My Musical Virus.


There was no turning back. This machine was the door to freedom.
There was no turning back. This machine was the door to freedom.

Well, in 62 years I’ve lived through a 45 rpm record playing in the background while looking at a full moon and not knowing what it is to seeing the first privately funded excursion to the ISS. For you late comers, “International Space Station.” Take notes, I’m not going over this again. I sat in the 7th Street Theatre in Hoquiam during an ‘all acts’ concert with all of the local Aberdeen and Hoquiam bands. The MC came out between acts and told us kids that Neil Armstrong had just stepped on the moon. Wow, how ambitious NASA was back then. July 21, 1969. Amazing. It was very cool for this little 15-year-old boy.

:=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=:

I started living back in Nineteen Sixty. I had been alive for six years. Been alive. That little machine woke ‘Kelly’ up.

I think I was barely four years old when I discovered a machine. I could put thin black discs that had a hole in the center on a platform that spun. You could touch it and interrupt its function. There was a black arm with a small sharp pin at the end that could reach the black disc. There was a switch that you could push which started everything moving. Move the black arm to the black disc and set it down. A wondrous and beautiful sound came from this thing, but was very hard to hear. I found a pencil and touched the black box with the pencil, at the writing end, and touched my ear with the rubber end at the same time and could hear the noise much better. Knock it over and the pleasant sound would stop. Set it back up. You could both stop it from spinning and stop it from making sound, all in one effort. The act of stopping it was much more impressive than letting it play but much less enjoyable. Power for me. It had a wire that went across the room on my side. The side of the room that I controlled. This is my side. Leave the wire that goes to the wall alone.

Take the wire out of the wall and all movement stopped.
Not good.
This is my side.
You lost control and ownership of the machine when you showed it to me.

—–

We seem to believe that what we see is ours, until it isn’t, until we need something else, then we forget about the former. Hoarding immediately comes to mind. You have to let go. Heard that before, right?

—–

What if you don’t let go? Ever heard anyone say, “Don’t ask me. I can’t even turn a computer on and don’t want to know how.” When you give up on learning, you become useless to nearly everyone. When you continue to learn, you become invaluable. Not only will you always be a benefit to others, but you will never be dissatisfied or lonely. Someone will always want to have you around. Never refuse to help them. Yes, they may ask more of you, but if you take on more clients, you can dictate how long they can have you for. It all balances out eventually.

—–

This machine started me on a road, I didn’t know it at the time, certainly, but I was never going to leave this path. I had been contaminated with a virus. Music. From that moment forward, music would be a strong force in my life. It would be a compulsion, an addiction, and even sustenance. It would keep me alive inside. Nothing else on earth could feed what music fed. Nothing else can make me feel the way I feel when I listen to it or play it.

45My mother would bring me these flat, black, plastic discs. They were known as ’45s’ because they rotated on the machine above 45 times a minute in order to be played. They were 7″ in diameter by about a 16th of an inch thick. On the surface, they were black, a hole about an inch and a quarter in the center of a label with artist/publisher and song info as well as the country in which it was printed. Little scratches were carved in the black that circled the disc and came back, then around again and again……
When that needle was dropped on the surface, the room filled with people, instruments, lights, sound and smells. Un-freaking-believable. Take the needle off. Empty room. Needle on, par-tay. Un-freaking-believable. This small machine rocked my world.

For many years, I listened to music, I did not create music yet. Around my twelfth year of life, I started tapping on things in rhythm to music I heard on the radio, which played all of the time when I was in a room with a radio. It got on my mothers nerves constantly. Other parents whom I knew saw such tendencies in their children and promoted them. Those children became known as ‘artists’, ‘musicians,’ ‘authors,’ ‘composers.’ I was ignored and chastised. Yep. Oh well, water under the bridge. Neither of my parents have ever seen me play music. My mother is gone and dad doesn’t care to hear “that crap.” This will never change.

Well then, from my childhood, inspirations came from many places and sources. Most of my attention was paid to drums. I know, very noisy, hard to carry around, but the fact that drums are the most recognized instrument was evident in my attitude, dedication and desire. I couldn’t ignore the drums I heard in music, movies, anything that had them playing. I loved them. I loved the world they took me to. No one owned me or could hurt me when I was listening to music with drums playing, or drums by themselves. Absolutely riveting. Oddly, my attraction was unnoticed for many years by my mother. I don’t include my father in this revelation because he had left our little world by the time I was nine years old. He was virtually non-existent in my life by that time. ‘Showed up once in a while with a bunch of cheap toys.

The first ‘planet’ I ever visited.
1962, two years before the Beatles invaded America.

