In pursuit of the dream of becoming a rock musician with fame and fortune surely just around the corner, many a young boy has converted the family garage into an improvised recording studio. Most childhood bands become fond memories, but some Lake Highlands fathers have dusted off their instruments to form bands and are once again “jamming” and loving every minute of it.
These “dad bands” – now numbering at least five – have popped up throughout Lake Highlands.
“I had a lot of fun playing in high school and college,” says Rick Reynolds, saxophone player for the Merriman Park Pops.
“I had my horn, and it was just sitting in the closet getting dusty. We have a lot of good hands and a lot of guys who like to get in the spotlight – Jeff (Jones) and I fight over who gets to play Elvis.”
Along with Elvis tunes, the Pops play a lot of Motown, bringing down the house with songs such as “Rock Around the Clock” and “Mustang Sally.”
Most of the bands, such as the Juke Box Kings from Highlander School, have extended their gigs beyond school functions and play up to 20 times a year.
“We play at weddings, private parties, corporate parties – we do a lot of 40- and 50-year-old birthday parties,” says Greg Smith, a dentist in his day job and guitar player for the Juke Box Kings.
Smith also plays most Sundays in the contemporary service musical group at Lake Highlands United Methodist Church.
“We are really broad in our spectrum and play everything from the ’50s to the present – mostly danceable stuff. It is a creative outlet and so different from what we do daily.”
Besides the Juke Box Kings, Highlander School boasts a second band – the MalFUNKtions – that specializes in songs from the ’60s and ’70s such as the Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Hooked on a Feeling” by B.J. Thomas.
“We are having a real blast,” says Dwight Fletcher, lead vocalist for the MalFUNKtions, adding that the name came from a suggestion by his son, Joel.
“We are not taking ourselves very seriously. We have fun, play as well as we can and get along with each other.”
The Cat Daddies – so named because the bands’ kids came from Lake Highlands elementary, junior high and high schools – play songs from the ’60s to the ’90s, and have even cut a CD.
“It started out as a way to give our kids a good time,” says Roger Esparza, drummer for the Cat Daddies.
“In October ’98, I was the Dad’s Club president at Lake Highlands Elementary, and I sent out a letter asking for dads who played an instrument to put together a band for the talent shows. After that, we never put down the instruments.
“We have met so many neat people, and our kids have a blast,” he says. “It is amazing how many kids like songs from the ’60s and ’70s.”
One of the bands – the PiT PoPs from the Lake Highlands High School Area Band Club – didn’t actually start out as a band and only recently played its first school gig at the Lake Highlands Evening of Jazz.
“We got our names because we load the pit at the football game for the band,” says Bruce Dunai, a harmonica player for the PiT PoPs, referring to the dads who load and set up the pit area band equipment.
“There is a lot of not only the musical part but a lot of fun fellowship as well. We talk about what is going on with our kids and the band,” Dunai says. “We enjoy jamming as much as anything else.”
While everyone in the band has a musical background, Dunai says the PiT PoPs also claim music professionals such as Roger Holmes, a professional tenor saxophone player, or Jon Wolfert, a radio jingle writer and producer.
“These guys are some great musicians. We have a pretty eclectic group with quite a band background,” Dunai says.
And what do the spouses of these musicians think of the sometimes weekly (and noisy) practices?
“It’s fun to see the excitement these guys have to be able to have the opportunity to play music with other guys,” Carol Dunai says.
“He is a perpetual kid,” laughs Crysta Jones when asked about her husband’s involvement with the Merriman Park Pops.
Inevitably, there is now talk of a battle of the bands – perhaps a Woodstock in Lake Highlands.
“We would like to do a benefit or something like that,” says Dunai, who came up with the idea. “We would like to get four or five bands together.”
While the idea needs someone with the time and expertise to organize a musical contest, the musicians seem willing.
“We are willing to step in,” Fletcher says. “We’re ready. Bring it on.”