Friday, October 30, 2009

On The Road - The Barn

...continued from On The Road - The Journey 

A funny thing has been happening over the last few months. Gravity has been starting to form around a 30 year-old event.

In April I published the first chapter of my On The Road series, which highlight my early years on the road as a young musician boy-man.

In chapter one, I described how I was summoned on the phone at 7 a.m. by a gruff old man named Gabe Garland, who coaxed me into driving out to Pennsylvania to join one of his magic road shows (my word, not his).

In the second chapter, I  relived the harrowing cross-country road trip, aided by the pages of my infamous angst-filled teen diary.

However, in the weeks that followed those stories, I started noticing several new hits on my blog by people searching for "Gabe Garland." Then I started receiving comments on those posts, followed by emails from various people who also had experiences with Gabe and one of his many bands. These messages came in 2 flavors:

1. people sharing their stories with me
2. people asking me to continue my story

And so, to fulfill my duty as a servant of the people, I will now continue the tale of my first road experience as a 19 year old musician.

The Destination

When we last left young Jeffrey, he was just pulling into Hazleton,  PA after a horrifying 3-day limp across the United States.

By the time I reached Hazleton I was completely spent. For 12 hours I battled mountain hills, road construction, pea soup fog, and icy, pouring rain. All I could think about was finding someplace to lie down and sleep... for a long, long time. But I was still not at my destination completely. I still had to get to the studio. And so, armed with the phone number Gabe gave me just a few days earlier, I pulled into a gas station, dropped a quarter in the pay phone and called the studio. It was now 1 a.m.

Band guy: "Hello?"
Me: "Um, yeah... I'm, uh... Jeff Lee and I need directions to... uh... you know, where you guys are at."
Band guy: "Oh. Well, you're still about 15 miles out dude. How about we meet you at the Beacon Diner in Hometown and you can follow us from there to Barnesville, where the barn is."
Me: "15 miles? The barn?"

The Beacon Diner today... STILL 5 miles from the barn

The Barn

Little did I know that the studio was not so much of a "studio," in the traditional sense of how you would imagine a recording studio, as it was a "barn." Literally. In Barnesville.

And also little did I know... that the band I had just traveled 1267 miles to join was not the only band living at the barn. In fact, there were three bands living there - our band The Toys, The Boxtops and The Classics Four. In addition, not only were there 20 or so musicians occupying the place, but so were their various spouses, girlfriends/boyfriends, children, dogs and cats. All-in-all I estimated there were about 40 people in this place. In other words, I had just pulled into what was the equivalent of a hippie commune.

The Barn

When I finally walked in at 2 a.m. the place was quiet. And dark. One of my band-mates showed me to a large room and pointed me at a mattress on the floor along the wall, which was to serve as my new "home" for the next 10 days. I was asleep within seconds.

The next morning things became very strange very quickly. Allow me to quote directly from my infamous diary:

When I woke up there were a lot of things going on - especially in my head. 1st - what am I doing here? There was a band set up at one end of the room and there was all these weird people waking up on all sides of me. So I took refuge in Matt, our bass player, and had him show me the place. First the shower.

The bathroom (guys) had 2 toilet stalls and 3 shower stalls. There was a long counter with 3 sinks and a long mirror over the sinks. There were toothbrushes, shaving kits, hairbrushes and anything else a bunch of guys would need. So I took a shower and got dressed and got my act together so I could meet all these people.

I went into the kitchen which was the popular hang out. Here they had a fridge, a stove, some cupboard space and a table that seats 6. No sink of course - you had to go into the bathroom to wash your dishes or get water, which was real appetizing. There wasn't much in the way of dishes there either. A few spoons and plates and cups - you had to wash out anything you wanted to use and then wash them when you were done - so there was all kinds of dishes in the bathroom on the counter next to everything else - including the smell.

And so we will pause here until next time... which I promise will be sooner than it took me to get to this one. In the meantime, since I have been receiving so much interest in this story from ex-Gabe recruits, I thought it would be insanely cool to set up a common space for all of us to get together and share our tales, pictures and pain from 30 years ago. Hmm, let's see. What would be a good place to do that? Wait, I know... how about a Facebook fan page? Good idea Jeff!

