now playing: gordon lightfoot, “if you need me”

ok…so i gotta share this with the rest of you. some of you i had sent this to right away, but there’s some twisted part of me that just wants everyone to see this. i don’t understand it, personally, but i can’t ignore it, either.

alright. here goes nothin’.

once upon a time, in a land far, far away...

this, my friends, is the new hope music project, circa 1983.

jerry, the fella directly behind me, sent this to me last week….it was in my inbox when i came in to work, and i opened it up and couldn’t stop staring at it all day long.

it wasn’t just that i was under the spell of my vigoda-esque eyebrows or perfectly groomed mane. no, although that was truly hard to ignore, it really didn’t have anything to do with that.

sometimes life throws you these little signposts…just like the green ones that earmark how many miles before you get to the next major city on that particular stretch of roadway, except in the case of this sign, the distance marked was how many miles i’d come since that particular part of my life.

there are people in my life who marvel at the sheer magnitude of the number of things on my plate at a given time…right now, for instance – building a recording studio, getting a charity auction off the ground, working 55-plus hours a week during the day, and playing with anyone who’ll have me at every opportunity.

to them, i say – it’s a damn shame you didn’t know me when.

at the point in time when this picture was taken, i was going to school during the day, working on the air at WKWX from 1am to 5am, and playing drums in this particular band. and i wouldn’t have traded any of it for anything else, at the time. i loved working at the radio station…even though the hours were harsh, i loved being there alone all night, playing whatever the hell i wanted to play. i really thought i had it licked…i was getting paid to listen to music! holy SHIT! whoever thought of this racket?

school….well, school was a necessary evil, but i was a minor celebrity, so that softened the blow considerably. i wouldn’t have known what to do with a member of the opposite sex if she handed me an illustrated manual, but i didn’t really care at the time. i had my crushes from time to time, but they never went anywhere…and besides – there’d be plenty of time for women once i was a rock star.

and that’s where these guys came in.

i know, i know…we look like a bunch of rednecks who couldn’t operate a CD player without a how-to video. but i’m here to tell ya, man – strap us in and we rocked. we were the undisputed top of the heap in my hometown….there were no contenders. we were IT.

ok, introductions are in order.

top left: pat durbin.

pat always had a smile on his face, as best as i can recall. he was always a sweetheart. to my face, anyway, he was very supportive of what i did, and was happy to have me in the band. pat worked for south central bell, i think, during the time that we were playing together. when i left the band to join the navy, though, i never had occasion to speak with pat again. i’m not sure what ever happened to him.

top center: frankie briggs.

frankie had one of those “lil’ red express” pickup trucks that dodge made…if you’re my age, you probably remember seeing them. it was the only one i was aware of in the area, and i figure that frankie always knew which car was his in the piggly wiggly parking lot.

frankie was one of the original partners in the recording studio that the band worked out of…i have such fond memories of that place. in truth, it wasn’t anything special, but they’d gone in there and done essentially what i’m doing now with my project….they took this place and made it their own and created a personal sanctuary where they could work and rehearse and have a band in every now and then to make a few bucks. it had red and blue carpet all over the walls, and there were isolation booths and a control room and all that, and for a 16 year old kid, it was just the coolest goddamn thing that you could possibly have a key to…as far as i was concerned.

i did have occasion to see frankie once after i’d left the band (and left town, for that matter), and i actually talked to him at one point about buying the old multitrack equipment from the studio and all the old tapes. i harbored that fantasy for a long time – going back and remixing and salvaging all those old tapes for posterity.

frankie had a long-standing attachment to robert, their old drummer, and his affection for him was a bit of a wall between he and i….i understand it perfectly now, but then i felt as though if frankie could’ve elbowed me out of the way to get robert back into the band, he’d have done it in a heartbeat.

top right: jerry opdycke. OPIE.

i’m just going to say, right now, that if you have any affection or appreciation for any work that i’ve done as a musician, you owe this guy a debt of gratitude. jerry was always my carpool buddy to and from gigs…we’d load all the crap in the van, and there’d be no room for passengers, so i’d ride with jerry. jerry turned me on to little feat before anyone else did, and i can’t buy him enough beers to thank him for that. jerry also turned me on to the first two karla bonoff albums. we’d go back to jerry’s house after gigs and he’d put on music and we’d all sit around and shoot the shit and jerry was a hero to me. he was easily the most accomplished musician in the band, and i learned a lot from watching him play. and he was my most staunch proponent in the band, as well. he was the one who took me aside when the rumblings started that robert was interested in coming back to the band and told me, point blank, that i was in and that was the way it was.

we were getting ready to start playing “only the lonely” by the motels. first time we played it, jerry just nailed the guitar solo. i still remember that rehearsal like it was yesterday. i thought that was just slick as hell.

how much of an influence was jerry?

jerry played a les paul standard through an old lab series L-5 amp for the entire time we were in the band. years later, easily a decade and a half after we’d last played together, i walked into a pawn shop here in town and saw the 4-10″ version of that amp – the L-7 – and i had to have it. i walked out with it that afternoon, and i couldn’t wait to see if i could get it to sound like jerry’s.

jerry and david phillips were the two people whose support during some crucial years made all the difference in the path i eventually took.

i hope he knows this.

bottom left: reggie treece.

reggie actually joined the band after i did…he had moved to savannah from memphis, i think it was, where he was a member of alex chiltons’ box tops for a while. reggie had this sideways sense of humor….you never knew when he was gonna drop one on you. for instance, i was putting together a portfolio of sorts of pictures of the band and bio information and the like…and i asked reggie how he learned to play piano.

he said, with a perfectly straight face….”i bought the liberace big note songbook and locked myself in my room for eight days.”

if i’d been streetwise enough to recognize it, i’d have seen that there was something a little odd about reggie from the outset…he had one of those ultra-clingy girlfriends, and he carried himself in such a way that you could almost make out the shape of the monkey on his back. sure enough, after the band split, he started showing up at frankies’ store, looking for money for his wurlitzer (this according to frankie the last time i saw him).

reggie is no longer with us. he’s probably arguing with johnnie johnson over a beer right now.

bottom, center: sheila “nikki” chandler

nikki and our soundman, “tricky rick” daniels, had a thing goin’ on, although i had no idea at the time…looking at this picture, she’s a lot more attractive than i remember her being. all i really remembered at the time was that she had a funny shaped butt…not misshapen or anything like that…just – well, not really normal. i can’t really describe it….i could draw it, probably, but i don’t know if i can put it into words.

keep in mind, i was the drummer and she stood right in front of me. i don’t care what anyone says…you’re gonna look. you can’t not look.

somewhere in my collection of shit that interests no one but me, i have a tape that ricky, nikki and i made for a commercial in the production studio at WKWX….she was shitfaced at the time, but i managed to get a couple of soundbites out of her. at the time, i could buy radio time at a significantly reduced rate, so if we had a kickass gig coming up, we’d buy a dozen commercials for it. you can’t even think about that shit nowadays, but we did it.

and then, of course, there’s me…heaven only knows whatever happened to the dweeb with the ‘fro and the hoodie.

so there you have it….that’s the band.

first bands are like first loves….they have their own special place in your heart, and no matter how crude the reality of the situation might have been, you still see it the way you saw it in the moment for the rest of your life.

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