AFTER "FUTURE" PART ONE
Another side to my musical experiences involved "the theater." The play “FUTZ” by Rochelle Owens was about a farmer who has a love triangle relationship with his pig Amanda and the “town tart” Marjorie. At the end of the first act of the play there is a nude mud wrestling scene with the three of them, which in 1968 or so was bordering on illegal. A fellow I worked with at the local newspaper named Dave Sheehan (he reviewed restaurants, movies etc.) was directing and producing the play and asked if I’d play some music while folks are coming in and during intermission. The only place I could set up was in the front row, far left side in front of the mud pit, so occasionally I got a bit of mud slung on me. I think it ran for two weekends. Unfortunately timing of the nude scene and my playing during intermission didn’t allow me any backstage time when it might have been even more entertaining. One evening the pig did get out into the audience for a minute or two. Dave went on to produce other plays and TV shows, was an entertainment reporter on CBS and NBC and writer for Esquire and Playboy, among other publications.
So Future ended as a result of the album going nowhere (although interestingly it has subsequently gotten some nice reviews and airplay on college stations over the years). The summer of 1970, I graduated from college, Dawn and I got married, and the next phase of my musical history skips a few years ahead to 1976 when we moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I transferred there to finish my doctoral degree studying with Allan Steckler. In Chapel Hill we lived in Married Student’s Housing – a neighborhood of four-plexes about 90% graduate student families and a short walk to the School of Public Health. There I met several guys with whom I started playing music. There was an old upright piano in the “social hall” (a large room above the common laundry), and I used to go down there and bang on it to relax. A few guitar players started joining in and we developed a regular routine of jamming once or twice a week. Ed Meehan and Paul Jellinek were master’s students at the School of Public Health and the two guys I played music with most regularly. I stayed in touch with both – Paul finished a doctorate at UNC and spent many years at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (he also has a blues band on the side). Ed moved to Allentown, PA and became the director of the Dorothy Rider Poole Healthcare Trust. Years later Ed would be instrumental (no pun intended) in our decision to move to Allentown.
From the time I left UNC in 1979, until 1984, my music was limited to playing a Yamaha guitar I’d picked up in North Carolina and an old upright piano we bought from our friend and fellow Tar Heel Nancy Epstein in Austin, TX (where we moved from Chapel Hill.) In ’84 we moved up the road from Austin to Temple, TX. There I fell in with a band of Scott and White health system employees – played a few gigs, mostly jammed. It was my first serious introduction to “both kinds of music – county AND western.”
After we moved to Temple (TX), we started attending a Nazarene Church (didn’t care for the Methodist or Baptist churches we visited and not lots of options in Temple). I met the pastor of the First Church of the Nazarene in the hot tub at the club where I exercised. Nazarene churches, in general, are very musically oriented and I immediately found myself engaged with a new set of friends and musical partners. This is when/where I bought the “flip top” Yamaha keyboard you can see on the “What did I play?” page.
I have only written a handful of songs in my life and the couple of years we lived in Temple, before moving to PA, was the apex of that experience. Sunday evening services were almost all music and lots of folks were encouraged to participate (not quite a talent show, but some might leave with that sense). Anyway, I have a couple of very poor recordings of songs I wrote and/or performed at the Nazarene church in Temple, TX between 1984 and 1987
“He Talks With Me Through the Music,” “Hello, Is God There?,” and "He Said I'm Here." are the three I have recorded. All three of these use the rhythm section of the keyboard to “automatically” place part of the accompaniment, so while these were live recordings and me singing and playing all the parts, it really isn't all that impressive.
“Drop Roll and Cool” was two things – the slogan for the Burn Prevention Foundation of the Lehigh Valley, a nonprofit based in Allentown on the board of which I served, and the name of a band that Ed (Meehan) and I formed after Dawn, the boys and I moved to Allentown in 1987. I had taken a position as Vice President with HealthEast, the parent company for a group of eastern PA hospitals – now called Lehigh Valley Health Network.
Ed (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), me (keyboards), Larry Royce, a friend we met through Ed on lead guitar, and #1 son Justin on drums, organized a bar band that played together for 3-4 years. Mostly we rehearsed in our basement on Tuesday nights – the younger boys still tell stories of trying to go to sleep with Ed wailing “Honky Tonk Woman” echoing up through the air ducts. It was a good time. Our next door neighbor Bob was also a keyboard player (had a B-3 and an Ensoniq EPS sampler – very cool stuff). He was a “Yes” fan and could play stuff far more complex that I. He convinced me to buy a playback sampler (a new type of keyboard), and I found an EPS, similar to his that I bought very slightly used from a guy who wrote the user’s manual for Ensoniq – he wasn’t a player, just had been given the keyboard (to keep) as part of his contract for writing the manual. So he got pure profit and I got a keyboard that had barely been turned on.
"Drop, Roll and Cool" wasn't the only name this band had . . . we started out as "My They're Tall and Larry." Ed, Justin and I are all well over six feet tall. Larry is more "normal." When we would show up at some bar for a gig, there was almost always a stage voice whisper to the effect of "My they're tall!" The next name we ran with for a good while was "All of Our Cats Are Dead." I don't think I want to try and explain that one. Some band names just happen. Oh, if you're interested, an acapella group called "the Bobs" has a song called "Naming the Band" which every 14 year given a guitar should ben forced to listen to!
The next part of my musical history doesn’t really involve me playing, it focuses on two other bands – “Purified” and “Audience of One.” Purified was the band Alex and Wes organized along with Steve Skekel (lead guitar) and a couple of different drummers. Purified was an opportunity for me to enjoy watching Wes and Alex really come into their own as young men, musicians and performers. Got to help them doing some recording – I think it’s some great stuff.
Audience of One was a whole other thing . . . Dawn and I had been working with the youth group at our church (Faith Evangelical Free Church in Trexlertown, PA). Wes and Alex were in high school and their band Purified was taking off and Wes was also leading worship with the high school group at church. The junior high youth pastor, Steve Gehman, asked me what I thought about organizing a junior high (middle school actually) “praise band.” A short while later, “Audience of One” was created from an “all are welcome” recruiting call. We ended up with somewhere around 19 kids more or less regularly participating in the band. We played weekly at youth group meetings. The kids did a video of “Pharaoh, Pharaoh” (to the tune of Louie-Louie) that’s on You Tube:
We had all kinds of brass, woodwinds, multiple guitars, 3-4 keyboard players, two bass players, LOTS of singers and for about two years had a really great time building kid’s confidence on their abilities both musically and spiritually. Still in touch with some of those kids today!