In the summer of 1968, my aunt came from Connecticut to visit my family in southern California. During the two weeks she was with us, everyday was some kind of wonderful adventure. We went to the beach several times; we went to the Los Angeles Zoo. We visited all kinds of museums and the La Brea Tar Pits. Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Knott’s Berry Farm were also on the activity agenda.
While we were at Knott’s, the grownups were talking about a concert that was happening at the park that day. I was eleven years old, and had spent my life (so far) in a musical household. Most of my family were musically talented people and everybody in our house loved music. There was a record player or radio going twenty-four hours a day.
Although I loved music, I had never seen a live performance. Kenny Rogers and The First Edition was the name of the band performing, and I had never heard of them. At the time, I was strictly a fan of country artists like Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline, so I wasn’t very enthusiastic about trading the thrills of an amusement park for some “unknown”band. My mind was about to be blown…
As we walked into the concert venue, my eyes were immediately attracted to the big, beautiful, sparkling set of drums. Under the bright stage lights, it was an amazing sight. The row of amplifiers on either side of the drums all had lights glowing on them, and there were several beautiful guitars on stage. I had grown up surrounded by musical instruments, but to see them onstage under the lights was indescribable.
We sat in the large theater for about thirty minutes, when all of a sudden the lights went out. I could see silhouettes moving around in the dark onstage and this got my heart pumping. All of a sudden the lights came on and the band was playing. It was like a religious experience; I don’t think I blinked my eyes for the entire show for fear of missing something. The sound inside the hall was something I had never experienced, either. It sounded nothing like my records at home. It was larger than life. I was enthralled by every song, and the finale was a cover of The Beach Boys song “Good Vibrations”.
This was a song I had heard many times, and when they began playing, it sounded amazing. There were flashing lights, smoke, and Rock and Roll. At the end of the show, I was in a trance; I couldn’t move. I sat there staring at the stage, and my family was getting impatient. Mom said “we’re going outside to get some air and a drink; we’ll meet up in a few minutes”. As I sat there transfixed on the spectacle before me, to my amazement, some of the band members came out into the audience area.
I was one of only a few people lingering inside, and a guy with long hair and a beard and a woman (who I recognized as the lead singers) came up to me. They introduced themselves and said “how did you like the show?” The only thing I could get out of my mouth was “I want drums”. They laughed and said drums took a lot of practice and maybe I should start out with a guitar… I just nodded. My mom came back in looking for me and was introduced to the band. She said she was their newest, and biggest fan.
All the way home, I begged and pleaded with my dad for drums, but to no avail. This went on for several weeks until my mom and sister got tired of listening to me, and went out and bought me an electric guitar and amplifier. I have been a professional musician for most of my life, and if not for Kenny Rogers and The First Edition, I may have chosen a different path in life.