BORN TO ROCK
I was Born to Rock. And so was my son (ok, maybe him more so than me), although it seems now we may both be born for other purposes…
GROWING UP IN THE SEVENTIES, MUSIC was the most influential artform in my life. As a youngster, I had a few uncles that spent some time with my family as they made their way in the world (my Dad was the oldest of 6 siblings, my mom had two younger brothers, and we had a spare room). They brought with them the LP Experience. I had The Beatles and Elton John, the Eagles and The Guess Who and others to idolize, and listen to over and over in long play.
I REMEMBER when CJAY 92 came on the air in Calgary in 1977. THE FIRST ROCK STATION ON FM RADIO! I remember Late Nights with Buzz Lebo, listening to both sides of the coolest albums, Like “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”. “The Raven” was one of the coolest songs I had ever heard… (*Click over to the RAVEN STORIES Page for links to some interesting insight into the role of The Raven in the mythology and spirituality of many cultures.)
The first albums I bought with my own money were “Toys in the Attic” by Aerosmith and “Foghat Live”. I bought a few more records and started to assemble my own component stereo before I convinced Mom and Dad to get a membership to Columbia House. 11 albums for ONE CENT! (and more every month, at the MSRP*). I sang along with the greats, even doing impressions of the coolest, imitating their vocal style for my friends and family, but never onstage.
She encouraged me to pursue singing as a vocation, convincing me to get a degree in Music. I never made it to the University of Arizona, but shortly after graduating from High School I began searching around Calgary for a band that would be my Vehicle .
From my late teens to early twenties, I sang in a few garages and basement “studios” with friends and colleagues (before real work was “just my day job”), played a couple one-off gigs with bands that were slapped together for an event, but nothing “serious”.
I took a couple courses in music production (at night) and learned studio basics and all about copyright and royalties. I even put together a little recording studio of my own. I bought a Korg with midi and a 4-track cassette recorder, and fooled around with an early “music computer” and drum machine, too. I didn’t pay much attention to real work although I had a steady job. But I wasn’t serious about making music for money (and Money for Nothing) until 1986, when I won a singing contest.
SING ALONG WITH THE SAILCATS!
Somewhere in 1986, I think, every Wednesday night for about 4 weeks in a row, Local Legends THE SAILCATS hosted a singing contest (kind of a live karaoke before karaoke was cool) at the Legendary Orestes in Calgary. I was talked into entering the contest by a friend who told me I was going to win the first place trip to Vegas and take him with me. He said he’d seen the other contestants and convinced me to check out the competition the following Wednesday. We went, and my confidence was boosted by a young contestant’s particularly flat version of Bob Marley’s “Jammin’ ” (and a few beers). I talked to one of the band members* after the set who showed me the band’s set list and invited me to choose a song to sing. I looked over the list and casually asked if the band would consider a song that wasn’t on the current set list. “What did you have in mind?” he asked. I told him I’d like to try to do the Talking Heads version of “Take Me to the River”. He liked the idea and told me that we could give it a shot, and that I could even come to the band rehearsal on the Tuesday afternoon and practice it with the band before the event. I never realized what an advantage it was until years later…
I practiced singing with David Byrne on my stereo and went in on Tuesday afternoon. The band “nailed it”, and so did I, apparently. The band decided we were all ready after a couple run-throughs but asked if I’d like to come that night and rehearse it once more, in front of the patrons. I got there during the first set and chatted with Mike*, one of the guitar players, at the break. He seemed as excited to have me on stage as I was, although certainly not as nervous, which was helpful.
The band called me up onstage a few songs into the set, and Ted introduced me as a contestant for the Singalong and invited everyone to come the next night. The band ripped into the song and I wailed. We killed it and the crowd went wild! The next night I wowed the crowd and the celebrity judges and won the night, and a spot in the finals two or three weeks later. The band also invited me to come back any night, and I did several times during the contest period and beyond for many years (*I felt pretty cool when I’d walk into the bar and catch the eye of one of the guys onstage and they’d roll the intro to “River” and call me up onstage).
I went on to win the trip to Vegas and often joined the Sailcats onstage (even adding few other songs to our repertoire) upon my triumphant return. In the years that followed I sang a handful of songs with Terry, Jeff, Ted, Greg and Mike, developing a bit of recognition around town, and soon becoming “Deano” of “Deano and the Dinosaurs”.
*Mike Smith. A Canadian Legend. A most influential man in my life. Still a good friend.
