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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Basic Biittner: My Summer, part 3

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The 'Bulldog Jam'

I'm not about to rate the three separate parts of my 2010 "summer vacation," but I CAN tell you this - the "shortest distance traveled" award

definitely goes to this, the third leg of my vacation. On the first leg, I traveled to New York, Canada and Cleveland with my siblings . Two countries, ten days, and several hundred miles. The second leg again involved two countries (the same two, actually), seven days, and several hundred more miles.

'The Group' - The "Bulldog Jam Band" pauses to take a breath in their non-stop tribute to the glory years of rock and roll. Left to right, Karl Brandt, Mike Westphal, Gary Otto, Doug Whitney, Dan Whitney. Photo by Janet Whitney.
For my third adventure, the actual time involved was a whopping two hours, and the distance traveled was whatever it is down the stairs to the basement of my house. Of course, as Tom Bodett of "Motel 6" commercial fame would tell you, this last adventure was not really a vacation, because "Vacation means to vacate," and I didn't vacate anything.

This lack of travel does not mean, however, that I did not have a great time. Au contraire. I thoroughly enjoyed the all-too-brief 120 minutes. The event of which I speak took place on Saturday July 17, during the All-School Reunion Weekend in Aurelia. Though I attended many of the activities that weekend, the one that took place between 4 and 6 p.m. on the 17th was not one of the various and sundry activities which the All-School Committee had arranged.

The reason guys become rock musicians ... Biittner poses, post-jam, with his two favorite blondes from the Class of '68 - Katherine (aka Kathy) Anderson Mazoyer and Lynne Johnson. Photo by Janet Whitney.
No, it was a "private affair," though a bit of "word-of-mouth" turned it into a somewhat public event. The event was the brainstorm of my brother Doug, Aurelia High School Class of '61. Doug played in a couple of rock and roll bands when he was in high school, and I, too, played in a "garage band" rock group. Doug and I usually play our guitars and sing whenever we get together, whether it's at my home or his, in Phoenix. Doug thought it might be kinda "cool" to see if we could get a few other former Aurelia High School students who played in bands back in "the Golden Age of Rock and Roll" together for an informal, unrehearsed "jam session." He contacted a couple of guys with whom he had played, and I did likewise. We really weren't sure how many guys we'd have show up at the jam, which took place in the basement where both of us had practiced with our groups decades ago, but when the time came, we had assembled a perfect-size group of five - all Aurelia alumni, from five different graduating classes - Doug from the Class of '61, Karl Brandt from the Class of '66, Gary Otto from the Class of '67, myself from the Class of '68, and Mike Westphal from the Class of '69. The five of us had never played together before, although I had played with each of the other four in one configuration or another. I played with Karl at my very first public performance, a "one off" at the Aurelia High School Christmas Party when I was a sophomore and he was a senior. We did the song "Louie Louie." Karl now lives in Everly, where he recently retired from his business as an electrician, and he continues to play guitar, often playing at a jam session at the Roof Garden in Arnold's Park, and occasionally at the Thursday night "Jammin' with Jimmy" sessions at The Gathering Place in Cherokee. I finally got ahold of him just a couple of nights prior to our jam session, and I was very glad I did, and that he responded.

Karl brought not only an outstanding lead guitar presence to our little group, but vocalizing as well, not to mention a great P.A. system and sound board, and some extra guitars. Mike Westphal, who now lives in Storm Lake, was the lead guitarist for the group with which I sang, the Rudabaga Bunch, and while Mike hasn't played in a group lately (that I'm aware of, anyway), his talents on the guitar have steadily improved and blossomed over time. Gary Otto is a fellow member of the choir at our church, and he possesses a wonderful tenor/baritone voice. He and I have sung togeteher as a duo a couple of times, and he, like me, plays rhythm guitar. Gary's short-lived group, the Rejects, was responsible for the Rudabaga Bunch finally taking the plunge and appearing in public for the first time.

My brother Doug played with a group called The Comets when he was in high school, along with Bernie Stief, Ron Brand, and Dan Peterson. Drummer Peterson and Doug left to join the late Dave Johnson of Alta in forming a group, Robby Rhines and the Rogues, which released a record ('Port Zibbee Part II' and 'Let Johnny Drum') on a now-defunct Omaha-based record label, Applause Records. Doug went off to college at Iowa State, learned to play the banjo, and joined a folk group, The Cambridge Singers, who performed at the Variety show at VEISHEA. He now has a "music room" in his home, and plays his (many) guitars often.

At any rate, that is the group which assembled in the Whitney basement on July 17, 2010. Doug established the one and only goal of the group - "to be 18 again," and then suggested we go around the group, taking turns suggesting songs for us to try. This we did, and we played for the entire scheduled two hours without a break. We had a few visitors, and they brought some treats, including Buffalo wings and brownies, which we washed down with assorted beverages.

And for two hours, we were "18 again."

Rock on!

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner