DJ: Sam Bass
Station: 96.5 KYXY FM
Shift: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
When I was in fourth grade, I was told by my dentist that I had an overbite. That was a nice way of saying that I was buck-toothed. Money was tight back then. Braces were expensive. Our family dentist suggested that I start playing the trumpet. By pushing the mouthpiece against my lips, he reasoned, I might keep my teeth from becoming more "bucked." What a genius he was. And trumpet lessons were a lot less expensive than braces. I spent a lot of time listening to my mom and dad's big-band albums. Adults assured us that rock and roll was just a fad that would eventually die out. They prayed that we kids would come to our senses and reject the "devil's music" and embrace their music: Mitch Miller, Doris Day, Percy Faith. The truth is, I really dug the music of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Louis Armstrong, and Harry James. Back in the '30s, '40s, and early '50s, trumpet players were sex symbols. But, girls had cooties. I just dug the trumpet because I liked the sound.
Soon though, girls started noticing my musical skills and I started noticing girls. And then two events occurred in 1964 that would forever change my trumpet-playing career.
The first was the British Invasion. Then my dad got a fat raise in pay and my mother went back to work as nurse. We were suddenly middle class and a two-car family. My overbite from my adolescence hadn't gone away, so my braces were installed in March of 1964.
I had food constantly stuck to my braces, which made success with the opposite sex challenging. I also had to wear headgear. These were minor inconveniences compared to when I tried to play the trumpet. Painful doesn't begin to describe the feeling. I had my sad epiphany the first time I blew blood out of the spit valve.
I clung to the hope that the trumpet would soon be embraced by rock 'n' roll and perhaps when the braces were removed I would become the Harry James of the Woodstock generation. James Brown and Otis Redding each had great bands with top-notch trumpet players, but their music was not rock -- in 1967, rock was all that mattered to me and most of my white peers.
That all changed at the end of 1968. Two groups hit the airwaves that featured horn sections with great trumpet players. The groups were Blood Sweat and Tears and Chicago Transit Authority. Their names were lame, but these guys could rock, and I suddenly had a new hero -- Lee Loughnane, Chicago's trumpet player.
By 1969 my braces were long gone. Chicago continued to crank out album after album of great music. Sure, I would've liked to be getting fame, fortune, and groupies. That wasn't in my cards. I'm just happy that every day I get to share some of Chicago's music with my KyXy audience.