Randy McDaniel
A Musical Odyssey

Jacksonville, Florida
1943 - 1961

Randy McDaniel


In 1942 my dad made the scandalous decision to move his new bride from the only home she had ever known with her extended family across the vast emptiness of northern Florida fifty miles away to Jacksonville. He paid mightily for that decision. My mother insisted that they spend every weekend that first year back in Lake City, Florida with her family and they did. Actually, they spent nearly every weekend for the next ten or so years back with her family. I was born a year after that move but my five-year younger sister and I grew up as much in my mother's family home, or with her family at our like house, as our own home. In our immediate family, we did not have live music although my dad had played Tenor sax in high school and loved the hits from the big band era. I inherited a trove of sheet music from him. We did listen to 78-rpm records from that era. Those records are twelve-inch diameter vinyl recordings with one song per side. 78's zoom around on the turntable and sound terrible. In my era, kids felt hipper than their parents in that we had our smaller and more portable 45-rpm records that were only six inches across, moved slower on the turntable but sounded better. While we weren't that musical at our house, my mother's brother and his kids were. On the oft occasions of my parents staying at my grandparents house in Lake City which was small, hot, and tightly controlled by my police chief grandfather, we kids all bunked together at my Uncle's house close down the road. In the 1950's, Uncle Elmer was a thin man with a deep baritone voice who was known as being a rounder and a drinker in his youth. He strummed a few chords on the guitar and loved to sing gospel and country tunes with his favorites being "The Old Rugged Cross" or the Meryl Travis written song "Sixteen Tons" made popular by Tennessee Ernie Ford, which was the record of the year in 1956. Uncle Elmer's son, two years older than I, was the family favorite, a good looking kid who grew up strumming guitar, singing and playing in a band throughout high school before giving it up. Uncle Elmer's three daughters, the Hall girls, all played piano and sang in that harmony that can only be achieved by family. My sister Diane who has a good singing voice also joined in with them when we were in town. The Hall girls were known around Lake City for their excellent harmonies and made local commercials heard frequently on the radio - none of us had Television. On Sunday afternoons at my grandparents we would all move from the porch to the un-air conditioned house trying to escape the heat and we relatives sang for our own entertainment. That is where my love of playing music began.

Les Paul Standard - 1959
Les Paul Standard - 1959

In the late 1940's, we listened to the radio to meet our entertainment needs. My big radio night was Thursday when we heard episodes of "The Lone Ranger", "The Shadow Knows", and other serials. The mental images they evoked were as good or better than anything TV has to offer today. On Saturday afternoon my friends and I went to the local movie where for 25 cents, I could watch a double feature (often westerns), a cartoon, a short serial such as Lash LaRue, and get a coke and popcorn. I was always surprised at how easily my folks would give me the money for the Saturday afternoon flics; I better understand it now. In 1952 we did get TV. The first one I saw was a black and white large cabinet set with a 9" screen. It belonged to a relative who put a floor stand magnifying glass in front of it to make the image large enough to see from the couch. The magnifying glass distorted the image as it was literally watching TV through the looking glass. With TV, we anticipated Sunday night and the Ed Sullivan show where a man spinning plates or a musical act might follow an act of dancing elephants. Much like the vaudeville stage shows that preceded it, Ed Sullivan brought variety in entertainment to America. In the early to mid 1950's, America had an interest in Hawaiian music and Ed Sullivan regularly featured a group with a pedal steel guitar playing Hawaiian songs. That sound captured my imagination to the point that I convinced my folks to buy me a pedal steel and let me take lessons. Things I wanted, my mother would support and to my father's credit, he bought me a good quality steel guitar and a great old fashioned tan twill amplifier with a large round speaker hole in the front covered by brown grill cloth. I was reasonably diligent in the lessons and remember learning to hold the bar correctly and slide the notes all over the strings - a sound akin to a new violin player squawking, but to me it seemed ready for 8:00 pm Sunday night with Ed. My music school taught a variety of instruments with the majority of kids playing accordion -another popular instrument on both Ed Sullivan and from the Lawrence Welk show. We had regular recitals where we kids would poke our way through pieces and the vast majority were accordion players all with a version of the song "Lady of Spain".

