Roadhouse Blues

This is why I’m having so much fun in my life lately; I’ve become the full-time drummer in the Pepper Street Band. It’s also partly why I have not been as active here, and also why I am lagging a bit on my fly orders. But I am working on them. Life has been good, and my health is great! Especially when compared to last year, when even at this time, I was still recovering from that flare-up of Crohn’s Disease.

Here is a pic from last Saturday night’s gig at a local American Legion Post, No. 617 in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

The Pepper Street Band - left to right;

The Pepper Street Band – left to right; Dave Houseknecht on lead guitar; Peter M. Codispoti on keyboards and harmonica; me on drums, guest lead guitarist Bob LaCerra, guest back=up vocalist Bert Smeal, and bass guitarist Bob Yoas. All four regular band members sing lead vocals.

Life is repeating itself, my cycle of friends, new and old. Pete was the drum major at the Williamsport Area High School back when I was in 9th grade, never got to know him until I joined this band. Bert and I were room mates at band camp on 1969, and he also played in several iterations of my ’70’s classic rock band. Bob is a little younger than me, but I’ve known him for more than thirty-five years. He is a mason by trade, and actually helped lay block and brick here at my home when it was built in 1977 – ’78. Dave knew who I was but I never met him until November 2013, I was asked to fill on on the New Year’s Eve gig. Bob Yoas, also, I did not “know” but we have a mutual long-time friend who is also a fly fishing buddy. My friend and Bob both belong to the same hunting and fishing camp. I am really privileged to be in a band with talented musicians!

Even better than the pic, here is a video taken by a friend from last Saturday’s gig, with the band doing a cover of the Doors, Roadhouse Blues. Both Dave and Bob do some lead guitar work. I decided to post it here so my readers can have a better idea of what I’ve been up to. Not bad for a little hand-held camera. Enjoy! (I hope).

Edit after two comments: One of my subscriber friends wrote, “The singer sounds just like Jim Morrison.” Duh! I forgot to say who is singing the lead vocal on Roadhouse Blues – it’s me! Singin’ and drummin’ at the same time!

Parmacheene Belle – Antique Replica

Some of my readers have heard me say that I don’t have a “favorite” classic wet pattern, which is true; it’s so hard to pick only one from the hundreds of possibilities. But considering I first tied the Parmacheene Belle forty years ago in 1974, and the fact that it was also my first-ever married wing wet fly, it has remained at the top of a list of my favorite wet flies. I enjoy tying them; I’ve probably tied more than five hundred of them over the years,  and I also love looking at any well-tied Parmacheene Belle. The fly has a great combination of color – selection, arrangement, and balance, as well as material choice, and the best part: It catches fish! It was a successful fly back in 1876 when Henry P. Wells first created the pattern and named it for Lake Parmacheene in Maine’s Rangeley Lakes Region. Back then it was still possible to catch brook trout in the Rangeley Lakes that exceeded eight pounds in weight. The “Belle” also proved an effective fly for landlocked salmon as well. Well over one-hundred thirty years later, my fly fishing relatives, my friends, a number of my customers, and me, have all caught trout on this fly in waters scattered across the country. I have customers every year who order some to fish with. Successful catches of fish on the Parmacheene Belle also includes the unexpected bonus of brown and rainbow trout. I’ve even heard tell of anglers out west catching cutthroat trout on them as well. Hairwing versions of this fly were among some early 20th century steelhead patterns; in fact Plate No. 11 in Bergman’s Trout presents a hairwing version of the Parmacheene Belle.

I have written a number of posts on this fly during the last four years since I started my blog, and if you care to research them, simply use the search tab, type in “Parmacheene Belle,” hit the enter key and off you go! It will bring up every article that is titled or even mentions this fly. I did a married-wing streamer version of this about three years ago.

My introduction to this pattern came through Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman. It was a favorite pattern of his for catching large brook trout. In fact, in With Fly, Plug and Bait, 1947, Ray describes an occasion when he caught a large brook trout in Canada using a tandem wet fly rig consisting of two Parmacheene Belle wet flies, I believe they were both size #4. These flies were close together, much like a miniature tandem streamer.

