6. Dayton Sound Jr. (1971)
I lasted, however, only one quarter at Ohio Northern. I had no academic problems, but I didn’t like living the dormitory life or being away from Bonnie, so I came back home at Christmas and transferred to
By this time, the Garage and the Dome had ceased operations. (It’s very hard for an entertainment venue to survive without the profit that comes from the sale of alcohol.) But a nightclub called Reflections had opened across the street from the site of the old Black Dome. Reflections featured the same local and national acts that the Dome and the Garage had. There we saw the Allman Brothers again. Other shows included a
The big difference between Reflections and its predecessors was that the new place served liquor and thus was able to stay in business for a few years. The legal drinking age in
So Bonnie was busy attending classes, studying, working, and planning for her future. (She eventually became an elementary school teacher and today is nearing the end of a 35-year career in one school.) Meanwhile, I was putting in token appearances at my own classes and hanging out at Reflections (I suppose I was a wannabe in the band category) many nights per week, carousing and philandering as most 19-year-old males would and still will if given the chance. And in 1971, there were a lot more such chances than there are today—certainly with the hip girls we came to know in
If Hisey and I happened onto some kind of freaky party to go to late at night after Reflections closed, we had no curfew and were not likely to say no. The next day, however, I might be too exhausted—or maybe not even home in time--to go to classes with Bonnie in the morning. Thus I would have a lot of tricky explanations to make.
One Monday night, for example, I had spent some time at Reflections talking to a short, long-haired blond nursing student named Diane. She was always hanging around Reflections and going out with various musicians. After the place closed, she asked me to drop her off at a party somewhere because she had missed the nursing school dorm’s curfew and now had to stay out all night. Of course, I complied, but did not go to the party with her. This one night, at least, I made the responsible choice. I still had to drive back to
So, as a result of my new hip social life both in Clifton and at the apartment that Hisey and I shared (all our hippie friends who still lived with their parents had made our place their second home and crash pad), Bonnie and I began to have trouble. After more than three years together, we diverged and eventually broke up during this time. I also dropped out of
Further inspired by hanging out with
Jimbo Powell, our natural choice as drummer for our new band, was now living with a guy named Don Dickey and his wife Brenda. I think they had taken pity on Powell by reason of his homelife. (He was still required to watch his invalid grandfather and so, at 19 now, could never leave the house unless someone else was there to keep an eye on the old man, who was bedridden). Don and Brenda had a four-room apartment and let Jimbo stay there for a while. Don also happened to play bass. He had graduated from Garfield in 1969 gone to work at Fisherbody, so he had been able to buy some good equipment—a blue Mosrite bass like Bob Holland’s and a powerful Traynor amp, a perfect complement to Hisey’s Marshall. Jimbo had sold his blue sparkle drums to buy airplane tickets and run away to
After more than three years of practicing in the Hiseys’ mother’s basement (thank you, Ruth; I don’t know how you stood it all that time!), we rented a rehearsal space above what had once been the Palace movie theater in uptown
We (probably I) decided that we once again needed a new name. I called Bob Smith, the former manager of the Dayton Sound, which was now disbanded. (Singer Danny Riley had joined the
Our number-one goal was to move up into the ranks of the better
One weekend afternoon, we heard there was some sort of jam session going on in a strip mall parking lot in Fairfield, and we went down there and played a Black Sabbath song (Ozzy and the boys had just appeared on the scene at that time) and something else—probably The Who’s version of “Shakin’ All Over.” That summer we also played one job at a Christian coffee house called “His Place,” which convened one evening per week at the new Fairfield YMCA. (
The program at His Place was emceed by our friend Bill Williams. He was an athlete-turned-hippie-bass-player/singer who had recently become a Christian and was in the process of giving up his heathen ways to serve the Lord. This was before there was such a boom in contemporary Christian music, but Bill was one of the first in our area to have the idea of combining live music with a religious message, to make it more accessible to young people. (Bill would go on to write and record a gospel album and later to front his own band, The Reverend Billy Rose and the Soul Shakers.)
On the night Bill had asked us to play at His Place, the plan was that he would talk for a while about his life and experiences before his recent conversion. Then we would play a set of music. Then there would be some more preaching, then some more music to make things more palatable to the young people there and keep them around to hear Bill’s message. Now, we were not anything vaguely resembling a Christian band. If there were any such groups around, we didn’t know about them. We were a band that probably fit the His Place budget; in other words, we would play for little or no money, so Bill had brought us in to play. In terms of the religious aims of His Place, this turned out to be questionable idea. To explain why, I must digress at length.
