I come from a family of farmers. Ironic to all of you that really know me eh? On my dad's side there is a cool story to tell. The family name was allegedly Rouce' until it had to be changed. Great, great ..............Grandpa Rouce', somewhere in the midwest like Iowa or something was farmer and a horse theif. Records are sketchy when it comes to the poor so who knows what really conspired. Who gives a fuck about a field hand anyway or where he came from. So the story goes that grandpa would have some folks from down the road over for supper and while they were breaking bread a couple of grandpa's buddies would steel their horses. This went on for a while and then the country folk caught on to the scam. He made his way a little further west and changed the name to Rice. Pretty cool huh? That explains some of my behavior. Some of it, wait 'till we get to mom's side! There are no records for him to be found as of yet. The next thing we know of them is that my great grandpa Rice was an asshole. He didn't give a shit about his family and was not around for them. Eventually the kids were placed on other farms to work for their keep. I never met him or great grandma. This was all during the Depression and a lot of that went on. My grandpa was the coolest man in the world with my dad running a close second. Grandma Rice was the kindest person and a great cook. I was shattered when she died. The phone call of her death is one that will be in my head forever.
I can still smell the country fried potaoes grandma was cooking while I watched Batman with Adam West and Burt Ward on a little black and white tv. After breakfast grandpa and I would go to the shop to tinker. My grandpa had every tool available to man plus a few he made. There were lawnmowers and other gas operated objects scattered in the yard by the dozens. He would go to auctions every Sunday and come home with a truck load of shit. It was paradise! He would set me up in the shop with a few wrenches and a lawnmower and let me tear it apart. Parts were scattered everywhere and at the end of the day he would help me clean it up. Nuts and bolts went into the proper jars and all the useless junk would go to the scrap yard. You would not believe how many jars there were. One day when I was about 8 he saw the pile of nuts and bolts with the parts to the motor on the table and he told me to put it back together. I got most of it done! I'm still a good backyard mechanic. Thanx gramps!
We had a ball on that farm. Some of my best memories were there. Grandpa Rice, my little brother, my cousins and I were in the field with all of the old washers and dryers scattered about and he asked if I wanted to pull the trigger on his shotgun. Fuck yeah!! (I didn' say that of course). He leaned the gun over a dryer and placed it in the proper position on my little 10 year old frame and told me to pull the trigger. So I did having all the trust in grandpa in the world. It knocked back about 5 feet and I landed right on my ass. Grandpa was rolling on the ground laughing with my cousins and brother until grandma came out raisin' a fuss screaming at grandpa. He picked me up, brushed me off and grandma took us all in for lunch. I learned living with her that a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich with a pile of original Lay's chips on the side is heaven in your mouth. Wash it down with fresh farm milk. Oh yeah!
After grandma died he rented the house to a family and then he spent the rest of his days living in a little room in the shop. It wasn't the same after that but going to see grandpa at the shop was still cool. Grandma was not around to cook for him so he went to the Chick Wagon Buffet almost every day. He loved her dearly and was faithful to her to the very end. I don't think grandpa had any skeletons in his closet to hide. He was what you saw. Not much to hide if you live a good honest life. I remember I was around 13 at the time when I went to stay with him. He was getting old and slow but I would still sit on his lap for a story or just a talk. I was going to take a shower and he did not have shampoo. I asked for some and he brought me a bottle of Ivory liquid dish soap. I complained and his response was "Soap is soap boy, use it or don't" I do believe that visit was the last time I saw him. We still had a good time together that summer and I will always love him. I can't wait to see him because I know he and grandma will be there to help me cross over.
My mom's side of the tree has more skeletons hangin' from it than a Alabama Poplar. Sorry 'bout that! I told you some of this is not pretty. We know a bit more about this side of the tree so we can briefly go back a couple hundred years. We came here with the name McKinney around 1750. Irish farmers and carpenters all of them. Some of them fought in the Revolution. As far as I can tell they landed in the Virginia area. Something happened with the parents and the two boys Madison and Emerson were made what they called bound boys. Basically they would work on farms for their keep and be owned by the farmer. This seems to run in the family. After they were old enough they went their own way. Legend has it that the brothers had a falling out and Emerson headed for the southwest and Madison went northwest. I don't know much about Emerson but I have encountered some folks that are related to him. At that time the m and c was dropped and the name Kinney was adapted.
