CHAPTER ONE: LOCAL HEROES 1985-1989
At some point in the 80's, Alan had stopped considering himself the worst guitarist on the planet, perhaps about the time many people began calling requesting he offer to teach them lessons, claiming that they'd been referred to the "best guitarist around" by musicians from whom Alan suggested they seek instruction instead.
Meanwhile, the young Alan had yearned for collaboration, and one day, between high school Computer Science classes, heard the strains of a piano under assault in the Drama/English room down the hall. Rushing in amazement, he found a scrawny, bearded, bespectacled youth banging the living hell out of the 88's, recounting from memory the songs he knew only from the radio. Alan complimented the young man, Neal Morris Thompson, later to be known as Moosehead, and suggested that the two of them jam sometime. Unfortunately, before that could happen, tragedy struck.
While working in the local personal care home, Alan suffered anaphylactic shock, resulting in two life-altering occurences: first, a near-death experience, which to this day reaffirms Alan's faith, but secondly a brutal and abrupt end to Alan's hopes of a legal career, as the accompanying damage to his system put an end to his formal education. While still intellectually sound, being clinically dead for 20 minutes had left him both physically and emotionally drained, yet unwilling to admit so, continuing to refuse to concede even when the powers that be insisted for years to come. The one thing Alan could not deny was the effect upon his manual dexterity from his shoulders down; he refused to allow even his doctors knowledge of the diminished amount of feeling in especially his fingers. The amount of free time forced upon him did, however, endow him with nothing but the opportunity to improve, which is both how and why he went from someone with barely a passing knowledge of any musical instrument to being the accomplished composer and musical academic whom he is now known to be.
Gillies and Thompson had now begun to play and record together informally, while Alan had also become enlisted as the Trainer for his brother's Midget level hockey team. Discovering that his position had become official, he was on the roster for the first time tha day after his first stage performance, at a bar in Winnipeg (City Limits), where a fake I.D. was required. Alan & Neal soon began playing with drummers, usually Curtis Caruk, and were to be joined by jazz bassist Ron Swiskoski, but for another trajedy, in the form of an auto accident. Alan started working at the Hamilton Hotel beverage room ("Kickers", later the "Classic Rock Bar"), playing there with bands passing through as well, and had little time to jam with minor high school students. After competing at the Unwinder in Brandon's Guitar Warz, and a week of hanging out with Steve Earle & the Dukes, bartending was finished for Alan.
It had been a year, and the recuperated Ron became a permanent fixture. Thus, the Local Heroes were born, performing numerous cover songs and a few of Alan's new originals, with Neal eventually encouraged to share lead vocal duties... but bands begin only to end. Being introduced to an aspiring vocalist (unbeknownst to Alan, she had established an unflattering yet appropriate reputation and resultant nickname), Alan opted to turn his quartet into a 5-piece. After a month of standing-room-only shows in a neighbouring town (the rhythm section using aliases and fake I.D.s), the Heroes were an unqualified success, and were asked to play in every gin mill within driving distance, that is until "Bar Pig" started trashing hotel rooms. She didn't play an instrument, refused to attend practices, and demanded equal pay while only performing 5% of the material, sitting off-stage the rest of the time, loudly and drunkenly heckling the band, "her" band. After arguments over finances, Alan chose to quit his own band, only to reform it within a week, with Neal remaining on keyboards.
Both Curtis and Ron would eventually admit their regret; as for the artist formerly known as Bar Pig? Somewhere, in some dimly lit lounge there's most probably an aging drunk woman singing bad karaoke, and believing that she's a rock star.
|END CHAPTER ONE|