Thursday, April 7, 2011

PLAYING WITH THE BAND

I suppose that there comes a time in most teenager's lives with any musical ability a fantasy of playing in a rock and roll band.  I certainly had this fantasy and learned to play rock songs on the piano instead of practicing the lavish classical pieces of music that were my piano lessons with Mrs. Allard.  Seldom would I arrive at my lessons as prepared as I could have been because I had been buying sheet music or music book and learning to play the popular songs of the day.  It was much more invigorating playing pop songs than classical although my mother would disagree with that statement from a listening standpoint.   Several times I would be told not to play so loud or not to play certain music at all.

I had a distinct disadvantage in trying to get by playing pop songs because my sister turned out to be such an excellent piano player and she played songs that my parents liked.  She was playing Bobby Goldsboro and Frankie Avalon while I was playing Three Dog Night and Iron Butterfly.  I would prefer to learn how to play the Beatles while Elaine played classics such as the Missouri Waltz and Love Is Blue and songs of that sort.  My parents would love to listen to Elaine play and would encourage her to play when guest came over to the house.  Not so with my piano playing.  Soon I would quit taking the lessons because it was just too frustrating for both Mrs. Allard as well as myself.  After I quit taking lessons I concentrated all of my time on the piano to rock songs which wasn't appreciated.  Slowly I started to withdraw from playing the piano except when I was alone so that I could really enjoy it without getting the speech about breaking the piano because I was playing it too loud and what about playing some of these other nice songs like Elaine played.

My sophomore year in High School gave me a chance at the rock and roll fantasy.  One of my class mates, Steve, was forming a band and needed a keyboard player.  I offered my services immediately and it was arranged for him to stop by my house one day after school to give me a listen.  Mom was home the day Steve stopped by and I played some of my better tunes for him.  He liked what he heard and said we were going to do this thing.  Steve went and got Kenny to play guitar, emlisted Howard to play bass, and then got Allen to play the drums.  Steve didn't play an instrument except for his voice and it wasn't too shabby.  I started to think that this just might work.

We met over at Steve's house that first night and decided on a name for the band.  I have no idea how we came up with it or what it meant but we called ourselves "Redweld".  No idea what it means.  Sometimes it is best just to accept a fact whether it makes sense or not and try not to over analyze it.  We then went out to Steve's garage and set up the instruments.  I was playing on a little electric keyboard with no amplification to it.  We laid to microphones over the top of it to pick up the sound.  We just had these little amplifiers and really couldn't get very loud but that wasn't important anyway.  First we had to find out if we could play together.

The first song that Redweld played was a Three Dog Night classic "Family Of Man".  We were standing around and I started to play the opening chords to the song.  Kenny started matching me with his guitar and before we knew it, we were performing the song like a true amateur band would.  It was sloppy and didn't sound real good.  We decided to concentrate on that one song the first night and then see where it took us.

The second practice was again in Steve's garage.  Steve had borrowed some big amplifiers from his friend Byron who had a really good band.  Byron's band was well known through south Kansas City and their signature song was Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way"  Byrons group sounded professional.  Maybe using the borrowed amps would improve our sound as well.

The borrowed amplifiers did not contain the magic we were hoping for.  All it did was make us louder which made the sloppiness that much more pronounced.  Still Steve got it in his head that we were sounding pretty good and so he opened up the garage door.  He walked around and cranked up the volume on everything and we played a little for the neighborhood.  Soon we saw doors starting to open across the street as irritated neighbors came out to hear our festive music making.

We did two songs that night.  I can't remember what they were.  Surely one of them was Family of Man but I am not sure.  I remember in between songs Steve took the microphone and announced to the world the arrival of Redweld.  They would be hearing of us for a long time to come.  I really think Steve believed that but I looked over at Kenny and the look in his eyes was one of amusement.  We both knew at this point that this band was going nowhere.

Over the next couple of weeks whenever Steve would run into one of us he would talk up the band and how great it was and what we were going to accomplish.  Kenny and I both just listened and while not totally disagreeing, didn't really agree with Steve either.  I think Steve was getting the feeling that his dream band was falling apart before it would get started.

When Steve tried to get a third practice together I backed out.  I told Steve that I just didn't have the time to devote to such a project.  School came first with me which was a total lie.  School hadn't come first with me for years.  I told Kenny the next day that I had backed out of the band and he informed me that he as well was not going to take it any further.  It was a fun thing to mess with but he just didn't feel the desire to really devote time to it.

Redweld must have ended that day because Steve was really upset with not only me, but the rest of the guys as well.  He wasn't talking to us and pretty soon we found out he was trying to get another group of guys together.  He eventually succeeded in getting a band together and they were not all that bad.  They weren't close to the quality of Byron's band but they would do for a cheap birthday party or something.  The name of his new band wasn't Redweld and I can't remember what it was called.  Steve was able to hold that band together for that summer between sophomore and junior years of school before it faded off into forgotten history.

I had my chance and I enjoyed the two times that Redweld played together.  Two times was enough for me though.  I had started dating my future wife in May of that summer and I wanted to spend a lot of time with her.  As for my piano playing, I faded back off into the background doing most of my piano playing when I was alone.  I didn't need anyone to hear me play.  I began playing for myself and I enjoyed that.  It would be a few years before Barb would get me to play piano in public again.  These days, I don't play much at all and when I do it is when I am totally by myself.  It feels like a nice fit to me.  My fingers playing piano for my ears.  I don't hear a lot of complaints from my audience anymore.

1 comment:

  1. Byron.......hmmmm.......would have most likely been Wakefield along with Dave Trabue. Listened to them practice over and over a I grew up across the street from Dave. Still have the 45 they recorded

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