In the mid 1800's Madison began the journey inland. He married and they had several kids. After the Civil War they made their way to Nebraska and were in the town of Lincoln. A few years later Madison took his son James and they loaded the ox and cart and made the journey west to a river they found called the Little Blue. They dug a hole in the side of a hill to sleep in and grew corn during the day. Among the crops they eventially grew, Hemp was on the menu. Some things remain constant in life. With a load of corn they went back to Lincoln, picked up the family and took them back to what is now called Campbell Nebraska. We were the first white settlers that far west in Nebraska. The natives would come around without aggression and eventually made friends and helped the family adapt. The aggression didn't start until the white armies started taking what wasn't theirs.
There was all the hardship that went along with farming folk at the turn of the last century. We can skip all that and jump forward a few years to my mom's parents. My Grandma Kinney was an orphan in Michigan and the family that adopted her was a German family immigrated to the States. Very mean they were and after she left the family in Nebraska as a teen she made friends with my Great Aunt Jean. Her and my Grandpa Kinney fell in love and then it began. She was gorgeous and grandpa was a player. When my mom was born, his almost x-wife was in the same hospital sick from the flu or something. He was a good man all in all but he loved the ladies. He made enough of a living as a carpenter in S. Idaho to give the family a good life. He employed my grandpa Rice. They both were funny as hell and together. It was gut busting good times. One day during summer it was over 100 degrees and they were putting in floor joists for a house. Grandpa Rice started getting dizzy and fell through the joists to the basement.On the way down Grandpa K said "Where ya goin'?" and Grandpa R said "I'll be right back!" He was tough as nails and got up, shook it off and went back to work.
Grandma Kinney was the rock in the family. I would spend the summers with them in Twin Falls. I thought it was great to be with grandma and my Uncle Bob. Come to find out later that the reason was Grams didn't like the way mom was raising us so she would take us when she could. Mom loved to party more than raising a family. We'll go there later. Without my Grams things could have been a lot worse than it turned out. She told me about a time she came up for Christmas and my mom had not went shopping for us yet. This was Dec. 23rd. My Grams got all pissed and took her to the mall. Every chance mom had she would be in the bar with a Martini in hand. Grams was so mad she said. Of course I had no idea what was going on being about 5 and my brother at 2. It was cool to just have Grams up for Christmas. Come to find out the motivation was more than that for her presence. I almost had an address in S. Idaho instead of Spokane WA. Grams was fed up with my mom. Again I had no idea. My memories of childhood have very few pictures of mom because I spent most of my time to myself. I remember my dad gave me a copy of The Beatles 2nd album. I was about 5 and when I heard that on my little turntable the Puff the Magic Dragon record never saw the light of day again. That was my first exposure to Rock-n-Roll. From then on the relationship with music was evident and as soon as I got a guitar and started playing I only needed my mom for food and shelter. I was in my room guitar in hand from then on. I used to grab my tennis racket when I was like 14 and jump on my bed pretending it was a guitar and jam to Black Sabbath. It was all on.
Just a couple of years ago my Grams died and a year later Grandpa left us a miserable soul. He hated life as an old man and waited for the end to come. Very sad really but there it is. Grams did not go out gracefully. She had a nasty thing going on with her feet from a blood flow issue. It was VERY SAD to watch but she still could muster up a smile when I came around. I always made her laugh and being the first grand child and the situation with my mom, I was her favorite. Sorry Angie. But I have to admit Angie that she has not visited me like she has you so you got me on that one. When my cousin Angie was a kid she would be outside playing and bring Grams rocks she had found. After Grams died Angie would go into a room that she had just been in moments earlier and discover a rock on the counter that was not there before. Grams was head over heels in love with her grandchildren and would walk into a burning building to protect us. I love her more than anything. I can't imagine what would have happened to me in the care of my mother without her in my life. She is my angel.
My buddies and I started this band called DeJaVu. Don't ask it was the 70's. We had a lot of fun driving the neighbors crazy. Mom bought me an electric guitar for Christmas and I bought my first amp at Dutch Loans in Spokane. The guitar was a Memphis Les Paul copy and the amp was a Sears Silvertone 50 watt with 2 12" speakers. It was never loud enough so it was always on 10 when we jammed. My friend Kevin Bertels and I studied the Beatles and learned their songs as well as writing some of our own. It was a good learning experience. We had a group of friends that would get together and jam a couple times a week.
