After The Beatles arrived in 1964, everyone who was musically inclined wanted to start a band. What was it like for those who did?
I was 15 at the time, and involved in vocal & band (trumpet) music in my small high school in Leigh, Nebraska. It was in college in 1967 that I was fortunate to meet other budding musicians…and we formed a band. The name we came up with was “The New Faction”.
We learned enough songs to start playing at fraternity parties and other small venues. The first songs for any band starting at the time were easy ones like “Twist And Shout”, “Louie Louie”, or the early songs by The Kinks. We weren’t very good at first, but I distinctly remember a change when we came back to school after the summer break in 1967. We played for free in “The Pub” at the dorms, and were playing the latest songs, like “Light My Fire”. My roommate, Eric Pierson, heard us, and said (in a surprised voice) “You got good!”. Now, this same young man became a brain surgeon, so you can trust him!
There were a couple of personnel changes, and we wanted a fresh start, so we changed our name to The Rock & Soul Society.
The name reflected the type of music we played…mostly the top hits of the day, plus some rock and soul favorites. About 75% of what we covered were Rock/Pop artists like The Beatles, The Grass Roots, The Buckinghams, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. The rest were Soul songs from artists like The Temptations, Sam & Dave, and Wilson Pickett. Unfortunately, none of us were songwriters, so it was all cover songs, like almost all local bands.
(Tom Rappl (bass), Steve Vannoy (lead guitar), Greg Nicklas (drums), Dale Murdoch (guitar & trumpet), Flip Bausch (lead vocals & trumpet), and Bob Roose (organ & lead vocals on most of the soul songs). The photo was taken at “The Columns” near the University of Nebraska football stadium.)
Like other local bands, we had to load our amplifiers and other gear (in my case, the P.A. system) into our cars to get to wherever we were playing. Then we’d drive in a line to a ballroom, prom dance, or other venue within about 100 miles of Lincoln, Nebraska. We’d unload it all, set it up, play a dance doing three sets of music…then…tear it down, pack it up, and do it all over again. That was on weekends. During weekdays, we’d practice and learn new songs.
We were paid decently for the time (typically $250…that would be $1,780 today), but it obviously wasn’t enough to make a living…it was really just because we loved performing the music.
It always felt good when people responded enthusiastically to our playing. I remember when The Beatles White Album came out in 1968. The single released at that time was “Hey Jude”, and we got great feedback on that one. But, the album itself had no singles on it, so local bands had to just choose songs we thought would be popular with audiences. One of the cuts we chose was “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da”. When it was brand new, we got applause for just announcing we were going to play it. I also remember getting positive comments about our Grass Roots songs. They were favorites of mine, because I could sing the lead, and then Dale & I could play trumpets during the instrumental portions, like the original recordings. It was the same thing with some of the songs by The Buckinghams.
Bands like ours came and went. We had a pretty good run of three years (’67-’69), but then I left, got married (to that pretty girl I was singing to 48 years ago), and did a stint as an Aviation Electronics Technician in the Navy. However, I’ll never live down the fact that The Rock & Soul Society was playing at a prom in Iowa on the night I should have taken Jeannette to her senior prom in Plainview, Nebraska.
After I left, the band went on for a while longer, but Lincoln, Nebraska isn’t considered a stepping stone to musical fame. The exception was one of the biggest one-hit-wonders of all time…Zager & Evans. Their original song “In The Year 2525” was number one for six weeks in 1969. It was their only recording to make the Hot 100. One night we were playing in Lincoln before “2525” was released. A guy came up to me during a break and told me he had just seen Zager & Evans. He said “You guys should get yourselves a special song like they have”. If only it were that easy!
I’m happy to report that all these years later, Bob Roose still performs with a band, “Blues Agent”, in Omaha. Steve Vannoy still plays guitar, and his wife Barb plays keyboards. When Steve & Barb visited Oregon recently, Steve picked up his guitar and played absolutely great. He told me Dale Murdoch plays guitar with him from time to time. Me, I still sing along with my music collection.
The story of The Rock & Soul Society is typical. Few local bands get very far beyond the point we did. It’s partly because we all had to earn a “real” living, and lead lives that included spouses and families. It points to the fact that those who do “make it” are probably truly gifted songwriters, singers, and instrumentalists. Also, they very likely made personal sacrifices to follow their musical dreams.