Tuesday, November 16, 2010

1 stage, 30 people, 40 years -- part 2

And then there were all the other musicians. We had most of the original band members, from the original incarnation of the Wheel -- Lucky Oceans, Leroy Preston who along with Ray formed the core of what would become Asleep at the Wheel.

The boys onstage during rehearsal

I wondered how these guys had hooked up. Lucky and Ray grew up together and I always assumed Leroy had also been their childhood friend. But I was wrong. It turns out that Leroy was college roommates with Jerry, Ray's brother-in-law.  Ray and Lucky came down to visit Ray's sister Sandy (Jerry's wife) at college and they met Leroy and started playing music together. And then they decided to take a semester off college and start a band under the guise of "work study" (each of their respective schools allowed them to do this. The 60's man!).  

They left, and never looked back.

I got that story from Leroy.  It was one of hundreds of stories I heard over that week of rehearsals.  And incredible side effect of gathering so many current and former band members together.

Along with bass player Gene Dobkin, Floyd Domino on piano and Chris O'Connel on vocals, almost all of the original band was assembled in one place.  These were the folks that lived together in the band house in Oakland.  Who formed what would become the ethic and sound of the band.

It's hard for me to imagine -- especially now that Dave and Lisel and I live such a parallel  but somewhat separate existence from the band -- what it must of been like for these original members, who were all really kids at the time, to be starting out in Oakland. All living in the same house, bunking together in rooms, playing as many gigs as they could and digging on as much music as they could get their hands on.

I heard stories about how some of the guys who shared a room adopted pirate law -- whatever money was found on the floor became property of the finder. And they would scrounge enough money to go buy a donut at the 24 hour coffee shop down the street -- because you got a free cup of coffee with that donut. They'd hang out and watch the eccentrics do their thing.

And even though I heard the stories, it wasn't until I saw Lucky Oceans dance during "Bump Bounce Boogie" that I understood how much fun those early days were.

Now, I'd heard tell that back in the day "Bump Bounce Boogie"  got wild, with Lucky and Ray dancing with wild abandon, climbing speakers and generally going crazy on the stage. And I thought "Sure, that must have been cool." But it wasn't I saw Lucky actually get up from the steel and start to shake it...no that's no good as a description. He did more than shake it.  He let loose with reckless abandon!  He danced like he had springs in his shoes and love in his heart.  He made me smile wider than I knew I could smile.

And it was then that I understood what those early days must have been like. Nothing was a forgone conclusion. There was no knowing what would happen next. Hence the reckless abandon, the giving over to the fun of it all.

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