Kevin and I grew apart from each other and went on our own ways. My next big influence was a man I still hang with today. I was 17 and I walked into Hoffman Music in Spokane and found a Tele I liked. I plugged it in and started to play it. I had just learned the intro to Spirit of Radio by Rush and was playing that. Then a man named Kevin Berg (Second from the left in the photo.) He came up to me and said "Is that the only thing you know how to play?" I was a little embarrassed and even more so when he picked up the guitar to play it. He is a brilliant jazz player and I was stunned. I had to get to know him. So with a bunch of insisting on my part he and I started to hang out. I would go to his house and he had a ton of records of all genres we would listen to. He showed me jazz from the old school. Coltrane, Miles, Mingus, Monk, MacLaughlin, Coryell, Montgomery, Burrell and of course Duke and the Count. I was overwhelmed by all this magic. He taught me more than anything how to listen to the music and all of the parts of the individuals to make a whole piece of music as one. I call him my guru as he was also into the Hindu and Buddhist teachings. He is the kindest, peaceful man I know. He has the least possessions of all my friends yet in my eyes he is rich beyond all of us. This man will die with a smile on his face and peace in his heart. He is still to this day my best friend. Below are the sales people at Hoffman's that helped shape my music. L to R Matt O'Reily, Kevin Berg, John Saba, and the late Larry Eids (RIP my friend)
So in 1982 I graduated high school and immediately left home. It was the 80's and the Spokane job market was tough. I kicked around a few places with friends until finally moving to Las Vegas with my Uncle Bob. He got me a job as a groundskeeper and I did ok for a while. I lived their for a year or so just sort of hanging out and existing. I met a few people around from time to time that played music but I mostly kept to myself. Vegas is a strange place to be in for a teenager virtually alone. I figured out how to take care of myself. It was pretty easy to get around in Vegas in the 80's. I looked a little older for my age and was able to scam my way into bars and casinos. I saw some great music living there. Kevin Berg got me into jazz so I had an idea what to look for in entertainment and no one ever asked for my ID when I went out. I was only 19 years old. I had a good time with that and got to see Herb Ellis, Allen Holdsworth and IOU and Steve Morse and many more I can't recall playing in clubs. I also checked out the local acts but never got involved really. I had some crazy friends so I fit right in with the booze and dope. We all had plenty of that. At my age I could walk into a grocery store down the street and get a bottle of whisky. We would raise hell all night and go to work the next day. It started to take it's toll so an exit plan was in order.
I ran into a hard time finding work so it was time to go. I moved to Tulsa OK for a while and moved back to Spokane a few months after that. I got back with buddies and started jamming in basements and parties around town. I found a job as a line cook and pinned down a place to live. Shortly after that I turned 21 so I was able to cruise the Spokane bars freely. I started going to the jams and getting to know the local professional musicians and frequenting all the live music venues. I found the cool places to be and started to figure out how to network. We didn't have FB or Tweets so there was a bit of footwork involved. My long time friend Sammy Eubanks was among the first to call me up to the stage to play a song or two with the band when he saw me come in. There was a cool blues scene there at the time and I fit right into that. I had a band called Blues Fuse with a friend I met named Ron Greene. He played bass and we hit it off pretty good. He was in AA and there was a guy from Seattle that showed up in the program. His name was Joe Johanson and he was a guitar player. That's all I knew about him. Turns out he was THE guitar player. Joe was one of THE influential guitar players in the Pacific NW playing with the Dave Lewis Trio, Floating Bridge with another of my favorite NW guitar heroes Rich Dangel just to start the list. Go look up his name and do your own research. I learned a TON of guitar tricks from him. The biggest thing I learned (although not right away) was to play the groove. stay in the pocket 99% of the time and most importantly when to shut the fuck up!
There was another guitar player in the area at the time name Frank Trowbridge. He is brilliant on the guitar. His slide is top notch. A major influence for me growing up in music. I watched him like a hawk. Studied every move he made and listened to every word he said. One day he said to me "When in doubt leave it out". All I can say to that is "yep"! Between those two influences, Joe and Frank, I get this compliment from every guitar player I jam with: "Playing with you is easy because you listen" We all could do more of that as humans eh?
I got my first steady gig playing guitar with Gary Yeoman's band Yo and the Cats. I was persistant at the jam session at the Red Lion Tavern on Main and Division in Spokane.