Make no mistake; I have been blessed with a full life of great family and friends; of adventures, and awakenings. And, in spite of the daily dose of cynicism that life so wryly slings at our feet to either step in or step over, it has been the voice of kindred souls that have provided the real meaning and color to my journey. For this, I am truly thankful.
The accounts that follow have coalesced over time from my best recollections of the people, places and events that have fashioned my reality; and are shared to offer a perspective to be enjoyed, to provide a point of reference from which to re-build your own memories, or simply set aside.
This is my side of the story; told in as an unadulterated a manner as I am capable. The story of how the paths of five teenage boys converged; of how they became united in mind and purpose; to build a band, State of Mind; the life celebration it was then and remains today.
It was July back in...ugh! 1966, and another one of those carefree days of summer as most seemingly were in the life of a high schooler. And, for the two of us it was a day we determined would be best spent doing as little as possible poolside at the Aberdeen Proving Ground O’Club. We strolled in and casually surveyed the landscape before deciding to throw out our towels on a thick grassy spot just off the deck that offered two of the major poolside requisites of unobstructed views, and a place to “take a tan”.
I had barely gotten my butt nestled into the deep grass and my mind lost in the moment when my buddy Bruce started jabbing me in the ribs while urging me to sit back up.
“Mr. Bill quick, check out the “babe” climbing out of the pool…dripping wet.”
Now, I had been hanging out with Bruce Chapman long enough to have developed a general trust in his judgment, including taste in girls, so I figured what ever he was wanting me to see was most likely worth my effort.
“This better be good” I moaned as I pulled myself back up and turned in the direction of his gaze.
“Damn! We have got to come up with a better way to meet girls like her than what we’ve got” he noted, squinting harder to get a better look.
Then I watched perplexed…as he became entranced in a look that seemed to continue across the pool, on through the bikini and out to who knows where. For an instant I wasn’t sure if Bruce was hypothecating some deeper meaning to a concept that even if I spent the rest of my life trying to understand would still elude me, or was just getting ready to fart and then laugh like hell. I backed away just to be on the safe side. He finally exhaled and declared with indisputable conviction…“Bill, We need a band!”
“A band?” I responded somewhat surprised by his pronouncement.
“Yeah, Mr. Bill, a band! You know…money for nothing and chicks for free”.
Geez, I had never quite thought about it in those terms before; my imagination spinning ever faster like a roulette wheel thru a multitude of exciting outcomes. “Money for nothing and chicks for free” I repeated. The more I thought about it the more appealing it sounded.
Bruce was a pretty smart guy; and always had a knack for putting two hundred and two hundred together and getting four hundred, and according to my Mom and Dad “had a real head on his shoulders”, as opposed to the rest of us that had, well, something else…I guess.
“Hmm…a band?” I said as my head began filling with fantasies of pretty girls and fast cars….
Howard Latham Billy Sissom Jr. Jeff Fiehler Bruce Chapman Tom Triplett
A year or so earlier I had been part of a neighborhood band we named The Ravens. This quintet featured drummer Larry Weimer, guitarists George Doss and Alice Berning, and Betty “Sis” Meyer on bass. I sang most of the leads, and while obsessed in the moment, beat the crap out of my leg with a tambourine.
For me, The Ravens provided an entrée into the music business, and from the “git-go” my indoctrination was both seductive and fulfilling. I quickly realized how much I loved playing music, loved playing out of the house on school nights, and how unbelievable it felt to get paid for doing something that I loved, or Bruce so aptly phrased it, “money for nothing”.
The Ravens gigged regularly at local teen haunts and Services clubs where GI’s would pack the place not only to enjoy the band and its music but to become hopelessly infatuated by the girl players. Imagine that! The Ravens was not only providing me with an entrée into the world of music but also into the world of business. And right there I was being introduced to Marketing 101; cool!
As a result of this “on the job training”, later while enrolled at the University of Maryland when I actually took Marketing 101, there really was no need to attend “repetitive” classes of what I had learned during my Ravens experience. So I deemed it “acceptable” to skip that day; or week, or what ever it ended up being.
Additionally, I think I might have “clepped out” of a “few other classes” when I felt my Ravens experience had provided adequately: i.e., I quickly recognized that at the end of the night, if I piled my gear up over with the girls, the lust filled soldiers who would trip over each other trying to be the one to help the girls with their gear, would schlep it out as well. That would still be Marketing, right? …Maybe Chapter 2-Packaging? …Yep…that’s probably it…Packaging…skip…skip.
Looking back I believe the bands brightest spotlight was illuminated during our performance at the Annapolis National Guard Armory along with “The Hangmen” of “What a Girl Can Do” fame. Unbeknownst to me Jim Gibney was there that day as a spectator. Jim is an uber talented vocalist, a Legacy member of State of Mind and Friends, and a life long friend. (Please find more on Jim Gibney under this site’s And Friends tab and Links tab to The Main Event, his current band, which I would highly encourage each and every one of you to make an effort to see.
Jim was already a friend of Bruce’s, both being Army brats whose families had earlier been stationed in Heidelberg Germany. Later, while attending the University of Maryland, Jim and I would share an apartment which served as our base to eat, sleep, shower, and on occasion study. It was from there we would launch nightly periodic excursions to the numerous Georgetown clubs and “watering holes” for the purpose of checking out local bands, local “talent”, and spiritually refreshing ourselves.
Jim provided the ultimate “crash course” on D.C. night life, as reflected by my GPA which, despite the benefit of the aforementioned Ravens education, ultimately ended up looking something like D.C. bars =A University of Maryland =C.
Any way, The Ravens disbanded at the end of school a year earlier; the time high school bands often do, but not before Larry moved to New Jersey and had been replaced by Howard Latham. George, Alice and Sis graduated and went about their summer doing the things that graduates graduate on to. Howard joined another group, and I just decided to “rest up” until someone came looking for someone with my unique talents. I would probably still be “resting” today if Bruce hadn’t been entranced by the wet bathing suit and raptured by the karma of his revelation.