Saturday, October 16, 2010


You can really tell you're getting old when you start seeing your past come around again. Case in reunions. A lot of the old bands from the 60's and 70's have been reuniting ...successfully.... and it's pretty cool. I'm talking local Jersey bands. Kinderhook....The Doughboys...The Good Rats. Jersey had a great club scene in the 70's. A band could easily play seven nights a week if so inclined. My personal high was nine nights in a row including two afternoon gigs with a band called Sundown. Two guitars and a bass. A lean, mean, giggin' machine. Not a great band but not too bad. Lots of vocals. People love vocals. I love vocals. We used to overload the harmonies to get the girls out 'cause the boys would be right behind 'em. There's yer crowd. "Ooooh's" for bucks as we'd say. Crass?
Times, sensitivities, values have changed. For the better. My first full time band was Freewheelin'. Old pals who were in the right place at the right time playing the right kind of music. The mid seventies saw a big country rock boom on the Jersey scene, ala Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, Grateful Dead, New Riders, etc. And we jumped on board. This was the stuff we were playing anyway and it appeared that the scene caught up to us. The drinking age was eighteen, liberality abounded and...... lots of gigs. But, and I've mentioned this in other blogs, I can't believe we survived. We did stupid things. We got around in a Volkswagen camper. Four guys, no seat belts, three in the front and one in the jump seat, jammed full of equipment, plenty of beer and other treats, working on harmonies all the way to the gig. Then we'd do it again at two o' clock in the morning......usually minus one or two guys. And, as trite as it sounds, everyone was doing it. Even if we got stopped by a cop he'd just give us a warning or confiscate the beer. Again, how did we survive? Well, we had my pal Rock at the wheel. He was Neal Cassady to our Merry Pranksters. (I refer you to Tom Wolfe's "The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test.") Unthinkable today....and rightly so. It really does make you think someone was watching. Freewheelin' was a good, rockin' crowd pleasin' dance band.....once on stage. It was the gettin' to the gig, startin' on time, makin' it back from breaks, publicity, dress, dealing with club owners thing that we could never quite get.
The aforementioned Kinderhook was the top of the line country rock band at the time and they kind of took us under their wing. They let us open for them a few times and would call us when they couldn't make a gig. Good dudes. We'd hang out at their house in Hackettstown, NJ, and eventually relocated to that area. Anyplace that would put us up for awhile and could sustain our marathon practice/party sessions was our home. Usually short lived. We would always overstay our welcome. Discretion and moderation were not in our vocabulary. Here's a classic example. We opened up for Kinderhook at a club called Casper's in East Brunswick, NJ. During the course of the night I was shootin' the breeze with Andy, their bass player. They'd just opened up for Poco in Central Park and it seemed like they were on their way. Even the guys in Poco were impressed. So Andy was telling me about the gig and the guys in Poco and how they're just like us and how they got invited to the after party........WHAT!!!!!! I said, "Whoa....what was that like?" Andy said,"Well, we decided not to go. We thought they were probably just being polite and we didn't really want to overstay our welcome....." And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Freewheelin' would have beaten Poco to the party, been the first ones in line at the buffet table sticking rolls and cheese in our pockets, ordering nothing but the top shelf booze, and probably been politely asked to leave at some point during the night. We weren't bad guys or malicious.... extremely friendly as a matter of fact. But we were young, caught up in the scene and most of the time...not in reality. Some friends didn't make it. We did.
I was talking to a bar owner at a gig a few weeks ago and he was feeling me out about getting the boys together for a gig. Believe it or not, everyone's still around. But I think it's one of those things that's better left...remembered. There's a couple other old bandmates from different bands that have contacted me about some reunion gigs. Some.....most.....better left un-reunioned. Everyone's doing it. We need a Woodstock for all the old fart Jersey bands! In the meantime, get out and see Kinderhood, The Doughboys, The Good Rats, Sam The Band, Cowtown, Frankie and the Bern and your particular old favorite. I'll bet they're spirit, anyway. Peace.