Musings from the members of the band
May, 2012 - Recently, Geoff received the following email from a former student:
"To: Greif, Geoffrey
> Subject: Kansas City Jammers
> Professor Greif,
> So, I was in Chicago earlier today. The plan was to go to the Chess Museum, but on the way there I spotted Dusty Groove, a record store I have ordered from many times (but had not actually set foot in). So, I went in, and was looking around, and on display was a 2 disc album by the Kansas City Jammers, including Got Good (if you get it)!!! I bought it at a very reasonable $13.99, and I plan on listening to it tomorrow, during my long car ride back to the east coast.
> I hope all is well...
Is this amazing, or what????? As Bullet Bob says, "The Dream continues." We are remarkably lucky!! Thanks to each and every one of you who has helped make our incredible ride so ridiculously delightful!!
'What do you think of that? What do you think of THAT?'
06/05/2011 Latest News from Jammerland
Just when you thought it was safe to consign the boys off to Geezerhood, they returned to Delaware once again for a delightful evening of entertainment for Geoff an Bob and Syd’s 40th reunion get together at Ohio Wesleyan. We had a ball: Geoff, Bob, Jasey, Mary, Steve, Syd and Di covered a ton of classics from the Jammers’ past, with Bullet Bob returning to the drums without missing a step. It was hoot! Joel and Lynda joined us to fill out the Good Gospel choir behind Steve’s awesome rendition of Wilson Picket’s “I Found a Love” from 1957. What a thrill!
Originally we had also scheduled an all-acoustic evening of Jammers’ tunes at Endangered Species, a local record store, but the severe weather of our recent spring washed out their performance space and our gig with it. Next year, for sure!
Speaking of “next year,” it now looks like the Jammers will be performing in Baltimore in September. We’ll keep you all posted on that gig as we get more details. That should be another great time. Can’t wait!!
Finally, Jasey’s latest CD, “57 South to Memphis,” is out and available through CDBaby.com, iTunes, and Amaszon.com. If you want to hear the first five tunes for free, just go to one of these sites: http://www.reverbnation.com/jaseysmusic or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jaseys-Music/225042314178854?sk=app_2405167945
If you hear anything you like, please feel free to write and post a “Review” at the bottom of the page at the following site:
Thanks for checking all of this out! We REALLY appreciate it!
The wonderful people at “The Story with Dick Gordon” on American Public Media, recently re-broadcast our interview from back in November, which was really nice of them. As a result, we not only heard from some wonderful old friends who happened to hear the show, but we got a great kick out of hearing from one of the founding fathers of the Stoopball League of America!
It seems that these beautiful people are just as crazy about Stoopball as we have been for the past forty years, except that these folks have a lot more energy and a lot more class and, apparently, a lot more free time! They have created, in Clinton, Wisconsin, a truly magical, “Field of Dreams” style Stoopball Stadium upon which they play their annual Stoopball World Series, inviting teams from all over everywhere! Seriously, you simply must check out their website, http://stoopball.ning.com/, groove on as many of the pictures as possible, and let your mind be completely blown by the beauty and the joy and the overwhelming fun that these people share.
They were kind enough to invite us to this year’s World Series, but we were unable to make it (reality can be such a bother sometimes!), but next year, by God, we hope to be invited up there to sing the National Anthem, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch of the championship finals, and then do some music for whoever’s still standing after their tournament is over. If we can pull this off, we’ll try to get videos of it all, if we are allowed.
Meanwhile, we have encouraged those fabulous people to get in touch with the folks at “The Story,” so that you can hear how this magical phenomenon came to be.
In other wacky Jammers’ news, my self-titled solo CD from the late eighties, Jasey, has finally been picked up by the wonderful people at CD Baby, which will probably put it on iTunes, Amazon.com, and God-only-knows what other Internet outlets. It has taken this long to get it together because I actually had get permission to use my own songs! Seriously! Just a little reminder that the world is indeed a very unusual place. But there it is, for anyone who lost their old one, can’t remember all of the words to “Love In This House,” or needs a copy of “Dancing With Daddy” to play for their own daughters. Enjoy, and thanks for your support!
As I’m sure you all know already, the Internet is a strange and wondrous place! At least that is how it looks to me.
