early stirrings of rat piano & another vestige of innocence ends
i had turned 21 that spring and spent an afternoon with Ok on the blower, rapping it down about music. He recommended i go find Keith Jarrett's Facing You and Oscar Peterson's In A Mellow Mood. i succeeded on both counts, and, after getting home put the second side of Mellow Mood's record 1 on, which started with a ten-minute song called "Sandy's Blues". i knew as this song progressed, i'd gotten onto something i'd been looking for for a looooong time. Starting out solo at a slower tempo, Oscar just kept building it up and up, with Sam Jones and Bob Durham joining in. They tore it up, and, eventually softened it all back down again to where Oscar closed it out solo-wise once more.
As a kid my piano playing enthusiasm had been activated by Carol Hills who played boo'ghee, Fats Waller and classical. She has a formidable ear and cood play by ear simply knowing what the toon sounded like, as well as sight-reading on-the-fly. As each of us did in my fam'blee, i had started music lessons when i was about seven. But more than the music teachers, it was Carol's influence that ignited my enthusiasm.
My first lessons were pretty rote kid-scores with a classical focus but then i broke my arm in the fall of the third grade and so got out of having to practice and dropped the ball lessons-wise. The fact was i sure liked the sounds i cood make come out of the piano, but far and away preferred to play in the mud than practice my lessons. A few years later i studied from a popular music teacher which was a little more engaging but it still didn't gel. Then first year at boarding skool on a whim i sat down and played toons like the Pink Panther, Batman theme, and Blue Boogie. i hadn't played for a couple of years, but in that moment i felt an unfamiliar sense of "Oh, this is niiiice! --i like this!" i had finally broken thru into the realization that i wanted to do this for my self, not because i was supposed to or shood do.
i practiced stuff i found interesting thruout the last three years of hi skool including getting heavily into Scott Joplin and learning many toons from the big ragtime book of all his pieces, spurred on by the three Nonesuch albums Joshua Rifkin recorded starting in 1970. Senior year i was the pianist/lead singer in a rock group called the rat band, a name we were dubbed with by default when we played a dance in February being asked at the last minute to fill-in for a band that didn't show. Although i didn't have rats at boarding skool, the rat identity was very solidly established. i was seen as something of a wildman which suited me just fine. As the rat band, all of us encouraged the perception by others of an affect as fuck-ups.
Ok and i were the creators of the rat band and he played lead guitar. With as formidable an ear as his Mom, he had been deeply into Scruggs-style banjo -- as well as guitar inspired by the likes of Chet Atkins, Lenny Breau, and Jerry Reed -- for years spending whole summers sitting up in this room picking out Earl's songs from the record note-by-note. One of the tunes in our repetoire we were most proud of was Ten Years After's "Goin' Home" for which Ok had picked out Alvin Lee's solo from the Woodstock recording. At a show we were part of the day before graduation when all the parents were there, we played Jumpin' Jack Flash and Goin' Home. i can't imagine the adults were necessarily all that interested in our pyrotechnics but we sure had a blast presenting our spectacle.
At the end of that summer which i had been spending in Eugene, i went camping with hi skool friends Dan May and Jon O'Donnell in the area of the Three Sisters mountains. Dan had played rhythm guitar in the rat band and Jon had been a very irreverent source of mirth-towards-life influence. i knew they both liked to smoke pot but up to that point i had not felt interested in the least in finding out what any form of intoxication felt like. It was there by a lake that i felt curious enuff -- and lost enuff from my own eternal center of being brought on by the bumpiness of adolescence commencing after the dissolution of my fam'blee -- to give it a go.
Up to that point, i had felt my own inner psychological structure was fragile and precarious enuff that the prospect of further "earthquaking vibrations" held no appeal. But by this time, the disillusionment of grappling with an increasing sense of being cut off from the eternal source of loving life that flowed effortlessly during childhood reached some sort of critical mass and i was willing to explore strange new worlds -- though not necessarily "boldly going where no one cares to go" . . . After some serious smoking without any shifts, i began to notice my hearing was different. Aural sensations began to have a very strange and curious additional component to their composition the likes of which i hitherto not encountered. And then sunami waves and waves of laughter rolled over and thru our camp. Thus ended another vestige of innocent being.