Friday Knights Page 2
Singing and doing that while playing a musical instrument at the same time after just holding the instrument for the first time only days before, was quite the challenge.
I still remember my first attempt. I started by taking in a big enough breath to blow up a jumbo-size balloon all in one puff and I figured, nothing ventured, nothing gained so “I thought “Here goes nothin’” and belted out “Well it’s a one for the money, two for the show…” in my first attempt at an Elvis song which was later covered by my musical idol at the time, John Lennon.
I’m sure I 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? That just didn't add up! I was dumbfounded, and started to believe that I might just have a shot at this music thing after all. Well that was 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! Aside from lots of practicing, we didn't do too many performances in our brief tenure, but what follows are a few highlights that I recall best.
1, 2, 3, GROOVIN’!
Next, Paul began playing us a song that none of us knew. It began with a very simple A to D progression that was really quite catchy. Now that I think about it, it ended the same way. In fact the middle of the song was that way too. Aside from a couple short identical bridges this went on like this for ten minutes! We didn't recognize the song but we were all tapping our feet to it, which is a pretty promising sign. We were all in amazement that such a great tune could have somehow passed us by as we were all very much up-to-date on our music. When we asked Paul what this mystery song was he said it was something he had written himself that he called “Fresh Garbage” Rick’s reaction will be permanently engraved in my mind. His eyes immediately lit-up and his mouth hung open. All that came out was “Are you shittin’ me?”
Paul and Rick seemed to hit it off pretty well. They both loved the flamenco guitar intro to The Monkee’s Valerie, so I’d say that was a bond of sorts. Paul suggested we begin every performance with this song as though we were making it up on the spot while we were setting up our instruments. One-by-one, we would join each other in what would be the jam we would be known for. We were really beginning to feel the “in sync groove” now, so we all started our new band chant, 1, 2, 3 groovin’! We thought that was so hokey, we would use that to count down each of our songs for a while. But something was missing, so we asked my then girlfriend Sylvia who, being from El Salvador, to translate our little countdown into spanish for us. Well from then on it was, “Uno, dos, tres, chevere”. As long as we were planning Friday Knight setlist traditions, we then agreed to wrap up every show with Paul McCartney’s “Smile Away” in which we would show off our multifaceted talents by trading our instruments with another. Since we were such a dynamically multifaceted/talented seasoned band we would switch off as Paul would play rhythm guitar instead of lead, Rick would move to drums, while Cory would play bass (which would I teach him, talk about the blind leading the blind!) And that left me to try to play whatever I could fake on Rick’s guitar. Big fake, bigger mistake! This was a trainwreck in the making, but you couldn’t tell us that!
With these first and last song trademarks, how could we miss in our Knightly effort to shoot for the stars on our way past Mars? 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. In addition to that Rick and I showed our future hit, “Can’t Get You Off of My Mind” to Paul who picked up on it really quickly. Since we were rusty and didn’t know how long we would be that way, we listened when Paul 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. We didn’t know where he came up with his clever words of wisdom, but since we didn’t have any of our own, we followed right along. That’s when I knew we finally had a band!
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!
Cory suggested that we get a pretty girl lead singer, to round off the act and increase our appeal to a wider audience, and he knew just the girl, Laura Diaz. Laura was a sophomore so we were a little older. I didn't actually know her, but I used to admire her when we passed in the hallway at school.Cory said he asked her, and the next thing we knew she showed up at my door to audition. We were all thrilled to have a pretty senorita who could actually sing (something we weren’t used to) in the band!
Each weekday morning Cory would pick me up to take me to school. and then back home afterwards to our rehearsal daily 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. After all Rick was the only one who didn’t have school as he had already graduated from Mills High School two years earlier.. This used to infuriate the rest of us until we finally had to tell him we weren't going to tolerate his tardiness anymore. With that, he promised he’d not only begin showing up on time, but he'd be at my house even before the rest of us got back from school.
Well the following day, Cory, Paul and I each 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 without our rhythm guitar and lead vocalist. I think it was a good half hour before Cory peeked out the window, and spotted Rick’s Mustang parked up the street with Rick seated inside but not moving a muscle to get out and come to practice, so the rest of us went back to rehearsing. Finally after another ten minutes, Rick came into the room (we always left the front door unlocked for him) as if everything was just fine and dandy. When we asked him what the hell took him so long, he told us that it wasn’t his fault, when he was parking his 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 create. 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 we 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. Once we had our logo, it was time to display it on the kick drum just like real bands did back in the day.
