Thursday, January 26, 2012

J.T. & The Rowdy Band

The Day My Les Paul Disappeared

Playing With The Rowdy Band At Hickam AFB

It's May, 1980, five months of being at Ducky's, part of Susan Luke and the White Stallion Band.  I think I said before - being in Susan Luke's band was torturous, and, the only reason they hired me was because I was no threat to anybody.  So, J.T. Cardens comes in and offers me a job in his band, he says he cannot guarantee me 5 nights a week like I'm doing at Ducky's, but that he's working on it.  At first, he said he wanted a harmonica player who also played banjo - I did both, so I was just what he was looking for.  Shortly after I got into the Rowdy Band, he decided to lose his lead guitar player, asked me if I thought I could handle that job, I said, "Yeah, of course".  So, it was J.T. on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Tom Bridges on drums, "Mohair" Lee Spells on bass, and me on sort of lead guitar.  I was still very green, and played a Les Paul - not known to be a country guitar.  J.T. would take me to his house and play all these old songs by guys like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Ernest Tubb, Waylon Jennings - all the old timers who played real, traditional county music, and a couple who were doing the country outlaw thing.  He would tell me to learn the guitar style of each guy's music, so I did.  We spent two years playing all the military clubs on Oahu, along with some festivals and private functions - working 6 & 7 nights a week, and sometimes doubles on the weekends.  Didn't take long to get a good following, as we were the only band who wasn't poisoned by the current pop sound, and we were not going to be like everybody else - claiming to be country bands, but playing 90% rock & roll.  A few months into our day, we lost Mohair, he got into a scuffle with some Samoans, and they beat him pretty bad; after that, he decided to get out of music.  Replacing him was T. Taylor.  Also a few months into our day, some wiseguy walked off with my Les Paul and my $900 Gold Star 5 string banjo when I wasn't looking.  We had a gig that day - in fact it was the one above - the top photo - right after that is when my guitar grew feet and walked away.  So, I ran home and got my Telecaster, which I'd bought a couple years earlier, but never played it before that day.  It was the best thing that could have happened to me at the time, and I've been playing Telecasters ever since.  Sure would like to have the Gibson back, though.  After about two years of making the rounds in Hawaii, J.T. called us all to his house, to ask us if we wanted to move to Nashville - saying "We're much too good a band to stay here, and much too good a band not to work in Nashville".  Little did he (or any of the rest of us) know that nobody gets paid to play in Nashville, it's where you go to try to get "discovered" - at least that's the way it was back in those days (nowdays you don't get paid to play there, AND, nobody gets discovered in that ghost town).  So, off we went, lock, stock, barrel, arms, legs, and everything else.  We took a month off to spend time with our families, then were to meet in Nashville on a certain date.  My wife at the time was 8 months pregnant, T had 4 kids (ages 8 - 16), and took an early retirement to go to Nashville with this band, and Tom got out of the Army early, all so we could make our big move.  J.T. was a retired Navy officer, his pension took good care of him and his wife.  Well, wouldn't you know it, after one short road trip to Sault St. Marie, Canada, and two weeks in Nashville, J.T. decides, "I do not want to go on stage anymore".  The rest of us were flabbergasted.  There we all were in Nashville, the middle of winter, no jobs, nobody in town hiring, T with his 4 kids, and me with my 8 month pregnant wife, none of us with a penny to our name.  T finally landed a job working on big rigs, and my wife and I went to Bryan, Texas, to stay with a friend of my wife's until we could get on our feet.  Took us 33 hours to go 700 miles in the worst blizzard you could imagine - down south where nobody was ready for it.  There was one time when we were driving on a steady downhill grade - seemingly for miles - on the ice and snow - bald tires on our old 67 Chevy Impala.  After hours and hours of crawling as slow as we could, about midnight, the car just nicely spun out into a snow filled ditch.  Nobody around, until a tow truck finally showed up.  They came over and said "25 bucks'll get ya out".  I told them I didn't have $25, but I would gladly send it as soon as we got to Texas.  Imagine our shock when they just silently drove away.  Took me about 2 hours, but I finally dug the car out.  This was in Arkansas - to this day I have a bad taste in my whole body for that place.  Anyway, drummer Tom moved back to California to stay with his mom & dad.  We all took a beating for all that happened, but in the two years I spent in that band, I learned lots of valuable stuff - the beginning of my guitar style, learning a bunch of those old country songs, how to be in a band, how to front a band (by watching J.T.) - and that there is nothing like a Telecaster if you're gonna play country music.  In spite of what happened at the end, we had lots of fun times.

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Playing Some Rowdy Bluegrass

This Is J.T. & The Rowdy Band On Stage

Leaving For Nashville

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