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Reel-to-Reeling in the Years – with apologies to “Steely Dan”

August 10, 2012

Back in the day… I was a member of a band in college.  We called ourselves “Stockyard”.  Jack Craynock on drums, Skip Kennedy on keyboards, Steve Cooper on bass and me on guitars.  We were together for about three years, playing club parties and local bars around New Jersey.  We did covers of the songs of our era; Beatles, Stones, etc.  Sometimes when the party wound down, we’d jam for a while on original stuff.  Our “Stockyard Boogie” was pretty good.

I thought we had something and hoped for more so I drove myself (and my bandmates) crazy writing original music and recording demo tapes to push our career along.  We rented a farmhouse our last year.  I’d already dropped out of school but they were full time students.  I modified a Teac four channel tape deck to do multitrack recording.  We recorded a demo of my best original compositons and a 90 minute “rock opera” I wrote as well.

Not able to get anything going in New York City, Steve Ham and I headed to California in the fall of 1972.  I planned to play the tapes for music moguls in LA and faintly remember waiting outside David Geffin’s office for a half hour before leaving without ever seeing him.  Then, I got a job at Pacific Stereo and my life went in a completely unplanned and unanticipated direction.  I’ve hardly touched my guitar since.

A few years ago, a friend gave me an antique Akai reel-to reel.  I knew I had those tapes somewhere and thought that someday…..  Six weeks ago I tried, but found I had no take-up reel.  I went to Radio Shack and had an amusing conversation with a young staffer trying to communicate what I was looking for (sort of like a cassette but bigger).  EBay to the rescue.  Ten days later, with my wife out of town and the house empty, I hooked up the Akai, spooled up our “West Coast Demo”, poured a glass of wine and sat back in my comfortable chair expecting… I don’t know what.

First “tape hiss”, my old friend.

Then music.  Damn good music.  Skilled players, quirky harmonies.  Some originality.  A little embarrassing pretentiousness, but who among us wouldn’t be embarrassed  to run smack into their forty year younger self today!  I played the tape over two or three times and then imported it into my computer.  A little EQ, a little noise reduction and soon enough… it sounded decent.

So I emailed my bandmates to ask if they’d like to hear “our past” as well.  Jack’s now a private practice lawyer in PA.  He found Steve Cooper who I lost contact with in 1972.  Steve’s a professor at Marshall University.  Both of them have now downloaded the iTunes files so we three can now have “Stockyard” on our iPhones.  I haven’t reached Skip yet, but hope he gets his copy soon.  He’s a successful computer engineer, started a business or two and made important contributions to computer video.

I even got up the courage to play the tape for my wife.  She liked it, though she doesn’t really listen to music.

So what’s it all about, Alfie?  Be careful when you get in the “Wayback Machine”.  You might enjoy a stroll down memory lane but you might meet someone you forgot you used to be.


From → Life

  1. I knew it! No wonder why you would never pick up a guitar when I tried to hand you one. Reconnecting with past lives and past friends can be a lot of fun. It can also bring back a longing and a lot of “what if’s”. On my 50th birthday the band I used to play with gave me a reunion jam. I was just glad I had kept myself in semi practice. It brought back a LOT of memories and “what if’s”.
    One thing about my life and my job is that I kept music in it and it will always remain. Sometimes I sit back and look at the path that I chose or rather the one that chose me and i realise that I still give the gift of music to people just in a different way.

    thank s Rick

  2. Sweet. Best, Linda

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