The Friday Knights, My First Attempt at Stardom
By Rich Friedland
Chapter 1 (January 1973-June 1973)
Practice location: 746 Clearfield Dr. Millbrae
FROM TAMBOURINE TO BASS AND VOCALS
Circa January 1973
I was introduced to Rick Kelly through our common friend, Larry Schlesinger who each owned 1965 Mustangs (the car that would become a staple for every member in The Friday Knights). Larry wanted us to meet because the three of us were the world’s biggest Beatles fans, We instantly became close friends not only because we both loved the Beatles but The San Francisco Giants almost as much! He was a great musician and we decided to form a band but I barely even played guitar, so I graduated to tambourine so I would be less likely to play off key. Rick (who insisted on being known on stage by his birth name, Quanah) played guitar very well and sang, was always very patient and respectful so he tolerated my lack of abilities. I gave Rick my song binder filled with all of my lyrics of which would one day be songs that I had made up melodies for. I had been trying to write since before we met. My plan was to have us do some of my songs in effort to one day be “more popular than The Beatles”, which was always our goal. He wasn't interested in playing my melodies, so he wrote tunes using my lyrics. One song, “Can’t Get You Off Of My Mind” which I wrote about Janis who was my first love and first date, was the song Rick picked to work on first. (Janis and I were never romantic but became lifetime very close friends. In this song Rick played guitar and sang, while fumbled around on the tambourine.
Trying to think of potential bandmates, I first asked Dave Aulwurm who played trumpet in the high school band. He turned me down, flat. Next, I turned to my good friend Cory Fernandez, who played blackjack and poker with me, every chance we could get *school break, lunchtime, in the car while driving, you name it we were always ready and Cory knew that I always had a deck of cards ready to go in my back pocket. joined the Capuchino High School swim team with me and always made me laugh. He was a drummer in the same band as Dave, surely he’s want to join Rick’s and my new ensembles so I asked him to come to our next “band” practice. He was really interested if not for one little detail...he didn't have a drum kit. Well we needed a drummer, and I couldn’t think anyone who would be more fun to work with than Cory. He was the funniest and funnest guy I ever knew so I was determined to help him get awesome drums ASAP. one, I found a lead to get a cheap set. One of my parent’s tenants renting one of their real estate properties happened to have an old drumset for sale very cheap! Cory and I went down to see it right away and a few minutes and forty bucks later he had a drum set and I had the beginning of my band. It didn’t come with cymbals so we rushed down to pawn shops in San Francisco immediately after school so we could get there before they closed at 5pm. Good thing his Mustang was tweaked by his brother Curtis to get us there through rush hour traffic just in time. Somehow we managed to cut through the pouring rain rush hour traffic just in time to arrive at one store at 4:50, just 10 minutes before closing. Quick talking and haggling got Cory the cymbals and drumsticks he needed to be the next Ringo! Now, with a complete drum kit, we were ready to get this rock a rollin’.
Another friend of both Rick’s and mine, Cavan Weir played a little guitar so we all invited him to our first practice at an attempt to have a four-piece band just like The Beatles had. There we were, two rhythm guitars (no lead), drums and tambourine (no bass), the perfect number of guys, but we took a few liberties with the instrumentation. Still we felt this was all we would need to put fear into the hearts of John, Paul, George and Ringo. I remember we played “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone'' and “Bad Moon Rising” and our song, “Can’t Get You Off Of My Mind” destined to be our first big hit. I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear when I heard real “music” actually filling my bedroom for the first time which wasn’t generated by a record player or my record player ... and I was a part of this, me and my tambourine, I felt great! Oh what possibilities this could lead to, or so I thought!
PIC MY HOUSE ON CLEARFIELD
After just a few songs, Cavan started putting his guitar away and announced: ““Don’t call me, I’ll call you!” Not a very nice thing to say, especially considering he wasn’t much more of any more of a musician than the rest of us were. When Cory heard taht he was livid! He looked up at me and gave me the “Let’s not call him EVER again look!” and I nodded back in agreement. Rick, as I recall didn’t seem to have much of an opinion one way or another, he was too busy being sure his guitar was in tune. If memory serves. Cory then suggested we try his friend Paul Inserra who could play lead guitar. I sort of knew Paul from High school as well as Taylor middle school before that. He seemed like a nice enough guy so we told Cory to ask Paul if he was interested in auditioning. We needed a lead guitarist because even though Rick was a natural guitarist he could only play rhythm at that time.
I think it was the next day when Paul showed up for the first time. As soon as he plugged in his Fender Jazzmaster we could see he was not only the best musician in the room, but the saviest one as well. We knew we wanted him in, but he came with one condition: I would have to hang up the tambourine and play bass guitar. Bass player? Me? What do I know about that, I thought, and where would I get the money to buy one? I had no job and it was all I could do to scrape up forty cents eight times a year to keep my Mad Magazine collection current, which up to that day was one of the most important parts of my life! Paul had the solution, he said he’d give me his Aria bass, as well as teach me how to play it. I think that was the day Cory and I nicknamed him “Dad’, as we welcomed him as the newest Knight.
