It is such a different world today. I would never trust a teen-ager today like my parents trusted me, not that someone like Helen doesn’t inspire and deserve the utmost confidence. There’s just too much danger and craziness afoot. Nearly every weekend while I was in high school, I was off to a dance or concert at one of the area churches or halls, and often I was by myself, sometimes with Reid, occasionally a date. I used to relish the mysterious feeling of being alone at these gigs.
What a sucker I was for that good ole rock ‘n’ roll. I’d waste many a date because I couldn’t help but gawk at the musicians, and I remember one date in particular, where I really just kind of held the girl’s hand for about two hours while I watched the band. She was not impressed.
The quality of musicianship varied tremendously. There were some real hackers. I watched one guy literally blow up his amp trying to do some Hendrix licks. Pretty sad. The damn thing ended up smoking like a car engine.
But there were some excellent bands. The English Setters, who were Beatles clones par excellence, set a hook in me early. They later became the Cherry People, and at one point many years later they let a band I was in play a small set during their break at a D.C. club, The Keg. When they were the English Setters, I remember them taking the stage about a week after “Sgt. Pepper’s” was out, and they played the whole first side of the album like they’d composed it themselves. Amazing. I tried to catch them wherever possible, even knew the names of all the guys in the band.
Other local heavies in D.C. — the Hangmen, the Fallen Angels (still have one of their albums), the Rainy Daze (a Woodson H.S. bunch, all guys I knew), Grin (the Nils Lofgren band), Roy Buchanan (not a man to be found in the late ’60s but a cult favorite in the ’70s). And then there was the band that Richard Ahlfield was in that I looked up to greatly. I couldn’t believe that he later became a good friend and bandmate in Waterfall (more of that group later). There were so many BANDS in the D.C. area. Every weekend, both Friday and Saturday nights, there would be gigs aplenty at churches andd halls with maybe three to five bands a night: And although I’m sure I romanticize to some extent, many of them Just plain kicked butt. They were very good.
Well, I was out there several weekends a month, mostly on Saturday nights. Probably the only classically trained oboist and banjo-banger in the crowd. I was fascinated by the guitars, by the sound and volume.
The scene was moving fast. Drugs hadn’t really kicked in, at least not into my life and my perception of what was going on. But it wasn’t like ’69 and later, when there was pot and more everywhere.
A few bands still wore uniforms, but most wore jeans and T-shirts or early psychedelic gear. The equipment was very straightforward. Fender or Vox amps with a few variations. The guitars were all Fenders or Gibsons (a few Rickenbacker 12-strings a la Byrds were exceptions). The Gibsons were mostly Les Pauls. The Fender Telecaster was popular, much more so than the Stratocaster, until Jimi came along. Gibson basses, particularly the EBOs and the semi-hollow body models, were big, as were Fender basses. My mouth dropped to see a Fender Dual Showman amp onstage because that was the ultimate.
Everything was formative. There was little posturing — moves were being invented, although granted, there was more than one Jagger and Lennon clone around. But, to borrow a phrase, the envelope was being stretched every weekend. No gratuitous crotch grinding, no windmill Townshend ripoffs, no flying splits or high kicks that weren’t strictly spontaneous.