10th Grade Santa Monica High School Viking Marching Band
At Lincoln Junior High the band director, Mr. Schwartz, convinced me to switch to bass clarinet (obviously he needed one and I was probably the only clarinet player big enough to manage the thing). I enjoyed that role – only one in the band and since I was pretty proficient he even found a couple of songs that featured bass clarinet (“Baby Elephant Walk”). I continued piano and organ through junior high as well.
My experiences in junior high firmly cemented me as a “bando” – identifying with the music/drama/arts crowd rather than the jocks. My only spill over into that world was being one of only a handful of skaterboarder/surfers.
Starting in about 5th grade, we discovered skateboarding which at that time consisted of taking an old rollerskate and bending the metal frame down so that you could screw it to the bottom of a piece of wood. Our elementary school had some excellent terrain for skating and became a haven for the dozen or so of us who took up this unusual (at the time) sport. About the same time we were also spending lots of time at the beach body surfing, and a couple of years later board surfing (when I could afford a surfboard – mine was a 9’6” Con). I was popular with the surfer crowd because mom and dad owned a big Buick station wagon and were willing to get up early on a Saturday morning and drive half a dozen junior high boys to a remote beach and leave them for the day. I loved surfing and was pretty good (a couple of years of skateboarding was a great introduction), but my eyesight started to decline and frankly I couldn’t see well enough for it to be any fun (and you couldn’t wear glasses surfing, dude!) - so I quit in my junior year of high school. Still regret that!
Senior year of high school, 1965, the “British Invasion” radically changed music – surf music faded and morphed into the Beach Boys, etc., so to “be cool” Jim Bunnell, Jim Odom, John Mendelsohn and I formed a band called the Fogmen (get it . . . England, fog, - only lasted one or two gigs). That summer we formed a real band, called the InRhodes.
Part of the reason I mention surfing was that “surf music” was my introduction to non-school/church musical activities. In 10th grade at Santa Monica High School (“Samohi”), I switched to tenor sax (for marching band) and also played contrabass clarinet in concert band and baritone sax in in the high school jazz ensemble – the Serenaders (great band but what a terrible name!) Anyway, surf bands were starting to form all around (Dick Dale and the Deltones, the Sufaris') and tenor sax players were hard to come by (think “Blue Moon,” "Tequila! etc.)". So about the time I quit surfing I joined a band called the Paragons lead by a guy named Wally Wulfeck (lead guitar) – honestly don’t remember much else about the band except we made a recording of "Surf Drums" with the Samohi Serenaders - the link is below if you wanna give a listen.
Jim Bunnell and Jim Odom were classmates of mine at Samohi and played in the marching/concert band as well as the 19 piece big band jazz ensemble (Serenaders) together. I switched between tenor and baritone sax different years, Bunnell played trombone, and Odom, trumpet. There we met upperclassman Mike Faulkner (Alto sax and clarinet) and Forrest Peques (drums). In 1964 and ’65 (my junior and senior years of high school) the Serenaders entered and won a Battle of the Bands sponsored at the Hollywood Bowl by the Los Angeles County Schools – 1965 was first prize in the big band division and in ‘64 both first in big bands and grand prize overall against all competitors. There is a bit more to this story over on my Blog page.
That's me - front row, 4th from the left playing lead tenor sax. This was the 1965 version of the Serenaders. Jim Bunnell is over my right shoulder (trombone), and Jim Odom is over his right shoulder (trumpet). Mike Faulkner had already graduated.
While we were at Samohi Jim Bunnell and I had some adventures with a grad student doing his PhD in Music at UCLA, Michael Angelo, and something called the “Los Angeles Freak Orchestra” – imagine John Cage or early Frank Zappa. Angelo was the student conductor of the high school band and he invited Jim and I to participate in several “happenings” he staged. Jim and I “played” various “instruments” to small audiences. One was at the Bluth Brothers Theater in Culver City, but the one I remember most was at a church in West LA. Jim and I took the stage which contained only a stool and a rocking chair. Jim sat on the stool and I took the rocking chair. The “piece” consisted of me rocking faster and slower trying to make as much noise and as much variety of sound as I could with the rocking chair. Jim’s part was to sit with a look of deep concentration on his face until I was finished after 5 minutes or so of rocking. Then when I was perfectly still – he screamed, jumped up and ran out down the center aisle. The congregation was then led out up onto the platform and past a cardboard box with some dead fish in it. "Heavy man, heavy!"
Here are four songs by the Santa Monica High School Serenaders and one by the Paragons with the Serenaders. The first three were recorded live at the Hollywood Bowl in the spring of 1964 and 1965. We participated and won both years - Fist Place in our division and Sweepstakes in 1964 and First Place in our division in 1965.
“Owl Hoot” features solos by Jim Odom on trumpet, Geoff Cooper on alto sax and Vic Spiegel on piano.
“Solid Blue” also features Spiegel with some nice piano fills. Odom again on trumpet and Mike Faulkner on the alto sax solo. If you listen carefully you can hear the trombone section “get lost” and come in too late to back up Mike’s solo. He weathered it like a professional but it wasn’t a great moment for the band. The song ends with a terrific drum solo by Jeff McKnight. The band again falters a bit at the end of the drum solo. Touch of the nerves – after all we were 16-17 yr olds and playing in the freaking Hollywood Bowl!
“Son of Funck” is true to its name. More tasty Spiegel piano fills at the start. Then like most of the tunes we played it began to build and layer trombones on saxes and then trumpets on both. I’m playing baritone sax on this song – which you can’t hear (at least on this recording) until near the end when there is a “dee-dum” bass part. (Of course that's only important if you want to hear me!)
"Sunday Morning" is a Neal Hefty tune that I really liked.
Finally, "Surf Drums" was recorded by the Paragons (the Serenaders with an electric guitar and bass player). Forrest Peques plays the drums (he was also the InRhodes first drummer), and Mike Faulkner plays the Alto solo.
The performance at the Bluth’s theater has lots more folks doing other stuff but to be perfectly honest I got such a bad headache from a faulty fog machine they were using, I can’t remember much of that day! Ah, art!
Southern California was a rich environment for music – we had ready access to clubs such as Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach (I remember being in the audience for part of the recording of the Jazz Crusader’s album “Live at the Lighthouse – ‘66”). The Troubadour in Wes LA (mostly folk music), and Pandora’s and The Trip on Sunset, were part of our regular stops on any given weekend. Another example of that environment was the folks competing in the LA Schools Battle of the Bands. The years we were there also competing were to-be journeyman composer and sax player Tom Scott (“The Neoteric Trio”) and Karen and Richard Carpenter – “The Carpenters” (at the time “The Richard Carpenter Jazz Trio”).