Reads: 39

Facing the Future

The shock the Rockstar was currently experiencing was akin to the night Sandie had left the fledgling band – a profound sense of loss coupled with no idea of what to do next.  Suddenly the dressing room door opened and in came two of the band members, both looking haggard and very frightened.  Hugs abounded prior to the sharing of perspectives of what happened.  Don immediately took charge as was his nature and his job.  “I am sorry to tell you if you don’t already know, Mark is dead.” he announced.  The cause is not immediately known but the police have started an investigation.  You all will be interviewed.  It is a tragedy but we will all come through it.”

“What about Alf?” asked Amy, one of the backing singers. “He was taken away in an ambulance!”

“Alf tore up his knee when he fell,” replied Don.  “He will be okay.  He’s in the hospital and they’ll take good care of him.”

“What about Bobby?”  “He took a bad fall when his drum kit knocked him off his podium!” offered Tanisha, the other backing singer.

“He’s badly bruised and is being checked out by the paramedics.  If they don’t take him to the hospital, he will likely join us here when he can,” answered Don.

“Who was bleeding?” asked the Rockstar seemingly focusing on the present again.

“Zachary, the fill in rhythm guitarist, was cut when struck by Alf’s bass guitar.  When Alf stumbled trying to get out of the way of the drums, he accidently struck him with the headstock and metal tuning pegs of his bass guitar.  One of the pegs struck Zachary in the face.  He will need stitches which will be attended to once the bleeding stops,” rattled of Don.

All eyes then turned to the Rockstar, anticipating the wisdom he would offer in challenging situations.  Tonight he had none as yet as shock turned to grief for the loss of his longtime friend, the injuries to his bandmates and the tragic end to his incredible journey in music.  In the pause that was ensuing, the Rockstar was transported back to the aftermath of Sandie’s departure from the new band.

 

Life for the Rockstar had now reached a point where his usually reliable wisdom enabled him to figure out solutions that seemed to serve the greater good.  For some reason, waiting for things to unfold further did not feel like an option for him currently.  Sandie had left the band and seemingly his personal life in a bad space for which he had some responsibility.  The fledgling band had been part of a very successful dance at the community hall that could create some new opportunities.  The Rockstar had experienced a defining moment in his musical life that could be pivotal in his future.  He and his bandmates were facing a significant year in their educational life – Grade 12.  That alone put huge responsibilities into the mix of things.  It was a lot for a 16-year-old to have to face.  What happened with Sandie is not something a teen male talks to his mother about.  Suffice it to say, the Rockstar spent a fair amount of time over the next few days in the studio playing his guitar and thinking.

The phone rang in the middle of the week following the fire/singalong adventure.  It was Mr. Kennedy who wanted to talk about the trial dance and the resulting decisions made by the Board of the community association.  He agreed to come over and talk with the Rockstar in the basement studio.  A time was set for the following evening.

At the appointed time, Mr. Kennedy arrived and was ushered into the basement studio by the Rockstar.  Kennedy was impressed with the set up and commented favourably on it in terms of the success that had resulted from the efforts there.  He promptly presented a cheque to the Rockstar for the $60.00 agreed to for the Trio to play.  The fact that the threesome had grown to a band of 4 members had not gone unacknowledged by Mr. Kennedy.  A twenty-dollar bill accompanied the cheque.  The Rockstar was pleased and thanked Mr. Kennedy for going beyond the agreement to be fair with the teen band members. 

Mr. Kennedy then wanted to add further information about the dance.  He told the Rockstar how pleased he and the Board were with the trial dance.  All felt that the dance served everybody well.  The teens from the local Rosedale community which formed the majority of the crowd had something popular in which they could participate.  The unique program element of having a live band made up of local teen residents was not lost on the Board.  The invitation to adjoining communities to offer the experience to their teens resulted in a positive connection that would serve everyone well.  West Hillhurst and the Hounsfield Heights Community Associations had expressed an interest in hosting their own trial dances to see if that was a good fit for their teen programming.  Mr. Kennedy indicated that there might be some good opportunities for the Rockstar’s fledgling band with them also.  The revenue generated at the new tuck shop was substantial and set it on a sound financial footing enabling it to serve all the programs using the community building well.  To that end, Mr. Kennedy on behalf of the Board, was prepared to book 3 dances in the community hall program over the course of the 1966/67 school year.  They would offer the Rockstar’s band $20.00 per band member to an upset of $100.00 per dance with one booked in the fall, winter and spring of the next year.  These dances would replace the fire/singalong initiative in teen programming.  The Rockstar winced as his life just got even more complicated.  He thanked Mr. Kennedy for the information and promised to get back to him after he talked to the band.

The Rockstar held a band meeting for the following evening.  After all the guys were assembled in the studio, the Rockstar announced that Sandie had left the band.  In response to the puzzled looks, he told them of her struggles with the direction the band was going and her acute passion for folk music.  He further added that the band had lost a very talented performer and he hoped she might reconsider her position in the future.  Bobby was quite distressed about Sandie’s leaving as it was obvious right from the start he had a crush on this beautiful young woman.  Mark just shook his head knowing that there was little future in folk music in his mind.  At that point, the Rockstar turned the conversation to information from Mr. Kennedy.  He started by giving Mark and Bobby each their $20.00 share of the Community Board’s honourarium.  From there he framed the Board’s offer for the proposed dances next year.  This quickly changed the conversation from Sandie to the potential for the band in October of 1967.  Both Mark and Bobby felt the band needed to add a bass player to the roster as a priority.  The Rockstar agreed.  The Rockstar did float another idea he had been pondering.  He was finding the tasks of managing the affairs of the band to be a challenge in his busy life and wondered if maybe the band should consider finding someone who might be interested in taking on this management-like role.  Acceptance of the Rosedale Community Association offer and dealing with them along possibly other community associations would result in an onerous workload.  Surprisingly, there was no talk about replacing Sandie.  It was as if there was hope she would return to the band and everything would be okay.  The Rockstar, even though he had not talked to Sandie since the night she departed, knew she was not coming back to the band.  The meeting ended with each band member thinking about band needs, the propositions for the future and agreeing to talk with their parents about the upcoming school year.  Another meeting was scheduled two weeks down the road.