The research for my ongoing book project, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892, led me to the American Fly Fishing Museum in Manchester, Vermont, where the actual fly plates used in Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, are stored and occasionally placed on display. I had the privilege of gaining access to and viewing, studying, and photographing these historic fly plates. My work with them allowed me to ascertain many previously misidentified components of these patterns. This includes the tying recipes listed in every known publication that has claimed to represent these old wet fly patterns that were at one time cataloged by the Orvis Company. The problem was that Mary did not include the fly dressings for the patterns in her book. My research also led to to the 1883 book written by Charles F. Orvis and Albert Nelson Cheney, called Fishing With the Fly. In that book, there is a chapter called Fly Fishing in the Rangeley Region by Henry P. Wells, the originator of the Parmacheene Belle. In his chapter he presents the complete (almost- see below) original dressing for his pattern. I found it odd that the Orvis version did not feature the original white-with-red-stripe married wing that he specified, but rather, a simpler wing of married red and white in equal parts. Subsequent variations of this pattern developed over time, some no doubt modified to make them easier to tie commercially, and others as a result of unknown reasons.

A friend provided actual, custom-dyed mohair dubbing that I could use for the body, as specified by the originator. This mohair dubbing is available on John McClain’s website:

I also started tying and teaching the reverse-wing method that was widely used in the 19th century for mounting wings on practically all fishing flies. My reasoning for this is that the threads in use for fly tying at the time were made of either cotton or silk and lacked the tensile strength of modern threads. Therefore, to prevent wings pulling out of the flies, someone developed the method of mounting the wings to be tied in, backwards, with the butt ends facing to the rear, wrapped in place, then the forward portion of the feathers were folded over to make the wing of the fly, and a band of thread, resembling a collar, was wound in place over the folded butt end of the wings to provide the final stage of secure the feathers to the hook. This caused the heads of the fly to be large, bulky, and rather unattractive, but nonetheless, completely functional. This method also calls for longer sections of wing quills to complete the process; goose wings quills are my preference, and one must be careful regarding the proportions so that the finished, folded-back wing is properly sized to the hook.

This method also gave the flies of the day their characteristic high wing angle. My personal feeling is that too many tiers today attempt to replicate these historic flies, and they too often use the widely available goose shoulders for the wings. This material looks fine, depending on your point of view, but goose shoulder was used mostly to make “splits” or side-sections on wings to add extra colors to a pattern, and was not used on wings, according to the hundreds of antique flies that I have seen and studied. Goose shoulder was used to make wings and sometimes tails on the old lake, bass, and trout flies. Flies made like this today are perfectly acceptable in that they look fine, they display well, especially to an untrained eye, and they will catch fish, but with the inherent low, sleek-looking wing that goose shoulder renders, they are not historically accurate. I’m talking about the original patterns, not just following or substituting ingredients and then lashing them willy-nilly to the hook. I believe the accurate reproduction of these historic flies is important, and is something that should not be forgotten. Like our society and culture in general, even in fly tying, at times it seems like there is too much of an “anything goes” attitude.

Following that slight but pertinent digression, I present a historically accurate reproduction of the famous the Parmacheene Belle:

Parmacheene Belle, 2/0.

Parmacheene Belle, 2/0. The authentic silk gut leader is doubled at the head of the fly, creating what was known as a “helper” or bite guard. This was either whipped with thread and varnished, or knotted an inch or so ahead of the head of the fly, and then another loop was made on the leader to provide a snelled loop-to-loop connection. The bite guard was thought to strengthen the leader and prevent the fish from breaking off the fly at this critical joint in the connection. This specimen also features the traditional closed-wing, tip-down mounting of the quills that was most popular at the time. Red was often used as a finishing thread on old flies.

