Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Otters At Chatham College

Chatham College certainly played a key role in the early days of Eddie & the Otters.  Our first rehearsals and first gig were at the REA House dormitory, and our second gig was in the Anderson Dining Hall two weeks later.  We returned to REA House in early December, played at their folk festival in late April, and played in the Dining Hall again at a Leap Year party.

We started expanding our repertoire after the Toga Party, adding a lot of British Invasion covers (heavy on the Beatles and Stones, but also the Animals and Kinks) and a few more 50's standards (more Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and even "Rock Around The Clock").  The Dining Hall gig on September 30 had a nice turnout, mostly students from Chatham, Pitt, and CMU, along with various friend and relatives.  We were still getting to know each other at this point, as evidenced by Eddie's band introduction.  At the end of each set we'd go into a vamp based on "Rock Around The Clock" and Eddie would do his "We're going to take a break, etc.." rap.  During the third set he introduced us, and when he came to Jim Bird, he forgot his name and called out (mostly off-mic) "What the %$#@'s his name??"  We were encouraged by the great response and continued to rehearse and learn new material.

After a cluster of gigs in November, we learned a bunch of new songs and set up an informal public rehearsal at REA House on December 2.  I don't remember it being advertised except by word of mouth, and I have no idea how many people were even there.  New songs at this gig included "Last Train To Clarksville", "Heart Full Of Soul", and "You Can't Do That".  There were also impromptu performances of "Surfin' Bird" with Jim B. on vocals, Flo & Eddie's "Nikki Hoy" with Gary Noftz joining Eddie on vocals, and Shut-ins singer Johnny Angola doing "God Save The Queen" and "Get Up Stand Up".  (As a side note, I never pretended to be able to play reggae with any degree of authenticity, and this particular rendition became so tedious to me that I let Eddie take over on drums).  I seem to remember two girls who claimed they were percussion majors at Duquesne University playing an assortment of woodblocks during the drum solo (I'll have to give the tape a listen to confirm this).

We were invited to play at the annual Chatham Folk Festival (did it have a different name) on April 29 the following year.  I remember it being a fairly cool, overcast day, not an ideal day to be playing outdoors (check the photos on our Facebook site - we're all wearing jackets).  We were probably the only electric band performing there, and as soon as we plugged in and started to tune up, the leader of some ethnic dance troupe dashed across the field to complain about the volume (Jim B. may remember his exact words since he was the loudest and endured most of his wrath!)  The whole day was stressful - this was at the end of our busiest week ever - Monday at the Decade with the Marc Tanner Band, Tuesday at the Other End for a Beer Blast, Friday at Phase III with Resistance, Saturday back at The Other End, and this Sunday afternoon gig.  I suppose we went over OK - the most memorable event was Eddie running through the audience throwing Otter Pops (popsicles) as we started our last song ("So You Want To Be A Rock & Roll Star").  Fortunately we had a month off to regroup afterwards.

We returned to Chatham on February 29, 1980 for a Leap Year party in the Dining Hall.  I remember almost nothing about this gig except that Wayne Honath sat in with us on "Louie Louie" and "Gloria", playing rhythm guitar.

(In late '81 I played in the Dining Hall one last time with Rock Slide & the Corvettes, a one-off 50's group comprised of most of the Flashcats, along with Dave Rusnak from the Hell Band and Mark Gaudio from the Ratriderz.  Also, Mon Gumbo played live on WYEP-FM in 1992 when their studio was located on the Chatham campus.)

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