Together again, waistlines and all

Thomas E. Osborne

March 26, 1992|By Thomas E. Osborne

THE SETTING wasn't exactly the Hollywood Bowl, or ever Hammerjack's. A huge glass-cutting table served as the drum riser and a place to elevate the amplifiers. The concrete floor in the back shop of a glass company in Bladensburg served as the stage. The microphones were mix and match, the sound system definitely low-tech.

And the musicians. Well, it's kind to say there were a lot more gray hairs and bulging waistlines than there were 27 years ago.

Long live rock!

I remembered the first time we performed in public. It was the back yard of a neighbor's house, summer of 1965. None of us was old enough to drive; our fathers became our "roadies" and chauffeurs.

We didn't get paid, didn't even ask for money. We were too thrilled that we were going to play someplace other than Pat Norton's basement. We played about four songs -- our entire list -- and quit. Later, we played the same four songs again.

It was a thrill!

Over the last 27 years, as an amateur musician I have played many gigs, good bad and indifferent. You always remember the first one. For me, the last one was just as memorable.

Pat and I had been talking about it for some time. Get the guys together again and jam.

We grew up together in Prince George's County, played sports together, went to school together and played rock 'n' roll together. We all got married, began careers and started families. No one moved too far away. We still get together with our wives two or three times each year, but we hadn't made music together for about 25 years.

Pat and I had a plan. I could get the drummer and lead guitar player from my band. He would get Rich Hajjar and Will Hux. We would get together and jam, just for old time's sake. Pat, Rich and Will still own guitars and amps, playing for their own enjoyment and amusement.

So after about a year of trying to find a mutually convenient date, there we stood in the back shop of that glass company in Prince George's County where Pat works. The only audience was John King, an honorary roadie. John didn't play or sing 27 years ago, and still doesn't. But he was there, just as he had been back then. He even brought a much-appreciated case of beer.

After getting everything set up and tuned up, we stood there a little nervously. Finally, I said, "OK, how about 'Johnny B. Goode' in A?" Daryl Williams, the lead player from my band, cranked out the intro, and we were off.

Our timing was a little off. The guitars didn't blend too well. Rich, our lead vocalist, remembered the first verse but forgot the rest of the song.

We didn't let that stop us, or even slow us down. To tell the truth, we weren't all that good 25 years ago.

We played for about five hours, trying to remember all those songs that were new when we first played them and are now termed "classics." We stopped only once, after John went out for pizza.

Sometimes it actually sounded pretty good. Sometimes, it wasn't so good.

Finally, it was time to quit. Nobody really wanted to, but wives, families and other obligations awaited us. Time to get back to reality.

But for five hours, it was as if we had been magically transported back in time. I thought about Pat's basement, the food his mother always had for us, and how his parents put up with the noise. "At least I know where you guys are," Pat's dad would say. I thought of the time Mr. Norton bought us matching jackets so we could take to the stage looking like the Beatles.

We forgot the gray hair, the belly bulges, our jobs, the economy. We forgot that we were all now 40-something.

For five hours we were all 15 again.

Thomas E. Osborne is a copy editor for The Evening Sun and The Sun.

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