Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Road Repartee

One of the nice things about Geezerhood(perhaps one of its few saving graces)is that you have a lot to look back on. At this point, your Book of Life has some heft to it. There are already more than a few chapters, twists and turns, joys and sorrows- the concatenation of events which somehow got your ass here

One such chapter for me was the 16 months-from December of 1984 to March of 1986- when I was on the road. Gina, Dean and Scoundrel was the band. This was from a gig on Halloween in Ogden Utah, sometime in 1985. All the guys were there when I first started, but we had a different female vocalist on my first day of school.

She was with us for maybe eight months into my tenure, before moving on to her own career. Give my regards to Broadway.  I think we had one interim vocalist after that(Dallas?), and then came Raggedy Ann. In the picture, I'm the beer-wielding Mr T. The Sheik was our bandleader, and he and The Green Lantern to the extreme right were the people in the band with whom I felt the most kinship. 

16 months is not a terribly long time for a musician to be on the road. (They made Apocalypse Now in a year and four months.) Still, I got a taste. Some musicians spend their entire careers in this kind of perambulation. I guess it gets in your blood. Can't help but think of the line from A Streetcar Named Desire: trying to recapture in motion what's lost in space. Our bandleader had a little of that in him as I remember. He was most comfortable when we were moving. 

One thing I do know about being on the road is that it intensifies whatever was(or would've been)already there in terms of your relations with the other folks on the road with you. The Sheik and The Green Lantern were people I would've liked wherever and however I'd met them. So much the better. You're going to have your differences with anyone with whom you're in such close proximity, but a basic affinity still holds things together(the ligament in human relations). And we still keep in touch, 29 years later.

On the other side of the coin, you can have a toxic(or at least problematic)individual who in these close quarters ends up being the worse for wear,  more contemptuous-by-familiarity. You're not going to solve the problem and neither are they.  So you just try and get along while in a band with them, and wish them well in their new endeavors at the end. But just like Bill Murray and Lucy Liu in Charlie's Angels, that's the last movie you're going to make together. Get somebody else to play Bosley...

Traveling all the way across the country to work with complete strangers was something you only do when you're young enough and foolish enough. At 30 I was perhaps not young by some standards but certainly still had the fool in me. I met the Sheik and the Guerilla(also a very nice sort)at the Boston Airport. They had to bum money from me for the tolls. I should've known then that something was up. 

Actually I got a very nice(and unabashedly sentimental)card when the band broke up in March of 1986 with two quarters attached! The quarters eventually found their way back in the economy but I still have the card. 

It was an adjustment being with these strangers all the way across the country, and me with a brand new job to learn(I even had to learn to duck-walk!). Everything was new and a little scary. Plus I was used to having my own place, and had to adjust to having a roommate. And being one. 

At very first, I roomed with the Sheik. I must admit, my diet wasn't the greatest. In addition to whatever starchyass, sodium-laden stuff I was wolfing down, there was much beer consumption. And junk food- with a predilection for cheese-flavored snacks. The Sheik referred to these as Cheez-Plugs, this of course a reference to the obstructive potentials on the path of digestion. Yep, got us a traffic jam here in the Transverse Colon- there's a cheez plug in the road!

Boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. This meme has been used to describe the military experience and prison life, and could also give you a picture of life on the road. Only I don't know if I'd call it terror necessarily. Confusion, exhilaration, irritation, hilarity- and sometimes all those things at once. 

But a lot of down time. For one thing, you've gotta get there, which accounts for much of it. So many hours in transit. And in all this time, you get to know your fellow travelers. Some commonalities emerge(if there are any). As it turned out, The Sheik and The Green Lantern  and I all liked a good joke- in particular, a good witticism. Sometimes, as the Sheik pointed out, we were laughin' to keep from cryin', but jocularity is still jocularity. Still helps to lower blood pressure. Maintain homeostasis within the band. "Happy band", as the Sheik used to say.

The Sheik's manner of comedic expression was either sharp bordering on caustic(he loved Carson), or sardonic. The latter usually kicked in while he was driving, where we'd get some disgusted commentary on whatever was in front of us. I used to refer to this as his having his foot on the disdain pedal. 

On one occasion it was a Wet n' Wild kinda funplace in El Paso TX('Oh God, I can already smell my state!'--somehow the kitsch element reminded him of similar stuff in southern California, where we were headed); on another a club/restaurant  in Houston where we were due to play, called Peppers.

Peppers. Well it is a name with that sort of jive-y aftertaste. Tickles the palate just a bit. 

I consider myself very fortunate to still hear from a few of these people, 29 years later. Since our traveling days, I've been back out to LA to see the Sheik get married, along with most of the old group. And I recorded one of his songs on a CD of mine. Just heard from him a few days ago, which unearthed a few memories which turned into this blog. 

And I've been to the other side of the country to visit The Green Lantern and his lovely wife(not pictured- as I said, she was Raggedy Ann's predecessor)on several occasions. When I was going through a divorce in '93, he said "Gee, that's a shame. Now you're going to have to learn how to order food!"(He finds this comment a little cold now, but I still think it's funny). 

