Frankenstein (the beginning and the learning curve)

In my next to last post I told how the song ‘Goodbye To Love’ by The Carpenters was a huge watershed moment for me. It was the first time I remember hearing what would be called a ‘rock guitar solo.’

I told how I was surrounded by pop, easy listening and country music in my youth.

I started guitar lessons when I was eight years old. My teacher, Mrs. Coffman, was an avid country music fan. So as I got better we would jam together on old country and folk songs.

Somewhere during my elementary school days I remember hearing and remembering the rock anthem ‘Smoke On The Water.’ This was at an assembly during school hours and was weird as I look back on it because I attended a private Catholic school at that point and can’t for the life of me figure what the song was used for. But I do remember it. Quite clearly.

But the album that really opened my eyes to rock n roll was a gift from my best friend in middle school, Ernie.

Ernie was a bit of a nerd, as I was also, and we got along very well. At one point Ernie gave me a gift. He gave me a cassette copy of ‘The Edgar Winter Group’ named ‘They Only Come Out At Night.’

The Edgar Winter Group

The album cover was very different than anything my parents had around the house. The sound was also. It was full of very very good songs but it included the blockbuster instrumental ‘Frankenstein.’

The Edgar Winter Group ‘Frankenstein’

I had never heard anything like that before.

As a side note the guitarist was no other than Ronnie Montrose who went on to start his own project. The other guitarist/producer was Rick Derringer. It’s a bit sketchy who really did what and played what on the recording. I’m not going to go on a extended investigation, but it seems that both of the guitarists were involved.

From there, the rock and roll flowed through my veins. It was the beginning.

Frankenstein was a window that opened into playing in numerous bands from my early teens through my high school years. My parents were always supportive. They even carted me around before I had a drivers license.

We would play in bars as underage musicians. You could do that back then. My Dad would sit in a bar for the time we would play… Not liking the music I should add, and then take me home.

I always wondered what the hell the bar owners were doing hiring us. We weren’t that good… May be we were just cheap. Maybe bad live music was better than the juke box… I’m not sure. I like to think that maybe they were in their own way helping us get started.

You know that something is amiss when you are asked to play ‘Takin’ Care Of Business’ ten times a night. We must have did it well.

Because I was a child of the sixties and seventies, I embraced what is today known as classic rock.

As I started my rock band career, I always had a job, so I always had okay (really good stuff) equipment and could sing… And that was a big plus for me.

At the very first me and the mates would make do with whatever we had. I played through the other guitarists second channel cause my Gibson falcon was not loud enough. But as time went by, we learned.

The biggest thing I learned is that whoever controlled the gear (owned a sound system or at least enough to go out on your own) could dictate certain financial benefits.

I remember being in a pretty good and popular local group. One night after a show (gig) I heard one of my band mates, talking to a bar owner… The owner said he wanted to give me (the guy who owned the truck and bought all the sound system and lighting equipment and was slugging it in and out of the venue) a few extra bucks because it was obvious who was slinging the gear.

The band member, who happened to be the bands mouth piece (booked our group) and our financial spokesperson, said “Oh no you don’t have to do that, he doesn’t need that.”

I over heard it and was mighty pissed. Pissed to the extreme. He said it to the bar owner so I wouldn’t get any bright ideas in my naive head (and I was naive at the time) and start to expect to get compensated for the investment that I had contributed.

I loaded the gear and said ‘good by you all and have fun playing the rest of the jobs.’ You are going to start to pay me what I need for the sound system in addition to my cut as a musician or go pound sand.

I admit, I had tunnel vision… I just wanted to make a living playing music. And would do whatever it took to do it. But I realized I had to be realistic about it.

So the band floundered without me for a while but in the end we came to an agreement. You see, none of them were committed enough to invest in the gear that the whole band needed. They wanted to get off of work on Friday night and show up to the bar or club, play the gig and go.

They needed a lead singer and lead guitarist and a person who had a sound system and knew how to use it. I was not being arrogant, but was tired of being taken advantage of. I think we agreed on something like twenty or twenty five bucks a night. Not bad for a truck, large sound system and lights.

In those days, club bands pay was very tight… If you were trying to live off of the proceeds it was tough if you had to hire a sound system. Let alone figure out who could really run it and pay them too.

If the members were squirreling their pay for themselves without contributing to the sound system and lighting, that was a NAY…NAY… In my book. Ahh the old days.

As time went on, I realized that you could tell the real serious musicians from the hobby types by their commitment to their craft.

If they were investing into their own future, chances were they were serious about making music. It could be time, money or a combination with their creativity.

I have been fortunate to run into many of these folks.

Folks who work hard at their craft. Going all in,

I have played with and recorded many such folks. It is incredibly satisfying experience. And to say it was all started by Frankenstein!

Author: Chad