If I Had Any Doubts That I Am Now Officially Old, Saturday Night Erased All Of Them

Above: that’s me Saturday night singing (I sing lead on a few songs and backup on the rest). Dig my Royal British Airforce insignia t-shirt. I had a cool jacket I was going to wear, but it was out in my car, and it started raining, and old guys don’t do well running in the rain, so…

When I was just 16, I played in my first rock band. The band was named “Phoenix,” and I was the drummer. The singer (James Aparo) and I were the two young guys in the band (we were just high school juniors, while Tim the bass player, Tayloe the keyboard player, and Tony the Lead Guitar player were all Seniors). They were also very accomplished musicians for their age, which meant James and I received a constant flow of disdain commensurate with the fact they had to put up with us two uncool lowly juniors in the band, which I have to imagine was unbearable for them (LOL!). 

Above: that’s Joe (our singer, and really cool guy), me (looking rather serious), Tony our lead guitar player, and Tim the bass player on the far right. Photo by the wonderful (and super gracious for coming out and taking photos), Larry Becker.

Anyway, every five years, we all reunite to play our high school reunion, minus our singer James for the past few – he’s a star in his own right, still playing concerts, and he wrote Faith Hill’s Grammy-winning mega hit “Cry” – his stage name is Angie Aparo. Still, back in school, he was just “James” to us or “hey kid” to the seniors). Well, this Saturday night was our 45th reunion, and we got to play again for the big Saturday night party (it was a huge Senior class from a vast high school).

From L to R: Tayloe Harding on keyboards, “Big Dog,” on percussion, Joe Mathien on vocals, Me, Tony McMahon on lead guitar, Tim Colton on bass, and Dean Erskine on Rhythm guitar and banjo.
Above: I look like I’m angry at my mic, but in reality, I just want those damn kids off my lawn!

It’s “Not My Reunion”

When I tell my wife it’s time again to play this gig; she quickly reminds me that it’s actually NOT my reunion – it’s really the other guys in the band’s reunion. I graduated the following year (remember, I was just a junior), so my wife refers to it, lovingly, mind you, as the “Not My Reunion” gig. However, at this past Saturday night’s reunion, I realized that I am now officially old (that’s me below, on Saturday night between sets, not looking quite as old as I’m about to realize that I am).

Above: The calm before the storm. Taken right after our first set. Hardly sweating at all, because I was mostly napping.

We rehearsed on Friday over at the local college’s music building and then set up for our sound check and the gig on Saturday. It was so great to see these guys again, catch up, and a real treat to play with them (plus, they don’t treat me like a high school junior anymore, which is a big plus). We’re mainly playing the same songs we did back in the day (Doobie Brothers, Bad Company, Chicago, Lynyrd Skynrd, The Eagles, Steely Dan, Santana, ZZ Top, Grand Funk, and even a KISS song). We have a lot of laughs along the way, but we take the gig pretty seriously, and the crowd at the reunion is really great to play for. They dance, they cheer and applaud a bunch, it’s really a fun night (and yes, someone always, always yells from the crowd, “Freebird!”, and yes, we ended the night with it).

Above: Here’s a view of my drum kit before the gig (well, actually it’s my son’s kit – he let me borrow it for the gig). The rug is there in case I need a nap.

It was at this moment when it hit me…

Most of the folks attending this event are around 63 years old (so much older than me. Stop smirking), anyway, between sets, the reunion’s official MC is on the mic making various announcements and giving away some prizes, and then in a moment I’ll never forget, the MC asks the crowd (and I am not making this up):

“If you’ve had hip replacement surgery or any joints surgically replaced, come on up to the stage to be recognized.”

That. Right. There. If I ever needed proof that I am officially old, I am now playing gigs where the MC asks if you’ve had a hip or joint replacement to come up and be recognized, and it’s not even my reunion. Mine is next year. What has happened to me? It all went so fast. Anyway, sure enough, around 30 or 40 people came up to the stage, and he asked that we give them all a big round of applause. Maybe we were applauding that they could make it to the stage. I don’t know, it was all a blur at that point, and all I could think of was this was probably as solid of a sign as I’m going to get that it’s time for me to just be done with it and finally join AARP.

OK, it’s time for a five-year flash back

OK, this is me, same hall, same gig, but five years ago, and look at the massive kit I’m playing – double bass drums, loads of cymbals, two-floor toms, etc. Now look back at the photo from this year: one bass drum, one-floor tom, and a sensible amount of cymbals. Holy crap, I am getting old. Next time, I’ll probably be down to one tom, maybe a snare and a small cymbal. Or just a washboard.

Let’s go back even further

Yup – that’s me with the gloves and the bolo neck tie with strings, back in the late 80s. My wife Kalebra is in the center (we’re married 33 years this year). That Tony Llanes (from my current band on the far left – I still play with this Tony after all these years – if you’ve heard my band at Photoshop World parties, you’ve seen Tony play. On the far right, that’s Scotty, my drummer, and you probably saw him play at Photoshop World, too. Both are super talented musicians, and both are like brothers to me. Finally, that’s Jackie Green in the white jacket. One heck of a bass player and singer.

What the heck – let’s go back even further

That’s the band “Strut” from 1980 (slogan: “Shake your butt to Strut!”). Hey, five points to the photographer back then for using a fog machine. Anyway, we were pretty much a disco/funk band, and that’s me in the red shirt with the white “I’m the keyboard player” tie. Yup, that’s Tony Llanes again on the far left, who hired me to play keyboards in Strut when I was just 20 years old. Behind him (and me) is Dennis Mones (absolutely incredible drummer); to my right, that’s percussionist Nicky Noyes, vocalist Betts Johnston, and bassist Ray Villadonga. Of course, all of them were way better than me, but I learned so much from being in that band – about music, business, and life. Clearly, I learned nothing about how to dress. 

Anyway, thanks for coming on this journey of discovery that I am, now, officially old as a dinosaur. If you’re thinking of posting a comment along the lines of “You’re only as old as you feel,” just know, at that moment, I was feeling pretty darn old (but I still rocked it!). LOL!!! 

Here’s wishing you a “throw down your walker and dance” kinda Monday! :)

Certified Old Guy/Aging Rocker

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