Welcome to Skippin' Rocks

I originally Started a blog to run off at the mind on politics, hopefully witty and humorous ramblings, and just random thoughts. But, I'll make a new one for that and stick to short stories here. I hope you liked what you've read so far.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Music Faded and the Dance Ended --- Part 2 (The Band Came Alive)

Over the years I’ve heard many musicians and actors state they’ve done their best shows when they felt fear and nervousness going into the gig. Those emotions take you straight to the here-and-now of the moment. Your concentration level is high and you put your best effort into your performance. If I had the talent, at the time, I’d have been a star that first night playing bass, I was scared to death.

Although, I only had a week to practice on the bass, I did fairly well considering the fact that one year earlier; I’d never picked up an instrument in my life. Pat covered my back, though. He turned the bass level up on his guitar and filled in the parts where I went weak.

After Cousin Joe and Boots left the band and Roger and I replaced them, it became a whole new ballgame. The sound was totally different and took some getting used to.

Roger was a far better guitarist than Cousin Joe. Not only was he technically superior, he was humble, friendly, and had stage presence.

I was no Boots on the bass, but that first weekend went well, all in all. It was a whole new band with a new sound and the folks danced and really enjoyed it.

The following Monday I had to return the rented amplifier. It was a sad thing that my first real business transaction in my new adult-like life had to turn as sour as it did. I couldn’t have been more careful with that amp than if I had been holding a nest of hummingbird eggs.

The man did a quick inspection, went right to a very small tear in the vinyl on the back of this used amp, and then charged me five dollars for damages. I was mad! I knew I needed my own equipment, and fast.

Pat drove me into town to the music store where he usually did his business and introduced me to the owner, Ray.

Ray was your typical salesman. He was a middle-aged man with big white teeth and a Cheshire cat smile.

Pat explained our situation to him and Ray seemed to drop any age worries he may have had, and set out to sell me some stuff.

Ray had a used Fender MusicMaster bass on the rack and a brand new Fender Bassman 10 amplifier and that combo looked like the perfect setup for an amateur bass player in transition from a six-string guitar. Pat helped me negotiate terms of payment (there went his silver tongue of his again) and we walked out of Ray’s store that day with my new equipment.

I went into Music West every week after that and made the agreed payment until my debt was paid. It was done solely out of the money I made on weekends playing in the band, and I was very proud that I stood up to the plate and paid it off, on time, with my own money.

I spent a lot of time with Roger, at his place, learning songs he wanted to do. I learned some great instrumentals from him like ‘Night Train’, ‘Walk Don’t Run’, and “Chicken Pickin’”. We would play on into the night until his wife ran me out.

Roger’s wife, Penny, was a very troubled woman. She would show up every weekend, but she did it more to watch over Roger than to enjoy him. Your first, second, and third impression of her was: She was a B****. It became clear years later; she was just very mentally disturbed.

Roger had a friend and fellow lead guitarist named Mike who got along better than anyone else could with Penny. He tagged along on weekends and kept her company while Roger and we played. That arrangement went well for a few months until one night Roger informed us that he had a shift change at work and could no longer be a part of the band. He recommended Mike as his replacement. We hated to see him go.

Mike was into “The Beetles”, “The Ventures”, and other sixties and seventies music.

He showed up on his first night and played well. The only problem was, we were trying to hear pure country, and he was playing more of a sixties pop style. There was a twinge of concern in the private conversations that weekend, but by the next week; Mike had taken what we done together, and, in Pats words, “He broke it down to the nuts and bolts and put it all back together to fit.”

Mike’s lead breaks became a time for us to drift into his brilliance. Sometimes we’d struggle to get back into our own parts.

He became a fast and forever friend of mine. Mike is one of the nicest and most giving men you’d ever meet in you life.

I was learning the bass at what seemed more on an hourly basis rather then daily or weekly. The music became more and more alive to me and my ability and confidence grew. I continued to learn from Pat on the guitar (finger pickin’ and such) and sometimes shared it with Mike, and describe the way I was hearing a particular song. He always had an open mind and I felt like a peer more than just a snot-nosed kid learning to play the guitar and bass.

The time came when our stint at the Eagles was over. It had been more than six months of steady and evolving work. We needed a new job to take the band to, so Pat put his silver tongue to work.

The laws had just been changed to allow dancing in taverns, thus bringing about a boom in country music, in our neck of the woods anyway. Prior to that change, dancing was only allowed in certain lodges and night clubs. The work opportunities became plentiful.

Pat contacted the owner of a local tavern and assured him we could bring in a lot of customers. He told him we weren’t that expensive, and the beer and good times would flow. The owner agreed to give us a try and see where it went. We packed up our equipment, from the Eagles lodge, and moved on to new scenery.

Kings Valley Tavern:

Kings Valley Tavern was not a stand-alone building. It was the northern half of what was the local store and gas station.

It was a fairly large and old building that replaced the old store that burned down early last century. The floors throughout the building were just planks. If I remember right they were rough sawn 2 X 10’s. They would treat the floor with motor oil every now and again. The southern side of the building was the store side.

The store was very antique. Going there was like stepping back to the early years of the twentieth century. In my memory, I can still see the old wood-framed glass candy display case and the old antique cash register.

The bar was long, straight and extended more than half the length of the tavern. There were pock marks on the old wood floor from the years of the logger’s corked boots as they came in for a cold one after a hard days work. There was no stage, but there was sufficient room for a dance floor in the rear of the place.

I made a make-shift poster letting people know that music was coming to our wide-spot-in-the-road, and taped them to the windows of the store and tavern.

It was just a Saturday night deal and, when we showed up, we didn’t realize how much this place wasn’t ready for us. We had to beg and borrow extension cords just to turn on our amps. There was a dangling wire from the ceiling with a single light fixture with an incandescent light bulb hanging over us (which we unscrewed; we were looking for mood and affect). The people came in, danced, had a great time, the tavern made money and they were very happy with the first night. We assessed what we needed to do to make it into more of a ‘night life scene’.

That week we got busy. I found some low watt incandescent colored light bulbs that we could put in our only pseudo-stage’s light source (the dangling wire). Pat and I built some speaker enclosures for our new Bogen PA system, and Mike upgraded to a Fender Twin Reverb amp.

The word got around about our music and by that next Saturday, we were ready. We packed 'em in like sardines. It was wild.

There’s a huge difference between the clubs, lodges, and the beer taverns. The clubs and lodges were mundane and reserved, whereas the beer taverns were very lively. People could just cut loose and have fun. The downside of that was that the fun could turn to violence at the drop of a beer glass.

You never really worried about that sort of nonsense at a lodge because the people were restrained by the rules.

We were lucky. Kings Valley Tavern was fun, exciting, and, for the most part, people behaved themselves. We packed 'em in every Saturday night and they filled the dance floor. They loved us and we loved them. We shook that place so much that Ivan the bartender had to take a hammer, on the breaks, and pound the nails back into the floor.

One time Ivan brought me up a coffee cup full of beer and sat it on my amp; he was trying to be discrete. I drank it and later he brought up a pitcher and sat it there. I poured my beers and joined the party. We were way out in the sticks, and we never got caught.

Mike and I can tell you: of all the years we’ve worked together, the somewhat big names we backed up, the fancy places we played, and all the lighting and sound technology that we could ever hope for, Kings Valley Tavern holds the deepest place in our musician hearts. And always will!

No comments: