Left to right: Dennis, Kim, Scott, Phil, and Steve
REUNION 1998: "Thirty Years After"
DATE: October 16th through October 18th
PLACE: Rented Beach House, Seaside, Oregon
Most of the surviving members of The Blue Beats came together for the first time, since the band dissolved in 1968. In attendance were Kim Peyton, Dennis Snell, Phil Miller, Steve Burtless, and Scott Stinson. Also in attendance was friend Bill Nutter.
The Blue Beats first reunion was precipitated by the untimely death of band member Richard Stacy mid-summer 1998. As a consequence of Richard's passing, Scott began reestablishing connections with the other band members. The idea of a band reunion was a natural conclusion to the rekindling of old friendships. Oregon was chosen as the reunion location for two reasons. Phil was conducting a workshop in Portland which was set to conclude on Sunday, October 18th and Kim had business meetings in San Francisco the following week. Since Dennis, Steve and Scott were all living West of the Rockies, it seemed reasonable to take advantage of the good fortune of the coincidental timing and relative proximity of the two events.
Phil had originally intended to book us into the same facilities where his workshop was to be conducted, but that idea was scrapped due to the lack of easily acquired performance space. Ultimately, Kim utilized the internet to locate and secure a beach resort house in Seaside, Oregon, where everyone could stay and the musical instruments and equipment could be assembled and played. Seaside is about a two hour drive from the heart of Portland, which proved somewhat of a challenge for Phil and Bill to negotiate at 2 AM,... in the fog,... after eating, drinking and playing all night.
Dennis was the first to arrive in Seaside, on Thursday, a full night before the rest of us. He brought no less than sixteen of his thirty-five or so guitars with him, as evidenced by these photos...
...Eventually, Dennis managed to pick out one to play...
Scott and Steve were next to ascend on the sleepy, little resort community of Seaside, early Friday afternoon. Phil showed up, while the others were unloading Scott's van, and Kim appeared shortly after.
Once we got the equipment into the house, unpacked, and set up, it was time to test the waters.
Dennis had a head start on everyone, but Steve was quick to get into the mix.
Kim leapt into the fray, bass guitar in hand, filling the void created by the absence of erstwhile Blue Beats bassist, Spencer, who couldn't negotiate the reunion trip.
Scott was the last to have all his pieces in place, in typical drummer-takes-the-longest-to-set-up fashion.
On Friday, we mostly visited with each other, and didn't really try to achieve any real musical objectives. Phil had an early morning date with his public relations workshop, in Portland on Saturday, so he and Bill Nutter headed back inland before dinner. The rest of us ordered pizza, grabbed a bunch of beers and settled in for the night.
Saturday morning and afternoon, while Phil conducted his workshop in Portland, those of us in Seaside had a couple of meals and spent a lot of time catching up with each other. The weather on the Pacific coast of northern Oregon in late October is unpredictable, to say the least. On this day, it was in the 40s, overcast and windy, with off-and-on periods of misting-to-light rain. However, we managed to enjoy some time outside, during the warmest and driest part of the day.
Early, on Saturday evening, we slogged our way through snippets of a many tunes, some from our glory days in The Blue Beats and other "new" songs, which had been chosen prior to the reunion, so that everyone could woodshed with them a bit. In the final analysis, it mattered little, because there was just too much excitement and anxiety spread among us, from our first gathering in thirty years, for us to settle into a groove right off the bat.
At the time, Dennis was the only one of us currently performing regularly with a weekend cover band, back home in Ogden, Utah, although Corky and Scott both had recently been working casuals and one-nighters in the LA and Orange County areas of Southern California, too, and had played semi-continuously, with many bands, since the late nineteen-sixties. As such, Dennis attempted to assume a director role during our session and impatiently led us from one aborted song rendition to the next. Unfortunately, his expectations were based on his own recent rehearsal experiences, where his band would come together, mostly prepared and in a business-like fashion, as a group of known quantities with specific goals, and knock off a few tunes in fairly short order. This rag-tag group of ex-Blue Beats was on a different plane and it is safe to say that Dennis found the dissimilarities unnerving.
After a few hours of hacking up perfectly good songs beyond all recognition, we took a break for dinner and the six of us headed, on foot, into Seaside's commerce center, which was just a few short blocks from the house. In spite of the night's musical buffoonery, we were all elated and just happy to be together again. We found a seafood house to our liking and proceeded to dominate a corner booth in the front dining room. There were many moments during the meal which harkened back to the days of yore, when The Blue Beats would finish up a gig somewhere in the Tri-state area of Huntington West Virginia and head for Shoeney's Big Boy restaurant, near the long-since cannibalized East Drive-In theater, and a late-night meal, before going our separate ways. Dennis was his typical boisterous, animated self, simultaneously shocking the waitress and us, with his outrageous comments and behavior. The rest of us vainly tried to keep up with him, but Dennis was in rare form. Following a lengthy meal, much conversation, and more than a few drinks, we began to look for the local talent (musical, that is.) It was already late for most of us geysers, but we found some palatable live music with which to spend the balance of the evening. A couple of us single ancients even ended up on the dance floor for a few songs, but mostly we sat and drank and laughed and shared the camaraderie. We wended our way back to the rented house in various states of intoxication and proceeded to make a final stab at reliving some of the musical magic of our youth. The late-night session, although much shorter, was more relaxed and enjoyable. We actually got through a song or two, beginning to end. It was a kick and we finished up the evening feeling satisfied, but wishing that we had a few more days to spend together.
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