The summer of 1969, my first in Sunland California was a huge turn in my life. I met a whole bunch of new friends and we all lived within a block of each other. Graig Shaffer, Ed Richie, Jimmy Williamson, and Big Steve. Then there were the girls. Yes girls! Annamarie, Peggy and Tony. That summer we all hung out swimming at the Shaffers or the Williamsons, riding our bikes everywhere, hiking in the hills, riding and building motorized vehicles, shooting our Wrist Rockets at each other, and just having a blast.
Now one thing that I didn’t know before I met these kids was that Jim, Craig, Steve and Eddy had a garage band going on. I remember the first night that I was “allowed” to go hear them in Jimmys garage. They had the whole enchilada. Jimmy on drums, Graig on lead guitar, Steve on rhythm guitar, and Eddy on bass. They played such cool songs, songs that I rarely heard on the radio. Bands like, Love, Them, Cream, and a version of Hey Joe by some new guy named Jimi Hendrix.
I became immersed in this “new music” Graig had the biggest record collection at his house, due to his older brothers. I would go over and borrow a few albums and take them home and listen to them trance like for hours. Then one evening the band was going to rehearse but Jimmy had a cold and couldn’t really sing. (He was also the lead singer) I was there that night to listen when Jimmy said “Hey Keith why don’t you try it?” “Take my mike and sing some songs for us.” Surprised to say the least but not uncomfortable with his request I took the mike. First song, The Doors “Crystal Ship” as I started singing I noticed everyone in the band was looking at me, stunned and smiling in approval. After Crystal Ship they jumped right into “Hey Joe” “Hendrix’s version” I loved this song and sang it with enthusiasm and emotion. As we were playing Jimmys older brother Don opened the garage door and looked at all of us and gave us a big thumbs up! After the rehearsal was over I was the lead singer in “The Purple Freight Train” Talk about some much needed self esteem.
That fall returning back to a new school as the lead singer of “The Purple Freight Train” I was a very popular guy. We played parties, dances at school, and The Winter Formal. I started to here rumors of certain girls liking me. My grades soared to A’s and B’s. I was on top of the world.