Here is Henry Wells’ written narration of his recipe description for the Parmacheene Belle, taken from the text of his chapter in Fishing With the Fly:

“This fly somewhat resembles the No Name figured as No. 15 of Lake Flies in this book. As I tie it, the tail is two strands of white and two of scarlet; the body of yellow mohair, with silver tinsel; the hackle double; first white, with scarlet hackle wound over this – capping the former, so to speak; the wing white, striped with scarlet. By scarlet, the color of the scarlet ibis is to be understood.”

Wells does not mention the tag or butt components, but these ingredients, determined by my visible inspection of the 1893 Orvis Fly Display in the American Museum of Fly Fishing, are silver tinsel and peacock herl. Cosmetically speaking, especially considering the head, this is not representative of my “cleanest, most tidy” work. But that is not the intent with this article. My desire was to accurately replicate an actual 19th century Parmacheene Belle Lake Fly, as if you went back in time. I believe this is right on to what you would find in 19th century fishing fly store bins. The 2/0 hook was not outlandishly large for a brook trout upwards of five pounds.

My friend, Roger Plourde, has vintage silk gut for sale in various sizes, the price is $15.00. His e-mail is:

I decided to include and re-post the photo of my Parmacheene Belle Streamer as well:

Parmacheene Belle Streamer

Parmacheene Belle Streamer, dressed on a 4x long hook. This older version features a yellow-dubbed body, rabbit fur. This fly illustrates is a little more “polished” representation of my fly tying.

Some of you might have noted a recent reduction in my posts here over the last few months. The reason for that is that I have been extremely busy since mid-November. I’ve added a couple new and significant and fun things to my life, one of which is drumming. I resurrected my musical ability and involvement after years  of inactivity. My rock band disbanded in 1979, and other than an occasional performance in church or at a theater musical, I haven’t played in years. My late wife, Lou Anne, and I sang in a gospel quartet for twenty-seven years, and I have not sung anywhere since our last performance in August of 2006. She passed seven years ago this month.

I started off as a substitute drummer in a local classic rock band for a New Year’s Eve gig. Considering my schedule of two November fly tying shows, Thanksgiving, deer season, and Christmas, I ended up having to learn over sixty songs in two weeks. In early February, my drumming with the Pepper Street Band suddenly became a full-time position due to the fact their regular drummer has developed a serious health issue that has side-lined him for a while.

Right after New Year’s Day I also committed to joining the contemporary praise and worship band, Firstborn, at Pine Street United Methodist Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where I have the added musical experience and fun of playing an electronic drum set. I also started singing again, mostly regular visits with friends to karaoke bars where I sing anything from George Thorogood to Toby Keith to Trace Adkins, ZZ Top, Billy Joel, Georgia Satellites, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Van Morrison, Lynyrd Skynyrd, even Frank Sinatra. I’m also the newest member of Cornerstone, the contemporary choir at Pine Street church as well. Firstborn performs every Sunday at the 8:30 service, and Cornerstone sings at the same service twice a month. Plus, I sing the lead vocals on a half-dozen of the songs on the Pepper Street playlist. Here’s a link to their song list:

Don’t worry folks, I’m not giving up my fly tying career! Just suddenly having a lot more fun! I thank God for my renewed good health! I also found out the best thing to do with negative, toxic, trash-talking people who try to mess with or mess up your life is to forget them and not address them in any way. That’s healthy too! Besides, it is impossible to reason with people who habitually spread rumors and prevaricate the truth about someone else for their own, selfish interests and perceived personal gain. You know what they say:”What goes around comes around.”

I’ve gotten more active on facebook; my band gigs and schedule is generally posted there, along with a link from my blog as well. Anyone interested in following my more personal and / or musical activity, just let me know, besides a friend request, please include a PM.

Thank you all for your many years of support! I am personally grateful to each of you for your belief in me and what I do. Me? I’m having too much fun, doing what I’ve always done, and going back to my musical roots. I was singing and playing drums before I ever started tying flies. Adding the music and meeting so many new people who are nice, decent folk, has already brought new friends into my life. I have a feeling this is only going to get better!