Over the past few years I have Googled the Kansas City Jammers just to see if anything interesting shows up. This is probably where I first discovered one of our old LP’s being sold on Ebay for silly money. Since our latest adventures on “The Story with Dick Gordon,” the release of the second CD, the concert at Ohio Wesleyan, and the video on YouTube, things have really gotten wacky on the Internet for us.
Back in “ancient times,” as my mother would say, when a newspaper reported would have something published, it was not all that unusual for his or her story to be “picked up” by the wire services like UPI and AP, so that the reporters’ story would then appear in a wide range of newspapers.
Apparently the same thing holds true on the Internet. The result, as we have seen it, is that one writer’s story about us, for some relatively local on-line publication, will then be re-packaged and posted by an amazing array of other sites.
This, I hope, is the reason why stories about the Jammers have ended up on the Internet sites for publications like The Kurdish Times (I’m not making this up!) and lots of other sites in languages that I cannot recognize.
Two years ago, I might have found us linked to three or four pages of sites on Google. Today there were thirty seven. Pages. Too strange.
Our music has also been showing up in some pretty interesting places. Aside from the dozens of sites in languages other than English, it’s been a kick to see where things have turned up. “For Father” apparently got some interesting play and discussion on a Spanish-language radio station in Arizona
And it looks like Bob’s “Family Song” is featured on a Korean CD entitled “Folk Song Parade, Vol. 3” http://openalbum.bugs.co.kr/openalbum/view/album/asrl/579640 . Pretty crazy. I’d like to buy a copy of this CD, but I have no idea how to navigate the site, as much of the site is not in English.
The landscape of what is and is not available via Google seems to change a little every day. For example, I can no longer find the link to The Kurdish Times (which seriously cracked me up), nor can I find the link to the online auction (not Ebay – something else like Collectors Frenzy or something) that showed where a used KCJ LP sold for $259.99! (Wish I had printed that one out!). The good news is that every week or so, I get some new laughs from what shows up with the latest Google search. Great entertainment!
Unbelievable. Overwhelming. Impossibly magical. An embarrassment of riches.
I have absolutely no idea how to express what I have been feeling since Saturday night. I’ll give it my best shot, but you can count on the fact that this expression won’t even come close to capturing what it feels like. I have no role model to follow here, whose footsteps I can try to follow.
To take care of the obvious, it really, honestly was the famed and fabled “once in a lifetime, dream come true experience.” No doubt about that at all. I’m sure that we made a gazillion little mistakes on stage, and I know we’ll go through the rest of our lives wishing we had done this or that differently – but we also knew, going in, that we would have those feelings after the show. Having said that, let me say that it was every bit as wonderful to experience as you might imagine it to have been.
Perhaps my favorite part of this experience comes from the knowledge that my wonderful wife, Syd, gets more pure biochemical Joy from singing harmony that from anything else in her life (including me, I have no doubt!), and so for her to be able to sing her wonderful harmonies with her best buddy Dianna, and with these people that we have known and loved and harmonized with for decades, singing these songs – at the age of sixty - that have been part of the very fabric of our lives since we were teenagers, in this perfectly beautiful venue, in front of three of our four children (our beloved Australian contingent couldn’t make it) and six or seven hundred of our closest friends, neighbors, and students – past and present – I just know that this was one of the absolute best days in her life. And for me to be able to be part of that – that was pretty wonderful for me.
Having three of our four wonderful children here to share this experience with us – Wow – that was pretty darn perfect. Especially when you consider how much their lives have been entwined with Geoff and Bob and their wonderful families for as long as they’ve been alive. For me, that was just so truly delightful.
Having this wacky adventure with Geoff and Bob, who have been such a significant source of joy in my life for the past forty years, was absolutely fabulous. Being able to share it all with the dozens of extraordinary people who volunteered to help us realize our dream – that was even more joyous. To be able to do all of that in this wonderful little town, in this marvelously beautiful venue, and share it all with so many amazing people from our past and present. Could it possibly have been more perfect than this?
Will the audio and/or video recordings of this evening be able to capture and communicate any of this, I have no idea. I certainly hope so. I’d love to be able to let my beautiful daughter, son-in-law, and grad children in Australia share in this experience. At one point in the show we sang a song that Jim Stockdale had written for a young lady now living in Germany, and I’d love to let them see and hear that song. But even if none of the recordings work out, I’ll still be the happiest guy on the planet.
