The DOVES

 

"By and By"

                       

 (Click HERE for video)

 In my youth, I became preoccupied with the desire to hop aboard the “Rock and Roll Rollercoaster”, and ride it to some distant, dark, and veiled land of undefined fulfillment and contentment.  A notion, that, it seems, is “common as a sparrow”.

 

I took all the obligatory preliminary steps in pursuit of that desire and dream:  learned to play the guitar (serviceably — taking care not to kill passion with technical proficiency, though in reality, there was little danger of that); took up drinking, smoking (both filtered and “non”), and the pursuit of physical pleasure; maintained a long, tenuous relationship with higher education that ultimately ended in divorce; and embarked on a lifestyle defined by a series of low-skilled jobs — everything from ditch-digger to waiter to retail to security guard, and all things in between — punctuated by periods of unemployed idleness, which afforded the opportunity to read widely, listen intensely to the music of the day, carouse the nightlife of Macon and Atlanta, and document the imprint of these experiences through a growing list of original songs. 

 

By 1989, I was certain that God, fate, or both — the two were a little jumbled in my mind, at that time — would smile upon my endeavor.  I had assembled a band, which was centered around my artistic relationship with a female bassist of unsurpassed intuition, and stalwart Scottish temperament.  Her name:  Trena McRae.  We had been working together for 4 or 5 years.  Not only was she a beauty, but she truly liked and admired the music I was writing (most of it…), and had an intuitive feel for it, utilizing her superb talent as a vocalist in interpreting the bass lines she invented.  So smitten was I with her looks, her intelligence, her knowledge, her talent (she could command a room with her performances of Childe Ballads), and a sort of feminine, working class toughness that was novel and intoxicating to me, that I later made her my wife (or did she make me her husband?) and she has remained so for 25 years.

         

We partnered with a drummer that I had seen playing in a jam band around town, who I enlisted in making a song for a local video show.  It was recorded under the auspices of the legendary Paul Hornsby, at his Muscadine Studios.  A hundred dollars did the trick, if I recall; the song was “In My Town (Blood Southern Streets)”, and I may put the video up on YouTube one of these days, if I can ever get it formatted correctly (a task since accomplished, with the aid of the original videographer, Mark Storey.  See blog entry, below).

 

We literally woodsheded at the home of a friend of Trena’s, in the far eastern reaches of Bibb County, almost to the old Camp Wheeler, out Riggins Mill Rd.  I remember driving out there the first time with David Goldberg, a down-home Dartmouth-educated sophisticate and newspaper writer, and he casually observing “it gets bright ‘red’ (as in “necks”) out here…”.   The outbuilding we practiced in was just big enough for David’s drums, the two amps, and us — plus the items (lawnmower, tools, etc.) stored within by Bucky, the proprietor.  He put up with our noisy nascent alt-meanderings, though occasionally he would appear at the entrance to inform us that “if y’all don’t play some Reggae, I’m going to have to shut you down.” 

 

We were all satisfied with the recording and video, and Trena and I taught David several of the tunes we were working on.  We became friends, ultimately playing in the handful of venues available for original music in those days — Zed’s Subs, parties, The Museum of Arts and Sciences’ “Last Friday” series, and the wild and wooly venues accommodated by Chompfish, who were at the fore of the nascent Macon alt scene.  They had a loft that was, incredibly, directly across the street from City Hall and the Police Dept.  Later, they moved to a much bigger space on lower Cherry Street, across from the old Terminal Station (the Ball of Confusion lounge).

 

The lineup was completed with the addition of my old high school and college chum, William Barton.  We forged a pact over a bottle of Goldschläger during the ice storm of ’87.  Bill managed to procure it just before the liquor store closed, then hike to mine and Trena’s abode to be snowed in as the roads closed, darkness fell, and the power went out.  The wet snow soon turned to an inch-thick coating of ice on the roads; that, and a big cardboard box, folded flat, allowed for a night of sledding down the steep hill on Kirkwood Drive, a short walk away.  Afterward, between sips of the gold-flecked liquor, I suggested to Bill that he take over bass duties for Trena, who was looking to concentrate on vocals.  But Bill was a far superior guitarist to me —being a couple of years older, he was a mentor to both me, as well as to our old pal Mike Connell, who was enjoying success with his band, The Connells — though he had let his guitar skills become dormant, in order to focus on other idle pursuits.  While the idea of his playing bass fell through, in short order, he instead purchased a cerulean blue vintage Gibson SG, along with a souped up, retro-fitted Twin Reverb Amp.  And proceeded to recapture the same ferocity with the six strings that he had once exhibited on the tennis court, when he was one of Middle Georgia’s most promising prospects, before the allures of alcohol and women and a passion for film and intellectual pursuits siphoned off that ferocity.

