Starting Out
The 1960’s were a decade of change and turmoil. A president was murdered as was a great civil rights leader. A foreign “conflict” tore at the country. The American dream was considered no longer applicable by some. God was supposedly dead. And the medium was the message.
   Music, or more closely pop music—and more specifically rock music— went through change in the 60’s also. What had started out as a rebellious musical expression had become strikingly less so by the beginning of this decade. Parents still didn't like it much, but with artists like Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Connie Francis, Pat Boone, Annette Funicello, and Frankie Avalon, rock was a bit more palatable to Mom and Dad. Rock’s spirit seemed somewhat diluted, but it was headed for rejuvenation, redirection, and elevation during this time.
   While some of those covered here got their start by being influenced by bands and individuals prior to this year, 1964 seemed to be a beginning for many of what are referred to in the media as “garage bands”. At the time they looked upon themselves as dance combos, groups or simply bands. The title of garage band originated because bands were supposedly practicing in garages. Interestingly, very few of the bands profiled here ever consistently used a garage for practice purposes. They used basements, rec rooms, or rented empty business spaces to hone their musical skills.
   1964 marked the beginning of change to rock music with the appearance of British musicians on the American music scene. These groups, having grown up listening to what they considered an American musical form, took what they heard, applied their own unique spin and—to their surprise—became wildly popular here in the States. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Hollies, the Who, the Dave Clark Five, et. al. opened the flood gates for European artists thus sparking the next step for rock music. These bands in turn inspired many U.S. teens to start their own groups. History does indeed show that guitar sales soared after the British made inroads into American pop music.
   The way these bands from England were portrayed—no formal musical training, inexpensive equipment, etc.—made it seem as though putting together a band and being successful was easy and required not much more than the desire to do so. And, indeed, right at the start it was relatively easy to start a band. It was evident, though, that not everybody could do it well. Natural or acquired ability/talent was a major factor.
   While some were directly influenced by the “British Invasion” in 1964, for others it was something altogether different. For still others a combination of factors got them started playing their chosen instrument. Here are some of the responses to the question of what got individuals interested in getting together a band and/or starting to play rock music.
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Mark Boehm: “Music. I just liked music in general. I just liked the image it portrayed. The long hair and the wild clothes, good beat and the sound. It just looked like a lot of fun. I had some friends ask me if I wanted to try out and goof around a little bit on it on guitar. So I said sure! One thing lead to another and the next thing I know I'm taking lessons at Klocksiem’s Piano and Organs up here in Ogden, Iowa with Carl Dorner as my teacher.”
Brian Oeffner: “I guess I didn't really care about music very much at all until The Beatles played on Ed Sullivan. Like thousands of other kids, you know I wasn't even a teenager yet, but I was touched. I thought that was just great. Then you and Denny Allen, guys that were a little older than me, started playing guitar. I walked beans and baled hay that summer and made some money. So I went up to Klocksiem’s and (bought a guitar). Was just starting to get into it and you showed me some chords, played ‘Twist & Shout’ or something. So I went up to Klocksiem’s that summer–was still in junior high–and bought a Kay guitar and a little Kent amplifier, a little brown amp. I signed up for lessons right away at Klocksiem’s.”
Al Harris: “My dad played fiddle and guitar and he was in bands, old time music. And when I was real young I'd irritate all the musicians by playing on his 1942 Martin 00-18, you know, which I didn't know what it was then. It was a guitar. And I'd sit there playing open strings and just really driving people crazy. I liked the feeling of seeing people having fun and the old square dances and seeing how people come together with the music. So, yeah, that's what got me turned on to it.”
Keith Berg: “I was in Homewood, Illinois and some friends of mine were trying to start a band. There was some cousins who lived together on a sod farm. There were several houses on this farm. There was one of them that had a guitar and there was a drummer and another guy had a bass guitar I believe. They were trying to get going on something. I had a little experience on the piano and the coronet. I picked up one of their guitars and started messin’ around with it. I figured how to play the lead to ‘Twist & Shout’. And everybody goes, “Whoa man! You've got to be our lead guitarist!”. (laughter) So I ran out and bought a cheap, Japanese electric guitar.
Steve Greenfield: “I remember going to a dance and it was at the Boone Community Building. I'm pretty sure it was the Fabulous Flippers. I remember watching and believe it or not, at the time I was pretty shy. I was watching the people out dancing, the guys dancing with the girls and stuff. I kept on watching the whole night until the band tore down. I noticed that the guys that came and were dancing with girls; the girls left with the band (instead of the guys they came with). The band was making money and they didn't have to dance. I thought that was pretty cool and I kind of put that in the back of my mind for awhile. I remember for my birthday the year before I was a senior I took some money to Arlan’s which (was located in the Lincoln Center in Ames.) and bought a Teisco guitar. I had no idea what to do with it, but I knew the guy down the street that played (guitar) got girls interested in him by playing so I figured it out.”
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