In order to perform in drinking establishments, my new and under-aged lead guitar player needed and carried legal exemption documents to allow him in taverns and bars. Part of the agreement was also having a legal guarding with him at all times. So his father would always be there whenever he was. In essence, we inherited dad as well as boy wonder. This led to some interesting and even comical situations down the road. But as I was soon to discover, it wasn’t all fun and games!
Tales of a Road Band is an ongoing series sharing my experiences as lead-singer of a touring Country Band back in the early 80s. — Corky and The County Outlaws. All true tales (memories) about some of the more colorful experiences that we shared together.
One day, long ago, even before there was a band, I was watching a Canadian variety show on TV “The Tommy Hunter show.” And on that show there was a very young boy showing off his skills on guitar. Ironically, and unlikely as it may seem, years later he would become the lead guitar player for my touring country band.
We called him — “Boy Wonder!”
We (in the band) called him Boy Wonder because he was so gifted for his young age. But age had nothing to do with my choosing. I chose him simply because he was one of the best lead guitar players available at the time. And not just a hell of a guitar player, but he could pick and strum the mandolin with the best of them.
So I didn’t choose this young preteen because he was a young novelty item — though that was exactly what he was when I first approached him to join our band. He was the star, the headliner, the main attraction of an otherwise common band you’d see typically playing the lower tier establishments in any city.
Along with his regular band gigs he’d also do guest appearances with other-like bands, and special events including hometown radio broadcasts and interviews. He got written up in the local paper, and made appearances on TV. No doubt about it, the young kid’s star — was shinning bright!
I’m assuming his father was behind all this, planning and plotting out ways to better get exposure for his young rising star. And why not? Boy Wonder really was that talented for his age. A real show-stopper! But my plans for him didn’t include spotlight showcasing. No, my plans for him, were very different indeed.
TOO FAST TOO SOON?
I was hoping that he had enough of the novelty spotlight. Was ready to join an upcoming band that would instead incorporate his talents into the unity of the whole. Perhaps, I misread the situation? Or more and likely, in hindsight, I think Boy Wonder was willing but father wasn’t yet ready to let go the spotlight on his young star son. And I can understand how that could be. Well, I can understand it — Now!
Looking back in all honesty, I too made mistakes! Perhaps in my quest to make this change happen, I tried to eliminate his spotlight too quickly. Maybe should’ve given it more time, easing him through the transition.
Nonetheless — trouble was soon a’ brewing!
Now Boy Wonder himself was a great kid! Modest, fun loving and mature for his age in that wonderful age-innocent kind of way. He loved making music and I think he loved playing in our band too. He was all smiles and cooperative, a real joy to work with. Behind the scenes though, I think he was getting “your not being appreciated enough” advice from his Dad. Sure seemed that way in retrospect.
TROUBLE IN PARADISE
For instance, one time on stage, right in the middle of a show, we were going to do a Vern Gosdin tune next “Way down Deep” that included the mandolin. But when I looked over to see if he was ready — He was still holding his Electric guitar?
“Where’s your mandolin?” I whispered a little perplexed. “Oh, I didn’t bring it with me” he said. “But I gave you our playlist days ago” I replied. At this he said nothing? Just looked at me all smiling. Part of the script his father no-doubt had concocted to teach me a lesson. No spotlight? — No mandolin!
So now, No mandolin meant no Vern Gosdin song and I was forced to pick another song to play right then and there while the crowd waited. Less than ideal as you can imagine and very unprofessional too boot! But I held my tongue, even later after the show. I knew dad was behind this and instead of making a big fuss, I just let it go. In hindsight, I should of cleared the air right then and there. But I didn’t!
Of course, that was a mistake. One I learned from and would not repeat again throughout my years as leader of the band. Live and learn I suppose. Live and learn!
Now unlike most other bands, I’d split our pay equally with the band members. I got what they got, what everyone got, equally. But as we shared our pay, we also shared some of our costs. One time after a show we were splitting up the money and I mentioned we needed some more Band Promo I.D. Cards and that I took a small equal amount out of everybody’s share (including mine) to pay for this.
Boy Wonder didn’t seem to have a problem with this, but dad did! He made a big fuss insisting that the money was his boy’s and that they were getting cheated out of what was rightfully theirs! In order to avoid a big scene I handed over his contribution to the bands future. This amounting to a few measly dollars.
Incidents like this is what would unfortunately in time, lead to our undoing.
But don’t get me wrong! There were plenty of good times with Boy Wonder on board. He played his heart out for us most of the time and really added to the over all status of the band. With his talents we were able to cover even the most musically challenging songs and arrangements. And although I rarely individualized him on stage, his lead solo’s spoke for themselves. — Boy Wonder got his time to shine!
THOSE GIRLS ARE NAKED?
We had our fun times together too! Like the time we had a weekend road-gig at the old Town Manor. Our rooms were upstairs and when we first arrived we headed off to stow our overnight gear. Boy Wonder would be driven back and forth nightly by dad but the rest of us would be bunking there for the weekend.
When we first arrived, all of us climbed the back stairs together to checkout the rooms for the first time. As we were climbing I could hear giggles (female) coming from behind us? Then to everyone’s amazement three laughing naked girls pressed past us on the staircase going up.
And once we got to the top and looked around …
There were Naked girls prancing around everywhere!
I looked over at Boy Wonder and he was blushing red but smiling like the Cheshire cat! The girls of course were all over him seeing how young he was and this only deepened his color yet increased his smile and all at the same time. As it turned out, the Town Manor was by day a strip club and at night a Country bar.
The other guys in the band were of course ecstatic about this surprising turn of events! Boy Wonder’s dad however — well not so much! Needless to say, from then on the guys looked forward to the girls coming in during the day and sharing the same floor that we were on. I’ve never known them to be such — um, early risers? (Lol.) But Boy Wonder? Well, he was only allowed to meet us on stage from then on.
When we weren’t playing live, we’d be downstairs at Boy Wonder’s quite impressive home recording studio. Either practicing or making recordings of our songs. He’d lay down a track then go back and add a harmony guitar riff making it sound better and better every time.
Sometimes, even during the most complicated guitar leads, we had to ask him to slow down because the rest of us couldn’t keep up with those blurring young fingers. Yep, one things for sure — that Boy could play!
OVER TOO SOON
In the end, Boy Wonder was with us for maybe just over a year if that? Too bad too, because all of us in the band really liked him and enjoyed the benefits he brought to our band in the short time he was with us. In hindsight, I suppose it never would of lasted anyways. He was just too young to go out on the Road with a bunch of shit-kicking hell raising boys. And with his father in tow to boot!
I should of seen that wasn’t going to work right from the start. In the end, our breakup was just as much my fault as anyone’s. After all, dad was just looking out for his young son in his own way. However resistant and overbearing it was! All in all, I guess just part of my learning experience as a band leader.
Still, Boy Wonder plays a part in the history of my long-ago band “Corky and the County Outlaws.” And although we have lost track of each other over the many years now…
I hope somewhere, he’s still picking his guitar and Wowing the crowds!
Tales of a Road Band: Boy Wonder
MORE BAND TALES COMING SOON!