Wednesday, August 16, 2006

All American Boy

"Gather round cats, and I'll tell you a story 'bout how to become an all American boy."

"Got me a guitar, and put it in tune, I'll be a rockin' and a rollin' soon!" (….Bill Parsons)

My last band, the Headstone Band, playing at the Cozy Corner Tavern in Clinton, Washington (1971?). Loren on bass, Jeff in the middle playing lead, Mr. Completely with the 12 string, and Bob in the back on drums. How 'bout them sideburns?

Somewhere around 1966 I was sitting in the campus coffee shop at Western Washington State College in Bellingham, Washington having a cup of coffee. I had only recently transferred to Western from Whitman College in Walla Walla, and didn't know very many people at the school yet. A tallish guy with glasses walks by, and we both kinda recognized each other at the same time.

"Didn't you used to go to Whitman?" he asked.

"Yup!" I replied, and he sat down at the table. Gary O'Brien was his name, and he had recently graduated from Whitman, and was now enrolled at Western to work on his Master's degree. Gary was also a fine guitar player and while in Walla Walla had his own rock band, the "Animals" years before Eric whatzizname used the name for HIS band.

"Didn't you used to play some guitar over at Whitman?" Gary asked.

"well, yeah, sorta, but it was mostly coffee house folk music sort of stuff." I replied.

"How'd you like to play in a rock band? I'm putting a band together and I need a rhythm guitarist."

"Uh, I don't know any rock songs, and I only have an acoustic 12 string guitar."

"No problem! You can pick up a used guitar, and I'll teach you how to play it. You need to go find a guitar made by a company called Fender and it's called a Stratocaster. See if you can find one by Friday, and I'll stop by and show you what you need to know."

By coincidence, Terry Afdem, a student I sat next to in a couple of classes happened to be working steadily as a rock musician in a Pacific Northwest area rock band called the Dynamics. I asked him if he knew of any used Fender Stratocasters, and it turned out that they had just traded one in at a local music store. I hurried to the store after class and it was still there. It was a 1964 in very good condition. The price was $125. The lady in the store told me that if I didn't have that much money, I could rent it for $35 for three months, and the rent would go towards the purchase if I decided to buy it. DEAL!

I rushed back to my hole in the wall apartment to give it a try. I didn't want to play it at the music store and embarrass myself. On trying it out it I discovered that without an amplifier it didn't make much sound. In fact, you could barely hear it! I fooled around with it for a couple of days until Friday when Gary came over to get me started.

Friday afternoon Gary showed up with a small Sears Silvertone amplifier and his own strat. Gary showed me some basic chords, including some bar chords. Yes, I know some folks call them "Barre" chords, but in my case it had more to do with where I was going to be playing, rather than anything about guitar technique!

Gary scribbled down some chord progressions, explained what a 12 bar blues progression was, showed me what it should sound like, and told me to practice all weekend, as there was a band practice on Monday night.

"Yeah, right…….."


"I practiced all day, and into the night…." And my fingers were alternately in great pain, or numb.

Monday night we gathered at a friend's house for our first band practice. We stuck to some basic rock songs, but at times it sounded great, and like at all band practices, sometimes it didn't. We practiced a couple of times a week for several weeks, and started booking some gigs. We rocked hard, made a few bucks, and had a lot of fun too.

I, too, was becoming an "All American Boy", just like the song!


At Friday, August 18, 2006 10:08:00 PM, Anonymous Mary Lou said...

I went to WWSC also! but I did not graduate, I quit in 1964, to go back to work to earn more money to go back to school. I was working at the NAvy Exchange i=at Ault Field then. ahhhhhh what memories! Then I met a sailor...


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