One time long ago I was a ” normal” kid. I rode my bike, built tree houses with the neighbor boys, pulled a faded red wagon and picked up pop old bottles to get a coke and some candy. The reason the word coke wasn’t capitalized, was because a coke was what any number of soft drinks were called. It was just the local slang for soda pop.
I was small for my age, so I was picked on a lot. I fought, but always got beaten up. I always had a friend just a little older than me, who (unbeknownst to him) made him my “bodyguard”. I didn’t get beaten up for a long time and when I did it was him. I really don’t remember what it was over. I bet he doesn’t either.
Summers were generally spent doing any number of things, ranging from swimming at the lake, bike riding, to fashioning a clubhouse we made out of a small chicken house. It took weeks, but it looked like a mansion to a 12 year-old. We went to all local construction sites and got roofing tar, that was left over, and carpet samples, different colored of course. We got enough carpet from several different places to carpet and pad the entire building. We took the tar and with paint brushes, sealed the tin roof so it wouldn’t leak. Somehow we got enough money for an extension cord that would reach to one of the smaller boys in our group’s house. We had electricity and a place to go “camping” for weeks on end. None of us were more than a quarter of a mile from home. Mom even brought brownies once.
Stepping back in time, in 1968 when I was 10, the band director at my elementary school told me I needed to be in the band. So I got a clarinet, because there weren’t enough people to play clarinet. I sat between two girls who were both in the grade above me. It was very uncomfortable to say the least. I was so small that when we had a concert, the band director always brought me out front. Because you couldn’t see me for the music stands. I was mortified. Luckily, I got to go to saxophone in 9th grade. Sax was a little cooler to play than clarinet. Until I found out it was a baritone sax that stood almost as tall as me. As far as I was concerned it really didn’t matter. I was beginning anotger musical journey. One of many as time passed.
One weekend in 1972 I went to Joplin MO with the next-door neighbors to see about getting their son a motorcycle. He didn’t get one. But I had decided it was time for another mide of transportation. Mom said, “NO!” and it really didn’t bother me because I knew with the right amount of tact and diplomacy I would have my bike. It took about a month but I told them I would take a paper route and with the money I’d pay off the bike. I saved enough cash to buy one. A Honda SL (street legal) 70. It was in late October and I got it.. We received a lot of snow that year. Snow could be 2 feet deep and the papers would be there on-time. Try delivering those silly things all over town on a street legal dirt bike. I froze half to death. It did not break my resolve and I made it through the winter and summer got there. I rode the same route each day.
At 7:15 a.m. June 12, 1973 my life changed forever. I was delivering newspapers and I had one paper left. A doctors home. Ironic as time would show. Before making the left turn to Peterson Drive, a man turned left in front of me and he was running approximately 35 mph. I, on my little Honda SL 70, was also running 35 mph. So essentially I hit a brickwall running 70 mph on a motorcycle smaller than a scooter. I broke both bones on my left forearm. The humerus on my right arm. The femur on my left leg, plus the tibia and fibula. The tibia and fibula on my right leg. All compound fractures. My shoulder was dislocated and with Dr. McCollum’s help, it was restored to it’s original place. It broke my nose. 17 years later a chiropractor informed me my neck had been broken. 1/8th of an inch more and I would have been a quadriplegic. I have had severe nerve damage to both legs (still there). Peripheral neuropathy in my left hand, right arm, both legs and feet. I have a condition called drop foot, caused from the inability to lift my right foot. Leaving it hanging so long the bone fused and I walk on my tip toes. I have broken my right leg 20 times since. There are many more things that I could list. Many.
