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i think i remember when..... / a trip down memory lane

12.12.12 / part 2

i have a mental image of dave bird and i talking after a choir class near the piano about doing the beatle band thing. he told me he played trombone in the school band...his older brother played played sax...his dad taught piano. i sang and breathed at that point so i was surprised that he asked. he mentioned a guy in choir i think his name was bob smith? we agreed he could sing. the conversation rolled fast and in the end it was dave would play guitar and me and bob would do finger snaps and doo-whops and harmony for 3 beatle songs for a class talent show in the gym. i see us grinning and shaking hands over the deal...i also recall feeling confused as to if i had the ability or if i was willing to be a part of a group in front of tons of kids and adults. i got over that fast. we rehearsed at daves house...i could draw you a picture of the livingroom and the upright piano in it. tungsten lighting gives off a yellow glow and my minds picture is certainly yellow although the light clipped onto the piano to be able to read sheet music was rather clear. anyway....we met several times and learned three songs over a few weeks by listening to the records and learning the arrangements. dave played beatle chords...cowboy chords and he sang the leads. for the first gig we wore black suits white shirts and black ties. i could draw my minds image from that stage...dave was to my left and bob to my right. girls screamed like we were the beatles and we were hooked for life. dave and me for sure...not too certain about bob. if i recall he bailed after 3 gigs. in those days...early '60's....doing 3-4-5 songs was the drill for a class party or student event. thinking about it now it was live...that made it cool. kids then didn't have elvis cover bands....or a lot of bobby darin cover acts.....young middle of ohio teenagers playing beatle songs was a side show and we started a band at a cool time in rock history. so bob had bailed and me and dave decided we needed a drummer and a rhythm guitar player and i needed to play bass.

i recall talking with my mother about wanting to buy an electric bass. i needed it to grow with the group. early 60's mother of two told me fat chance as it cost money and what exactly was an electric bass? she suggested talking with my dad about it. she told me he had been a good musician, singer, guitarist, piano, accordian, organ player before wwii and afterwards locally. i could draw the minds eye moment for you as my mother told me about his musical past and how she used to go see him play in clubs after the war. of the few times in my life i recall having a conversation with my mom...none stuck with me more than that one. i kept was a musician? really? up and until that moment he had never sang, played, mentioned it at all. i remember my mom being straight up about it...she told me that my dad had been asked to join a local circus act on the road playing banjo at 7 but his mother didn't want him on the road. at 15 a black caddy pulled up while he sat on the porch steps playing guitar. guys in suits and hats walked up and told him they wanted to get him to move to nashville and do some recording. he told them to ask his mom...they went inside and sat with her for awhile...came out and shook his hand on the way back to nashville and told him she had said no. all of that coming from my mother right when i'm asking for an electric bass for christmas to be in a band was an impressionable moment. i started thinking about why i was drawn to music and how it suddenly made sense. my mother said that since it looked like i was going to be involved with music that she had always wanted to buy my dad a keyboard/organ since he was apparently good at it. in the end...i still had to run the bass by my dad. i jumped on him when he got home from work and he said he didn't understand what an electric bass was exactly. he knew of a standup but hadn't caught wind of an electric one. as i write this i think i recall him asking about why not guitar.....i said because dave already played and he was already good enough to make the songs work but we needed a bass to tighten it all up. the next thing i have is a photo of me with a red kent bass on christmas morning.

now we needed the rest of the act. we had heard of a guy from england who played rhythm guitar well and sang a little. keith whiddon if i spelled it right. he played a big white national guitar. the drummer was jeff gintz....the only guy with a drumset. dave knew him through the school marching band. the first time we tried to have a rehearsal jeff showed no interest...actually tried to run away from us when we had agreed to meet at his house and see his drum set. chased the dude into a ditch/creek near the stadium where he lived in a nice single story brick ranch with a basement.....a large open room....and a drumset. he was a real hard only took a few mild physical threats and we started to listen to a couple of songs on 45z. she loves you, mr postman, and one other that escapes me....those three chessman....played a class party. it was in the back corner of the cafateria. after that gig...we were sold on the future. let the two time a week rehearsals begin.

