Another year had passed before ole pops stumbled across another band that seemed promising. The band was an up-start group of guys out of Longmont with not much experience but plenty of talent. The group leader was lead guitarist Tim Harms, who also provided the practice facility, a converted freezer at his Dad's warehouse. The other members of the band were Clint Miller on drums and Ray Schoemaker on lead guitar. There was a guy named Jim on bass guitar who was a temporary until a permanent bass player could be found. It was about this time that Dad added his second keyboard, a Roland JX-3P synthesizer.
Even though the band had no lead singer or permanent bass player, the band was worth sticking with not only because of the talent level, but also because they were a great group of guys, they had day jobs, and they had realistic expectations. They weren't your standard regulation musician airheads looking to go out on the road and to subsequently "hit it big in Hollywood". Tim and Ray were both very good lead guitarists, and Clint was the best drummer Dad had had heard up to that time; he had previously won an award for best drummer at a Battle of the Bands concert in Fort Collins. All were average singers who could sing a few leads but were more suited for harmony roles.
Ray added an extra plus as a very good songwriter. He had a keen understanding of song writing, emphasizing bridges and breaks in addition to the standard verse and chorus structure found in most songs. Dad says the break in his original In The Beginning (on his LightHouse Dawn CD) was a direct result of Ray's influence.
Dad eventually "discovered" a bass player by sheer coincidence after striking up a conversation with a guy who lived in his apartment complex (Dad was now living in Gunbarrell, just northeast of Boulder). Will Winters was about 6'5 and 250 pounds with a deep voice stereotypical of a bass player, and a former college football player for some school in Pennsylvania. At around this same time the band also found a good lead singer from Seattle, Win Ponder.
After 6 months "in the basement", practicing on average 3 times a week, the band finally landed a gig! This was my Daddy's first live performance. It was for some kid's high school graduation party. The band didn't have a name yet, so after much debate, the band decided to play under the name Tracer. The band had accumulated a whopping total of about 25 songs, so there were going to be a couple of repeats since a 3 hour job requires between 30-35 songs. At the time 25 songs seemed normal for the 6 months of time spent practicing, but Dad later came to realize that this was an "abysmal level of productivity reflective of the inexperience of the band". No one in the band really knew what it took to get out of the basement, especially my Dad and Tim, as neither had ever played out before. Ray and Clint had some previous experience performing live, but neither of them ran their respective bands, so not much direction came from them -- other than rudimentary basics such as the number of songs needed for the different types of jobs (party-type jobs are typically 3 hours, which require 30-35 songs; nightclub jobs are 4 hours requiring between 35-45 songs).
One of the classic mistakes of an inexperienced band is practicing the same song OVER AND OVER AGAIN! Dad and his fellow band members did not understand the basic edict that there is a level where further time spent on a song adds little or no improvement. This level was achieved far sooner than any of the members of Tracer realized at the time. Dad reflected back on how he also mistakenly rationalized the mentality of perfecting a song based on the erroneous belief that "the good bands never mess up!" Well, he later came to realize that even the big name touring bands such as U2, Moody Blues, etc. all screw up now and then - the average listener doesn't hear the mistakes, unless of course the listener is an experienced musician!
Well, the graduation party gig, as it turned out, was very little pressure because NOBODY WATCHED! My Dad estimates a grand total of 3 spent any time watching the band. It was in late spring of 1984, a time when teenagers were just starting to get into rap and other new age music of the tasteless, classless, laughable variety, and were growing away from the 70's style rock that characterized Tracer.
It was soon after this job that Win, the lead singer, bailed out. It didn't take long to find a replacement, though, in a female vocalist named Pamela (she hated to be called Pam; perhaps later she went by the name "the artist who formally hated to be called Pam"). Pamela was a music student at the University of Colorado in Boulder and had a strong, well-trained opera-quality voice. This was her very first band, so she shared a common but explosive trait with the rest of the band: lack of experience.
