Bill’s Story Chapter Two

After a confusing and somewhat miserable High School experience, Bill entered the University of Wisconsin School of Fine Arts… Hey! What happened to High School? You may well ask, as has Bill, many times. His High School years are hidden behind a cellar door. Open it and descend carefully into the unknown. Fear? Failure? Excitement? Bill wishes to note three little incidents that encapsulate most of the significance of those years: the band, the girl, and the escape.

“One of my fellow nerds in tenth grade said he played the guitar and asked would I like to play organ in a rock band. As I had no organ and no experience I said yes. I had no plan nor any idea what planning entailed. As for experience, I had drooled over Mick Jagger defiantly spitting out ‘Time is on My Side’  on Ed Sullivan three years earlier and instinctively grasped the one main ingredient  inherent in Rock and Roll – rebellion. Fueled by the Animals singing ‘Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ and an insatiable desire to play music, I was ready.

“I go to Dad. Who else had moeny? I certainly didn’t. Dad did not exactly say no to the organ. Instead, he agreed to pay for three months rental on a Hohner air organ, a little plastic thing with about two octaves of keys and a little fan that blew air through harmonica-like reeds when you pressed a key. Although this fell far short of a Hammond B-3 with Leslie, I had no choice so I brought it to my first rehearsal at Lee’s house in the spring of 1966.

“Now, Lee’s lack of guitar playing ability was more than made up for by his equipment. As I set up my five pound piece of plastic on its wobbly legs, I realized I would be no match for his Fender Stratocastor and Twin Reverb amp. I played my first squeaky chord which sounded like a cheap harmonica (but not as loud) while Lee blasted rock chords with such intensity that you couldn’t even tell if I was playing, much less if I was any good. We quickly placed a microphone up to the little hole on the side where the sound came out of the plastic and were in business.

“Three months of weekly practices earned my father’s confidence that I was really serious about this band thing so for my sixteenth birthday I received a Farfisa Combo Compact Organ just like the big boy bubble gum bands were using. Itt was a prize for me for this put me into a new category. I was salable material and right away an already existing rock band that almost had gigs and everything, asked me to join them. After a full week of practice, I had nailed three high level songs: Louie Louie, Satisfaction and Gloria, all three chords, and secured our first performance for one of their classmates parties at the pavilion in my subdivision. We certainly felt three songs were enough to fill up a night what with repeated choruses, solos ‘n such.

“Now this is where I spill over into ‘The Girl’ part of my High school Years. You see, there was a minor obstacle to hurtle in order to play that first gig.  I was grounded  – grounded because of her!

“She made me sneak out in the middle of the night on my fathers little motor scooter and visit her in her boudoir for which I got caught. (OK so maybe it was my idea, ya think?) The next day Dad could tell I rode his scooter by means of a bolt that held up the frame. Now I did not know about this bolt, but Dad sure did. It wasn’t actually loose. The nut was missing and whenever you drove the scooter for any long distance it would vibrate out a couple of inches. I did have permission to drive it with my legal temporary driver’s license but only in our subdivision during daylight hours.  Good ol’ Dad knew that bolt would not vibrate out when I drove it for those short distances and he had a thing about checking that bolt every night to insure it was snugly inserted, and again in the morning. He hadn’t replaced the nut because he needed evidence of his  growing suspicion that I was sneaking out to my girlfriend’s house at night, fifteen miles away in Thiensville!

“So I was grounded and the Farfisa confiscated on the evening of the aforementioned gig. So I waited until Mom and Dad were in bed to execute my clever plan. They had made me place the organ in the attic through a trap door in the ceiling of the upstairs hallway only a few feet from their bedroom door. My mission: to remove the organ without making a sound, carry it a half mile to the pavilion, play the gig, and silently return it before midnight. (Why midnight? I don’t know. It just had a mystique about it.)

“I waited until there was no sound from my parents room. Their door was closed, they had their own bathroom, so I was ready. I soundlessly placed a chair below the trap door, stepped up and had just enough stretch to reach it. It was merely a piece of plywood with no hinges so it had to be moved aside. I couldn’t slide it for fear of making noise so I raised it up about four inches and began moving it to the side inside the attic. Suddenly, it touched a beam with a soft ‘clunk’. I froze holding the door in the air as my sweat glands activated and my heart began to beat rapidly. No sound from my parents room. Good. I moved the wood further until the opening was wide enough for the organ. There it was right on the edge of the opening, bright red with a black stripe and about 100 pounds. I reached up on my tip toes and began lifting the organ into the air. I could not lift the whole thing up as it was about four feet long so I lifted the closest end and slid it about two inches making a slight sound. I stopped! Perspiration now flowing down my face and neck. No sound from their room. Okay. Move on. I did four more two inch slides that were almost completely silent, stopping and waiting between each one, until almost half the organ was hanging out of the opening. Now all I had to do was lift it up and bring it down without banging the sides of the opening, and, without losing my balance and crashing to the floor.

“I lifted the organ. Man it was he-e-eavy. The perspiration was now streaming down my back and arms. My heart was beating so loud I thought they might hear it. I almost lost my balance and came within a millimeter of banging the side against the opening. I paused in mid-air holding tight with every ounce of my strength, desperately hugging all my hopes and dreams. No sound from the room. I wanted to gasp and pant but I held my breath back, breathing slowly and fighting being winded. I moved again slowly lowering the organ from the ceiling and crouching on the seat of the chair. Almost there! Still no sound from the room! With the organ in front of me, my greasy, sweaty arms squeezing extra tight, I used every ounce of my leg strength and silently stepped onto the hallway floor. Home free! I set the organ down, stepped up and lifted the door back in place and was on my way to stardom!

“I carried that organ a half mile down the road to the pavilion and was in time to set up and play my first gig. The lights were low and the kids were all dancing as the singer screamed out, ‘I can’t Get No Satisfaction’. The trip back up into the attic was harder, but it was also later so I knew the folks would be asleep. I was never caught. So, Dad, Mom, if your reading this….”