A drummer, a wannabe guitar player, and a novice piano player walk into 5th grade. What happens next is pretty funny.
The year is 1976. Ricky Emerson, Chris Tate and I are in Mrs. Haugh’s 5th grade class at Lipscomb Elementary School. I don’t fully remember how we decided to form our band, but I think it was the result of our class talent day. Ricky was a guitar player, except that he hadn’t actually purchased his guitar yet. He did, however, show the class how he would hold his fingers for certain chords once he had the guitar. I was maybe two years into piano lessons, and I played a roaring rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. Chris was a drummer. He had a real drum set and had been playing for a while. He may have been the only one of us who really knew what he was doing.
Some time after that day in class, we learned that the school would have a talent show in the Spring. With stars in our eyes, we decided to form a band so that we could rock that talent show.
Our first practice was at Chris’s house (because that’s where the drums were). We didn’t practice anything, but we did spend some time choosing our music. Chris was a huge Beach Boys fan. He had all of their records. Ricky and I must have been ambivalent about it, because we went along with the choice of Beach Boys music. (Or maybe, none of us had any other records). We settled on Barbara Ann, then went home.
I don’t remember how many times we practiced, but it wasn’t many. I do remember that our school principal, Jesse Frank, let us use the school’s Guidance room after school hours to practice. Chris’s mom would bring the drums, and Ricky and I would sing “Barbara Ann”.
As the talent show neared, Ricky still didn’t have a guitar, and we never thought about adding a piano to the mix. Our band consisted of a drummer and two lead singers.
Yeah, I know.
Word spread about our band, and we were feeling pretty good. We could hardly contain our excitement on Talent Show tryout day. Sometime during school, in the afternoon, there would be an announcement for all interested parties to come to the office and try out in front of Mr. Frank. Mrs. Haugh was super excited for us and was prepared for us to leave the classroom. As soon as the announcement began, we leapt out of our chairs and headed for Mr. Frank’s office. Our classroom was the closest, so we were the first ones in. We weren’t in his office for two seconds before Mr. Frank declared, “You guys are in! You don’t even have to try out!” I guess he was also excited about our band. We went right back to class and informed everyone that we were in. The applause thundered.
Somewhere between Try Out Day and the actual Talent Show, we changed songs. Instead of singing the well-known “Barbara Ann”, we decided to sing the monstrously popular Beach Boys hit, “Long Tall Texan”. Oh, you haven’t heard of it? That’s OK. No one has. In fact, if you look on Apple Music, there is no original recording of this song. There is a live version sung by the Beach Boys, and one remake on an album called, “20 Silly Songs to Make You Smile”. Yeah. We picked that song.
You won’t be surprised to learn that the build-up to the Talent Show was way better than our actual performance. For weeks, we were ‘the band’. The guys who would rock the Talent Show. Our friends would peek into the Guidance room to watch us practice. We loved the glory.
On Talent Show Day, I think we were the last to perform, building the anticipation. The school gym was (sort of) packed. And as the drums were pulled out to the stage, Mr. Frank loudly pronounced, “And now…The Band!”
In addition to being guitar-less and keyboard-less, we were also nameless. Apparently, we didn’t think to come up with a cool name for our band. But the cheers were strong and the crowd was wild. (The 5th grade girls were crazy for us). There was only one microphone on stage, so I had to borrow Mr. Frank’s. In the midst of him turning around to hand it to me, he unknowingly somehow turned it down, or even off, so when we began our a cappella-plus-drums version of “Long Tall Texan”, my voice was never heard. (“I only heard Ricky singing” was a frequent comment in the days that followed).
It must have been awful, but the cheers were big and we basked in our short-lived fame.
We never practiced or performed again. That’s probably what made it great.
In the many years since, I’ve occasionally thought about that moment. What happened to the guys in the band, you ask?
I quit piano lessons soon after. Chris and I were marching band geeks in high school (I played a mean trumpet). But Ricky eventually got his guitar and his band “Rampage” still lives on in Brentwood High School legend. He still has a band to this day. I saw him play at 12th & Porter a few years back in Nashville, and he still puts on a great show.
I’m pretty sure he credits his success to The Band.