I don’t know for sure, but I doubt it was long before Paul started having second thoughts about joining a band where the leader had so little musical talent, but he hung in there and gave me lessons. This did not come easy to me at all. I finally learned to play the standard blues progression which didn’t come easy, but came in handy as half of our songs followed that pattern. Once I learned that, it was my turn to sing into a microphone for the very first time! I’ll never forget how nervous I was to sing in front of my new bandmates, and try to appear as a worthy leader and able to lead this band to bigger venues than my bedroom as I had promised everyone. Singing and doing that while playing a musical instrument I had never held until just a few days prior was a very scary thing, but I didn’t want them to know that! I still remember breathing in as much air as I could to fill my lungs as I figured, here goes nothin’ and belted out Blue Suede Shoes at the top of my lungs. I’m sure it was awful, but when I finished Paul remarked, “I love that rasp you put in your voice!” Huh? A compliment on my voice from a real musician? I couldn't believe it, and started to believe that I might have a shot at being a real musician one day. That's all I had to hear, to make up my mind, this was not going to be just a hobby, but my passion in life, to be a real musician just like my idol, John Lennon.
LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED!
Next, our newest member began playing us a song that he said we should start every performance with. When he began playing it, we were all in amazement of this catchy tune we hadn’t ever even heard before!. When we asked him what it was, he said it was a song he wrote himself, he called “Fresh Garbage”! Ricks’s eyes lit up and his mouth hung open. All that came out was “Are you shittin’ me?” Paul said we should begin every gig with that song. As we unpacked our gear and began setting up, we would each join in one by one until we were all playing it together. Since we were planning Friday Knight traditions, we could end every performance with “Smile Away” which we would rotate instruments on. Paul would play Rhythm guitar instead of lead, Rick would play drums, Cory would play bass (I would teach him even though I could barely play the song) and I would play lead guitar. Now weren’t ready to do Louie playing our own instruments, much less a McCartney song with ones we didn’t even own! You can imagine how that sounded, but we were going to be proud to end every gig this way regardless! That’s when we knew we were on our way to fame and fortune, eat your heart out John Lennon! Between Rick and Paul there were several songs they already knew to get us well on our way to rock stardom. We went on to show a song of our own to the boys, “Can’t Get You Off Of My Mind” as well as some Paul gave us advice to begin this journey, he advised us all, “Whatever we do on stage, no matter what might go wrong, never apologize to the audience”. He said to always look confident. That’s when I knew we finally had a band!
CORY’S CRASH CYMBAL WASN’T THE ONLY PART TO CRASH!
One night Cory had a jam party at his house with Paul on guitar, Cory on drums and Jim Kocjan on keyboards. Rick and I weren’t invited so we had no knowledge of the party until after the fact. They got really hammered that night and began to get wild as all usually did when we drank. They were all drunk and Cory’s brother Craig home mad and kicked in the drumhead. I was furious, but Cory and I fixed and rebuilt it. Cory suggested we get a pretty girl lead singer, and he knew just the girl, Laura Diaz, who we went to High School with, so we auditioned her and were thrilled to have this pretty senorita who could actually sing (something we weren’t used to) in the band!
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!
Cory would pick me up every morning and drive me to school and then back home afterwards to our rehearsal in my large double bedroom. Paul was always the first one there, and Rick was late every single day for some reason none of us could understand. Rick was the only one who didn’t have school as he graduated from Mills High School two years earlier, yet he was late every day. This used to infuriate the rest of us so we finally had to tell him we weren't going to tolerate his lateness anymore. With that, he promised us he’d start not only showing up on time but be at my house even before we all got there after school. Well the following day, Cory, Paul and I arrived at the usual time, but once again, Rick was nowhere to be found. So once again here, we were starting band practice as a three piece disgruntled band. I think it was a good half hour before Cory looked out the window, and spotted Rick’s blue Mustang parked up the street with Rick seated inside but not moving to get out so we went back to rehearsing. Finally after another ten minutes, Rick came into the room (we always left the front door unlocked for him). When we asked him what the hell took him so long, he told us that it wasn’t his fault, when he was getting ready to get out of the car the song “I Fought The Law (And The Law Won)” by Bobby Fuller Four came on the radio, so of course he had to listen to that first! That was Rick, gotta love him!