The last challenge the Rockstar had to deal with was Sandie.  He knew that at the very least he had to get her honourarium to her and find out where they were at personally.  He had told his Mom and Lulu that Sandie was upset and had left the band.  Lulu was devastated but his Mom intuitively knew there was something more going on.  Her advice was for him to talk to Sandie and work whatever it was out.  The Rockstar arranged to go over to Sandie’s house on Saturday afternoon to talk.

At the appointed time, the Rockstar rang the doorbell to the Wood’s home as he had done so many times before.  Sandie answered the door looking stunningly beautiful but with her sad eyes framed by her long blonde hair.  She welcomed him with a perfunctory hug.  From the kitchen came a warm but guarded greeting from her parents.  The awkwardness of the situation did little to bolster either the Rockstar’s confidence or the deep feeling of loss he had been feeling since Sandie left.  Sandie invited him to her bedroom and beckoned him to sit on the chair while she closed the door.  She then went over and sat on her bed facing him.  “You wanted to talk?” Sandie queried.

“I do,” he replied.  I really miss you and hope we don’t finish our story on a note of unhappiness.  I have written a song for you.  I’d like to sing it for you if you would so wish.  It kind of sums up where we are currently.”  With that he took out his guitar strummed a sequence of chords as the Intro and from his heart the Rockstar sang:

Chorus

Love is like a castle in the mist,

Sometimes it seems clear,

Sometimes it seems blurry.

But always, it is founded on a story.

We met on the dance floor of our grad,

The end result was not too bad.

Music was a passion that we shared.

We did not know it would take us where.

Chorus

You were a singer, I was there to learn.

The lessons were bright but sometimes burned.

The music was great, as was learning about love.

But the pain was deep as we learned thereof.

Chorus

We wanted many things the same.

But some things were different.

At our story’s end, we parted.

But not memories of what we charted.

Chorus 

The Rockstar finished his song with the same chord sequence.  He looked at Sandie who had been sitting demurely on the edge of her bed.  Tears were streaming down her cheeks.  Although she was weeping, her eyes had lost the sadness he had seen when she opened the front door.  There was a long pause when nothing happened.  Sandie stood up, crossed the room, encircled the Rockstar in her arms, kissed him gently on the lips, then whispered in his ear, “Our story has not ended yet!”  She then returned to the edge of the bed.

The Rockstar started to return his acoustic guitar to its case.  As he put it away he told her briefly about how happy the Community Association was with the outcome of the final trial dance and that the band was offered the opportunity to perform at 3 dances during the next school year.  He then handed her an envelope containing her honourarium.  Sandie looked at him and said, “I’m so sorry but that was my last dance at the community hall.  I want to retain the fond memories of that experience.” 

Just then there was a knock at her bedroom door.  “Sandie, are you two okay?” asked her Mom.  Nothing was said about the closed door nor was there an attempt to open it by Mrs. Woods.

“We are fine Mom,” Sandie responded.  The Rockstar indicated he had to go and stood up to leave.  Sandie walked him to the front door.  As the Rockstar parted, Sandie smiled and asked the Rockstar if he would please stay connected with her.  She also asked if she could have a copy of the lyrics to his song.  She then mouthed “I love you” and it was done.  The Rockstar trudged home relieved but with a feeling of deep sadness and loss.

It was not long before the meeting of the band took place.It was a spirited meeting.  The excitement was based on the fact the school year’s end was near and the ensuing summer vacation was close.  There was also an excitement based on a potentially new musical year for the band.  The importance of their final year in high school was not lost on the Rockstar and Mark but rather it provided them with two things to look forward to in the fall.  Bobby also got caught up in the excitement of the future even though he was only going into Grade 11.  The Rockstar suggested that each share their thoughts of next year and the commitments they were willing to make.  Mark jumped in first.  “I think this is a great opportunity for all of us.  We can play our music and even make a little money.  It might tell us if music is a possible career option.  It will likely be hard but I love music.  I can do whatever it takes.”

Bobby shared his feelings next.  “This is a great opportunity for me to learn drumming while performing.  I hate having to move my drums all the time but Dad is willing to help.  Would you guys mind if I only bring my snare to practices?  That would make it a lot easier on my Dad.  I love working with you guys but I do miss Sandie.  Grade 11 should be easy.  I’m in.”

The Rockstar informed the band that this was a no-brainer for him and his family.  “I love the rush I get performing.  I also am feeling good about how my music is getting better.  I don’t want to change that.  I have to drop some of my money-making businesses but I’m okay with the time it will add for music.”  The Rockstar closed by saying how much his Mom enjoyed having the band practice in the studio and that parents were welcome in her home as needed for convenience sake. 

It was evident by the sharing at the meeting that the band members had made well-informed and well-considered commitments and the decision was to proceed with developing the band and its future.  All that remained was putting a plan in place that would see the band position itself to have a successful year.  The Rockstar would lead actioning the decision-making process to procure a bass player and a manager.  A preliminary practice schedule was put in place for the summer months to get the band ready for their first performance at the Rosedale Community Hall in October.

The Rockstar ran into his schoolmate, Don Gardner, between classes soon after the band meeting.  Don and his family had moved into the community a couple of years ago and he and the Rockstar had met the summer before they started high school together.  The Rockstar had hung around with Don a bit before his music adventure had begun and knew a bit about him.  He knew Don to be a very bright guy and a serious student.After the customary social chat, the Rockstar asked Don if they could get together and talk about a proposition.  Don agreed and invited the Rockstar over to his place after school that very day.

The two young teens sat at the kitchen table in the Gardner home.  Mrs. Gardner warmly welcomed the Rockstar as she had not seen him for several months. The Rockstar told Don the story about the band’s formation.  Don, as it had turned out, attended the trial dance and was really impressed with the band.  He had not spoken to the Rockstar that night as it was too hard to get close to him through the throng of fans surrounding the band.  Don asked several good questions about the band’s anticipated future and the Rockstar’s vision for what he wanted to happen.  The Rockstar then broached the topic of the band needing a manager to take over the tasks that were burdensome for him.  The Rockstar was candid about this being a position for someone who wanted to learn about the music business from an experiential perspective.  There would be very little management of the band members but rather it was more of a communication, organization and legwork position.  The Rockstar was quick to point out that because of the fledgling state of the band, there was the prospect of making a bit money.  In the future, it might be different.  Don expressed an interest and asked about the next step.  The Rockstar simply said, “You would need to meet the band.”

