Ok, buckle up, this one may be long.
I have PTSD. No, I didn’t serve. Almost, but that’s another story. I have PTSD from years of emotional, mental and physical abuse from someone that a child should be able to trust as if their life depending on it; my father. My parent. Someone I should be able to depend upon. Someone I should trust to not hurt me intentionally. Maybe I’ll get into the specifics some other time as well.
When my parents would fight, I would run and hide in my room. I would play music to drown out the yelling and the sounds of things being broken or even destroyed. We had music constantly in the house. My parents listened to some great music; artists like Conway Twitty, Charlie Pride, Willie Nelson, classic R&B, Soul, rock like The Doors and so on. It stands to reason that I can listen to Dwight Yoakam just as easy as I can Earth, Wind and Fire.
There was also always a keyboard in the house as my mother played. She wasn’t accomplished, but would play standards and just make noise I think to sooth her mind. I would get on the keyboard, usually an organ, and want to play something by Deep Purple or Stevie Wonder. I ended up just being able to play standards. As I got older, my interests in music changed; but it still served the purpose to drown out the fights or to soothe myself after being hit or insulted at some level.
Eventually a Les Paul copy made its way into my home during Christmas as I wanted to be Ace Frehley from KISS. I took a few lessons, but the teacher was horrible and my patience was beyond playing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Show my some barre chords! Show me the intro to “Breaking the Law” by Judas Priest. If the guy would have showed me how to play “Strutter” by KISS, who knows where I would be today.
Instead I approached music and my interests from another angle. I would learn as much as I could about each and every album through the liner notes and any and all music magazines I could talk my mom into buying for me. I never turned down an opportunity to go to the grocery store with her as it meant I could read magazines while she shopped.
The Teen Years
As I got older, I was able to start attending concerts. Speaking of my mom….she took me to my first concert. Yep, it was KISS on the Dynasty tour. We brought along the daughter of one of my family’s friends. She was a cheerleader and quite popular in the small east Texas town I grew up in. During the intermission between the opening act and KISS, we went for a bathroom break and some people saw me holding hands with her (The next day at school, I was very popular for that). I still have the guitar picks from Gene Simmons and Ace Frehley that my mother convinced a roadie to give me.
This just fueled my passion for live music. When I turned 13, I lied about my age in order to go to work at a local Jewish deli. I would go on days when I didn’t have soccer practice. I was making great money back then and the couple that owned the place loved me because I wanted to work as much as I could. It allowed me to buy more music, posters and magazines.
It was also around this time that when I would attend a show, I would look for people I could introduce myself to…people who would later give me free tickets and even backstage passes. Simply because I took the time to talk to them and they could see my passion for bands. It was also around this time that bands like Slayer, Metallica and the like came around. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal started also.
By this time, I was working for a record store chain called “Hastings.” While it wasn’t as cool as Texas Tapes and Records, it did allow my constant communication with the record label reps. I saw so many bands back then and unfortunately, the abuse got worse and it seemed to want to counterbalance the shows and bands that I was able to meet. I could make a long list of bands that I was able to see back then. Bands that fill arenas now. It was so much fun. The Houston music scene was exploding in all the different genres. And all of these bands supported each other. If you know anyone from Houston, they’ll tell you that in addition to the pride Texans have…there is something about if you’re from Houston, we’re brothers and sisters. It’s hard to explain.
During my days at Hastings, I went on the road for a few days with Motley Crue. It was through a guy I knew in Houston that basically knew everyone and was the drug supplier for bands as they played locally. His uncle was some big shot with CBS Records and if I wanted passes and/or tickets. I’d reach out to him. In return, I’d give him his choice of albums or cassettes. We met up with Crue in San Antonio, traveled to Austin, Dallas and then back to Houston. Memories. Man. Me and Tommy Lee, who was only a couple of years older than me became a pair of idiots. I wish I’d made an effort to stay in touch but as much as I was a fan, I also was respected them enough to not be a pain.
