News From The Woods - October, 2006


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published October 5, 2006

"WHIZZ: "Why Wait Another Ten Years?"

You may recall back in March of 2005, my old band from the 70's "Whizz" staged a ten year reunion. If you don't, then go HERE and read up on it.

……..I'll wait…………..

Are you up to speed yet?

Okay! Well, needless to say we had such a great time that we simply could not wait another ten years. As we said our goodbyes in 2005 we talked about getting together in maybe five more years. We all decided we would not let another ten years go by as we enjoyed the get together so much we felt greedy for another shot at it. They drove off into the sunset and I made a mental note to keep our email contacts open. And we did just that. All winter long we kept a constant flurry of communications going, occasionally mentioning another reunion, but nothing was set. After all, we had JUST had a get together so why talk about the possibilities until some time has passed, right?

Wrong. All the email back and forth did was whet our appetites for more "Whizz". One thing I will tell you about getting older, and this is a certainty. As you age, time passes more and more quickly. It's seems to be a normal and universal truth. No matter what your nationality is, the one certain truth is that after age 50 years seem like months, months seem like weeks, weeks seem like days, and days are just a blur. Remember how you used to be able to follow the numbers clicking off the gas pump when you filled up? How about nowadays? FORGETABOUTIT! If I'm putting in twenty dollars worth I have to get ready to click off the pump around $15.00.

Life is like that.

So, March of 2006 rolls around and the emails started getting more and more centered around doing something SOON! By April (click) Mel and Dave were talking about what they wanted to do with their upcoming vacation time. By May (click) Eric, up in Arlington, Virginia - the farthest away - said he intended to persuade the rest of us to get together this year and was keeping a dialog with Mel, Dave and Bob. And by June (click) they were all standing on my doorstep! They arrived on the 23rd for a weekend of fellowship. Only a year had passed. I could hardly believe it! First, Eric arrived. In his cherry 'Vette, no less! He drove down from Arlington and arrived just a couple of hours before the rest of the gang came in, towing a trailer full of gear.

To help you understand just how difficult doing something like this is, I need to set you up. Eric is a video editor up in Virginia, doing some heavy duty broadcast editing. Mel and Dave are both very popular disk jockeys in Oklahoma and have other side careers as well. Bob is a high school coach in Oklahoma. All of these guys are very set in their lives. Personally, I don't know how any of them could coordinate such a concerted effort to arrive here in the woods of Arkansas just for a couple of days of camaraderie. I say "just", but in reality we all know that life is "just" a long parade of priorities. Evidently - to ALL of us - this was well worth the effort and expense. All of the planning was on Mel, Dave, Bob and Eric. All I had to do was sit here and wait. I don't mean to imply that I do nothing. A week before their arrival I clean up the studio and set it all up for a recording session. Usually, for a client, that takes only a day. But for my friends I go all out and set up an elaborate system of audio and video lines, and create little "nooks" where I expect the guys will have for their own set ups. The studio is small but I get the lighting just right, make sure the video cameras are in optimum position and yet out of sight, and keep the microphone placements low key. I also make some arrangements for a few special treats, like nostalgic film footage of the band from days long ago or some old photos I place in frames and distribute around the studio. I fill the place up with candles, turn on the lava lamps and away we go!

Our very first "Whizz" reunion was in August of 1995. We had a great time and recorded some of our old covers and a couple of our originals to boot. From our cover set list, we did "All Along the Watchtower" (the Dave Mason Version), "Little Sister", and "Coast To Coast" - our tribute to Trapeze. We also recorded our original songs "Watch Your Step", "Long Lasting", and "Back Door Man". At the time Cedar Crest Studio was 16-track analog. The tracks were so much fun to record. It was like old times. The funny thing is, as I recall, we didn't need much warm up. We just jumped right in and slogged away. The next "Whizz" reunion was ten years later in March of 2005. So much time had passed, and so quickly !! (click). At this reunion we did some more originals, "Grande 505" and "Seduced By My Teacher", and a couple of our old cover tunes - "Back in the USSR" and "Too Rolling Stoned" which was a Robin Trower tune and a concert favorite that we used to always open our set with. Since I was in the process of trying to put together a benefit concert for Hospice this year featuring "Whizz", we decided to spend the greater part of our reunion running over "old" arrangements and only worked up a few more covers, like "Francene", "Takin' Care of Business", and "Murder In My Heart For The Judge", which was originally done by Moby Grape way back in the early 70's - more recently done by Three Dog Night.

It didn't seem like we had accomplished as much as in previous reunions, but the guys were cutting me some slack because of my carpal tunnel, and we found ourselves just hanging out a bit more than in earlier sessions, where we felt the pressure of getting together only after ten years had gone by. Getting together only a year later turned out to be a good thing, as we felt we could take more time and not rush so much. We'd play for an hour or so, and then take an hour break. It was funny because at one point we were lounging around on a break when Dave said "So…. It's come to this!" And we asked what he was talking about. He replied: "Well, we're getting so old that we only play for an hour, then sit around in lounge chairs for an hour, then make our way back to the studio for another hour, and so on…" That got a big laugh from all of us. We were admitting to getting ……… well, you know……..the "O" word. But all in all it felt pretty good taking it all in stride this year. We were more relaxed. We spend more time just being pals instead of feeling like we "had to do something" to make the trip worthwhile…. To make it "mean something". I think by this point we all realized that just getting together again so soon meant something more important than merely making music together. After all, we had already proved that we could get together and play all the old tunes, some new ones, and still have time to party a bit. Unfortunately, I had to postpone the benefit concert which was slated for November due to my (then) current poor physical health. This past year has not been very kind to me. I developed a lot of back pain, and after some MRI's we discovered spurs on my spine and several bulging discs. My doc said "Welcome to old age, Bob". HA HA. Very funny, doc! After that I started getting a numbness in my left shoulder which we found was attributable to me -looking through the bottoms of my bifocals at my video monitors which are situated on top of the shelf in front of me. I guess spending 10 years staring up through the bottoms has taken its toll as well. I have since remedied that situation by buying a pair of glasses which have the full lenses in my close up prescription. I just hope it doesn't take another ten years to go away!

One of the best laughs I got all weekend was when Eric loaned me his Corvette to go into town and take care of some business. Dave went with me and as we were driving into town in this fantastic road machine, it dawned on me that this was a monumental moment. I looked at Dave and simply said: "So, Dave…… Did you ever think we'd be driving around in Eric Dennis' Corvette?" and we both just about lost it. This is probably more of an inside joke, so I will tell you that back in the 70's when we had the band going full steam, Eric, at 17, was about the poorest person in town. He lived in my house with me - had his own bedroom - but had no car and no job. Somehow he bought a Marshall amp (on payments) and it was repossessed just after our concert with Styx. He was full of the best intentions but didn't have a pot to pee in. For that matter, I wasn't doing that well myself. There were many times when we'd get home to find the electricity or phone shut off. Once we were even so broke that we dug around in the old house I was renting and found cans of food left over from the previous renter. All the labels were torn off so it was a case of "surprise dinner". More than half the cans contained black-eyed peas as I recall. When I had a little money we felt like rich people and decided that Hamburger Helper was one of the three main food groups. But in retrospect those were some of the happiest times of our lives, living hand to mouth. And now Eric was a successful and independent video editor with not one but two classic Corvettes in his garage…. And here we were driving around town in ERIC'S corvette! Who would have thunk it! And I am so very proud of him to have made something so successful out of his life - and he did it all on his own. We are all proud of Eric. I am proud of all of those guys for doing so well.

We spent a lot of time over that weekend talking about how to work together even though there were great distances between us. I was already an avid ACID user and Mel and Dave also had ACID. Mel was starting to spend a great deal of time with ACID, doing radio production chores, which ACID is exceptional at. Dave had ACID but admittedly hadn't spent a lot of time learning it. We decided that if we all had the software we could use ACID and email mixes, tracks, and projects back and forth. To that end we decided what plug-ins we all shared and therefore could use without fear of crashing someone else's computer for lack of a plug-in. At the end of this year's reunion, I burnt DVD's of the project files and all the tracks we had recorded. This way each person would have a starting point and learn more about the software using our own music for the learning curve. Immediately on Eric's return to Virginia, he ordered ACID 6.0 and soon we will all be up and running for the next phase of "Whizz: The Future".


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