By Bernie Sargent
This month is a bit of a departure from the “older” history of El Paso and the surrounding area. I thought it might be fun to touch on a bit of our more recent history in lite of the recent loss of one of the music greats from El Paso, Rod Crosby. I asked a friend of ours to tell me about his journey through the music history from the 60’s to the present. Most all of us have heard of the tragic life of Bobby Fuller and his rise in the music industry. But few were closer to Bobby than Rod Crosby and my good friend, Rick Kern. While Rod knew and performed with the Bobby Fuller Five, the Bobby Fuller Five inspired and motivated Rick to pursue his own music passion, often traveling to the same areas that the BFF had performed with his group of local musicians. The following story shares with the readers how Rick began his dream which led to a pretty decent following, including his future wife, Sharon. So, please enjoy this piece of more recent history.
By Rick Kern
I was 13 when I saw my very first live El Paso band. The year was 1963. When Thursday nights rolled around it was a pretty regular routine that I would hop in my dad’s yellow International Scout I’d head out with dad, from our Lower Valley home, out to Northeast El Paso to the Skylanes Bowling Alley. I would sit behind him and watch him bowl. It was a bowling team sponsored by the El Paso Downtown Lions Club. The general rule was that I could wander around the bowling alley but not go outside, and look around for my friend, Mike McGill, whose mom was also in a weekly bowling league. We would usually hookup and go to the coffee shop and order french fries and a cherry coke. He was a bass player and I had just started playing drums a couple years before. We would sit around and share stories about the music we both liked. My favorites were drummers Sandy Nelson and Gene Krupa. As far as bands go, I was digging The Ventures and Dick Dale & the Deltones. I was lucky to have parents that supported my love of drums and music. The agreement was; Do your homework when, you get home from school and then I could practice my drums while playing along with my record albums. I’m sure it was probably annoying to them, but they never complained.
One of those Thursday trips with dad to Skylanes was a pivotal moment in my life. My friend Mike wasn’t there that night, so I went alone to the coffee shop. While on my stroll across the alley I heard some great music coming from the bar. It was called the Little Dipper Lounge. I was too young to go inside but I could hear real well right outside the door. The waitress coming in and out was really nice to let me stand there and listen. I was having my first live music experience that shook me to the core! There was a band playing songs that I had never heard before. There were two guitar players, bass and drums. The crowd response was almost as exciting to watch as the band. They were applauding and yelling for more. It was exciting to watch.
When dad finished bowling his four games that night, I told him about the band I had just heard. He walked over to the bar with me and said, “Do you want to go in and listen?” Sure dad! I said nest, remember sitting at a table right in front of the stage. It was really loud and cool being right there hearing this great music. I remember the band taking a break and when the drummer walked by, I told him “You guys are awesome!” I was in such awe that it was like being in front of Rock n Roll royalty. The band: The Bobby Fuller Four! It was Bobby Fuller, Randall Fuller, Dalton Powell and Jim Reese. I remember my dad asking me, “What do you think about them?” I responded with, “someday I want to be in a band just like this one!”
That night I dreamed about The Bobby Fuller Four and, yes, I wished to be in a great rock band like them some day.
My friend Mike McGill and I really had lots to talk about now as we watched this great band on Thursday nights. We had stories to tell at school and with the neighborhood kids from the block.
A couple years later, Mike and I were both in high school. He was at Burges, and I was at Ysleta. We decided to combine our talents and formed a band that wasn’t half bad. In fact, we played a few high school after game dances and homecoming gigs at Burges and Irvin High School. Bars were out of the question until I hit my 16th or so Birthday, when my mom would chaperone us. We played a bar on Dyer and later on downtown at the Golden Gate Club and maybe the Green Frog.
My freshman year at UTEP was in 1969. I remember distinctly my first day in the vocal music department. I met two guys that would become part of my music career for the next several years. One of them was a fine bass player/vocalist by the name of Gayle Hageman, and a keyboard player by the name of Dick Greco. We were all were studying vocal music and decided, since we also played instruments – we should maybe start a band. Gayle was eight years older than Dick and I and had played with several El Paso bands with greats like Frank Dove, Dub Purvis, Lloyd Dalton and other country western players. There was one thing I learned quickly from Gayle and that was it’s a lot about who you know to get the best gigs not always what you know. We added a guitar player and became The Basic Sound, the house band at El Paso’s only six nights per week club – The Knights Club at the Bassett Rodeway Inn! Texas Monthly named the club one of the top night clubs in Texas and we were there for three straight years! It was the best gig ever for me while getting my four years completed at UTEP! Oh, I need to tell you. Remember that wish I made in my dream about playing in a band like the Bobby Fuller Four? Our guitar player was Jim Reese from the Bobby Fuller Four! – yes, the same guitar player I saw that night with my dad!
Watch what you wish for….It just might come true.
“Where friends meet at the intersection of life, inspiration and music”