Sunday, December 4, 2011

Rehearsal Spaces pt. 1

The band’s been working on a documentary since our reunion show last summer. Fojammi’s been working his butt off on the video part of it. He’s been interviewing artists and friends who were there. The whole experience has forced me to think about a lot of our history that I took for granted.

There are hurdles every young band has to get past. You have to have a shared commitment to your art, individual drive, the will to practice, similar taste, and your own instruments and amps. Not to mention, just like young lovers, you have to develop along a similar path as you age. Besides that last thing, the two most daunting hurdles are a P.A. system and a rehearsal space.

I’ve decided to lay down a history of our rehearsal spaces. I think the P.A.s will make a good story later. I hope the band will chime in if I’ve forgotten anything or if I’m not remembering correctly.

I remember watching Dom and Benet play in their bedroom in Laclede Town. I was blown away with their talent. Benet was 12 and a metal barrel made up part of his kit. There wasn’t enough room for anyone else, but it didn’t matter, no one else was good enough to play with them. I was totally inspired though. I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

My buddy Don Belk helped me get my first guitar at Mel Bay Music. He had a bass and knew another guitarist named Chuck Taylor. We started jamming in Don’s bedroom. Don was always working on his image. He built a huge piece of furniture to house his 10 watt amp and 10 inch speaker. It didn’t sound better and it wasn’t louder, it just looked cool. Between his amp and a new drummer Chuck found named Leland Smith, we had gotten too big for Don’s bedroom.

I’ll never forget loading up a little red wagon with all of our equipment. We walked along side of it holding onto everything so it wouldn’t fall off. It must have risen ten feet into the sky. We took it to a garage that was about twelve blocks away. I have no idea who lived there. We were so excited we’d become an official Garage Band!

We learned House of the Rising Sun and the verse to 18 by Alice Cooper. We never got to the chorus; we just played the verse over and over again. It must have been incredibly hard to listen to.

At some point during all of this, Dom taught me how to tune my guitar in open G. He showed me Down By the River by Neil Young and Honky Tonk Women by The Stones. I brought them back to my band and became a contributor. Up until then, Chuck decided what we’d play.

One day, as we were jamming in the garage, a cop showed up. He was very polite. He said we sounded great and watched us play. When we finished, he said there had been a complaint and we would have to break it up.

By this time I had talked my dad into cosigning for a loan on an off-brand Les Paul and small electric organ amp. I paid for it with my school lunch money.

Ludwig Aeolian had a little Rock n Roll department in their basement downtown. I bought them from a guy named Bob Powell. I wanted to throw his name out because he was the sweetest guy in the world and really worked with the kids.

Dom invited me into his band because he needed and amp and mine would accommodate two. John Steffen joined and we moved into Dom and Benet’s basement.

I remember our first name was Bronco Bullfrog. I always loved that name. We settled on Jon Cotton and began building our repertoire. We played a little bit of everything. We played a lot of Canned Heat, The Stones, Jethro Tull and Spirit.

Our first bassist was Jimmy Hill. He knew the song Killer Joe and that was our introduction into Jazz. Jimmy works with U.S. Representative Barney Frank now.

Jimmy left and for a while we didn’t have a bassist. A friend of ours named Albert Teithenbraum (help me out with the spelling guys) had a beautiful Gibson EB-0 bass. I don’t know how Dom did it, he not only got Albert to let us rehearse in his basement, but Albert let Dom use the bass. Dom became our new bassist. Hey, bass was more necessary than flute and a third guitar!

I think Albert was beginning to feel used and we lost it all. We moved back into the D&B’s basement.

I think I’m the one who got Tracy to come over. Tracy got us to play One More Red Nightmare by King Crimson. I didn’t know they did anything after Court of the Crimson King. It opened up a whole new world of music to me.

We began to write our own material.

We lost the basement, but someone found a really cool Art Deco industrial building at Vandeventer and Highway 40. It was attached to the old Famous Barr warehouse. We got it for free. It had a security camera and an intercom to buzz people in. This was all very futuristic at the time. It sounded terrible, but man did it look cool.

Tracy still lived way out in the county and worked at a Flaming Pit out there. He told us about a friend of his who had gotten fired. They made their house salad in a large Rubber Maid trash can. His angry friend peed in it. If I’m remembering correctly who the friend was, I have a great story about an adventure I had with him later.

We lost the Deco building. Tracy was friends with the manager at Flaming Pit. The restaurant was attached to a deserted super market and his friend let us use it. It was the strangest place we ever practiced. The whole building was completely empty. No matter how much we sprawled out, we were still a tiny little band in the middle of thousands of square feet of dark emptiness. Man did we feel insignificant, not to mention it sounded like we were playing in a cave!

I have a long way to go so this will be continued…………….

Band pic is in D&B’s basement. It features John Steffen, Jimmy Hill, Dom, Benet and me. The other pic is D&B in that same basement.


Dorothy said...

Great story... I've got Robin here, learning violin at school and drum lessons coming later this month. It's fun thinking about how we got where we are.... and watching our kids live it.

Anonymous said...

My personal theory is that the children of musicians are all the more likely to become musicians. I can't think of one friend of mine with a musician for a parent that isn't a musician them self.

Tracy said...

Man that whole time of when you were playing with Chuck and Leland and I wasn't and vice versa is a gray area for me. I started playing with Chuck when we were very young and I think he or maybe Don introduced me to you. We played in Leland's tiny tiny house with his mother always yelling at us at Leland shouting back "fucking shut up mom!". I never talked to my mom like that. I was shocked. Anyway I think I sold my crappy bass to some other sucker so during the time I didn't have a bass I was once again the baseless bass player and I think that's when you started playing with chuck and Leland and Don