The Teddy Bears, at our first practice/party, at the Blakemore house. From left: Doug Hedderich, Larry Reves, Andy Curry, and Frank Blakemore. My only real memory of this day was that it was the first time I got an erection while dancing with a girl. Sweet.
|I'd sung, acted, and played
ukulele since I was very young. Here's a picture of a
choir which appeared in the Wichita Beacon when I was about
I'm the rightmost child in the photo.
My rock and roll career began in 1966, when I was 14 years old and a sophomore at Hickman High School in Columbia, Missouri. I was befriended by a three guys who existed pretty close to the bottom of the social structure at Hickman. Since I was fairly new to Columbia and had no friends, I was easy pickings for their overtures. They persuaded me to join in forming a band.
The only guitar I had was a cheap classical guitar, and the only thing I knew on it were 4-string chords from when I played the ukulele as a small child. This was no problem, as talent was not required. It turns out there WAS some nascent musicianship in the bunch, but it was hard to tell at the time.
The guys were Frank Blakemore, Doug Hedderich, and Larry Reves.
Later on - perhaps late 1966 - we added Dave Moorman, an equally socially-inept guy but actually pretty able on keyboards.
You shouldn't think that I wasn't having, um, ... legitimate musical experiences during this time.
At Hickman High, I was selected for Choraleers as a sophomore and the elite madrigal group as a junior.
Here is a photo of our first and only gig at the roller rink, which we played for free. Note the massive wall of equipment.
|To start out with, Frank had
equipment: A Harmony electric guitar
and a Gibson
amplifier. Larry had a cheap set of
don't remember what Doug did for a guitar, but we assigned
him to the
bassist role even though no one actually had a bass. I
scrape up $7 to buy a pickup from Burstein-Applebee and put
it on my
classical guitar. Then, during a family trip, I
rolling over on it when my stepfather had to stop
problem: Frank and his dad took the neck off of it,
pieces of plywood together, cut it in an... interesting
screwed the neck to the body, and glued the pickup
one had any idea about the importance of scale length, so it
impossible to intonate. Around that time, I borrowed
$40 from my
parents and bought a Wards
Airline amp from a pawn shop in Kansas
City. That was a terrible amp.
Here is a picture of my homemade electric guitar. The neck, bridge, and tailpiece came off of the classical guitar pictured above, which was crushed when I rolled over on it in the car. Frank Blakemore and his Dad made it for me. The pickup cost me about $7, from the Burstein-Applebee catalog, and it was hardwired to the cable.
|I think we had one [cheap!]
microphone, and we would just plug it into a second channel
on one of
the guitar amps.
At some point, Larry purchased a brand new Epiphone Olympic electric guitar and a Gibson Lancer amp, which was LOUD, at least to our ears.
Dave Moorman was a keyboard player, but the only keyboard he had access to was the Thomas organ in his house, so when he joined, we could only practice there. Understandably, his parents were reluctant to allow this to happen, as they didn't want to leave us unsupervised but they probably couldn't bear to hear us practice. Nevertheless, we did get a few practices in there, where I met Dave's neighbor, Linda, who became my first love. Oh, how sweet that is!
We played - or tried to play - the standards of the day: Gloria, Just Like Me, Kansas City, Louie Louie, Get Off My Cloud, Little Latin Lupe Lu, etc.. We even tried some Dylan stuff (Desolation Row!). But invariably, each practice would degenerate into the jam session from hell and we would end up doing absurd stuff like "Dirty Old Man" by the Fugs.
Not the Teddy Bears, but from the period - Spring 1967. Linda and I before the Junior Prom. I've had a soft spot for gardenias ever since. I think the band for that dance was Kansas City's "Classmen," and they were good.
|How bad were we? We had two
gigs. The first was a freebie at a roller
rink on the outskirts of town, after skating. We
there even after changing our name to The
Nightshades and having
someone else call for us. The second was a frat party
asked to leave after about a half an hour, without getting
I remember going to Crickit Balsamo's house once and jamming a little with him and someone else. He played in a GOOD high school band called The Tonks, as well as a Herb Alpert-styled band, the "Marijuana Brass." (!) We did some song which needed a B chord, and I remember that I didn't know how to play one.
But the main thing about the band was that it gave us an excuse to hang out together and have some fun. We'd hang at the end of a hallway at Hickman before first period, and drive around together in Frank's car or Larry's dad's car on Saturday afternoons.
Here's another shot from the roller rink. I don't know what my left hand was doing all the way up on the neck. Note my "beatle boots" and the artistic job on the bass-drum head, as well as the crowd of adoring fans.
|Frank Blakemore is now a
veteran (Navy, river boats) and a
retired cop in Moberly, Missouri, and he's quite a good rock
player. He's also married to HIS high-school
they have two grown children.
Doug Hedderich still lives in Columbia.
Larry Reves died young, in the late 1970s, leaving his high-school sweetheart Debbie widowed; he had one son. Debbie, who was Frank's cousin, has also passed away.
Dave Moorman is now a minister in ??.
Other high-school bands of the time and place:
he Dalton Gang,
the Marijuana Brass.
They were all a lot better than us. But ya gotta start somewhere...
Here are some band pictures from my 1967 HHS yearbook.
|Here's a shot of the one gig I played
with that band, on a borrowed
bass guitar; it was a Jr. High dance.
I'm behind the guy in the middle (Darryl) with the Teisco Del Rey guitar. White jackets and Silvertone amps, yeah!
The guy on the left, Jesse, was actually pretty good.
first real concert of popular music I ever went to was in
early Spring of 1968. James Brown and His Revue,
Famous Flames, at an arena in San Antonio. I went
had to "story" to her parents about where she
was going (they should have been more concerned about whom
digress). I recall that the show was very late in
that the P.A. was very
But what a show! Linda and I were one of very few
there, which didn't bother either of us. About
10,000 people, and
they were all dancing together. Great music, great
show. To this day, I think it's the most exciting
live music I've