By Lee Waites
I remember sitting on the bleachers listening to my brother's band play in the high school talent show. The students were screaming and clapping and going crazy. Probably just the fact that a rock and roll band was up on their little stage was exciting enough. And the following act. I felt so bad. It was a cute little act with two girls singing a gospel song, clapping and trying to get the audience involved. But kids don't care. They were all so slap-happy to have rock and roll right there in front of them, they might as well have thrown rocks at those two little girls. I was so proud of those two also, because even though the kids made some awful "Gong Show" references and there were some jeers, they kept going and kept clapping. They were good singers. They just didn't need to follow the rock and roll.
At times throughout my life, I recall Jeff trying to work with me on my various vocal and sax parts. It would get so frustrating because he always had to have everything perfect. He would drill, and we would repeat...and then finally he would doctor it up somehow. I always wanted to just throw some reverb into it and scream. He has been committed to getting things right his whole life, even when I was just committed to dancing with girls and the rolling party.
On this mother's day, which happens to also be my birthday, I want to indulge for a minute in my pride, my brother Jeff, appropriately, since he is one of the best gifts my mother and I could ever have had.
Jeff currently plays bass in two bands, that I know of. It's hard to keep up with his peripheral projects because he never stops going. But there are always a couple of bands that are a constant. Right now it's the High Fidelics and the Original Shake Charmers. Both are similar in being instrumental, with no vocal parts, and very Ventures-esque, sort of 50s rock and roll, pre-surfer surfer music, driving a convertible with fins, speeding like a bat out of hell with a girl in the passenger seat holding on to her scarf kind of thing.
The shows are very energized and fun. There is showmanship, there is audience engagement, there are outfits and of course, rockin' music.
The sound is very vintage. The High Fidelics hail from Birmingham, while the Shake Charmers roll out of Tuscaloosa. Both are well worth the trip to see.
The girls on the dance-floor are bouncing and playful. And yes, there are some scarves to be seen.
Jeff's musical evolution is, I'm sure, far from over. At nearly 50 he holds onto a youthful energy that belies his age. He seems to flow easily from scene to scene, and mesh socially with people of all ages. He's played in too many bands and projects for me to list, or even recall. A few highlights pop out: one is the Wall Street Traitors. A drastic contrast from the bands listed above, the Wall Street Traitors have a raw, hard punk sound filled with political and social messages. I don't know for certain what their schedule would be. I do know they recently had a weed pulled out of their garden, so to speak. So maybe we'll see some more from them soon.
Some of you might remember Subject to Change, Jeff's first band to emerge on the Birmingham scene, from the days of the Eclectic Theatre, The Loft, Storkland, Tuxedo Junction and the like. I refuse to search too hard for pictures from this time as you might get a glimpse of my hair as it was then. I'm not comfortable with this idea. But it was the early 80s. That should explain it.
I know there are those who might read this and snark that I have left out some bands. Well, how could I not. The man came out of high school, guitar swinging, and hasn't stopped since. He helped me form my morals when we were growing up, always doing the best he could to help or protect or fight for those who needed it. His commitment to doing the right thing is, at times, exhausting. How can someone have so much energy? My favorite image of him is that fresh, all-American, freckle-faced kid in the shopping cart, full of hope and enthusiasm, waving to every person he saw. Grown up, stronger, a bit edgier, he has somehow protected that part of himself through all the knocks and disappointments. I wish there were some way I could show him how extremely proud I am of him. I love you Jeff.