WOSTER: The Standbys weren’t The Beatles, but we sure had funWe weren’t the Beatles. Oh, heavens, no. We were just four guys who somehow fell together and found out we all knew some of the same songs and we liked to play many different kinds of music.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
Every year for Christmas, each member of our family receives a calendar for the new year.
The themes for all of the calendars were set years and years ago, so one son gets Grateful Dead months, another gets Phish, our daughter usually gets ballet, Nancy gets bears and I get The Beatles. I was in the process of replacing last year’s Beatles calendar with the 2012 model, when I took a close look at the January photo. The Lads from Liverpool were early in their career, and the place they played looked pretty tacky. Even so, each member of the band — Paul, George, Ringo and John — grinned like crazy.
It reminded me of those years when I played in a dance band. We weren’t the Beatles. Oh, heavens, no. We were just four guys who somehow fell together and found out we all knew some of the same songs and we liked to play many different kinds of music. Our careers were such that we seldom saw each other during the week. We had weekend evenings to make music together, usually at one of the service clubs around Pierre, although now and again we got a paying gig on the road in Brookings or Huron or Aberdeen or Gettysburg. We didn’t much care. We just liked making music together.
Had you taken a photograph of the sensational Standbys during the nearly 15 years we played together, we’d have probably all been grinning, too. We didn’t sound like the Beatles, but we had as much fun — unless the clock swept past midnight.
At that point, the bass guy would start nodding off, the drummer would lose his pipe and lighter somewhere under his trap set, the lead player would forget whether he wanted to use his keyboards, his Stratocaster or his accordion on the next song, and I’d forget just how much fun it really was to be staying up way late and playing in an honest to goodness dance band for a live audience.
At that point, it was the dance crowd’s responsibility to keep things lively.
As much fun as it was making music together, it was more fun watching couples enjoy themselves as they danced to the beat of our music. Even when the clock on the wall said it was nearly time to call a halt to the madcap merriment, if the crowd was still hopping, I could fight off the desire to throw the guitar in the case and head for home.
Many of the people at most of our dances in Pierre were the regulars — couples whose fluid movements were as precise as those Olympic couples skaters, showing our music wasn’t the first they’d danced to. Whether we played a waltz, a rock ’n’ roll number or a country two-step, they were able to keep the beat effortlessly, always knowing where each step would take each of them. A guy can get to thinking he makes pretty good music when he has dancers who move that easily to every song.
At a lot of the dances, a crazy-legged guy and his wife kept us entertained. They were excellent dancers, but the male partner always seemed to have his feet going double time. When he got to going on a polka, his feet were a blur, kind of like Snoopy dancing in that Peanuts special. How his partner kept up, I never knew, but she did — every time.
We had one enthusiastic older gentleman — whose partner reminded me of the British queen, she moved so eloquently — who always asked for a fast polka. We’d crank out “Beer Barrel” or some other stomper, and the whole dance floor would fill with craziness. The gentleman who made the request would be whirling like a top, right to the last beat. Sometimes, we’d try a second fast polka and discover neither the dancers nor the musicians had the stamina they’d once possessed.
I don’t recall hearing that the Beatles had to knock off the fast music because they or their fans got winded. Of course, the Beatles started making music at a younger age than the Standbys.