Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Band Days

Definition of terms: To me, a band has a bass player and a drummer. Add one or more instruments, and you have a band. You can have a "group"--even a group with a name--without a rhythm section, but you can't have a real band.

For me, involvement in bands was gradual. As I have previously mentioned, I had been in a real band before I became a Christian, but we only practiced, never played. The duo that Don and I had grew as the coffeehouse grew. While Emory was around [check out for info on Emory] we had a group that consisted of Don and Jennie Rakestraw (married Feb 1974), Emory Boggs, Irene (nee Finlayson, now Elrod) playing bass (Emory found her a Wurlitzer 200 electric piano, but I don't remember her playing it with us), and myself on acoustic (later electric) guitar. We played our coffeehouse, the Albertville coffee house, churches in Birmingham and around here, a weekend revival somewhere in south Alabama with a preacher with the funniest "road" stories. We went to New Orleans for a youth meeting. I'll never forget that trip. They all have their own stories that I would love to tell someday. Not today.

That group evolved into Christian Brothers Band by 1976 (see David's 5/29/08 blog at Still no drums, so not really a band in my book. Then I met Nori Kelley and around 1977 we started working on the band Precious Little. We had heard each other's material and were adequately impressed to try to form a band. Mostly, we liked each other and enjoyed each other's company as well as the music. Although we played several times as an acoustic duo, we never got to play as a band. We did record some things on a Teac four-track with Fred Ryan (R.I.P.) and a bass player named Bobby something. The tapes sounded good. Later, in 1978, Larry Sanford (drums) and Barry Goss (guitar/bass), both formerly of Psalm, joined us for a summer of rigorous, disciplined practice (Nori's influence), but in the end, no gigs. This band was being developed while Barry and I were on the road doing sound for Terry Talbot and others. The touring experience was a terrific tutorial with lessons I have never forgotten. Travel light, as economically as possible, get the most sound from the fewest people and least gear, and remember what you're doing and why you're doing it.

Although Nori and I shared admiration for many of the same artists, he also opened my ears to a lot of new influences. One in particular was Robbie Robertson and The Band. Of course, I had heard their radio hits and liked them, but Nori helped me see the potential in that vibe--the personal application I could acquire. Soon I would have the perfect opportunity to use it.

In 1978 Don and Faith Peters (with Joe Pfau on drums and Rick Reed on bass) came and played at our new, improved coffee house on Seventh Street. I loved their songs, harmonies, rhythm, and funky-country-rock. But the whole time I was sitting there thinking "They need an electric guitar." Then, "They need me." I don't mean that arrogantly. I just mean that I could hear the parts. I approached them and Don said that would be great if I didn't mind practicing in Birmingham. Didn't mind at all.

At the first practice, I carried a notebook and wrote down all the words and chords. That week I ran over the chords and worked out what I could remember. Next practice I was on top of it. Everything just fit. We started playing quite a bit. At first, I struggled with serious stage fright, something that didn't bother me in a "group," but somehow terrified me in a "band." Slowly, I got over it. We got a chance to record an album. I think I did some of my most tasteful playing with that band, and it doesn't bother me at all to listen to that stuff now. In fact, as is so often the case, the pre-overdub version was better than the release version (my opinion). Nori sat in with slide guitar and became a member of the band. Somewhere in there Jim Pollard had joined as well. With two drummers and two lead guitarists, the band took on a heavier dynamic, but could play the earlier things just as well.

Playing with Don and Faith was just plain fun. Why did it end? Well, by September 1979 I had married Jen, Rick had decided to accept work in a band doing beach ministry in Virginia Beach, VA, and, well, it was that point where you commit heavily to the band or you pull up stakes. Everybody was suddenly on different courses. There was no conflict; it was just time. But I will always very fondly remember those days. And it was great to see Don and Faith down from Memphis for The Guise reunion and to reconnect via Facebook.

Gear note: 1976 Fender "hardtail" (non-vibrato) Strat and Music Man 210-65 amp. Acoustic for three decades: Sunburst 1976 Martin D-28.


  1. I just caught up on your blog. I want your musical life, and your gear, and judging from your recent facebook statuses, your food too.

  2. All it takes to play like me is eight to ten fingers, a guitar, and a few decades of bumpy roads. You can beat that. My gear's nothing special. Gotta admit, though, the food around here is excellent.