Friday Knights Page 7
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 SERIOUSI 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!