The first practice of the band in June saw that happen.  Don came to the Friday evening practice in the basement studio as invited by the Rockstar.  The band knew Don was coming and were prepared to get a sense of him.  The practice was shortened just so Don could get a feel for how it worked.  Don quickly figured out that the band was a collaborative entity as engineered by the Rockstar.  He saw that all members of the band had voice and decisions were made by consensus.  It took a bit of time but all members were enrolled and committed to the decisions made.  He admired the way his friend the Rockstar was organized, responsive to the members and moved the practice process along efficiently.  Don liked what he was seeing and hearing.

As was his style, the Rockstar set the stage for the conversation by stating the reason for the practice was to get to know each other.  He hoped all would be able to determine if there was common ground to enable Don to consider working with the band.  He began by asking Don, “So what do you think about the band based on what you just saw?”

“You guys are pretty good considering you are new to music.  You’ve got some real talent!”

“Don, what do you think we need as a band?” asked Mark.

Pausing for a brief moment Don replied.  “You need to get even better.  You need more experience.  Practicing is good but you need to play more and riskier gigs and learn from them also.  Two guitars and drums is a pretty light sound for a band  Your sound needs depth.Another instrument I think.  What do you think the band needs Mark?”

“We need a bass player!”

“What happened to the girl singer.  She was incredible.  Why isn’t she here tonight?”

“Sandie is no longer with the band Don.  She preferred folk music to pop and rock.” replied the Rockstar.

It pinched the Rockstar when Don responded, “Too bad.  She was an incredible talent possessing a striking stage presence with her beauty.”

Changing the focus a sad Bobby jumped in with, “Don, what could you do for the band?” 

“Not much at this point in time.I know nothing about the music business but I will learn.  I could handle bookings, negotiate with venues and do administrative work.  Stuff like that.  I believe musicians needed to be free to focus on the music and all other stuff would be handled by me.  My Dad teaches business management at SAIT and I plan to get a commerce degree at university in Calgary after I graduate next year.”

After a pregnant pause in the conversational exchange, the Rockstar asked if there were further thoughts that needed to be addressed or if anyone had any final comments.  Don indicated he would like to say a few things.  “I have enjoyed this opportunity to talk with you.  I have much to think about.  I am sure that is also the case with the three of you.  I will promise that if we have the opportunity to work together, I will do all within my ability to help this band achieve the potential I believe it possesses.”  With that the Rockstar’s Mom entered the studio with a tray of sodas and freshly made slabs of matrimonial cake. 

The Rockstar thought long and hard about the band meeting with Don Gardner.  Some of it had to do with the decision to hire him as manager but most of it focused on Don’s observation about what Sandie brought to the band.  He missed Sandie personally but now wondered about the future of the band with the loss of her talent and stage presence.  Her vocals would be a significant loss leaving the Rockstar to assume her singing role which he knew he could not do at this early stage in his music journey.  At best, all he could do was perform replications of male artists who performed simple and moderately popular rock tunes.  This would also mean the band would have to perform a set list with a majority instrumental tunes and a few vocals to add the needed variety.  Another option was Mark’s vocal ability.  Mark was an incredible guitarist but his singing was not at the same level.  At best, the Rockstar reasoned, was that he and Mark should start working on songs that had a lot of harmonies.  The final option that coursed through his mind was Sandie’s degree of firmness on leaving the band.  Intuition told him he really needed to make his promised connection with Sandie.  He knew he had to connect with her soon.

As luck would have it, the Rockstar ran into Sandie at school the next day.  While walking down the hall, the Rockstar spotted Sandie chatting with a couple of her friends.  The titter emanating from the little group told the Rockstar the friends were in a good space.  He changed his trajectory and edged toward them with a big smile on his face greeting them warmly but focusing his attention on Sandie.  After a very brief session of humourous small talk, the two girls excused themselves leaving Sandie and the Rockstar gazing into each other’s eyes.  Getting right to the point, the Rockstar asked Sandie how she was feeling since the encounter in her bedroom.  Before Sandie could answer, the Rockstar slipped a folded sheet of paper into her hand.  “The lyrics of the song I promised you,” he whispered.  Sandie smiled in appreciation of the fulfilled promise but mostly on the specialness of the song.  Sandie told the Rockstar that she really missed him and the music they worked on together.  He reciprocated by telling her he was feeling very much the same.  He then asked her if they could go out on Saturday night and talk.  Without hesitation Sandie agreed and suggested that perhaps they could go to one of their favourite local places when they first started dating.  “Great idea Sandie.  Can I pick you up at 6:30 pm and we’ll go for something to eat?”  The date was set.

The band held its regular Friday practice the day before the Rockstar’s date with Sandie.  In addition to learning some songs, it was the chosen as an opportunity to make a decision on Don Gardner.  In a brief conversation prior to the practice, the Rockstar asked Bobby and Mark what they thought about the conversation with Don.  Both liked Don and felt he would fit in with the band and they were impressed with how he handled himself.  They thought his observations were spot on and his questions were excellent.  Both wondered what the Don’s role would be.  The Rockstar said he would compile a list of thoughts, share it with them and have them add their ideas before the next practice.  All were fine with that plan and if they agreed to a consolidated list, it would signal a decision was made.  Before diving into the musical practice, the Rockstar introduced the need to do more thoughtful work on the band’s set list as the future without Sandie would be quite different.  Mark offered that they would be fine without doing folk songs but Bobby was troubled that Sandie would not be part of the band.

On the dot of the appointed time, the Rockstar rang the front door bell of the Wood’s home.  Sandie answered it immediately looking radiantly beautiful.Mr. and Mrs. Woods welcomed the Rockstar warmly.  Mr. Woods shook the Rockstar’s hand and Mrs. Woods gave him a warm hug.  “We’ve missed you son!’ noted Mr. Woods.  “How is your Mom and your delightful little sister Lulu?”