At some point for reasons lost to me, I gravitated to the guitar and we traded in the pedal steel to purchase a Gibson Les Paul model guitar and a small Fender amplifier. It was the simplest Les Paul model made with only one pick up, dark brown/black sunburst finish with multiples layers of shiny lacquer that I thought was the most beautiful instrument imaginable. I took lessons from a different instructor whose lessons were given in his converted garage next to his house. He was a professional piano player by night and teacher by day. My mom took me to lessons many a week just before lunch and we would wake him up for the lesson as he had spent most of the previous night playing music in a bar. He generally was unshaven providing the lesson though his first cup of coffee and trying to smoke away his hangover. He inspired me however and I couldn't have wanted to please anyone more. I had a back corner small bedroom in our non-air conditioned little frame house in Jacksonville and I remember practicing the melody to Red River Valley to the point the neighbors would call and ask could I take a break. One of the better things my teacher did was put a few promising students together into a band and we learned a hand full of popular rock and roll songs. At that time I had quite a collection of 45's which spanned early rock and roll from "Bill Haley and the Comets" and "Little Richard" to other players such as "The Drifters", "The Coasters", and even "Nat King Cole" and we played some of those songs. Eventually, our music teacher took his student bands on the road and we played on the stage of movie houses in small towns within a 75-mile radius. At the time, it was common practice for music concerts, even with the major recording artists, to have multiple groups on the venue. It was late 50's segregation and the movie houses we played had white audiences in the main floor and black audiences in the balcony. We would be given a rousing introduction, the curtain would rise, and we played our numbers to enthusiastic audiences of white teens and black townspeople - I noticed that the black part of our audiences were always the more enthusiastic and demonstrative. We knew we had done well when our teacher beamed that the audience was so excited they were "falling out of the balcony". This was probably late in my junior high days. By high school, I had formed a band that did more practicing than playing consisting of several guitars and a drum. What we lacked in quality we made up for in volume.

Gainesville, Florida 1961 - 1969

Early Playboys
Early Playboys

In 1961 I graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville and my dad told me I was going to college at the University of Florida where he had gone a semester in his youth. Had he not directed my path, I would probably still be sitting around the old house in Jacksonville wondering what to do. I was told to find a major and a career and dropped off at North dorm at the University of Florida. He later recalled telling my mother he would probably be back at Christmas to bring me home for good. I banged around with my guitar in the dorm and was told about some other pickers in the next dorm over and we hooked up with the idea of competing in the freshman talent show. Our main motivation was to meet girls that would be in the talent show and we did. At the University of Florida in 1961, there were over three guys to every girl and the only way to get a date was to be an upperclassman or have a car; I was nor had neither. At the talent show I became enamored with a pretty freckled faced girl who performed a very persuasive hula - I was still taken with anything Hawaiian. Not lacking in self-confidence with girls (read desperate), I managed to get her name and phone number and proceeded to pester her for a date so much that she finally got her roommate to go out with me so I would quit bothering her. The roommate and I walked to a frat party where she met a guy she knew (an upperclassman), and she suddenly felt sick and the guy (with a car) gave us a ride home dropping me off first, un huh. That was my sole freshman year date at the University of Florida.

From the talent show and playing in the dorm, I managed to make friends with several players that were forming the band The Playboys in 1961. Linwood Thoms, bullshiter extraordinaire, was the drummer and leader. He later influenced me to follow him into his major of Occupational Therapy. Lin managed the band and lined up Frank Birdsong on lead guitar, a saxophone player, a bass player, and me on rhythm guitar. Pre-Beatle bands relied on Saxophone. We played 1961 - 1962 in dorm parties being held every weekend in the basement of several of the female dorms such as Broward Hall, aka the Pig Dorm. Broward Hall was infamous in that if you absolutely could not find a date, you could call the hall phone at Broward and arrange a blind date that would make you wish you were blind. I tried it once in my sophomore year. In the following year, the bass player graduated and Frank had a guy from his old band in West Palm Beach starting college and he built him up as the greatest lead guitar player we had ever heard. That was Bill Carter and Bill certainly lived up to the billing. With Bill coming on board, Frank dropped back to rhythm guitar, which he had played in high school, leaving me without a place to go. The guys had talked about it and decided that I should take over the bass player spot and agreed that they would even buy me the bass out of gig money. They did and I did although I think I traded my Les Paul Gibson guitar for the Les Paul Gibson bass we bought. Lin Thoms was ahead of me in school and had a hot Plymouth car but we freshmen weren't allowed cars. We often rode with Lin who regularly hid women's underwear in the back seat or in his drum case for us to see. We were all so horny by our sophomore year that one night Lin talked us in to coming over to his house to stand outside the window peeping in while he was physically involved with his date. He was watching us and pantomiming all kind of crazy things. We really were desperate. Lin went into the Army from school for 20 years and later started his own Occupational Therapy business in Tampa.

We last saw Lin at a Playboy/Rare Breed reunion many years later in Atlanta. He was a light shade of green from Cancer treatment which you can see in the pictures of the reunion (below) and he died the following year.

The Playboys Reunion with Lin Thoms on drums
The Playboys Reunion with Lin Thoms on drums

My careless days changed later in my sophomore year when I bought a 1954 Ford truck from our landlord -my first vehicle. Instead of trading in a truck when it was used up, farmers' back then parked them in their fields and bought a new one. This truck was parked in his field where he had last used it years earlier. I paid him $75.00 and got it running and was proud of my ride, especially the few times it actually ran. That truck was faded rust red and we promptly painted a playboy bunny on the doors. Bill Carter later upgraded our car situation by getting a VW panel van open in the back with a single bench seat. The band equipment was piled in and we drove all over the state of Florida going to and from gigs at 45 mph. In addition to playing around Gainesville, we played society gigs in Palm Beach for parties where they had a small quiet band for the adults and we would play for the kids. When we became The Rare Breed, Bill had our name painted on his van. We spent hours of good times drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, and telling bullshit stories while driving to gigs. It provided times of our best band camaraderie; I loved that van.

I had been a business major and in December 1962 I flunked out and was told I could not come back without petitioning a department to support my reentrance. Bill had the same difficulty and we asked our landlord for a job and were told to meet him at 5:00 am the next morning. It was a freezing cold day in North Florida and we were shown the back of his truck as he had to pick up his regular hands that were used to riding in the cab. The boss was afraid he would offend them if we rode up front and them in the back. We froze going out to the farm and spent our day clearing land and pulling stumps. One of the guys was schizophrenic and walked around the brush pile we had created swinging his ax to chop up logs, hallucinating, and saying things like "I'll kill your fucking ass" and then WHACK with the ax. Bill thought it funny to imitate him on our side of the brush pile walking around saying the same thing under his breath. Unfortunately, you could hear Bill clearly on both sides of the pile and I doubted we would live through the day. At 6:00 pm, the boss picked us up for the ride home and gave each of us $5.00 for our day's work. That ended our farm days. We both found jobs at Florida Pest Control, which was owned by a friend of my fathers. I was given a sales clerk job in the plant and chemical store and Bill became a tree surgeon. In 1963 during my nine month school hiatus, I married, changed majors to Occupational Therapy, and petitioned the OT department to take a chance on me and support my reentrance since I had been married and out of school for 9 months. They did and I started school again in the fall of 1963 and a year later our oldest daughter Sondra was born. My wife Linda had a job as a nurse at the local hospital, which meant a steady income and enough money to buy a car; a 1958 newly painted Chevrolet that looked great but rusted out in less than a year. It had been a car in the Virgin Islands and the car lot had repainted the car and engine over the rust. My parents had made it clear to me that they would support me through college or until I got married. When Lin and I married, I was cut off of their support. My contribution to the household income was a little assistantship at school and primarily the money we made in The Rare Breed.

The Rare Breed:

The Rare Breed Poster
The Rare Breed Poster

The Rare Breed by Bill’s Truck
The Rare Breed by Bill’s Truck

Randy at recording session in Fuller Studios
Randy at recording session in Fuller Studios

The Rare Breed First Record
The Rare Breed First Record

The Rare Breed at The Pier, Daytona Beach, Florida
The Rare Breed at The Pier, Daytona Beach, Florida

The Pier at Daytona Beach, Fla.
The Pier at Daytona Beach, Fla.

Topless dancer at Dub’s. Shown in the picture are Jim García and Bill Carter. Look at the dude’s face sitting under the dancer!
Topless dancer at Dub’s. Shown in the picture are
Jim García and Bill Carter. Look at the dude’s face
sitting under the dancer!

