In the 1960's, Dodge City was home to Dodge Music, owned by the same people who ran Hays Music from Hays, Kansas. At one time, during the mid-60's, Fort Hays State University was the Playboy "Party School of the Year," two years running. The place was jammed with musicians and bands and some of that spilled over to the Dodge city store. Dodge Music was the first place I ever saw Gibson, Fender, Ovation, Gretch, Guild, and Martin guitars hanging on the same wall. A few years later, I was in Hays and saw about five times that many guitars on a wall, but I was a jaded Kansas Rock and Roll'er by then.
The garage in the middle of the building was the spot where the stage for the Dodge Music Battle of the Band would sit. At the end of every year's weekend "battle," the bands would select the members of an "All Star Band" made up of the folks the bands thought were the best players at each instrument: drums, bass, guitar, keys, horn/reed, and vocal. I was once on that stage and it put me in contact with two of the guys who would become the short-lived, but excellent Living Stereo Quintet.
I was reminded of all this when I stumbled on a few pictures I'd taken in my home town more than a decade ago. The Dodge Music building had been abandoned for years at that time. I don't know if it's standing today. Not much about Dodge City is musical, in any form, these days. Like most of Kansas, the place has fallen on hard, pseudo-conservative times and if anything creative dared to rear its head in the place, it would be cut off in moments. There is a reason that the Midwest has suffered a brain and population-drain in the last 100 years and will continue to do so until the state's IQ is so low that the residents forget how to feed themselves.
Not far from that music store's location was a place most locals barely knew existed, Evans Drums. In fact, Evans was at the other end of the same block, if I remember right.According to the current Evans Drumheads website, in 1956 Marion "Chick" Evans was the man (maybe the first) who fitted Mylar film to a snare drum; later to the whole drum kit. Not being a drummer, I don't know nearly enough about the history of this man and his business. His company was successful and active all through my years in Dodge, but I missed it. Evans sold the company to Bob Beals, when the inventor retired. Beals sold the company to D'Addario and Co. in 1995 and that company moved production to Farmingdale, NY. I don't blame them.
Larry Blakely. Larry owned, managed, and engineered Century Recording Studio in downtown Dodge. Century Recording was the only game in town and, practically, in the state for the years Larry ran the studio. The place cranked out a boatload of regional and a few national hits and most of the bands in the area (and the area included Oklahoma City to St. Louis to Omaha to Denver) wanted to record with Larry. In my usual clueless fashion, I never knew why Larry left town, but I suspect I do now. It just seemed to me that one minute Century was the place to be, the next it was gone. In fact, I think that's exactly what happened.
Larry tossed me out of his building too many times to recall, when I was a wannabe musician/engineering kid between the ages of 14 and 16. I tried hiding in every stairway and cranny and behind every large piece of equipment in the studio, the nights when bands played gigs in the performance area the day before their recording sessions with Century. I thought I was clever, Larry thought I was an idiot. He was right.
Not long after his personal catastrophic moment in Dodge, he moved to LA and became a big time engineer. In 1983, we ran into each other while suffering Xmas in Dodge, struck up an adult friendship, and a few months later he got me a job with QSC Audio Products. Larry didn't do much for my recording or musical career, but he was key to my engineering career and I owe him a lot.
The building that used to house the
worst bar in Kansas, the Hillcrest Inn
(or Hillcrest Tavern, depending on the
I got the nickname "Panda" from my days at the Hillcrest. A friend, Mike Morlan, and I used to find a wall to prop ourselves against, get a couple of fists full of beer, lean our bar stools against the wall, and watch and wait. Sometimes, we'd make it through the night without a scratch. Sometimes, we'd be in the middle of whatever riot was going on. Either way, we were doing what we could to get back to our wall and back to drinking beer and watching the morons beat each other to death. Someone said, "You guys are like a pair of bears, hiding in a cave ready to tear a new asshole into whoever comes into your lair." I became "Panda." I don't know why. Mike was "Grizzly." He earned that name. Mike died in 1996, after a rough career as a lawyer and dubious career as an investment adviser.
|If the Blues Brothers had played the|
Hillcrest, they'd have had their asses
handed to them. Chicago wimps.