me in the back left on bass...jeff in front of me on drums...dave bird in the back right and keith on rhythm and some twang solos.

this initial version of the chessman started to play pretty much each weekend at fetivals...moose/elk/vfw sweater hops, kids partys, dance partys at a dozen schools within 25 miles. our parents drove us and a little gear everywhere. nobody was old enough to drive..nobody shaved yet. all i recall was constantly learning new songs...adding slow songs to break it up a a dance...three fast then one slow...four fast another slow. i'd say it took us a year to get the set lists up to be able to play 2 hours or more. there were school newspapers shooting photos of us...we did songs for the morning school announcements...promoting gigs, birthdays, etc...always adding songs. then...the drummer jeff decided he'd had enough...and we needed to find another drummer pronto. i do not recall how we heard about a guy named rich belanco but once we found him it all started to gel. adding him...and he sang also...and eventually daves older brother rodney on keyboard and sax gave the band 5 part harmony and a new head of steam. that group went on to open for some great bands and do live tv etc. next time i'll try to fill in those years a little more. i was hooked fo life before all that started but it was a very influencial part of my music past. by 14-15 things were starting to pop. more later.....if i can remember it all.


june/2012/part 1_________________________________________

for several years i've had the thought to write down my music life story in a way my students might appreciate. i have some bio stuff on this site i wrote about 10-15 years ago. the big issue is there's a lot of small stuff that will drift into nothingness if i don't share it. there would be bits and pieces scattered around never to be connected. the stories i've heard from older musicians always helped round out the character. i've stood in kitchen hallways in a tux during a short break while these awesome players chatted about one late night or another or the gig from h e double hockey sticks.......they'd talk about playing a gig with one drum stick or 5 strings on a guitar or playing the entire song in the wrong key. there are details i plan to leave out......for another time maybe. i figure my students might get something out of the era of the 60's and 70's from a dumb dude from a small ohio town who couldn't dance but could sing a little and figured out how to fake being a bass player.

i expect to get a few things wrong.....time has a way of clouding the truth. i suspect most of it to be factual and true as i saw it. when i was young doing a lot of cool music things i never wanted to be the old guy telling fables at a bar about the old days. so before my mind goes to fairytale mode i think i should roll out the past. i will try to not be self indulgent and stay concise. i sit most days a week across from young wide eyed star struck kids along with some not so kid like adults. all of them want what i wanted when i was young and all along my adult life understand music..have fun with it...and get some validation from someone somewhere that we had figured it out. making music is like magic most of the time. it's your brain rubbing it's own back...tickling its belly....making it's own heart dance because it can. it feels good to do it and seems to make people smile at you. i'd call that a win-win. so after singing and playing for most of my life and now teaching a little it seems right to try another way to let my students see that being a musician can add something to your life that others see as cool and worthwhile. it's a good thing making music...good for you and the brain...good for everyone within earshot and all who get to experience it. i've enjoyed the last 45-50 years with music as a major part of my life especially the phase i'm in now and have been for 19-20 years. i hope i can recall the journey with enough clarity to hopefully inspire one young cat to go for it and assume the best.

