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.

Comments

Josh Board Feb. 22, 2008 @ 1:10 a.m.

Having been born and raised in San Diego, I grew up listening to Sam Bass on the radio. Scratch that. My mom forced me to, while listening to KYXY on the car radio (and of course, when I got braces...it was their station piped in the dentist office). Well, when he talked back and forth to get his piece for this YO DJ, after initially meeting at the Del Mar Fair with some other DJs that worked at 103.7 Free FM, I couldn't stop laughing at the story he submitted. It had to be edited significantly for length. But, on this new website...I decided to throw it on here...in it's original form. Sit back and enjoy Sam Bass like you've never heard him talk before -- like a mix of John Hughes meets Howard Stern. Enjoy.

0

Josh Board Feb. 22, 2008 @ 1:22 a.m.

Trumpet lessons began when I started 5th grade. My teacher was Mr. Ostrowski. He drove a VW Beatle. Very avant-guard at the time. He was the first guy in Schenectady to own one. I thought he was cool. The fact is, he probably made less than $7,000 a year and a VW was all he could afford. But he had my respect and the cat could play the hell out of trumpets, trombones, tubas, you name it. If it had a spit valve, he could play it. The trumpet and I were a great match. I was so good that after 3 months he asked me to join the grade school band. I could read music and hit the high notes. Though I hated practicing, I forced myself to do it every evening for an hour, down in the basement of our 3 bedroom, one bath Cape Cod. Hey, even Louis Armstrong hated practicing. My first big gig was in 1957 at the Christmas pageant at Pashley Elementary School in East Glenville, New York. I was to do a duet with Robbie Dondero, the kid who lived five houses down from me. The song was “Jingle Bells”. A classic. Robbie had been at the trumpet for a few months longer than I so he was assigned the melody. I handled harmony. We practiced the hell out of that piece. We had it down. We were great. We were going to kick ass. When the lights went down and the curtains opened up, there we were. Sport coats and dress slacks from Woolworths clothing department and snap on bow ties. The girls were swooning. And that’s when the stage fright hit. Not me, I loved the spot light. It was Robbie. He choked. Nothing came out of his horn. The only thing the audience heard was me doing Jingle Bells’ harmony, which really doesn’t sound anything like Jingle Bells. After polite applause from the audience, and some boos from my “friends” Dondero and I exited the stage. Back stage he threw up and I threw a fit. My first live performance and it was a total disaster.

(continued)

0

Josh Board Feb. 22, 2008 @ 1:28 a.m.

But I kept at the trumpet. I was actually getting pretty good at it. I eventually made lead trumpet in the Junior High Band and Orchestra. Mr. Ostrowski continued as my teacher. 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. A career that I was sure would bag me “more ass than that toilet seat”. The first event was The British Invasion of America’s radio airwaves. The Beatles had arrived! Lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass and drums. No trumpet! The Beatles were followed by the Stones, Dave Clark Five, Kinks, Herman’s Hermits. Not a single trumpet player. Guitarist were to the sixties what trumpet players were to the 30’s and 40’s. The guys playing the Fenders were my generations “toilet seat”. I was bereft.

I mentioned two events occurred in 1964 that would forever change my trumpet playing career. Yes, Rock n Rollers, to quote a Dire Straight’s song; “dont give a damn about any trumpet playing band”. That was hard for me to accept. But I had hope that eventually the trumpet would be embraced by garage bands and I’d become a star and start cashing in with the chicks. But that dream was dashed when the second big event of 1964 occurred. My dad got a nice fat raise in pay and my mother went back to work as nurse. We were suddenly middle class and a two car family. A Dodge Polaris station wagon and a VW Beatle. You’d think that that would have been a good thing. And in some ways it was. I could now afford to wear an actual neck tie. I no longer needed the snap on bowties from Sears. But that overbite from my adolescence hadn’t gone away. Our family dentist was wrong. My trumpet’s mouthpiece hadn’t cured my overbite. So at the awkward, self conscious age of 15, I paid my first visit to the orthodontist. He was a heavy set bald man named Dr. Hugo Isabella. All I can remember about Dr. Isabella is that the hair he lacked on his head he more than made up for in his nose. And he had the worst case of garlic breath I’d ever encountered. And I grew up in an Italian neighborhood

(continued)

0

Josh Board Feb. 22, 2008 @ 1:34 a.m.

The braces were installed in March of 1964. March 24th. A day that shall live forever in trumpet playing infamy, at least in my mind. Braces may have been a status symbol for some. They weren’t cheap, that’s for sure. I think the entire three year process cost my parents $3000. That was a lot of money in 1964. Besides the expense my parents had to endure, I had to deal with food being constantly stuck to my braces, which made success with the opposite sex challenging. I also had to wear something called a head gear when I slept at night. Picture Hannibal Lecter in“Silence of the Lambs”. But these were minor inconveniences compared to the first time I tried to play the trumpet with my brand new, shiny, food encrusted braces. Imagine pressing the trumpet mouth piece against your lips, but between your lips and teeth are sharp braces. Painful doesn’t begin to describe the feeling. I had my sad epiphany the first time I blew blood out of the spit valve. Though my trumpet playing days seemed over, or at least on hold, 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. Sure Herb Alpert had top 40 hits and women went nuts for him, but he didn’t count. He was part of my parent’s generation. James Brown and Otis Redding each had great bands with top notch trumpet players, but their’s was not Rock. It was great R & B but not Rock, and by 1967 rock was all that mattered to me and most of my white middle class peers. And my peers didn’t “give a damn about any trumpet playing band” That all changed at the end of 1968 and beginning of 1969. Two groups hit the airwaves that featured horn sections with great trumpet players. The groups were Blood Sweat and Tears; known mostly for their lead singers over the top vocals. The other group was from L.A. and called themselves Chicago Transit Authority. Their name was lame but these guys could rock and I suddenly had a new hero, Lee Loughnane, their trumpet player. By 1969 my braces were long gone, the teeth no longer hung over my bottom lip. Also gone was my desire to be a trumpet playing “babe magnet”. But my love for the trumpet and admiration for those who mastered it never went away. Chicago continued to crank out album after album of great Rock music. Lee Loughnane was living my dream and I was glad for him. Sure I would have liked to be the one getting fame, fortune and groupies but 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. And as their music sails over San Diego’s airwaves, I sit in the studio quietly thanking Lee Loughnane for making at least two generations of rock lovers finally care for a “trumpet playing band”.

0

Sign in to comment

Join our
newsletter list

Enter to win $25 at Broken Yolk Cafe

Each newsletter subscription
means another chance to win!

Close