Back to Normal

I wanted to post some news to let my readers know that I am back to normal, if such a thing is possible. Actually, folks that knew I was seriously ill a year ago have been asking about my health. I am pleased to report that I am nearly “normal” in that regard, my strength and stamina have returned, I’ve gained weight (too much!), I feel great, and presently I am not even on any medications. To quote Larry the Cable Guy, “That’s funny right there!” I joked about that at the International Fly Tying Symposium, saying that perhaps some people might think I need to be on medication. Hey, I made it this far without it.

I have not written anything here for a few weeks, but it has been due to my busy schedule, and also the result of being away from home for two weeks for the Pennsylvania deer season. The Bastian family cabin is only twenty-miles from my home, and I came here a few times to get mail, look things over, and check my e-mail. I had a few neighbors watching the place as well. Deer season was a bust as far as getting venison in the freezer, but we had a great time.

Being away from home for two weeks starting the Sunday after Thanksgiving is the main reason that blog activity has been absent. Being home again after deer season and two weekend shows in November, and then traveling to Connecticut to visit my daughter and her family, and see my new granddaughter over Thanksgiving is the second part of being back to normal.

I have news on several topics that I would like to share. First, my camera has been replaced, the original Canon G9 Powershot was toast in September after hitting my hardwood floor, having fallen just a couple feet from a TV tray. The “new” camera is a “used” and reconditioned Canon G9 Powershot. I figured that was the best way to go at the present time, mainly for cost: about $200, compared to $600 when I bought it new in 2008. Secondly and importantly, there is no learning curve. I have a number of flies and fly tying / pattern projects that I will be working on. I also have some articles in the works and will be using the camera for that as well. Another bonus with the new camera is that it came with a charger and new battery, so I now have spares on those items. And this “used” camera is actually in better condition than my old one.

The other thing that I am really excited about – and readers who have been with me for a while are aware of this, but I play the drums, or at least I used to. And after a long absence, I am playing again. From ninth grade in 1967 until 1979 I played in rock and roll bands that played various styles of music. The very first song I recall learning was Little Bit O’ Soul by The Music Explosion. My brother Larry played lead guitar in the first three or four bands. During the following years most of the music we played was Top Forty, but in the late 1960’s and early ’70’s, we also explored music from bands that only received FM radio play in the days before classic rock stations existed. Songs in our playlist included: Louie Louie, Green Tambourine by the Lemon Pipers; I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, As Tears Go By, and Jumpin’ Jack Flash – The Rolling Stones; Hold On I’m Comin’ by Sam and Dave; Knock on Wood – Eddie Floyd; Sock It To Me Baby – Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels; Happy Together – Turtles;  All Day and All Night and You Really Got Me – The Kinks; Sweet Soul Music – Arthur Conley; and Live For Today – The Grassroots. My sister bought me two LP’s for Christmas when I was in ninth grade – The Moody Blues Days of Future Passed, and Procol Harum Shine on Brightly. Those two records started me on the path of becoming a convicted audiophile. MY LP vinyl collection now is nearly three-hundred records, and I have as many CD’s as well. I have a vintagemid-70’s Marantz four-channel stereo system that can rattle the windows in this place.

Not long after our first band formed we were introduced to the harder-edged music of Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Steppenwolf, and even the great old Super Session album with Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, and Stephen Stills. We used to play, You Don’t Love Me Baby. Great song! Other tunes in our late 1960’s repertoire were And The Address and Hush – Deep Purple, Fire, Foxy Lady, Purple Haze, and Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix; Born to Be Wild and Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf; Sunshine of Your Love and Tales of Brave Ulysses by Cream; and of course In A Gadda Da Vida by Iron Butterfly. And I just now learned when checking the spelling of that tune, that the translation is: In the Garden of Eden. I can’t forget that our early 1970’s band also played some Black Sabbath. Yes it’s true, this fly tier is an old hard-rocker. War Pigs, Ironman, The Wizard, and a few other songs were on the playlist. We used to hate playing “old” songs back then, but in contrast, it is interesting to note that any of these songs could be on the playlist of a working band today and still be popular.

Before digressing too much more, it should be noted that subsequent bands included multiple personnel changes, horn sections, a female lead singer, then finally in 1977 taking the form of a five-piece, two guitar band, one of whom doubled on piano and synthesizer, plus a bass player, with a big PA system and sound man. We broke up in 1979, but in the years prior, our song list read like a playlist of today’s classic rock radio stations. Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Deep Purple, The Cars, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Foghat, The Eagles, Little River Band, Doobie Brothers, Bad Company, Boston, Foreigner, Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, Emerson Lake and Palmer; our cover music of these bands, powered by double lead guitars, a big PA system and lighting rocked out many bars and clubs in the Williamsport, Pennsylvania, region in the late 1970’s. There were other good bands in the area as well, but we had a good following. It was a great time.

