The First Thing I Ever Was…

The First Thing I Ever Was…

The first thing I ever was, was a groupie.

Yes, I was born with groupie blood running through my veins. Seriously. It’s a thing.

The Beginning.

My Dad has been in a rock ‘n roll band since I was born. Well, since 1964… way before I was born actually.

For his 17th birthday, he was gifted a 1964 Fender Stratocaster. It was shiny and pristine and brand spanking new. He basically taught himself to play and well, the rest is history.

He started playing lead guitar with The Velvetones and then moved to The Malibu’s (punctuation error on purpose) and later, The Sixpence. This group of guys played together through the end of high school and through college, burning up the roads between Auburn and Athens and Statesboro every weekend.

The Malibu's Fort Valley GA

(L to R), Chris Smisson, Dennis Herbert, Wes Wheeler, David Luckie, Eddie Byrd

The Most Appropriate Nickname.

My Dad is, and always will be, known as “Rock.”

It’s a nickname with two meanings: He plays rock ‘n roll, and he sells diamonds (rocks).

Forever he’s been called this. I’m not sure where it started, but I’m sure there’s a story. Everybody I know refers to him as “Rock” Herbert.

Even now, his grandkids call him Rock. Hell, I even call him Rock.

The Biggest Regret.

You know, they always say you’ll be on your death bed and still have one major regret in life. Any time that’s brought up, my Dad always has the same answer. Turning down the recording contract.

In 1968, around the time The Beatles (formed in 1960)and The Rolling Stones (formed in 1962) and The Who (formed in 1964) were really ramping up in the mainstream music arena, my Dad and his group were offered a recording contract. It came at the end of college for the guys and when big decisions were being made.

Graduation, grad school, jobs, Vietnam, families… all these things played a part in the group turning down a chance to break out and “make it big!”

Sixpence

(top L to R) David Luckie, Eddie Byrd, Dennis Herbert, Mike Jaccino (bottom L to R) Grady Trussell, Wes Wheeler

Every time my Dad sees Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney on stage now, I think he gets a twinge of jealousy. About what could’ve been…

I know if it comes to his last days, and I ask, his answer to “what’s your biggest regret in life” will be turning down a recording contract.

But then again… how would that one decision have changed the trajectory of things? Would I be here? Would Henry be here? Would I be writing this? How would it all have been different?

So regret? Maybe. But would he change it? Probably not.

“My dad’s got a band job that night.”

I never knew life without music in my house or without sometimes having to utter the phrase, “my Dad’s got a band job that night.” It always sounded so ridiculous and normal and by the time I was a teenager, it sounded a little embarrassing, if I’m honest. Friday and Saturday nights, nearly every weekend, my dad was playing somewhere. Usually a wedding or a reunion or a corporate party. During the holidays, sometimes there were 4 or 5 jobs a week — on TOP of the 18 hours a day it took to run our jewelry store during the Christmas season.

During the week, when my sister and I were little, some version of my Dad’s band (add a member, take a member away, rinse, repeat) would practice in our living room. This was around the band called ‘Nightlife’ era. I remember it so vividly. Our house was so tiny, and our living room was literally half of the house. Right smack in the center of the floor was a power outlet. This feature was, honest to god, one of the main reasons my parents bought this house. Usually, a sofa sat on top of it, but on band practice nights, the sofa was scooched away so drums, amplifiers, music stands, and microphones could be set up.

My sister and I would climb around on the drum set like it was a jungle gym. We would hijack the microphones and tambourines and sit in right smack dab in front of the speakers. It was literally a party in our living room. A playground for groupie kids.

Bedtime would come around and they’d still be practicing. We’d be hurried about 15 feet down the hall to our bedrooms where we’d be tucked in and lulled to sleep by David and Donna and Eddie belting out hits like “I Love Rock N Roll” and “Pretty Woman” and “Da Doo Ron Ron.”

Every now and then, there was a gig we were allowed to sneak into. Usually it was one at the Country Club, not a wedding or anything, just a party for the members. Looking back, I realize they must’ve had a blast at these costume parties and New Year’s parties.

My sister and I would spend the night with my Dad’s parents and they would gather us up and take us out to see the band, seemingly before things got too rowdy. I remember specifically going to a few New Year’s Eve parties in my nightgown and coat, with my grandparents still in their wool dress suits, to see them play.

