The Early Years
Starting with a rich heritage of Danny Kaye, The Mickey Mouse Club, Disney Movies & Bozo the Clown records in the early 50's I made rapid progress as a 3rd grade trumpet player in the school band & orchestra in Orinda, California. By the 5th grade I was also the Boy Scout Bugler in Troop 200 & received a merit badge which was really difficult (lots of 64th notes & triple tonguing) ! The annual Christmas & Spring concerts were a lot of fun...we would combine the various schools in the area & have a "really big sheew"...I remember playing music from the "King & I" which was a great experience for young musicians. I continued thru the 8th grade, feeling like there was more I wanted from music: I wanted to play chords ! I could hear all these notes blending together & I wanted to be able to manipulate more than one sound at a time. Bob Littleton (tenor sax) & I played together for a few years under the direction of Mr. Pendelton, a swell teacher if ever there was one !
Special Insert 12/23/2007: It was 43 years ago to this day, (December 23, 1964) when I got my first guitar, an acoustic Harmony F hole that I rented from classmate Larry Rosen ...so that was the day I offically started playing...I'm still trying to find F# on the 4th string !
So I gave up my career as Boy Scout Bugler & trumpeter & traded my trumpet & some $ for my first electric guitar in 1965...a white Fender Mustang with the red pickguard. By the time I graduated from high school in '67 I had traded up to a Gibson 330 & then a white Fender Tele, cuz Mike Bloomfield played one !
A few guys in Orinda were having jam sessions after school, you know...4 guitars plugged into a tiny little 10 watt amp wailing away playing "Louie, Louie" & "Twist & Shout"...parents popping in asking "Don't you know any other songs ?" I also jammed a few times with my neighbor Walter "Bud" Herbert who played drums & later evolved into Herbie Herbert of Santana & Journey fame. He more recently morphed into Sy Klopps & recorded some great blues tunes singing & playing guitar.
All I thot about for the next 3 years was music. I went to a lot dances always checking out the guitarists. I was especially wowed by William Penn & His Pals who played frequently at the Hotel Claremont in Beserkley. The whole band was great... loud, exciting, strong vocals &...choreography ! I thot the lead guitarist Mike Shapiro was a really strong player & was inspired by his playing...I would try to absorb as much I could & go home & try to figure out what I saw & heard. When I put my first band together I used their instrumentation & some of their songs as a template. We even opened with "2120 South Michigan Ave" or "You Can't Sit Down". Of course we didn't go with the Colonial look with the tri-corner hats & frilly shirts ! We were on the verge of becoming.... Ewwww !....those dreadful "Hippies" !
But mainly I practiced a lot on my own & then finally just before my senior year I put my first real band together. We were called R.C.'s Bottling Co. - named after me of course ! All of us were from Campolindo High School in Moraga, CA with the exception of the drummer, Craig Chittenden who went to Alhambra High in Martinez. The band included, Pat Stillson - vocals: Phil Bush - Vox Continental Organ: Bob Littleton - sax, 12 string guitar & vocals & Mark Lyon on bass & vocals. We were managed by another high school chum, Alan Odelberg who scored a number of gigs for us that year ! My woodshop teacher Doug Reed gave me an "F" on a progress report & stated in the comments section: "Music isn't Everything" ! Mark & I would chat endlessly about band stuff & all I made was a beer mug which flew off the lathe as I was turning it and almost hit Doug Reed & a speaker box that we destroyed on the last day of class...yeah, i wasn't into woodworking...then.
R.C.'s Bottling Co. played a number of school & community dances & a few frat parties in Berserkley that year...It was really fun: that first celebrity band bit "Yeah, I have my own band" thing & "Yeah, this is my fuzztone"...We played some Stones, Kinks, Beatles & favored alot of songs by the Animals. Towards the end we started playing more blues ala Butterfield & some Grateful Dead & Country Joe & the Fish.
The biggest thrill for me was winning the KFRC Battle of the Bands at our own high school...definately helps to play on your own turf ! We did "Born in Chicago" & "Sportin' Life"...& our fellow classmates cheered madly. I have the lovely trophy & at the next round we were routed as we performed in North Beach, San Francisco against some really tight bands. We played our original song "Piece of Glass" which was kind of a Indian raga thing...the George Harrison influence...Blondie later took the title for one of her most popular songs !
We finished out our senior playing a school dance with our rivals East Bay Mud which featured classmates Dave Semrau (lead guitar/vocals) & Stan Osmunson (drums) who were previously known as The Immeasurable Immortals, or simply The Immortals. And I should give Dave & the Immortals credit for inspiring me to play as well... how many dances did I go to where they were playing & I was impressed with their great "surf" sound ! HELL, I didn't go to the dances to dance & talk to chicks...I went to learn how to play the guitar !!!
At the end of the school year everyone scattered so I figured I wuz done with the music biz & sold my guitar & amp...little did I know that I couldn't let it go that easy...
The College Years
I took a piano class at DVC my first year of college & my dad advised me, don't try to play too many instruments. But did I listen ? Nah...by the following Christmas I was given a nice Yamaha FG180 guitar that went everywhere with me for the next 20 years. I now play a number of instruments which has its good & bad points....I guess I'll never be called a "Musicians Musician" !