My first trip to that world was “Puff, The Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul and Mary, released in January, 1963. When I listened to that record, I could see a dragon speaking. When the song ended, Puff was tucked away in his safe little world, waiting for my next visit. I didn’t have any fun records with pictures or funny songs, just what my mother gave me. Some big band, a bit of folk, Bobby Goldsboro kind of stuff. I didn’t get to listen to rock and roll because it really wasn’t around yet. It kind of was, but I didn’t get a hit of it till much later.

Many years passed, many changes in the home and in the family. Eventually, I ended up on my own all of the time. Taking things apart to find out how they worked to pass the time. Sometimes putting things back together. Running around on bicycles with my pals in whichever neighborhood I lived in at any given time. Building and unbuilding bikes. Scott Birdsall and I did tons of that. We would always split our cash to feed our addiction. ‘The Flock,’ ‘Aorta,’ ‘Iron Butterfly,’ ‘Cream,’ ‘Woodstock,’ ‘Vanilla Fudge,’ ‘Blindfaith,’ ‘Traffic,’ ‘Canned Heat,’ this list goes on for a long ways. We were addicted to anything most people were, who liked ‘acid rock,’ as it was called by “grupps.” (See Star Trek: TOS, “Miri.”) Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that we liked what our parents didn’t like because they didn’t like it (at least for me. I liked what I liked. I couldn’t give a rip if others did or didn’t like what I liked,) it’s just that we liked hard, noisy music. Actually, the only parent I had after eight years old was my mother, so if there was anyone not liking music I liked, it was just my mother, and she was gone most of the time, so I had it made. I had my drumsticks and anything I wanted to hit them with, but no drum kit. This loud noisy music would rule me clear into my late forties.

Six pieces that changed my outlook.
These six pieces of music changed the way I saw things in a major way.
They wrote about things I didn’t understand at the time but was about to.

:— Incidentally, four of the albums pictured were debuts and are still considered some of the best debut releases by any artist in any genre’. —:

One day, my dear friend, Scott, came over to where I was living in North Aberdeen in the apartment above my grandmother’s house with my two younger brothers and my mother. “Na-na” owned the entire building. Scott had a record album under his arm. He was riding his bike, as we all did. Premium transportation. Seriously.

This album he carried was amazing. The vocals were supersonic, the guitarist was destructive, the keyboardist was angelic and the drummer, playing with drum sticks as big as trees, drums as big as houses, delivered the final injection of the virus I would be stricken with for the rest of my life. “Good Times, Bad Times” was the syringe. The radio station in Aberdeen (actually, across the United States and Britain) had been playing a tune from the album and it was on everyone’s lips. The only other tune being played constantly that was just as destructive was “Sunshine of Your Love.” This was the summer of laying little boys and girls to waste. ‘Ten years After,’ ‘Cream,’ ‘Iron Butterfly,’ ‘Led Zeppelin,’ ‘Chicago Transit Authority,’ ‘Steppenwolf,’ etc. All of these bands, however mainstream they may have been, which for the time was not a bad thing, wrote music that addressed current issues, whether they were political or personal, ‘stop the war’ or teen angst, and everything in between and were easy to understand and listen to. They wrote about things they knew others were having battles with. Every note, guitar lick, word, bass thump oozed pain and cried out for someone to hear it and then there would be two. I was a perfect part of the audience. I was very porous, I was impressionable. It hit me, it soaked and stuck. It was a contaminant, and I wanted it.

Well, I had been bitten. Bitten hard and deeply. The virus called music was now flowing through my veins, wrapping itself around my brain, driving the nervous energy that ruled my hands and feet. The only pain was from being stifled. My mother didn’t want to hear it, my outside family didn’t give a rip. The same old thing. So I was left on my own with this, just as I had been with nearly everything else in my life. I already had coping skills, so I just hung back and waited. It was a long wait. I became aware of a talent that I had, but it didn’t register in my mind that this was something that many other musicians were going through. A desire to do something to something, and people wanted to hear it. Percussion. Hit things with sticks.

The years passed. I played drums in church, The Faith Tabernacle in Central Park, WA. just a bit east of Aberdeen. I was asked back every week. Soon I was just a part of the gig. The stage was my new home for those two hours. No fear, no trepidation. I never upgraded the church drum kit. Maybe I should have. I just wanted to hit drums, but this was a good experience for me. I got to love the stage and certainly playing in front of people. Playing in a church, though, no one is going to complain, especially in a Pentecostal church. The more noise, the better it goes. It was really more of a privilege than anything else. I had been playing in the Harvester Foundation facility at the prayer meetings, so it was just natural to play at the church on weekends. I didn’t blink once. Being a Christian helped. I was accepted and felt accepted. This was a new feeling for me.