The Rare Breed had people graduate and move off and added new players and singers including drummer Paul McArthur and saxophonist Brian Grigsby. We had Ron Gause on keyboards and Jimmy García on guitar and vocals and several pure singers at different times. We became increasingly popular playing at Fraternity parties, clubs, pubs, and finally Dub’s. Dub Thomas took us under his wing and made us his house band playing six nights a week and advising us on what to do for crowd appeal -act sexy and single and leave the wives or girlfriends at home, etc. When he remodeled his bar, he used Frank Birdsong to do the lay outs as Frank was architecture major. Dub hooked us up with a black singer, Gene Middleton, who had an incredible voice and we backed him on covers of Isley Brothers songs and other extremely popular songs by black artist of the time. We also backed Gene up on records and played black clubs in Gainesville where we were the only white guys in the building. When the Beatles and British music invasion hit, we went with it and absorbed that sound into our repertoire covering most of the better-known British bands. We began to dress in jackets, white pants, and knee high black boots. We actually spent a fortune on a tailor to make us a special blazer and then chose the cheapest denim material on the market for the jackets. It was during this time that Dub sponsored us, read paid for, recording sessions at Fuller Recording studio in Tampa recording songs that Bill and Jimmy wrote. The studio had released a hit in "Snoopy and the Red Barron" and hoped we would be the follow-up band to that hit. Our songs did well in Florida and the southeast where through persistence and multiple calls to the DJ's, we got our songs played on the local radio and finally frequently played around Florida. Those recordings freed us to play better venues for more money. Dub became our manager and promoter and paid for a second recording session. We took our newfound fame and prominence to Lipham's music store in Gainesville and negotiated to buy a wall of Standel Amps for our instruments and vocals as well as a real strobe light; the kind of flashing light that made us and the audience appear to be moving in slow motion. That line of amps was changing the look and sound of bands with their solid-state clean sounding equipment in an effort to replace Fender, Ampeg, and other tube amps. It's ironic now because musicians have gone back to the fatter sound of tube amps and amps from that era are worth a great deal. Lipham's Music let us have the equipment for no money or contract with the promise that we would pay it off with gig money, which we did.

We started playing the Pier in Daytona Beach as the headliner and ended up buying wigs to emulate the Beatles long hair appearances. We actually looked pretty silly and I remember the wigs being extremely hot under the lights with us jumping around. We always drew a large appreciative crowd however and we wowed them. Non-musicians don't realize that actually playing music is the easy part of what we do. Most of our time was spent traveling and moving equipment. The joke among musicians is that we play for free but you have to pay us big bucks to move equipment. The pier was a bitch because we had to haul all of our stuff including Ron's B3 Hammond Organ and his Leslies along with all our amps across the sand to the pier and then all the way to the end of the pier which was over the water. I'm not sure we knew what a hand truck was back then. During the gigs at the Pier, our strings would rust at the breaks and then we would have to hurry packing our equipment out at the end before it further rusted.

While playing at Dub's, Dub Thomas hit on the promotional idea of bringing topless dancers from Las Vegas to perform Go-Go dancing next to the band. It was pretty tame stuff by today's standards but in the 1960's, it was revolutionary and quite sinful. The people came out in droves to see a girl with large pasties rather than a top, dance next to us. One girl came in to audition and told us we would have to move our stage lights that were in front of her feet because "people couldn't see her footwork". Most people never noticed that she had feet.

IIn 1965 during the summer between my junior and senior year, I worked at the Northeast Florida State Psychiatric facility about an hour's drive from Gainesville during the day and played until 2:00 am each night at Dub's. I fell asleep multiple times driving back and forth. Generally the later it was in the week, the larger the crowd. However, early in the week we might play for only two or three couples. We did crazy and funny things to entertain ourselves. One of our brainstorms was to play with our guitars over our heads and then Bill would play with his feet. Actually, he pretended to play with his feet while Jimmy, sitting behind the amps and out of the lights, did the playing. My wife had bought me a really nice Sony reel-to-reel tape recorder for Christmas the previous year and I used it multiple times to record our band and still have numerous recordings of our group with the different singers.

In 1966, I left Gainesville for six months to do an occupational therapy internship in Tampa and left the band but they took me back when I returned to work as an Occupational Therapist at the J. Hillis Miller Health Center, the university teaching hospital. In 1967, I began work on my master's degree in rehabilitation counseling. In our act at fraternity parties, we would get into some heavy rock music right before the end of the night, hit the strobe, set off smoke bombs at the rear of the stage and all fall down acting as if we had been killed. It never failed to provoke a rousing response. As part of my day job, I did recreational therapy for a group of psychiatric patients and I booked us a gig playing for one of their dances up on the psych ward of the teaching hospital. About midway through the gig, we hit it hard and flipped on the strobe lights. Several patients went into seizures and the staff had a fit for us to turn it off. Opps.