US AND THEM
Rick was a neatness, cleanliness, organizational freak like no one we had ever met before. He made The Odd Couple’s Felix Unger look like Pigpen from The Grateful Dead! He drove us crazy with all his quirks (which we learned years later were a combination of O.C.D, and A.D.D which were not, yet medical terms. Theory is, Rich was the first one to have these disorders, but everybody loved Quanah and we wouldn’t have our dear lead singer/rhythm guitarist any other way! With my bedroom windows wide-open so everyone on the block could hear us loud and clear, kids would gather around my front yard who we could see from upstairs in my room and It wasn’t long before the girls started arriving, My new next door neighbor, Sylvia Jovel and her friend from across the street, Laura Ravella were first and they were pretty, so we let them come upstairs and watch us from the “front row seats” which were at the end of my bed. They became such loyal fans that they became the steady girlfriends of Cory and I respectively. The other Knight’s already had their girlfriends, Rick’s was Laurie Dianda and Paul’s was Carol Gardner. They were all so cute they became honorary members and fit right into the rockstar lifestyle we were trying to form. We also invited a few of our closest friends to come watch us practice, and different ones would begin to drop in each day. One guy from school, who I can’t remember the name of, showed up and while were practicing drew our band’s logo using the San Francisco Chronicle's Old English font as his model. He did such a great job that we used it for the duration we were together.
Well now we had it all, songs, girls, instruments and five participating Knights so we were a full-fledged rock band, so now it was time to be to be seen by more than just a few friends while we rehearsed every day so we started to plan our Friday (K)night party! My parents agreed to go out for the evening as long as there would be no hard liquor, so out went the “BYOBeer'' invitations for the following Friday night! We played to a packed house (upstairs and downstairs) to tons of our equally drunken friends. We were a hit, and on our way to bigger and better things.
IN THE MONEY, AT LA$T!
In addition to being the band leader/bass player, I took it upon myself to double as our booking agent since we couldn’t find a manager. Truth be told, we were never a very good band, so the next step was an enormous challenge! Each day after band practice I would pull out the phone book and call every single possible venue, to try to get us some work. I had a calendar book that my mother gave me that was on ruled paper with plenty of room for notes. This would be The Friday Knights “bookings book”. The first place I called was our old Junior high school which occasionally hired bands to play at the after-school sock hops. It turned out that the “entertainment director” there was Mr. Edwards, the principal who four years earlier had given me “the paddle” (an overgrown ping pong paddle filled with little air-resistant holes to make the spanking hurt more) for mouthing off to my mouth teacher, because she scolded me for shooting rubber bands across the classroom at Chris Lynch. I guess Edwards either didn’t remember me or he decided to bury the hatchet because I was able to talk him into hiring us to do the after school dance at Taylor Intermediate School, this would be our first chance for real success!.
We didn’t have very good gear for the show so something would have to be done about that. Our mic stands were fashioned from pipes protruding from VW hubcaps that Paul had put together and our amps weren’t powerful enough to fill the huge echoey gymnasium we were about to make our debut in. We had very little money to solve that problem so we rented amps but we couldn't afford a PA so we sang through those same amps. I don’t know how we could even afford anything at all as the entire gig only paid $25.
Taylor School Sock Hop, Millbrae
4/13/73 3-4pm Nervous wrecks, it was time to begin, we were all there that is all except for Laura! Where was Laura? How could we do our show without the one band member who could actually sing? Well the show must go on, so just as planned, we all began to take the stage one-by-one: Paul, Rick, Cory, then me as we played our (new) traditional opening song, Paul’s “Fresh Garbage” which seemed to go over pretty well which helped to build our confidence instantly. Confident, but not confident enough to say but one word to the crowd throughout the entire gig, not even as simple “thanks” after someone clapped!
Here’s the only known recording left of us performing anywhere, and it just happens to be our very first gig and it was at our old junior high school four years after all of us except Rick graduated from it. At the beginning you can hear Jim Kocjan introduce us into the small portable cassette record’s microphone. The quality is very poor but, all of the songs are all identifiable, so it’s actually fairly listenable considering it was recorded 50 years ago on a little portable cassette tape recorder using the cheapest tape and mic I could find and we were a pretty awful band at that time.
~INSERT TAYLOR GIG RECORDING~PART 1 (TRIM OFF LONG QUITE BEGINNING)
~INSERT TAYLOR GIG RECORDING PART 2
TAYLOR SCHOOL SOCK HOP SETLIST
Fresh Garbage (Instrumental)
My Sweet Lord (Rick)
Bad Moon Rising (Rick)
Folsom Prison Blues (Paul)
Coming Into Los Angeles (Paul)
Can’t Get You Off Of My Mind (Rick)
American Pie (partial) (Rick)
Sunshine Of Your Love (Rick)
Wipe Out (Instrumental)
Something (Laura finally showed up!)
Proud Mary (Laura)
Try A Little Kindness (Rick)
Good Lovin’ (Rick with Laura)
Blue Suede Shoes (Rich)
(Smile Away- just as we were about to rotate instruments and do our HUGE Smile Away finish to begin this “Friday Knights tradition” the faulty must have wanted to go home so they shut off our power! We were crazy mad and yelled to the crowd to chant “Turn the power back on!” They did, but no such luck! Because we had no power we cannot be heard in the recording but the ruckus from the kids can be heard a little.