“They are fine Mr. Woods and send you folks their regards.  Lulu made this for you Sandie”, he added while passing a card to Sandie.  Sandie was touched.  “Ready to go Sandie?” queried the Rockstar, trying to end an interchange that was uncomfortable for everyone for a complexity of reasons.  The teen couple headed for their next adventure.

“I thought we could go to Bob’s.  They also do burgers and his fries are to die for,” offered the Rockstar.  Sandie smiled and grabbed his hand even before they stepped onto the public sidewalk.  There were a few awkward minutes as the couple made their way to Bob’s.It was as if both had much to say but neither knew how to begin.

Sandie broke the ice.“Thank you for the lyrics to your song.  It is a beautiful song.  It touched my soul.  I felt your pain and confusion in every verse.  I understand us better now.  Is this the first revelation of another one of your talents?”

“I don’t know Sandie.  It came to me as I missed and thought a lot about you.  I am trying to figure out the love we share but I have no experience and no one to talk to about it except you.  I am just a guy trying to understand!”

“Me too!I am so sorry for what I did at your place after the fire/singalong event.  It was not the right moment to try to seduce you.  I am also so sorry for saying what I said about your lectures.  That was pure spite and not the respect I have for your wisdom.  I hope you will forgive me and know I will try not to say cruel things to you like that ever again.  I love you!”

“I accept your apology Sandie and please know I understand how challenging that evening was for you.  I am willing to move on without any bad feelings,” stated the Rockstar.  “Plus, I learned something about sharing my analysis.  I think it is better that I just keep my thinking to myself.”  It was as if the elephant following them had disappeared.

“Can we talk about something else?” asked Sandie.  “How are things with the band?”

“Things are pretty good with the band.  You are missed.  You brought so much to the band in your talent and stage presence.  Your singing is missed as well as the diversity you added to the band.  We’re not as good as a band as when you were with us,” offered the Rockstar.

“You do understand why I left, don’t you?” interjected Sandie.

“I do understand Sandie!  No one should be doing anything for which they have no passion.  There is no joy in doing what you don’t enjoy.  Oops, a little too much said,” critiqued the Rockstar.  Sandie giggled.  Just then they arrived at Bob’s.

After ordering and receiving their meal, the Rockstar and Sandie maneuvered their conversation to a topic of a more personal nature.  Neither had any desire to talk about the incident in the bedroom but the state of their relationship needed clarification for both of their sakes.Each knew of their feelings but how that translated into the pragmatics of their lives needed either clarification or drawing it to a civilized closure.  Sandie broached the subject when she posed the question about the current state of their relationship.  Not wishing to lapse into anything resembling a lecture, the Rockstar offered the following observation: “Sandie we love each other and we need to figure out how that best works for both of us.  I want to continue to see you and want to be connected with you musically.  I want to date you and see where our relationship will take us.  I want to play music and sing with you.  I know that the band is not an option but I want to figure out an alternative.  What do you want?”

Without hesitation, Sandie offered the following: “I want to be with you.  I would really like to continue our music together but not with a band.  What I want most is just to have fun with you.  I want you to be happy and less serious about everything.”  This declaration seemed to open up a host of possibilities.

Right off the wall, the Rockstar asked, “Will you teach me to sing?”  “I know I have a lot of work to do to be able to sing even slightly as good as you.  I need to learn to sing if the band does any gigs next school year.  I can’t do this without a good teacher and coach.  I know you can help me and this would be one way to do our music together.”  This suggestion caught Sandie by surprise but did cause her to think about the possibility.  She agreed to give it further thought to see if it was something she could even do.  The Rockstar sensed she liked the idea and the potential that could emerge from his proposition.

The balance of the conversation took on the true tone of a date.  They shared stories and thoughts about the innocuous observations on life that teens make which generate lots of giggles and fun.  The date ended with  an affection-laced walk back to Sandie’s home and warm and passionate adieu.  Both teens felt the elephant had now left their relationship.

Feeling really good about his reconnection with Sandie, the Rockstar turned to the need to resolve the proposition of having Don Gardner become part of the band as its manager.  It was not a pressing requirement but yet was another foundational step towards the potential of music becoming a more professional part of his life.  It was also an opportunity for another learning experience.  The Rockstar crafted a simple list of the things that a manager could do for the band.  It included tasks like booking gigs, being the communication point man for the band and managing the band finances.  Little did the Rockstar know that this was handing over a huge amount of power and control to someone and establishing precedents that could be legally problematic in the future.  It was an incredible investment in trust that went way beyond the experience of teenagers. 

The Rockstar intuitively sensed this and after the band members gave their input, he approached Sandie’s father for his wise counsel and business acumen.  Mr. Woods was most willing to helpHe did so one evening as he and the Rockstar sat at their kitchen table.  Mr. Woods started off by posing a series of questions to the Rockstar.  He asked why the band felt they needed a manager, what things they wanted the manager to do for them and how much they were willing to pay him.  After the Rockstar shared the requested information, Mr. Woods suggested that as everyone involved were not yet adults, the expectations could be formed in a simple letter of agreement to the person who was interested in the position.  The expectations should be framed simply as responsibilities clearly stated as the specific actions the person was expected to undertake.  The Rockstar told Mr. Woods he would frame the required actions and then run them by him for review.  Mr. Woods agreed to do so and would offer any adjustment he felt were needed to be included in the format of a letter.  The Rockstar thanked him and would drop off a draft in the next couple of days.

Reflecting upon his conversation with Mr. Woods as was his way, it became clear how the Rockstar had to reframe his list.  Arriving home, the Rockstar sat down at his desk and crafted a letter of agreement with the proposed manager of the band.  He sealed the draft in an envelope to give to Sandie at school the next day for her father.  He used the form of delivery as a way of informing Sandie that he was talking to her father about a band issue but knowing her feelings, did not wish to burden her with hearing about this matter.

A few days later, Mr. Woods phoned the Rockstar and invited him over to review a few edits in the letter of agreement.  That evening, the Rockstar went to the Wood’s home.  Sandie answered the door, greeting him warmly.  She ushered him into the kitchen where her father was sitting.  Sandie asked the Rockstar if they could talk when the meeting was completed before he went home.  With that request she left.

