It was fun to be in a band. I knew it would be. There’s a real comradery respect between the band members. You didn’t choose these guys as friends, but sometimes you just hung out with them and went to the mall. It wasn’t just a group of friends strolling to the Orange Julius, it’s the band Renegade.
Sometimes during practice to break the tension of developing a new song, jokes would be fired back and forth between members.
Chaz: “Maybe I should open this shirt another button when the girls stop by again.”
Jerry: “Nobody wants to see that hairless baby chest of yours.”
Chaz: “Oh yeah? Well, I’ll have you know Gerald, that hair doesn’t grow on steel.”
Jerry: “It doesn’t grow on Jell-O either.”
Shut me down!
Or the time Jerry first met my younger sister April. He would say, “Oh there’s my wife.” It was bizarre and eccentric. She was only 11 years old! We all knew that it was just a funny bit he did, and in no way it meant to be lascivious in any way. It was just weird.
Sometimes Jerry would go into the cupboard in the kitchen when he would first come over and start eating the dry dog food right out of the box. I think he just did it to shock people. It was all very funny and he was a great guitarist.
One time I noticed that one section of the hair on the right side was darker.
“What happened to your hair?”
“I put hydrogen peroxide in that section.”
“Why did you do that, Jerry?”
“Because I wanted to have one little blonde patch in there like Joe Perry. But instead of making it lighter, it made it darker.”
The band was coming along. We were working on a few songs by then. But something was off. It was the current drummer, Jack. He just didn’t fit with the band. He also wasn’t very good.
One day somebody brought over this guy Mike. It was just Me, Jerry, and Larry hanging out and working on some new material. Jack wasn’t around for whatever reason. Maybe he bailed on practice or something. This other guy Mike gets behind the drum kit and we decide to let him jam with us.
We run through a few numbers and this guy’s tight. He’s also a good-looking guy. I remember my sister Janice coming down to the basement and acting a little extra friendly during their greeting.
We decide we want Mike to replace Jack. But we don’t want any drama or Jack losing his shit. I tell the boys I’ll handle it. They’re happy about that because they don’t want to deal with it.
The next day I call up Jack and tell him the bad news. Jerry has quit the band to focus more on school and with no Jerry, there is no band. He seems frustrated but accepts the reality of it. Without the lead guitarist who knows all of the songs and all the solos, there’s no Renegade. He says he’ll be by tomorrow to pick up his drums.
I think it was a Saturday because we were all off from school. Jack is packing up his drums. “Tell Jerry, next time he wants to start a band to make sure he’s SURE about it.” I sensed Jack’s frustration. I also felt bad about lying to him. But I had high anxiety back then and didn’t want to face the drama and rejection of it all.
As Jack pulled out of the driveway and drove down the street, I stood on the sidewalk watching him turn the corner. A station wagon down the end of the street started its engine. The wagon pulls into my driveway and Mike, Jerry and Larry get out.
“Pretty slick guys.”
“Yea, we wanted to get started as soon as possible.”
“What did you tell Jack?”
“Umm… I just told him his timing was off and he needed to work on that. He agreed, and I said that we’ve auditioned some other players and we’ve decided on a specific candidate to be his successor in Renegade.” (A bald-faced lie. I didn’t have the balls to do that.)
“Wow, man. That took balls. Good job!”
We start unloading Mike’s white Ludwig drum kit. We all carried pieces of it and he gets it all set up.
About a half-hour later we’re running through the setlist and the band is sounding as tight as a crab’s ass. (That’s watertight)
We’re happy with Mike and I think we’re all set. The usual gaggle of teenage girls wander down the back steps and park in various parts of the basement around the band.
Life is good. Once we were all just targets of bullies. Outcasts. Weirdos. Victims. But now we play rock and roll and everything has changed. The boys that hang up at the corner don’t fuck with us anymore. We are a band. We play songs they like. No longer will they hurt us and especially me. I have created something. It has taken me to the next level. They sit on the corner and play street hockey. I make music with strangers from another school in my basement.
One of the bigger guys one day pulls me aside and tells me that he thinks it’s cool that I’m in a band and the music is good. He thinks it’s cool that his girlfriend and her friends want to hang in my basement and check out my band. He asks that I keep an eye on his girl Patty while he’s at football practice. He knows I’m harmless and it’s a cool place for her and her sisters and friends to be while he’s busy with the boys.
I have become a refuge for the bullies of my neighborhood. I’m happy with my new alliance with these animals. I look at Ray and think about Ryan O’Neil. A dear close friend to Lee Majors in the seventies. Lee was so busy shooting the hit TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man, (A show I worshipped) he asked his buddy Ryan to look after his wife Farrah Fawcett when he was away. Ryan said what I said to Ray that very day.
“I’ll look after like she is my own.”
Ryan O’Neill ended up clipping Farrah and making her his girlfriend and they had a child and he loved her until her untimely death.
I didn’t think of any of this at the time because it hadn’t happened yet, but we were a collection of misfits that suddenly had access to a lot of pretty girls that would show up at our practices for no reason. It was alien to us. But we loved it. None of us were accustomed to being around pretty girls. I think Larry was especially freaked out, and it seemed like Jerry didn’t care. Mike dug the attention, and I just loved that we had an audience.
I was NOTHING before this moment.
Something was happening, and I liked it very much. (Second from the right… Oh my)
The pimple-faced, bespectacled, greasy-haired loser was emerging as a singer in a tight rock and roll band. Skin cleared. Braces were off and swagger was starting to happen.
The girls liked the songs and we were doing something no one in the neighborhood was doing. The world was opening and for the first time, I really felt alive!
I loved playing the song Cold Gin by Kiss, even though back then I was a closet Kiss fan because as great as they were live, a lot of people thought artistically they sucked. But it’s a great song and I adored playing it with the boys. At that time I had never even tasted hard liquor. I just dug the jam.
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