When I got home, my mother surprised me by telling me that she stopped by and saw us play. Her only comment was how we all had deadpan expressions, I guess that and the fact that we never once talked to the audience during the entire show, could be a lack of showmanship, right? We had a lot to learn about that!
Well, we didn’t finish quite like we planned, but the kids were having fun, so that was all we needed for bragging rights at school the next day and to get us started on our next adventure!
WE NEED A HIT SONG!
Early May. 1973 One sunny day in May I was over at my new girlfriend, Sylvia’s house next door, watching TV one day while Cory was across the street visiting Laura. Unannounced, Cory busted in, all excited and anxious to read and sing to me his new song he had secretly been writing about our favorite team The San Francisco Giants! I guess he didn’t want to be the only non-writing Knight. I was blown-away by his efforts and suggested a few music and lyric changes which he took right too. One thing in particular I remember changing the most was the chorus. Originally he had it as “You know The Giants are number one, you know the giants have just begun, etc. etc. etc) I suggested replacing all the redundant the “you knows” with a two simple tambourine beats at each phrase which good ol’ agreeable Cory took right to, so that was done, and being an-ex tambourinist, I could show Laura the complex parts! When we finished the re-write we were ready to present the masterpiece to the real musicians of the group, Rick and Paul, which we did the very next day at band practice. Both also being huge Giants fans really liked my idea of recording the song, so rehearsals and recording soon began!
May 23, 1973 We finished recording our new “hit song” tribute to the Giants (or Young Giants as they were promoted throughout the entire 1973 season) in actual stereo, a real advanced technological marvel to us at the time, on Cory’s brother Craig’s Dokorder reel to reel tape deck.
We used the fastest speed it had which was a whooping 7.5 IPS (inches per second). This was a professional speed as my genius best friend Pat Queen alway said. So I knew we must use this speed, as well as BASF recording tape as “It’s the best tape in the world, it must be, it’s made in Germany!”, Pat would tell me. I didn’t quite understand the logic, and I’m not sure he did either, but he was Pat. the genius so he knew best,so who was I too argue! I think Cory might have argued a bit because he was the one I talked into paying $10 for it! He was the most qualified knight to buy the overpriced tape because he worked at Safeway and he was really generous!
~~~7 “ REEL BASF PIC~~~~
So the main tracks of the song were recorded in my bedroom and the rest of the song was recorded downstairs on my father’s Teac (which hadthe Pat Queen certification of being the best brand of professional tape decks in the world) which my father never allowed me to touch because I always tried to use it to record my prank phone calls (my big hobby ever since I was six years old). My parents despised that for some reason so the only way we could use the Teac was while my parents were at work, and we had to hope they didn’t come home unexpectedly early, which happened all too often!
This machine was used to record both Rick’s piano part as well as Cory’s lead vocals in the entry hall from the downstairs front door so we were really taking a big chance! We later overdubbed the earlier records of the instruments etc upstairs in my room with the hello of the Dokoder deck. Later, we used the Teac again to transfer the recording back to the master tape on the Dokorder for the final stereo mix.
SF Giants 1973 highlight film
June, 1973 Once we finally finished recording and mixing the song, it was time for us to all listen to the finished version downstairs in the family room to see how it sounded. I still remember it was a scorching hot day (we had no a/c in the house) and Paul commented on how cool and comfortable my parent’s mustard-colored loveseats were, just perfect for debuting our latest song! We were all in heaven listening to our song through large 12 inch speakers, 8 feet above and 10 feet apart in full fidelity, stereophonic sound for the very first time! Afterwards we were all smiling from ear to ear, as proud as could be! This (like most everything at that time) called for a celebration and a beer, and then another, and then another and, well you know, that’s what usually seemed to end our sessions anyway! All except for Rick that is, he wanted no part of extracurricular activities, his focus after practice was polishing and putting away his guitar which took longer than it took us to finish a couple six packs. He was the “Serious George” (Harrison) of the group, which every band needed!
~~INSERT ORIGINAL GIANTS SONG RECORDING HERE~~`
Friday Knights Tribute to The Giants
They beat The Dodgers, they beat The Mets
They beat St. Louis at their best
Other teams have played baseball
But none compare to The Giants at all
Houston Astros have their dome
But they can’t beat The Giants even at home
No one comes close to The Giants race
Because San Francisco belongs in first place
The Giants are number one
The Giants have just begun
The Giants are on their way
The Giants will win today
For a strong defense that’s really tough
The Giants will always come up with enough
With McCovery, Spier and Fuentes
Any grounder’s a double play
At home plate the confident nine
Will always make their hits combine
Bonds, McCovey, Kingman and Rader
Where can you find an offense that’s greater?
(Lon Simmons SF vs. STL 5/7/73):
“Pitch to Bonds...swung on and hit to deep left…
Going back is Brock and you can TELL IT GOODBYE!
The fourth home run for The Giants,
And the second for Bonds, his eighth!”