In the days and weeks to come, I’ll be writing to each of the fabulous people who donated their time and talent and energy to make this all happen, to thank them each for the extraordinary gift that they have given to us. First, however, I want to catch my breath, get my beautiful children to the airport on time, and try to at least get started on the task of getting everyone’s sound and lighting equipment safely back into the hands of the appropriate people. Once I get that completed and I get my thank-you notes properly posted and I mail out the rest of the CD’s that were ordered after the show (we freakin’ SOLD OUT of CD’s at Gray Chapel!!), then we’ll start to work on determining the appropriate language for our Ebay auction.What a trip! What a wild and wonderful trip! Unbelievable!
Searching for a simile – Is this how those people in the magazine ads feel when Ed McMahon shows up on their doorstep with an absurdly oversized check from Publisher’s Clearinghouse? Is this how a drunk driver feels after walking away, unscratched, from what should have been a horrible accident? Is this how the dazed father in the waiting room feels when he learns that his wonderful wife has just given birth to quintuplets? I am so utterly overwhelmed. Clearly, I had never seen any of this coming. Is life weird, or what?
Most intensely I feel wave after wave of gratitude. For Geoff and Bob who wrote all of these beautiful songs and then let me sing and play them. For Syd and Di and Mary and Steve and Dave and Alex and Sarah for bringing their world-class talents to these songs. Wow! What a rush!! For Mark and Brenda and Cole and Mark and Chuck and Chris and Christine and Dennis at Ohio Wesleyan, not only for going along with our crazy notions, but for really getting into it and behind it with all of their amazing energy and abilities. Incredible! For Katie Kate and AT and Bill who continue to work harder than anyone should, for anything, it is truly unbelievable. For Dick Gordon, Anita Woodley, Kevin Joy, Margo Bartlett, Pam Spence, Liz Robertson, Andrea Downing Peck, Samantha Beany, the folks at TV Six, and all of the other media people who have supported us on this crazy adventure. For Emerson and Dan and Spencer and John and Cory and James for their utterly essential technical knowledge and talents. For Aaron Milenski and Brian Void. Who would a thunk it? I’m overwhelmed.
On top of the tidal wave of gratitude I am awash in, I am definitely feeling very confused and a bit chagrinned these days by all of the media attention. I mean, color me stupid, but I don’t get it. As Vince Gill once said, “We’re just some good old boys, a makin’ noise.” If that’s all it is, which is how it looks to me, then why is it that with thousands upon thousands of people killed in Haiti, the Kansas City Jammers are on the front page of the local paper? This seems awkward to me. Does any one else think this is a bit strange?
Finally, I’m sure feeling a lot of excitement and anticipation! We are seriously pumped! The rehearsals have been so very exciting. Dave and Steve have blown me away. Syd and Di are amazing! Alex and Sarah are out of this world, and Mary has simply been perfect, both vocally and instrumentally. It has been so exciting to hear what new energies and nuances they each bring to our songs. What a rush! Can’t wait to turn ‘em all loose on the Gray Chapel stage! I think it will most definitely be the Kansas City Jammers’ finest hour (and a half). I just can’t wait!
Over the past several weeks, Geoff, Bob, and I have had truly wonderful conversations with an amazing array of writers who have contacted us with questions about this incredible adventure that we find ourselves on. And in the course of these conversations, folks have said, suggested, or reminded us of some of the most surprising things.
The first journalistic surprises came to us via the internet when Bullet Bob found an on-line blog in which the writer, identified only as “Freaky_Lady” was reviewing a recording, Earth Free, by a band called Conjerti, Morreale, & Dibley. In this article (http://lysergia.blogspot.com/2007_04_01_archive.html) the author attempts to help her readers get a clearer picture of exactly what kind of music can be found on this particular recording by stating: “Comparisons made to Kansas City Jammers are useful, if you imagine this LP as the dark mirror image of the upbeat KCJ.” Bullet quickly got in touch with Geoff and me, calling to our attention that, at least in the eyes of this writer, we had achieved a certain iconic stature as being the poster-children for “upbeat” pop/folk/rock/psychedelic music of that era. Now, I can’t speak for Geoff and Bob, but to me the idea of our being “icons” for anything other than the most number of hours wasted playing stoop baseball, is a little unsettling. Very strange. But, hey, Freaky_Lady, if you’re out there, thank you so very, very much, really, for giving us the press, the good laughs, and this delightful addition to our story.