In late 1968, I took my leave of Gainesville, Florida permanently and moved first to West Palm Beach for an internship in rehabilitation counseling and then on to Memphis for a new job. Bill and Frank were in West Palm and we had a few good times together there before I left. I had an ambition to get to California and taking a job in Memphis was what I perceived to be a step in that direction. I thought little at the time of leaving the band or Gainesville as I had thought of both as stepping-stones toward my career. I was married with a daughter and the responsibilities I had weighed on me. However, some of my fondest memories were with the guys in the Playboys and Rare Breed and the many hours we spent together. We all came together in Gainesville and had our eye on the education prize. In hindsight, it may have been the wrong prize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memphis 1969 - 1972

Sun Studio, Memphis, Tenn. (Jim García in pic)
Sun Studio, Memphis, Tenn. (Jim García in pic)

I took a day job at a local rehabilitation center in Memphis. Memphis in 1969 was and had been one of four American hubs of recording studio energy (Memphis, Nashville, New York, and Los Angeles). Sun records in Memphis and owner Sam Phillips had recruited black performers and white performers who sounded black as well as rockabilly singers and produced hit after hit with people like Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. Across town, Stax Records had formed with notables Isaac Hayes and the Reverend Al Green handling recordings for groups like Booker T. & the MG's, a host of blues and soul singers, and later themselves. They pioneered the Memphis Sound that became internationally known; kind of a clean funk sound. I was new to it all and bummed around looking for a band. I first chanced across Bob Spahn who was an excellent singer of the Frank Sinatra and old standards type. We put together a band that should have been called The Wrong Time at the Wrong Place. From trying to make a go of it with Bob, I transitioned on bass to a band called Group Therapy that consisted of a fabulous keyboard player, singer, and songwriter, a great female singer, a professionally talented guitar player, and solid drummer. We toured out of Memphis and traveled widely in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Group Therapystarted using an agent with military connections who booked us regularly for officer's clubs at the various military bases in our area.

Group Therapy used several recording studios in Memphis to make tapes for promotional purposes. The studios were small and inconsequential to the national music scene but stayed busy making promotional band tapes, radio advertisements, and fulfilling many a songwriter's fantasy at $300/hour for studio time. I helped one of the studio owners remodel his studio which was an abandoned gas station that he refurbished on the inside putting the musicians in the bay and the recording equipment in the office behind a thick sheet of glass. The only way for the recording engineer to talk with the musicians was through a miked intercom on both sides with tinny little speakers. In the remodel we tacked grey paper egg cartons all over the walls and covered most of that and any other surfaces with thick used heavy movie curtains hung from the ceiling. A large baffled box made of 2X4's and insulation separated the drums from the rest of the band and there were periodic short walls to baffle each musician's amp. A mike was placed in front of each amp and cords were run from each to the main mixing board. Other cords ran to a set of earphones for each musician and a second baffled room was set up for the lead singer while other times the singer just stood in the room. In other words, it was a small room filled with cords and it got extremely hot because the air conditioning was turned off while recording due to the sound it made, definitely a cheap operation. Another studio we used was more upscale and had a more permanent appearance with carpet and better-made baffles and real sound dampening materials rather than egg cartons. The studios used either four or eight track reel-to-reel tapes on which to record and often the engineer would turn it on and let it run whether we were playing, talking, or rehearsing. The better studio had their own Fender bass and it was the only instrument bass players could use. At that time, due to the low frequency of the bass, it was hard to record with a good sound and once they figured it out with their Fender bass, they weren't going to start over with anything different. The idea of separating the musicians was to get a cleaner sound on the various tracks without bleedover from various instruments.This allowed them to do more manipulations of the music in post-production. With the musician's separated however, it was hard to capture that natural group sound and occasionally we would just set up in a circle with various mikes still keeping the drummer in his baffled box.