When I hit 20 years old, I was on my own again and determined to rise above all the tides that kept washing me out to deeper water. At 21 I broke my left leg severely, took a year to heal and was back on my feet as soon as I could be. I wasn’t an active musician when this occurred, so I didn’t have any issues with other musicians in a band, etc., because I couldn’t play. I took the time off to heal but still wanted to play.

Now, maybe Joe Shumate, local Aberdeen guy, had heard me play drums in church and that probably was the motivation for him to ask me to play music in his band. It was another good learning experience for me. I think the best lesson was that making friends in the music business is great, but if you are in need of friends and think getting into the biz is a way of making friends, think again. It’s a rough business, and there are plenty of egos to deal with. You could certainly become one of those egos, but maybe not. I fought it for a long time. I always wanted to be a nice guy, and I was successful.

Over the years, we played the local bars, events, grange meetings, receptions, etc. It was great to be a part of the small tide pool called Aberdeen in a way that I couldn’t be ignored. All these kids and people who shoved me in the corner and bullied me were now a part of my audience. This was cool. This fed my ego. Ugh.

So, we did this for around five years. It was a kick. The expression “I got my legs” applies here I suppose. We worked a gig years ago at the Campbell Tree Grove Campground on the Humptulips River West Fork about eight miles east of Lake Quinault on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. It was sort of a Woodstock for Grays Harbor. It came off very well. It was held on May 16, 17, 18, 1980. Yep, the weekend Mt. St. Helens made her infamous voice heard. What a weekend. I would like to say I’ll never forget it, but I can’t. I know I was there, but remembering something like such is a stretch, considering I was there. It was a huge crowd. We played two days. We were going to play three and the event was supposed to last three days, but the mountain disagreed with this schedule. I actually heard the eruption, but had no clue that that is what I was hearing. I was awake and running around the campgrounds early that morning. I have no idea how I was awake so early considering there was an abundance of “anything and everything” through the whole weekend.

All of the bands packed their gear and headed for town. Many cars slid off of the road due to the ash that coated the road and the rain that came as a result of the ash in the air. It was like paste on the pavement. Slick. Slippery. Treacherous.

So, this was just a bit short of a year before I packed and left for Seattle. There was no longer any work in Aberdeen, the economy was terrible, and I did not want to become stagnant.

The last few members of the band who I played with were, Erich Hahn-bassist, Mike Glenn-guitarist, Craig Wells-lead guitarist, Dave Triggs-bassist, Owen Greene-guitarist, Joe Shumate-vocals, and others I really wish I could remember. The gigs: The Birthday Party for the barn in Porter, WA., Goldrush (Mt. St. Helens weekend), The wedding reception in Cosmopolis, WA. at DeWitt Park, and many more which I can not remember.

Well, the days leading up to my departure for Seattle were becoming fewer. I wanted out of Aberdeen and in a big way. Tax time was coming up, my brother Kevin had some money in the bank and I had $500 showing up in the mail soon. I hit him up for a loan, he agreed, I bought a Plymouth Valiant from a graduating high school girl in Cosmopolis for $200 and packed everything I had room for and left for Seattle, never to return. I visited home, but never moved back.

Great guys to work with.

Got stable in Seattle. Found some guys to play music with as soon as possible. The band was “Bac Trac.” It was fun. I was actually approached by the guy on the right in the photo, Eric, after playing at a jam he had at Friendship (soon to be Starship) studios off of Spokane St. just barely south of downtown Seattle. We traveled. Neah Bay, WA. at the Makah Tribal Center (that was a fun gig) New Year’s 1981 to 1982, Bremerton, WA. at the NCO club on the naval Base, The Resurrection MC Halloween parties, various New Year gigs. We worked all of the time. Clubs in the south end, Cloverdale, Southpark (yes, in Seattle), all over Seattle, Puget Sound, and the peninsula. We got paid well. I met a lot of other great musicians in Seattle at the time also. Pete McCarty-Guitarist extraordinaire, I used to practice across the hall from Queensryche at Starship Studios before they signed, countless open jams, many with multiple drum kits in one huge room as well as drummers. It was a time of discovery for me. It would be a lot of years before my naive Aberdeen understanding would be converted to a hard driven “I’m on a mission” persona.

When I left Aberdeen, I left a lot behind, musically, that I really wanted to remain with, or if possible, take with me, but I couldn’t have it both ways. The band I was playing in was successful, but there were activities going on that were not for me. A drug pall was falling onto the band, there was tension beginning, and it all was damaging something I held dear. For me, playing music was a place that I felt useful. A place where I knew I was helping people do something, anything, about their inner conflicts. Music sets people free, and I felt that that is what I was doing. I also had no cares sitting behind a kit. None, other than breaking a stick. Packing my kit, my belongings and dreams into my Valiant and setting off for the horizon was a big step for me, but everything that I needed in my life was pulling me through that door. At least one person I worked with in “Black Rose” still lives in Aberdeen. I don’t know how he survived. I guess if your surroundings are more important to you than what you can do in a bigger environment, you make do. You adapt, but success is relevant to each one of us, and usually not represented by the same outcome or fulfillment.