Mr. Woods had his brief case open on the table.  Before reaching into it to retrieve some documents, he told the Rockstar what a good job he had done on framing the letter.  He commented positively on the clarity and conciseness of the actions the manager was empowered to take.  He stressed the importance the document had in promoting understanding but also, in his opinion, that a solid precedence in expectations and limits had been captured.  Mr. Woods warned the Rockstar that he needed to be vigilant in ensuring that the proposed manager needed to be monitored as he would act on behalf of the band.  The band must be the informed decision-makers in this chronicled relationship and the manager would be accountable to them.  These wise words were not lost on the Rockstar remembering the break-up of his Mom and Dad.  Mr. Woods then produced typed versions of the Rockstar’s letter and reviewed the document with him noting the changes he had made.  The Rockstar was thrilled with Mr. Wood’s alterations and how professional the letter of agreement now looked.  The Rockstar expressed his gratitude to Mr. Woods profusely.

The Rockstar sought out Sandie just before he left.  She was in her bedroom listening to music on her record player.  She smiled as he entered.  She beckoned that he sit on the bed beside her as she switched off the folk tune.  She immediately began by telling how honoured her father was to be asked for assistance.  She added that her Dad really liked the Rockstar and admired his wisdom at such a young age.  Sandie then added that she appreciated that the Rockstar sought the advice of her father.  She stated she was not the least bit interested in what they were talking about regarding the band but knew her Dad would give him sound advice.  She followed with wondering why the Rockstar would not seek out his own father to talk with.  The Rockstar responded that his Dad did not possess the information sought and he didn’t want to upset his Mom by talking to him.  His response seemed to satisfy Sandie for the moment.  He knew it would come up again.  Sandie ended the conversation with a passionate embrace signaling all was well with her.  As it was a school night, the Rockstar departed with the promise they would talk at school and do something together on the weekend.

The Friday evening practice was a pivotal moment in the journey of the fledgling band.  Don Gardner was invited to learn of the band’s expectations as framed in a proposed letter of agreement.  After the perfunctory congenial start to the meeting, talk quickly turned to the expectations of the potential first manager.  Copies of the proposed agreement were distributed to Don and to all the members of the band.  As it was a single page document, time was given for everyone to read over in preparation for a conversation to clarify expectations, make needed changes and if possible, make a decision.  A quiet settled over the studio.  After a somewhat lengthy time period, all were ready to talk. 

Don started the conversation off.  “I like the document.  It’s clear and to the point.  Don then reviewed each expectation and asked for an indication if he was or was not correct.  When he finished, everyone affirmed his understanding and their smiles  were the signal their agreement.

The Rockstar felt the need to speak to the final expectation of decision-making.  “Don, the band is a close-knit group.  We want to have a voice in all decisions.  This does not mean we have to meet constantly to make every decision.  It does mean that we require voice in the decisions that have an impact on us.  For example, the next school year is an important year for all of us including you.  We can’t play more than one gig per month from October until May.  We need time to study and refine our musical craft.  We need to have some time to have fun in our life and are good if some months there are no bookings.  If you agree to join us, we will have to talk periodically as a band. We have an agreement with Rosedale Community Association in place that could serve as a template to guide this and other negotiations/communications with other venues.  Would this work for you?”  Don affirmed that it would.  It went without saying, the Rockstar would be available to provide guidance for decisions on behalf of the band.

The meeting ended with no other clarifications being needed and the letter of agreement remained intact as proposed.  The Rockstar proclaimed to the clapping of universal agreement, “We now have a manager, Don Gardner.”

Don wisely remained for the music practice.  He even took a few minutes after practice to be updated by the Rockstar.  The Rockstar asked Don if he was okay with signing the letter of agreement.  Don was a little hesitant prompting the Rockstar to add to his understanding.  “Don, we have a verbal agreement with Rosedale for the next school year – 3 dances @ $100.00 per dance.  We have been told there is a possibility of requests for dances from 2 other nearby communities.  That may generate from 2 to 4 additional dances.  The next school year bookings have to be managed carefully so as not to jeopardize anyone’s chance of graduating.  The band has to find a bass player for next year if we have any chance to be really successful.  The loss of Sandie is huge but I’m working on that problem.  I will be the primary contact between you and the band to facilitate quick decision-making. You are welcome at any and all practices but should attend all scheduled band meetings as a participant.  Does that help you feel comfortable with signing the letter of agreement?”  Don asked why he should sign the letter as it was not really legal.  The Rockstar said that he knew that but it represented a symbol of commitment and mutual trust that went beyond just their friendship.  Don asked for a pen.

The final few days of June were a bit different for the Rockstar.  Studying for final tests and completing school projects kept him pretty busy.  His prescription deliveries for Mr. Bailey and his lawn-cutting business occupied the remainder of his time.  Sandie was busy with school work also and the band had suspended practices until the summer holidays.  It was a good time to start the search for a bass player for the band.  The Rockstar talked to Don and Mark about the challenge.  It was suggested that Don contact the music teachers at the two high schools Mark and the Rockstar attended.  The chances of finding anyone there were rare as school bands usually did not have electric bass players. 

Surprisingly, the name of a bass player was shared by the music teacher at the Rockstar’s high school.  His name was Marley Donahue.  Don started scouting out information on Marley by talking to students who knew of him.  He ended up getting a phone number for Marley.  Don called Marley to see if he might be interested in exploring playing with the band.  Marley showed some interest and a tryout was arranged at the basement studio for the afternoon of the first Friday in July.  Don and the band arrived a few minutes before Marley arrived.  As this tryout was important in the band’s future, Bobby and his Dad brought the whole drum kit.  Mr. Evers was invited to stay because of his interest in music and the amount of counsel he had offered the band since Bobby had become a member.  About 10 minutes after the scheduled start time, the back doorbell rang announcing Marley’s arrival.  Both the Rockstar and Don rushed upstairs to answer the door and greet Marley.  Marley had come alone in a taxi as his parents had a function and couldn’t bring him.  After a polite welcome the Rockstar and Don helped bring in Marley’s state of the art equipment.  Marley carried his Fender Precision Bass.  The Rockstar and Don brought in Marley’s Fender blackface Bassman amp.  With its twin 12” speakers and solid wood cabinetry, it was quite heavy. 

