A Perception Of Despondency……#140 (the 70’s)

The Derrick Club on Broadway in Edmond

The Derrick Club in Edmond

The   proprietorship of the Derrick Club taking a toll,  enacting a triad of volition,  physically,  mentally and financially.  Gary on the bandstand at night,  returning before  11:00 a.m. in the  mornings,  his journey on the Broadway Extension serving two purposes, a frequent stop to pick up  supplies and the daily housekeeping chores making the club presentable for the night and the noon liquid lunch  patrons.  The entertainment aspect of the club’s fiscal operation was a roller coaster  often  barely breaking  even,  the weekends producing just enough profit to instill it’s fortitude to continue.   A visit from Freedom Oklahoma  businessman Bob French approaching Gary during a band  intermission, questioning if the band   would be interest in playing an upcoming dance at the local VFW during a Freedom Rodeo event.  Gary having no idea where Freedom was but the money was exceptionally good giving the idea of making a road trip some thought  knowing he would have to find a band for the Derrick on a the busiest night of the week if they decided to play the Saturday night in Freedom.

Gary Willson

Gary Willson

Leaving from the Derrick, Bob Wallace joining Gary in *Ole Blue, Gary’s 66 Ford pickup on the road  to Freedom followed by a  number of loyal fans, the small panhandle town located about 30 miles west of Alva on highway #64.   Once finding the VFW in this small community,  some of the following Derrick fans helping to unload and  set-up the band equipment, Gary some what sceptical of the attendance, especially in a small town that doesn’t sponsor any nightlife.  The band starting promptly on time but it was one of those night you had to settle with a lackluster crowd, Bob French blaming himself for the poor turnout.  The bands appearance completed, Gary more than ready for the return trip to Oklahoma City when in the midst of  packing up the equipment he heard a popping sound and a voice  call out,  ” someone’s been shot”.   Dropping what he was doing,  Gary rushed outside,  Standing by the door was Chuck  a groupie from Edmond who had been helping with the band equipment,  he was holding his left shoulder wincing in pain saying that he had been shot,  babbling that  Norman Phillips another Edmond follower  was the shooter.  An ambulance having been called but  would be a while having to travel 35 miles from Alva,  but the sheriff’s department arriving almost immediately at the scene,  the musician realizing it was going be a long night.   Asking the band to finish loading his equipment in his pickup, the band leader making a decision to ride in the ambulance to reassure the injured chuck.   The ambulance arriving  at Share Medical Center, discovering he wasn’t alone for very long, apparently the Woods County Sheriff had asked the other members of the band to meet at the hospital to answer questions about the who, what and why of the incident,  the narrative of the circumstances providing little as there were no witnesses save Chuck.   Jerry Willis returning Gary to retrieve his pickup and with the dawning of a new day discovering that chuck wasn’t the only person injured by the  incident,  the band was a victim too.  The local papers  propagating the incident about the shooting and the visiting Oklahoma City band, the publicity not a good introduction for the Traditions.

Main St. Freedom Oklahoma

Main St. Freedom Oklahoma

The introductory journey to Freedom although disastrous  provided another opportunity.  Bob French who booked the VFW was somewhat of an entrepreneur. Besides owning Cattlemen’s Cafe in Freedom,  he was involved with the RCA and the National Finals Rodeo held annually in Oklahoma City, having procured the publicity rights to, of all things a bull, not just any bull but the retired Tornado owned by the legendary Jim Shoulders and  unrideable 220 time until paired with  Freckles Brown.   He also projecting himself as a personal of friend of the icon country band leader and singer Red Steagall another Rodeo familiar celebrity.  Gary receiving a Sunday night phone call from Bob mentioning  he was at the Havana Inn on the 39th St. Expressway, asking if Gary would meet with him.    Gary accepting the invitation, finding Bob waiting in the Copa Habana Club, the man from Freedom apologizing for his past failure but related about a booking in Alva, a club called Vel’s Nite-Lite that would be perfect for the band.   Questioning if the band would accept a Friday and Saturday Booking if the money was right and he could arrange it.  Gary saying he would give it some thought and for Bob to get back with him.  Later in the week  a phone from Bob confirming he had spoken with  Veldon Wolley the Nite-Lite’s owner about playing a scheduled Friday and Saturday and if they didn’t want to commute or spend money on a motel he could make arrangements for the band to  stay in a friends furnished double wide.  Gary having two weeks to once again find a replacement band beginning to wonder where this new-found road would end.