My sister and I would watch and dance and give good night kisses and be quickly scooted back to their house for bed.

Over the years, the band members changed. The types of gigs and music they played changed. They incorporated things like the Macarena and those silly line-dance songs into their set lists. More weddings were played which meant fewer parties for us to crash.

How to be Father-of-the-Bride AND Rock the Lead Guitar.

I think it goes without saying that, growing up as a groupie of your Dad’s band, I wanted them to play at my wedding. So when it was time for me to get married, the first thing I did was book the band. Easiest decision ever.

The logistics were simple: He walked me down the aisle. He danced the father/daugher dance with me. Jason’s friend Greg sat in for him during the first songs. Then he excused himself from the wedding nonsense and went back to his happy place — on the stage with his ’64 Fender Stratocaster in his arms. My mom did what she always did. She danced with everybody on the dance floor and never stopped moving.

When my sister got married, she threw down the gauntlet. She issued a challenge to our Dad that had talked about for years, but never tackled.

“If you’re going to play my wedding reception, you’re going to learn Free Bird.”

And so he did. He got a guy to come over and teach him how to play Free Bird over the course of several months. The first time any of us heard it was at my sister’s wedding. Apparently I missed it while sitting in the air conditioning, looking like a 9 month pregnant version of Barney, and I was so so disappointed.

So I did what any good daughter would do… I asked them to play it again! I remember the look on my dad’s face was like, “What in the heck are you thinking?”

Free Bird

Free Bird

Looking back, I’m not sure how playing it a second time didn’t kill him because that solo y’all? It’s serious business. But he rocked the hell out of it and the place went wild!

Reunited and It Feels So Good

In February of 2001, my sister and I put together a surprise reunion of all the people our Dad had played with over the last (at the time) 35ish years. Daddy had kicked thyroid cancer’s butt and during that time we realized ALL the guys and gals who had played with them over the years, were still alive. What better time to get them all together.

We gathered every old band member we could find, sold nearly 400 tickets without my Dad knowing a thing about it, and on the morning of the party, a column ran in the local paper about him. Ed Grisamore, in the way only Ed Grisamore can do, honored him with his words and then broke the surprise that THAT NIGHT, there would be a gathering of his former bandmates, closest friends, and it would be a huge party!

Shortly after that reunion, one of the original members of the band was killed in a plane crash. Not long after, another died. The timing of the reunion? Was perfect.

2001Reunion

Band Reunion, February 2001

Fifty Years of Music.

On February 27, 2016, the original Malibu’s and Sixpence (one member no longer with us), gathered to play a sold-out crowd of 700++ in Perry, GA. This marked 50(ish) years since the band had gotten going and even though I wasn’t there in the beginning (duh) I can’t imagine they played much better in the 60’s than they did that Saturday night.

For months, the guys had been getting together to practice. They decided to only play songs that they played back in the day.

The amazing part about this party is that some of these people hadn’t heard them play since high school. My sister and I were blessed with the ability to hear them play, just about whenever we wanted to.

They were born as a garage band, practicing in their parents’ garages growing up. Their friends would come for lemonade and to watch them practice. They could hear them play at the Teen Club or the American Legion. But once they all parted ways, unless they happened to be at a wedding or reunion or party where they played, their friends could only pull up their memories of what The Malibu’s and The Sixpence sounded like.

Until this reunion.

I’m not kidding when I tell you it took 27 seconds for the dance floor to fill. For 3 hours, there was not a single minute where you could walk through the dance floor because it was so incredibly packed. People had the best time.

As far as us, well, it was amazing. Our kids, my cousins’ kids… most had never seen him play. They were awestruck and had the most fantastic time!

This was a certainly a night where all were welcome and all were entertained!

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reunion2016 collage

Fulfilling my status as daughter/groupie, once I mingled and had a drink or two, I found my spot at the front of the crowd, next to Grady’s daughter, and danced my behind off with my crazy friend Amy. And in true groupie fashion, during the encore, Gretchen and I took a chance by running on stage to dance with our Daddies to “Be Young, Be Foolish.”

Because really, y’all? If you can’t do that?

What’s the point of having groupie blood flowing through you?

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