December 7th, 1984, a day that will live in infamy.
The stories of playing a long time ago is now the stuff of legends. Or basically a tall tale. As the days and years progressed the mind goes feeble and things remembered are now forgotten or stored way back in brain cells no longer used or capable of using. I used to fantasied about hearing my songs on the radio while growing up in Nowhere City Iowa and bugged my folks for a toy drum set to which I destroyed and then another one to which they said no more. So I crafted my playing via coffee cans and a cymbal a friend of mine gave me after he sold his drumset (Scott Waters forever indebted to you). My drum playing was nothing more of destruction, cymbals bent out of shape and cracked (toy cymbals never last) and whatever songs I composed was banshee screaming and more wild drum rolls. I wasn't the talented drummer that took lessons, there were many good drummers in the area I recall. Neil Machen was one of them and while he was drumming during a jazz showcase in grade school, our late teacher Miss Reynolds leaned over and told me she can picture me being on stage. Being a brat in 6th grade and degrading her in a autobiography we did at that time, I did look at her in a much more positive way years later, even though I'm sure when she saw me at Sears, she still tried to distance herself from the unmodel student that terrorized her in 1973. R.I.P. Marjorie.
Paraphernalia (later Open Highway then Tyrus) I always considered the actual name when my BFF Russell and me decided to form some kind of band. He was more of a risk taker, playing at the school talent show either dressed up as KISS or singing Mandy with his sister played piano. I was a loner, picked upon big time in high school, hung at record stores and thrift stores for records and had little to no luck getting dates. Basically I lived for the vinyl. At the Quill show, something took me by surprise. The prep band had an amazing drummer (Lonnie Washburn) and he and his band wailed away on two Ted Nugent numbers Need You Bad and One Woman the other (i think) and he woke up the inner musician in me. That night, I decided I was going to get a drum set and learn how to keep a beat and get a band going, with my BFF in tow.
In 1980, I saved up enough dollars to invest in a five piece clear Zickos set from the late great Old Man Keeney at his music store. He was up in years but sold me this set for 300 dollars! And Russ picked up a Music Man bass. When we first jammed together, it was not exactly Led Zeppelin in the making, I couldn't keep a bass beat whatsoever and still managed to do Keith Moon like rolls and crashes without any tone or meaning. We made early recordings with Darren Johnson on guitar, nothing worth playing twice but it was a start in the right direction. The problem of the 1980 to 1982 years was that Russ was in the Marines and could only get together for a couple times. In the meantime, I jammed with Doug Spinler and his dad. The next year Russ introduced me to Mike Swearingen, the lead singer of local bands (Cruise and another band that had horns and sounded like Blood Sweat And Tears) and we got together in 1981 with Doug Bonesteel playing guitar on a crude version of Come Together and the first of many versions of Rock Me Baby. DeWayne Schminkey was added later. We would jam over at DeWayne's place, where his mom and dad (Both angels up in heaven) welcomed this band with open arms and basically adopted us. (we love ya Momma Schminkey). During one jam session, a harmonica player hung around and blew into one of a few harps he did have. This was Dennis Lancaster who would later be our lead guitar player. With Russ still in the Corps doing his duty and commitment we became Open Highway and we played our first bar, The Pink Elephant in 1983.
Open Highway didn't last too long and everybody went separate ways. I returned to making my own solo stuff (Town's Edge Rock) that summer of 1983 but ran into Dennis at The Scoreboard and traded ideas and thought about putting a band together. Soon Russ returned to civilian life and the new band (which would be named Tyrus) started in 83. Somehow that year Doug got married and we played Squaw Creek which may have been one of the best shows we ever did. Too bad it wasn't recorded. The 83-84 band went through many guitar player changes, the core members were Russ, Dennis, Myself and Mike whenever available. Will Sigsbee, who is now a very successful CEO for Medicom Health in Minnesota was chosen to be the first outsider to play in the band. He later left to go to Iowa State University for a much better paying career. He chose wisely. But the band wasn't playing anywhere and as they say life happens. By then the guys decided that Tyrus was a better name to play under rather than Paraphernalia and by a 3-1 rule (yours truly casting the nay vote) the change was given. Practice sessions were not much fun, the same songs done over and over and a cavalier could care less attitude made the band felt like a non paying job than fun. Plus I was wasting time and dollars at Hamilton Business College (now Kaplin) for a computer programming degree of obsolete computer jargon that were outdated when we graduated the next year. Something had to be done.
Another wedding reception show (The Legion, Tom LeHew's union with his wife which they are still together, cheers Tom) DeWayne Schminkey returned to play guitar and cheesy organ but Mike telling one too many Anti Reagan jokes almost made it impossible for us to get our instruments back and basically we closed the place done after all the wedding folks went home. So it was either shit or the get off the pot time, Russ himself got married and ready to go back to the Marines, we finally convinced the OK Lounge owner to give us a chance to play one final time. December 5 and the 7th would be the big event. The catch was that we needed a hired hand to full out the sound, since Mike was playing in a band called Precious Metal he could borrow Shawn Ster (Rampage) for those two dates.
