I began taking lessons at Phil’s Music in Greer, Mark Lister was my first guitar teacher, I later moved to Phil when my skills improved. Phil and Mark would later form the band Dixiana and have a major hit in the US! They eventually opened a studio in Nashville that they still run today, Dixiana Music Studios. When I was about 14 or 15, I started sitting in with people in thrown together bands. Went to open mic night at The Silver Fox, sang Good Hearted Woman and won the contest that night. That was one of the first times I had ever played in front of an audience. I liked it a lot.
I decided to put together a band so we put an ad in the Greer Citizen looking for musicians. Craig Muller answered the ad and showed up at the house one day, a shy, unassuming person with a great smile and just a lovable guy. We hit it off immediately and The First Class Male band was born…..
Craig worked with a guy at a food service company in Greer who played bass and saxophone named Richard Thomas. We had Richard come over and audition. We set up in an extra bedroom in our house and began rehearsing. Our song list included Waylon, Alabama, Elvis, Johnny Lee, and more.
Mom and Dad totally supported my interest and did what they could to help make it come true. I can’t thank them enough. We heard that Charlie Mayfield had a small PA system for sale that they were no longer using, so we bought that and started looking for gigs. With Craig on drums and Richard on Bass and Sax, we started looking for gigs. Our first gig was probably The Hitchin’ Post in Greer. We played at Tobby’s Lounge, The Eagles Nest, Wee Three, The Magic Lantern/Alibi. From 1980 – 1983 we played a lot around the Taylors/Hwy 29 area and had a lot of fun and met a lot of people. We were so innocent and naive about sound, PA systems, etc. We had fun though and some great music was made during those years.
During my time at Riverside High, I was frustrated that we never had an opportunity to play for the school. The Ramblin’ Band played there a lot, since all of it’s members attended the school. The guys in my band were all older than me and had already graduated, so I was the only one still in school. I really wanted my fellow classmates to hear my band but just didn’t have the opportunity, They certainly couldn’t come to the bars we were playing!
Craig Ponder, who had left The Ramblin’ Band, came on board, Craig was such a phenomenal guitar player and a great singer as well. We began doing more contemporary music like 8675309, I Ran by A Flock of Seagulls, more southern rock too. Richard later joined the Army and left the band. I switched to playing bass to keep the band going. One day, one of the senior football players at school, Brian “Big Red” Taylor asked if we could play for a party he was having at his house. Finally, I would get to play for my friends. This party would go down in Riverside history! Brian invited all the football players and friends from other schools as well. Rumors had the number of people that showed up to over 300, I would guess it was actually around 200+. We played our first set and then the police showed up. They said we could continue if people would move their cars out from in front of the neighbors driveways. (That didn’t happen!) We played the second set before they finally shut us down. 30 years later people still talk about that party and our band! I think the fact that tho cops were called made it even more legendary!
We played several more gigs with Craig Ponder before life stepped in and The First Class Male Band was no more. So, before I even graduated from high school, I had already played in bars and nightclubs around the area and gained a lot of experience.
During our times playing at The Alibi, I became close with the owners, Gene and Brenda Burch. They were very nice people and gave me my first job as a DJ. For about a year, I DJ’d there and had a great time. Sometime in 1983, I went to a club downtown to hear my brother-in-law, Larry Plemmon’s band, Stepchild. It was there I would meet the person who would change my life forever…
Stay tuned for Part 3 – Chris
Part 3 – Click Here
Footnote: Craig Muller, the drummer for my first band, would later in life suffer from severe Tinnitus. This rendered him unable to play the drums, which I know he loved to do. He passed away last year and I’m so sad that we never had the opportunity to play together again. He was a sweet, loving and great guy!