Navigation for 50's Rock and Roll
old newspaper photo - a click will get you a bigger one -
from left - John Chapel, John Kawecki, Don Gates, Jack Baker, Rich Knower, George Leh, John Kosic
This is the only picture I have that was taken inside Don's house where we rehearsed.
I remember the first rehearsal that I went to. It was at Don G's house. I think it was on the corner of Chapman street and Arch. It was a brown house with a garage attached and a breeze way in between. I knew that I was at the right address because I could hear drums sounds coming from the breezeway. I thought this might be interesting as I unpacked my sax from the car then walked up the walk and knocked on the door.
Inside were Don, his father, John Kozik, Jack Baker, and I think John Kawecki. There was a lot of musical clutter, amps. mikes, cords, piano etc. It was obvious that this was where music happened. I was a little anxious when I was introduced and began to unpack my sax. I didn't quite know how I was going to fit in, if at all, but then I was put at ease when Don said that that the whole purpose of the rehearsal was to get to know each other and have fun. OK, I thought, I could do that. Then without further fussing I proceeded to put together my sax and made some appropriate tune-up noises.
It was quite evident from the start who was in charge. Don Sr. gave us a pep talk and told us he was looking for a unique sound. He had been involved in the music business before, and knew how things worked. I guess he had his own band. Wow, I thought this could be cool!
He said that once we had a good unique sound and a respectable list of songs both old and new we could play, there was no limit to where we could go! I immediately thought of American Bandstand. Oh! Wow!.. just think. He knew that we, as young guys, had little or no money but he told us if we knuckled down and worked hard he would back us as much as he could. Great, I thought, let's get going!
The first rehearsal did turn out to be fun. It went well because Don and the boys had played together before and they knew quite a few songs already. I might say they were pretty good, too. It was my turn to join in when I could and add a little color. Oh well, playing by ear was a new thing for me and I don't think I was very good but I managed at least a few spots. Anyway they seemed to like me. I had my work cut out for myself if I was going to be part of this group and I definitely was motivated. I could see that everyone was serious but at the same time it was quite evident that they had a good feel for music and a great love for Rock and Roll.
Rehearsals became a Saturday afternoon ritual for many many months as we polished our skills and created new songs. I always looked forward to them because we got along so well together. When we were in creative mode, the sequence of events went like this. John Kawecki, Allen, John Kozik or anyone would throw out a tune and then we would all have our shot at adding to it . First the lead guitar melody with the band and then we would rotate with a drum solo, base solo, sax solo, etc. Then a finishing spot. That seemed to be the way things worked out best. There were a couple of times where members had written the whole song themselves. Chappell's, "Hear Me Cry" comes to mind. We were all amazed how he did that.
Anyway things were going great and we were starting to sound better and better accept, dare I say , for me. I still wasn't getting the hang of playing by ear but I hung in there and kept trying. I have always been grateful for the band sticking by me and not giving up.
It was exciting sometimes to look outside and see that people had gathered to hear us practice. That was a nice boost to the old ego.