Music has been such a huge part of my life, from neighborhood shows, ala The Little Rascals, to a stint with the St. Mary's Boys Choir, to bands, bands, bands. My first "professional" band was with a with a group called The Wichita Straw Band, which quickly evolved into Freewhweelin'. That was when I dropped the guitar and started playing the bass.
It's amazing how little incidents.......a left here....a right there.....go out.....stay home.........can put such a spin on your life. The year was 1972. The place was Highway Music, East Brunswick, NJ.......closing time. Rock, Mike and I spent a lot of time that summer playing guitars, surfing, throwin' and going to keg parties......and enjoying everything that went along with that scene. Everybody and their sister played guitar but soon it came down to the three of us. We were actually working up set lists and considering giving this a shot. Flash to Highway Music. I'll be forever grateful to the sales guy for staying open a little later that night and letting us grab and play. Mike and Rock pulled a couple of guitars off the wall and for some reason.... I grabbed a bass. We plugged in, started playing Johnny B. Goode and I can't explain the ease and the comfort level I felt. You have to be able to recognize a good epiphany when it happens. They're rare. This one kicked me in the teeth. On the way home I was having a hard time explaining what had happened. I was dry mouthed, kind of stunned...remember your first kiss?........ yeah, like that. The next day I bought a Fender bass and about a month later a Fender Bassman amplifier . We got our old drummer from junior high school (I refer you to the "what's in a name" post) and stumbled through a few gigs. And you know what? Girls still liked musicians....even bad ones. YAAAAAYYY!!!!!!
Mike left and went to grad school, as did Ronnie, our drummer. We ran into Lew, a wonderful fiddler. Then Joe, another high school bud, joined us on guitar....a few starts and stutters...... and Freewheelin' was hatched. We played as a semi electric four piece for awhile until one night at a place called The Gypsy in Long Valley, NJ we recognized our future drummer.....Panama Ed......and had a pretty good run for a few years. We were lucky...old friends, liked the same kind of music, and the country rock scene was rollickin' in NJ at the time. We drove to gigs together, ate together, lived together. (It's amazing how quickly crabs can spread though a house) and still play together, in one form or another, every now and then. We'd always stick a few originals in the sets and some label interest developed. But the business end was not our strong suit. Agents would talk to us about tightening up the stage act or dressing better.....the music was fine....but.....we'd always glaze over at that point. Over the years we've thought we probably blew a golden opportunity. But the truth is...better bands than us have come and gone and always will. No regrets.
Freewheelin's last gig was at The Red Fox Inn in New Brunswick, NJ. I thought.... ok.... I got this out of my system, now it's back to school and reality. Well, wouldn't you know. During the night a woman comes up to me, tells me she's a singer in a band and they need....you guessed it.....a bass player. That was twenty five plus years ago and it's never stopped. You see, you can't swing a dead cat without hittin' a guitar player....no offense.....but, I've discovered over the years, bass players are at a premium. Why I reached for a bass on the wall at Highway Music that summer night I'll never know. The road that's followed has not been........ prosperous. But I wouldn't trade it for the world.