A Giants pitcher kicks and thrones
The batter frowns because he knows
With Marichal, Moffitt, Sosa. McDowell
The best he’ll ever hit is a fowl
If a pitcher starts to fade
One of his friends will come to his aid
When the contest is over and done
Everyone realizes both pitchers won
Young Giants, you’re number one
Young Giants, you’ve just begun
Young Giants, you’re on your wary
Young Giants, you’ll win today
They’ve got quite a manager, Charlie Fox
Who knows who to choose for the batter’s box
If he’s needed to stand up and fight
He’ll make sure the umpire is right
If you can’t make it out to the game,
Listening to it is almost the same
There’s Lon Simmons calling the plays
His unique phrasing is never the same
Sometimes The Giants may look a bit dim
And their hopes get mighty slim
So they say, “You can’t win ‘em all”
This Is true in the game baseball
But with the Giants, that’s seldom the case
For soon a young Giant will get on base
No matter what inning, no matter what out
The Giants never had doubt
Chorus (speeds up)
~~~~GIANTS YEARBOOK COVER PIC HERE~~~
I think it was the next day, when Cory and I were back at our second home, Candlestick Park to see Willie McCovey and the Giants and listen to Lon Simmons on our transistor radios. This was heaven to us, what could be better? Most anytime we wanted to, my father was able to get us free tickets from his friend who was Willie McCovey’s lawyer. Willie would leave the tickets at at the box office with my name on the envelope complete with his signature on the back of each ticket. Wow, Willie McCovey’s autograph just for us! We were tempted to save the autographed tickets and take them home, but there were two seats waiting for us right next to first base and Willie wouldn’t be happy if we weren't there to cheer him on!
WILLIE MCCOVEY COLOR PIC
I think it was the third inning, and more than likely our third beer when we came up with an idea to try to somehow sneak up to the broadcast booth where Lon Simmons (our favorite announcer in the world) was calling the game. We would find him and convince him to play our song before a Giants game! With our combined charms and magnetic personalities, how could he refuse? I don't know whether the thought of actually meeting Lon Simmons was more exciting or scary, but nothing would stop half of the Knights from finding out!
~~ COLOR LON SIMMONS PIC~~
Lon, our other baseball idol, (second only to McCovey) with his deep, booming voice and great wit were something we both looked forward to hearing every chance we could together. We’d turn the sound down on the TV so we could hear him on the KSFO radio feed to maximize the Giants experience. The KTVU TV broadcast was very good too, because the announcer was Al Michaels, who now does Sunday Night Football better than anyone else today in my opinion, but I bet even Michaels would concede he could never compare to the master, Lon Simmons’ booming voice and great sense of humor. Lon was loved by all ever since he started doing play-byplay for both the Giants (along with Russ Hodges) as well as 49ers for decades beginning in 1957.
Anyway, as soon as the ninth inning began, these two nervous high school seniors left our seats to search out the Broadcast booth where every great Giant from Mays, to McCovey to Marichal had sat with Lon and Russ before and after games for years. The search was “On for Lon. We had to be there before he finished the post game show but before he could leave the park. I think it took us the entire 9th inning to figure out where the booth was, all we knew was it was somewhere in the middle of the huge mezzanine somewhere between the first and second deck. We knew that because we would always look up at him from our McCovey seats below. We found an elevator hoping it would help take us there, and when the doors opened it looked like we were in “the right ballpark”, so the search began.
We had no idea which way to go so we began going downward, because “there were doors down them there stairs!” There were lots of doors attached to booths which faced home plate below. “Surly Lon had to be behind one of these, we figured.” One-by-one we began turning each knob but every single one we tried was locked. Without signage to our destination it was hard to identify where we were much less where the broadcast booth was. I assume this was intended to keep fans away, but it wasn’t going to work with The Knights. After a lot of trial and error and asking for directions, we finally found it!. Although this door, too, was locked, the security told us Lon was still inside and we’d have to wait until he came out to even have a chance of talking to him. If we weren’t nervous enough before, we certainly were quaking in our boots now! It must have been two hours that we stood by the door waiting for that door to open, but we didn’t care we’d have camped there all night if we had to.