When I challanged the harmony & theory classes at San Jose State in my junior year (1969), I thot I knew quite a bit about music. I confidantly told the teacher before he administered the test that "I'd like to fall back on my music just in case this Psych. thing doesn't work out"...after he looked at the results, he said, "You're gonna fall a looooong way, my friend" ! So I started back at square one with the basics...& I graduated without honors as usual in 1971.
At San Jose State in 1971 I sang along with 500 other people in mixed group with a huge orchestra & we performed Beethoven's 9th ...totally amazing !!! We were grouped in pods of four with a member of each range...bass, tenor, alto & soprano...a very challanging way to sing ! You didn't have other members of your range to rely on...a thrilling experience to be sure. Oh yeah, the lites went out just as the conductor lifted his baton...that got a lot of laffs...
I also did a senior project for my psychology major with Dr. Bob Zaslow and some autistic children at his clinic trying some music therapy ideas...hmmm, interesting...didn't make much impact tho.
After college in 1973 I teamed up again with Mark Lyon & 4 other guys & put together the Sugar City Blues Band. This was a great name for a band because we were based in Crockett, California...Sugar City ! It's where all the sugar from Hawaii ended up...my grandfather worked there for a number of years in the 40's & 50's. We had Augie ? - Vocals, Mark Lyon - guitar, Hank Ray - Bass, Henry White - Harmonica, David La Rosa - Drums & me on Electric Piano & Guitar... We had a good solid bluesy sound Chicago style.
We had a good local following who would turn up at the bar called "The U & I Oasis - where good fellows meet" (said the match book) on the main drag across from the refinery...inevitably some hippie & some refinery workman would get into it & start dukeing it out right on the dance floor of the bar...i was situated on the floor standing behind an electric piano. I felt like Elton John - "Don't Shoot Me, I'm only the Piano Player" !!! Band didn't last too long...but we did have a good time when we played !
After that I spent a lot of evenings with Pat Stillson & his wife Kathie in Crockett playing a lot of folkie & blues tunes in the parlor of their funky apartment...
In 1974 I formed a "Jug Band/Bluegrass Band" with some guys in the Martinez/Crockett area called...are you ready for this..."The Mos'd Deliteful Zing Kings" ! With an interest in ol' timey razza-ma-tazz I scarfed up some old jug band records & off we went. I also love bluegrass so we threw in a few standards along the way. We had two former members of the Sugar City Blues Band, Hank Ray on wash tub bass & vocals, Henry White on harmonica & vocals, then George Hess on Banjo, Pat Thomas (aka Blind Washboard Thomas) on Washboard & Kazoo & me on guitar & vocals. Had a lot of fun playing parties & mostly playing for free it seems to me...We played a friends wedding up the coast in Ft. Bragg which ended up being a big jam session with all kinds of people joining in..so i bid adieu to these folks in mid July &...
moved to Hawaii in 1975 to begin graduate studies in Public Health at the University of Hawaii. My roomates in Nu'uanu valley were Rodney Tate & Napua ? & worked with Buddy Fo playing all kinds of music out in Hawaii Kai...so they invited me out my first nite there & I cracked up Buddy with my "Toilet Float Kazoo" (the toilet float gave it a great sound) ! My field placement at Palolo HCAP turned out to be a golden opportunity to get immersed in Hawaiian music. Linda Breen was one of the staff members who had a great voice & could sing anything. We put together a music program for "at risk" kids in Palolo Valley...one of whom turns out to be the very successful John Cruz ! We taught these youngin's some of the current songs then by local artists, Cecelio & Kapono, Olomana & Kalapana. This also was a good opportunity for me to learn some of the tunes for my own amusement & playing for parties. I also learned some of the "Hawaiian Renaissance" music that was going down by artists like Peter Moon & Sunday Manoa, Gabby Pahinui & Sons of Hawaii. Linda helped me with pronunciation & gettin' the aloha feel...she lived the "Aloha Spirit" ! I would love to find her...anyone know her whereabouts ?
I answered an ad for a guitar player/frontman singer for an "oldies" band in 1977...I was really into crisply pleated gaberdine pants & 50's shirts & shoes & showed up for the audition very appropriately attired & was immediately set upon by Harvey Kaplan's 3 year old daughter who was covered in spagetti sauce ! Auwe ! We calmed her down & got on with the audition. It was there that I met the lovely Linda Correa Aoki who also auditioned & got the "chick singer" job. So we had a 5 piece group with Harvey on bass & vocals, T.A. Garsva on drums & vocals & the very talented tenor sax player Pete Dovidio who also sang.
So this little band did mostly military gigs where we went over very well as I remember. Linda & I were the "Archie & Veronica" of the band...we were not a "greaser" type band as so many of the 50's bands portrayed their members ! We sang duets like "The Mountains High" & "Hey Paula". We rounded out our song list with plenty of Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly & some Doo Wop. Our big nite was the New Years gig at the Banyon Tree in Waikiki !
