Lead Guitar, Vocals
My dad was career military, so I was pretty much a vagabond, and I lived in a variety of places in the country, and around the world. As a consequence I was exposed to kind of a disorganized, hodgepodge, jumble of regional musical styles as I grew up. I mean I could obviously tell the difference between, oh say, Glenn Miller and Big Joe Turner, but I had no built in bias that any one particular style was inherently preferable to another. That kind of discrimination didn't come to me until much later, when I was exposed to disco, and first realized that some kinds of music just inherently sucked. While we were living in southern California, my parents would occasionally go to the Aragon Ballroom at scenic Lick Pier in Santa Monica to listen and dance to the music of Lawrence Welk, and when I was in the 2nd grade they started me on accordion lessons. I was required to practice an hour a day, every day, and eventually I became pretty proficient technically, although I recall that I was pretty much devoid of anything resembling expression or feeling. I also don't recall that I heard much accordion being played on the radio, at least not on the stations that I was listening to. I definitely recall that I heard a lot of guitar being played on the radio, and it sounded really cool. When I was 17, I stopped playing accordion and bought myself the first of a long string of cheeze-oid, cheap-o guitars. Now I didn't have to be forced to practice. I would play until my finger tips bled, and lament that there weren't enough hours in the day to play as much as I wanted to. When I went to college I joined the campus Folklore Society and drifted into the local music scene, where I managed to hook into a fairly steady amount of pick up work. One afternoon I was hanging around with a few buddies, and drinking a few beers (my, what an unusual occurrence that was) when some of them noticed an ad in the paper from a rock 'n roll band looking for a guitar player, and they goaded me into answering it. I showed up with my acoustic guitar (by that time I had a pretty good one, still got it as a matter of fact). They said, "Where's your electric?" I said, "It's in the shop." After the audition they said, "Don't call us, we'll call you." I said, "Got it", and promptly forgot all about it. About 3 weeks later, on a Wednesday, they called and said "You got the job. We're playing Friday night", and gave me directions. I immediately went down to the local music store and bought a decent electric guitar and amplifier on time payments. The gig was a fraternity party. The theme was toga (that's right, think Animal House), and after the first set some of the young ladies hit on the guys in the band. I remember they were hot, and I clearly remember thinking "Man, is this the greatest hobby in the world or what?!" My progression toward a college diploma, and my pursuit of musical excellence was interrupted by an invitation from my Uncle Sam to be all that I could be in the U.S. Army for 2 years, which I cleverly avoided by enlisting in the Navy for 4 years (I suspect that I'm arithmetically challenged). The experience had its up side, however. I met a whole slew of really talented musicians who were happy to teach me all kinds of nifty things, and I got pretty damn good at partying without needing even a pretence of an excuse. After fulfilling my military obligation, I returned to college, part time bands, and full time partying. I also went to every concert I could get a ticket for, whether I'd ever actually heard anything by whoever was playing, or not. One of the shows I saw was the Dead at the Baltimore Civic Center in early '73. Whoa man, I was blown away, and became an immediate deadhead. I would have loved to have played some dead tunes in some of the bands I worked with, but it's really tough to find musicians that can hook into that deceptively simple feel, and if you don't get the feel, it just isn't the Dead. One day when I was between bands, another guitar player I knew, a guy by the name of Donn, gave me a call and said "Hey, there's an ad for some guys looking for a lead guitar, and a bass. Let's answer it. If you'll play guitar, I'll tell them I play bass." I said, "Cool, let's do it." The guys turned out to be Eric and Bob, and all 4 of us were deadheads. The drummer, whose name I can't remember, wasn't, and you just can't play the dead without a dead drummer. During the normal course of band evolution, we went through a few drummers while we were working as a southern California, country rock, jam band, until we wound up with Charles, an excellent drummer and a rabid deadhead. We started adding more and more Dead tunes, and pretty soon that's pretty much all we were playing. Eventually we got a following, and it just seemed to keep growing. We began playing better and better gigs, more and more often, until we had to choose between our day jobs, and the band. At that point we pretty much imploded, and the band fell apart. I drifted through a succession of classic rock, top forty, and top twenty country bands for the next 20 odd years, with various degrees of success. Then I got a call from Eric, who said "Bob's interested in putting the band back together". I said, "Cool, let's do it". Yeah, that's right, think The Blues Brothers.