2003 was a banner year musically for me. I was playing all over town, both with old friends and new friends, and had not played that much in six or seven years. It was damn magical, both in the content of the music and in the folks I worked with, and I'm glad I captured the gigs and rehearsals on digital audio tape (DAT) for later transfer to CD.
1988 and 1993 were other banner years for me musically, but I'll save that for another post.
But the point is, that in my life there have been a couple of periods where the music was magical and the gigs were plentiful and I got to do lots and lots and lots of playing. The kind of drumming that just elates you to a different level of existence, if that makes any sense. Some people get that elation from fishing, from motorcycle riding and many other activities.
It just happened, but I had put in hard work and networking and supporting other musicians and acts and helping folks whenever I could. But the result was after some months of semi-regular activities, the gigs and opportunities came from all directions. I was in a position to be able to pursue most of them, and thanks to an understanding family and bride I got to "ride that wave" until it crashed ashore.
Of course, I was playing several times a year with old friends Billy Ray and Ricky Ray. We'd meet up at a friend's place on Lake Fork on an isolated large Ranch that fronted a nice cove of the lake and write songs and play old favorites for several days. This has been going on since the late 80's and is always fun and we always end up writing some great songs, or at least songs we think are great.
I had gotten back together with some folks I went to high school with and who had all played in bands back then. After being asked to do so by the reunion committee, we formed a band to play our high school reunion. We learned all the songs that were popular back in the day, heavy on The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, Led Zeppelin, The Stones and the like. We all pretty much knew most of the songs already just by having heard them on the radio a zillion times, and we were blessed to have a pro player in our midst.
Robert and I had played in bands beginning in 9th grade. Even then, he was a scary good guitarist. So good that we all knew he'd be famous someday, and he is. He went to North Texas State and got his music degree then moved to Hollywood and went to the famous G.I.T. (Guitar Institute of Technology) and was so good as a student there that he became a teacher as soon as he graduated. He began doing studio work (where the Union bucks are) and casual gigs all over the So Cal area. He would fly in for visits with his folks, and about a year and a half before the reunion we began rehearsing together as a band every six months. In his spare time, he writes music books for major publishers and is quite well known as a great guitarist.
Rev Johnnie was a traveling man occupationally, and handled lead vocals, keyboards and second guitar. He and I had been good friends in high school, but never played in the same band together, although we had both been playing all over Houston in the years since high school and knew many of the same folks. He was big friends with Robert then and now, and learned to play guitar from Robert. He often went to L.A., and he and Robert began doing Starbucks guitar duo gigs to get a groove going between them. Our high school friends Rick and Stan booked the reunion gig and handled details and doing the PR work.
Robert's brother Quint was an excellent bassist, having played with various large church bands in Houston as well as tons of other bands. He was a world class bassist and as far as I could tell, he never made a mistake or dropped a note. And I recorded the gig and rehearsals and listened to the playback. I had never played with him either but he too had been playing since high school. He's the kind of pro bassist that makes anyone playing with him sound muey excellanto.
So we had three guys that had been gigging fairly regularly since high school and one pro from L.A. for the band. We sounded good, damn good, and the gig came off even better than any of us expected. It was a great gig. We did another gig that year and a follow up gig the next year, but none had the same magic and pizazz that the reunion gig had. All of us are, of course, still playing. We only practiced about 3 times over a year and a half period since we lived all over the place, but our active playing skills and the ability to practice on our own as well made it happen.
I also played that year with a blues cover band, the unfortunately named Drivin' Wheel. Two nice architects that had been playing together since their college days and I covered a very cool list of great tunes from Texas bluesmen like Doyle Bramhall III, Arc Angels and Storyville. Unfortunately, after half a year of working up our three sets, I could not get these guys to gig, despite me lining up a party gig for us. The final straw was when the bassist showed up to a practice with a leather hats and shirt, and they wanted me and the guitarist to get one too. That was that.
While working up the high school reunion band the year before, Rev. Johnnie had introduced me to a band called Polyhollidaise. They named themselves after character actress Polly Holliday, who is best known for her role as "Flo" on the 70's sit com "Alice". Don't ask me why because I don't know why they chose to honor her.
They were a bunch of college degreed tech geeks working for big oil in Houston, but again had played together since college. They were 10 years younger than me, but played a lot of songs that predated their birth. Cool songs. They were a party band and had a good following. Their drummer got shipped off to Europe for a year by Shell, and I stepped in to play some very fun gigs for them. We even played at Mardi Gras in Galveston, and that was a hoot. That gig lasted for a year, until the drummer came back, and we did several parties and even a gig at Grif's Sports Bar in Montrose. Big fun.
I did some substitute drumming gigs for a drummer recovering from rotor cuff problems in a band called The Bill Hendricks Experience. Funny, huh? It was corny but the band was tight and full of great players, playing blues standards. One great lead guitarist, a great vocalist/lead guitarist in the namesake of the band, a very talented bassist and a stunningly talented keyboardist with an eye for the ladies made this a fun outfit to play the Clear Lake area in mostly outdoor gigs.
