Saturday, March 1, 2008


Just try hanging onto a good drummer if you’re in an art band. I can’t count how many times we lost Ben to paying gigs in the late 70s. Somehow through all of this we always found great replacements. Probably the best and longest lasting was Keith Hittler.
His family did have a little trouble with the surname during WWII even with the spelling difference.
Eventually Keith found a paying gig in Florida and left the band. He came back years later to be a founding member of the swing band Swing Set. Keith, bassist Michael Jackson and I made a brief attempt at a power trio but it only lasted a few rehearsals.
During his time with us (I believe it was 1977) Ben got a job in a lounge act on the roof of a hotel downtown. He’d swish brushes behind Suicide Is Painless, the Theme From Mash, and go home with real cash. Dan Gibbons of The Heaters was in this group but it would be several years before I got to know him.
It was during this time Dominic and I decided what the band needed was a real singer. After several tryouts we decided to work with Theo Johnson. It was more because we fell in love with the guy than anything else.
For more than a year Theo was my best friend. We did everything together. I’m epileptic and this was the period in my life when I had most of my seizures. One winter I went into a fit in the snow in front of my apartment in the West End. Theo somehow carried me upstairs and took care of me. He seemed to know what to do. I remember looking up from my bed with hallucinations of the ceiling tiles expanding and contracting. It made me realize how fragile our grip on reality is. I haven’t had a seizure since my late 20s. Good thing considering all my skydiving.
We did a lot of drugs together and turned each other onto a lot of music. Theo’s favorite record was The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.
I’m sure it must have been an alien environment for him. He came from a rough background on the north side. St. Louis is pretty segregated. One of his friends told me that, as kids, they would tie 2 cats together by their tails, throw them over a clothes line and bet on which one would survive. I was horrified.
I was still living with M then. She and all my friends loved him.
I got an email from him a few years ago. He was recording with someone in Cleveland. I checked their stuff out at It was pretty New Age, but it was good. He also told me one of his sisters had been on Star Search.


Anonymous said...

David, Your recollections have stirred my own recollections of our families' early years. My 2nd car was a 61' Ford Falcon station wagon that your father gave me. I also recall your father getting us into the St. Louis Hawks practices before they moved to Atlanta. We would sit on the floor a few feet from the court. Your cousin Joe.

Doggie said...

Wow, is it good to hear from you. My son wanted to get to know your father. We found his address on line. The letter came back undelivered. Could you send it?