Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

My junior year in high school was full of exciting happenings. The football team won its first state title that year.I had settled in to my school and had built a very solid group of friends. I was a long way removed from the dreary days of junior high. As a guitar player I was getting better by the month. Studying my craft, practicing relentlessly. It was starting to pay off from a playing with other musicians standpoint. It was the spring of 1990 and coming up was the annual talent show. Always good for entertainment. There were usually a variety of acts. Most of the school would be there. And why not?? Admission was a buck. Who wouldn’t pay a dollar to get out of class for a couple of hours.

Some guys I had been playing with and I decided we would enter. Eric was our drummer. Even in high school he was a talent. He would continue to get better. Chris was our bass player. He hadn’t been playing long, but was rapidly getting better. One of the best I ever played with. On rhythm guitar was Scott, one of my two best friends in high school and beyond. He and I had met the previous year, and though he was a year older he spent most of his time hanging around our class. Scott had been playing about the same amount of time that I had, but we had vastly different technique and influences. I guess the differences created a nice polarity, because we played any chance we could. The only thing we were missing was a lead singer. Oh sure, Scott could sing some. Eric could sing some as well. I hadn’t yet discovered my voice. But that wasn’t going to cut it. We needed a singer. In came a guy named James. He was a bass player, but could also carry a tune. At least he could carry the tune we chose. “Talk Dirty to Me”. Ah yes…the inspiration that led me to that point. I was about to play the song that drove me to pick up the instrument and it was going to be the first thing I ever played for an audience.

I could say that we all went on stage and played the song and some people cheered and some didn’t and leave it at that, but that wouldn’t tell the whole story. Not by a long shot. The week before the show Chris, who was in the band, the marching band, realized that he was going to be gone to Missouri for a band contest during the show. So guess what? No Chris for the talent show. Well fabulous. There goes our bass player.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Those words will forever ring true in this instance. We were indeed, desperate. How desperate? We concocted a plan that in the 25 years that have passed I still don’t know what we were thinking. I don’t even remember how it originally started. Earlier in that semester Scott and I had lost our Music Appreciation class because the teacher ran into some trouble and lost his job. We were instructed to find a new 4th hour one morning with no explanation as to why. We both ended up in Government. A nice class but hardly interchangeable. However, in that class which was taught by what would become the next year one of my favorite teachers of all time Mr. Wade, we met a guy named Danny. Danny was a state champion wrestler, extremely popular in the school and quite the character. What better way to get more of the crowd behind us than to get one of the most popular guys in the school to play bass for us. Only one problem, he had no musical ability at all, much less played an instrument. Desperate times, desperate measures. Scott and I thought, well hell there’s only 5 chords in the whole song and on bass he only has to play one string at a time. Certainly we can teach Danny how to play this song.

So Danny enlisted in the Scott and Dayne Bass Boot Camp. Four days training and you’ll be ready for the stage! Keep in mind neither of us played bass either. Semantics. So we taught him. Where to put his fingers, when to move them and how to keep a steady rhythm. Truth be told, it’s not exactly a difficult piece on any instrument. It really was the perfect song for a non musician to learn in less than a week. By the night before we had it down pretty well. Just to be sure when the time came to take the stage we enlisted our insurance policy. Scott standing next to Danny to guide him and tape on the neck of the bass to help him locate where to put his fingers. The day before the show Danny told Mr. Wade, “I’m playing bass in the talent show!” To which Mr. Wade responded, “I’ll pay a dollar to see that!” See the dollar excitement wasn’t just limited to the students.

We were chosen to open the show. As were standing there waiting for the curtain to rise, Scott from the other side of the drum riser looks at me and asked, “Are you nervous?” And it hit me, I was about to play live for the first time in front of around 800 people. I hadn’t had time to get nervous, because of all the preparation we had to do that day. But then it hit me. And two seconds later the curtain went up. The crowd looked right at me and James said those words, “Hit it DC!” So I did. In four minutes it was over. I remember the spotlight shining on me during my solo, and I remember it not being a very good mix. The drums totally drowned my guitar. Afterwards I asked Scott if he got to look at the crowd at all. He said, “Ya…when I wasn’t helping Danny, I turned and smiled.”

What I didn’t know at the time was my mom, aunt and new baby cousin was in the audience. When I learned that I discovered something. I was a little embarrassed at the song we chose considering my family was in the audience. I’ve since learned that I might would’ve made a terrible rock star. I could never have been ok with doing or playing anything that would’ve embarrassed my family. Most of the music I was into back then could be considering embarrassing to me from a performance perspective.

What a way to begin what turned into a very short stage career. I never played another show with James or Eric again. And despite all the playing Scott and I would do over the next few years until his untimely passing in 1994, we wouldn’t occupy a stage together again until college. There was at one time video evidence of that performance, My aunt shot it. I used to have it, but it’s disappeared through the years. It wasn’t the greatest. As I said, you could barely hear me in the audience, but I knew what we achieved. We had taught a non musical wrestler a major hit from that time and proved that indeed “the show must go on”.

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