Chapter 15 – Sweethearts of the Rodeo

Around this time, I got my driver’s license. We borrowed the family station wagon to transport our band and equipment to and from a high school prom in Big Lake, 80 miles from San Angelo. Dan and I got a kick out of repeating our “Punjab Prom” experience, this time under our own steam. Big Lake was a small ranching community. All of the girls dressed in formal gowns and the boys wore western suits, cowboy hats and boots.

Our next gig was a nerve-racking experience; two full houses at the San Angelo Central High School auditorium. The nerve-racking part was because this was not a dance – it was 3,000 pairs of eyes watching our every move. We gradually got over our stage fright. By the time the sessions were over, we felt a new confidence in our musical abilities.

One gig led to another. We were hired to perform for a special Saturday promotion at a large department store. The manager set up a photo shoot for our band at the San Angelo Standard Times. We had a full page ad in the newspaper shouting, “The Centrics Live” and the event was heavily advertised on the radio. The hype worked – we had a great crowd on the day. Our performance generated screams, swoons and a long line of girls begging for The Centrics’ autographs.

A week later I got a call from the owner of a honky-tonk bar. He wanted to use a side room as a venue to attract teenage clientele. Being used to one-night-stands I thought he just wanted us to play one Saturday night. We ended up with a four consecutive night trial to see if the idea would fly. We drew massive crowds every night. There were even professional musicians who came specifically to observe Dan’s blazing improvisational work on the guitar.

Victims of our own success, we drew such large crowds that the bar was overwhelmed with teenagers. The regular customers complained that their watering-hole was being overrun by juvenile delinquents. The up-side was that four straight nights on stage really honed our musical skills. We were a tight band.

Out of the blue, I got a call from Beverly Lucas, the girl who showed me around the campus on my first day of school. Beverly was looking for a band to back her up when she sang a number at the annual San Angelo Rodeo talent show. My first thought was, “No way.” After all, The Centrics adhered to an unshakeable guitar-guys ethos. We had strict rules – no horns, no accordions and no girls! But wait a minute, Beverly was the first person I met in San Angelo and she went out of her way to welcome me to Texas. And, she was the cutest girl in Tom Green County.

With Dan and me on guitar, David on bass, Bill Ivy caressing the drums and Beverly strutting around the stage in high topped boots, “These Boots Are Made for Walking” was the highlight of the show.

Next to the Rattlesnake Round-up (not counting bull riding, calf roping and bronc busting) the talent show was the headline event of the rodeo. The show was beamed to every remote corner of West Texas by two well known DJ’s from a local radio station. After the show, one of them took me aside and asked, “Do you have any original material?” Up until that time, because it was expected by our audience, we only performed covers of other artist’s music. Of course I answered, “Of course.”

West Texas has a long history of music innovation. Inspired by the likes of Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly, these DJ’s were looking for an opportunity to break into the music publishing business. We scheduled a meeting in three days to show them our stuff.

Melodies come naturally to me, Dan was a young master at improvisation and music was the air that David Lindemann breathed. Together we gave birth to a song we called, “The Likes of Me.” I think the DJ’s were hip to the fact that we had actually written the song in preparation of our meeting but that worked to our advantage. The song had a clean beat, the lyrics were catchy and the melody was haunting. The DJ’s were “over the moon” and promised to get back to us with a recording date. It goes without saying that we were “over the moon” too. Not only did we have someone interested in our music, the interested parties were in the radio business – formula: DJ’s + Record = Air play!

Before we were able to schedule studio time, Dad got orders to transfer to Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. Bye-bye Texas, bye-bye record contract and, “Remember the Alamo.”

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