Sunday, December 16, 2007

The "Cobble-Rock"

It stands vacant now, empty and abandoned - at least that’s the way it was the last time I saw it about 8 years ago. It’s probably gone completely by now, razed to make way for lakefront condos or suchlike. It’s been that way since ‘86- a victim of MTV and hip-hop DJ’s, I suppose. I’m talking about the Cobblestone Ballroom in Lakeside, Iowa, an old-time dance hall that started out as a haven for big bands in northwest Iowa in the 30's, 40's and 50's. In 1958, they started to have teen dances on Sunday nights. You might wonder why they would have late-night dances on a school night, but apparently the reasoning was that, since you couldn’t sell liquor in an establishment on Sunday in Iowa in those days, they could still make some money charging kids $1.25 or $1.50 head to see a teen band and sell pop for a quarter or $.50 a cup. So that’s where I, a teenager in the mid-sixties, went to see regional and national bands like Myron Lee & the Caddies, Johnny & the Hurricanes, Bobby Vee, Jerry Lee Lewis, Conway Twitty, the Rhythm Aces, the Charades, the Fabulous Flippers, Spider and the Crabs, Dee Jay & the Runaways, The Senders, Red Dogs, Baby and the Rumbles among countless others. One of our favorites was Joker’s Wild from Minneapolis, an early power trio led by lanky Lonnie Knight. You can check out what he’s doing now at I remember being awed by these three hippies from Minneapolis with shoulder-length hair, fringes and beads, which was almost too much for us farm boys to handle. Oftentimes I, not having the required cover charge, had to panhandle in the lobby to get enough funds to get in. Once you paid the price of admission, you got your hand stamped with a logo that could only be seen under their ultraviolet light. Once inside, you saw a beer-stained hardwood floor with a raised band stand on one end and booths lining each side. Now, since I was in bands all through high school, the goal for our band and my friends in rival bands was to actually get a gig appearing at a Sunday night dance. My brother, who played lead guitar in a band called “Cardiac Arrest,” achieved nirvana before me by getting booked to appear on that ancient stage. Our brush with fame occurred sometime in the Winter of 1966, when our band, called “D. J. Child’s Society Band”, got an call from anxious owner William “Shorty” Lawrence asking us to fill in for the band booked to perform, stuck in a snowdrift somewhere. So we struggled through a blinding blizzard, set up, and tuned up. We then proceeded to play a few tunes for the wait staff and bartenders, because no one showed up in the afore-mentioned blinding blizzard.

So we got our gig, but it was a hollow victory.

You can read the Cobblestone Ballroom story at and, as always, keep on rockin!

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Things Are Gonna Be Good!"

It’s not often that you get to see a band in its formative stages that you know is destined for greatness. Oh sure, if you were lucky enough to see, say, the Beatles at the Cavern Club in 1961; or the Rolling Stones on Eel Pie Island in 1962 or 1963; or even the Replacements at the 7th Street Entry in 1981, then you know what I am talking about. But a good friend of mine, who goes by the name of Mr. Whoamus on his blog, and I traveled to Grandpa Al’s in Faribault on Thursday last to see a fella by the name of Brandon Scott Sellner and his band. Now he may be a well-kept secret, but I had an “in:” their new bass player, Todd, whom I’d worked with and played drums with a couple of years ago, called me up and clued me in to Mr. Sellner, a 24-year-old wunderkind and guitar whiz, who’s got a CD single out called “Things are Gonna Be Good.” And indeed they are: you never met a nicer, more personable fellow, and that goes for all of his band mates: Todd on bass, Hardy on 2nd guitar, and “Melvin III” on drums. Once introduced to Brandon and the guys by Todd, we were treated with respect and like equals, with no trace of ego by any of the band. What’s more, we were treated like fellow musicians, which to me, impresses the most (of course, they haven’t heard me play guitar – then their opinion might change!) about these guys. When I used to be a trucker, traveling the highways and byways of this land, we had a saying: “knock the balls off the dog on the hood.” Forgive the crudity, but it basically means you’ve really done something right; you’ve “nailed it.” And I have to say that Brandon really nailed it that night – he is nothing less than a prodigy on guitar (I’m told that he’s just turned 24 and has only been playing for seven years). Their CD single is a fine tune, but it doesn’t do justice to their live show, which is nothing short of incendiary. The way he tosses off Stevie Ray Vaughn licks on his Mexican Strat like he was doing it in his sleep left me with my jaw bouncing off the floor. With Hardy chugging away on rhythm, Todd laying down a rock-solid bottom, and Melvin III putting down a solid backbeat, they’re the real deal. He reminds you of “Kid” Jonny Lang in his early days. Yes, this kid is that good! I’m told that he’s got a CD’s worth of original tunes in demo form ready to be recorded and I for one, can’t wait to get my hands on that disc. So, if you hear of this guy or get a chance to see him live, by all means, make the effort, because he is gonna be great! Check out his MySpace page at, and, as always, keep on rockin’!

