Rock Steady plays a private birthday party at Delpha Nichols’ residence, Dale City, VA [05.30.80]
1) We’re An American Band [Grand Funk Railroad]
2) Detroit Rock City [Kiss]
3) Whole Lotta Rosie [AC/DC]
4) Back In The USSR [The Beatles]
5) Hell Ain’t A Bad Place To Be [AC/DC]
6) The Green Manalishi [Fleetwood Mac/Judas Priest]
7) Top Of The Bill [Scorpions]
Everyone has to start somewhere and this must be where I fronted a rock and roll band for the first time. And I wasn’t sitting in with another band, this was a band that I was one-fifth a member. A classic suburban garage band that literally practiced in the garage at the Kastl’s residence in the Kerrydale section of Dale City, VA [on Kempair Drive to be exact]. This band played five shows during 1980 and I always look upon these experiences with extreme fondness; my own sort of Cameron Crowe coming of age story where in the span of six months I joined a band, got-a-girlfriend-fell-in-love- lost-our-virginity, lost the girl and lost the band all before the middle of my junior year in high school. Fast changes indeed. I continued for a few more years trying to fit into pre-existing bands that were looking for a singer but I never found the right blend and at the age of 18 when I hit California I finally gave up trying to fit in and I bought an acoustic guitar and started bashing out a noise on my own that continues to this day. After 25 years of enforced solitude as a musician I am finally reaching the place where I am able to listen and respond to other musicians. For a change. It only took a quarter of a century.
As for this gig, we had a rented PA for the first time ever, so I could actually hear myself over the din of the other four guys. A motley quartet already existed with brothers David Kastl and Bob Kastl on guitar and drums respectively. Up the street from the Kastls lived second guitarist James Atkinson and around the corner lived bassist Jim McNabb. I think AC/DC with two guitars, bass, drums and a front man were what we thought of as a loose role model for our band. And we actually played a few AC/DC tunes; mainly because their simplicity fit the range of our abilities as musicians. Hell we were only 14-to-16 years old at the time. It’s amazing that we had the discipline to get it as together as we did. Five teenage boys learning songs together. With no one other than ourselves to crack the whip.
On this particular day we were set up in the driveway of Delpha Nichols’ residence, a fellow classmate who offered up her family’s house for a birthday party of a friend of hers [the name escapes me]. Delpha had a crush on David (and James as well I think) and she asked us to play at her party. I was delighted. And nervous to be exposed before my peers. We made it through seven songs before it started to rain lightly. Every one [but me] wanted to pull the plug, so the music stopped. It stopped raining soon after, but the damage was done. Nevertheless, my friends that attended the party talked to me a little differently on Monday at school and it seemed that a new level of social acceptance had been obtained. Who knows. I just loved singing in a band and these guys were some of the best friends that I had through high school and beyond. I miss ‘em. Shortly after this gig our makeshift name of Rock Steady became Blitzkrieg [how Spinal Tap is that?]. All we needed was an umlaut.
Rock Steady is Jon Kanis [vocals], David Kastl [electric guitar], James Atkinson [electric guitar], Jim McNabb [Fender bass], Bob Kastl [drums]
Photos by Delpha Nichols.