Back in those days, stereophonic sound was the big thing in music especially on LP (long-playing) records. The cool kids were switching their radio frequency from (what was once boring big band swing music) to FM it’s new format harder rock, like Led Zeppelin, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, etc. This made way for psychedelic music. To some of us music alone wasn't enough to fully enjoy this new age. I loved to tinker with electronics and one of my passions of the day was converting old large speaker boxes into “light organs”. I would fill the boxes with Christmas lights suspended by wire attached to a music-light sound converter, allowing the lights to flash to the beat of the music. I liked to coordinate the pulsations with the pitch of the music by connecting the bass notes to the blue lights, the high treble to the red ones, leaving the yellow lights to the beat of the mid-range. After I had them working I’d cover the front of the boxes with plexiglass containing little diamond shaped moldings which served to refract the lights behind them. This gave that hippie effect which was all the rage.
Cory would stick around after band practice and we would blast Beatle records while singing along as we stared at the pulsating lights. He loved this concept so much that he suggested we install the same contraption into his bass drum, so that the audience could enjoy the flashing lights along with our music. At first I told him it would be impossible for the effect to carry brightly enough for the audience to see, but he talked me into building this into a round version which had always been rectangular before. After getting the glass cut the same diameter as the drum, drilling knob holes in the top off it so Cory could adjust the brightness and sound response, it actually worked very well! The next step was to put our black logo on the inside of the glass using contact paper with a reverse image to complete the project, and that’s exactly what we did! It was another first for The Friday Knights, and for that matter for any band we had ever known of!
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.
I won’t say Cavan really wanted to get us gigs and went on a scouting spree in both Millbrae and Burlingame trying to get leads for places for us to perform. One of his stops was a lunch break at Ken’s House of Pancakes in Millbrae, the very city I lived in. There at the lunch counter he struck up a conversation with a man sitting a few seats away. Cavan asked if he happened to know of any nearby venues looking for a new upcoming, promising band. He must have had quite a spiel because this led to at least two or three more meetings (all of which were at the same place they had originally met. Over the next couple weeks. This older gentleman, Tom, or Charlie (we can’t recall now) took a keen interest in managing The Friday Knights himself which was never Cavan’s intention, as Cavan had planned on doing that himself. Seems odd as he had never even heard of us, much less knew if we were good enough to promote. All the time this was going on, I never knew anything about this.
Then early one Saturday morning my phone rang and it was none other than this would-be promoter character calling to tell me we had an important meeting regarding promoting The Friday Knights with Cavan that he wanted me to attend. This was about to take place in an hour as you guessed it, the very same pancake house. Well I’ve always been a nothing to lose kinda a guy so I decided I’d better get moving and fast. Without a car or anything to eat, and my eyes still half shut, I jumped in the shower, threw on the nicest clean clothes I could find, and hoofed it all the way down the Millbrae hills with my rumbling stomach screaming out for pancakes, pancakes, pancakes and hopefully just as many papers to sign. When I got there this elderly fellow with a scowl on his face flagged me down from a booth sipping coffee and smoking a smelly cigar. (I was easy to spot with my fiery red hair back then). I thought to myself, “Where’s Cavan, shouldn’t he be at this important meeting too?” Apparently not, because it was just me and ol’ Chuck or Tom or something like that. He did seem very interested and talked a good game, but never did a thing.
I learned later that on that very same morning, they guy wanted Cavan to join us, and called Cavan demanding that he “get his ass down there right away”. Understandably Cavan didn't appreciate being talked to that way, so he told him off and hung up on him. That would possibly explain the man’s sour mood by the time I showed up and perhaps why neither Cavan nor I ever heard his gravelly voice again.
CORY’S KICK DRUM GETS KICKED TO THE CURB!
One night. Cory, along with Paul and our friend Jim Kocjan had a jam party at Cory’s house with Paul on guitar, Cory on drums and Jim on keyboards. Rick and I weren’t invited so we had no knowledge of the party until after the fact. They all got really hammered that night and began to get wild as we all usually did whenever we drank. In the middle of the party, Cory’s brother Craig came home unexpectedly, saw what was going on and hit the roof, or should I say kicked the bass drum? Yes, the same bass drum that we had worked so hard to modify into an electric light organ. Plexiglas, lights, electronics, logo and all were completely destroyed. When Cory broke the news to me the next day, needless to say I was furious. It took some money and time but together we repaired it just like new.