Don’t Worry

“Don’t worry.” This is always good advice. My mom always expressed her belief on this topic, as I remember she would say it does no good whatsoever to worry. About anything. She would talk about something, pray about it, and then leave it be.

We don’t always realize the influence our parents have had on us until later in our lives. My mom particularly, encouraged all of us kids to get into music. Of course we had to pass those elementary school music aptitude tests to even be eligible to enroll in the school music programs, but all three of us, my older sister Diane, my younger brother Larry,  and me, each played instruments in the school marching and concert bands, right up until our graduation. And we all continued performing music to varying degrees throughout our lives. Mom made a lot of sacrifices in the interest of our music education; financially, she deprived herself of personal things so that we could have instruments to play, and with the dedication only a mother possesses, she went to every single event and concert we ever played in, though she did miss some of the foot ball games when the marching band played.

Music is not only entertainment, it is, or can be inspiring. It can reach to us on an emotional level when sometimes, nothing else can get through. Music has the power to connect us emotionally to another person, or to a time or person at some place in the past, it can soothe us, it can revive old memories, it can bring us to tears, it can make us shout for joy, it can make us want to dance (happens to me all the time), it can even make us angry. Yeah, there was one post I wrote a while back detailing how I once  threw a Korn cassette tape out the window from the company van I was riding in with a bunch of teenage boys that I was working with. I was angry, and had had enough of that crap the day before.

I just found and read through that post; it was written in August of 2012. It’s a little long, but still interesting, and for those of you who were not subscribers back then, or anyone wanting to reread it to refresh your memory, it does give the background of when I first got out and cleaned up my drum set and where and how the “music bug” started in me. Or more appropriately, my music interest was reignited. Here’s the link:

If you just want to read the part about me tossing some punk’s garbage band – yeah that’s right, garbage band, not garage band, cassette out the window of a van going 70 mph down the road, just scroll down, it’s toward the end.

I was writing something to a friend the other day about my mom’s love of music, how at her memorial service at my sister’s church in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, back in February 2005, there was a full representation of Bastian family musicians. In addition to my sister, organist and choir director at Jersey Shore Presbyterian Church, the regular members of the church choir for mom’s memorial service also included my late wife, Lou Anne; both my daughters, Kim and Lyneah; my brother, Larry; his daughter Emily, and son Dan, and me. Seven in all. One of the numbers we performed was Ralph Carmichael’s musical version of Psalm 23, mom’s favorite psalm. The love of music with the blessing of talent and learned ability to sing and play instruments was inspired and encouraged in all of us by my mother, Fay Sesinger Bastian. I even created a classic wet fly patterned named the Sesinger, after her, and in honor of my maternal grandfather, Lawrence Sesinger, who passed away in 1924 during a typhoid epidemic. My brother Larry, is also formally named Lawrence after him. Now I need to add the tying of the Sesinger to my “to do” list and post the photo and recipe here.

I’ve had a few people express some concern, maybe even worry, that my recently expressed renewed musical interest might be cutting into my fly tying time, or into my fly-tying-blog-writing-fly-photographing-pattern-recipe-etcetera stuff. Don’t worry folks! I just wrote to one of my friends telling him that the main reason my activity here has been slow was explained in my last post. It is mostly the result of being away for three weekends in November, the preparations of getting ready for those weekends, visiting my daughter Kim and new granddaughter Grace Louanne LeBlond, named in honor of my loving wife Lou Anne, in Connecticut over Thanksgiving, not having a camera, then the two weeks of the Pennsylvania deer season; these activities and events all kept me pretty well occupied. I’m still looking at the big picture.

