After I posted that picture of the band I once played in, in my “Ann and I” post a couple of days ago, I got to thinkin’ that lots of you guys are really unaware of my
checkered musical past. So here is a little bit more about that period in my life. Actually, that period starts when I was about nine, until I played my last gig at the age of about sixty-four. In other words about 55 years.
Yeah, that's me - Mr. Cool
In grade school the music teacher, Mrs Hahn, decided to not only teach us singing, but got us each a little thingee that I think was called a Tonette. It was similar to the old Sweet Potato, that many of you may or may not remember. You blew into the end of it, and it had little holes for each finger, which you could cover or uncover to make notes. I got pretty proficient at playing it.
Later, I decided I wanted something more substantial if I was going to be a great musician. So my parents took me to down to Berman’s music store in Muskegon, Michigan, to pick out something. An alto saxophone caught my eye, as it had a lot of fancy, shiny keys and I thought, boy, that looks fun to play. And it ought to attract the girls. So
a star was born that day I took that bugger home and started “entertaining” the neighbors.
After some private lessons, plus experience playing in the school band I really did start to shine on the danged thing. In junior high school a friend decided we needed to start a band. So four of us got together and played at a little dance. We got 5.00 each and I got my first experience singing with a dance band. My knees knocked but I sang “Because of You” to a
sold-out crowd bunch of teeny-boppers.
I was playing in night clubs when I was fifteen years old, much to the chagrin of my high school band teacher. (I’ll have you know that I didn’t drink a drop back then). Mr. William Stewart summarily kicked my little butt out of the band because he did not believe is such goings-on. That was OK, I just started to play every chance I got. I got to be on stage with some pretty big names over the years.
The Melody Rangers
In the Air Force I played with a bunch of guys that played more western music. We called ourselves the Melody Rangers. Catchy name, don’t ya think? We were pretty dog-goned good. Good enough that the Air Force flew us to several places in the area in a C-123 cargo plane, to entertain the public. Billy Deaton was the lead singer. In the picture, he is second from left. He went on to be a producer in Nashville. At the far right, Stu Basore, ended up playing steel guitar for Ray Price. I am second from right. This pic was taken during practice, but on stage we wore fancy western shirts and cute little neckerchiefs. The guy in the middle, Lou Brown, the drummer, was always wanting me to ask his mother out. He said she had a thing for me. 🙂 I didn’t. 🙂
I sat in with the big bands, got on a traveling Grand Ole Oprey show in Oklahoma, with Judy Lynn and Brenda Lee. She was about ten years old at the time.
When I went home to get married, I told you previously that I met Ann for the first time when I got off of the bus. So, this is my wife-to-be whom I meet at 2:00 in the afternoon. The first time I ever layed eyes on her. The wedding rehearsal is at 4:00. So what happens that evening, our first evening out together? Of course! I end up playing with the band at a little dance hall. My old buddies found out I was in town. From my brother, I guess. So I guess I broke Ann in right away about my music. That was a memorable first date. 🙂
There is one little period that I almost left out. While stationed at Ardmore AFB in Oklahoma, I and two other staff sergeants formed a little singing group. We called ourselves the Skyliners and we purposely, sang and sounded like the Four Aces. We played shows around the state, and entered the Air Force Blues talent composition. We ended up in second in the country, to a what I called then a Do-Wop group.
Back here in San Angelo, after my short career in the Air Force I played with just every band in town at one time or another over the years. Leonard King’s Orchestra, Alton Baird’s band, Frank Trevino’s Orchestra, Billy Aylor Orchestra, Johnny Dutton’s band. I joined the Cavalliers and we auditioned J. Frank Wilson to sing with us. As you know the Cavalliers made a top ten record, “Last Kiss”, featuring J. Frank. We are in the West Texas Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame.
I ended my musical professional career in December of 1996, playing with my own band, The Concho River Band, at the San Angelo Convention Center for the West Texas Utilities Company Christmas Party. But I have lots of stories that sometime I may pass on to you.