Monday, November 06, 2006

High school bands 1

My high school years were 1960-64.
I began playing in bands in 1963.
The Beatles hit America in 1964.

I am sadly lacking pictures of most of the bands I played with during high school, but I'll share these few items, along with some history of those times and of my life in particular.

I had spent the summer of 1960 in Gordon, Nebraska with my granddad and his wife. Upon my return, my mom told me about a phone call I had gotten from the Youth Fellowship of my church (Dulin United Methodist of Falls Church, VA). They were putting on a play and needed a "combo" for one of the scenes.

[Back in those days, what we call "bands" today were known as "combos" "dance bands," or "dance orchestras." Most popular music of that day was still heavily influenced by the Big Band Era of WW II.]

After a great deal of reluctance (shyness, performance anxiety - you name it), I returned the call. They supplied me with sheet music for "Basin Street Blues." I learned my part and arrived at the church social hall for our first rehearsal. Also present was a stand-up bass, a sax and maybe a trombone. We had all learned our individual parts, so after tuning up, someone counted off "1 - 2 - 3," and off we went. I can't adequately describe the sensation I felt that day, hearing the sound of the small group, making music for the first time. It was my first time to play with a group of people. It was so beautiful that I remembered wanting to stop and listen. The play never was produced, and we never rehearsed again. But that experience had triggered something powerful inside me, something that would influence the direction of the rest of my life. I had awakened my Muse.

After that experience I was left hungry for more. And so I joined the newly-formed high school "dance band, "The Cavaliers," an offshoot of the school stage band, which was itself an offshoot of the marching band, lead by Morris Dubin. I'm sitting at the piano with Mr. Dubin behind me (ready to whack my fingers if I make a mistake).

"The Cavaliers" played one paying gig at the Sadie Hawkins dance for my high school, JEB Stuart. We made exactly $13.00 each that night, the first money I had ever made playing music. I felt like a real pro. I forget if the band disbanded after that, or if I just left. I know it was nerve-wracking for me to keep up with all the sheet music. I've never been much of a sight-reader. I would tape together all the pages of a particular song to avoid the necessity of page-turning in the middle of the song. A long song might therefore stretch from one end of the piano keyboard to the other.

Blogger has stopped allowing me to post pictures, so I'll continue my my story in a new post.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It was interesting to read of your start in performing. I'll never be anywhere close to good enough to play in a band, but I've enjoyed the times I've played the piano along with the organ at church. I can understand your excitement about your first experience of making music in a group.