This story left off with Brian living with relatives while his mom was in the hospital. The cycle of living at home and back and forth with relatives took place a number of times in Brian’s young teens, until at age 15 a remarkable thing or you might say a providential event occurred. It went like this. He was visiting a friend and Gary, his friend’s cousin, was there playing the guitar and singing. Brian joined in with him as he sang “My Baby Does the Hanky Panky”, a 1966 hit by Tommy James and the Shondels, and Gary suddenly stopped playing and said “Man you can sing! Do you want to be the lead singer in my new rock and roll band?” To which Brian quickly answered in the affirmative and so began a three-year adventure as the band was formed, practices began, songs were learned and their first engagement arrived.
They were a 4 man “combo” and called themselves “The Wandering Kind”. Their first gig was in a firehouse and they played for a birthday party full of elementary girls. As they began to play the girls all rushed up to the stage and started to scream as if they were the Beatles and Brian thought, “Wow this is going to be fun!” It was the first and last time that happened, but he was in his element and really enjoyed singing and performing which gave a needed outlet from his dysfunctional family life and would provide opportunities for his Heavenly Father to show His hand of protection and guidance but I’m getting ahead of the story.
Within a few short months the band went through a transformation from a “combo” to a “big band” as they added a Hammond organ player, trumpet and saxophone players and another guitarist. They renamed the band “The Entertainers” and became known as a white soul band since their style of music had changed to the Mo-town genre as they performed songs by The Temptations, The Four Tops plus Smokey Robinson and other Mo-town stars. Engagements flowed in and they began performing every weekend at high school dances, night clubs, fraternity and pool parties.
At one job Brian met the drummer for the band The Parliments which was the main band playing at a teen night club called The Sunny Club. Brian’s band was the back up band and played when The Parliments were on break. Brian asked the drummer if he was the only white guy in the band and he responded by taking off his sunglasses revealing bright pink eyes as he said, “Boy, my momma and daddy are black as the ace of spades!” Lesson learned, don’t ask an albino any questions!
A real highlight for him was when he managed to get the band booked for a Friday night dance in his own high school cafeteria. This was a huge event for him. Here was a wayward kid from a broken home who wasn’t the best dressed, who had insecurities and who struggled in school, with an opportunity to prove he was somebody in front of his classmates. He sang his heart out and the band was a big hit. Brian walked tall the next week in school and the remaining months of his school years.
His guardian angel worked overtime in those years as the teenage band members each took their turn driving their band vehicle which was a 57 Chevy stick shift school bus painted black with the band name emblazoned on the side in BIG white letters. Their travels took them over back roads, up and down mountains and bouncing down highways all over Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
They also found themselves in places where drugs were available, alcohol flowed freely and other temptations for teenage boys were present which could have ruined their young lives. Providentially, not one of them fell prey to these pitfalls. God also made Himself known in a powerful way at one practice when Gary, who had originally recruited Brian, announced that he had gotten “saved” at a church revival meeting and was “born again” plus he got his draft notice into the army. Brian didn’t know what saved or born again meant at the time but he was to learn up close and personal about it in a life changing way not too many years into the future. (to be continued)
See “Brian & His Sweetie” below: