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The Sam Crain Story

Part 1. Early Days

    I was born August 10, 1954, Springfield, Illinois, USA at 8:37pm. Some years back I had an ‘astrological profile’ done and I am a Leo with Pisces rising and the moon in Capricorn. I read somewhere that Hitler had his moon in Capricorn, which explains these occasional leanings toward world domination and mediocrity in commercial art.

    Anyway, yeah, born August 10, ‘54, grew up with a Mom and a Dad and a younger brother-by 4 years, also a creative guy, into photography and writing. Typical postwar nuclear family: June, Ward, Wally and "the beav".

    As far as getting into music, I did the obligatory piano lessons at 7, but was apparently ‘into it’ at an even earlier age. My Dad used to tell a story about him writing an arrangement at the piano and coming to a diminished chord and me (age 3 or so) bugging him to show me how to play it, then having to listen to me play that chord over and over, all afternoon, and no doubt just as LOUD as I could play it! And both parents related the story, of me, same age, ‘writing’ and performing, in our backyard, my own composition. It was called,"The Chich", and was I guess a kind of Recitative. To my mind now, "The Chich" sounds like either a dance performed with clenched teeth, or a kind of skin irritation.

    Tried piano lessons age 7-11, just wasn’t ready for it, played violin for a school year, cornet for a summer,then took up guitar, just shy of my 12th birthday-1966, the year before Jimi Hendrix came out with ‘Are You Experienced’. My first guitar was a $50 Shelley folk guitar. My friend Ray used to make fun of it-after all, he had a Teisco del Rey guitar-and a "green stamp" amp (an amplifier purchased by saving books of green stamps--a long since archaic ‘coupon’ variant). The whole concept of a ‘green stamp amp’ was one which became funnier as years passed. Maybe not to Ray but at least to me...

    About six months later a different friend-Chuck-approached me about starting a band. And he, like Ray, already had an electric guitar. (I felt like I was yet to reach musical puberty, me with my folk guitar and them with their electrics). "You’ll have to play bass", he said. "I already have a guitar". And so I went out and got a cheapo Danelectro bass, and an amp that looked like a clarinet case, and that’s how I got into bass.

    So we added in a drummer and had ourselves a little power trio. Originally it was called ‘the Atheists’ (Chuck’s idea, none of us really knew what it meant) but our drummer’s Mom made us change it. To what I don’t remember. Very short-lived band, but my first.

    Since then, I’ve played in a LOT of bands-an estimated 469 (Okay, that was my estimate-once I actually sat down and figured it out the number was more like 74- but that’s still a lot! ) and they’re listed here on the site.

    I first got into jazz when I was about 14, my freshman yr of high school. Playing mainly bass then, in the High School Jazz Band and in The Bob Graham Quartet (tenor player, huge Stan Getz fan) I’d been taking guitar lessons for about 2 yrs, and my teacher-Ben Drake-who himself played guitar, bass and piano and was the pianist in the group, recruited me as their bass player.

    It was a GREAT learning experience. We had a regular Friday-Saturday gig at a local supper club, from which I made a whopping $50 a week (remember this is 1968), most of which I spent on jazz albums, all kinds of stuff. I feel like I’ll always be learning how to play, but this is where I got started, between the weekly gigs, lessons, and much listening to all kinds of folks. Seems like it was about a two-year stretch with this group. Fun time. I have a group portrait somewhere, and if I find it, will put it on the site.

Part 2. Middle Daze >