The Bunkhouse Boys — Moving Into Bunk Position

PART THREE: Continued From —

Despite our following in the church, we were not exactly considered stars in town.

Occasionally we would run an ad in the classified section of the St. Joseph newspaper and we met a few musicians that way. One of them was a hot country guitar player named Buddy Riles. Buddy was exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up he was quite a bit older than us (maybe 40!), married, and he had a regular job playing in a house band at a bar in Saint Joseph, MO.

My father look down his nose when he said to me, “You don’t want to be like Buddy Riles!” Oh yeah – I wanted nothing more.

Like most teenagers I disagreed with my father occasionally — to put it mildly.

Besides playing the guitars, Craig and I were really enjoying live music shows both St. Joseph and in Kansas City. I remember we saw the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in St. Joe at least 4 times in one year. They really were influential to us. There was a group of guys on stage and nearly every song they would play musical chairs with their musical instruments. One of them would sit down at the drums one of them would pick up the guitar and another one would play the harmonica another one would pick up the mandolin. They were very inspiring.

Another inspiration was a group that played in Kansas City a few times, and Craig enjoyed them immensely because like us, they were a brother act.

Their band was called Mason Proffit, and it was one of those bands like Jethro Tull or Lynyrd Skynyrd that just used a name for the band but had no actual member by that name. That was OK as far as we were concerned because it would really mess up the grown ups. “Which one is Mason?” or “Which one is Jethro?”

The Talbot Brothers, John and Terry, wrote and sang the songs and were the frontmen for the band. They had a few albums out, which we determined we HAD to buy and we started learning some of their songs.

The band never really hit it big, and they broke up rather early in their careers. Brother John became a Catholic monk and I believe to this day he is still writing and recording religious music and playing the guitar, but all the pictures I have seen of him are in a monk’s robe and tonsure.

Many many years later after migrating to California, I found myself in Fresno for about 6 months, while my wife was working at the county mental health center there.

To my amazement while looking through the entertainment listings in Fresno, I saw that The Terry Talbot Band was billed at a restaurant there.

I went to the internet and found a web page for Terry, who now was basically doing music ministry through his church, but his band played semi-regularly.

Unfortunately during the time we were in Fresno we didn’t get to see Terry and his band play. We took some friends out to see them where they were scheduled one night and found out after arriving that the show had been canceled because a private function had taken over the restaurant. I think I tried one or two more times and had similar things happen to where either the band wasn’t playing or they postponed or we just couldn’t make it at that time. I actually sent an email to Terry telling him that I was a devoted fan from way back looking forward to seeing him. And he promised to keep me posted of when and where they were playing. But as I said, it just never came together before we left Fresno.

Meanwhile, back in Wathena in the early 1970s, Craig and I were itching to break out and play. But our main obstacle was our age. Of course, we were minors and we lived with our parents, so we had to go to school, occasionally (less frequently) to church, and to stay out of bars.

I had been playing trombone in school bands since Norton, starting in the 4th grade with private lessons (our small public school had an excellent music program with free private lessons once a week as well as band practice). By the time I moved to Wathena, I had a pretty good lip, as they say, and could play the T-bone well enough to eventually be in the district honor jazz band — a kind of all-star band picked from the various schools in our league.

Down the road in Elwood, a hot guitarist with the cool name of Rick Muse was putting together a band similar to Blood, Sweat and Tears and Chicago — a basic rock backline with a horn section. I jammed with them, and actually went over to St. Joe to play a gig once. I remember they had a full sized Hammond B-3 organ with huge Leslie speaker cabinet. Before the days of electronic keyboards and synthesizers and MIDI and samplers, the B-3 was the equivalent of taking an elephant along with you to a gig. And the Leslie cabinet was huge and heavy too, because it not only had loudspeakers, but they twirled around, giving a phase-shifted, slightly dopler sound. The distinctive B-3 sound is a staple of soul music and is commonly replicated in digital form in today’s light-weight compact keyboards.

I remember that Rick’s show-stopper was “Vehicle” by Ides of March. It had a guitar solo that he had practice until it was note-perfect, a quick flurry of notes that built up to an exciting climax.

During one song, they signaled for me to take a solo, and I didn’t want to stop! I’d never been in this position before and was so excited that Rick had to frantically signal me to wind it up and let them get on with the song.

They asked if I would be a regular, but my parents wouldn’t let me. Being a kid is a bummer, man!

Craig and I also went to Elwood and jammed with a soul band, he on bass and me on trombone. This was my first exposure to an integrated group and the Ward boys were in the minority. A couple of the members were old-timers — I mean OVER 40! Maybe grandfathers. They had guitar, keyboard, drums and a couple of horns (I don’t remember exactly — probably a trumpet and some kind of sax). The only song I remember playing that day was “Watermelon Man” by Herbie Hancock.

I learned a lot that day, but of course, it couldn’t continue. It was a great jam session and opened my eyes to a lot of things.

But the time in Wathena was basically marked by our high-school years. Craig graduated in 1972 and moved to St. Joe and got an apartment and a job. He still came back to Wathena frequently. Wednesday nights he had supper with the family and on weekends he would come back because in those days, you could drink beer at age 18 (hard liquor was only available in package stores and not bars, and the age was 21). In Missouri, both beer and liquor were served in bars and the age for both was 21.

I would graduate in 1974 and we entered a new phase — drawing closer to becoming the Bunk House Boys. But that brings this story to a good stopping point …