After setting up this high-quality equipment, Don introduced Marley to the remaining members of the band and Mr. Evers.  After introductions, the Rockstar took over the tryout.  As was his strategy, he explained the purpose of the tryout and the process that would be followed.  The Rockstar asked Marley if he would share with the assemblage a little about his music background.  Marley talked about how long he had been a musician and what he had accomplished as a bass player.  He talked about the various bands he had played with and the genres of music he liked to play.  Marley concluded his introduction with his aspirations as a musician. 

“Thank you, Marley. That was a good introduction.  Let’s play some tunes together and see how that goes.  I will let you know about the number we are going to play and you should jump in when you feel comfortable.  You okay with this?”  Marley nodded his okay

“Let’s start with a great older tune by Duane Eddy we have been working on.  Do you know ’Rebel Rouser’ Marley?”  He nodded a yes.  “Lead us in Mark when you are ready,” suggested the Rockstar.  Mark cranked up the reverb on his amp and adjusted the tremolo, counted and picked the introduction as lead.  When complete, Bobby and the Rockstar came in for the second same chord progression cycle.  Marley did not!  On the third same basic chord progression, Marley joined in but his amp was turned up so high, the rest of the band was all but drowned out.  Quickly the Rockstar signaled everybody to stop.  “Marley, you need to turn your volume way down,” he stated.

“No, you guys need to turn your Silvertone amps up if they are so able,” responded Marley smugly.  Everybody looked at the Rockstar to see what he would do next.

“Marley, you need to turn your amp down now!  Our volume is set lower because this is a residence, not a dance hall.  My Mother and sister are upstairs and out of respect, we keep it low so as not to disturb them and our neighbours.  We will play through the initial chord sequence until I nod yes when I think your volume is right to achieve the level the band is seeking.  We will finish that sequence and stop.  Then we will go through the whole number as we are planning to perform it.  Do you understand Marley?” growled the Rockstar with a tone of voice and steely look the band had never experienced before!

“Mark, start your Intro when you are ready and signal us when to join in.”  Eventually, all started with the Rockstar’s eyes fixed on Marley.  His bass volume level was still too high so the same chord sequence was repeated a second time.  Finally, on the third repeat, the Rockstar nodded an acceptable volume level at Marley.  “Okay now let’s do it again and include your two lead riffs Mark.  Watch for the chord change too Marley and keep your bass runs simple.” 

The third attempt which, overall, sounded pretty decent.  Marley struggled a tad with the chord changes but that was to be expected on early tries.  “That was okay for a first real try,” noted the Rockstar.  “Mark, your runs were great but I am having trouble with maintaining the chord sequence to give it the right sound.  Maybe we need to create some vocal harmonies to fill in with the sax parts.  I wonder if I should learn the note sequence on the progression and you fill around it Mark.  What do you think?”  Mark indicated he needed to think about the problem.  “Marley, your runs were good and the bass really adds depth to the tune.  Maybe you could work out a variation on your bass that could get us over this problem.  If we can’t figure it out, we may have to drop ‘Rebel Rouser’ from our set list.  We need to do it to our satisfaction or an audience will not enjoy our rendition,” stated the Rockstar.

‘Honky Tonk’ was attempted next as it was a simple instrumental.  The Rockstar counted it in and began his single guitar Intro sequence.  Right on cue all the other members of the band joined in.  Marley maintained the same solid bass run throughout the whole number.  Mark blew everyone away with some creative guitar riffs.  At the tune’s end, everyone was obviously pleased.  The Rockstar summed up the effort with a solid affirmation of Marley’s timing on the chord changes and his bass runs that demonstrated some potential.  However he suggested that Marley listen to the Bill Doggett version of the song as it had some diversity that he might find interesting.  The Rockstar even indicated this number could be a tune where a bass solo could fit.

The Rockstar changed the focus slightly by noting publicly that the band was in a state of evolving it’s set list to maintain a balance of vocals and instrumentals.  The goal was to shift the past emphasis on folk to moving vocally to rock and pop.  The shift he noted had ramifications on all band members who would need to fill in the huge hole through the loss of lead singer Sandie Woods.  This statement seemed to upset Bobby a bit, likely because of his crush on her.  Mark seemed happy with what was said.  “I would like to try one of our other vocals with me singing lead,” announced the Rockstar.  “We’ll try ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ with the chord progression of A D E.  Can we do it?”  No objections saw the Rockstar do the count in using his best Elvis accent and voice.  The Intro was a challenging one with the Rockstar emulating the Elvis version.  The first line was sung with a band chord and drum fill. This pattern was repeated twice more before getting into the tune.  Once the band got into the tune it smoothed out.  Mark played two incredible guitar runs, Bobby’s fills were creative and Marley’s bass runs were solid.  It was obvious to the Rockstar that this song needed work on the timing.

As time was flying by, the Rockstar decided to try a challenging test.  Knowing the band was very tight in playing ‘Walk Don’t Run’, he decided to see what Marley would do with this still very popular guitar instrumental.  “Let’s try ‘Walk Don’t Run’.  Intro chords are Am G F E and melody is C G & C E.”  With that he started the count in, Bobby did his Intro drum fill and the Rockstar strummed the Intro chord sequence.  Mark played the Intro in textbook fashion.  Marley looked startled and became paralyzed.  The Rockstar let this go on for several bars then signaled everyone to stop.  “What happened Markley?” inquired the Rockstar. 

“Everything happened so fast!  I couldn’t figure out how to jump in.  I know the tune but the pace caught me,” stammered Marley. 

“What could you learn from this experience,” quizzed the Rockstar.

“I have to listen carefully and stay focused.  You 3 know what you are doing and I need to pay closer attention.  Sometimes my mind wanders if I am too confident.”

“Good thinking!” offered the Rockstar.  “Now let’s try this one again. Questions or thoughts Marley?”  Hearing none, the Rockstar did the count and Bobby began.  This time Marley was able to join in on the opening chord progression and the melody.  The resultant rendition sounded fairly decent.  Don sat and watched with a wry smile on his face.  He knew what was going on and was very impressed with what he had seen and what was happening.  He knew he had made a good decision to join the band.

