Some years back a self-described Jesus freak from Phoenix named Jack began attending nearly every show. Before long; he started to show up at the same parties. He knew everyone I knew and was befriended by the drummer at that time.
I didn’t care for him. I thought he was fake; too honest to be real and his constant proselytizing got on my nerves. I haven’t a problem with any of the major religions or religious people either from the East or West not at least with the core teachings. But I had an agenda to rock best and party longest. Jesus makes me sleepy at that point.
Several months pass. I had forgotten about any of my initial feelings about Jack. I began to enjoy his quirks (in small to medium doses). Suddenly, he shows up at our main after hours spot Saturday night / Sunday morning. His car is packed ‘til the doors almost won’t shut. He is wide eyed yet fatigued, nervous, twitchy, and painfully sober. He says he’s going home to Arizona something about his mom and that he won’t be back but he’ll never forget us.
I was trying to seem sober so that he wouldn’t get itchy for a drink and screw up his trip home. Jack then hands me an acoustic guitar case which judging by the weight of it presumably has a guitar in it. He then tells me he has no room for it and he wants me to have it since I didn’t and hadn’t owned one in years.
The whole exchange had me at a slight loss. But I thanked him, shook his hand, and gave him my heartfelt ‘drive safelys’ and ‘take cares’. Jack was gone, although not entirely … the guitar. We were all a little shocked, a little bummed, and now, a little tired. So we went back to what we did best and longest.
Over the next months I began taking to that acoustic more and more. It is rich, deep, and full when pressed in the right direction. No amp is needed so it is always ready. Perfect when coming up with something new or when 10 minutes is what you can give right now.
Something was happening. The music was changing, becoming larger and more colorful. The lyrics were infused with an unashamed honesty and a descriptive element I hadn’t previously exhibited. But when I strapped on the solid body with the white hot pickups and the half stack, much of what made those newer songs good seemed to dissipate.
The trio I was working with at that time disbanded soon after Jack left. Now with no drums and no rock bass rumblings to neither compete with or look forward to that Jack acoustic became my way of coping with the loss. Soon I was creating a whole new catalogue of songs, playing them at open mics and parties.
Playing all of those little parties opened my eyes to what people really want out of music. I was astonished time and time again at what they liked and didn’t like. It seemed like the songs I was hesitant to play were the ones they would ask for over and over.
Around that time I met Mike McCalman (Vanilla Thrilla) through a mutual friend and was immediately impressed with his direct approach in life and his playing ranks well into what you consider professional. But more than that his style was absolutely compatible coupled with his fervent need to understand the nuance of what I was bringing. Mike and I quickly acquired a deep, mutual respect for one another and became equal partners even competing at times to see who could do more in our rock and roll endeavor.
Mike McCalman along with various drummers and myself found a modicum of success and for the most part a tepid reception. There were exceptions, however, and mostly, when we did acoustic sets. After a bit, I realized at least for now I prefer my acoustic. At that time our then drummer moved out of state. Mason Lemons was yet again a duo.
It didn’t bother us this time. We had grown as players, and Mike was coming up with evermore clever ways to create the illusion of a rhythm section. The songs were being created, developed, and retooled to lend themselves to a duo situation. And frankly, we weren’t going to let ourselves be diminished by a perceived lack of lineup. If anything, it inspired us to play with more intensity, more skill, and more pride than ever. We put an ad out asking for a new kind of drummer sans trap kit. We wanted something other than the same and someone bright, fresh, and daring … Enter Beto.
Beto is creative, highly skilled, with a cool head and giant stones. Beto shows up with a box for a bass drum and an extensive array of hodgepodge for the rest. But by the end of the first verse it is apparent that what I had initially considered hodgepodge is just what the song has been calling for. And now Beto is listening with an open heart delivering pulse and syncopation while accenting the storyline of the lyrics. Beto is a full partner now and is exactly what Mike and I have needed in a third member.
Expect that in the future we will be sprinkling, scooping, and slathering a wide range of instrumentation on this music and at the core will be Beto, Mike McCalman, and Mason Lemons.