I had no idea winning a singing contest in a bar would lead to even a part time career in Rock and Roll (as we called it back then, Rock & Roll to our folks). I had always had a deep connection and passion for music, and this passion, is what presented my chance to be “a singer in a rock & roll band”. At that time, I was working in a golf school, building custom clubs and selling memberships. I always had the radio on at work and was listening one afternoon when the DJ announced a call-in contest to win free tickets to see Trooper (Legendary Canadian Rock Band ) live, that night! I was Caller Number Five and when I gave my name, the DJ asked me if I was “the Dean (C.) that won the Singalong with the Sailcats Contest”. I replied in the affirmative and he told me that his band happened to be auditioning lead singers. I showed up at their next practice and waited patiently as two young women auditioned together and brutalized “T-Rex” and some others. I looked at the set list and liked most of the tunes, and figured I could do a better job of most of the songs than my competitors. Finally, I got up and asked the band where they wanted to start. I said I knew most of the songs but could use the lyric sheets for a few I’d never even hummed. We went through about five or six songs, each one building on the connection we all felt, after which John, the Bass Player announced (despite preferring the idea of having one or two female singers in the group), “Well, I think we have our new Lead Singer.”
We got a set list together after a few rehearsals, and I convinced the band that we were a new band and we needed to change the name. I explained that I thought we weren’t “The Opposition” to anything. The band agreed, and for the next few weeks we batted around ideas for our new identity, but agreed on none. We agreed that we would all bring a few suggestions to our next practice and make the democratic choice. That same afternoon, I bumped into Mike Smith (of Sailcats fame) and told him about my new band, and how we were searching for a new name. I told him a few of the suggested choices and he laughed and said, “Why don’t you call yourselves Deano and the Dinosaurs?”
Most of the band members were older (and much more experienced) than me, you see… (and I still looked like a kid!)…
I laughed, we parted.
That night, the band got together to jam, and afterwards we tossed around a dozen or so ‘Bar Band-slash-Party Band’ names, from the absurd to the sublime, none of which seemed to have any traction with more than one or two of us.
“What about,” I chuckled, “Deano and the Dinosaurs?” I snickered and shrugged…To my surprise (and mild chagrin) the rest of the band loved it, and the rest is history.
Though the name went through some spelling mutations, depending on who printed the posters, Deano and the Dinosaurs became a popular cover band around town and worked bars, weddings, conventions and concerts for three and a half years,
before moving on to other pursuits…
(*NOT how it really happened…)
(*Also NOT how it really happened…)
Actually, we’re still friends.
I put together or joined a few groups in the Nineties but never managed to make music my work. But it remained a passion. Even as I embarked on my career in Theatre, I “guested” onstage with bands I’d got to know around town, and even once or twice while on tour. But I only had the opportunity to gig a (very) few times with “my band”. My Last Gig before I left Calgary was New year’s Eve 2000 with a group called “self-titled”(My favourite band name until “Gene Gel”). Somewhere in there, Real Work became a higher priority, leading to a long period of limited performances, mostly of the karaoke kind.
I moved to Izmir, Turkey in 2006 and met my future wife, who happened to have a friend who was a guitarist. (EKO link) We put together a set and performed at our “Second Wedding” in Izmir.
Soon We Formed a Band
Called ourselves “GENE GEL” * and GOT A GIG!
- *Gene Gel” is pronounced ‘geh-neh- gehl’ in Turkish, and translates to “come again”. I thought the English pronunciation made for a nice double entendre.
BUT THE BAND BROKE UP.
I’m grateful I can sing because never really learned how to play an instrument but played with several including clarinet (Junior High School Band*), bass guitar, keyboards and tenor sax (Tequila!).
I don’t have a band these days but I do get the chance now and then to sing with old band mates like Otuzbeşlik.
And I do burn down the occasional Karaoke Night, but so far The Kid has only sung in a few school pageants and the like. We did play onstage together once in Goettingen, though. He was learning keyboards at The Modern Music School and they put on a year-end show in a club, and I agreed to sing (the first and only time I performed a Whitesnake song) with The Kid and the school instructors. We closed the show with “Here I Go Again” .The Kid was good, played the intro beautifully and carried the rhythm, and he seemed to enjoy it, but not enough to sign up for another year of lessons.
I was ok with that, but I wanted the song to be prophetic for me, “going down the only road I’ve ever known”. But alas, we left town before I was able to get in with any real players in the small university town. I still hold some vicarious desires, hoping The Kid explores his talents and one day makes his way onstage, and gets as big a kick out of it as I still do.
Of course, if he decides to be a pro hockey player…