March 26, 2018

gimme three steps

My parents were in a band from before I was born; in fact, I think that's how they met, in the limited circuit of local musicians in our small town.  My mother played keyboard and bass guitar, and my daddy played his beloved '76 Stratocaster and sang lead.

There was Bo (Keith) the drummer, a stocky guy who did not, as far as I know, observe the convention of drooling while playing.  There was Keith (Keith), who did keyboard when my mother did not and also provided some good harmonic vocals.  And there was Alan (middle name Keith) who played backup guitar.

My daddy was passionate about correcting me when I referred to what I heard on our local radio station as "rock and roll".  "No, that's called Top 40.  We play real rock and roll.  And anything else that's good."

What appears to have fit the bill, from what I can recall hearing them play in early and mid-childhood, were things like "Play Me Some Mountain Music", "Elvira", and anything by Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Eagles.  There was country in there, too, which explains my eventual fully-justified distaste for it.  Anyone who says I just haven't given it a try never had a band in the house driving it into their skull.

I have a clear memory of a night when I was four, and the band was practicing "Heartache Tonight" in our small kitchen.  I kept interrupting to interact with my daddy, and then set about playing the drums along with them by banging on two upside-down Tupperware bowls with pencils for drumsticks.  My daddy sat me on the couch in the living room and told me to try counting to a million, then returned to his guitar and mic.  I got to 1,100-something before I fell asleep.  Slick, that one.

"Play 'Gimme Three Steps' again, Daddy!"  It was my favorite.

When the band would practice, our decades-old house would thump and vibrate and come alive.  The house to the right of us was abandoned and the lady in the house to the left worked second shift; there was an old textile factory across the street, the back fence lined with some abandoned barrels of questionable contents (it wasn't a great neighborhood); thus, there were never complaints from neighbors.  If anyone else could hear, down the road - and given how the house shook, that's a given - I have to believe they simply liked the genre of music and considered it free entertainment.

Otherwise, during band practice, I was left upstairs in my room to play by myself.  I remember being enamored of the 45 RPM single records lying around, the labels and the RCA dog, and the smell of the vinyl.  One night when I was five, I decided to be helpful and "clean" all of their records for them, which I did using liberal amounts of some hand lotion I found in my sister's room.  My daddy was torn, when he found them, between laughter and anger, because they were utterly ruined.

Sometimes the records were ruined by too many needle scratches.  Bo would sit at our kitchen table and use his cigarette lighter to melt them and make them wavy and rippled.  He found this more amusing than anyone should.  I don't know what he did with them afterward.

The sixth member of the band was Tyson.  I don't know who the man really was, how my parents knew him, or why he was involved, but I know he rented to them the eyesore parked on the shoulder of our driveway, the brown and orange van that was used to store and haul the band equipment each weekend.  Maybe Tyson was a guy who showed up at the bars where they played and happened to have a van he could rent.  Maybe he was in the band before I was born.

I loved going with my parents in the van to a bar or club when they were setting up their equipment on a Thursday evening.  The smell was always a mixture of stale cigarette smoke-coated walls, Peavy amps and black electrical tape.  The smell of a stage.  When they did the sound check, I could feel the music and "Check, check, one, two, three, check" through the soles of my sneakers.

I was in a store yesterday and heard "Gimme Three Steps" on the Muzak.  It's rubbish on the radio, once you've heard it live.

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