We then put together a demo tape & applied for a job in Kyoto, Japan in spring of 1978. Well, we got the job...but there were many casualties along the way...by then Pete had left the group & was replaced by a guitarist named Rich...he bailed a week before we were scheduled to leave...Linda couldn't go because she had a 3 year old son...then we got Stephan ? & Lesley Lennel...I didn't want to go at this point because I didn't like the new members...but an attorney friend advised me to go because I already signed the contract & it could get messy...so, we boarded a packed 747 & 11 + hours later we arrived in Narita, Japan...well, first adventure: Stephan gets immediately detained & sent back to Honolulu ! He had gotten into some trouble earlier in Japan & as soon as they saw his passport...Yoink !!! So the 4 of us traveled to Kyoto with our distraught Japanese agent & played a week...a very rough week...we all got very sick & were really unhappy. But we sent for my good friend Bill Rhyne who got a passport together & the proper stage clothes & he joined us a week later. Ok, so now this became a fun gig. We played 3 sets a nite: the first at a "Gentleman's Club" called "Club Dominus" with hostesses & "high class" clientele...then they bussed us over to a swinging young people's club called "Swelldom" & then back to the the first club ! So we were done before 11 pm each nite. It was funny to see these older gentlemen "twisting" & "frugging" or whatever it was with these young hostesses on the dance floor !
So Bill & I were wandering around Maruyama Park one nite when the Cherry Blossom Festival was in full swing & we happened upon a lively group who had a guitar & they offered it to us to play. We did a coupla Elvis songs & that was it ! We had just passed an audition for another club called the "Rimuzin" which really meant "Limousine". We were whisked away that nite & offered an after hours job playing for 2-3 hours at our new hangout with lots of amazing food ! We were surprised to learn that these guys were all "Yakuza" or Japanese Mafia members ! We had a lotta fun hanging out with these guys & their "molls". We stayed up late, got up early to play hardball baseball, went to our regular job, then over to the Rimuzin for late nite adventures ! This went on for the remaining 2 months of our stay there !
then... we got the "boot"...the first club wanted us to leave 2 weeks early...so we said, "okie dokie"...if, you pay us those 2 weeks as the contract required...well, they didn't want to do that so we left, filed a lawsuit & a year later we got our 2 weeks pay...this agency had quite a bad reputation for ripping people off. They made the Filipino bands buy the guitar amps & gave them 1/2 the pay we got & a sack of rice !
So back in Hawaii trying to get going again was a little difficult. I worked for about a month with Karen Keawehawaii who of course became an immensly popular entertainer in Hawaii. At the beginning of 1979 I was hanging around down on Hotel Street listening to Bill Rhyne playing with Bill Spilliard's country band. I then was approached by Bill Spilliard to join a new band that was forming to play at a little roadhouse out in Ewa Beach called "Duckie's Silver Spur". So we had a month of paid rehearsal & opened in September...had a great time out there...for awhile ! We did a radio show once a week. The band was called "Susan Luke & the White Stallion Band". I lasted about 4 months because I had some differences with Susan...
During those 4 months I was introduced to Nick Masters (Nastos) by our drummer Dale Shelley at a party for our Band. Dale announced "Roscoe here wants to learn the solo for Rock Around the Clock " ! Nick promptly responded, "Tell Roscoe to go F*ck himself" ! Wha ? Thanks Dale, I'll take it from here...Well, anyways just before Christmas Nick called & wanted me to join him at Kelly's Coffeehouse by the Honolulu Airport in the side room called...The Bronco Bar (& Gymnasium, he added that). So at the beginning of 1980 I started playing bass with Nick 5 nites a week & continued with my day job as program coordinator of the Waikiki Community Center.
That was a pretty good gig...lots of regulars, cool friends sitting in...I had on the job training for playing bass ! We had a drum machine named Ralph & one of the regulars was SpoonMan who sat on a chair near me clacking his ol' spoons to our songs ! I got to sing about half the time & was featured on the Hawaiian tunes ! The duo was called Then & Now...yeah, old stuff, new stuff, whatevah !
So that took us up to November of that year when we were wooed to a new club in Waikiki called the Blue Water Cafe...a semi classy country music place that had music from 10-3:30 am...ah, yes Cabaret hours ! A fun place to be sure...we added Joe the Fiddler & drummer Don Farr & rocked that place nite after nite. Occasionally we would do a 50's nite & added tenor sax player Chet Christopher. We would also do outside stuff like play at the Oahu Prison, a promo for the new McDonald's Chicken Sandwich, the Leper Colony on Molokai, Neil Abercrombie's political rallies & more !
We moved on to another club that was owned by the same people called the Red Lion on Lewers St. & then returned to the Blue Water afterwards & then to a real 'joint' called Keone's. After several months there, just before Christmas Nick decided to do something different so he let us all go & hired his step daughter, Sia Pickus, a female drummer & another guitar player. So the drummer, who was now Randy Miller & I got with Denny Turner, Wabbit Alexander & Joe the Fiddler & formed The Rusty Mustang Daynce Band and made a go of it for a few months & then decided to do other things...
That's when Bill Rhyne showed up after an extended trip to Europe & we got together with the lovely Linda Aoki & Don ? & formed the Pali-tones