Just because you make the decision to make a band, doesn't mean that that's going to happen. Not right away. The first problem was that Daryl was already in a band and didn't have the time to commit to another. His bass gear was all over at his friend Mark's house setup for reheasals with a Christian Rock band Daryl had been playing with for a past year and a half called NightWatch. They were a mix between Kansas and Daryl's favorite band Journey, but without Steve Perry or Neal Schon. Their guitarist Sammy was good. Fast and fluid with a heavy Eddie Van Halen influence, but Mark - who handled the keyboards as well as lead vocals - didn't have anywhere near the range or tone of Perry. He tried hard though.
Johnny had hung around for reheasals and briefly had fantasies about
sitting in, or even doing some of the singing for them - but after
seeing how much this group was really a vanity project for Mark's
born-again mom and dad, he thought the better of that idea. So instead
he hung out during reheasals with Daryl, listened in, soaked up the
sounds, and learned. To Johnny the entire idea being around a band,
even one like this that was only playing at backyard picnics and church
functions was exciting. Just to be this close to it gave him a buzz.
He just had to get in some kind of group.
Ironically Johnny had already been in plenty of groups. Plenty of
bands. They just usually marched. Or just sat down. None of them rocked.
As a trumpet player he'd been reading and playing music for almost a
decade. But rock bands are a little different. No conductor. No sheet
music. You just learned the song by ear, and by heart and went for it.
For Johnny that was a very different world, but he was eager for it.
It just wasn't going to happen right now.
Beside Johnny didn't have the hair. He used to when he was younger, but
then he started cropping it. Now after that night at his cousins and
seein Panama for the first time he was growing it again. It would be a
couple years before he had a proper rocker look going. Plus they really
might not dig long hair at his job, working in the computer print shop
of a local Aerospace company. There were tons of them in the south bay
area of Los Angeles. Hughes, Rockwell, TRW and Honeywell all had plants
in the area. It didn't matter. Johnny was committed. He may have
come to this a couple years after most people, but he planned to catch
The next problem was which instrument to play. Johnny felt pretty strong
about singing, but he had always been a player, a musician. He felt
attracted to drums, but one of Daryl's friends who was a drummer had
told him a story about how when kept breaking blood vessels in his legs
from playing kick drum too hard. First off, that just didn't sound right
- nor did it sound pleasant. Or healthy. Bass didnt' really appeal to
him, which left keyboards or guitar. At this point he was leaning
toward guitar, but he also knew - just like regrowing his hair - that's
was going to take some time and commitment. So he hung around Sammy
during reheasals and watched his playing, trying to pick up some tip or
tricks. Sammy was heavy with the EVH fretboard fingertaps and whammy
bar effects. They were flash tricks, a fairly easy way to generate a
lot of notes or bend one note into many. More surface than
substance,but a good way to be noticable when you wanted to be.
"So you play a B.C. Rich, eh? Why don't you play a Kramer like Eddie?"
Johnny asked Sammy. Brands of guitars where like signatures for certain
players and certain styles. Good bedrock players in rock and hard rock
usually went for Kramer or Jackson guitars. Sometimes Dean guitars. Some
guys still play Fender Stratocasters, nick named Strats, since that was
the kind of guitar Hendrix had played, and Eric Clapton too. They were
good for the blues based players, country players tended for the Strats
older brother the Fender Telecaster, although some funk players like
Prince used one as did New Jersey rocker Bruce Springsteen.. B.C.Rich's
were pretty exclusive used by the Metal bands. Especially Thrash
Metal. They had a pointy angular body and had a really mean look to
them. Ready to use a spear with some of unruly thrash metalheads.
"I just really like the Kahler" Sammy said. "It's got a lot of play in it".
"Ah, Ok." Johnny said knowingly "God, could you imagine putting a Kahler on a Bass?"
"Woah, dude... that would be intense. Dive bomb the brown note."
"Yeah, Daryl's always threatening to put his bass through a Marshall"
The Kahler was the device that kept the guitar in tune when you pulled
or push the whammy bar to tighten and lossen all the strings at once.
Using it you could make the notes bounce slowly or quickly with vibrato,
dive bomb like the sound of a crashing plane or rise slowly like a car
or motorcycle accelerating. A lot of those types of sound trick were
pioneered by Hendrix before anyone had ever thought of them. He used
just about all of them in his version of the "Star Spangled Banner."
Marshall's were the primary brand of guitar amplifier used in Rock those days. It was one of the first designed deliberately to create distortion and feedback. Hendrix had used them exclusively and made them popular. Before Marshall's it was rare to hear distorted guitar unless there was a flaw in the amp. The Kinks were one of the first bands to play a song with that fuzzy kind of distortion, and their guitarist Dave Davies had done it by slashing the speaker cones with a razor blade. At that time people used to think feedback was an annoying accident, something that
happened with the guitar's built in audio "pickups" would get to close
to the speaker cabinets and create a squealing secondary tone. T o them it was just and ugly noise. Hendrix
used feedback as another part of the sound spectrum. As decoration for
everything else that was going on. He drew sound pictures with it. He used the dive bomb, all kinds of
effects that came right of his imagination and were now staples in the
rock-n-roll arsenal. The problem for Jimi was that his old
stratocasters weren't made that kind of abuse. As soon as he finished
slamming down the whammy bar for a dive bomb or wild vibrato and then
try to play the rest of the song, his guitar was out of tune. Way out of
It was the one thing about Hendrix that Johnny really didn't like, but
then it also really his fault. His gear couldn't keep up with his
playing. Now if Hendrix had had a Kahler, or one of the competing
whammy bar tuning lock units like a Floyd Rose, now that would've been
something. That would've been Rad.
There was a lot to learn and Johnny was becoming an "A" student. He
started to absorb everything. Buying Rock Magazines like Hit Parader,
Circus, Creem, Kerrang, the local LA Rock papers BAM, and especially RIP
Magazine which was edited by Lonn Friend. Every month there were new
articles about which band was on tour or releasing a new record with
plenty of pictures, interview and reviews. They were like Sixteen or
Teen Beat for adult rock fans. Some of it was little more than gossip,
but it kept the fans in the loop. You were always hearing about new
groups like Steeler with Ron Keel and this incredibly fast new
neo-classically influenced guitar player Yngwie Malmsteen.
"He's so fast, I'm surprised the fretboard isn't smoking, he's like Paganini at Warp Factor 10", Johnny would say.
"It's almost like they sped the tape or something, it's inhuman" Sammy
replied. "That guy is just Sick. But Eddie is still the dude, man.
He's the master. He re-wrote the book."
Yeah, the EVH effect was definitely a thing. Every time Johnny would
visit the local Guitar Center somebody was practicing "Eruption".
Usually badly. It's like a ritual. A rite of passage. "Man I pity the
guys who work there listening to all that bad playing all day long.
It's got to be murder." Sammy said.
"But then again you gotta start somewhere, you don't want to hear what I sound like trying to play that". Johnny said.
"Just keep practicing, you'll get there".
"Yeah, I hope so...it's just so much to learn..." Johnny answered
sounding a little more worried than he meant. This was going to take
years. But he was in it for the long haul, whatever it took.