My First Band (The Mystics)

        Long before I was into bluegrass mandolin I played rock ‘n roll guitar.  (Don’t tell my guys, they are very traditional.)  Like all kids my age we were smitten by the Beatles and took to music over it.  Hey- Paul McCartney was a big Bill Monroe fan.  We thought the Beatles were just bluegrass without a banjo.

        I was in middle school at the time, and got me an old Fender butterscotch ’52 Tele which I still have today, learned three chords and put me together a band.  Me and my buddy Tyler on the Saxophone were the “masterminds.”  We named the band “the Mystics” ’cause we saw the name on a roll of Scotch tape and thought it sounded cool.

        Tyler and I were quite meticulous in our choices for band mates.  We got Ed Hardy to play the organ.  He didn’t play one, but he had taken two years of piano so we figured he’d do, and we knew his mom had an organ in the living room she didn’t play any more.  She didn’t even notice when we put some rollers on it to make it easier to take to gigs.

        Our drummer was Pete “Trash Can” Stanley, so named ’cause of his heavy touch on the cymbals and for the parties his brother used to throw where they filled up trash cans with some strange purple liquid.   His mama was liberal and let us practice in Trash Can’s basement.  In exchange we were the house band for all his brother’s parties.  I didn’t know a blessed thing about the guitar, but with that crowd all you had to be able to play was “Louie, Louie” and “Wipe Out” and you could get by.

        Even at fourteen I was the responsible type, and would drive the impaired party goers home.  (This was before they invented the term designated driver.)  I figured it’d be better to drive without a license than for someone to drive drunk and kill somebody. 

        Tyler’s cousin found a guy they called Buddy Slick to play the bass.  (I played with Buddy three years and never knew his real name.)  Buddy had peroxide bleached blond hair, wore polka dotted shirts, smoked cigarettes, and had a driver’s licence.  None of our moms would let him in the house.  Buddy was a fine addition, ’cause he had the connections to get us all the nightclub gigs in the area.  We had to stay at Tyler’s when we played those.  (My folks woulda caught on, plus as a Doc my dad was in and out all night and mighta caught us.)  Tyler’s people were old and when they’d go to bed we’d jump out the window and go play.  When we got back we’d hose off in the yard so the cigarette smoke from the place wouldn’t give us away and then crawl back in the bed just in time for Tyler’s mom to wake us to a fine breakfast. 

        It might sound like a bad thing for a kid to do, but it was good preparation.  For one, I had no use for intoxicated people or cigarette smoke after what all I saw at those shows, and also I got used to all nighters which came in handy years later for study or as a Doc.  ( I was an energetic kid.)

        Maybe our smartest personnel selection was Scottie McDougall as lead singer.  I called him myself to ask if he’d join.  We had no idea if he could sing, but it didn’t matter.  He was considered quite cute by all the girls at school.  We figured if he was lead singer, they’d show up at our gigs.  Most teen-aged boys get into music to meet girls so it worked out perfect.

        I remember out first paid gig like it was yesterday.  We were at Trash Can’s house in the basement, and some lady from the Methodist church came to listen to us audition to play a youth supper.  Tyler was our business manager.  (He wound up as President of a national company that sells band equipment.)  All of us wore jeans and T-shirts, but Tyler wore a double breasted suit and a tie.

        “Let me all the talking,” he said.  “You boys don’t know nothing about negotiations.”

        He was right.  The only work I’d done was to cut grass for two bucks a yard, and we didn’t need for that nice lady to meet Buddy Slick, so we let Tyler handle it.

        The lady listened to a few tunes and Tyler put down his sax and went over to discuss the gig with her.

        “Well, I think you boys are good.  How much do you charge?”  she asked.

        Tyler did his best to act like a grown up professional.  We were real proud of him.  “Well, ma’am.  We feel like we have a very fine band.  We’ve practiced and worked hard to put together a first class show, so we’re going to charge fifty dollars this year.”

        “Fifty dollars!  I had more in mind something like five.”

        “We’ll take it.”  Some kinda negotiator Tyler was.

        We played the gig.  Had some good food, met some nice girls, and got paid a dollar apiece.

        Some things never change.  We have a bluegrass gig coming up at the Park. The Moose lined it up.  At four bucks we are a cheap ticket.  I guess you get what you pay for.  You can come see us play or buy a gallon of gas, and I think we are a better deal.

        And now all the girls I meet just want to know if I am taking new Medicare patients.  Oh well, I’ve been lucky my whole life, I don’t see any reason to change now, so I’d better go get ready for show time.

