Open Road Conspiracy
At some point in my musical development, probably in 7th or 8th grade, I'd say sometime in 1967, I started jamming with this other guitar player who lived down the street from me, Brad Waldo. Brad was a year older than me. Originally all I had was a cheap steel-string acoustic but in 1968 or so I bought a Burns Bison guitar and a Kustom 100 amp. Brad had a Fender Bronco guitar and a Sears Silvertone amp. We would play in Brad’s bedroom. I remember doing “Wild Thing” by the Troggs. “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals, and so on. Over time, other guys began to be added. Charlie Fielder on bass – I think I met Charlie at church. Chuck Johnson on drums – I can’t remember how Chuck got involved. I think Brad knew Dave somehow. Dave was the clincher. He was a good-looking, charismatic, blond, longhaired singer (he also played some acoustic guitar), and he was the guy, I think, who said, “We should be a band!” Dave had the look, the weed, and the girls – he was perfect! It was Dave who came up with the name, “Open Road Conspiracy.”
We rehearsed in Charlie Fielder’s basement. Charlie’s parents were actual, real musicians, with careers and everything. His mom was a classical pianist and his father, Arthur, was a cellist of some renown. He was the first chair cellist with the Kansas City Symphony. Charlie’s parents performed as a chamber duo for events like the Plaza Art Fair and at the Nelson Art Gallery.
Charlie’s dad was intimidating, with a mane of hair and a stern countenance that made him look like Beethoven’s death mask, of which there was a plaster cast sitting on the piano in the basement where we rehearsed.
So there we were, putting our band together under the image of the dead Beethoven himself. Arthur, I think, was kind of interested, perhaps amused, by what we were doing. I never felt disapproval from him. I have a vague memory of him telling me I had some talent.
So there are feelings of affirmation when I think of him but I can’t remember anything else, specifically. Charlie’s experience is probably completely different. Arthur probably let us make our racket in his house because he didn’t trust us (he was right) and wanted to keep an eye on us.
Anyway, Dave was friends with a Baptist pastor’s daughter, Lady. Yep, her actual name was Lady. So we had access to the church facilities and we took the liberty to throw our own little private parties there. I remember doing at least one show on the main platform in the sanctuary (I can’t believe we got away with that). I don’t know how many gigs that unit played, but two stand out in my memory.
The first one stands out because it was the first gig where we actually got paid. It was a 3-hour sock-hop, a dance, in the afternoon in the gym of a local junior high school in the Spring of 1971. We ditched school to play it, made $15.00 apiece and I was like, “You mean I can have this much fun, be popular, get the girls, AND get paid? THIS is what I want to do!” I was 15 years old, Dave was 16, maybe 17 – he was the one with the transportation (we miraculously fit most of the gear in his Carmen Ghia). It was at that point I realized that not only did I love to play music (I already knew that), but that playing music was my ticket out of pencil-necked geekdom. I went from pencil-neck geek to cool in an instant - all because I played guitar in a band! I realized that the world is full of pencil-neck geek musicians mated with super models.
The other gig that stands out was a Battle of the Bands at a school on the Kansas side. I need to set this story up. Our bass player, Charlie, lived in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. It was a little more upscale (I guess Arthur and Mrs. Fielder did alright) than the neighborhoods the rest of us came from in Kansas City, Missouri. Our PA system consisted of a power amp with a couple of input jacks and two speakers that were still in the cardboard boxes they were shipped in. We had no PA cabinets and no mixer. Every gig we would wire up the speakers to the amp by hand and prop them up in their cardboard boxes. Many times we would take a break so we could solder a loose connection. The amp had a circuit breaker that would pop out when the amp got too hot, which was always in the middle of a song. We had a guy whose job it was to sit by the amp and when the circuit breaker blew he would punch it back in. This would allow us to finish the song and then we would take a break and let the amp cool down. I can’t believe we didn’t blow that amp up.
Anyway, we walked into this gymnasium, wheeling in our gear and our sorry-assed excuse of a PA, to be confronted by 3 or 4 other bands, rich kids by my estimation, with the latest gear. I saw Gibson Les Paul guitars, Fender Twin amps, and Kustom PA columns as tall as I was. Imagine black, roll-pleated PA columns 5 or 6 feet tall, all new and shiny, next to our little speakers-in-cardboard-boxes. I wanted to just turn around and walk back out. I don’t know if it was Dave who insisted that we go ahead, I think it was. Brad was like, “We’re here, we might as well play.” I was intimidated and had no hope. If my memory serves me, I think we did “Goin’ Up the Country” by Canned Heat, “Blue Suede Shoes” (the John Lennon version from the “Live Peace in Toronto” album), and “Purple Haze” – and we WON! One of the other guitar players came up to me and asked me if I gave lessons. That whole episode taught me a valuable lesson – it’s about the musician and the music, not the gear. NEVER be intimidated by lack of gear, sub-par gear, or raggedy old gear. The musician is the most important element to the thing. The music is in the hands and the heart, not the gear. Since then I've learned it's about drink sales, not the music. Having a cute lead singer also helps.