Last August, on a Sunday evening at the outdoor venue of The Crippled Bear bar with a live band in nearby Williamsport, Bert Smeal, the bass player from my old band and I met accidentally. I had not seen him for years. We caught up on things, and he put me in touch with one of the guitarists, and said there had been some talk about the old band getting back together. Most of us were married, raised children, and are now grandfathers. One guitarist never married, and our former lead singer passed away in the late 1990’s. The discussion of a reunion has been going on for a few months – but this Thursday, the two guitarists and me are meeting for dinner and a few beers at The Stable Bar and Grille in Cogan Station, Pennsylvania. This newly renovated bar just opened in November, it is just two miles over the hill from my house. They have the largest dance floor and stage in the area. I have not seen guitarist Don Cunningham for thirty-five years, since the band broke up. The other guitarist friend, Rob Foust, and I went to The Beach Boys in concert this past September. I have seen him a few times over the past decades. Both Bert and Rob attended my wife’s funeral service in March of 2007. And I have not seen either of them until recently. We are talking of learning a half-dozen songs to participate in Open Mic Night at The Stable, and possibly sit in when another area band is on break at a local gig.

Since I am a baritone, I cannot sing the high stuff; Zeppelin, Foreigner, Aerosmith, Boston, Deep Purple, AC / DC; that’s out of my league ( I wish it wasn’t but you can’t have everything you want), but I have been singing for years since the band broke up. My late wife and I sang for twenty-seven years in a gospel quartet, we did a few theater musicals, and I’ve been singing along to my stereo at home and in my car since forever. I sang The Scotsman at the Saturday evening banquet at the recent International Fly Tying Symposium in New Jersey, and it went perfectly except for one little goof I made in the lyrics near the end of the song. Dang! Should have had the lyrics. I also have been singing at Karaoke bars lately, and have worked up a list of more than thirty songs, including the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Dire Straits, Toby Keith, Trace Adkins, Brooks and Dunn, Muddy Waters, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Billy Joel, Huey Lewis and The News, Confederate Railroad – Trashy Women, oh yeah! Roy Orbison, Georgia Satellites, and I’m working on Keith Anderson’s XXL. I’ve also got George Thorogood’s I Drink Alone and Bad to the Bone under my belt. That’s a blast, and I’ve met some nice people that have become new friends. The reason I included this information is that, since our lead singer has passed on, I could fill that spot if need be. I’ve developed a potential playlist of almost sixty songs so far, all having lead vocals in my range.

Another factor feeding my interest in playing again was the opportunity to sit in numerous times with the Flipside Band at local venues. So far with them I’ve played Mustang Sally, Green River, and Born on the Bayou.

The exciting news is that I am getting back into playing formally on New Year’s Eve. I have been asked to fill in for the drummer of a good local classic rock band who can’t make that gig, and my friend Bert, their usual fill-in drummer also cannot do it because of a prior commitment. So I was asked, and I’m very excited about it. I cleaned my drum set up some time ago and have added new hardware and some new-to-me, used Zildjian cymbals – eBay is a great source for good prices on that stuff. It’s been great fun playing my expanded vintage 1975 natural Wood Finish Premier Powerhouse set, which now has a hi-hat, a twenty-inch ride cymbal, and six splash / thin crash / medium thin crash cymbals ranging in size from ten inches to seventeen inches, all Zildjian brand. The oldest and best! The band I am playing with is Pepper Street. We’ve had two practice sessions, and they play a great collection of oldies and classic rock dance-music of the ’60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, with a handful of newer tunes thrown in. The musicians are really talented, they all play multiple instruments; guitar, bass, and keyboards, and they are all good vocalists as well. Me, I play drums and sing, that’s it. I would sit in with Pepper Street, but their drummer is left-handed and everything is backwards for me.

I was a little unprepared for the practice session a week ago because of short notice about it, being away at the cabin for deer camp, and then I had just a half day to review a playlist of nearly sixty songs, some that I did not know at all. Practice went well anyway, and the nice thing was that the band practices in a home studio of sorts and there is a drum set already there, so all I had to do was show up with a pair of sticks. Another plus is that their song list is a great mix of tunes including many that will be fun to play, Bang the Drum All Day – Todd Rundgren; Money For Nothin’ – Dire Straits; Just What I Needed – The Cars; White Wedding – Billy Idol; Rock and Roll All Night – Kiss, China Grove – Doobie Brothers, Born on the Bayou – CCR, and American Band – Grand Funk. Plus I sing the lead vocals on 867-5309 – Jenny, Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl, and the Jimmy Buffet classic, Margaritaville. Here is a link to the band website and their playlist:

Between now and New Year’s Eve, I’ll be tying flies and listening to that playlist, because I need to familiarize myself more in depth with those songs. I also have orders for some framed flies that I am still working on. Now that things are back to normal, I’ll be working diligently to finish my loose ends on my open orders. I have generally played music more often than not while tying flies; been that way for years. Music is good for you. Playing or singing music is even better!