Rehearsals got a bit more serious although I can only recall Shawn being there once, twice maybe but that's it. As the days got shorter, the weather got colder and sucked even more. It snowed on the fifth when we managed to set our stuff up at the old OK Lounge now the Marion Public Library. Back then Marion was still a nice place to live in although the trains rarely came through town anymore. We certainly didn't expect any major label A and R reps to pass through, but we were playing live and in town for our friends and work mates. The first night wasn't recorded and better that way. Most of the show was feedback hell, the weather sucked and the crowd was sparse. Shawn had a female acquaintance that took pictures of that show but I have yet to see them and probably never will. Basically a night to forget, even the hired hand passed out from either too much drinking or taking some sort of substance and the female person giving mouth to month on the wrong head. I think I took home about 15 dollars for the take at the gate.
I decided to record the second show since I had a feeling it would be the last time we could do this and that playing there Saturday Night may not be an option. Recording straight into a Realistic cassette stereo recorder I pretty much set the mikes under the drums (Dennis later moved one of them over to the bass amps, not a good move but today's technology makes it possible to slash the bass in half). and got a very interesting snare sound. Friday night, the full moon came out and the temps were about 7 below but we had a pretty good sized crowd considering the fact that nobody heard much of us. While most of the guys were drinking it up pretty good, I had a couple liters of Pepsi to keep me going. And most of the old gang were there, DeWayne was there, Doug was there and so were most of Dennis' co workers.
And this is the stuff that legends (or myths) are made of. Beginning with Axe's Rock N Roll Party In The Streets we played three and half hours of the overplayed rock classics that would get people out on the dance floor. Shawn helped taking some of the singing burden off Mike, although Russ, Dennis and Chris Shaffer would take a turn singing a song themselves. For originals, we did You Were With Me the first night but Cocaine Train the second night so that shut me up about playing original stuff. Of course Cocaine Train would have kept the dance floor packed had somebody piped up about it being an original to which I wanted to decapitate him with a 20 inch Pang cymbal. For a band that only played their second stint together, I don't think we did too bad, although I cringe when I hear Free Bird or the mess up of Hold On Loosely but that's the critic in me. I wasn't too pleased with our signature song of Rocky Mountain Way either. And 30 years later I do admit that perhaps my crash and bash method of playing drums wasn't exactly the way it was supposed to sound like but that was the way I did things back then. I played like I was taking my frustrations out on the world. My favorite moment was perhaps the I Just Want To Make Love To You marathon jam session to which me and Russ keeping it going for as long as the Live Foghat version and then right into Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy. But on the former song I was driving the band and they had to follow me this time, all the way down to screaming 1234 to tell everybody to end this thing. That song replaced Rocky Mountain Way as the go to song.
Outside of that, the memory gets fuzzy. Certain things stand out, on Takin Care Of Business, Shawn went one way on guitar and Russ whopped him on the head with the tip of his bass. Doug offering to come back into the band during a break, and myself playing pinball during breaks and playing back some of the songs off the player through headphones. And of course Shawn leading the bar through the finale Happy Trails to which, imagine that, somebody was singing the wrong words toward the end. You really had to be there to hear it.
After that it was over. We got paid 32 dollars apiece for the whole show. We went up there the next night to see if we were going to played but the Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team won out and despite having 7 folks showing up to see the band, there would be no show. Since the statue of limitations has run out after 30 years, it's safe to say now that Tyrus is now over. There was talk about doing a New Years's Eve Show but without Russ around or us really wanting to continuing this, we simply went on hiatus. Russ went back into the service a week later, Dennis would relocate to Arizona the next year and yours truly went back to the basement or bedroom to continue to make original recordings in one way or another. And still hangs out at record stores within driving distance. Shawn remains active on the bar scene with his acoustic shows, Dennis is now a pilot and flies airplanes and has two musically inclined sons and Mike does Karaoke.
However this year, Paraphernalia/Tyrus did managed to have a reunion of sorts. Online at Facebook I started posting pictures of The OK Lounge shows and managed to get Russ, Dennis, Doug, Mike and DeWayne back together that way. Shawn later found me out and joined up on Facebook as well. But the January get together would probably the final time we could get everybody together even though it was via computer and the internet. As for my drum playing nowadays, I can safely say that I'm not the same savage beast that used to terrorize the neighborhood with broken sticks and withering cymbals and holes in the drums themselves. I try to present that to my old band mates but I don't think they believe me. Maybe I don't believe it myself.
As we celebrate our last show together 30 years ago, I raise my glass in toast to my bandmates, we were not only band mates but we were also good friends and I think that's the reason why I look back upon this with fondness. We may not been the best of musicians but what we lack in, we more than made it up with attitude and our own style....even on the overplayed bar rock classics of long ago and far away and still being played to death via classic rock radio. Cheers all!
