It’s pretty obvious from things I write that my cross country, basketball and track participation in high school was pretty average.
I never won a state championship, not in any of my sports. I never even won a state medal. They don’t build halls of fame for athletes like me.
Maybe they should. We could call it the “Average Person’s Hall of Fame. I’m convinced my experiences mirror the experiences most high school kids. Only one team wins a title. All of the other teams don’t win. Only one competitor in each track event is state champion. Everyone else isn’t. There are generations of South Dakotans who had a good time competing but came away without a trophy.
My music career was a lot like that. I played rhythm guitar in the Sensational Standbys for about 15 years. We played a lot of dance halls, made some decent music for a lot of dancers and had great times playing tunes together. But none of the halls of fame — whether for rock and roll, country, swing, jazz or bluegrass (and we played all of those kinds of music in our day) — have come knocking, and none of the guys in the band expect them to. Like dozens and dozens of other bands that come together and drift apart, we just enjoyed the music and the experience. If someone ever started a hall of fame for non-stellar bands, it surely would be crammed to the rafters. And every member of that “Average Person’s Hall of Fame’’ would have stories to tell.
I could tell of the time our bass player fell asleep on his feet without missing a beat. We were in our last set of the evening, so it was sometime after midnight. With our bass guy, that was always a dangerous time. He was gung-ho for most of the evening, but he got sleepy after the witching hour. I knew better, but I called for our Hank Williams medley, a group of songs like “Take These Chains from My Heart.’’ Great song, but pretty mellow. A straight bass beat, three chords, you know. Well I looked over between a verse and the chorus and the bass guy was fast asleep. His fingers were moving, one foot was tapping, but he was zonked. I knew that for sure when a couple danced close, thought he was faking, yelled “Boo,’’ and watched his eyes pop open and his head snap back.
With a non-hall of fame band, there are always people coming up wanting to sit in. That was fine if we knew the person. They usually knew enough to do a song, take a bow and leave the stage. We had a guy once, though, who had apparently spent more time at the bar than we knew when we let him take over the keyboards. He launched into the theme from “MASH,’’ and he wouldn’t stop. It’s a great song, but 15 minutes? What was he thinking. That sure never happened to the Beatles.
Non-hall of fame bands have their share of critics, too. I was having a great time one evening when a guy who plopped down at the first table by the stage yelled, “Don’t eat the mike.’’ Threw me off the rest of the night. Or as the bass player put it, “You melted into the stage like a half-eaten popsicle.’’
Another time a guy, one of our regular dancers, came up between sets to ask what was wrong with the band. What you mean, the drummer asked. “You tell me,” the dancer answered. We pondered that for the rest of the night.
One of my favorite audience comments came during a wedding dance. A guy barely out of his teens asked earnestly, “Do you guys play anything by Twisted Sister?’’ The bass player gestured at the rest of us and said, “Do we look like we would?’’
The Beatles might not identify with those kinds of experiences, but I’m betting a whole bunch of amateur musicians across South Dakota do. You don’t hear about such experiences because, well, they happen to those of us who are among the moderately talented majority.