My parent's were in a band. During much of the seventies and eighties, my parents played in a dance band. They were called Sunrise and were a pretty hot ticket; they had gigs every weekend.
My dad's mother played in a band when he was young. She sang and played the wash board. They lived in the country in the forties and fifties and apparently she was quite a draw. She passed away when Dad was quite young, so I never knew her, but every who did know her said she was fantastic. My dad's family say she was a natural on stage.
My mom's dad had a famous voice. He was six and a half feet tall and barrel chested. His voice matched his huge physical presence. I did know him and, though he passed away fourteen years ago, I can distinctly remember the feeling of how my body vibrated when he boomed out his incredible bass voice. You know the tiger from The Jungle Book? Like that.
Both of them grew up with music. It was super important to them. So important, in fact, that when my newlywed parent's house caught fire, Dad ran back in to save his guitar.
Dad sang and played lead guitar. A red Gibson. One like this. It is a beautiful instrument. And dramatic, like my dad.
He was the driving force behind the band. It was his great passion. His other great passion is my mom so he figured out a way to make sure he was on stage with him every night. She already had a beautiful voice and has a gifted ear for harmony, but Dad also taught her to play electric bass. Their drummer was a really nice man named Scott Johns. He was this bad a** drummer at night and was a master gardener at a famous rose garden during the day. He had an earring.
Friday or Saturday night (and sometimes both) would roll around and off they would go. If they played at a grange hall or other family-friendly place, they brought us with them. That is where my love of dance came. (I never took a dance class and am really no good, but I love to dance!) My brothers and sister and I would dance over that cornmeal dusted dance floor for literally hours without tiring. (I had my share of crushes on MUCH older, sweet cowboys who would ask seven year old me to dance.) After the music ended, we would crash on a mess of moving pads the band used to cover their instruments in the van while we waited for the cords to be wound and the guitars to be cased. We always slept the whole way home.
It was such a happy time for me. I thought my parents were the coolest ever. There is that romance that comes with being on stage. I loved when people knew that I belonged with the band.
Years later, we started a family band. I don't think we ever had Partridge Family kind of aspirations, but we had fun together. Joe* became quite proficient at guitar and Mollie played keyboard. We all sang. After the honeymoon was over, practice sessions were not filled with love and joy, so that eventually fell apart.
It used to be that my dad simply could not sit down without a guitar in his hands. It was a constant background, the soundtrack to our family life. I remember Mom sitting in front of a tape player writing down words of the next song they would cover. She sang all of the time. I miss her voice.
Can you imagine these two sappy grandparents rockin' the stage? Well, they did. I was there. Now you know.
*Joe got the bug and has played in a band of one sort or other since. He switched over to bass and was more dedicated to that than anything. He has become better at music than all of the rest of us. That is one of the reasons I wish I lived closer to him. I would love to be in a band with him again.