Those two studios began hiring me regularly to be a studio bass player. Folks who wanted to make it big would come to the studio and pitch their song and the studios had a list of pickers they would bring in to make the recordings. I spent many a happy night sidelighting this way. I was still playing the Les Paul bass and Standel rig I had from college until finally the bass amp died and I was forced to buy a new rig. I received a call one night from a studio producer who asked that I come down and work a session. A country songsmith had come in and wanted to record his song, which he predicted would shoot to the top of the country charts. He offered us a percentage of the profits (that would have saved him up front money) or union scale. I asked the name of his future hit and he beamed and told me it was "Thousand Pound Skeeter". I wisely took union scale.

Vicky Lavonne
Vicky Lavonne

I also began playing part time with a country band backing a girl that her mother promoted as a rising country music artist named Vicky LaVonne. Vicky was an attractive but horsey girl with a big voice that was mostly on key. Our band, Vicky Lavonne and the Country Men, performed stage shows at day events in Mississippi or Tennessee as I think she was underage and/or her mom didn't want her in bars. We had enthusiastic audiences and she and I did a reasonably good version of the Johnny Cash hit "Jackson" that always went over well in Mississippi. We dressed in western garb and put on a visually snazzy show with reasonable music when Vicky could stay on pitch. Needless to say, Vicky didn't make it. The last I saw of her, her mom decided to take her on a national tour and demanded that we musicians quit our day jobs and accompany her. By then our second daughter Shaney was born and with a wife and two daughters at home, I was no longer a "Countryman".

On Sunday afternoon in Memphis one club catered to musicians where we could gather to jam. Isaac Hayes came in and played on occasion but more regularly, the guys in Booker T's band, the MG's, formed the core of the jam. I relished those Sundays and really just the entire music scene and experiences to be had in Memphis. Our band Group Therapy began playing regularly during the week for a Memphis mid-town bar that was reasonably popular and there we had two notable brushes with fame. One weeknight, Jerry Lee Lewis dropped in with his entourage of bodyguards and followers and he had been drinking. He stumbled up and demanded to sing a song and the crowd roared it's approval so we backed him up for several including Great Balls of Fire. On another night, a quiet unassuming man asked could he sing a song with us and he turned out to be Kris Kristofferson so we were happy to oblige him. Most of our playing however had the grind to it of being up late pounding it out after working the day job and rushing home for dinner and a change of costume before heading for the gig.

In 1972, I applied and was accepted into the doctoral rehabilitation program at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. During that same year, our keyboard player had written an entire album worth of theme songs and had shopped them at various recording studios in Memphis. MGM studio had recently built a million dollar recording studio with unheard of 32 track tape equipment, mood lighting, the best of mikes and instruments, and an all round impressive place. They had produced the hit "The Letter" by the Boxtops in that studio and they took us on. On the strength of the songs, MGM paid for recording our album and had promised to promote it and us. The keyboard player only used two people out of our band Group Therapy and brought in some other musicians for the recording, a move that about ripped our band apart. When I went in the studio, I became so excited at the luxuriousness of MGM versus the places I had been recording that I went home and told my wife I had finally made the big time and that we wouldn't be working at our day jobs much longer. The band spent almost every night for six weeks working six to ten hours at a time on this album that was called Lazy Sun and we named the band Lazy Sun. After it was recorded, I had to make the biggest decision of my life to either leave Memphis and move to Auburn and work on my doctorate or get ready for the promotional tour. A short time later we discovered that MGM's music division had declared bankruptcy. They gave us the sad news that our album was not going to get pressed into vinyl. They also didn't have the several hundred thousand it would take in payola to get our recording on the air. While they never pressed it, we all ended up with a fantastic reel-to-reel tape of the album. It remains the best piece of recording work I've ever done and a typical musical experience in that there was always someone who was going to make us famous and they went bust.