(Below is original transcript from another blog)
Sound Check-Rock Of Ages (Def Lepperd)
(Originally thinking it was Rock And Roll Party In The Streets but that may have been a sound check on the Wed night gig)
Rock And Roll Party In The Streets (Axe)
Make It Last (Montrose)
Talking In Your Sleep (Romantics)
Teacher Teacher (38 Special)
Headknocker (Foreigner, I can never spell that GD band)*
Mean Deposition (Muddy Waters)
Free Bird (Guess who by)
You Really Got Me (Kinks-Van Halen)
Living After Midnight (Judas Priest)
Hold On Loosely (38 Special)
Too Late For Love (Def Leppard)*
Sharp Dressed Man (ZZ Top)/
Bad Motor Scooter (Montrose)
Sin City (AC/DC)
Cocaine (J J Cale)
Johnny B Goode (Chuck Berry)
Blue Morning Blue Day (Foreigner)
Ridin The Storm Out (REO)
Turn To Stone (Joe Walsh)*
Ohio (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
Rock Of Ages (Def Leppard)/
I Just Want To Make Love To You (Foghat)/
Don't Want Your Money (Jam)/
Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy (Sammy Hagar)
Cocaine Train (Song Written by R.Swearingen/D Lancaster/R A Smith)
Gimme Three Steps (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
Say What You Will (Fastway)
Jailhouse Rock (Elvis)
Tush (ZZ Top)
Taking Care Of Business (BTO)
Rocky Mountain Way (Joe Walsh)
On The Hunt (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin)/
Drums On Fire (Drum Solo)
Lonely Is The Night (Billy Squirer)
Happy Trails To You
*) Songs that were performed but not recorded
Who did what:
Mike Swearingen sang on the majority of the songs
Shawn Ster Sang on Rock Of Ages, Sin City, Say What You Will, Free Bird, played lead guitar
Dennis Lancaster sang on Taking Care Of Business, played lead and rhythm guitar
Russ Swearingen sang on Turn To Stone, Played bass
Chris Shaffer-Swearingen sang on Too Late For Love
I played cymbals.....and drums
Randy Hartwig manned the soundboard
I recorded the whole thing on a piece of shit Realistic Cassette Recorder that recorded at a higher speed. Which meant
you played the tape on any other player, the sound would be a lot
slower. The first set, the one of the recording mics was under
snare drum which gave it an extra kick. For a bootleg sound quality it
wasn't too bad. Dennis would later move the microphone
over to his guitar amp, giving more sound to the guitar.
crowd at the OK that chilly Friday Night was around 200 people at the
height, but this is where it gets fuzzy for me. I'm not sure what the
charge was, it may have been five dollars, or two dollars. Most of the
people that showed up came from where Dennis worked at the time
Buffet. Some of our friends did show up and previous band members:
Doug Bonesteel and Duwayne Schminkey, I'm thinking Robin Moulds also was
there and perhaps Chris Cox, or Darrel Deburkehart. Back at that time I
got 32 dollars for the effort of our gig.
All of the
pictures that I have in my hands are from the Dec 7th show. There was a
girl that took pictures of the Dec 5th show but I have never seen them
or if they even existed anymore. The crowd on the 5th was spare since it
was on a weeknight and to compound the situation, it was snowing that
night. But Friday night it was a full moon and the temp was about 7
The Wednesday Night gig was not recorded, since I
couldn't sneak the cassette player out of the house (it was connected to
my dad's Stereo) and with good reason. We were fighting feedback
throughout the the whole ordeal. That was the only time we played You
Were With Me, another original song and I think we did Season Of The
Witch and Just What I Needed, all of which were not done on the Friday
Night gig. I'm thinking that On The Hunt and Teacher Teacher were the
first time we attempted to do those songs. Like any upstart bar bands
there's a roughness and missed note here and there and some of the songs
showed that, Free Bird was the first time we attempted to do that in
And it shows. Ohio was very very short and should have been expended out a bit longer.
we showed growing pains, we also showed we have our own sound and
vision. The ability to mix up the beat on Make It Last toward the end
and the speed metal version of another Montrose masterpiece Bad Motor
Scooter probably would have made Ronnie smile had he heard it. The
highlight to me was rocking out to I Just Want To Make Love To You and
extending it to 8 minutes and going full tilt into Your Love Is Driving
Me Crazy. And for that 12 minute medley it pretty much sums up all
things good about Tyrus as we were called back then. Dumb name but it
was the only one we could agree upon.
What made us
different was the interaction among the dancers as our fearless guitar
and bass players ventured out in the crowd and danced with the ones that
dared to come out on the dance floor on Lonely Is The Night, which
would be our final number for the night. There was talk that the owner
of the OK was so impressed that he was going to offer us to play there
again (on New Year's Eve what I heard) but with Russ leaving for the
Marines again in a couple days and our indifference and basically burned
out we just put the whole thing on hiatus. And the band has been
there ever since.
Anyway, it's a snapshot of 30 years
ago, that before kids and careers we were ready to take over the rock
and roll world. And made it to the corner bar before life took over.
(OK Lounge pictures taken by Randy Hartwig, The Zickos Drums photo from the TE Archives).