Brandon Scott Sellner - "Things R Gonna Be Good"

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Now that I’ve got a YouTube account and have learned how to include videos in my text, I can show you a little of what I did on my “summer vacation” this year. This first video is of a jam session at a little pizza joint in Granby, CT at an open mike night on July 3rd. The house band plays a set and then invites guest musicians up to jam. Here we are finishing up “Walkin’ the Dog” with my good friend Bill on guitar, his son Russ on guitar, yours truly on drums, and “Neal” from the house band on bass. My son Aaron also got to jam on a number with Russ, a grade school friend of his. I may be a geezer, but I still got it!

This one is from the Too Much Fun jam in Des Moines this summer. This is a Pink Floyd number (“Comfortably Numb,” perhaps?) that I don’t think I knew the guitar part for, so I sat that one out. That’s Rick on guitar, Bob on bass, Jim on drums, another Bob on guitar, Randy on keys, and a fellow known only to me as "Callahan" on bass. Nice job, fellas, and may be next year I can contribute something to the song!

Until next time, keep on rockin!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Oh, Boy!"

Today in rock history, Buddy Holly and The Crickets had their only number one, “That’ll Be the Day,” this week in 1957. Their next two singles, “Peggy Sue” and “Oh, Boy!” also made the top 10, while “Maybe Baby” and “It Doesn’t Matter Any More” (written by Paul Anka) were top 20. Buddy Holly, apart from being a rock and roll pioneer and hit maker, is also known for championing the then-new Fender Stratocaster solid-body electric guitar, at a time when everybody else was using the big arch tops and hollow bodies, and it wasn’t necessarily cool to use a strange, space-age-looking solid body electric guitar like the “Strat.” It, along with his black plastic glasses, became his trademark. The Strat has become a rock and roll legend, too, that can count guitar greats Clapton, Beck, Mayer, Buddy Guy, and others, as users. Ever since I picked up the guitar 4 years ago, I knew I had to have one. I don’t know if you’ve read my first post where I said I’d be lucky to get a Strat by the time I was 60? Well, the time is now – when my oldest son took my Epiphone SG Junior off to college with him in August, I was a guitar short, and it was time to look around for a new one. Now, I look at guitars and check the on-line listings for what’s out there nearly every day, but now I started to look for a nice used Strat in earnest. In terms of Strats and strat clones, you have quite a range – from the imported, low-budget “Squier” versions to the ultra expensive Signature and Custom Shop models. What I needed was something that was somewhere in between the Squier and the more expensive USA-made Strats. Now, I’m not the kind of guy who shops on eBay – I need to play a guitar, have a look at it, and see how it’s set up, before I can buy one. I also am fond of buying used gear – there’s nothing like a nicely broken in, well-set-up guitar that needs nothing done to it before you can play it. I get most of my used gear from MusicGoRound stores. They are a national chain of stores specializing in new and used musical instruments. You can check out the inventory all over the country online at My local store had several used Strats, so I went in to check them out, and came home with a sweet electric blue, Mexican-made model, 1999 vintage, for about $280, including gig bag. The Mexican Strat is a good value, bridging the gap between the Squier and USA made models, while featuring the quality of an “American made” (well, Mexico is in North America…) Strat. The five-way switching between the three single-pole pickups gives you incredible versatility, from a twangy, Buddy Holly-like sound through my Kustom solid-state amp, to a distorted snarl through my Epiphone Class A tube amp. With this tonal palette, I’ll have years of fun just figuring out all the different combinations of tone! “Oh, Boy!” indeed!

Thanks to for the trivia, and, as always – keep on rockin! Buddy Holly forever!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Legends in Their Own Time

