Early Bands And Songwriting Begins

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My first band was about when I was 13 or 14. My friend and schoolmate Ned Love asked me to join him in a band. He played rhythm guitar, along with Kenny (I forget his last name) on lead guitar, Steve Fisher on Bass, and Henry 'Ziggy' Zigmut on drums. We rehearsed in Kenny's basement (an East Coast thing) where his sister had a Hammond C3 organ. She had a bit of a thing for me (and so it continues!) and I kinda sweet-talked her into letting me wail on her organ. Then she let me play the Hammond with the band! Ba-rump-bump!!

We did a few parties ... actually moved that huge organ (stop snickering!). We were too young to gig much elsewhere.

 

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Playing with one of my early bands ... at a party for my cousin Mickey

(Pictured L-R: Ned Love, Bob Rush, Freddy Brog, Mickey Lang, Me)


Somewhere around this time I started noodling around with writing music and songs. Everything was quite primative ... lyrics were often about 'society' and other 60's type social commentary. I didn't know anything about love and romance. Yet.


Later, when I was about 15, I joined another band. We named it for a term I learned in high school chemistry class: The Heat of Formation. What a cool name!

There were several interesting things about this band. The drummer, who was one of the area's most popular, was also named Roy. That's pretty unusual ... although it's not an uncommon name, I don't really run into other Roy's all that often. Usually, when someone say's 'Roy' it's me they're talking to ... so we had to get used to that. But it gets better: My sister's best friend Toni was dating a guy named Roy ... and they would come to our practices and gigs. So there were three Roys together often. I came to understand how Bobs and Lindas feel.

This was about 1969, and N.E. Philadelphia was primarily white middle-class. My high school, George Washington HS, was the largest in the city. As I recall, we had a total of 3 black students ... bussed in ... and one was Charly, the lead singer in our band (
aka Charles Sedgwick Hall ... now an actor floating around L.A. ... Charly, where are you?!). He was a great singer and a great guy. He was quite the attention getter.

The guitarist in the band, Craig, liked to build psychodelic strobe lights and spinning color wheels and stuff like that. When we played, we had quite the little light show going on.

We were asked to play at our high school in a program that featured three jazz bands from our school and two others from nearby. They had us and another band set up in the 'pit' area in front of the stage, and we were to play for 5 minutes while the jazz bands were switching behind the curtains. In my first manger-style negotiation, I battled with the show's director to let us play our 20-minute version of Inna Gadda Da Vida. You know it. You love it. I was sure the audience would too. He really didn't want to, but eventually gave in with this warning: 'If it gets boring, I'll turn off the power!' I agreed ... From the second I started that famous organ intro, the audience started cheering. Our strobe lights and colorwheel lights pointed up at us and created giant strobing shadows on the curtains. We played for about 25 minutes ... and the audience went wild with a standing ovation! My first ever. Many of my family were there to see that.

The Heat of Formation
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GWHS 1969

The Heat of Formation
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GWHS 1969

In-A-Gada-Da-Vida
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Iron Butterfly

Jim Hilton
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In-A-Gadda producer & my friend!

The Heat of Formation played a few parties and school events. I also played a few weddings and Bar Mitzvahs here and there with Ned. It was fun performing for people, and I certainly enjoyed the great response we usually received.

Meanwhile, I continued singing in school choirs all through high school ... and I spent extra time taking music classes and rehearsing in various choir formations. We sang in many school shows and productions.

Also in these teen years, I would float in and out of various bands ... and frequently pop into jam sessions around N.E. Philly. During these fun and games, I knew and jammed with trombonist Rich Rosenberg, aka 'La Bamba,' who plays in the Max Weinberg 7 on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Good for him!

Another major event in my music history happened in the summer of 1969: I went to my first concert! It was a 'summer festival' at The Spectrum in Philadelphia. Headlining the bill: Led Zeppelin! Just after the release of their first album! WOW! Also on the bill were Jethro Tull, Johnny Winter and Booker T & the MGs. Quadruple WOW! Oh .. and this was my first date and led to my first real kiss! WOW WOW WOW!!! What a major event!

Soon I would be off to college ... pre med! What a good boy! But in my senior year of high school ... love would strike! And it had quite an impact on me musically ...

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