IN THE MONEY, AT LA$T!
In addition to being the band leader/bassist, 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 become 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 math teacher, because she scolded me for shooting rubber bands across the classroom at Chris Lynch. I guess Edwards either didn’t remember me or had 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 gig and our first chance for real success!
Cory, Paul, Laura and I were Taylor Bulldogs before
high school, now we were going back for a visit!
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. What follows is a list of all the [performances and events that I can remember much about. My friend Tim, reminded me that this list is not complete, but now, nearly fifty years later, this the best this feeble mind can recollect!
TAYLOR JUNIOR HIGH SOCK HOP
April 13, 1973 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? Frantically, I kept looking for my iphone in case she called, but then I remembered those hadn’t been invented yet. 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!
Taylor Junior High, 850 Taylor Blvd. Millbrae
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.
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 faculty 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!
Scottish Rite Masonic Center
One night my dear cousin, Chelle who has always looked out for me throughout thick and thin called me with some potentially google news. As it turned out, she had a possible booking for us! After our first gig at Taylor we were all the more ready for another shot at the big time. This time we would be sure McCartney’s Smile Away would be in our contract without them shutting the power on us before our big instrument-switcheroo closing number. She told me about her involvement with Job’s Daughters, a Masonic group, and they were organizing a dance along with The Demolays (their all-boys counterpart) and that she had already put in a good word for The Friday Knights to play there. This sounded great! I don’t remember how much they offered us, but we were in no position to turn anything down so I said, book us!
Very excited, I quickly checked our busy calendar, and was relieved to see we had that nothing was booked for that night, just like all the other days remaining in that decade The event was great fun with lots of kids about our age, so now we really felt like real, certified rock stars.
Scottish Rite Masonic Center, 2850 19th Ave, San Francisco
This was a big dance for Job’s Daughters, and an even “bigger” one for The Friday Knights, in fact it was the biggest thing we had ever done in our entire two-show history! Everyone and anyone was there except for Laura who once again didn’t appear. This would really stress me out for two reasons. We were being paid to have a cute singer (the rest of us didn’t qualify for that) and the fact that we barely had enough songs to fill the two hours even if she were there.
All we could do was play the songs that Rick, Paul, Cory and I sang and prayed that Princess Laura would show up later just like she did at our only first gig.
Paul, concentrating on his lead in My Sweet Lord at The Masonic, but where was Laura?
She was two-for-two in that department. Once again, right before the show was over, Laura appeared out of nowhere and did her songs just before we finished with Smile Away. Yes we finally did our big instrument switch finally and it stunk so that was the last Job’s Daughters call we ever got! That was also the last live performance we ever did with Laura.
WHAT’S A ROCK BAND WITHOUT A HIT SONG?
One sunny Sunday I was over at my new girlfriend, Sylvia’s house next door, watching TV 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 didn’t think all the “you knows” were necessary so I suggested replacing them all with tambourine beats. Being an ex-tambourinist I felt I could show Laura the complex parts! We spent the rest of the afternoon tweaking the rest of the lyrics together as we needed perfection before we could present our masterpiece to the boys.
It was the very next day at band practice when Cory and I introduced the Giants song concept to Rick and Paul for the very first time. Both of them, also being big Giants fans were right on board with our song, and they quickly worked out all the chords. There we were, playing our song already! Cory’s older brother, Craig had a really nice professional Dokorder tape deck that he had brought home from overseas when he was in the military. So it got the job to be our new recording studio in my bedroom.
I was hoping no one would notice, but I was having a really hard time hitting the notes on time during the slow verse at the end. It’s really obvious now, and I still cringe every time I hear that part. I always wished I could have gone back and redone that part.
It was a few weeks and several challenges before May 23rd when our new “hit song” Tribute The San Francisco Giants was finally completed, and ready for, who knows what?
Cory’s brothers “professional” Dokorder recorder 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!
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 had the 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). Both of my parents despised that for some reason (they said it was because I was “bothering people”, a concept I still don’t understand) so the only way we could use the TEAC was while my parents were at work, with hopes that they didn’t come home early without warning, which happened all too often!
My father’s TEAC, never to be touched!
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 Dokorder deck. Later, we used the TEAC again to transfer the recording back to the master tape on the Dokorder for the final stereo mix.