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June 21, 2008

BLAST FROM THE PAST!

 

One of the pleasures of providing this website is to give anyone a chance share their memories, experiences and to maintain a connection with our classmates.  This week, we begin a "continuing series" of articles by Jerry Hilgenberg on the bands and music of our years in high school.  We hope Jerry's articles will bring back memories, encourage comment on the Forum and leave you waiting for more!  The articles will be periodic throughout the year as he finishes and as we intersperse with the other  topical pages.   

His first installment is on our very own "Illusions" - Randy Beck, Larry Gard and at times other members of our class! 

 Thanks, Jerry for bringing back those great times at the dances in the gym and at The Beeson! 

Now appearing --- one night only!

The Water Street Band:  Ron Moore (Bass), Kevin McCloskey (Drums), Larry Gard (Guitar & Vocals), Bill Westfall (Lead guitar).  Not pictured:  Steve Linder (Keyboard) and Kent Hufford (Sound).

One of the highlights of the 40th reunion last July was the Water Street Band (click the link to hear a sample) featuring classmate Larry Gard, which performed for the dance on Saturday night.  Larry has been performing in garage bands since the early-1960’s, and has been a part of the Water Street band since 1981.

It all started sometime during our freshman year when Larry, Randy Beck and Jerry Conway (of Lynn) formed “The Illusions”.   In this original incarnation, Larry was rhythm guitar and vocals, with Randy on drums and Jerry on lead guitar.   

The band would practice whenever and wherever they could, including a couple of occasions in Jill’s  basement, and before long they made the first

public performance, playing in the Driver Junior High School gym at lunchtime! 

Here’s how Randy remembers it:  “At that time there were no other bands around.  We were

lucky enough to play for most of the high school dances in the old gym.” 

There were numerous lineups during these years.  Below is an undated photo of The Illusions that was taken in the basement of the Methodist Church.  This lineup was Randy and Larry, with Steve Montignani on lead guitar and Kellie Stephen on bass.

Later on, in the Methodist Church basement:  Steve Montignani on guitar, Randy Beck on drums, Larry Gard on guitar and Kellie Stephen on bass and tambourine.  You can barely make out the name of the band on the front of the bass drum.

Larry and Randy played together in the Illusions until they entered military service after graduation, and were one of the more popular bands in the area. 

Before going into the army, Larry played for a while in a band called “Thee New Blue”.  This band added a keyboard player, Mark Stoner, and featured Mason Yost on lead guitar, Tim Skinner on bass, John Fraze on guitar and Larry on guitar and vocals.

Thee New Blue:  John Fraze (drums), Mason Yost (guitar), Larry Gard, Tim Skinner (bass), Mark Stoner (keyboard)

Randy was in the service for four years, and after both got back home joined with Larry in a band called “Jim West and the Pony Express”.  Everyone was over 21 at this point, so they were able to play in bars and clubs, working the general area from Richmond to Muncie to Fort Wayne and over into Ohio.  The Pony Express lasted about five years, into the mid-1970’s, and at this point the stresses of “day jobs”, marriage and other factors took their toll and the band called it quits.

The Pony Express:  Jerry Conway (Lead Guitar & Vocals), Randy Beck (Drums), Larry Gard (Vocals & Organ), Jim West (Vocals & Base)

Since then, Randy has been in several bands.  His last band was “Southern Soul Inc” and that band split about three years ago.  

Larry formed another band in the late-70’s, and after a couple of months of practice, they got a job playing at the bowling alley in Union City.  They had only been playing there a few nights when Larry was approached by a couple of guys who were playing in a band in the Dayton area.  They were

losing their singer, and wanted him to audition for their band. 

Larry got the job, and that’s how he came to be a member of the Water Street band.  They played in southwestern Ohio, mostly around the Dayton area where they enjoyed great popularity, until they broke up in the mid-80’s.  A highlight of this period was when Water Street played a charity show in Union City with Rick Derringer. 

Things stayed dormant until 1995, when Tom Binkley of Union City contacted the band member to get the band back together.  Since then, they’ve played a handful of gigs each year… just enough to keep their feet in the water.  A few years back, Larry and friend Scott Brooks recorded an original composition, Don't Part Baby, as part of a compilation album.  (Click the link to hear a sample). 

Playing music is something people get into for a variety of reasons.  But after this many years, it’s something you continue for the sheer enjoyment and love of it all.  Randy puts it best.  He’s not playing in a band right now, but “I still have my drum kit, and expect the phone to ring any day!”