Saturday, April 25, 2015

Chump Change Band - Columbia, Missouri

 Many who know me remember when I was in the Chump Change Band back when I was living in Columbia, Missouri in the 80's. I joined Chump Change after a stint with Glen "Bummer the Drummer" Ward's Kansas City Street Band.  I loved playing with Bummer and learned quite a bit from playing with him, but something has always drawn me to the blues.

So sax player Jeff Watkins and I started hitting local jam sessions to have some fun.  We eventually found ourselves at Lee's Lounge on the corner of Garth and Ash.  This was a tiny dive a more urban part of Columbia, not to far off the  downtown strip.

That's how I met the incredible Babe Martin, and the awesome Kenneth Brantley.  At the time, Smitty (bass) was playing with another band (Natty Bumpo) so we had a rotating bass and drum seat at the time. But everyone played with everybody at some point. Columbia had a great music scene at that time, and we all knew each other.

I remember getting my high school friend David Lowe involved on bass at some point, and David was a terrific player in his own right. Sometimes Joe McBride, keyboardist extraordinaire, would also gig with us. And ton occasion, we sometimes had my college friend and drummer Marty Morrison playing with us as well.

I think at one point, I pulled in several friends to play drums when we were short a drummer on a Sunday night.  Such was the struggle of a forming band.  We rarely made any money at Lee's Lounge, but we didn't care.  It was all about the music for most of us. Those that only played for money didn't come to Lee's Lounge.

So every Sunday night we played at Lee's lounge. I did this for most of my senior year in high school and for 4 years after that until I moved to Washington DC.  For us Lee's Lounge was our church.  It was really a great scene.  It could get a bit rough and tumble at times, but it was really the place to play on Sunday and was one of the best venues for real music at the time.

Eventually we started playing more regularly together and took gigs all over Missouri.  People liked the authenticity of what Babe was doing, and he was the leader of the band. We played what Babe played and that was that.

I have great memories of my time with Babe, Kenneth and Smitty. They were always good to me and we became good friends. I miss them to this day, but after I was gone, they never slowed down and only became better. They are now considered a legendary band in Columbia, MO.

Soft spoken, but carrying a mighty guitar, Babe Martin was the first musician who encouraged me to play EVI.  Kenneth was a horn playing mentor to me for more years than I can remember. And Smitty was always a rock-solid, extremely positive person who you could always count on.  Smitty  and I speak with each other by phone from time to time.  All three were huge influences on me musically, and all are first class people as well. You can thank all of them for keeping the blues tradition alive in Columbia, Missouri.

More on my Chump Change years later. For now, here's a great clip of Big Babe Martin and The Chump Change Band.

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