Recently, another journalist caught me totally off guard by asking me what was the “message” in our music, and furthermore, what was our “message” to today’s young people? I felt like one of those bumbling characters in a forties vintage film who looks to his left, then to his right, and straight down as he points his own finger at his own chest, wondering, “Who? Me!!” Message? What message??? Were we supposed to have a message? Dang! I didn’t know there was going to be a quiz! For decades now I have been telling listeners that I have some sort of songwriter’s dyslexia where by I’ll write a song that won’t make any sense to me at all until decades later when it will become perfectly clear to me. It’s kinda scary how often this has happened. I didn’t write much of the Jammers’ tunes at all, but I can tell you that both “For Father” and “Syd’s Song” make far more sense to me now than they ever did in the first ten years after I wrote them. Is there a “message” for anyone in either of these songs? Ahhhhhh, …. Errrrrrr, ….. “It’s sometimes really hard to communicate clearly with those that you love the most”, and “A Love that lasts from age thirteen to age sixty and is still stronger than ever is pretty darn wonderful.” That’s all I got. If you want someone to “decode” the messages in our other tunes, I suggest that you email Geoff and Bob via firstname.lastname@example.org and see if they have any “messages” for you. Seriously, though, IF there is any “message” that we have for “today’s young people,” the best I can come up with in terms of what we’ve always tried to put out into the universe is to “enjoy the ride” and that “life is the most fun when it’s shared” with the people that you love.” You need more? Email the boys. See what they’ve got.
Speaking of email, this blog business has me wondering whether or not anyone is actually reading these things. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed writing them, and I’ve learned a ton, but as a card-carrying geezer/luddite, the whole blog thing seems to be a little unusual and self-indulgent to me. Our wonderful web-vixen, Katie MacLean, been urging me to keep the blogs coming, and now our amazing daughter, Cat Cutcher, has added her vote of encouragement as well. Cat tells me that she has received incredible emails, from readers literally worldwide who have responded to her blog about life, women, and education in Kenya and other parts of Africa. And because both Katie and Cat are a whole lot smarter than I am, I will gleefully do as they suggest. But if anyone else has any suggestions, criticisms, or other responses, please do not hesitate to let me know. Thanks!
Finally, our daughter Cat and several other journalists have suggested to us that the current adventure that the Jammers find themselves on is helping all the other Baby Boomers to “redefine” how people envision the concept of being an “older person” these days. More than once we have heard writers tell us that what we are so actively involved in suggests that “sixty is the new forty.” Now, maybe it’s just me, but does anyone else find that statement to be really awkward? When I was a “young person,” sixty and forty were essentially the same thing in my mind; and once I escaped my twenties and thirties, I discovered that each succeeding decade has gotten so much better than the last, and I pretty much stopped paying attention to words like “forties” and “fifties” and “sixties.” The only exception to that last assertion is that when Geoff’s latest book, Buddy System, came out, I had to read up on the “fifties” to see if I was running in the right direction, and I read the chapter on the “sixties” just to see what was coming next. (I also had to check out the “forties” just to make sure that I didn’t miss anything important!). Other than that, I really don’t think in those terms. More significantly here, is the suggestion that what we’re doing could have anything at all with “redefining” anything! Eeeeeks!As far as I can tell, it’s a little nutty to suggest that the Jammers are musical “icons,” with “messages” in our music for today’s young people, as we redefine the blah-blah-blah. As that most sagacious philosopher Keith Richards once said: “It’s only rock and roll, but I like it!”
One of the many incredible “side effects” of this whole adventure is that I have “permission” from the cosmos to spend a ton of time and energy rehearsing with some absolutely awesome musicians and singers!!! I feel like one of those professional athletes whose “job” it is to get up each day and go play the game that they have loved all of their lives!! And everyone else in their lives is really glad that they do! Does anyone else see this as being just a little bit ridiculous? Mark Twain defined work as “whatever you don’t want to do.” But, Oh my, the “work” that I am privileged to put into this project is the exact opposite of what I “don’t want to do.”
Okay, I’ll admit it: the guilt that I feel is pretty serious! These amazingly talented people are putting their time and energy into our music! Why? I have no idea!! And, obviously, I’m not going to ask them! They’d probably “wake up” and realize how absurd this all is and go home, leaving us high and dry.