        Before it was all over the Mystics played some good gigs.  We dabbled in soul music and played once with Joe Tex.  (“Skinny Legs and All ” was one of his tunes along with “Show Me.”)   Then we landed an upstate S.C. show to open for Jr. Walker and the All-Stars (one of their big hits was “Pucker up Buttercup, I Wanna Kiss You One Time”) but after that the band busted up and we all went off to college.  Tyler was a music major, and I became a Doc.  Pete is a golf pro (nothing was ever wrong with his touch with a putter) and Ed got into real estate.   Scottie owns a construction company.  And Buddy Slick- I don’t know what ever happened to Buddy, we lost track of him and never saw him again.  If he is still alive maybe he’ll read this and resurface.  Or maybe I’ll see him if he gets sick.  I get reacquainted with a lot of old friends that way.  I wonder if he still plays the bass.  We need a sub at church from time to time and I bet he could cut the gig.

Dr. B

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11 Comments on “My First Band (The Mystics)”

  1. Ted Lehmann Says:

    Our thirty-nine year old son Alex has just gone over to the dark side and joined a rock band composed of colleagues from his school. He went out and bought a well-used Gibson Les Paul guitar. Yesterday we stopped by the barn where they practice along with five year old grandson Luke to hear them play. Sounded like music to me. We once had high enough hopes for Alex as a musician to buy him a Martin D18-GE, and we still hope all is not lost. He’ll be coming to Jenny Brook with his family to experience real bluegrass in its proper setting. It’s interesting to me that most of the professional bluegrass musicians we know have had to play everything from Dylan to Dvorak to make enough of a living to allow them to play bluegrass. Your experiences in rock can’t possibly have damaged much more than your ears, but you’ve already shown you know how to listen – Ted

  2. drtombibey Says:

    Ted,

    Rock started out benign, but got too dark for me and I switched to bluegrass. I’ve been happy with it for many years.

    Dr. B

  3. Cindy Carter Says:

    My biggest dream when I was a kid was to be a background singer for a rock group. I knew I did not want to be up front. Just wanted to sing in the background.

    Remember, I still want to learn how to play the fiddle. But, I may settle for the guitar. You can’t sing and play the fiddle at the same time. LOL

  4. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Cindy,

    I wasn’t a great singer, but managed to learn the baritone part well enough to get by, and had a bunch of fun.

    Guitar is not too hard to get started on. Another instrument to think about is the bass. Bass players are always in demand. My wife started on it in middle age and became quite good. She now has a band, and we play together in the church, too.

    Dr. B

  5. pandemonic Says:

    Sounds like a great time to me.

    When I learned guitar, I hooked up with a bunch of kids from church. We played at the Sunday guitar Mass. I was more “folk” than rock and roll, and liked the Byrds, CCR, Joni Mitchell. My rock and roll side didn’t come out until after high school. A lot of stuff didn’t come out until then. 🙂

  6. Cindy Carter Says:

    Somehow, I equate the Bass with the women in that video, Addicted to Love. I am trying to picture myself in a black slinky dress and really red lips. Not quite me! Although I could wear the slinky dress, I am more jeans and t-shirt.

  7. Ted Lehmann Says:

    Cindy – You actually can. Eamon McLoughlin, fiddler for the Greencards, manages to play fiddle and sing at the same time, and quite well, too. There just aren’t very many of them. – Ted

  8. drtombibey Says:

    Pande,

    Here is some bluegrass trivia for you. Chris Hillman was a bluegrass mandolin man, and signed on to play bass with the Byrds. He made a bunch of money I guess, but then he went back to bluegrass. Last I heard he was with the Laurel Canyon Ramblers, a very fine west coast band.

    Also Clarence White, the great flat pick guitar man, played electirc guitar for the Byrds. Clarence was killed by an errant (? drunk) driver while loading sound equipment. Clarence’s brother Roland still plays bluegrass mandolin today, and was the first (before the Darlings) mandolin player on the Andy Griffith Show.

    I loved the Byrds. Sweethearts of the Rodeo was my favorite.

    Dr. B

  9. drtombibey Says:

    Cindy,

    Ted is right- some do both. The old fiddle is tough but beautiful.

    And, in jeans and a T-shirt you’d fit right in as a bluegrass bass player. For some reason there are a fair number of female bass players in bluegrass.

    Dr. B

  10. Susan Shay Says:

    Down Oklahoma way, that purple liquid you referred to was called Purple Passion. I’m not sure what was in it. Koolaide or grape juice and grain alcohol maybe?
    I’ve never experienced it, but I hear it’ll make you go blind if you drink enough.

    Susan

  11. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Susan,

    I think they called it “Purple Jesus” and I didn’t drink it either. I am 20/20 in the left eye, and 20/25 in the right- good for my age- so I am glad I just played the music.

    Dr. B


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