I even branched out on my own booking gigs for friends who needed bands and did some wedding and party gigs with my dear old Houston blues playing friends like Little Screamin' Kenny, Dogman Miller, Skiles Kelley on guitar and the infamous Woody Oakes on bass. We'd all played together at one time or another and knew the original and cover material of the three guitarists very well. Little Screamin' came up for a great name for us while we were doing a wedding gig...THE SONS OF CUPID. It stuck, and no matter how the above named personnel rotated, we called ourselves The Sons of Cupid. I had a great time playing with all those folks, all of which I'd been playing with from the early to mid 80's, and it was indeed as Little Screamin' leaned over and said to me one night, it was just like old times.
Little Screamin' was the lead singer and has a ton of great originals, as did Skiles and Dogman. We had all played some decade before in the house band at Dan Electro's and we had all sat in with each others bands all over town for more than ten years. at one time or another, all of us had been in bands with the others. So we didn't need any rehearsal or even songlists at the gig. Little Screamin' would just call out numbers and we'd just tear into them.
I listen to the CD's I've made of these gigs and am glad I recorded them. All of them are very special and of course, the music brings back snapshots and videos in my mind of some of the moments from those gigs. My, My. How time flies. One CD I always enjoy listing to is the original music of Elizabeth White, who used to live in Sugar Land.
It was a one-off showcase gig as a backing band for Elizabeth White, doing her material which I liked a lot. From California originally and a horse trainer by trade, she had moved to Sugar Land after she met her partner on the internet and self-recorded a very nice CD with some strong folk-blues-rock originals. Pretty rocking originals with great lyrics and some great tunes.
The CD had been done in a pro studio and featured some very talented cats playing on it. It made a good practice tool since we never really ever rehearsed together as a band, and I was able to chart out the drum parts by transcribing the music on her cd. We varied a bit at the gig from the CD arrangements, with a little longer or shorter guitar solo here and there, but it was easy to follow and no one stumbled.
I recruited a bassist I had played with recently in an R&B fusion band called Voi-ij (get it, Voyage?). I didn't, and left after a few rehearsals. Despite having some good players, that band was all show and no go. But I met Lisa in that band and we played well together and so she was on board. Lisa could rock a fretless precision bass like nobody's bidness, and played loud and clear and strong.
The lead guitarist, the single named "KAT", was someone that I didn't know before and haven't seen since, but she was blazing. Playing a strat and a solid state Roland Jazz Chorus Amp, she was getting some of the most incredible Clapton-esque tones out of that Strat.
I was amazed not only at Kat's inspired playing but at the great sound of what I never thought could be a blues rock amp. Kat showed up at the gig with her rig (no pedals btw), and off we went and played and blazed and then she loaded up and off she went. Wish I knew who she was because she could play some blazing solos that to me really sounded derivative but not copy-cat of Clapton. Just righteous.
Lisa and I did a brief run-through of a forty minute set at Elizabeth's home, but the lack of a PA made that sort of an instrumental effort only. Kat never made the rehearsal, but Lisa and I had rehearsed with the CD we had and Kat had played with Elizabeth before, so when we hit the stage at the Rhythm Room on Washington we didn't know what might happen.
But happen it did. We sounded great. We had a great soundman and the drums were well miked and everyone was in sync as if we'd played a hundred times together. I have the CD to prove it from a great soundboard mix.
Elizabeth White played acoustic rhythm guitar and sang. There were no backing vocals, but she sang so well and soulfully that the band didn't need them.
The gig was a showcase for an outfit called Go Girls Rock!, run by the then-partner of Elizabeth. I forget the name of the woman running the show, but she had built a pretty nice niche for herself sponsoring shows and working with female artists to help them get record deals. There were some fairly big west coast names associated with the outfit and gigging at their shows.
After that, I spoke to Elizabeth a few times and then she disappeared. Her relationship ended and she moved somewhere and that was the last I heard of her. For awhile, there was a link to her CD and an email for her on the GO GIRLS ROCK website, but I think that's gone now. In any event, she never responded to any of the emails I sent to her over the years at the addresses I had for her.
I keep up with most everyone I've ever played music with in Houston or Austin. Not all, of course, as some moved on and some were strange, but those longtime friendships continue with the cats I've jammed and played music with over the last near 40 years, since childhood. Unfortunately, some are dead as well. As time goes on, I realize...sorry Chicago...I realize that life can be so fleeting. There's so many good folks I played with who have passed on (and very few were drug or alcohol related, btw, most were cancer or other dread disease striking otherwise very healthy, non-drinking and non-smoking people).
But I never heard from Elizabeth White after she moved on from her relationship. I talked to her fairly regularly after the gig we had, and we had plans to do more playing, then her problems began and she moved out and disappeared.
So if you know Elizabeth White, or if you are Elizabeth White, the singer-songwriter-guitarist that I did a great and fun gig with in Houston back in June of 2003, I'd love to hear how she's doing. I surely hope she's doing well and still playing music, as she had a great talent. I have the master DAT tape from that gig that she wanted, but we just never got together for me to give it to her. I know she got copies of the cd dubbed from the DAT original, but I figure it was her music and one day she might like to get that gig mastered from the DAT and put out a live CD of her Houston years. It was a rocking band, after all.