But, no, here they are, working their butts off to make each and every song the best that it can be! And when people of this caliber dedicate that kind of time and energy to making a piece of music get hotter, WOW!! It’s incredible. They are unreal!! And then they ask me what I think of their latest contribution to our music, and I try like hell to be cool and go, “Yeah, that’s really perfect!” when inside I’m want to be like one of those dogs that roll over on their backs, wagging their tails, being totally subservient, as if to say, “Oh, whatever you want is the BEST – just don’t hurt me!” I mean, these people are that good!!
Plus, it’s such a rush!!! If you’re a singer or a musician, then I just know that you’ve listened to truly fabulous side men and women who have added incredible things to recordings that you’ve loved: Mary Clayton singing back up in the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” Larry Carlton’s guitar work behind the early Steely Dan hits, David Sandborn’s absolutely perfect sax solo in the break of Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years,” the Tower of Power horns behind the live version of Little Feat’s album, Waiting for Columbus, or Slash playing behind Michael Jackson. In every case, I’ll bet you’ve fantasized about having killer people like that playing on your tracks. Well, Gang, that’s the dream come true that I’m living right now!!
Those of you who have been around Delaware, Ohio, for a while, if you’ve heard Going West, then you know that Syd Schnaars and Di Huston can flat out bring it when it comes to singing harmonies. Seriously!! For the last several decades they have been the absolute high-water mark in my world of harmony singers. And what they are bringing to the Jammers music is just nuts!! Of course, they started singing behind the Jammers only about thirty-five years ago! And God knows they’ve done nothing but get better as the years have gone by! They do stuff that just gives me chills! Un-freakin-real!
David K. Johnston and Steve Harper have been crown jewels in my musical treasury for the last quarter of a century. The three of us played for years in a band out of Marion, Ohio, called “Night School.” What a treat! Each of them is an exceptional musician and singer in his own right, and together they are absolute monsters. Best of all, because we’ve been so close for so long, it is extraordinarily easy to communicate effectively with each other. Plus, because of our boundless respect for one another, no one has anything to prove to the others. Each one comes to work, to give their very best, to make each song the best that it can be. And because these guys have been in the business for so long, they have a very clear understanding of what they can contribute to each song. Incredible!!
So, each of our rehearsals becomes an extraordinary dream come true. Steve and Dave provide this killer rhythm section behind whatever I want to play and sing, and then Syd and Di completely blow me away with their amazing arrangements and utterly killer vocals. I mean, really! Who gets to live this kind of fantasy come true? I just know there are a bazillion guys out there who lie awake at night and dream about doing their music with monster musicians and singers like this! This is their nightly fantasy! This has been their dream for God-only-knows how many years! And it’s my reality!!So, yeah, I feel guilty and selfish and self-indulgent. Why should I get the dream come true? I really don’t know. I have no excuse. No explanation. If this pisses you off, add it to that list o stuff you want to ask God about after you die. You know the list: “So, God, listen, why is it that so many total assholes get to live really pleasurable lives while there are sweet, innocent young children dieing horrible deaths in hospitals every day? And, please tell me, God, why some total horse’s ass has gazillions of dollars while so many really good people are so poor? And, as long as I have you here, God, why did that pinhead Schnaars get to work with those fabulous musicians while other far more talented people got no support at all? What’s up with that, God” I seriously hope he gives you a good answer! Me? I got nothin’!
If you’ve read any of the stuff written by or written about Geoff and Bob, you’ve probably figured out that these two guys are not exactly dullards. Consequently, it is not unusual for one of them to say something that sends my poor brain rocketing off I some random direction where I’m quite certain I would never have gone on my own. Then, in the context of whatever strange circumstance we might find ourselves, these thoughts become even more twisted and convoluted. I say all this because what follows is a little “out there,” and I probably would not have gone down this strange cognitive path without some kind of intellectual inspiration from Geoff and Bob.
Did you ever see the film, Galaxy Quest? If not, I highly recommend it! It features great writing, great casting, and wonderful performances. If you have seen it, you may recall that this alien civilization on an extremely distant planet picks up the television broadcasts of a Star-Trek-like show, thinks it’s news footage about actual events, and thus inspired with confidence that “if they can do it, so can we,” proceeds to build inter-galactic space craft, transporters, everything else that they’ve seen on the show, assuming that “of course, this is how it’s done.” Got the picture?
