A Gunshot Name Changer…..#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.  Bob the proprietor the Freedom Cattlemen’s Cafe,  questioning if the band  would be interest in playing an upcoming dance at the Rodeo Pavilion Building.  Gary having no idea where Freedom was,  but the money was exceptional,  even if it meant having to find a band for the Derrick on a Saturday night, and with the band all in agreement, the gig was on.

.  Leaving from the Derrick, Bob Wallace joining Gary in Old Blue, Gary’s 66 Ford pickup to Freedom followed by a  number of loyal fans, the small  town located about 30 miles west of Alva on highway 64 then south on 50.   Once finding the pavilion  in this small community,  some of the followers from the  Derrick helping to unload and  set-up the band equipment. Gary somewhat questionable about the attendance, especially in a small town that doesn’t sponsor any nightlife.  The band starting promptly on time, but it turned out to be 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, he 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.  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, Gary making a decision to ride in the ambulance to reassure a disheveled chuck that he was going to live.   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 name of the visiting Oklahoma City band, the publicity not a good introduction for the Traditions.

.  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 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, un-rideable 2 hundred and 20 times until paired with Freckles Brown.   also projecting himself as a personal 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, asking  Gary to meet with him.

.  Gary accepting the invitation, finding Bob waiting in the Copa Club, the man from Freedom apologizing for his past failure,  but asked about booking the band at a club called the Nite-Lite in Alva.  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 call from Bob confirming he had spoken with  Veldon Wolley the Night-Lites owner about playing a scheduled Friday and Saturday, adding, 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.

.  Unlike the journey to Freedom, there were no tag along fans joining the band for their first Alva appearance.  Gary and Jerry Willis in Gary’s pickup,  Bob Wallace, Kenny Cannada with their own transportation.  Unlike single night road engagement using only the Fender Rhodes, Gary loaded the Wurlitzer spinet from home with the rest of the band equipment, wanting to make a good impression at the Night-Light.  On arrival discovering numerous posters plastering the outside of the club and others having been distributed announcing their engagement, the only problem,  the posters had the name of the band wrong, announcing the band as 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 finding the night-light prodigious, belaying its outward appearance like many others in rural Oklahoma.    It was a large 10,000 square foot windowless building able to seat well over 200,  the corner raised bandstand providing ample room to accommodate a band.   The night light 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,  being  Alva’s only  late night after hours liquor serving establishment.  The club providing after hour’s enlightenment for the 2 a m closing customers from the Elks,  VFW,  Moose and other civic establishments.   Gary finding this new source of income more profitable even after the expense of hiring a replacement band for weekends at the Derrick.  and playing before packed house again,  instilled a sense of purpose.


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