Sunday, June 19, 2011

What's in a Name: An Essay on the Sweet Sounds of Roses

Sharie and the Shades. The Shadows. The Grand Trunk Troubadours. Seahorse. Shadow Suite. High Noon. Friday Harbor. The Zymotics. B2. For me snappy band names have always been important. It seems I cannot think nor do anything musical without the appropriate sobriquet.

Sharie and the Shades

Ah, the very first band of which I was a member! Sharie, a teacher colleague, arranged us all in a standing singing row, and we sang our hearts out with Sharie playing on the Korg keyboard. We added a bass guitar, an electric guitar, and a set of drums. At the peak of our popularity we were comprised of four instrumentalists and five vocalists performing hits from the 50’s and 60’s. Within a year, Sharie (real spelling) and the Shades (of the past), due to membership politics, had been reduced to just one singer. The electric guitar player wanted to be the main man, and so did the bass player. Our keyboard player had been pushed to the backdrop and the auxiliary percussionist ('twas I) was seemingly kept round to lug equipment. Even so, we did manage one last grand Christmas television stand which kept us in notoriety for the next few years.

The Shadows

Still lingering in Sharie's sunshine, The Shadows were a direct spin-off from Sharie and the Shades. Sharie kept herself on keyboard, Judy and I played pots and pans (percussion) and sang with a choice four or five high school students. We did lots of gigs in retirement communities and at school assemblies. The Shadows were a lots of fun and lots and laughs and through the school of hard and soft rocks I learned about sound and equipment. Sharie superannuated and The Shadows were fini.

The Grand Trunk Troubadours (the GTT)

We met at the university Conservatory of Music. For four continuous semesters we were in the same vocal classes, taught by the famous Wilma Bell-Wessel. The campus classroom was on College Avenue, formerly 16th Street, formerly the site of the Grand Trunk Railway station. The GTT began as a five boy band, two of which played a little guitar, two wanting to learn guitar, and all five wanting to sing. By first gig we were four, all singing and just two of us on acoustic guitars. Within a year we added a female vocalist (the best vocalist from the Conservatory) to sweeten our sound. And it worked! Currently (and eight years later) the GTT has three female vocalists, three guitarists, a drummer, a fiddler, and a banjitarist.


Baron and I had already auditioned and received acceptance for some B.C. busking on the Inner Harbour in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. To rehearse for the coming summer event, a few of the GTT members went busking for the very first time and needed more than a practice for Baron-and-self excuse; they needed a cause so to speak. Seahorse made its premiere in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, along with its new slogan, Save the Seahorse – Save the Sea. We performed in front of various coffee houses on Main Street. It turned out Moose Javians were not that interested in saving the sea.

Under the name, Seahorse, bongero Baron and I did begin our busking life on the mean streets of Victoria, British Columbia. Each morning we lifted weights at the Phoenix Club and had toast and tea for breakfast at the 99 cent cafe. We hit the streets according to the ship schedules. Every time a US ship arrived into the harbor, en route from Alaska to wherever, two thousand American tourists hit downtown Victoria with open purses and wallets. We had a great time and learned lots about how-not-to busk!

(Baron and I still busk under the Seahorse moniker.)

Shadow Suite

Shadow Suite was an effort to reduce the stigma of mental illness via public band performances -- the notion being that those assigned with a mental illness lived within the darkness of public opinion and scrutiny, an isolated shadow suite. A couple of the Shadow Suite band members had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and happened to be very talented musicians and singers. Alas, Shadow Suite was not meant to be, by me. We had talent but not without disarray. One of our band members was continuously suicidal and, in fact, her life saved by another band member on her last attempt. Such a noble endeavor needs much more that I can offer. Bands such as Shadow Suite need formal support with sponsored spaces and clients.

High Noon

High Noon was a teacher-driven high school band with a very Western flavor. Each noon hour we rehearsed with three guitars and pots n’ pans and lots of student singers. High Noon was plain darn blasted fun and lasted until a few key teachers were transferred to other schools. Such is the life of singing cowpokes riding the dusty trails of education.

Friday Harbor

Friday Harbor was created strictly for coffee house entertainment. Friday Harbor was named after the Friday Harbor Laboratories at the University of Washington where my daughter, Natika, worked her summers as a marine biologist. I love coffee house gigs. For me coffee house bands are best as a combo of folksy and classy and an opportunity to perform original material. Shakers and twelve string are my preferred instrument for coffee house gigs.

The Zymotics

A zymotic is an infectious disease. The Zymotics are, indeed, infectious. We decided on another high school band name that was punky and zippy. The Zymotics take random covers and perform them at top gun speed. The student response has been so far so good.


One of my buskmates, Trent Leggott of Trent’s Guitar Studio, just recently purchased a banjitar. Trent and I go way back and have done some serious busking together. Yesterday we were busking under our newly created duo, B2 (inspired by U2). B2 stands for either Banjitars 2 or Buskers 2 or both!

Ah, perfect names for not-so-perfect bands. Meanwhile, back at the busk. No matter the name, your busking kismet can only be discovered by doing it. Attaching a name to your busking sidequest adventure gives credence to your emprise. Trying different names you’ll eventually find one fitting for the occasion.

*What's in a name? Really? And the answer is ... NOTHING ... unless you have the right bandmates and buskmates to go along with musical rides. Bill and I are the only original members of The Grand Trunk Troubadours (Lillie and Judy, who are still in the band, joined The GTT a year after it began). Judy, Lillie, Christina, and Eric (all GTT members) are come-and-go buskmates in Seahorse. Bill, Lillie, Judy, Lillie, Steve, Christina, and Baron are all in-and-out members of Friday Harbor. Trent, Baron, and I are buskmates in B2.

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name with the proper mates in buskingdom would smell as sweet (Juliet & Self).

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