For Fred and Connie--musical legends in their own time

I wrote this for an early blog called The Hob Nob, named for the infamous bohemian cafe across the street from North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) where all the music and artsy folks hung out. The story was meant to be an introduction for a series of vignettes about what college was like for a group of friends in the early 1960's, but somehow I never got around to the Denton part of the series.

The Hob Nob--A Prequel

Commerce Texas, December 1962. All Senior Honor Band at East Texas State Teachers College--Connie Seidel, Fred Tackett, me, and I was told later, Bill Clinton. The first three would continue on to ETSTC, later ETSU, now TAMU at Commerce, and into the pages of history. Bill... well, he has his own special place. It's a good thing he went into politics--his saxual talents didn't seem to raise a blip in my consciousness. On the other hand, Connie and Fred's musicianship blew...me...away...

On that day, I met a future husband, and two of the very best friends--both fabulous musicians and composers--and truly wonderful people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. We remain close to this day, and I thank whatever wise stars brought us together in that sleepy, backwater, conservative, teacher's college town. A town where, every Saturday morning, they forked hay onto the downtown square for a lazy livestock auction. During our two years at ET, the three of us were inseparable. Literally.

Commerce is the buckle of the Bible Belt and as this was the Pleistocene Era, I was required to live in the dorms. Connie and Fred, however, got to room with two other male music majors off campus. When we weren't in class or rehearsals, I would sneak over to their apartment until curfew, which was 9:00 p.m. school nights, and midnight Friday and Saturday. Grim-faced matrons, charged with protecting the virginity of their young charges against all odds, locked the door at the stroke of 9 or 12, and if you weren't inside, you were invited to the Dean's office the very next morning.

7:30 every morning found us in attendance for the required Music Theory I, II, III and IV classes. We were seated alphabetically, therefore we dominated the back row--Seidel, Snowden, Tackett--the Three Museketeers.

The professor for the ear training part of MT would play long chord progressions, wildly modulating in and out of major, minor, diminished keys, being especially careful to avoid the traditional cycle of fifths. After what seemed like hours, he would come to an abrupt halt, fling his hands up from the keyboard in a grand flourish, and dramatically demand, "WHAT KEY AM I IN?"

By that time, our classmates' eyes would be spinning, holding their heads looking ready to throw up. Connie and Fred would snigger, point to me, and I'd nail it every time. After three semesters of this, the poor prof had begun to cringe when he reached that particular exercise. After we returned from Christmas holidays the spring of '65, he was openly snarling at me, and relocated the three of us as far apart as was possible. Even that couldn't stop us. Somewhere between spring break and finals, he gave up altogether.

We even attended the same non-music Honors classes together--tromping from the Music Building to far-flung reaches of the campus, reconvening at the MB for endless, myriad ensemble rehearsals, jazz jams, lessons, practice room shenanigans, concerts, juries, and mandatory concert attendance to show solidarity for our fellow musicians.

Each fall, from 3:30-5:30 p.m. daily, would find us "guiding right" on the practice field, rain, sleet, triple digit heat, getting that half-time show together. In those days, schools could afford to take the marching band to every game. No flag or rifle corps, no Janet/Justin leave-nothing-to-the-imagination MTV extravaganza, just precision 8-to-5 or 6-5 military marching, heavy on discipline and standard repertoire.

The director would exhort us to snap off our right turns "I want to see white shoes SPARKLE on those yard lines!" We accommodated by muttering "sparkle, sparkle" while pivoting in exact 90 degree boxes. What began as a murmur built to a war chant--"SPARKLE, SPARKLE." We did have one of the best musical organizations in the state, I have to admit.

As much fun as we had, and as excellent as our conservatory-style musical training was, we always felt there was greener grass just over the hill. Over several hills--60 miles to the west, to be exact. Since we were underage, Connie used his prodigious artistic abilities to "rearrange" his driver's license and finagle a marriage license. We walked into the first church we could find in McKinney and convinced the pastor to marry us on the spot, and took that giant 60-mile step to Denton, the North Texas State U Music Department, Library, and the Hob Nob.

From that point on, our lives pretty much exploded...Fred side-stepped to Oklahoma City to finish his degree, work with the monster sax player Joe Laine Davis, and later with practically every musician known to man--Jimmy Webb, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, et al. Fred currently performs with Little Feat, touring between gigs as a duo with Paul Barrere, Feat's other legendary guitarist. (Check out Fred's son, Miles Om Tackett and his group breakestra--way cool)

Denton, here we come!


Kay Dennison said...

Wow! What wonderfully talented people you and your friends are!!!! I envy you your prodigious gifts!

kokopelliwoman said...

Thanks Kay, unfortunately, I was not able to parlay into a job that pays enough to support myself. Not a lot of room in the clsssical music business.