Okay – in 1960, a Dr. Maxwell Maltz published the self-help book, Psycho-Cybernetics.
In this text, he encourages his readers to set goals and then visualize them in great detail, reasoning that, “If you can see it, you can be it!” The text was a runaway best seller among salespeople, athletes, politicians, and all other goal-oriented individuals at the time. I’ve always bought into this theory myself, and I’ve had plenty of reasons to believe in it (and trust me, I can see plenty!). In many ways, my earlier blog about “Morris Massey, Ricky Nelson, and Me” illustrates this point. Anyway, the film Galaxy Quest is a wonderfully entertaining example, albeit fictitious, of psycho-cybernetics in action.
In 1964, the Beatles took the world by storm, and as an utterly innocent and highly impressionable child of thirteen, I was completely captivated. At that time, I still had no sense of what the life of a rock star entailed. Ricky Nelson played at church socials and his parent’ bridge club parties. The folk-music stars of the early sixties performed at the same coffee houses, colleges, and civic auditoriums that I played (except that my mom was driving us from gig to gig). Together, that was the entirety of my view of musical success. Until the Beatles completely took over the news, the television, the magazines, and the theater (with their first film, Hard Days Night) and gave every impressionable thirteen-year-old a crash course in “how it’s done in the world of music.”
These days, of course, you can read any number of Beatles biographies, (The Beatles by Bob Spitz is probably the most accurate and well researched) and discover that, unlike their public personae, these young men were incredibly hard workers, putting extraordinary hours into their success, and surely earning, the hard way, every dime that they made. However, in 1964, the vision that was presented by the Beatles to the public was that they were four charming, fun-loving quipsters, who had lots of laughs, played great music, and got paid a fortune, mostly for being cute and funny and lovable. And just like the aliens in Galaxy Quest who thought Star Trek was “how it’s done,” I was one of the millions of young people who watched the Beatles from afar and thought “This is how it’s done,” having no idea that this image was just as fictitious as the on received by the aliens.
And just like the aliens, with all of the magic of psycho-cybernetics on our side, the Jammers have proceeded to live out our own version of the Beatles myth (minus the screaming girls chasing after us. Obviously, the women in our lives did not pay the same close attention to the early Beatle footage that we did. The only screaming they’ve done has been …. Oh, well, let’s not go there, okay?). The point is that I and my fellow Jammers ended up with a somewhat skewed sense of “How it’s done” in the music business. Somehow, the idea that one needed to actually work, really hard, to develop their craft, escaped us almost entirely. Those of you who heard our interview with Dick Gordon know that for every ten minutes that we’d spend practicing our music, we would spend hours outside playing stoop baseball. Dang! We were skewed!The wonderfully surprise is that, just the completely misguided aliens in Galaxy Quest, the Jammers’ have pretty much realized that original vision of musical success. In fact, one could almost say that our remarkable ride in the world of rock and roll has probably been far closer to those early Beatle visions than the Beatles themselves were able to enjoy. Is this a strange world, or what?
Several decades ago, Dr. Morris Massey, a well-known sociologist, put forth a theory that suggested that somewhere around the age of ten, each of us pulls his or her head up out of the sand, looks around, takes a bunch of mental snapshots, puts his or her head back in the sand, and lives the rest of our lives making every gut-level decision based upon what we saw when we took those mental pictures when we were ten. It’s a truly profound theory, and if you’re not familiar with it, you owe it to yourself to Google his and check it out. Really!
I bring this up because one of the side effects of this crazy Jammer adventure that we’re on is that people ask us lots of questions about why we’ve done and/or continue to do a lot of the things we do; and since I rarely have a clue about how to answer these questions, I end up thinking about them, probably way more than I should. And one of the things that has popped into my mind lately is that, by God, Dr. Morris Massey was right all along: to get a clear understanding of what has been driving my gut-level train all of these decades, one simply needs to go back to 1960, the year I turned ten, and take a look around to see if anything vaguely familiar comes into view.
