Chapter 14 – The Centrics

Since we had hauled our guitars and amplifier with us in the car when the family travelled down to San Angelo, Dan and I were ready to make our mark on the local music scene. First time out of the chute we auditioned for a variety show broadcasting talent out of KSAN studios in downtown San Angelo. We were shocked when we realized we were competing in an amateur hour nightmare.

There were whistling sisters, a dozen tap dancing cowgirls and a chequered shirted duo comprising a kid on a guitar with only three strings accompanied by his cousin on a snare drum performing “Your Cheatin’ Heart”. It was a blow to our egos when the cheatin’ cousins won.

A break came when I met a fellow student with musical aspirations named Larry Siebert. Larry had long blonde surfer style hair, a suave demeanour and oozed natural charm. And, Larry was a good guitar player. Larry knew another kid who played drums and after a quick tryout session, Dan and I were glad to be back in a band. Larry’s mother came up with the name for our new band, “The Centrics”. People thought it was because we went to Central High School. The name was really a derivation of the word “eccentric”. Instead of outside the center, or “having unconventional and strange views or behaviour”, we were right on center. At least that was our interpretation.

Our first venue was a Friday night dance in the high school cafeteria. We would be playing for a large crowd and we were nervous. That inspired us to focus on rehearsing until we melded into a tight unit. Prior to the gig we went to Kmart and bought four velvet collared jackets and the piece de resistance, four children’s toy wigs. The wigs were really for little girls and were a mass of curls. We used some hair-straighter and scissors to style the wigs. The result was spectacular. We played great and no one recognized any of us; everyone thought we were the latest assault of the “British Music Invasion”.

Instant popularity spawned an invitation to appear as props on a float in the Central High School Homecoming Parade. This was a big event in the school calendar and every extracurricular club proudly entered a float in the parade. Bizarrely, we represented the FFA (Future Farmers of America). Our band set up on a hay wagon and we sat on hay bales. Power for our guitars was supplied by a generator which ran out of gas when we passed the judges stand. We just sat there on the bales with mute electric guitars while our drummer did his best to solo us out of our embarrassment… it didn’t work!

Not long after The Centrics started getting offers to play for school dances, Dan and I had a visit from the pastor of the Baptist church that our family attended. There was a marked conservative attitude toward youthful excesses and worldly matters in West Texas. I am not saying that I disagree with the doctrine but we were certainly being pulled in opposite directions regarding the same. The up-shot of the pastor’s message was, “The dance is evil.”

Larry was not of the same (as he put it), “religious affiliation.” I suspect he had the feeling that Dan and I carried some guilty baggage which might spill over into our music. It wasn’t long until he was recruited by a more secular band and left The Centrics.

We really hated to see Larry go. He was a good guitar player and had great stage presence. After forming several bands, we had developed a strong sense of tribalism when it came to relationships with fellow musicians.

I would go so far as to say that to me our band was everything a sports team was not. We played the music we wanted and did not answer to a coach. And, we didn’t “squat” – except when Dan felt the urge. He would not only squat – in a fit of showmanship and to the amazement of the audience, he would roll on his back, kick his feet in the air, then jump up and play his guitar with his teeth. Dan was able to carry these antics off because he had developed into a virtuoso musician.

With time on my hands, I got a weekend job bagging groceries for tips. One Saturday a group of kids I hardly knew arrived at the grocery store during my break and presented me with a proposition. They were having a party and would be honoured if Dan and I would come, “and by the way… would you provide the music?” I nearly said, “No.” I resented being invited to an event when the underlying motive behind the invitation was to get us to play for free.

The party was held in a small apartment complex club house. Dan and I played several of our favourite covers like Wild Thing, Wipe Out, Satisfaction and the ubiquitous Walk Don’t Run. There was one kid who hung around the bandstand. When we took a break he introduced himself as David Lindemann and then said, “Hey, I play bass guitar and I’ve got it with me.” David cracked open his guitar case, we tuned up, and slid right into Pipeline. Something clicked. His playing matched our style perfectly and there was immediately a feeling of simpatico. On the spot, we inducted him into The Centrics.

Until now we associated with other musicians for the purposes of music only. David Lindemann not only joined the band, he became a brother. For the rest of our time in Texas we were constant companions and shared many adventures.

Not only did we pick up a new band member, the guys who organized the party welcomed us into their circle of friends, one of whom was Bill Ivy. Bill eventually became The Centrics’ drummer. What did I say about “natural Texan friendliness”? [Note to self: Don’t resent being invited to a party!]

Following our success at that party we got invitations to play for more private parties. In particular, “Open Air” parties out at Lake Nasworthy. These soirees were organized “san” adults and we witnessed some wild happenings.

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