At least four of my classmates from Hart High Class of 1968 have stayed in the music world. I got a draft notice and went to the Navy to escape some jungles. Halfway through boot camp, I got notice that I was AWOL from the Army. My Company Commander, MMC(SS) Yavoroski, wrote them some terse words, and I never heard from the Army again. But I digress.
The first of the four I can write about is John Hobbs. If you’ve listened to anything by Vince Gill or watched the CMA Awards, you’ve heard and seen John. He is also in the Country Music Hall of Fame as a Nashville Cat. (Nashville Cats are studio musicians.) He has worked with the best of all kinds of music. If you can catch him, you should ask about the Beach Boys. You’ll laugh for days.
Here in the SCV, we know about Cliffie Stone, but did you know his son is an original member of the country group, “Highway 101”? He plays bass guitar in the group. I don’t remember him playing anything at Hart. Guess he hid that talent at home with his father until after graduation.
If you see a guy with a rather large, light colored beard (silver hair) at Hart High football games, you’ve seen John Duarte. He has done a little composing and arranging and producing. Think he made it, too.
The local jazz scene is where you can find John Gonzales. He played trombone at Hart but today is another graduate to bass guitar. You can hear him and the group 2nz at various places around the SCV. Good, solid stuff.
Hey, I got to play a little music in the Navy. I was on a submarine that had a piano on board (USS Thomas A. Edison, SSBN610). A little, 77-key spinet type by Steinway Co. When the boat was built, they put the piano in and then closed up the hull. Terrible to keep in tune. We finally figured out that a certain torpedo tool – a 13-14 wrench – and some wedges cut from hard rubber were the tools to use. The sonar technicians got us a scope that would let us get the right frequency, and the thing got tuned.
How many guys do you know who can state that they were the resident piano player on a submarine? Some other shipmates brought guitars and a banjo, and we had ourselves a good time. We sang and played many tunes you might know. We took to changing the lyrics a little (well, a lot), so I won’t repeat them here. Suffice it to say, many of the words were in colorful “sailor” language.
At Hart High, Mr. Downs seemed to enjoy handing me an instrument and telling me to learn it because he needed it for a concert coming up. I usually had a week or two. Started on clarinet and then bass clarinet. I was handed a sax a couple of times, and then it was a bassoon – you know (if you’re old enough), that instrument that played the Alfred Hitchcock theme on the TV show. It later became my major instrument at San Fernando Valley State College. Following that, it was time for the draft notice.
The Navy wanted me to play saxophone. I didn’t want to play that single-reed abomination that sounded like a large truck horn that had escaped the truck. I was encouraged to find something else. Submarines sounded good. No self-respecting NVA or Viet Cong was going to shoot at a submarine.
Turns out I was right about that. I did extend my time with the Navy … to 36 years. Kept me from being just another unemployed musician.
If you wanted private lessons for music, you had to go to that lesser valley to our south. I did have a piano teacher here in the SCV, Mr. Glenn Hardman. He had the piano-bar gig at Newhall Bowl on Lyons Avenue in the 1960s. It’s now called Valencia Lanes or something. Lilly’s Restaurant is where the bar was located.
Mr. Hardman’s sister was a singer from the great Swing Era, Helen O’Connell. Got to hear her sing a few times.
Even without all of those extra instructions and teachings, many Hart High students went on to successful music and acting jobs. There was some great talent back then.
There is some great talent today, and the extra instruction is available right here in our own valley. I’m going to tell you about just one today, Vibe Performing Arts Studios on Lyons Avenue.
Vibe has been in the SCV for 20 years as of this year. You’ve got to wonder how someone so young as Andrea Vibe could have started Vibe 20 years ago. She must have been maybe 15 years old but no more. Anyway, Vibe offers all kinds of things for those who do perform in the arts, and those who want to perform.
Vibe also offers lectures for those in the arts or for folks in general. Next Saturday, for instance, Dr. Fairest Hill will be presenting “Life Without Limits – Dream Big and Achieve your goals.” Dr. Hill will be performing as well as speaking. This isn’t just about performing; it is about life. (Sponsors are needed to help others get tickets such as Single Mother’s Outreach, the SCV Boys and Girls Club and YMCA.) Give Vibe a call if you want to sponsor. You can get tickets or sponsor someone via PayPal at http://www.vpasonline.com/recital_calendar.html. It isn’t expensive. Just $10 for a great evening of inspiration.
And then there are those of us who like to sing or maybe want to take our show out of the shower and to a real audience. A word from Andrea Vibe: “Karaoke is not easy to do in front of an audience. Everyone should have a chance to make music.”
“People are often intimidated by singing in front of others,” she said. “Even talented people experience barriers in singing.”
So Vibe has a karaoke coaching and open mic jam night on the first Friday of every month from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. All ages are welcome. This, too, is $10, and Vibe instructors share and print out tips to improve your performance. The Vibe Café offers Bake You Happy goodies, coffee and soft drinks. (Those are for a little more money.)
So where is this wonderful place? You’ll find it in Valencia Plaza at 24460¼ Lyons Avenue. Stop by and join the fun. Call Vibe at 661-255-7464 for more information. You can also go to www.vibeperformingartsstudios.com.
Now that was some shameless advertising. I love to do that. Especially for a pretty lady. It’s just the cowboy in me.
Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and his commentaries, published on Tuesdays and Sundays, are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].