Veldon Wolley's Nite-Lite Club

Veldon Wolley’s Nite-Lite Club

Gary's wife Kaye helping out

Gary’s wife Kaye reluctantly helping out when Gary’s on the road

Unlike the journey to Freedom, there were no tag along fans joining the band on their first Alva appearance,  Gary and Jerry Willis in Gary’s pickup,  Bob Wallace, Kenny Kannada with their own transportation.   With the new turn of events including problems at home,  Jerry Connell’s interest in  the Derrick was waning,  the upcoming bookings giving him another reason to forgo any concern about the club or the band.  Unlike single night road engagement using just the Fender Rhodes, Gary loaded the wurlitzer spinet with the rest of the bands  equipment wanting to make a good impression at the Nite-Lite.  On arrival discovering  that numerous posters plastered the outside of the club and other having been distributed announcing their engagement, the only problem being,  the posters having the wrong band name,  The Persuaders not The Traditions.   Gary surmising that Bob French was responsibility for the name change and in all probability  not wanting to advertise a  band involved in the Freedom shooting incident.  Entering the club Gary found the  Nite-Lite  a prodigious club, belaying its outward appearance like many others in rural Oklahoma.    It was a large 10,000 sq. ft., 3 door, 1 entrance, 2 exit,  windowless building able to seat well over 200,  the corner raised bandstand providing ample room to accommodate a band.   The Nite-Lite also providing  sporting activities with three pool tables, air hockey and other gaming machines.  The club probably by design  slipping under the ABC Board’s radar,  catering to an early evening underage college beer drinking consignment from Northwestern Oklahoma State  College and  being  Alva’s only  late night after hours liquor serving establishment.  The club providing after hour’s enlightenment for  the 2:00 a.m. closing customers from the Elks,  VFW,  Moose and other civic establishments.   Gary finding this new source of income,  a more profitable exploit than the expense of hiring a replacement band for weekends at the Derrick.

A despondency began to infiltrate the character of the musician,  the correspondence with the daily communion,  the club become a burden,  finding it a non-fulfilling enterprise.  The loss of Jerry Connell’s involvement in the Derrick making the endeavor once again a solitary responsibility and investment, what began as a shared interest was no more,  Gary desiring a way out.   A visit with previous proprietor  Bill Diehl seeing if he was at all  interested in the club,  discovering that he had found other means of opportunity.   Gary finally writing off his investment,  the financial aspect was no great loss, but the time effort he invested was.   The Derrick would close its doors, bowing to the custodial care of receivership, a walk-away solution.   Gary’s home life was experiencing the same tribulation, there was an apprehension of a failure, the couple finding little meaning in their relationship.  A cloud of depression descending, enveloping a despondency, a lack of communication halting a search for a solution. .

Gary, Jerry, Donna and Bob

Gary, Jerry, Donna and Bob

The ongoing  engagements in Alva an ongoing  success with a discovery of bookings at the Moose Lodge, Elks Club and other established venues on subsequent weekends when not booked at the Nite-Lite, the out-of-town bookings giving a relief from the depression brought on by  the confines of life in the City and the absolution of responsibility.  Veldon  Woolley,  the owner of the Nite-Lite Club  offering the band a steady weekend booking if they would no longer require a contracted wage but would be willing to accept control of the door and play for the cover charge.  Gary convincing the band to accept the challenge, the club already at times overflowing and the number of customers  was continuing to grow.    Jerry Willis’s wife Darlene and her Oklahoma city Cattlemen’s Cafe co-worker Donna volunteering to monitor the door on Friday and Saturday nights, the club attendance exceeding all expectations.  With the weekends booming  Gary and Bob Wallace deciding to expand the entertainment  journeying to Alva a day early performing Thursday nights as a duo.

*Ole Blue yield to the flashing light of the Alfalfa County Sheriff’s car, the officer was congeal, he was astonished that Gary and Wallace didn’t see his police vehicle when approaching his stationary presence on the side of the rural highway.   The pickup, with a Wurlitzer spinet piano,  P.A., column speakers,  full drum trap set,  Fender Rhodes electric piano and other amplification adorning *Ole Blue, the 1966 Ford being brought to a halt  by law enforcement on the county road, for a speeding violation,  75 mph in a 55.   The Woods County sheriff deputy was good-natured,  an explanation of the band equipment found him acknowledging with a smile he hadn’t had any reports of a stolen piano and refraining how he always parked his vehicle in plain sight so  oncoming traffic could see him so as not to interrupt his noon-hour roadside lunch.   A citation being issued,  the two continuing on to the Nite Lite in Alva.

Kenny Kannada

Kenny Kannada

Kenny Kannada's Concert Jan Murrow

Kenny Kannada’s Concert Jan Murrow

The regular Alva residency of the cascading band from Oklahoma City was the Western Motel, finding Bill, the owner,  giving the group special budgeting price accords for their regular weekend stays. Gary discovering his primary income discerned during the  week consisting mostly from the transports of commerce  the eighteen wheel big rigs.   The bands motel occupancy would find Jerry Willis on many occasions accompanied by his wife Darlene and several friends that worked at Cattlemens in Oklahoma City,  Bob Wallace with his current friend Vicki and poolside one afternoon everyone couldn’t help but notice Kenny Kannada introduced a striking concert from Kiowa Kansas,  Jan Murrow.   Gary remaining resolute in his confines having invited his wife Kaye to join him on several occasions, but getting the same declination, given the same reason, they needed her on weekends at the FAA Center.   The musician realizing mixed feelings when away from his Oklahoma City domain, a prevailing solace but an encroachment of concupiscence began to permeate his solitude, a need of something or somebody.

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