   

Trena and I resided in a very modest 2-bedroom home in East Macon (memorably designated “the little palace of love” by David, one cold evening as we gazed up the hill at it from street level, windows blazing with a warm and happy and welcoming light), a stone’s throw from Northeast High School.  It was not a very settled time.  But the house on Foster Place had a detached 2-car garage, which made for a perfect rehearsal space (though the neighbors might not have agreed), man cave, studio, and “dog house” (how Trena put up with my fecklessness and antics, I’ll never know — but thank God for).  In it, the now four of us met to rehearse regularly; and David began to keep his drums set up there, when he wasn’t playing elsewhere (e.g., with Russ Fitzgerald’s The Deadbeats.  Drummers are always in demand).  I recorded most of what we played together on a standard two-track cassette tape deck — miles of material, much of which is still in my possession.  Occasionally I would cull what I considered the best moments, and make primitive overdubs, using a second tape deck; or slightly more sophisticated ones, with a four-track cassette recorder borrowed from Russ.

    

The results are recordings that are exercises in blissful lo-fi distortion and chaos and — in every sense — overload.  And which I cherish to this day; but have been very careful about sharing, due to their gloriously over-recorded quality (red is good, right?).  But I am reconsidering, owing to Russ’s persuasive instigations that I should.

 

By the autumn of ’89, I had the sense that the time was right for the band — which never had a proper name, taking on a succession of names that were never quite right (The Alkleins, for the video project — “alkaline”, not “acid” rock; The Scanners — “we’ll make your head explode”; Wadown in Trenadad.  A brilliant marketing strategy of precluding any chance of name recognition.  I finally settled on The Whales, and would have liked to continue under that moniker — if we had continued…) — to make some sort of move.  I had three incredibly smart, creative, talented people who had put their own stamp on music I had written, but we needed a direction.  

 

I decided we needed a properly recorded demo of our music.  My primitive, overloaded overdubs had energy, but no definition, tonal quality, or bottom end.  It was doubtful that anyone would listen to them.  We needed a proper multi-track recording of our work. 

   

Rather than return to Muscadine, I called upon Mark Storey, an excellent musician who I had known for a number of years, and who had an emerging studio with pro quality gear — 8 (or 16?) tracks, mixing board, and the rest.  He rented a house nearby, that benefitted from a crawl space that was at least 8 feet high in the back.  He enclosed it with cinder blocks, and made other alterations in order to make it the quintessential underground practice and studio place for his band and communications company.  I proposed to Mark that we record a batch of four songs at his studio — the beta tests for what I envisioned as a series of 12, 15 or more.

 

So it was that in the fall of 1989, as the Soviet Union teetered on the verge of collapse, and the Berlin Wall fell, that The Whales recorded “By and By”, “Grasstains”, “The Streets of Love”, and “Devil Child” underground, and under cover of darkness, and under the auspices of Mark’s Heavy Metal sensibilities.

 

Alas, those sessions proved to be the “Let It Be” of the band.  There would be no redeeming Abbey Road.  I was unsure of the results; the recordings seemed, to me, to lack the energy and immediacy of my cassette recordings.  Rather than shopping them around, in the hope of their providential — or just lucky (I put a lot of trust in luck and fate in those days, being a youthful idiot) — discovery (hey, it worked for REM, didn’t it?), I sat on my hands until all momentum was lost, and the band succumbed to the pressures of “real life” — jobs, family — and became dissolute.

 

With the band gone, I embarked on an effort to “grow up” and join the real world.  I don’t mind saying, that effort was not without accompanying trauma.  But Trena and I survived — we realize now, by the grace of God — and became man and wife.  I eventually — and, again, by the Savior’s guiding hand — wound up in that catchall basin for lost toys, the field of human services, where I enjoyed a career supporting the developmentally disabled, specializing in generating customized employment for them (I certainly knew something about searching for employment — I had done more than my share of it).  

 

Two things have never wavered over the years, however: an intense search for spiritual truth; and a love for writing and playing my own — and Trena’s — original compositions, which led, a few years ago, to our formation as a duo:  The DOVES.  We have performed intermittently as that entity, and recorded a catalogue of new compositions, as well as several from those heady 80s days, and others in between; and have received attention and airplay in England, France, Germany, and elsewhere in Europe; as well as from NYC to LA and all points in between, here at home.  Our entire collection of material is available online, through YouTube, itunes, Spotify, et. al. — and here on our Website. 

 

Which brings us to our latest track, from the early days, the anthemic “By and By”.  I have attempted to remain faithful to the spirit and form of the original, paying homage to Trena’s melodic bass, and Bill’s heroic lead signatures.  Unfortunately, my new BFF, “Kyle Machineman”, cannot quite match the expressiveness of David’s drumming, though he does provide a good and steady beat at 120 bpm.

 

I intend to make the original version available as both a vid, and bonus track on the upcoming compilation.

 

My hope is that the listener will find enjoyment in both versions.

 

WWS

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“By and By” (2017)

 

W. Wade Stooksberry II — guitars, bass, and vocals 

Trena Stooksberry — vocals

Kyle Machineman — drums

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“By and By” (1989)

 

W. Wade Stooksberry II — guitars and vocals

Trena Stooksberry — bass and vocals

Bill Barton — lead guitar

David Goldberg — drums