My wife and I made our annual trek to the Mn state fair in search of show rabbits, the state's biggest boar, blue ribbon food bargains, and free music, among other things. My wife's sister came along for the first time this year to sample that unique state fair experience - one part deep fat fried anything, one part people watching. We had scoured the fair website for the free stage schedule and took in the flat-picking championships. "Flat-picking" sounds impressive, but it's mostly just picking a complicated bluegrass-style melody on the steel-string acoustic guitar with a pick, usually with a cohort along to provide the rhythm. Too much for yours truly to attempt, although I think I recognized some of the chords the other guitarist was playing. Fun to watch, but I had come to rock, so to speak, so it was on to the evening free stage appearance of the Beatles tribute band "Liverpool Legends." This band, based out of Branson, Mo (now don't hold that against them until you've heard me out) has the advantage of being managed (or at least had the stamp of approval) of George Harrison's ("Yes, that George!," as their promotional blurb points out) sister Louise. We arrived just as the previous performance of the talent show let out, so we were able to elbow our way up to second-row seats. The equipment on stage certainly looked authentic, down to vintage-looking Vox AC-30's and Ringo's Ludwig drum kit. When the boys hit the stage, we were treated to Fab-Four lookalikes, in the dark suits and moptop hair of roughly the "Help!" era. They not only looked like the Beatles (some poor fella looked enough like Ringo to be his twin - as "George" said in his stage patter, "Your nose is big enough that I can pick it from here!"), but sounded exactly like them as well. I was amazed - their stage act was "spot on," as the British would say, down to the correct Gretsch, Hofner and Rickenbacker guitars and "John's" bobbing up and down to the beat like a marionette. They even bowed after each song, which is a Ed Sullivan-era detail that I remembered watching them back then as a 12 year old in my grandparent's living room. What's more, they came out after intermission as the "Sgt. Pepper" band, authentic down to the neon costumes from the album cover and George's day-glo hand-painted, psychedelic Strat. They soon had us up on our feet dancing and screaming. They played the big ones - "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "I Saw Her Standing There," "Yesterday," "Got to Get You Into My Life," "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," etc. They played stuff the Beatles themselves never got to play in concert; for example, with the help of a "fifth Beatle" on keyboards and synth in the shadowy back of the stage, they played a letter-perfect version of "A Day in the Life" that had my jaw hitting the floor. Too soon it was over, after the cell-phone waving encore of "Hey Jude," they left us screaming for more. Well, "I'm a Believer", as the Monkee's used to say (the were, after all, America's answer to the Beatles, but that's the subject for another blog), and it was a bit of heaven for this rabid Beatles fan. Check out the band on their web page,, check 'em out if they're ever in your town (or you're in Branson), and, until next time, keep on rockin'!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Thanks For the Memories!

I did get together with the afore-mentioned remnants of Too Much Fun this past weekend in America's heartland (AKA Des Moines, IA). To liven up the mix, it's customary for the host dude to bring in members of his local bands to join the jam. So this year, in addition to Rick, Bob and myself, we had Jim on drums, another Bob on guitar, Randy on keys, and a fellow known only to me as "Callahan" on bass. All excellent musicians in their own right. With this expanded group, we could branch out and play some tunes we never attempted in the TMF band. So, crowded into the basement rehearsal space, we pounded out tunes like "Don't Dream It's Over," "Doctor My Eyes," "Fooled Around and Fell in Love," a couple of Pink Floyd tunes, etc, which are tunes I don't usually play and are fun to fall in on as best I can. We also had a couple of TMF "Unplugged" sessions (although Rick broke a string on his acoustic so it wasn't all unplugged - he had to use his Strat) with just the three of us TMF alumni, which gave me a chance to try some acoustic guitar. I'm still at the point, though, where I need a chord chart or tab in front of me or I get lost real fast, so I couldn't join in on too many of the tunes I didn't know. An excellent time was had by all, and next year it's my turn to host, so I'll need to start preparing for that (like, getting in a band here so I can bring local musicians to the party!). So, until next year, rock on!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"One Two Three Fo'!"

On this day in rock history in 1965 the Beatles performed at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, MN to an estimated crowd of 4,000 teenagers, mostly girls, turning the event into what one writer described as "Shrieksville, U.S.A." With the continued popularity of Beatles’ recordings long after their breakup in 1970, the irony of early panning is shown in sharp relief by a Pioneer Press comment on the performance: "The Twin Cities was visited Saturday by some strange citizens from another world. They wore long hair and wide grins and were easily identified as Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney. They were the Beatles—alleged musicians." You wonder if those reporters – probably older men (real squares, most likely) who got the short straw for that assignment – ever regretted making fun of the four lovable lads from Liverpool? I would have been about 14 at the time. I never really got into the Beatles too much when I was a teenager; my awareness of them came much later, during my college days, with my consciousness and hipness quotient suitably raised. I do remember, though, that when I was about 12 or 13 the Methodist church across the street from my junior high school used to have noon-time “sock hops” with punch and cookies, probably to keep the local truants from skipping school and heading down to Carl’s Hamburgers (burgers were only 15 cents in those days!) and plugging the pinball machine. At any rate, a popular song that was usually blasting from the record machine was “I Saw Her Standing There”. This was my first exposure to the Fab Four and I
remember thinking (as I looked across the church basement at all those 7th and 8th grade girls swooning as Paul McCartney made the impassioned promise that he'd “…never dance with another…”), “Hey – this stuff is pretty cool!” Now if I could only have summoned up the courage to ask one of those girls to dance – but no, that would come later (much later, in my case!). I was content to listen, and wonder what all the fuss was about…
P. S. - Confidential to "Who Am Us Anyway" - it was J. Frank Wilson, and we played that one too!

