Saturday, February 18, 2006

Band memories 2

After leaving Chaddy and The Echoes, I joined a group called "The Shades." I played with The Shades for a few months during my Senior year (1964) at JEB Stuart High School in Falls Church, VA. I arranged for the band to be interviewed by the Washington Star's Fifi Gorska, who produced a weekly spotlight on local bands for the Friday edition.

I'm the second one on the left. Note our uniforms. In those days band members wore identical outfits, typically suit coats and ties. The formal approach to dressing was a direct descendant from the big band era, which was not quite over. I really did have about 500 tapes of music. I recorded songs from my parents' AM radio. The tapes are still in my basement on 5-inch reels.

The Shades were based out of rival Falls Church High School (I attended J.E.B. Stuart High). My comment in the newspaper article is heartfelt:" We try to blend ourselves, our music into the people so that the beat is carried to them personally." Also the comment about playing one song right after another. That has always been a trademark of what I try to do with bands. I figure the band's job is to entertain the audience, so we must see ourselves as entertainers, not just musicians. Therefore, the more music we play the better they'll like us. This is especially true in night clubs, where you don't want to give people enough time after a song ends to start to leave for their seats. So we always tried to play one song after another with no pauses in between.

The Beatles had made their American debut, and high school bands were starting to sprout up like toadstools after a rain. But I had a bit of a head start, because I had been playing in bands before The Beatles invasion.During the summer that followed my Senior year, I played several parties with The Shades as well as with another high school band, "The Tensions."

One Friday night The Tensions had two gigs. The first was broadcast by DJ Jack Alix on WEEL (AM radio) from an ancient honky-tonk bar called Hunters Lodge in Fairfax (which was waaaay out on the boonies in those days; in 1986 it was torn down to make room for a Home Depot.)

After that gig the band caravaned out to Great Falls, where we played for an after-prom party, which didn't break up until very late. They served us free booze there, so we all got pretty loose. One of the guitar players made himself a huge strong drink of some kind; I remember seeing him gulp it down, and the next time I looked up, all that was left of him was his guitar leaning against his amp.

That was one of those parties where we uncorked ALL the dirty lyrics (40 or s0) to "What'd I Say" (e.g., "See the girl dressed in black; she makes a living on her back." See the girl dressed in green; she goes down like a submarine. See the girl dressed in yellow; you don't know it but she's a fellow. See the girl dressed in pink' she's the one makes my fingers stink.") At one point, the lead singer just said, "Lick my dick!" instead of a verse. That threw all of us into a laughing fit. I remember seeing the sun rise as I was pulling into the driveway at home.

The following September I would begin classes at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. There I would help form "The Strangers." During the summer following my Freshman year at W&M, I would take a summer job in Ocala, FL, where I would help another upstart high school band, The Posmen, who a year later would become The Royal Guardsmen and enjoy the good fortune of a No. 1 hit with "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron."

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