Day 997, March 7, 2023

Bands I’ve Known (Part I)

Running Water (I think?)
In high school, just after learning how to strum a few chords, we started a trio with Brig and Anne. Brig had an older brother who taught him how to play a few lead lines to songs like “Friend of the Devil” and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” Anne could do some justice to Joni Mitchell and tried to get us to do some Jethro Tull. I followed Anne around like a puppy dog, but she wasn’t interested in anything like that from me. I thought Brig was a guitar genius. We taped together songs ten pages long and spread the sheet music across the stage when we played… our vision was that good. 

I played my Uncle John’s old Yamaha guitar which I had slapped a Jerry Garcia sticker on. There was a little removable sound hole pickup that I used. 

Electric Mayhem
Began in a college dorm room where Claiborne, Skagg, and I played a 45 minute purple haze. I knew Skagg from the football team where he had rung my bell with some hard as stone hits. Claiborne was my roommate but hadn’t even brought his guitar to college, but he was/is an incredible player. From the moment he unveiled his white ESP telecaster we were all mesmerized. I didn’t know enough to learn from him, but it was great playing rhythm behind such a wave of musicality.

I traded in my plywood beginner electric guitar for an Ibanez Artist from the late 70s/80s from Daddy’s Junky Music in Boston. It was a fantastic guitar with butterfly humbuckers and an iridescent green velvet lining in the case. 

Zach’s In the Crate
After college, Claiborne moved north and we met Ed, whose dad was a swingin’ jazz drummer. Ed was fantastic and after he put his dog in the crate, we’d rock out in his living room in Shutesbury, MA. I switched to bass, a fantastic white Japanese Fender Jazz Bass with a rosewood fretboard. I didn’t know how good that instrument was and spent many years trying to find its equal. I played through an underpowered Laney bass head into a Marshall 4x10 cab that was really meant for guitar. 

I don’t really remember what we played except that Ed played us Scott Henderson’s Dog Party and thought it was really keen. And on the way to practice one night, Claiborne and I saw a UFO.

SHArQ (Secure Hash AlgoRhythm Quintet/Quartet)
In the incarnation that I joined, Daniel corralled, Kurt, later Lou, Al, sometimes Steve and/or Hilary into a herky jerky funky Western Mass rock and roll band. I had been playing strictly bluegrass for years and had sold off my electric guitar. But luckily I kept my Fender Deluxe amp and borrowed a guitar from work. Photos from one of our first gigs show the price tags still dangling from the tuners. Eventually, I built myself an electric guitar with a mahogany back, flamed maple top, ebony fretboard, and Carvin pickups. I played lead guitar, to Daniel’s songs. He played mostly rhythm back then. Kurt, then Lou held down the bass, and Al was our funky drummer. Steve sometimes played bass, sometimes saxophone, and Hilary sang.

Reverend Warbucks and the Cocaine Cowboys
Back when the world was innocent and the worst we could imagine was a Bush-Cheney future, Daniel, James, and I can’t remember the drummer’s name, invited me to play bass in a band designed to save the world. It was my first political band and we had a blast in our predictably short lived campaign. We all wore cowboy-ish hats and ties, and I was still playing the old white Jazz Bass.

The Ambiguities
SHArQ evolved into The Ambiguities with Steve on drums, Carrie joined us on keys, Emily played violin, and I switched to bass, which evolved into a marvelous Alembic-like Kawai. Lloyd introduced me to the wonders of the upright bass and I picked up an old Kay from a fella who used to play with Johnny A, I think. Or maybe it was Ronnie Earl. At our best we sounded like a groovy pop-rock orchestra. Sometimes after rehearsal and listening to all the wonderful harmonies, I would fantasize about someone hearing us and putting us on the radio… crossing the country playing our music. I always dreamed about how amazing things could be.

[More to come…]


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