Finally after what seemed like all eternity, there he was, LON SIMMONS IN PERSON, RIGHT IN FRONT OF US! All six and half feet of the Giant’s giant, bigger than life! As soon as he came out, we walked up to him and I started chattering as fast as I could to try to keep his attention before he could walk away. As I remember It went something like this: “Hello Mr. Simmons, I’m Rich Friedland and this is Cory Fernandez, you may have heard of us, we’re in The Friday Knights rock band and all of us are the biggest fans of you and The Giants in the sixteen years you’ve all been doing your crafts! Together, we wrote and recorded a song about the Giants, and you’re in it too! It’s a really great song, so can you play it on the radio before tomorrow’s game?” I couldn’t wait for his response, the silence was deafening... Lon didn't say a word! I knew he heard us, we were right in front of him although about a foot below his ears. “Huh Mr. Simmons? Please, Mr Simmons, we are your biggest fans! Ple-e-e-ease Mr. Simmons? Could you play our song for us?”, we both begged. He still didn’t say anything but he continued to look down into our beady eyes. What was he thinking? Finally, his mouth began to open and I’ll never forget his first words to us in his deep trademark Giants/Niners voice: “I’m just trying to think.” I wondered, did he really just speak to us, did we actually get his wheels turning? Think? Think about what? Then he told us he would call Jim Lang who was the morning DJ on KSFO as well as the host of “The Dating Game”, the world famous TV game show on ABC ever since 1965). He asked me for my phone number. That’s all we knew, and he excused himself. Now we were REALLY EXCITED, but were on the road to fame and fortune, or what would happen, if anything? We couldn’t wait to tell Rick and Paul, who loved the Giants as much as Cory and I did! Our hopes were up!
I think it was a few days later when a lady from KSFO called and told me that Mr. Lang heard from Lon Simmons and wanted us all to come to the studio at 10am the next morning with our tape so he could play it on his show! What?? This didn’t seem possible, I thought things like this only happens Leave it To Beaver! I was ecstatic and immediately shared the news with the rest of The Knights. Of course everyone was equally excited and instantly agreed to go to school the next morning and fein sickness and 9am, so we could get to the studio on time. I brought our tape to school in the cool BASF box that opened from the side, which helped remind us we were now becoming real recording stars.
How the Friday Knights Ruined My Life
…….a Chrono-biography work of mostly nonfiction by Paul Inserra
HOW IN THE HELL DID THIS START….
Well I gotta say that my then buddy in crime, and smoke, and drink, Cory Fernandez was the guy who started me on the road to ….. Rock ‘n Roll ruin. I was playing a bit of electric guitar and Cory got me to audition with a shady couple of guys putting together a rock band….Rich Friedland and Rick Kelly. One thing led to another, and probably with stars in my eyes and visions of getting all the chicks, we came together in what would be known throughout the boroughs of Millbrae (well, at least on a couple of streets….small streets at that….more like a few houses within ear-shot of our rehearsals) as the Friday Knights
(pronounced Fryd-Aye Kah-ni-etzzz). Cleaver!
Fame and fortune soon followed as me and my fellow knights toured the world (hence the saying “It’s a small world!) Life was good, as I had a rock band and a steady girlfriend Carol. Let me tell you about Carol….she was so nice that she never, ever, ever told me that she hated our band……that is, until the day that I chose my fellow Knights over taking her to her Senior Ball. Rich had booked an audition/show for us at a seedy bar ( The Mesa ) in San Bruno for the same night as her high school senior ball….. and yes, I told her that the band was more important. So there you have it – my future wife and with her, a wonderful life, all vaporized…..and Carol let on that she actually thought we sucked! That seedy bar audition is really the one Friday Knights gig that I still remember clearly – Turns out the patrons (all six of them) didn’t like rock ‘n roll and wanted country….best we could do was play Folsom Prison Blues, more than once! Thank God for the curtain of chicken wire protecting us from the hostile crowd.
Like so many other rock bands, fame went to our heads and others took notice. We needed a bigger rehearsal space just to house our egos, so we moved from Rich’s bedroom to my dad’s garage.
Acoustic heaven, as all his wrenches and screwdrivers hanging on the tool board vibrated in perfect harmony with our greatest hits. That was great until my folks and the neighbors got sick of us. One door closes…another opens. We moved to a friend’s house and had our own space to rehearse….big time move. Turns out that a neighbor, Kermit, heard us rehearsing, popped in and a few minutes later, approached me as to whether I would like to join his band (I was a shitty guitar player but they needed a bass player…. And with two less strings to worry about, he figured I could handle it). Kermit’s band ‘Apostrophe’ was loud and proud, had a great PA system, was in with the elite crowd in Burlingame, and had a following of really foxy babes.
So ….. yes, I broke the news to my fellow knights that I was leaving the band.
Apostrophe was fun, is where I met drummer Jonathan Norton. Along with Kermit and Tony, we gigged out at the finest parties and yes….lots of pretty ladies. Well, that lasted about a year until Kermit decided to actually do something productive with his life (go to college, get a real job…). Apostrophe became just another punctuation mark in my rock’n roll saga. Notice that I was relegated to the smallest denomination in our promo monopoly money that we used to give away to our fans. Bass players get no respect!
KICKING AND KICKED TO THE CURB……..
Now with nothing going, I got a call from Rich Friedland yet again….to audition on guitar for a group he had started playing with in South San Francisco. Talk about an odd bunch – Ray on drums (he was cool), and Smitty on lead vocals – a burned out acid freak from the Filmore West and Avalon Ballroom days. Well, we were going nowhere fast, but Smitty and Ray decided Rich had to go, so they made me break the news to him. Ironic…..they brought in another guitar player….he was good….and I was sent walking. Oh, I forgot to tell you that during that time, with the coaching from Ray that I should devote all my time to playing rock ‘n roll, I threw away a full-ride scholarship and quit college…. That was real popular on the home front !!!
