Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Going Eclectic

The first time I ever played in a band was in 1971. The band was Randy Sitz, lead guitar and vocals; myself, rhythm gutar and vocals; Jerry "Snake" Winters,drums; and Jim Bagley, bass. In the photo is Randy, Perry Teague (who was planning on playing keyboards with the band, but that never materialized), me, Jerry, and Jim. Randy was by far the most accomplished musician, with Snake in second place. I was a total novice. We played a hodge-podge of songs--whatever one of us happened to know and could introduce to the rest. I remember playing "Eighteen" by Alice Cooper, partly because it was easy, but mostly because the opening riff sounded so good doubled by the two guitars. We did "Mississippi Queen," "Won't Get Fooled Again." Lots of practice, but never played a gig. Still, it was fun hangin' with those guys, and it was a blast making music with a band, whether we had an audience or not.

Somewhere in here my musical influences became more random. I got way into the Allman Brothers and deeper into real roots blues (with those $1 LPs). Saw the ABB in Birmingham in the summer of '71 while Duane was still alive. I only wish I had been a little more musically mature to better enjoy such a rare treat. I got into Clapton. I liked Cream okay, but it was Derek and the Dominos that grabbed me. Layla is still one of my top ten favorite albums. The LP was better than the remastered CD. Listening to the LP you could hear a band member holler "Whoo!" when somebody else hit some inspired lick. The best one was (obviously) Clapton exclaiming when Duane Allman went into a delirium-inducing slide part on "Have You Ever Loved a Woman." Maybe it was "Key to the Highway." Anyway, I wore the grooves out. Also turned me into a Strat player. But that was later when I could afford to spend any kind or real money on a guitar.

On the other hand, I was pulled by the folk-rock scene. Neil Young, CSN, CSN&Y especially. What songwriting! What singing! By this time Don Rakestraw was dating my sister Jennie, and he would bring his guitar and play and sing "Rocky Raccoon" and the entire "Alice's Restaurant" complete with "eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining how each one was to be used as evidence against us." Don and I started playing together. We learned every song on Neil Young's "Harvest" LP and most of "Crosby, Stills, and Nash" and "Deja Vu." At first, he would play guitar and sing harmony while I played harmonica and sang lead. Later on I played guitar, too.

My guitars: My first guitar was a 1963 Fender Esquire (a one-pickup Tele) that I bought at Laverty Music for $15. The neck had a broken screw in it and showed a botched job of trying to drill it out. I bought it and walked out with the two pieces. I got the screw out, the neck on, and located a pickguard. I put a Gibson humbucker in the neck position. There was a hole in the pickguard, so I decided to fill it with something useful. David has it now. My first acoustic was an old sunburst Gibson J-45 ($75?). Then I bought a used Yamaha FG-180 ($37.50) that was one of the sweetest sounding guitars I've ever played. Dan Noojin has that one to this day.

Soon, though, everything was going to change. Especially me.


  1. A rock and roll band just isn't a rock and roll band unless you have a good tuba player. I just love tuba solos - especially on Mississippi Queen. Get down bro.