Summer of Sixty-Nine (Part 2 of a 6 part series)

If you’re just joining us this is part 2–you may want to read part 1 first

By that time I’d put together a band. It just kind of fell into place—Uncle Van called it “Grace”—when things just come together without any effort. Turns out there were other nerds at my school dreaming of rock music revenge. A major dork named Astor played drums in the school orchestra—I‘d heard he was pretty good. One day he just walks up to me in the hall and starts talking about rock music. I asked if he was interested in joining a band—he was. Then came Marci—the kind of girl who was pretty but didn’t know what to do with it. She had taken piano lessons since she was big enough to sit on a piano bench and had no problem moving to electronic keyboard. Burt was a chess geek and more than willing to learn to play bass—he very quickly figured out the bass was his ticket out of Geekdom. I taught him 4 or 5 chords—enough for simple stuff—and he really started working at it.

Everybody had a surprisingly serious attitude for kids and worked hard on their music. I had read all these articles about bands that come and go and players that come and go but in our band—which we called “Copperhead,”—everybody came and stayed—and turned out to have a lot of talent. I found out running a band—telling people what to do—really isn’t hard. You just act like somebody died and now you’re in charge. And if you act like you’re the big man but treat people with respect—listen to them but stay on your plan—in this case to play music—they want to please you. My uncle said I was a natural leader and helped us as much as he could. We came together as a band pretty quickly, developed a decent sound for a garage band and great energy but after a little less than a year we hit a plateau and just weren’t getting any better. It didn’t look like we were ever gonna get out of the garage.

I went to concerts, took music classes at school—learned how to write music. I figured out a song formula. Take a few really good chord phrases for lead guitar, add keyboard playing close harmony, the bass filling in with progressive and repeated minor chords between the lead phrases, steal somebody’s catchy bridge (and make a few changes) then drop on a heavy beat and crank up the volume. Flash some lights and suddenly you’re a rock star and the panties come to you. Well—the truth is that last part didn’t happen until several years later. For two years we were just another OK garage band. Like I said, we started out pretty good—made good progress for a while then just stopped improving.

Some of the stuff I just mentioned I figured out on my own but most of it—especially the more advanced musical stuff—I—we—learned in the summer of 1969 from this incredibly cool, pretty southern girl named Cheryl.

Cheryl had her own band down in North Carolina called Highway 61 and was spending the summer with a girl friend—Samantha—who grew up in this town. Sam’s house was a few blocks away and her parents were friends with my uncle who took me over there one afternoon to meet her. Cheryl was five years older than me—19—but seemed much more mature than that—more like a woman in her 30s.

One afternoon while I waited for Cheryl Sam played a tape Cheryl had made in concert with Graham Nash and showed me a poster of her on stage.

In the image of her on stage she was back-lit by a white-hot spotlight that shone through her long thick hair glowing like an angel’s auburn halo. She was wearing jeans that had been painted on and had the smallest waist I’d ever seen on a girl. She had on a frilly, tailored shirt that clung to and accented her breasts in a way that sucked the breath out of your lungs and almost stopped your heart. Listening to chords of velvet thunder that tore at your soul—I stared at the image unable to believe there was that much femininity in the world much less one woman. She dominated the stage as both a sexy, enticing Amazon and an innocent little girl.

I wanted to just be in her presence—I wanted to ravage and consume her.

I wanted to worship her as a rock goddess.

End part 2

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