Expediency caused the Rockstar to move the tryout to an end.  He needed to give Marley the opportunity to demonstrate his chops by not encumbering him with the structure of the band.  He told Marley that he would now have the opportunity to show the band what he could do on the bass.  At the end of his demo, he and the band would be able to pose any final questions.  Marley seemed grateful to show off his capabilities.  He started by cranking up the volume on his amp.  He offered a running commentary as he played his fairly extensive repertoire of basslines.  The basslines showed he knew his way around the bass.  He demonstrated a bit of capability for bass solos.  He was able to change the tone capability on his Precision Bass through a fundamental understanding of the controls on his Bassman amp. 

After Marley completed his demonstration, the floor was opened for questions.  Marley immediately jumped in with, “How many gigs does the band have booked for the next year?”

Surprisingly, Don responded with, “We have 3 confirmed bookings over the next school year and explorations with a couple of other community associations for more dances as we have availability.  Marley you need to understand that two members of the band are in Grade 12 next year and that school is their first priority!”

Marley, without missing a beat, asked how much money each band member was paid.  Don immediately responded with, “Player salaries are all the same at this point in time and they are the priority in dispensing the money raised by the gig.  It is anticipated that the band will have some expenses and as such, some money will remain in the band’s bank account.  My fee is band business.”  The Rockstar smiled knowingly at Don’s response.

Undaunted, Marley asked about the band’s use of Silvertone equipment.  Knowing where Marley was going with this question, the Rockstar chose to respond.  In an officious voice that again raised the eyebrows of the band members and Mr. Evers, he responded with, “We are a new band and are learning and growing as musicians together.  We are also exploring the potential for our futures in music.  We choose to pay our own way as we explore this future and not to be a burden on our family’s finances.Mark and I have developed a connection with Sears and they support us. As a result, we have chosen to use their equipment.  It works for us and we are happy with the equipment.  Is there anything more you more you wish to ask or tell us about yourself?”

Marley thought for a moment before responding, “Not really.  Is there a phone I can use to call a cab?”  The Rockstar told Marley of the phone upstairs that his Mom would be pleased to show him where.  The Rockstar concluded with there was now a need for the band to talk about what transpired today and to make a decision regarding offering Marley an invitation to join the band.  He also noted that Marley needed to make a decision whether he would join the band.  The Rockstar also indicated that Don would be in touch with him soon.  With that, the band started packing up the equipment they would be taking with them and Mr. Evers took Marley and his equipment upstairs to phone for his cab.

While packing up their equipment, there was an ominous silence amongst the band members.  They did, however, agree to stay for a few minutes and discuss the tryout.  Once Marley left in his cab, Mr. Evers came back downstairs. He announced that what happened was really none of his business but he wanted to tell the band, he thought the way they handled themselves was terrific.  He also knew they would make the right decision through really understanding what had happened at the tryout.  He turned and indicated he was going upstairs to have a cup of tea with the Rockstar’s Mom and to let him know when the practice was over.

The post-tryout conversation saw the continuation of the ominous silence.  The Rockstar broke it.  “You guys played really well. Today our music was tight and had great flow.  Don, you picked up on things really well.  You showed you know what we are all about and where we are going.  So is Marley going to help us get to where we want to go?”

Everybody looked at each other as if to determine who would be the first to answer the question.  Mark, in his typical unbridled honesty, said no.  Bobby nodded his affirmation of Mark’s declaration.  Don remained non-committal.  In order to get the conversation going, the Rockstar challenged them to share the reason for their response.

Mark added a series of observations.  “Marley knows how to play bass technically but he doesn’t feel the music.  His timing is based on what he has learned and it is not natural.  He’s not a player and can likely not ad lib.”

Bobby interjected from a feelings perspective.  “I don’t like Marley as a person.  He put me off when he made his snide inferences about our Silvertone equipment.  His questions at the end were really about his own interests.  Marley made no effort to really find out about us as potential bandmates.”

Don spoke up as he knew a little more about Marley through his investigation and initial contact.“Marley lives near our high school in a big house on the brow of the hill overlooking the city.  His family seems to be very wealthy.  Marley is likely spoiled as his parents seem to be very busy and have little time for him.  Instead they buy him expensive stuff as evidenced by his bass and amp and sending him to a tryout in a cab.  Marley seems to be pretty self-absorbed as evidenced by his interesting concluding questions.  To me, Marley would require a lot of patience and coaching.  He lacks what the 3 of you possess in terms of talent.  He would be a bad business decision but the band sure sounded better with the added bass.  Because this is a music decision and you 3 will be on the front line in working with him, I prefer not to offer a yay or nay.”

The Rockstar thanked them all for their candour and paused a moment before offering his views.  “I agree with what all of you have said.  Marley does not fit in with our band. We will have to take on way more work than we need this year to help him become a contributing member.  I am not sure Marley could  get us where we may ultimately want to go as a band.  The reality is we need a bass player to make us better.  We could keep looking for a different bass player but we have two months to get ready for the music portion of our last school year.  If we don’t find a bass player, we will lessen our chance at experiencing the potential we have as a band and where it might take us in the near future.What this comes down to for me is the willingness to put in an effort to maybe make a difference in the life of a fellow musician or to take chance on a less manageable future for the band and hope that it will work out.”  Another reflective moment of silence descended on the studio as the teens mulled over the tough decision that needed to be made.

The silence was again broken by Mark whose wisdom and influence was now starting to be felt and appreciated by the other members of the band.  “Marley can play the bass.  He can learn songs with coaching and subsequently correct his timing issues.  I am willing to work with him to do so.  I think we should give the guy a break as it sounds like his home life could be lonely.”

Bobby offered his perspective next.  “We have a good thing going here and why wouldn’t we share it with Marley.  You older guys are great to work with and we are learning so much and progressing well.  I am in to keep up the momentum.”

Don spoke even though his position had not changed.  “I support giving Marley a try.  There is much to gain compared with not putting in the effort.  He did respond when skillfully drawn up short.  He will need to be managed and I am willing to be part of that process.  You guys will have to be patient coaches but I now know you are all up to it.”

The Rockstar grinned and said. “It would seem the band has a bass player. I am proud to be learning and playing with quality guys.”