Auburn, Alabama 1972 - Present

In the fall of 1972, our family of my wife Lin and two daughters Sondra and Shaney moved to Auburn, Alabama where I began my doctorate while Lin worked as a RN at the local hospital. Musically, Auburn was a cold bed of music with a spate of bad bands. The students were small town southern kids more interested in country and bluegrass than pop or rock. I tried out with several rock bands and was discouraged. I had been playing with excellent musicians since my days in Gainesville and they just weren't prominent in Auburn. In one instance, I auditioned with a rock band so loud that in one song I quit playing and just pretended to play and the guys were very complimentary of my playing on that song and offered me a spot in their band. I didn't take the job. Finally, a friend suggested some guys who were starting a bluegrass band contact me. They did and asked that I join them for a practice or two. They liked what I did well enough to ask me to go in with them. They were each fantastic pickers with good voices and harmonies and even though I knew nothing about bluegrass music, I signed up. They were a group of veterinary students and we had players on banjo, guitar, dobro, harp, washboard, and me on bass. As history repeats itself, it wasn't long before they insisted I needed a stand up acoustic bass rather than the electric bass and we shopped for one that I bought in Atlanta, a 1972 Englehart plywood bass, the descendent of Kay bases. I took a few lessons from Edgar Glide in the AU music department, a classical violin player, and felt my way around the instrument. Bluegrass bass is actually about the simplest form of bass playing with more emphasis on right hand technique to keep rhythm than on left handed notes that tend to be playing the root 1 - 3 sequence. That band however was extremely good and we began touring bluegrass festivals in the south, most notable Horse Pens Forty in Alabama and Piney Woods Festival in Georgia. We increasingly became headliners.

Newspaper article - The Grossman Brothers
Newspaper article - The Grossman Brothers

Our greatest playing moment came when we won a student talent contest and were selected to open for Bob Hope in the AU Coliseum. The papers the next day headlined "A Group of Auburn Hillybillies Almost Stole the Show from Bob Hope" and we did. It was the largest audience I had ever played in front of and amazing in that we would finish a song and what seemed like long time later, a wall of sound of clapping and hooting would hit us. They were truly falling out of the balconies. The name of the group was the Grossman Brothers although there were no brothers in the group. It was truly not a brotherhood because they later found a bass player with a good voice and dropped me from the band without even telling me, a startling new experience for me. Following the Grossman Brothers, I used my stand up and electric bass talents to play with several bands including a folk group and The Generic Band, which was as its named implied. In 1974, Lin and I had our third daughter, Jody, and bought a new house for our expanding family. She and I both worked regular jobs while I pursued my degree. People in a college town come and go and I ended up being the band member left. In the 1980's, Lin and I divorced and in 1987 I married my second wife Nancy. Nancy has been in vocal choirs in High School and College and has a great voice and good ear for harmony and she has played piano all her life. We bought a house twenty miles out of Auburn with 30 acres and proceeded to raise cattle and horses while we both worked at Auburn University; me as a faculty member and her in upper level administration. Nancy and I regularly played music together with her singing and doing basic guitar work and me on bass. We twice started small groups playing for our own entertainment but didn't pursue forming a band in earnest. In 1994, we joyfully welcomed our son Christopher into our lives. We had taken our social lives to Lake Martin in Alabama at a sail club and made numerous friends there including Scott and Sarah Hanson. I had superficially known Scott in Auburn because Scott plays bass and some guitar (much as I do but better). We got together at our sailing club and played music for the fun of it. He had been in a Bluegrass/Country/Folk band for nearly 30 years called In-Cahoots that had dissolved. He and Lynne Hammond, the female lead singer from In-Cahoots, had been trying to make a go of it but they were too small. They needed something to fill out the sound and Scott asked me if I would play 12-string rhythm guitar with them. I agreed and we have been playing since adding George Konstant on lead guitar, Jeff Smalley on mandolin, and Brett Martin on banjo. Our sound is Bluegrass to eclectic and again I'm happy to be playing with good musicians. The band is secondary to all of our lives but fulfills a strong need in all of us to have musical time together.

The Playboys/Rare Breed Reunion in Atlanta. From right to left, Jim L. García, Frank Birdsong, Bill Carter, Randy McDaniel. Below are Jim’s and Frank’s wives.
The Playboys/Rare Breed Reunion in Atlanta.
From right to left, Jim L. García, Frank Birdsong,
Bill Carter, Randy McDaniel.
Below are Jim’s and Frank’s wives.

Randy McDaniel

In addition, I have had the privilege of reunions with the guys in the Playboys/Rare Breed where we've been able to get together for many stories and some great picking. In life, things seem to go in circles and musically our son Chris has become an excellent Tenor sax player in the high school band as my father had done. Chris has a keen eye for musical notation and ability for reading music. In looking back on my musical career, I learned to enjoy the practice of music, the road trips with their familiar
excitement, packing up, setting up and playing. I did something similar with racing sailboats and making pottery, however, the constant in my life has been playing music. It has been good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Randy McDaniel
Auburn, Alabama
April 2012