This is a good time to bring up a very important and prevalent characteristic of musicians - ego! Every musician has one. Egos vary based on various circumstances, obviously, but ego's seem to be the most destructive during the early, inexperienced, naive years. My Dad is a testimony to this this in that he insisted on as many songs as he could "that had good keyboard parts in them", particularly opening parts. Pamela's ego told her that she should sing lead on EVERY song! This included two Dire Straits songs that Tim sang very well and sounded much like the record. It should be noted that we are talking about band egos here, not everyday egos. Bands can have a jeckle-and-hyde affect on a person. Pamela was actually very pleasant, and wasn't an ego-maniac, she just had a certain idea of how things should be in the band, as did everyone else. It is almost certain that as she gained more experience, she realized that she didn't need to sing every song, just as my Dad came to later realize that he didn't need to have a part in every song!
One thing my Dad humorously reflects back on is an argument he had with Pamela on what he should wear for the band photo and upcoming gigs. Dad wanted to wear a polyester suit vest with his jeans! Hey, the other guys thought it was cool, but Pamela said he would look like a dork! Well, at the time my Dad thought she was just being cranky and obstinate, but he later realized the error of his ways! (his future wife Sandy, my mommie, laughed when she first saw the suit and took it for a Halloween costume - she couldn't believe he had actually wore that suit to interviews! No wonder he had a hard time finding a job after he got out of college!). Out of this comes some advice from Dad - if both a man and a woman are giving you conflicting advice on overall appearance and what to wear, take the woman's advice!
After several more months of working in Pamela, the band's second gig was booked for the Cencorp Christmas party (Dad was no longer working there, as he had taken a job in Longmont at EMCO about 3 months prior). The band still only had about 25 songs. My Dad considered this truly his first band job, since there would actually be a crowd of people watching, and not only that, they were friends and former co-workers!
Now came the big question that all bands face and struggle with, the band name! Most of the guys wanted to use the previous band's name of Tracer, but Pamela emphatically insisted on Beaute Sheila, which stands for "Beautiful Girl" in Australian! She thought it was catchy, and also because it paralleled the name of a very successful all guy band in Boulder that used a name that had some connotation of women in it (it couldn't have been too catchy, because my Dad can't remember it; of course I'm sure he would say it has nothing to do with his getting older). My Dad and the rest of the guys in the band eventually succumbed, so the new name of the band became Beaute Sheila. The bass player Will was a peacemaker and helped negotiate this total cave-in.
The Cencorp gig turned out to be a great success. Everyone had nothing but good things to say on how the band sounded, including many positive comments on several originals the band performed that were written by Ray (there was some chuckling at the name of the band, but they were probably friends of Dad's who may have been influenced by my Dad's sarcastic bias). Most commented that they didn't expect the band to be that good, seeing as how it was really the band's first real job.
My Dad said he was so nervous during the first set that his keyboard was drenched with sweat from his fingers. He recalls making a blunder during the first set while playing the Cars song "Let's Go" that sent thoughts through his mind such as "I stink, I'll never be any good in a band". The blunder was simply not changing the synth tone from the low-end guitarish sound to the string sound at the right time. After walking off at the end of the first set, Dad recalls everyone coming up to him saying how good the band sounded. He then mentioned the gaffe in the Cars song but was amazed that no one knew what he was talking about. Thus the realization that the common listeners just don't hear subtle mistakes, that it would have to be a huge glaring one! Cool! "Maybe I can do all right in a band!" my Dad excitedly and relievingly thought.
Well, that was the first gig as Beaute Shiela, and unfortunately the last! Pamela quit soon after because of continued frustration and disagreements over which songs to play, whether she should sing all the songs, the band name, etc. Looking back, my Dad wonders what would have happened had their been more experience in the band to deal with the diverse personalities and egos that all bands deal with on a regular basis. Probably the single biggest challenge a band faces is how to keep the band together! Pamela was no worse than anyone else in the band, but probably felt ganged-up on since she was the only female. The band's lack of experience prevented them from resolving problems that in retrospect were very resolvable.
Chapter 4 - BackStreet and Tom Slick
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