Thanks to and for the trivia, and, as always, keep on rockin’!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Teenage Tragedy Songs

August 8, 2007

Today in Rock History, Ray Peterson wasn’t selling too many records in 1960. It was reported that Decca Records discarded 25000 copies of his latest single, “Tell Laura I Love Her,” because it was vulgar. The song told of the dying moments of a teenager who was just in a car accident. It didn’t make much difference, however, as the song made the top 10. I am intimately familiar with that song, as we must have played it a hundred times or more during my tenure in a ‘50’s band called “The Telstars” (later renamed to “Too Much Fun”) from 1973 to 1975 (with reunions of some of the original members in the ‘80’s, ‘90’s and ‘00’s). I wouldn’t necessarily call it vulgar, but we always introduced it as “a very sad song” (you could hear my fake crying in the background) that “really didn’t happen.” I can remember lead singer “Delbert” (in his gold lame’ jumpsuit lovingly stitched by his girlfriend) belting it out. He was later replaced by Ronnie Jo in the Too Much Fun band. Now I owned a microphone and I thought that gave me the right to sing back up (a lot of “doo wops” to be sung in a ‘50’s band), but, truth be told, I could be lead singer in The Monotones. So we reached a compromise – I could belt it out to my heart’s content, and the sound guy would just unplug my mic. Worked for me (and for the rest of the band, too)! The rest of Too Much Fun were: Rick, guitar; Bob, bass; Dan, distorted Baldwin organ; and yours truly on the ancient Slingerlands. We really did have “Too Much Fun;” and you all keep on rockin’, until next time!

Thanx to HYPERLINK "" for the trivia.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Take a Break On Me!

Hello, and welcome to “We Have All Been Here Before.” My name is Charlie (with a difficult last name), so you can just call me Charlie Mac, if the hypenated name is too much for you. I’m going to write about things I love – rock music, drums, guitars, etc. What makes me think I have anything unique to say on these subjects? Well, I may not, but I’ve been a musician for over 40 years, have lived through the music scene in the ‘60’s, ‘70’s, ‘80’s (the more recent stuff I tend to gloss over), have played in many bands (none that you have heard of, probably), and may have a unique take on where rock music has been and where it is going. I’m 56 years old (a geezer, to be sure!), live in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, and have a wife and three boys, all of whom are musicians in their own right. After 41 years of drumming, I decided to take up the guitar, after buying an electric for my oldest son. It has been a daunting task, but a rewarding one as now, nearly four years later, I can finally strum some of the songs I grew up on. I feel like a 15 year old again, as I obsessively pore through the Musician’s Friend and Guitar Center catalogs and fantasize about all the cool gear there. What, does this mean I can get a new Strat by the time I hit 60? I can tell you the tube compliment in a ’65 Fender Twin and what kind of equipment the Who used at Monterrey Pop, but I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday… Such are the perils of aging, but I’m not ready to hang up my rock ‘n’ shoes just yet. I am an active musician on drums, bass and guitar, and manage to jam frequently with friends both far and near.

So what I want to do here is, each day I post (and I can’t guarantee that I’ll post every day), I’ll take a look back at what happened in rock music on that day in history, and make some comments on how it affected me or add some information that may not be widely known. I don’t claim to be an authority on every aspect of music, but I have been told that I am a fount of useless rock trivia. Better to be known for something rather than nothing, eh? Well, here goes…

Today in rock history Duane Eddy peaked at number 6 with “Rebel Rouser,” a guitar driven instrumental. Eddy would score many other hits over the next 5 years, including, “Forty Miles of Bad Road,” “Because They’re Young” and “Peter Gunn.” Duane Eddy was famous for his big, twangy sound, made by single-note melodies, low string bending, whammy bar bends and vibrato. John Fogerty called him “the first guitar god.” Well, I don’t know about that, but ” The “Peter Gunn” theme seemed to be the universal “break song” for many of the rock bands in my home town when I was in high school. If you heard “dada dada dada dada…” you knew it was time to hit the snack bar, the head, or the parking lot for a smoke (if you were into that sort of thing). I know it was used in at least one of the bands I played drums in. A monotonous song, really, with an uninteresting drum part, but thankfully short, since, if you’ve just sweated through a 45-minute set, you don’t want to play 4 or 5 minutes of the song or do any solos, you just want to take a break. I do remember the TV show too; with Henry Mancini’s orchestra pounding out the beat… it was the first TV show that used modern jazz numbers to spice up the sound track. I seemed to remember that Mr. Gunn himself (played by Craig Stevens) always got into big trouble, but managed to solve the mystery week after week. So if you hear “dada dada dada dada…” go ahead, take a break, you’ve earned it!

Thanks to and for the trivia, and until next time, keep on rockin’!