Of the other two in the picture, I've heard from one- and of course wish both of them well. We had a few personnel changes in my time with the band(seems like for awhile in there we went through singers like a junkie through socks), but the above picture was the lineup when I joined. 

 I remember this as a mostly fun period. Certainly a necessary move at the time, getting out into the world a bit. Springfield was starting to close in on me, and getting some fresh air was the best thing I could've done.  It wasn't all fun and games, all happy happy joy joy. But I still wouldn't trade it. For one thing, it somehow got me here.


Thursday, January 08, 2015

Band Pix

 On my website at,  there's a listing of  All the Bands I've Ever Played In . At the time, I came up with 94. That was 2004, when I first started my site, and 94 was probably a bit conservative then. 

The first picture here was the earliest I could find- age 14 or so. The Bob Graham Quartet. Bill Waldmire, drums; Bob on saxophones and clarinet; Ben Drake on piano or guitar- and I was the shy young man holding the bass.We had a gig every Friday and Saturday at what was then The Flaming Pit(now Diamond Restaurant)in Town and Country shopping center, and that's where I got started learning to play jazz.

Less shy here, wearing a silly shirt that's fortunately obscured in the picture by whatever I was drinking(okay, it said Guitar Hero- I was having a bit of fun, as well as a bit of booze). Sometime in 1984, me at age 30, with Magnum Force. From left to right: me, Art Carey, Rebecca somebody, Marvin "Binky" Day, David Hoffman, Larry "Hubba" Nelson.
This one was around 1982. Looking strangely bewildered in the picture. Hmm. The Hinds Bros band, from left to right: Steve Hints Perry Zubeck, me, Jay Hinds, Jim Lanier, Tim Beck. Jay, sadly, is no longer with us. He was a fun guy and is missed.
This one is not a band pic but rather a band alum pic. The band was Scoundrel(1984-86 for me). From left to right: Eric Ongie(former guitarist), Michael somebody(former bassist), Ed Greig, me, Dean Hall, Richard Dennis. The zany guy in the middle got married on that day, in sunny LA.
The band was called Frankly Speaking, the year around 1994. From left to right: Steve Alexander, me, Frank Parker, Alicia Wilson, Johnny Thompson, Kevin Ellis. I used to joke about being the Affirmative Action hire of the band, being the only melanin-challenged individual there. We had a nice time playing together, and it was always relaxed enough that you could make a joke like that!Much appreciated.
An artier, film noir look in this band photo from the same period of time. The Frank Trompeter Quartet. From left to right: me, Frank, Tim Harte, Brian Pryor. We worked together a lot in the 90's, even got to play in Japan in 1995. Something that looks pretty good on a fella's permanent record..
This is Muzik Maker Band(yes, note the zany spelling), founded by keyboardist Evans Brittin. From left to right, Bob Smith, me, Steve Fowler, Steve Dykema, and Evans. Somewhere in Jacksonville, 90-something. I got that guitar(an Ibanez Artstar) from the owner of a music store in Jacksonville, one of two he brought down for me to try as he wanted to see me playing a Real Jazz Guitar-- can't recall his name, that memory Just In). Bob somebody. Helluva nice guy, and not just for bringing guitars for me to try.
   Back to Muzik Maker for a minute. There was always a bit of a civil war going on, in that at least two of the guys wanted to do more contemporary pop stuff(Bob was a whiz at copping the exact sound and so forth of the records)and Evans wanted to keep with the old standards. I was with Evans on that one. Anyway, Muzik Maker Band. .
Bob Katt and the Missing Lynx, founded by the slightly wizened figure to my right(your left). This was a nice patch, for about a year, back in 2003 or so. From left to right: Brad Davis, Kevin Cox, me, Chaz Blythe. It was billed as a jazz band but really was more variety: R & B, some revamped pop things, a few Swing Era standards. 
   Kevin would be the first to tell you he was a blues player and not a jazzer, but whatever his declared style, he had a lot of technique- damn near flawless chops- and boatloads of imagination!
I had quartets for the longest time, and finally broke down and went to trio in 2006. From left to right: Bill Schlipf, me, Don Cochran. This is what I used to refer to as the SamBillandDon ensemble, which was my group- our group- from 2006(our first gig was on January 27th of that year- Mozart's birthday, for what it's worth) until Bill's death in 2013. The trio continues(as the SamTomandDon ensemble), but Bill is missed.
This motley crew(plus special guest Frank "Bruh" Parker on trumpet)is another group I've played with a lot over the years. The Dan Rivero Trio. From left to right: Dan, Frank, Wayne Carter, me. It's a lot of fun. 

This is the most recent band pic of sorts I was in, taken just a few weeks ago. It was taken to promote a gig I did with them on 3 occasions last Fall. I'm not on that particular project, but I'm sure we'll work together again soon. From left to right: me, Gordon Cahvallo(percussion), Mark Rusillo(harmonica and vocals). 

  I hope you've enjoyed these band pix. As you can see, I've aged a bit in the meantime. It happens. Still getting these old bones out on occasion to make noise with other aging life-forms. Seems like a reasonable plan.