Later, after the others had left, the Rockstar sat in the studio and talked about the tryout.  Don heaped accolades on the Rockstar for the way he dealt with Marley’s comment regarding the Silvertone amps.  “You sounded just like a father,” he noted.  Both had a good laugh knowing the Rockstar had very little experience even having a father.  They agreed that both of them had to be firm but fair with Marley and to keep him focused on the music.  Don agreed to inform Marley of his success and to remind him of the big picture next year.  That gave the Rockstar the opportunity to congratulate Don on the job he had done with Marley in answering his inappropriate questions about gigs and money.  The Rockstar also really liked Don’s innovative idea about building up the financial base of the band and not just dividing up the money.  At that point a tacit understanding of the differing roles of the leadership of the band crystalized.  Don had to get home for a family BBQ but parted with the suggestion that the band really needed a name.  The Rockstar smiled and suggested he might like to attend the first summer practice and bring it up at the time allocated for band business.

Trudging upstairs after a tiring afternoon, the Rockstar encountered his Mom sitting at the kitchen table sipping a cup of tea.  He asked if he could join her and poured himself a cup from the ever present and always full teapot.  “Tough afternoon son?” inquired his Mom.

“Yes it was!” he replied. 

“Mr. Evers said Marley was a bit of a handful this afternoon but you and your bandmates handled it well,” she noted.  “You are getting some adult life experiences and you seem to be up for it.  I am very proud of you son.”

“My life is getting complicated Mom!  I sometimes just want to just play my guitar and not face all these challenges.  Even Sandie is really hard to understand at times.  It seems like the simplicity of my young life is over now and I am learning to be an adult through facing these challenges.  Does one ever get on top of things or is life just a succession of challenges and the lessons learned from them?”

“Welcome to the real world of almost being grown up son.  By the way, I have decided to buy a car.  I need one to get to school in the fall and it would make life a little easier for the 3 of us.  I have a little money that my father was holding in trust for me and your help with household finances will enable me to get an older used car.”  The Rockstar was speechless until he realized the challenges of learning to drive and getting a driver’s licence.

The summer of 1966 was another busy one for the Rockstar.  His many responsibilities and goals denied him the opportunity to have 2 months of unencumbered fun.  His lawn maintenance business grew substantially due to his diligence in caring for his customers’ yards and the good job he did in providing them with manicured greenspaces.  He was so busy, he had to hire Lulu as an assistant.  She seemed to be imbued with the same pride and responsibility as her older brother.  Mr. Bailey’s pharmacy continued grow with the expansion of his aging customer base requiring delivery service for their prescriptions.  This translated into more deliveries for the Rockstar.  As a result, he contributed even more to the meeting of the household expenses.  His hard work also resulted in him paying off the guitar and amplifier he had purchased at Sears.  He was even saving some money after the cost of his frequent dates with Sandie.  Twice a week practices with the band and the resultant need for guitar practice ate significantly into the Rockstar’s summer holiday.  The remaining time he had was usually either dating Sandie or spending time with her.

Sandie and the Rockstar had a good summer together.  After thinking about it for a very short period of time, Sandie had agreed to coach the Rockstar as a singer.  She knew she was not a trained vocalist teacher but she was a trained singer and could sing very well.  She understood and practiced the fundamentals.  She knew how quickly the Rockstar could learn music and shared his passion for it.  The strength of their personal relationship caused her to believe in the success of this endeavour.  Their lessons were scheduled for 3 evenings per week and were often connected with fun dates after their work was done.  Both enjoyed this continued music connection.  What was notable during the lessons was the emergence of the Rockstar’s natural singing voice.  As a singer in the band, he often replicated the voice of the person who had originally recorded the song he was performing.  His Elvis voice likely would have fooled Priscilla.The Rockstar’s natural voice came through when he just sang rather than tried to perform.  He had a baritone voice putting him in the category of most male voices.  What gave the Rockstar his uniqueness was the range in his voice.  He could sing higher in the tenor range if needed and in the even higher range of falsetto if required as in novelty songs.  His voice was described by Sandie as melodious or beautiful to the ear.  She also defined it as soulful conveying a connection with his heart.  She determined he could hold a tune and not stray off key too often.  His sense of rhythm was strong, likely coming from his guitar playing ability.  From this strong foundation, Sandie took on the challenge of teaching him to actually be a singer.

The Rockstar spent many hours with Sandie practicing scales, mastering a warm up sequence, working on his singing posture and singing a whole bunch with Sandie.  Practice time away from his coach was spent singing along with his records.  By the end of the summer, he felt confident as a singer and was ready to assume that role in the band.

Band practices with Marley went along fairly well.  As realized by Mark, he could overcome his challenges by learning through repetition.  Much time was spent in going over songs several times until Marley had mastered his role.  By the end of the summer the band had amassed a fairly extensive set list of instrumental tunes.

Don’s talk with Marley prior to offering him a position with the band seemed to mitigate his need to offer condescending remarks.  The Rockstar was only compelled to deal with him a couple of times during the summer practices.  It almost seemed like Marley was enjoying being part of a group of guys who got along well with each other as both musicians and friends.  It was as if he was experiencing a new sense of normal and was liking it.  The Rockstar’s Mom and Lulu often commented on how good the band sounded.  Often there were kids along the fence enclosing the backyard listening to the music.  The summer ended with an impromptu concert.  Lulu invited several of the “fence regulars” to come into the basement studio and be treated to a couple of hours of the band playing their new sounding set list.  There were even platefuls of fresh-baked cookies courtesy of the Rockstar’s Mom.  They were a most appreciative audience.  Lulu also became a star for arranging the brief concert.

At the last band meeting before school started, Don introduced the dates booked for October and November.  The first Rosedale Community dance was booked for Friday October 21, 1966.  A second dance had been tentatively booked for November 25, 1966 by West Hillhurst Community Association.  The band was given the opportunity to express the need for changes.  Everybody felt that those dates worked.  He also announced Sears had contacted him and wondered if they could book a couple of demonstration Saturdays on December 10th and 17th.  The Rockstar and Mark readily agreed to do the Sear’s gig and other members of the band were welcome to join them if they wished.Don concluded his segment by suggesting the band really needed a name and he would collect suggestions.  The meeting ended with setting practice dates for September and October.  The Rockstar indicated their focus during these practices would be on vocals.


Submitted: March 11, 2021

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