High school after that was a disaster. For some reason, I was teased mercilessly. My crutches were kicked from under me. They pushed my wheelchair as fast as they could run and then let me go at the top of a steep exit in front of our school. The basketball coach was going to make me run laps on crutches. Thankfully my physical therapist, who worked with me during phys. ed, walked in and told him if he ever touched me again she would have his job. I got a zero grade in PE. Then, our St Bernard had puppies. The local Chief of Police came by to check them out and he was nice to me. I used to ride with him till bedtime. Everything was a little better until one of the younger boys, who had moved here from a state where you could drink at 18 years of age. He was walking down main street with a beer in his hand and one in his back pocket. He couldn’t have been more than 16. My cop friend picked him up and wrote him a ticket for public drunkenness and minor in possession of alcohol. After that, he blamed it on me. He called me narc. A lot of people joined in and even the teachers got into the act. They found some facsimile blue lights and placed them on top of Mom’s car. I had driven it to school that day. They were going to take a photo and put it in the yearbook. I grabbed the camera and threw it onto the ground breaking it into several pieces. At that time it was a very expensive camera. The teacher, who was head of annual staff, berated me and took me to the Superintendents office. To my surprise he told her she shouldn’t have been involved in bullying and he informed her I would not be paying for the damages to the camera. It was my Junior year. 1975. Two weeks later another teacher informed me he was going to make sure I didn’t graduate. I had to take one of his classes to graduate and he did end up giving me bad marks for no reason. Had it not been for my class sponsors placing me in another class, I wouldn’t have graduated. That teachers little stunt made ineligible for scholarships by 1/2 a percentage point. If I was going to college. It was going to cost a lot. I did graduate. 2.45 grade point average. Thank God that time was over.
After I had been college for 2 years, I discovered I could play guitar. To my undoing and a little OCD, I left college in 1980 and took work where I could practice guitar at my job, first a police dispatcher, then a security guard who drove a cattle owners fence lines, checking gates making sure they were locked. I asked my boss if I could play the little guitar while watching the cattle and surprisingly he said yes. So I worked driving that truck and oftenI would form bands and take the occasional paying gig. The 1st local “job” we played was a benefit for a man who needed help with his medical bills, but he died unexpectedly before the benefit. So we did it anyway and gave the money to his family. The majority of the bands playing for this benefit played country music. About 8 o’clock that night we were called up to play. We did a song that was popular on rock radio at the time. Before we finished, the only people left in the building were the last band to play (after us) and a few of our friends. There were probably 250 people in the room when we started and 15, counting our band and the next. My dad told me people actually ran out of the room. I learned a valuable lesson that night. Play music suited to your crowd.
I assembled these little bands and would play a local “dive” until we were good enough to play at the more upscale places. We played there because we knew no one in our circle of friends wouldn’t dare being seen in that environment. Because it was notorious for knock-down, drag-out fights. We always joked thzt if you didn’t have a knife or gun, they would give you one to protect yourself. It wasn’t far from the truth.
I started playing with a group in 1986 that actually had some promise. We were booked to do some fairly nice gigs. We did a couple of Tulsa “block parties”. This was where they would block a four-lane section road in the middle of town and we would play to the people in the street. Before that the largest crowd I had played was probably 50 people. There were thousands at this party. I remember walking onstage and looking out at a sea of people. My knees shook so badly I didn’t think I could stand. We finished the first song and the crowd was so loud, when we finished the song, I turned my guitar up all the way and couldn’t hear it. After that my knees were solid-steel and I had the ego the size of a train. A few months later we did “Mayfest” in Tulsa. That was a really sweet gig in the middle of a park. We were above a manhole with a generator in it to supply power for our PA and instruments. In about 45 minutes, it caught fire and the crowd thought it was a smoke machine and they went wild. The fire dept. showed up put the blaze under us out and in about 20 minutes we were right back onstage.
Somewhere around this time we were booked to play in a cave that used to be a club in the 1930s. It ruined or badly damaged every piece of equipment I had. There is absolutely too much moisture in a cave to bring anything electronic in and leave it. I lost a power amp to moisture. We plugged it in the next week and it just melted. $500.00 gone.
Like almost every group in that area, we had a member with a drug problem. It put an end to a wonderful stint at learnibg the trade. Just a few weeks later I had assembled a four-piece group that kept me busy until the 90s rolled around. Country music started it’s downhill slide into pop music. I couldn’t and wouldn’t play those tunes aimed at sixteen year-old kids.