Name bands from the Detroit/Ann Arbor,
Shortly before we were asked to play at His Place, we all (Bill Williams included) had gone to the Ludlow Garage to see the
The following day, Hisey and I bought Iggy’s album, then went directly to Sears at the Tri-County mall, where we each purchased a black leather motorcycle jacket for $50. I kept mine for more than 25 years.
Sometime after his show at the Garage, Iggy had also played a big rock festival at Crosley Field. Other acts there included Alice Cooper, Mountain, Savoy Brown, and the MC5. But Iggy stole the show, climbing the PA stacks and smearing peanut butter all over his bare chest before diving into the audience.
So, when we went to play at His Place, we were reeling under the influence of our second dose of Iggy. We had had a volume-heavy four-piece group with a controversial stage show before we’d ever heard of Iggy. Now he had re-inspired us and given us permission to be as loud, aggressive, and bizarre as we could possibly be. To serve the volume gods, I had gotten hold of two complete blackface Fender Bassman amps—two heads and two 2x12 cabinets—to use as a PA system. The day of the His Place job, I went to Radio Shack and bought two big blue high-frequency audio horns, mounted them on squares of plywood, and put ¼” jacks on them so I could plug one into the extra speaker jack of each of my Bassman heads. Then I bought a “Y” cord to split the signal from my Electrovoice mike and send it to both heads to double my vocal volume. So the PA, for that time in that place, was monstrous. Whatever I sang or however I sang it, people were going to hear me. There was no doubt of that. Hisey, dressed like Ron Ashton in his black leather jacket, tight jeans, and aviator glasses, had his big
We turned it up high and attacked the audience as Iggy had attacked us. We had learned some of his songs, like “TV Eye” and “Dirt,” and I had copied some of his stage antics into my show, which had already been on the borderline between dynamically scandalous and just in plain old bad taste. (Today, Bill Williams says were doing a tribute to the Stooges before anybody knew what a tribute band was.) Now I had certainly crossed over to the other side. I had carte blanche. No matter what I did onstage, there was someone doing something crazier, dirtier, and more unheard of than anything I might attempt: Iggy Pop.
Shocked by our incredible volume in a fairly small space, the audience sat, cross-legged on the floor, as I recall, open-mouthed and not at all sure what to make of us. Most of these young Fairfield Christians had probably been expecting a nice acoustic act—a couple of jangling guitars and the uplifting songs that would have been appropriate for a Christian event. They had not seen Iggy Pop and thus did not know whether we had lost our minds or simply taken large quantities of dangerous drugs.
I opened my eyes wide and cast my evil Iggy-like glare across the room as though I owned each body in it. At one point, I noticed a girl near the front who had her back turned to us and had the nerve to attempt to talk to her friends despite our fierce volume. Before seeing Iggy, I probably would have accepted her lack of interest as something beyond my control, but not now! Now I wasn’t having any of it. Like Iggy, I intended to make sure every eye in the house stayed on the band for the duration. So, between the end of one verse and the start of the next, I leapt from the stage, sailed through the air, and landed crouching right behind the girl in question. When she felt me there, she turned her head and found herself inches from my snarling mouth. One end of my microphone against my lips for maximum volume through the P.A., the other end all but touching her nose, I screamed the next lines of the song right into her face. In my true element, I had finally found a good use for all the evil, anger, venom, superiority, arrogance, and vanity that had characterized me almost since birth. That night, my fellow-band members were the poor man’s Stooges, and I was
On our break, while Bill was preaching again, one of the adult chaperones there, a pharmacist in whose drugstore I had been with my father, asked if we might turn our volume down from the unbearable to the simply ear-splitting for the next set. Dropping my Iggy-like stage persona and assuming my young intellectual tone (I was still a good student, in the Honor Society, and had a whole group of brainy friends at school), I explained that our particular type of music simply could not be played at a lower volume. The nature of the compositions required a certain level of amplitude in order to sound as they were intended to sound. So, no, unfortunately, we would not be able to turn it down for the next set. When the pharmacist pointed out that this level of noise (“noise”??!!) was potentially damaging to the hearing of all present, I think I shrugged to convey my complete indifference to the issue of the audience’s auditory health. I honestly couldn’t have cared less if they all walked out deaf. Oblivious to the fact that we were absolutely in the wrong venue for the type of show we were putting on, I felt very cool. We were playing on a stage in a room full of people, and we were “doing our thing,” which was unlike anyone’s else in
I don’t think we played anywhere else with that band. Maybe southwestern
During this time, while John Orme and I lived briefly together in a den of hippie lunacy, I let him borrow my car--a five-year-old red MGB I had recently purchased from a