A MUSICIAN’S HISTORY – THE FRESHMAN TALENT SHOW

 

A HARD NIGHT’S DAY

 

It had been a heavy year. A few months earlier Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy had both been assassinated, young men were dying in the mud, swamps and jungles of Viet Nam and the political cauldron was churning. And now it was September 1968. I’d been at college for about two weeks, a week of freshman orientation / indoctrination and then the second week, when everyone else showed up. They had a number of activities to help break the ice and one of them was the freshman talent show. Being the shy and quiet type I had arrived at college girlfriend-less, so that first week I’d been sussing out the freshman girls and one in particular had caught my eye. She was tall, attractive and had long banged light brown hair. We might have had a class or two together, so at some point, probably in the cafeteria or the Student Union snack bar, I got over my shyness and chatted her up. And when I found out that she liked to sing and that there was going to be a talent show, I summoned up the nerve and asked her if she’d like to do two songs with me.

Now, I had a job that summer working in an amusement park running a spin paint stand and had earned some money, so I wanted to buy a decent guitar to take with me to college. The old hollow body electric Harmony guitar I had used since I was fourteen was horrible to play. It had a terrible finger board, high frets and thick neck. When, towards the end of August, my mother said that she needed to go to New York for a few days to take care of some financial matters, I jumped at the chance and went with her. After she took care of her business and showed me some of the old neighbourhoods she had lived, grown up and gone to school in, we went to Manny’s music store on West 48th Street in Manhattan. Manny had passed away earlier that year and turned the store over to his son. It was the mecca for all the professional musicians of the 60’s. Even the Beatles bought their guitars there. While I was in the store looking at Rickenbacker guitars because many years earlier I had decided that was what I wanted to play, Gene Coornish, guitarist with the Young Rascals, stormed into the shop looking real important and loudly exclaiming his desire to purchase a guitar. He was immediately surrounded by two or three salesman, so while he was being tended to, I continued to look at one particular red sunburst Rickenbacker 6 string. It felt great as I played it, with a small smooth thin neck. It was second-hand, but in good condition and not too expensive. I bought it and the minute I got back home I started writing songs with it. I took it and my trusty old Silvertone tube top amp and its cabinet with six ten inch speakers with me to college.

The young lady’s name was Pat and we got together for two or three quick rehearsals before the show. I know we did two songs, but only remember that one of them was the Beatles’ song Ticket To Ride. The other song probably was one of my own compositions. We were both a bit nervous, but I think we came across with a good performance. People clapped, if that meant anything. She wore a pretty white blouse and a miniskirt and I had on brown corduroy bell bottom slacks, a brown jacket and my round wire granny sunglasses. Someone, probably from the college newspaper, took a photo of us. Alas, it was only a one up gig. College got underway, classes kept us busy and we drifted into different circles of friends. She ended up becoming the girlfriend for a short while of one of the jocks who lived on the third floor of my dorm. That was disappointing; since those guys were, at that point in time, all real assholes that harassed us hippies living on the second floor unmercifully. I think, if I recall correctly, Pat was from somewhere in Pennsylvania and by the second semester she was gone, transferring to another school closer to home.

I kept writing songs on that Rickenbacker all that winter and into the spring. Ahead of me was the summer of ’69, working at Woodstock and when I got back for my sophomore year that fall, three friends and I formed a new band…

To be continued…

 

000 Freshman Talent Show 2Pat and I performing at the freshman talent show in September 1968.


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