My dad moved us to Dumas, Texas ( pronounced a little like dumb-ass) when I was fourteen, I knew no one in the town of 9000 people. It was a town that made it difficult to fit in. If you’ve ever heard of the frenzy for Texas high school football, then that would be a perfect description of that panhandle town in the early 60’s. The Dumas Demons had won the state championship football title the previous two years. There were team photographs on display in every home, business and bathroom in the town. The short of it is, if you weren’t a Demon, you were nothing. I was about five foot seven inches tall and weighed about 135 lbs., not exactly running-back material.
So what to do? I met Tommy sometime during the first month of my freshman year. He’d moved to Dumas from Tucson and was as lost in the town as I was. He was tall, skinny and shy. We looked like Mutt and Jeff. He liked music, I liked music. There was nothing left to do but start a band. There was only two small problems; neither of us knew how to play any instrument and neither of us had the money to buy one if we did.
We met Jimmy (forever to be known as “Jock”) after a few months. He was a few years older and could play a bit of guitar. We were on our way. Eventually Tommy bought a guitar from Sears and a small cracker box amp. I snagged a used three piece gold sparkle Ludwig kit. (It would be drums for me because I thought my fingers too short to play guitar). Tim joined us as the singer and we were on our way to becoming rock stars. We practiced four or five hours daily for months. Eventually armed with a set list of 20 or 25 songs, two cheap guitars and a mic plugged into a ten inch Gibson amp, a light show consisting of one bulb with red cellophane in front of it, and me sitting on a wooden crate behind my drums; we were ready for American Bandstand. We were The Avengers. We settled for our first gig at the local YMCA. We played each song three times, we had an audience of nearly forty people and we sounded like s….! Not to be discouraged, we practiced for the next year, bought new equipment and the next time we played, we were a real band.
The Avengers morphed into The Echoes and we played together four years. We made a record that sold maybe twelve copies. We backed up J Frank Wilson of Last Kiss fame and we were billed as Better’n the Beetles by Mutt McMurry, the owner of the local drive-in movie. And yes, he did spell it Beetles. Two of us graduated from high school and it was time to move on.
I went into the army and eventually Vietnam. Jock had always had some issues that I didn’t understand at the time and stayed in Dumas. Tim and Tommy kept playing music. Tim spent many years singing, playing in Vegas and eventually settled into a non-music career. Tommy kept growing as a musician. He switched from guitar to bass and played Woodstock with Johnny Winter. Eventually he met Stevie Ray Vaughn and along with Chris Layton, became Double Trouble behind Stevie. Tommy along with his bandmates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
More than fifty years later, I still know that I’ve never felt any greater passion than as a teen, when practicing and playing music. Those three guys were the best of friends and bandmates to me. I’ve kept up with Tim and Tommy over the years and they will always be my music buddies. I asked Tim one time if he missed the music life. He said he didn’t miss the travel, but he missed the musicians. I’ve played off and on all of my life, and I miss the music, mostly I miss being sixteen, sitting behind my used drum kit and playing Louie Louie with Tim, Tommy and Jock.
“It’s only rock and roll, my god! It’s not rocket science.” Steven Adler
Go Well – David