I was also one of the founding members of a group called The Doom Society. We were basically just a bunch of knuckleheads that was into punk and metal. Some of us skated (me), shown below:
Some were just guys that had long hair and loved music so much we’d do whatever we needed to do to support it. So there was this band that came out of Los Angeles called Slayer. They had debuted on Metal Blade records with an album called “Show No Mercy” followed shortly after an EP called “Haunting the Chapel.” For some reason on the tour behind the EP, Slayer wasn’t scheduled to play in Houston. WHAT? We had established the scene here as one that any self-respecting band played. We’d seen Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Anthrax, Motorhead, Metallica, Trouble, Exciter, Armored Saint, The Rods, etc, etc, etc. play here. HOW DARE THEY?
So what do we do? We track down Brian Slagel, the guy that founded Metal Blade. I think he was still living at home. We made a deal. They were scheduled to play San Antonio and then head back to LA. Our part of the deal was to get them a place to play with a real promoter, a place to stay, etc. Perfect. Done. We got you, Brian. There was a place in Houston called The Arts Annex. It was basically a warehouse with a stage and a PA. Loads of bands played there; primarily punk and metal.
The guys in Slayer stayed with my buddy, Rob. They came in Saturday afternoon from San Antonio, hung out with us that night and then played Sunday. It was an experience I’ll never forget. If you look on the liner sleeve of “Hell Awaits”, they thanked us and most of the photos I took and sent to them to use. It’s shown below and the photo of the guys in front of the UHaul? That’s us.
I mentioned the abuse. Well, my father was a Korean War vet. He was shot down twice and saved his flight crew both times by fighting off capture. We never knew this until he passed away. He hated flying and hated crowds. He drank to forget. Unfortunately, it was my mother then eventually both of us that felt the fists or emotional abuse due to his own PTSD. He also was abused in his youth. He grew up in a rural area and a lot was put upon him at an early age. He overcame a lot of it and learned how to be an electrical engineer eventually thanks to the Air Force and the IBEW union.
But he didn’t know how to deal with the triggers. His response was to lash out in whatever manner he could on those that he was supposed to protect. So to protect myself as I would grow to do, I would run off to my room, throw on my headphones and drown him out with music. As a child of the 80s, I grew up on MTV. I got to know Alan Hunter and I’m glad to call him a friend as he was a big part of my growing up. Of course, he would hate to hear me say that.
Music was my escape and still is. It allowed me to go into a world that is full of wild entertaining stories, some of them are my own. KISS is my first love. After that…man, it’s a tough call. I’ll make time for a lot of different bands nowadays. It’s funny after I switched to playing drums and started to consider myself a musician, I think I matured enough to understand that all forms of music have amazing musicians. I’ll listen to some bands just for the respect I have for them as masters of their craft. But I’m still just a fan that loves it.
I was fortunate to meet Paul Stanley a few years ago and I told him my story of how my mother took me to the show and how much I appreciated KISS. His response after I told him was, “God, I’m getting old..”
The Bama Years
After I moved out to Birmingham to go to college. My ex had just started a business and I was in college full-time. I did whatever I could to help out; Waiting tables, working concerts as security, writing for music magazines, etc. It was around this time I was able to get involved with the local scene just as I had in Houston. A lot of great 90s bands broke out of Birmingham believe it or not. Bands like Collective Soul, Matchbox 20, GooGoo Dolls, Better than Ezra, 311, Counting Crows…even Dave Matthews. It was thanks to a station called “The X.” You can still find remnants of the station online. Look for “Live at The X Lounge”, it was a collection of live shows that were performed here in the style of MTV’s Unplugged series.
We also had “City Stages” music festival that started with I think it was 5 stages and grew to almost 20 over a three day period. I started working the festival as the site’s drum tech. We worked solely with the artists. Some I even became friends with to this very day. I got to sit behind Phil Collins drum kit while he and I discussed the differences in a 20″ kick and a 22″ kick. Through the years I’ve limited my exposure to live music due to a severe loss of hearing in my left ear and tinnitus.
Of course I had to take my youngest to go see KISS as his first show during one of the reunion tours. During the past year or so, we’ve gone to see Metallica and Flogging Molly. I love to watch him enjoying the shows as it reminds me of my own love of music. I still will slip in and see a band. But I’ve limited it to who I go see. Now I just mess around on one of the basses I bought to bide time and decompress after work. I enjoy playing along with bands I grew up listening to. And I have found that nothing has really changed for me and music. It’s just how I listen to it.