It was 1972, I had just graduated from the U of I and was meeting up with Dan to head down to Nashville. There we entered Quadrofonic Studios in the midst of a raging party and met Norbert Putnam as he was being thrown into the shower fully clothed by his secretary. Dan began recording the very next day. He had worked his tunes to perfection and even tho Norbert was the producer, Dan knew what sound he wanted and got it. Home Free was born. I can still remember the track “Stars” as it was first played in the recording studio so many years ago. Just Dan and his guitar playing solo laying down the tracks- so young, so special. Later I told him how sometimes his music would send chills down my spine. This song did.
For stars fall every time a
lover has to face the truth
And far too many stars have
fell on me.
And as they trail the skies
And burn their paths upon my eyes
The Coachmen flourished with Dan as the lead singer. We practiced over in Terry Walter’s (the bass player) basement. Ah yes the basement. A place that every high school kid could get away from their parents and do things that they wouldn’t dream of doing at home. We rocked and rolled and Tom Cain (lead guitar) produced some of the loudest abrasive guitar solos known to have every been played by a sixteen year old. In fact, the rest of the band used to run away leaving Terry’s parents (Lilo and Alice) to endure the squelch coming from the basement. Lilo referred to us as “the combo kids”. There is a special place in heaven for both Lilo and Alice. It was in the basement where our creativity and experimentation could flourish. Dan later referred to it in Scarecrows Dream
A scarecrow’s dream
I hang in the hopes of replacement
I built them all
But i dream that i’m trapped in
Some things that I remember in the basement were: black walls and black lights, Terry’s homemade strobe lights, a jacob’s ladder that was used for lighting cigarettes, vanilla wafer contests (how many could you get in your mouth at one time and chew)- a Vox Fuzz tone, a Wah Wah pedal, and an occasional high school groupie rolled up in a rug and snuck outside at dawn. “Just getting the rug cleaned Lilo”. Ok Combo Kid.
It was the 1960’s in Peoria Illinois, The Beatles had landed in America giving rise to the British invasion. Every teenage kid had a band that was usually banished to the basement. Having had a musical upbringing, I had helped form a garage band, “the Outcasts” when I was 14 years old. We played at the high school gym after football games. We sounded terrible in that huge space. I played the bass guitar and wasn’t very good at it. I started playing keyboards. I got my first Farifisa and then a Vox keyboard like the one Dave Clark played. Later I was invited to be in a band called the Coachmen. We had long red coats and phony British accents and played cover tunes around town at various teen dances. We got a break and opened for the Dave Clark Five at a roller rink north of Peoria. What a rush for a bunch of geeky kids. I remember signing autographs outside the stage door.
I remember the first time I met Dan at a “battle of the bands” in the basement of a Catholic school. He was in a band that had great harmonies called the Clan. I think it was that night that I began to plot how to get him into my band. Soon I was auditioning him at the bass player’s Terry Walter’s house at one of those cheezy organs that people had in their living rooms during those times. We sang some Beatles songs and harmonized perfectly. Once in an interview, he told the story here.
My best friend passed away from prostate cancer in December 2007. Since that time I have been flooded with memories. Our journey spanned over forty years. Sometimes early in the morning, I am taken back to a particular time in that journey and i am living the memories. If in fact there is nothing but present no past or future, then all of this is happening now. This tribute is about our friendship.