Having been inspired by watching the first performance
of the Beatles
on the Ed Sullivan Show, my brother
Johnny and I were sure we
had found our destiny. After begging our parents
for the better part of
a month to buy us instruments, they finally relented
and bought my
brother a set of drums and me a bass. Our cousin,
Alvin, already had
a guitar and actually knew a few chords, so when
I was at the tender
age of 15, we were putting our first band together.
When I say that Alvin knew a few chords, I should
have said that he
knew very few chords. He knew three chords:
C, F, and G. So the
first song that we worked up used C, F, and G!
I thought it was pretty
clever at the time. Oh, how we practiced, hour
after hour, day after
day. Oh, the torture that my parents endured!
We endeavored to
persevere and before we knew it, we had a whole
set list of three
chord songs: “Louie Louie,” “Hang
on Sloopy,” C, F, and G,
you get the picture.
With the addition of Sammy on guitar, we had our
first band. We
called ourselves Odds’n’Ends. I don’t
know why. We played
anywhere we could: birthday parties, grand openings,
sock hops. A funny thing happened. After a while,
started offering us money to play! WOW! It came
like a flash of light,
a revelation so profound that it made me shiver!
It was actually
possible to make a living playing music! At that
age, we thought that
$50 a week was a living. We had money to spend,
money in the bank
and were constantly upgrading our equipment.
We had it made.
We had Gibson and Fender guitars, Ludwig drums,
Vox amps. I had
a beautiful Hofner bass, just like the one Paul
Life was good.
Good Things Must End
The Vietnam War was raging during this time period.
The rest of the
guys were about three years older than I was.
When graduation time
came, Uncle Sam came calling. Alvin joined the
Air Force, my brother
joined the National Guard, and I joined another
A keyboard player in another band, Jim Shields,
approached me after
his band and mine had played a gig together.
They were playing
James Brown and Sam and Dave; we
were playing Led Zeppelin
and Vanilla Fudge. I think he liked the
direction that my band was
heading and we talked about the possibility of
joining forces. Jim was
an awesome keyboard player and the thought of
playing with him was
very appealing. He told me that a new kid had
moved into town and
he was a really good player. Jim suggested that
we get together and
jam, and see what happened. So in the summer
of 1970, we got
together and Jim introduced me to Marty Conn:
a skinny, blonde
17-year-old with a gold Les Paul. We hooked up
our instruments and
Marty suggested that we play “Jeff’s Boogie.”
Wow – “The Kid
Could Play” – Marty was fantastic.
I was sold and the band Bishop
was born. With this lineup, we started playing
more progressive music:
Genesis, Gentle Giant…
the possibilities seemed endless.
After a couple of years in Bishop, Jim
was lured away to play with a
band in Cincinnati. Their guitar player was Adrian
Belew (Adrian, as
some of you may or may not know, went on in later
years to play
guitar with the likes of Frank Zappa,
Crimson, and became
a critically acclaimed musician and producer
in his own right). A few
months later, Jim showed up again with Adrian
in tow. It seems that
Adrian was a frustrated drummer at heart, and
we set about the task
of rehearsing and putting a band together with
Adrian on drums.
The band played one show in Kingsport, Tennessee.
I swear this to
be true – the local newspaper did a review and
I have a clipping!
After the concert, Adrian went back to Cincinnati,
and I haven’t
talked to him to this day. I don’t know why!
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