Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Band in 1976

We did the show “Paint Your Wagon” in 1976 to rave reviews. Jon and Nancy Stainbrook, brother and sister who owned the theater, starred in the show. They produced a first-class presentation that year, hiring professional set designers and carpenters from Los Angeles. The earthquake scene at the end literally brought the house down.

I played blues harmonica in the orchestra and had a small part playing straight man for Jon’s nightly stand-up riffs. It was like watching a high-wire act close up: from the wire.

The orchestra that year was kick-ass, and the actors were a bit put out that the audience would sometimes stay and listen as we jammed on the honky-tonk exit music. The bandleader and musical director was a guy named Doc who played the piano. My memory is imperfect, but others included guitar/banjo (Tim), trumpet (Sean), trombones (Bob and a guy whose last name was Coover), and drums. There were others in the pit too, including a bass player, so please remind me of their names if you were there.

The drummer deserves special mention. His name was Marco and he was my roommate for the summer, although he spent the entire summer sleeping elsewhere. He was from Reno, and was known as a “good drummer.”

Well. Marco was one of those people who operated on a different plane. The shit that came out of his mouth often was apropos of nothing, and made no sense. But he was harmless, and he was a “good drummer.”

Marco was good, but he never played any song at the exact same tempo twice. Once he got going, at whatever speed made sense to him at that minute, he was great. But the countdown to a song was always an adventure. The first couple of bars often jangled until we caught on to Marco’s timing nuances.

But we were a good band, and we got respectful props from the well-known bands that passed through town that summer and got comped to our show. It was my first regular paying gig, but it was some of the best music I ever made. If you saw the show, I bet you remember the orchestra.