My First band
I had my first band back in 1967
We practiced around the corner from a 7-11
I had a one string guitar and I played it on my lap
‘Cause I was 12 years old and didn’t have no strap
It was my... MY FIRST BAND
We only knew how to play one song
But sometimes it lasted over four hours long
We’d throw some words together hopin’ they would rhyme
Then I’d try to play guitar and sing those words in time
It was my... MY FIRST BAND
Every word of the above is true. The town was Mt. Ephraim, New Jersey, and the band was called Verbal Garbage. I played a guitar with only one string, the low E. My repertoire consisted of Satisfaction, Peter Gunn and the first part of Rebel Rouser before the key change. Bill Roccia played drums and Dan Arcaini played bass and organ, sometimes simultaneously. We dug the Ventures and the Trashmen but the times were changing so we decided we needed original material. Hoping to sound psychedelic, we wrote a tune called Don’t Spill Ketchup On My Toast Bread, which had about 120 verses and could literally last as long as four hours. We only played live once. It was a backyard party and the audience was bewildered, cementing our group self-image as misunderstood artistes.
A few years later, we added local hotshot Bill “Fitz” Fitzgerald on guitar and reemerged as The Derelicks. We played Fifties rock 'n' roll and dressed as greasers (see Photos page). Bill Roccia became “Honcho,” Dan became “Little Danny” and I became “Killer Ben.” We had one original tune called The Funky Derelick which featured a show-stopping James Brown mike stand tossing routine. - especially when I lost control of the mike and whacked an audience member square in the teeth. Sometimes Honcho would do his Elvis impersonation while I played drums. Little Danny also took a turn at the mike each night, improvising a touching yet rambling soliloquy on teenage love. To our amazement, we were instantly popular and actually got girls. Which, of course, went straight to our heads and caused us to stop rehearsing altogether. But we did play quite a few gigs in 1971. We’d pile our gear into my brother Ted’s Corvair convertible and barnstorm the South Jersey area. I distinctly remember playing a church coffee house where a fight broke out and a Battle of the Bands that turned into a near riot during our set. It was great and it was totally rock 'n' roll - until we replaced underage drinking with heavy pot use. That’s when things went downhill. There’s nothing worse than watching stoned guys dressed as greasers play introspective, self-conscious, spongy versions of Jerry Lee Lewis songs. Our last gig was a total embarrassment. We were too high to play our instruments. At least I was. Ironically, it was a benefit dance for a local anti-drug youth group.
I don’t remember the band officially breaking up. I think we just lost interest. Myself, I waited until I was 27 to take a legitimate stab at the music business but I have to admit that none of the satisfaction I get from my adult achievements will ever match the idiotic teenage exuberance I experienced lo those many years ago. We were spontaneous and we were stupid. Which always makes for the best rock ‘n roll.