So, if you're someone who wants to contribute to this living legacy, or just follow along, simply click this link and you will forever be included as a member of:

Next Up: Gabe


Roger Miller said...

Ooh, I can hardly wait to see how many people you get reconnected with. What a good idea Jeff, and I look forward to reading more about you and Gabe!

JD at I Do Things said...

Jeff, I love this series. I'm so glad you kept a journal (or is it possible that, unlike me, you actually have a memory?) AND that you include some actual excerpts, which lend such a nice touch.

I would love to have seen your face when you saw your "studio." I bet you met some amazing people there. I can't wait to read more!

Mom Thumb said...

This is awesome, I still think you should write a book already!

Junk Drawer Kathy said...

OK. There can only be on Barnesville, Pennsylvania. Been there, done that. For a few summers my parents would drive there for the Bavarian Festival (think Woodstock for polka fans). My sister and I would join them, not for the polka of course, but for other marginally fun stuff. The highlight was seeing the Budweiser Clydesdales up close and smelly personal.

I joined the Facebook group and I hope others who've been there join up too. I would love to hear from them as well. The thought of dishes you eat off of in the bathroom made me want to gag. What year was this again? Didn't Dominos deliver?

Michelle said...

I can't believe you actually have pictures from there. Or were those "found" pictures?

I need more to the story. Being totally skeeved out by the eating items living in the bathroom is not where I wanted this tale to end ;)

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

roger - It may be awhile before people actually find this post and land here again, but you gotta start somewhere!

jd - Yes, most of this came from my journal. I only wish I had a memory that good. I also wish I had kept better records of those people (i.e. pictures, notes, etc) but when I was living the moment I was way too focused on my tasks... like learning all their material and preparing to play live only 10 days after arriving. Yikes!

mom thumb - There is SO much to write about so right now I'm just carving these stories into digestible chunks for this blog. But someday... when things have settled down I could easily see me expanding these chapters into "real" ones.

kathy - Thanks for joining the group. Believe it or not I was thinking about you when I wrote about the part about the dishes. I thought... "this would really be a problem for Kathy." Seriously.

michelle - The 1st and 3rd pictures are mine, but the Beacon Diner I pulled from Google maps believe it or not. I keyed in the name of it from my journal and BAM! there it was! The intertubes are getting very clever...

Bill said...

When you were washing your dishes near the stools, what did you wipe them with?

Elizabeth said...

Wow, you were so brave! I can't wait to hear what happened next!

yellojkt said...

I had no idea you were such a hippie. Well, maybe a little idea. Can't wait to hear more. Get to the sexy parts.

Babs-beetle said...

It all sounds like a great experience. Great that you took photos along the way. It's so much nicer when you can look back with photos.

Ed said...

So you probably didn't tear out walls in your hotel room like other musicians of the time...

United Studies said...

That is an awesome idea to set up a Facebook page like that. It will be interesting to see who you meet!

Yeah...I think I would have just eaten out a lot for those 10 days. I mean, when we are out at a mall and I have a Coke or something, I don't even take it in the bathroom with me. I make Peter hold it, because I get grossed out at the thought of what can jump on it.

Can't wait to hear more!

Maureen said...

Wow, the glamorous life of a rockstar, eh?

Can't wait to read more Jeff!

Anonymous said...

Great story Jeff. I was with Garland in 1982, I believe that was the year, as a songwriter. I never lived at the barn since I lived only about 10 miles away from it but I was down there many many times. A few times some of the bands were rehearsing. Gabe was seting up a show, sort of like Ledgends In Concert, and he wanted me to go on the road as a performer. Although I played in many bands up to about 1978 I didn't want to perform, just write, reason being i had a 4 year old son and didn't want to be away. gabe and i had a benign falling out and that was the end of the barn for me. I'll be joining your page and will list a link to my youtube page which has my original demos on.

Barry said...

Gabe Garland and Freddy Cole... I played with their version of the Toys... "Start driving west and call every hundred miles" Gabe Garland... funny little man.