August 10, 2015

FTV: First Paying Gigs – Part 2

Video was shot in November of 2011 – “Trees” (l-r)  Jesse Fitzpatrick, Lindsay Tomasic, and Dave Pearlman perform live on WCBN 88.3 at the University Of Michigan with DJ “Tex”.

    A while back, I put some of my friends and musical acquaintances on the spot and asked them to share memories of their first paying band gigs.  I got some really great stories to share so I kept adding to the file as they trickled in.  As you can see, I got enough responses to do  part two.  As I said in Part 1 – these articles more or less write themselves because no one tells the stories better than the people who lived them, so here we go again.

 Lindsay Tomasic lives in Los Angeles but is no stranger to the Copper Country as she tries to get back to perform in the area whenever she can.  I first contacted her about a CD after seeing her Datolite Music web page and figured ‘Datolite’ is a real familiar term in the copper mining district, so there must be a connection.  Here is Lindsay’s first paying gig story:

“My first gig was back when I was attending “Houghton High” and I was 16 years old…..  Mark Stimac and I had put a band together and we called ourselves “Shades Of Time”.  It sounded good at the moment.  We were a four piece band.  Myself on bass and lead vocals, Mark Stimac on lead guitar and vocals, Steve Kemper on Drums and Art Okarainen on rhythm guitar.  Our first real gig was at the Powerhouse Teen Center in Houghton.  Mark and I had been working hard on songs by Grand Funk Railroad and Cream, and we may have even tried playing In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.

It was 1972.  The gig itself is now a bit of a blur, but in addition to playing the rock stuff, we also played “It’s Too Late” by Carole King.  I remember that the sound system was horrible and that I couldn’t hear myself sing and I also remember being blown away by how GOOD Mark Stimac was when he would take a solo.   Looking back I can remember a row of heads in the front of the stage.  People (teens) who seemed to be enjoying themselves and liking what they were hearing.  Jesse Fitzpatrick (then known as Sharry Fitzpatrick) was one of those “heads”.  It made me nervous.  She had written a song about pollution and had made it as a star performer at an HHS assembly and to the front page of the DMG (ed note:  Daily Mining Gazette from Houghton)!  So… in my mind, there was a “star” in the audience.

During our break, she came up to me and told me “you don’t need these guys…you’re too good for this band”.  Then she invited me to come to her place to play and sing together.  So, that night for me was all about that.  I remember telling my parents that Sharry Fitzpatrick asked me to sing with her!!  It was all I could talk about.   A month later, ”Trees” (then known as “Me And You”) was born.”  It may have seemed a little blurry to Lindsay, but I don’t think one could paint a clearer picture of how her first paying gig lead to “Trees” being formed  43 years ago (and still going strong despite Lindsay and Jesse working in Los Angeles and the Copper Country, respectively).

Australian Hammond B-3 and Whammy Clavinet wizard Lachy Doley responded to my request as follows:  “My first paying gig was in Adelaide on a Friday afternoon.  I was about 13 and my mum’s guitar playing friend Barry, who I had been jamming with, asked me along to play some blues piano.  Mum thought it was a strange time for a gig.  Usually most gigs are late on Friday or Saturday, maybe early on a Sunday, but Friday afternoon was odd.  We pulled up to this real workers pub and I set up my crappy Roland Electric Piano where they said be would be playing.  I noticed there was a kind of temporary raised floor section going thru the hallway and into the main bar.  Anyway, we thought nothing of it. Mum got me a Coke, Baz turned up and we started playing.  It was going pretty good I thought even though I was very nervous.  Baz got me to play a solo, so I gave it all I had pulling out my best Jerry Lee Lewis licks.  There was a huge applause at the end that filled me with happiness and validation until I looked up.  It seems we had been booked to accompany a lunchtime strip show and the first girl had just walked out and down the catwalk.  I was disappointed and excited all at the same time.  Thinking back, my Mum seemed remarkably cool about the whole thing.  And as a 13 year old boy I realised that day the music business was for me. Most Definitely!!!”

Lachy’s keyboard playing brother Clayton Doley weighed in with his first gig story:

“In my early teens when I was just starting out I began playing in a band where I was by far the youngest member, everyone else was at least 15 years my senior. We would play the occasional party and play some pub gigs on the weekend up in the Adelaide hills. I am sure the amount of money we were paid was pretty nominal, it would have probably only just covered the petrol costs. I was too young to drive so I would give my pay to my mother who would have to selflessly drive me to most gigs.

In Australia the legal drinking age is 18 and that’s how old you need to be to be in a lot of music venues. I would have been about 14 or 15 in those days. When we would play in a club where I was not allowed to be we would have to get my Mum to be on the lookout for any Police that might come.   It sounds quite absurd now but she would signal to me and I would go hide in the band room or car park. I guess at that stage we probably would have been making some decent money.

It was so great to have a disposable income at such a young age, I was pretty independent compared to my school friends at that time. I was actually able to buy a car outright with the my own money to learn to drive it when all my school friends had to use their parent’s car.  It was a rude shock when I had to move out of my mother’s house and most of my money went on rent.”   Clearly, the Doley boy’s have one terrific mother.

Lastly, I asked Mark Bobula of the long running Easy Money Band for his input and he let out a rather long whistle and said, “I’ll try, but that was a lot of years and gigs ago”.  Nevertheless, Mark did come up with a few pertinent facts from his mid-1960s start up:  “We were a rock n’ roll band called The Stormers working out of the the Iron River – Crystal Falls area.  We pretty much played all over the U.P., the upper Lower Peninsula and northern Wisconsin.  Our first gigs were at a teen dances in Crystal’s ACA Hall and Kingsford’s Armory.  We had some smaller Harmony, Fender, and Sears amps so we built huge plywood cabinets with shelves for the amps and cloth covers for the fronts to make our equipment appear larger and ‘really professional’.  The gigs went well and started us on our musical careers.  Many of our earliest fans were quite impressed with our stage set up, however,  after carrying those boxes up, down, and around, we decided that was absolutely enough of those bulky, heavy amp enhancements!”  Mark actually has had a remarkably long (and on-going) musical career which we will revisit in a future FTV.

    As always, many thanks to all for taking a few moments to revisit their musical beginnings.  The connecting thread for all of them seems to be that we all got bit by the musical bug and followed any and all paths that eventually let us play music for others to enjoy.  Some of us perform more casually these days and some have gone on to make it a career.  It is all good and by the sounds of it, we also need to thank our moms and dads for their helping hands.