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I started in garage bands back in the sixties. I had a friend named Marty who showed me a few chords and I had a terrible 12 string acoustic set up as a six string. I started practicing and both Marty and I tried out for a band as rhythm guitar players and I was picked, that ended our friendship!
I talked my parents into buying me a Framus 335 knock-off and a Gibson three piece amp, then I spent the next few years playing covers by The Who, Cream, John Mayall, The Blues Breakers, The Rolling Stones, etc., most bands from that era, (not a bad list for a bunch of 11-13 year olds). Our band later became known as "Opening Night" and we used to play all over Santa Monica including dances at Miles Playhouse and Lincoln Park across from St. Monica's.
Don, our lead player quit and I became an instant lead player, I'd gotten used to grabbing chords so tightly because of the high action I'd learned on I could barely move my fingers but kept on it, I used to break picks in half cause I was also digging too hard with my right hand. We played through grammar school and when we got to high school we had a rival band in Santa Monica who needed a bass player, drummer and lead guitarist so “Opening Night” joined forces with Rick Dano and Steve Knox and we became "Opus Nemo", playing throughout high school dances in Santa Monica. We used to practice at Rick's dad's house, his name is Royal Dano and an actor, he was such a great guy and he'd let us practice with or without Rick and just walk in the house no questions asked and he never complained. Rick became an actor also (and still surfing). The band started falling apart as rick lost interest and after high school we sort of drifted apart and then I went to Santa Monica City College and met Alan and Thom. Steamboat was a great band,I was in it from 18-21.It seems longer looking back,so full of memories and life time friendships. We worked so hard at it and became a band that all of us are proud of. I was attending Santa Monica City College and had music as my major. I was in choir one day and these two guys were talking over my head as I sat in a desk and the one guy said he wanted to start a band and that he was looking for a lead guitarist. I said "I'm a lead guitarist" and they both looked at me. That was when I meet Thom Graves,one of the most talented songwriter singers that I had ever met. We talked about playing together and he asked me to his house down in Culver City. I went down there and he played a bunch of stuff I was not aware of,being a garage band rocker. The Dillards, Glen Yarborough,Flatt and Scruggs, some other folkie guys and evena record with Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters,..then we discovered that we both loved The Band.Played a few tunes together and started a friendhip and song writing partnership. I said I knew a bass player from school and Thom said he knew a drummer.We agreed to talk more at school. Alan was a great bass player. I'd seen him around in other bands that some of my earlier bands had been in competition with at battle of the bands, even down at the Teen age Fair at the Palladium. I had hired his band to play at Miles Playhouse in SM Lincoln Park. I worked for the city and would audition bands all over LA and the valley for free dances we threw for teens. Alan and I were in Jazz band together and he said he was interested. So we had our first practice at Thoms and the drummer left a lot to be desired. Alan told us later he knew a great drummer,that he was kind of wild and we said sure why not. Rick Hill showed up at the next practice wearing an afro in a valiant without a hood a double bass drum set talking all kinds of parts from Firesign Theater albums, as in "we're all bozo's on this bus" and " ten four elenor"( alot of lsd does this to drummers I think)and he played GREAT. We were hooked and we were Steamboat, with out the name yet. We were in my VW van coming back from camping listening to The Bands song' ws walcott medicine show" and the line came up "the klondike klu klux steamband" and Thom with Alan agreeing said lets call ourselves that.I quickly said "How bout we drop the "Klondike klu klux"part and call ourselves Steamboat. There yah have it then. true story. Thom was related to Glen Yarborough through his sister annie and we started hanging out at Glenns house playing the songs Thom and I were writing. Glenn and Annie got our songs to Three Dog Night and they almost recorded our original" Hardcider Woman"We even tried out to be Glenns backup band but it didn't happen. Glenn got us to go see Alex Hassilov who used to play with him in the Limelighters, but Lou was at a loss as to who we could see and what to do with us. He sent us to this guy(a story I can't tell here because of politcal correctness,but in those days it wasn't the norm) he sent us to Thom Bresh and that's when Thom Bresh and I became life long buds. Thom Bresh has always been one of my guitar heroes.Thom recorded us out at his folks ranch out in the far valley. In those days it was very hard and expensive to get demos. Thom had a four track tascam that was in three pieces and then he got the new all one piece 4 track.Thom sold me his original four track and I was able to put a lot of stuff on that thing. But still we werent going far. We decided we wanted to move somewhere as a band and live together so there would be no excuses to not practice. Rick knew this lady in Carmel and she had a house that needed some work and we moved to Camp Steamboat. Carmel Highlands looking out on the ocean all plate glass windows, terotso floors and redwood surround by pine trees on an acre of land with a deck ,hard to take for four young guys.Our names became "Mellow Carmello" "Ole Abuser" Wendall Garcia" and "Johnny B Cruzer" Rick, Thom,me and Alan