I guess you could say that I got a late start in music. I first picked up a guitar back in 1997, and began writing within a few months. I was listening to allot of DEAD back then and my early influences included Robert Hunter, Bob Dylan, and Greg Allman. I personally owe my good friend Eric Rickerson for putting up with my shoddy playing in the early days, and I learned allot, and continue to have a great musical partnership with him to this day.
I know that the 100 or so shows Nate Tipton and I hit gave me a itching to play live. I can remember the day when I once wondered how in the hell these guys do this and now I am trying to find ways to outdo them.
Writing really started to come together in 1998 as I finally began to match lyrics and music that had previously been separate. In the late summer of 98 I moved to Kendallville after spending the season in semi-retirement. It was shortly after that when I met my greatest supporter, critic, and friend, Lydia.
I guess you could say that she lit a spark. It was this period when many of the Stones Trace classics were written. Billy Shafer, Wild Wind, Rock & Roll Farm, and Long Road Home, to name a few. Soon I found myself with all these songs and the urge to showcase my work.
It was also during this period that my brother Drew began getting into music. In late '99 and early 2000 he helped get the band Wharf Rat started. The Rat consisted of some of his school friends all with ties to Stones Trace. They slowly morphed into a trio in late 2000 consisting of Drew on guitar, Adam Kugler on bass, and Brian Moreland on Drums. Then along came big brother.
As I had stated before I was ready to play. It had turned out that Tim Schlotter, who had replaced Adam on bass was my neighbor, so when I realized this I introduced myself. Soon it was common to hear folksy jams resonating off of our front porch in the spring of 2001. The pieces were falling into place.
Stones Trace was born out of a jam featuring all members of the Rat including Adam, Mike Kugler, and of course me. I remember the music being a bit rough but there were hot moments. It was the first band setting I had played with since leaving Bloomington.
Not long after that very jam some of us had gathered on the porch for a night of entertainment when we knew it was time to move. The original line-up was formed. Brian on drums, Tim on bass, Drew playing lead, and me on the acoustic and vocals. We spent the next few months honing our sound which at that time was very much folk. I had never liked electric guitar at that time and was not ready for the transition, I just loved the sounds of the acoustic and of course old strings as well. Then it was time to hit the coffee shops.
The Midnite Brew was our new partner in the evolution. Somewhere in the mid to late summer of 2001 we began throwing together shows and they were rough. Even though we only could play about 16 songs it was enough to pack the small house with about 75 people a night. I now know that we rushed things but who the hell cares we all learned so much. It is funny to think that if it wasn't for the house P.A. all we had was a guitar and bass amp, and one microphone. Really, that's it! Soon we had a bit of money we collected from the door at the coffee shop and invested in some equipment.
It was back then that we did mostly original works which helped develop the sounds we have today even though things have changed so much, just as they did in the fall of 2001.
A big change occurred in September of 2001. Mike Kugler began jamming with us at our Rush St. studio and it was the first time I realized an electric guitar could not be avoided forever. Soon after, Tim left the band. Drew moved to bass and this would be our lineup for the next year and a half. Slowly our sound became more and more electric, which also meant more and more covers. Initially I was not fond of cover songs but lets face it, if you want to play out then you have no other choice. Then I picked up the electric.
I had to borrow Drew's Epiphone for a while until I picked up my great Hamer. It took a while to get used to the tones and sustain but I picked it up fast. I began playing through a 1964 Estey tremolo amp which is classic 60's crunch, we're talkin' the Who, Stones, and Bo Didley. I needed more though, I picked up a wonderful Crate, 120 watts, 2 12s, and one hell of a digital processor. You know that strange tone in Billy Shafer, oh yeah! Things were really starting to rock, and then we began our great relationship with Terry at Josh's Bar to be cont.....