“No, I’m not looking to join another band right now.” That’s what I said seven years ago. Since then, I’ve played countless gigs and been inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Freestyle. It all started when word got out that One Nite Stand was breaking up.
By 2010, One Nite Stand was playing several shows a week. I wasn’t looking to join another band that was super busy. That’s when Dave started stalking me. Dave Merrill, the drummer for Freestyle was persistent. He would call. He would show up at Guitar Center. This is why Dave is a good insurance salesman. My employees at the store would say to me: “that guy is here again.” Dave said: “just come to one rehearsal and take a look at our calendar.” So, I agreed. I said in my Hall of Fame speech, “We rehearsed a bunch of songs and didn’t play any of them at the gig but I had so much fun that I decided to stick around.”
Freestyle was a new type of band for me. They played weddings and corporate gigs with the occasional winery. This was an improvement for me. Back in Cincinnati, with Boom Boom Horshack, we only played bars from 10 to 2am. When I moved to Iowa and joined One Nite Stand, we started at bars and graduated to the casino circuit.
Freestyle was also the first horn band I was in. All the rock bands I was in prior to Freestyle, I was the only horn player. I wanted to be the Branford Marsalis or Leroi Moore of the group. With Freestyle, I was playing along side of Scott Davis, trumpet, and occasionally, Dave Kobberdahl. Suddenly, there’s parts. Some written down, some not, some written down but not played that way, some “hey, follow me and play something pretty!”
And then the singing. Those guys could sing; all of them. Dave Merrill from behind the drum set and Ed Kelly on bass sang lead and everyone else harmonized. And Jay Alcorn…what a guitar player. Between him, Dan Nichols and Kevin King; I got to play along side some amazing guitar players.
My favorite part of the night with Freestyle was break time because break time meant story time and these guys had stories. To put it in perspective, I’m the young old guy of the group. Freestyle has been together for just over 30 years. Prior to Freestyle, these guys were in other bands. To hear Dave talk about touring from 1970 to 1981. To hear Jay Alcorn talk about going to LA with Sam Salomone. To hear Ed Kelly talk about arriving in Memphis for a gig the day Elvis died and everything in the city being cancelled. The stories never got old. To hear about the rich musical history of Iowa was great.
I also found myself in a group with public school teachers. After touring, Ed Kelly became a speech teacher. Scott Davis and Dave Kobberdahl were band directors. Kevin King’s wife was also a teacher. When I decided that I want to leave Guitar Center and become a teacher, I had all of the support I needed. Kevin’s wife, Shelia, talked to me at length about getting my license. Dave Kobberdahl had me out to his school to student teach. Scott Davis connected me with substitute gigs. I ended up teaching with Bob Brown, drummer, for a summer.
This band is so much more than a musical group. I got a group of friends and mentors. It’s why today is emotional. It’s my last gig with them. My new teaching schedule is going to take up a lot of my time but I’m also ready to start a new musical chapter and play with other groups. The best thing I did seven years ago was to attend a rehearsal because I had so much fun that I decided to stick around.