i guess the first sign of musical life for me was in kinder garden which was 1955. there was a woman who was the choir director for a town with 3 elementary schools and a town of 3 to 4,000 people in rural ohio. i recall nothing before so i suspect it was one of her first visits to the class. the deal was we sat in little chairs in a circle of maybe 15-20 kids. an aside is i dug the little chairs and the fact that things were kid size. anyway we sat and tapped out rhythms on a type of chop sticks. she'd have us click sticks and sing as a group. i have a vivid memory of her walking around behind the circle of tiny chairs and tiny kids while we sang and clicked time. she would encourage us to slow down or sing louder or pick up the speed. as i type this i think she was irritated with us....she might have gotten gruff and loud. anyway she would occasionally stop and lean into someone to listen for detail or maybe to disqualify them for a future geriatric version of american idol. i don't know for sure....i was a little kid....freaked by this woman suddenly leaning over my shoulder hovering while i sang and clicked away. she stayed there longer than most stops around the room then moved away around the circle then suddenly shot back behind me and leaned in. she had white hair and a pretty donna reed look about her even though the donna reed show was 15-16 years in the future. i was afraid i was the weak link in the music chain that day and she was going to ask me to leave and drop out of school. ..........well it seemed foreboding at the very least. it turned out to be a cool thing a few years later a little bit older.

that woman taught a choir made up of boys from 3 elementry schools and one of girls. i recall being asked to go to her home to work on some solo stuff. jack...i forget his last name...but jack was my alter ego solo guy. we had been summoned to her house...which seemed odd and was a first for me....a teacher willing to put in extra time and energy. she had us work on a few songs....i recall she lived near one of my grandmothers. she had an upright piano in her living room filled with doilys and lots of wood tone....i recall the piano light and sheet music. i felt that jack was a better singer.....he played piano a little and seemed refined. i felt under dressed and kept wondering why i was there. she talked about solos and i wasn't into that. i didn't want to be out front...didn't believe in myself. might have been my first time realizing i wanted to do a better job.....that i was capable of more...just give me a minute to get it together. next thought is a concert and me and jack walking out front of the choir to do our apparently a duet take a verse thing. over my life i've told a story about my mother peeking in a doorway near the end of the room to watch me and hear me and that i was upset with her because i had asked her to not come to the concert as i was worried about what she would think of my singing. i relate to my students on this issue.....i'm willing to fail in front of strangers but not mom and dad or friends.....god forbid. anyway....we had to wear white shirts with the collar buttoned and black pants......that was around 1959-60. sounds like a classic look for today. no sneakers. when i saw my mom lean into the doorway i freaked as she did it right after my name was announced for the deal with jack. i recall my voice shaking......i could hit all the notes and knew nothing about was what it was. in a moment it was all over. i walked back into my spot as a baritone/tenor with the dover elementary boys choir and felt relieved to be a face in the crowd. i was still upset with my mom for coming and being sneaky about it. i told her she had to hear my voice shake in fear and she told me a dozen times she never noticed it. that'sa mom reality move. she said the right thing now that i think about it......she overlooked the flaw and focused on the good stuff. thanks mom....maybe never said that but i finally get it.

the choir became my musical life through school.......through my senior year i was always singing every day. they did that back in the day....really....they had music programs and art classes in all the schools!!.....imagine that!!! for the creative arts. we have some terrific schools that do just that here in the triangle area of north carolina but not a part of every school. some of my students are in a choir or school band or orchestra but not all and i think it's real good for the brain.

i recall learning songs off of 45z.....ask your mom and dad what that was and maybe your grandparents. in the late 50s and early 60s there were a ton of good male singers making records. i can remember singing around the house imitating styles and tones.

the next step in my mind was 8th grade. choir. an influx of new people and new faces and voices. i have no idea how soon or when this happened but a guy named dave bird came up to me in choir and asked if i would like to start a beatle group band thing with him. he played guitar and we were standing next to the grand piano in the choir room. we talked about another guy in choir to sing along and the rest is history and the next edition of this tale. i think the details are right....and as i said...they will not become more clear as i grow even older. this will be my concept of the my past. i hope somehow it might inspire one student to make a life out of music and get a feel for what a good and unusual time and life it could be. later....and until next time.....ken weigand




welcome to bamboonews. it's a glimpse into the life of a musician in the triangle area of north carolina, usa. there's information on my students, professional friends, my musical life and more. it's purpose is to inspire my students to work hard..grow as musicians..and show them off to my pro friends and see what we can all do together. we also highly support live and original music and encourage you to do the same wherever you live.

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