SOLD OUT TO TOP 40…..DISCO SUCKS ????
Down and out, I gave an old friend a call….Ron from my Capuchino High School days….we played clarinet together way back when. Ron was a guitar player and was looking for starting up a horn band….Tower of Power-ish.
I was all in…..and recruited Jonathan Norton on drums. The band formed with keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, and a three-piece horn section. Jim Starr was our lead singer. That band became known as Savory (yeah…I came to hate that name). One of our first gigs was playing at Candlestick Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, as crowd entertainment before a game. Back then, Giants baseball was in the toilet and they were lucky to draw seven thousand to a weekday night game. Well, at least I can say one of my bands played at Candlestick Park, and played for a crowd of 7,000, and had our names up on the big scoreboard screen….. people would say “wow”…especially when I leave out the part that it was before a baseball game! The highlight of that night was meeting Johnny Bench and Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds during their batting practice. I was driving a 1963 Ford Econoline van at the time that leak oil like nobody’s business. It was loaded with our band gear, so I got to drive it on the field around the rubberized warning track, and parked it right behind home plate while we played….. and when we pulled out after the show, I left about 12” oil puddle!
PS> The Giants lost that night, but my Dad was in the stands and caught a foul ball, so ….Success!
The band Savory went on from there to get picked up by California Talent Associates and were managed by them for the next several years. I was my first semi-pro band, booked every weekend of the year playing casuals or hotel and club gigs, and we all made pretty decent money for those times. WE were all dolled up in satin and velvet suits, and our shows were choreographed….cheezy? Yes….but the ladies loved it and we had a great following.
After about three years with Savory, during which time I played with 27 different musicians (yeah….horn players….like revolving doors) and always on the verge of disaster when guys quit, I decided that it was going somewhere, but nowhere reliable. I left the band in 1977 to pursue my engineering degree. Ron and Jonathan stayed on for several more years as the only two original members. Ron went on to play bass guitar with a pro blues band and toured Europe and the US. Jonathan Norton, now known by the name Butch Norton, is a very successful percussionist in the LA area and has recorded and played with many notable national acts including Fiona Apple and Traci Chapman, and was a member of The Eels for several years before joining the Lucinda Williams group where he remains her touring drummer. Just a couple years ago (2019), Butch and I reunited for a few minutes when Lucinda Williams came to Seattle to open for Robert Plant. It was great to see him after over 40 years gone!
…… WELL, 32 YEARS LATER!
After graduating from Cal Poly with my engineering degree and moving to southeastern Washington state, I pursued my career in ernest….32 years in commercial nuke power plant construction and operations. I had sold all my music gear to help pay for college and a few years later, traded my only bass guitar for an acoustic 6-string …. No matter, I was then and still remain a shitty guitar player!
It was in 2009 while at a party with friends, I met a drummer guy from a very popular classic rock party band. Buddy was the guy who talked me into picking up where I left off. He told me if I started playing bass guitar again and could learn up a few songs, I could sit in with them one night at a local club. That’s all it took….bought myself a bass guitar (1994 Warwick Fortress One) and got busy. I’ll never forget that night that after 32 years of nothing, I stepped back on stage and caught me a bad dose of rock n’ roll fever. Better than sex !!!
TIME TO GET SERIOUS
I had the fire in my belly, so I put my nose to the grindstone and started relearning my shit. I answered a local Craigslist ad from a band looking for some new players….. a bass player! I auditioned and that was that – back in a working band call Troublemaker. Mostly 80’s and 90’s hard rock, we were fronted by a gal singer, and eventually I called up a guy who I knew from work (who I actually disliked….but I saw him play one night with another band and that guy was GOOD!) His name is Lee Oswald (yes….that’s not a typo!). He joined the band and we went out gigging as a power trio with Anita at the mic. Lots of fun and growth musically for me. Over the last 10 years, Lee and I have become like brothers and enjoy a lot of other stuff besides music, like building stuff ….including putting in a 20x40 in-ground swimming pool in his backyard….”I watched a video on YouTube….looks like no sweat”….famous last words!!!! At the same time, I started to amass a pretty nice sound system that served us well (nothing like a shitty sound system to make a band sound worse that you are!)
THE BIG BREAK …..
I retired from my nuke job in 2010 with a good pension and now had lots of spare time on my hands….so obviously I started looking for other projects. Anita called me up and told me she too was looking for another parallel project and had been approached by a pro drummer from Oregon to audition for a new classic rock cover band he was putting together….and that they were also looking for …. You guessed it, a bass player.
Audition night with Anita and Kelly….
The guy is Kelly Nobles, monster drummer from the band RAIL. They were a nationally touring band in the early ‘80’s, touring with Van Halen, Three Dog Night, Pat Travers, and opened big stages with Ted Nugent, and many others. Kelly has got some stories ….. crazy stuff from the Van Halen dressing room after the shows!
