Fellow Attic Bandmember Makes Good
When I was a teenager, I was in a few bands. One was back here, in an Ohio school, and the other was a school in California. Before the bands, though, I learned how to play the piano. Perhaps thanks in part to my grandmother on my father’s side who taught me and inspired me by her beautiful ability to play the piano.
I played sports at the time, but my real enjoyment came from simply sitting down and fooling around on the Cable Nelson spinet piano we had in our Ohio home. I would even buy sheet music and try to learn it and then go to a piano teacher for a while. But the music lessons didn’t work, and I simply continued to fool around on the piano.
Maybe it was passion mixed with enjoyment. Or something like that. Who knows and who cares? One of my passions/enjoyments at the time was music. I had learned to play the piano by ear, and I would often spend hours entertaining myself on our Cable Nelson spinet piano we had in the living room of our home in Ohio.
I had a candy apple (a big color at the time) Fender Precision Bass and we usually practiced in the attic of the Old Gym around six-thirty in the evenings. Right after dinner. The student body of the school voted three members of my class to be head of a dorm. They were called Honor Committeemen or HCs.
I was elected one of the three HCs my second year at the school and was given that falling down dorm called the Lower Dorm full of twenty boys. I was a junior and I was given a dorm of around 20 ninth graders. One of the most active of my ninth graders was one Richard Hastings. His mind was already spinning far ahead of many others in the dorm who were attempting to plod through the “mud” of the school’s curriculum. This made Richard a little different from the others.
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Perhaps the major bond I had with Richard is that we were both interested in music. We often jammed in my room. Richard played rhythm guitar and seemed far more interested in pursuing a career as a musician than following the paths of most of the school’s graduates. (If you were really into the arts, you went to LA’s Crossroads School out in Santa Monica. (A fact I learned many years later).
But Richard ended up at this school. It was a distant cry from a school for artistic young people. For young, budding musicians. Like I sensed Richard was. Certainly, a budding musician more than a diligent student. Ah, but he reminded me of myself at the time.
It wasn’t long before there was discussion of forming a band. There was a great drummer in Pete, a senior as well as a few great singers also seniors. We had all talked about getting together to form a band. I told everyone I would check about getting access to the old attic room above the Old Gym.
I got the key for the attic room of the Old Gym and right after dinner our band would meet for practice in the attic of the Old Gym. We first had to clean it up and take some trash out of it but it looked pretty good when we had that first band practice that fall night in southern California. The band composed of those listed above. Richard and the drummer Pete had a special bond it seemed, and I simply laid back on my bass and filled in for their actions.
It was late fall as I recall when we first started meeting in the attic room of the Old Gym. Not long after I graduated the Old Gym was condemned and the school had to spend considerable money to make it safe. But it was unsafe in those years. There was the big earthquake when we all thought it was over with the building shaking so much. Everything was OK with it said the inspectors the next day. Such is the life of building inspectors in LA County. Practices continued through most of the year it seems to me. The type of practices I look forward so much more than football practice or track practice or rugby practice. Band practice. The most enjoyable time of all for me.
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I have “Friended” Richard’s FB page and receive notifications from him. The following photo the other day which sent me immediately to his website to learn and hear some spectacular music. Original songs. One of the world’s great guitarists. An incredible voice, pure and powerful.
For one thing, the memory of Richard stands out from the others today. We had a lot of talks. I really liked him, but it was obvious that he was not exactly ready to follow in the school tradition laid down many years by the father of the founder of the first school down in Tennessee.
This made it such an unusual school. A large slice of the spirit and the integrity and the common sense and humor of Tennessee. My father and grandfather were from Mississippi, not far from Tennessee. They always had a similar general philosophy (I guess you’d say) the same as the school’s founder. It was a philosophy not so much drilled into my brother and me but rather something that simply surrounded every second of our lives. Always unseen. An environment rather than object in this environment. You always see (focus on) the object. Those who control the environment makes sure of this.
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In many ways, I went the path of business rather than an art like Richard. Yet art has always been the most important thing in my life. Yet it’s often played smaller parts than the starting one of the perhaps high aiming trajectory of my early career in business. Yet it was all there for me to see. If I wanted to see it. If I wanted to open my eyes.
Great seeing the photo, Richard! It likes my vision of what one of us band members would turn out as. Seriously, spent “quality time” on your site and listened to a lot of your music in iTunes. Your Victim of Paradise album is my favorite. A new level.
From your bandmate in the attic of the Old Gym, playing the candy apple Fender Precision Bass. The bassist. To someone who pursued that muse who surrounded all of us in those evenings of music with band practice in the attic of the Old Gym. A muse I heard but never seriously pursued. Like Richard did. Like you did.
John Fraim is the author of Spirt Catcher: The Life and Art of John Coltrane.
Those interested, see his website at http://www.richardhastings.com/bio/.
We’ll soon add some of Richard’s music to this post.
To Virginia Woolf and the so-called “Brown Stocking” episode in To the Lighthouse