CHAPTER THREE: WILDHEART
Alan had evetually completely given up on scholastics, and tried a few menial job (gas station attendant, short order cook, security guard, etc.), and played in a few bands that went nowhere or at least not much beyond the nowhere city limits, ...still, Oscar Charles & the Foundation was an R & B recording group he almost toured with, and at one point Doug Bennett had offered him a spot with Doug & the Slugs.
Alan practiced briefly with Rivers band The Wkend Boys, after being invited by the lead singer. When said vocalist left, Alan was asked to take over, turning down another offer to tour Eastern Canada & the U.S. with the Foundation. He was joined by Neal, who had returned from Alberta to attend Red River Community College. The stint was short-lived, after realizing the limitations of the rhythm section.
Alan took a clerical position with the family business. Bassist Emil Gawaziuk, then in high school, called Alan after recommending him to country singer/songwriter Dale Lyons. Alan suggested they enlist Gladstone drummer Terry Sollner, and that they name the new group Wildheart. They began rehearsing and recording, in Emil's parents' garage, Alan's farm, and Dale's aunt's condo in Brandon. While Alan financed and performed most instruments for a quality home demo (and arranged for publicity materials), he was never reimbursed as promised, and Dale instead opted to record a live-off-the-floor demo in Brandon, and also to have professional photography taken in a Brandon studio, during which Alan suffered an allergic reaction to the bales used as props. Emil rushed Alan to the E.R., after complaining about being forced to wear a shirt with "flowers on it".
The band showed some promise, Alan doing harmonies and some lead vocal, Dale taking the occasional guitar solo, Emil mixing sound, which would prove to be his calling. Problems existed in abundance: tours were cancelled when Emil couldn't leave school, Alan had to be replaced twice due to a blizzard and pneumonia, Alan had to substitute as lead vocalist when dale suffered laryngitis, extra members (mandolin, pedal steel, female vocals) were added and discarded. There was backbiting, alcoholism, womanizing, responsibilities, debt, theft, ex-girlfriends and ex-wives, and no shortage of sleazy saloon owners. Alan and Emil were usually on opposite sides, but Alan was outraged when informed after-the-fact that the others had fired Emil outright (in a letter). Emil was replaced with John Williams, who had done fill-in work previously. John created undue friction between Alan and Dale, and Dale explained to Alan that he needed to take some time off. Cancelling gigs for the band that he had arranged, Alan performed a show with Terry and Emil back on bass, only to be informed by Terry that Dale was forming a new version of the band with John on guitar and a female bassist, and hadn't had the character to be honest with Alan about it. Alan then went to see Dale at his home and wished him luck. Dale's new Wildheart folded amidst animosity over the ownership of an amplifier, Dale never achieving the Nashville stardom he'd promised for every member of the band, as he searched for it from the corner of his hometown's 40-seat bar.
Alan's final gig under the Wildheart name (without Dale) as leader of a power trio allowed him the opportunity to perform country, blues and rock as he chose, in a fashion he knew would work, and proved to be not only fun for a change, but also a glimpse of things to come in the near future.
In the midst of all of this, Alan first met his idol guitarist/singer Colin James, and after drinks on the tour bus, was standing in the bar where Colin's band had just performed between saxophonist Johnny Ferreira and Room Full of Blues trumpeter Bob Enos, whom Alan had never heard of. Alan explained to Bob his dissatisfaction with Wildheart, how he'd been searing to quit after each gig, and of his disdain for the type of traditional country music as Dale insisted it should be played. Without taking his gaze from the dancefloor, Bob asked, "Well, you sing and play guitar like Colin, right?" "Well, not quite like Colin, but I try..." was Alan's reply. "So, just sing, and be a guitar player. I'm a horn player, you're a guitar player. It's who you are. Just be a guitar player." Years later, Alan would see Bob again, in the liner photos for Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Live At Carnegie Hall" CD. Bob's words had stuck with him and still do.
Alan considered giving up after the death of his maternal grandfather, but was forced to play guitar and sing at a party in a barn near his hometown shortly after. While this only solidified his decision to give up music forever, his brother Neil talked him out of it, while Alan was literally packing all of his gear into a closet the same evening. Later asked to join the band from that evening (Zippo & the Lighters) as keyboardist/rhythm guitarist, Alan realized that to truly express himself, he would again need to form his own band, to be able to do things his way, and perform songs that he had written himself. And so, our hero began to formulate a plan...
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