In 1960, I was ten and living with my family in Devon, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia, and the big deal in our lives at that time was the fact that we had a television (which was a big deal in those days!). At that time, the television show that rocked my world the hardest was a show called Ozzie and Harriet (check You Tube!) that featured their son, Ricky Nelson. Just this past week I figured out that Ricky Nelson was definitely the guy who served as THE model for the first couple of decades in my life. He was the number two son, as was I. He was the wise-cracking joker who played off of his more serious and responsible straight-man older brother, just as I did with my beloved Brother Bob, and he could sing and play the guitar, which I started at age eight and have never stopped. Perhaps more important to me, if you go to You Tube and check out some of those old shows (they have a ton!), you’ll see that Ricky was not portrayed as a “star” who played sold-out stadiums; rather, he was the nice kid who played the church dance, his fraternity’s party, or sang at his parents’ bridge party. That was me! I started playing the guitar and singing with Brother Bob at the age of eight. We were performing at neighborhood gatherings by the time I was ten, doing bigger shows at school at eleven, and playing huge venues (Philadelphia’s Convention Hall) by the time I was twelve. By then, I was in an acoustic trio that played every weekend all over the Philadelphia area (at one point, a young Jim Croce, who was a student a near by Villanova University, opened for us at the legendary Main Point in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. We were playing terrific venues, but in my mind, I was just Ricky Nelson, playing the church dance or the bridge club party. Crazy. Teaming up with the Jammers all of these years has allowed me to continue to be Ricky Nelson in my mind. Wherever we played, to me, we were always playing frat parties, high school dances, and church socials. Even now, playing at Gray Chapel in January, somewhere in the bent an twisted recesses of my mind it will just be another one of my parents’ bridge club parties. I hope they have lots of food left over in the kitchen for us when we’re done!
(According to Wikipedia, from 1957 to 1962, Nelson had thirty Top-40 hits!)
Getting ready for this show is such a hoot! Fortunately, I am (as Katie would say) “funemployed,” so I have the time to invest in this crazy adventure.
Lately, I’ve been spending my time in a variety of unrelated tasks: getting charts together for various musicians and backup singers, getting all of the necessary equipment together for the show, and jumping through whatever PR hoops someone throws my way.
One of the things I’ve learned about charts is that different people from different backgrounds are comfortable with different charts. I know that I probably should have seen this coming in advance, but – nope – I missed it. Right away I learned that the folks who aren’t singing neither want nor require the lyrics in their charts. And the vocalists who aren’t also playing instruments really could care less about the chords. Needless to say, my initial one-chart-fits-all approach got kicked to the curb pretty quickly. The up side of all of this is that with every new chart, I am learning plenty, and I am at a stage in my life where I just love learning anything, so I like all of that stuff. The other part that has been both un and impressive is that, once upon a time, I played bass to a lot of these tunes and pretty much neither knew nor cared what the actual chords were. Now that I’ve rolled over on to the guitar on pretty much all of the tunes, I’ve had many times where I’ve had to contact Geoff or Bob to find out what in the world chords they were playing at various parts of their songs. In this process, I’ve learned a lot of amazing chords (quick – how do you play a F#mdim/F on the guitar?). I’ve also come to respect and admire my fellow Jammers even more than I used to. These guys know their way around their instruments, that’s for sure!
Most of us have the equipment that we use regularly kept in relatively fine functional condition. But when you need to scare up dozens of microphones, stands, and cables and large-scale PA equipment for eleven musicians and singers, that’s a whole different story. Some of the really helpful items I’ve made use of are those little rolls of multi-colored duct tape you can get at most hardware stores. All of my equipment gets banded with red tape, Steve’s stuff gets wrapped in blue bands, and Bullet’s babies get banded in yellow. If you get bored between tunes at the show, now you can check out who contributed what pieces of equipment. If you’re really sharp, you’ll be able to determine in no time at all which one of us flew in for the gig with a suitcase in one hand and a guitar in the other. I’ll give you a hint – it wasn’t me!