After winning the first ever MTV Basement Tapes competition from over 20,000 entries, RAIL went on to record 3 albums with EMI Records and had two notable radio hits: Hello and 1-2-3-4.
To say the least, Kelly had persuasive powers in addition to a persona that could fill any room. With a monster Tama kit and stick shredding antics, he is something to watch.
Well enough about RAIL other than that they are still together and tour a bit in their old age….and Kelly’s latest creation, BLUE TATTOO is often their opening act. Works for me!
But two bands weren’t quite enough…so I got the opportunity to play with one of the best blues/jazz guitars players around….a guy by the name of Rock Blythe. Smokin’ hot to say the least, we mixed up tasty sets of rhythm & blues and jazz….definitely fun stuff, with lots of space for improvisation. That lasted a couple years and was fun, but the band’s ambition waned and eventually we didn’t get along…blah, blah, blah….typical rest of the story. We were known as 2Faced Johnny….don’t ask where that name came from as I never got a straight answer regarding that!
THE BLUE TATTOO YEARS
I joined BLUE TATTOO in 2013 and have been with them ever since. Keeping this band between the ditches is always an exciting time….when people ask me what I play in the band, my first response is “worry beads”. I handle all the logistics, production, setlists, and contracts….oh yeah, I play the basss guitar as well. We’ve been through some personnel changes (what a surprise!) and I finally talked by brother-in-arms Lee Oswald to join us as well. BLUE TATTOO has a sizeable fan base in the northwest from Oregon and Washington to Montana.
We’ve shared the stage (yes, mostly as a low-life opening act) with some greats of the 80’s and 90’s hair metal scene, including Skid Row, Vince Neil (Motley Crue), Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Ratt, Firehouse, Steelheart, Great White, Hinder, Three Doors Down, Autograph, The Grass Roots, Y&T, Frank Hannon (Tesla), Winger, Lita Ford, and many more old farts from the golden era of rock! And all those guys still have it musically….and to a man, are really fun to party with.
So I am thankful. It’s been fun.
Well, to wrap it all up, I blame my teen years friend and confidant, Cory Fernandez for getting me hooked on playing rock ‘n roll and the FRIDAY KNIGHTS is where it all started.
Almost 50 years later, …….Where to next?
I don’t care that I just qualified for Medicare,
I’m going to keep on rockin’ til I can’t rock no more!
My Knight Ride
by Rick "Quanah" Kelly
One of my goals as a youngster was to be in a band and to try and make it big, hopefully with a hit record. My first band, “‘Friday Knights” was a lot of fun. My friend, Rich Friedland and I formed the band and added couple of our friends, Paul Inserra (lead guitar) and Cory Fernandez (drums). We performed a few shows here and there and I remember during one show at Taylor school how the young fans came up to the stage and just stared at us as if we were the Beatles. For that moment, I felt famous. We had many practices and many times would rehearse at another friend's house. His name was Cavan and we sound proofed the room we were in and he was constantly trying to join our band but we said “no”. Friday Knights was my first serious band which launched my musical career.
A couple of years later, Rich and I formed our second band together, “Zeus” which featured me on lead guitar, Rich on bass, John Hayden on rhythm guitar and Mike Brigham on drums. Two of my fondest memories was John always strumming The Beatles song “All My Loving” during rehearsals and we always warned him that he should not do that because he might accidentally do it during one of our shows and sure enough, the time came when he did it and we all had a great laugh. The second memory for me was doing the Beatles convention in Seattle which was a lot of fun hanging out with other fans.
Zeus was the last band I was in in the 70’s. I put my career on hold in the 80’s due to getting married and helping raise my two children. In 1989 I picked up my career again and the rest is history. I was also one of the band leaders in our Christian church for 9 years and also did some solo shows until my most successful duo to date became a reality.
Chime Travelers formed in 2010 with my friend, Jay Lewallen. Our format was cover songs from the Golden Era of music, the 1960’s and 70’s. We were together a little over 10 years and played more than 1250 shows locally in Marin and Sonoma Counties. Our main venues were restaurants, wineries and special events including many private functions and parties. This was an acoustic duo with both of us on acoustic guitars and we both sang lead and harmony vocals and both played lead and rhythm guitars. Chime Travelers will continue to perform on a small basis due to my relocation to Las Vegas. One of my favorite memories was playing to standing room only crowds at Trek Winery in Novato, CA. At last I feel I have reached my full potential as a performing artist.
I am now living in Las Vegas and starting a new duo with Rich once again. We haven’t played together since the 70’s. Our new name is “R & R Express” and we will be once again covering the great songs from the 60’s & 70’s with me on guitar and vocals and Rich on bass, keyboards and vocals. I am currently 68 years old and don’t feel age will slow me down as I continue my musical career with the hopes of bringing joy, happiness and memories to so many people through my gift of music.