

Remember I mentioned I could fit into the cockpit? Well... I got to steer that puppy all around I.R.P. until regular wheel man Tommy Steed arrived on Friday afternoon. We also 'Cackled' Monday in front of 50,000 or so appreciative fans.

But that was then. Now... back to the dark present.

The headline in the Tuesday April 7th Manchester, N.H. Union Leader read...


Sy was just 72 years young when he lost control of his pickup on that rain slicked Route 101 ramp. The article went on to state speed was a factor too... along with the fact that Sy wasn't wearing a seatbelt.

Well now let me tell you...

Speeding on a wet road and not wearing a seatbelt... hell, that about describes Sy to a "T". He loved to drive fast and push the envelope. And that's what he was doing.

I loved the man.

My life definitely took a turn for the better on that Sunday afternoon in 2004 when I first met him. I'll never forget him.

Thanks Sy.............

More old B.S. later.

Forward advice, rebuttals, and death threats to:


"Everybody Loves Somebody"
words and music by Irving Taylor and Ken Lane
© 1947 Sand Music Corp. ASCAP
from the 1964 Reprise Records release 'Everybody Loves Somebody'
by Dean Martin

Co-writer Ken Lane played piano in Dean's back up combo and showed Dean the tune just for laughs during a lull in a recording session. Dean and his producer decided to record it. It was released in the summer of 1964 and was his only #1 seller. It remained in the Top 40 for thirteen weeks. The words "Everybody Loves Somebody" are also inscribed on Dean's grave marker.


"Deacon Blues"
words and music by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen
©1977 Freejunket Music BMI
from the 1977 ABC/Dunhill release "AJA"
by Steely Dan

LA based, former A/Fuel Dragster racer (and twenty year Tonight Show Orchestra veteran) Pete Christlieb doing both of those cool saxophone solos on this Steely Dan number. Also, you'll be listening to Chuck Rainey on electric bass and Bernard 'Pretty' Purdie on drums... considered by many the best (and possibly most recorded) rthymn section ever.


"Shower The People"
words and music by James Taylor
©1976 Warner Brothers Music Inc.
From the 1976 Warner Records release "In The Pocket"
by James Taylor

And as usual... a big thanks goes out to all those, who without their assistance and friendship, this project would have never been completed... Paul 'Hutch' Hutchins, Jeff Howe, Don Roberts, The Boopster, Fred the wonder puppy, and Tequila SOLAZUL Reposado.




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