When “Bac Trac” let me go (I was becoming unhappy with constantly doing gigs for beer at the MC Clubhouses of which Eric [the guy on the right in the photo] was fond of doing) I was at a place of having gotten my feet wet and wanting more. One time we were doing a gig in south Seattle. At the end of the night, the club owner handed Eric, our manager for the time being, $1,000. Eric told us we would be doing a $600 gig that night. I made a decision that night that I would be leaving, but I am not the type of guy to leave people high and dry in a pinch. Needless to say, when he let me go, I was way past ready. I certainly did not see this as a failure. I actually wanted a more diverse type of music to play, maybe fusion or something, possibly jazz. Well, I got busy looking around. I found a band called “Pedestrian Polo.” Yeah, I know, but they were fun. We were a three-piece. We worked together for about a year. Did a few no name gigs. Everyone lost interest. We broke up. I moved on.

Around this time, I was tired of struggling again so I gave up playing for a lot of years. As a matter of fact, I didn’t buy a new drum kit until four years after I had moved to Georgia in October of 2002 when I married. So from 1990 (?) to 2006, I had no drums, no desire to play or any feeling that I would ever again.

Ok, now stay with me here.

I bought a computer in 2000 from my employer, Erickson Furniture, Clay Erickson. He sold me an old Windows 95 machine. I screwed it up because I didn’t know how to use it. I took it in for a format and they installed a Windows 98 upgrade to it. Ran like a champ. I used it to find my wife, whom I am still married to. I packed, again, and moved to Ringgold, GA. in October of 2001. Joy and I wed on May 4, 2002. I moved into the house she was buying. Got a job in Chattanooga with a furniture retailer as a repair tech, whatever that is. I was the guy sent out to repair in home problems as well as repairs to new arrivals on the dock at the store. Rhodes Furniture Company went bankrupt in 2004. So I started a business. Centennial Restorations is my baby. I restore photos, transfer video from VHS to digital, and more stuff. I still run the business. So where does this fit in?

I’m glad you asked.

Now that I was set free from the “daily grind” I had time to do other things.

MAPEX MBirch Fusion 6 2006 Model

I went to an “Open Mic” one night in Rossville, GA. at a bar on Rossville Blvd. I met a friend there whom I had known for a while. Cotton (Tony Porter) was a hell guitarist, may he rest in peace. He asked me if I wanted to play drums for him for a couple of tunes. I balked at first, then after a couple beers, I relented. “Mustang Sally,” “Wonderful Tonight,” and a couple other tunes later, I was blown away that they liked me. Cotton told me I should get a kit and start playing. The next week, I did. I went to Hardin’s Music Instrument outlet in Chattanooga and bought a kit. Pawned my car title and spent the $1,000 on a Mapex Fusion 6 kit.

I ran into Terry Yates at one of his bars. The Steel Horse Saloon on Highway 58 in Chattanooga. He told me he had Open Mics on Sunday nights and that I could come out and play if I felt like it. I did. I asked him if he would mind if I set up my new kit and let everyone use it all night. He said that would be fine. I was back to the affliction of my virus. My wonderful infection. MUSIC.

Every Sunday night from April to Sept of 2006, I set my kit up and played at least one set. I got my chops back, learned a few new tunes and met a lot of people. Well now, I was back at it after about fifteen years of being stagnant. Of actually not playing and not owning an instrument.

Now, I haven’t become a star overnight or anything, but I have had fun, and still am having fun.

It is currently the fall of 2013. The first week of October. I’m writing the story of my musical infection and about to set out on a new project. I think I can put some people together who would like to take some old rock classics, even obscure rock pieces and throw some blues on them or even rock them up Van Halen style. ‘Cold Blood,’ ‘Faces,’ ‘John Cougar,’ etc. Maybe even “Gloria,” ‘Them.’ I’m hoping for a good turn out and a good mix of intention and talent. I have a drummer and a deliberate drive to have a good time. Now I just have to post an ad in Craigslist and see what happens.

So this brings the story of my affliction up to the minute. I am about to walk out the door and launch a new band/project/endeavor. It should be fun as it always has been, although it will only render my infection more incurable, more deadly, and of course, more enjoyable to others.

Thanks for reading and maybe I’ll see you on stage or in the audience some night,
Kelly J.

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