Since I’ve been back home on Sunday December 15th, I have had to devote a considerable amount of time to listening to and “practicing” the drum parts for a local classic rock, rock ‘n’ roll, and oldies band, called Pepper Street, in preparation for a gig on New Year’s Eve. Here is a link to their song list:

They do a mix of a half-dozen Beatles songs, and then, not much more than one song by a whole range of different artists. Or so I thought. These guys are all experienced, very talented musicians, and I feel privileged to be in their company, playing as substitute drummer since their regular drummer and their backup drummer both have conflicts on New Year’s Eve. Lucky me! Last Friday I attended one of their gigs in nearby Lock Haven as part of my “practice” regimen. They played I’m A Believer, by the Monkees. After that song, someone in the crowd hollered, “Any more Monkees songs?” In less than a half minute, they were cranking out, (I’m Not Your) Steppingstone. Not only did they do it perfectly, but it reminded me that back in the sixties, when my brother Larry and I were playing in our band, The Heavenly Sent, we covered that song. I’m thinking, no fair, that’s not on your playlist! I also sat in and sang the lead vocal for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Gimme Three Steps; that’s one of my favorite Skynyrd songs.

On Friday the 13th, I attended another of the Pepper Street gigs, at the American Legion Post in Hughesville, Pennsylvania, since that is where the New Year’s Eve gig is. I thought it would be good to find the place and check it out. Some guy in the crowd (who already had a tad too much to drink) yelled out, “Joe Walsh! James Gang!” Immediately the Pepper Street boys switched gears, and Dr. Dave Houseknecht started off with the lead guitar intro to Funk 49 and off they went. Dave also covered the high-voice Joe Walsh vocal and did the lead guitar part perfectly. I’m sitting there, smiling, jammin’ to it, but also thinking, “Hey, you told me you don’t play that song anymore! But before long, I got my chance to “practice” that song.

Last Saturday night I went over to the Loyalsock Hotel to hear another local band, Flipside. That’s the band that initially inspired me to get active and start playing again, beginning when I sat in with them last August on Mustang Sally. Dave from Pepper Street was also there last weekend, and the members of Flipside are always happy to have guest musicians. Their guest (possibly new?) lead guitar player happened to be someone I knew from years back, local rock band guitarist and singer, Bob LaCerra. Bob is another good guitarist. Dave and I sat in, starting off set No. 2 with, you guessed it, Funk 49, and Born on the Bayou. That was only the third time in my life that I played Born on the Bayou, and the very first ever, for Funk 49. It was great! I guess that’s the advantage a drummer has, you can get a song “learned” more or less, by listening to it over and over and / or just hearing it, even occasionally, over the years. We rocked that place! But I confess I missed the cue for the ending on Funk 49. Oops.

I was instrumental in making the contacts to book The Flipside Band on New Year’s Eve at a new local establishment, The Stable Bar and Grille. It’s right over the hill from where I live. Here is their facebook page link:

The Flipside Band:

Pepper Street is also booked there on February 15th. The stage and dance floor at The Stable are bigger than most other venues in this area. I’m going to set my drums up for that gig and sit in some. I wouldn’t normally have to do that but their regular drummer is left-handed and everything is backwards. We could even, possibly, do a number or two with two drummers. Would that be too loud? I’ll also be sitting in on some lead vocals…potentially Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl and Wild Nights; Margaritaville, Gimme Three Steps, 867-5309 – Jenny; and the classic Georgia Satellites tune, Keep Your Hands to Yourself. Thursday is karaoke night, so I get a chance to go over and practice some of these songs.

If you are in the Williamsport area, February 15th would be a good night to visit The Stable. They have a wood-fired grill and all their burgers and steaks have that great flavor that only comes from a wood fire. Their pizza is great too, excellent crust, baked on a stone hearth. There is also the possibility that some of my old band mates from the ’70’s will be there in February; the idea is to work up a few of our old tunes to play, either separately or with Pepper Street. We might even be able to get three talented guitarists onstage; personally I’d love to perform the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic, Freebird. I could drum or sing the lead vocal, in either case it would be a blast just to be onstage.

Question: What do you call a guy who hangs around with a bunch of musicians?

Answer: The drummer. Ha, ha!

That would be me!

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!