The whole world of Public Relations is another area where I’m learning a ton and meeting a lot of fabulous people! Most of us can get through our lives pretty comfortably without ever having to try to maximize the public’s awareness of some silly adventure like ours. But since we’ve decided to do this whole thing as an attempt to raise money for our alma mater, Ohio Wesleyan, we’ve decided to really give it our best shot in every way, including the whole public relations gave. It’s been amazing. Keep in mind that the full extent of the Jammers’ foray into PR in the past pretty much reached its zenith when we put the “Groupies Wanted” sign on the side of the band truck in 1971. We got through the next several decades without having to do any PR work! So now, Shheeshh! It’s only a lot overwhelming. Fortunately, we’ve had an amazing number of fabulously talented people jump on board to help Luddite geezers get through this madness. I’ll tell you more about them all in future blogs. For now, the moral of the story is, “for the best results, get really comfortable with the idea that it’s okay to be a moron, there are wonderful people who will help you if you ask them nicely and tell them how much you appreciate their help. (That, and we’re counting on a lot of you to buy CD’s at our merchandise after the show, because all of the money raised there will be given to the fabulous folks who have worked so hard to help us pull this off).
Tomorrow “The Story with Dick Gordon” will air its story of our crazy adventure. I am so excited, …… WOW!
I’ll tell you all about it after the show!
Yo! So, as a lot of you know, I’m like older than dirt (which is kinda funny since Geoff and Bob are older than ME!), and so the notion of me contributing to ANY blog is borderline absurd; but our beautiful Web Vixen, Katie MacLean, has commanded me to crank out some bloglit, and her wish is my command. (“Whe – TISH!” – Is that how you spell the sound-effect of a whip cracking?).
Life in Jammerland has gotten hilarious! First of all, there’s all of this cyber-activity (is that still a word?) that is difficult for me to comprehend. People in wonderfully distant countries are buying our new (new as in just released, not really “new” – since it was finished thirty five freakin’ years ago!). People are posting all kinds of interesting things about us on the web (from Psychology Today to Ohio Wesleyan), all of which is astounding to me! And this Friday, we’re on “The Story with Dick Gordon” (Google “TheStory.org” on Friday at 1:00 PM and catch it live or else get it for free off of the iTunes store). Who’d a thunk it?
Meanwhile, we continue to bust our butts (and those of many other wonderful folks) to get ready for January’s show at Ohio Wesleyan’s Gray Chapel in Delaware, Ohio. This is the same stage where I saw The Allman Brothers, Sam and Dave, The MC5, Little Feat, The Jefferson Airplane, Chicago, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and many other amazing bands! Oh no, we’re not seriously pumped about this!! Not a chance!!!!
It’s going to be a fabulous show! Syd and Di from “Going West” will be backing us up vocally, David Johnston and Steve Harper from Night School and The Steve Harper Trio will be joining us on drums and bass, and we’ve even got Alex and Sarah Bingcang coming in from Dayton with their cello and violin to sweeten up the evening and give us a little class! Former Jammer, Jim Stockdale will be joining us for the tune he and I wrote for our first album. I simply cannot wait!!!! More than anything, I need to send out a huge THANK YOU to all of the amazing people who have volunteered to help make this a really fun evening. Anne Tull is heading up the videography, Emerson and John Huston will be running sound for us, Spencer Huston will be our lead guitar tech. Joanne Noice has even volunteered to cater the “Green Room!” Mal and Sue MacLean will be peddling Jammer CD’s after the show to raise money to pay our volunteers! David MacLean has been aiding our Web Vixen, Katie MacLean, with his wonderful words of wisdom. Best of all, Columbus and Delaware rock icon David Holm is going to be the one to introduce us. Many others have volunteered their services, but we’re not sure yet what we need next. And all of the fabulous folks at Ohio Wesleyan – Mark, Brenda, Cole, and Company – have been truly outstanding! What a trip!As most o you know, all of this started with Geoff’s idea to become the first band to auction themselves off on Ebay. In early April, we’re actually going to auction off a performance by The Kansas City Jammers, with the proceeds to benefit Ohio Wesleyan University, our beloved Alma Mater. The concert at Gray Chapel in January is our chance to video our performance and put it up on YouTube, so that people who consider bidding in the auction can see and hear what they’re bidding on. Is this a wacky world, or what?? So, if you are wise in the ways of proper concert behavior, PLEASE bring your cell phone or lighter or whatever people use these days (I haven’t been to a concert since we all went to see John Mayer and Guster at Nationwide!) and be ready to instruct those of us elderly types on how to make it happen! We’ll need your help! Remember, it’s a FREE concert, and as Syd will tell you, it’ll be worth every penny!
Men's Friends and Old Rock and Roll Bands
The old rock band together - how do friends do it? by Geoffrey Greif