Bunk House Boys 1975-1981
PRE-BUNK — Norton, KS 1965 — 1970
When the Beatles invaded America in 1964, every young boy had to get a guitar or drums and start a band. Even the young boys in small, midwestern towns like Norton, Kansas (Pop. about 3,000).
Craig was probably about sixth grade (call it 12 years old) when our parents bought him a guitar. It was second hand, of course — acoustic with a cowboy scene painted on it. Wagon trains and men on horses dwindled into the distance. The play-action on the guitar strings was about the same as a cross-bow.
Duane Winder, who had the Western Auto store, gave guitar lessons and my parents asked him to come to our house to teach Craig.
When Duane got to our home, he sat down with Craig for the first lesson. But it didn’t last long.
“You’re left-handed,” Duane said. “You’ll never be able to play the guitar.”
So the guitar was retired — at least for a while.
Somewhere along the way, we had acquired a Beatles songbook that had lead-sheet, lyrics and guitar chord blocks for each song. It had everything but the last two albums — Abbey Road and Let It Be. It had also lost its cover and the cheap glue used in binding wasn’t able to hold the pages in, so they became loose sheets.
Somewhere around the end of 1969, I picked up the Conostoga Waqon Special and started trying to put my fingers on the guitar strings just like in the Beatles songs. I’m estimating it was about Thanksgiving time, because by Christmas I was able to strum the chords for carols when our extended family gathered for celebration dinners.
Craig never lost his urge to play guitar and start a band. In fact, for a small town, Norton had a heck of a lot of music going on. I remember the “older guys” set up on Bill Ingram’s front porch. There was a Sears Silvertone amp and there was a guitar case with an amp built into it. Terry Albright, Kim Farewell, Mike Ward (no relation to us). We kids would sit across the street and watch and listen, amazed. I mean, it was one thing to see people on TV and listen to records of people playing music like this — but this was “real” people, people we knew and could touch. I think I remember hearing them playing on the tennis courts at the country club and at the fairgrounds.
The next generation (meaning a year or two younger — maybe more) were the people in Craig’s grade. Jon Hix, Mike Miller, Allen Hale and some other locals had a great sounding band that played the National Guard Armory and in the school gymnasium. I was amazed to hear “The Weight” with it’s staggered harmonies and complicated songs like “My Generation” (with Mike Miller playing the bass solo during the instrumental break) as if the original artists were right there in Norton.
The curse of the Left-Handed Guitarist didn’t really kill Craig’s ambition. After all, he knew every profesional “Lefty” musician out there. Of course, Paul McCartney was the most prominent and he played bass. Jimi Hendrix was a lefty, but he played a regular right-hand guitar strung upside down (the low string was where the high string was supposed to be, and so on).
That was good enough for Craig. He knew he could do it. He decided to concentrate on the bass. A few years earlier, he had a “declared band” — meaning I don’t know if anyone could play an instrument (or even had one) but he decided that he and his friends were a band. Craig didn’t play the bass at this point (or the guitar, of course) and the only time I remember any type of “practice” was when Jim Steinert came to our house and pounded out a boogie-woogie pattern on our old blonde upright piano. I think Craig decided Rick Ukele was in the band, too, although I don’t know if Rick was ever really brought up to speed (or even informed of his drafted status).
But by the time these guys hit high school, Craig really wanted to learn to play his instrument and form a band.
Our parents were cooperative, and for Christmas 1969, we both got our first electric guitars. My six-string guitar was a Western Auto branded Fender clone (nearly) and there was a small — maybe 5 watt — Western Auto amp. Craig got a Kay bass. Man, were we happy!
We both plugged into the little amp, which put it into overdrive — and that was really cool. The sound came out fuzzy and distorted — like good rock and roll should!. We spent a lot of time working up songs. Craig wasn’t really a singer (he didn’t think his voice was that good) so I took most of the lead singing and he chipped in for some harmony.
We were eclectic, to say the least. Most of our material came off of the Woodstock album, which we bought around the same time we got the guitars and amp. We could play Arlo Guthrie singing “Coming Into Los Angeles,” as well as Santana’s “Evil Ways” and quite a few other songs (Woodstock was a 3-LP Album).
We also bought Abbey Road about that time, but most of the songs on there were beyond our capabilities. We were able to work up a fair-to-middling version of “Something” as well as “Oh Darling” and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” Quite a few other Beatles songs were in our repertoire — of course, we had the charts.
Right after that, we moved away from Norton. It was the middle of the school year, so Craig had completed the first half of his Junior year and I had scraped by half of my Freshman year.
The next chapter saw us develop into what would eventually become The Bunkhouse Boys — but we still had a way to go.
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