The stories are endless. Dave and I became very good friends. Drug use was inculcated into the scene at the time and a lot of our activities involved or revolved around it. For obvious reasons my nickname was "Reefer" (Jay = "J" = "joint" = "reefer" - bet my parents never saw that coming when they named me "Jay"!). I have many memories - surreal memories - of Dave and myself spending days and nights in various altered states of consciousness. Good memories; I was naive, the dark side of drug use had yet to manifest. As far as I know, Brad and Charlie were straight. I don't remember about Chuck. Dave and I had another band, an acoustic trio, with a guy named Greg. We all sang and played acoustic guitars. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, John Sebastian, Arlo Guthrie and the like were the order of the day. That group was called, “Timberline” and, yes, Dave came up with that name too. It's a frustrating thing that I haven't been able to come up with any pictures of Dave.
After a year or two, Dave volunteered and joined the Navy for a 3-year stint to avoid the draft and the possibility of having to fight in the jungles of Vietnam. Since I was younger than him, I didn’t have to face that prospect until later. Open Road Conspiracy replaced Dave with a friend of his, who shall remain nameless. Turned out that this friend and I didn’t see eye to eye on the musical philosophy of the band. I didn’t agree with how this person thought I should play my solos. This person had also taken the place of Dave as my main source for weed. I thought Dave's friend was my friend, but one day he tried to sell me a nickel bag that was nothing but seeds and stems. At that point I realized he was trying to take the good stuff and give me the leftovers, and expecting me to pay him for it. I realized he wasn’t my friend and so we parted ways. After that, I started singing and Open Road Conspiracy became a 4-piece with myself, Brad, and Charlie sharing the vocal duties.
Jay and Brad Waldo in 1971
The 4-piece version - 1972
Jay EuDaly Chuck Johnson Brad Waldo Charles Fielder
As time progressed and we became more experienced we began to play bigger gigs - like opening for regional and national bands, playing concerts and events at larger venues with multiple bands on the bill, touring county fairs, and so on. Some of these involved road trips where we would take off with a couple of cars and a trailer. Copious amounts of speed were consumed to stay awake and then weed on top of that to mellow out; a day or three (or four) without a shower or bath (filthy hippies!). We would sleep in the car or on the floor at somebody's house, partaking of the "local color". If we made any money it was negligible - probably enough for gas and food and that was about it. I don’t remember if we actually ever broke up. I played in other bands, much of the time more than one at a time, (I've always been a gig-whore!) and I played gigs where we used the name but the players were all different, I was the only original member. So, with all the variables, and the fog (both literal and mental) of all the pot and various drugs that were commonplace in those circles my memory cannot come to certainty concerning the details. I have a lot of visual memories, of playing here and there with different groups but the names of the bands, the gigs, and the people are all kind of scrambled up – like my brain at the time.
Dave eventually came back from the Navy but things were never the same. In 1973 (while he was still in the Navy) I had experienced a religious conversion as the result of an LSD trip gone wrong and was no longer doing drugs of any kind, and when Dave returned from the Navy we were both different people - me more than him, I suppose. We spent a little bit of time together but without the pharmaceutical communion it just wasn’t the same. He married and moved away. I haven’t heard from him since. But I think with fondness about him from time to time and wonder what became of him.
Recently there has been some stuff floating around on Face Book about Volker Fountain and some of the bands that played there in the late sixties and early seventies. Some of those guys, like me, are still around and still gigging. Seeing some old photographs brought back a lot of memories and feelings of nostalgia. That's why I'm writing this down: trying to solidify my memories and indulging my nostalgia. Reading about one of the bands, Stonewall, triggered a memory of a gig, probably sometime in 1972, at a place called La Salle Hall. The name of the band I played with that night was Stone Streak. They were a power trio and added me just for this one gig; I don't remember why. It was one of those multiple-band gigs. We were on a bill that included Stonewall, Bonzo LaRoque, Nation, and Shock. The guitarist in Shock was a guy named Larry Baeder. Larry went to Southwest High School in Kansas City, as I did (for a time) as well as Brad Waldo and Chuck Johnson (of Open Road Conspiracy), Bill King (bass), Brian Scott (drums) Steve Barrett (drums), his sister Jackie (who played bass and was in Open Road Conspiracy for a time), Paul Messler (drums), Jack Dougherty (guitar), and many others that I played with during this era. Larry wore a wizard's hat and gown and his lead singer wore a top hat and tails and had a rather large lizard crawling around on his shoulders as he performed. The whole scene was so surreal I've since wondered if maybe that lizard, at least, was a drug-fueled hallucination.
Jay and drummer Brian Scott - 1971
I called the bass player who was on that gig (Bill King) to get his memories of it. He remembered a lot more details than I could, including the names of all the other bands. Bill told me he thought he had a poster from that gig. Turns out he’d gotten rid of it or lost it but he had another poster from an Open Road Conspiracy gig in 1979. I remember that one - Open Road Conspriacy at Manor Hall. It was the last gig anyone played under that name – as far as I know. The band was myself, a girl singer name Jamelle Qualls, Bill King on bass, Joe Nickell on keyboards and sax, and Chris Symmonds on drums. It was a one-shot deal. According to the poster, we were the headliner - which seems kind of strange seeing as how that unit was put together for that one gig only. We rehearsed the night before (I still have a recording of the rehearsal) and then played the gig and that was it. My memory was that we were opening for the Fabulous Thunderbirds but there's nothing on the poster that indicates that. I'm obviously confused. I probably opened for the Fabulous Thunderbirds somewhere else, sometime else, with a completely different band. But, I digress:
Bassist Bill King - 1975
Recently the Southwest High School Class of '73 held their 40-year reunion (I graduated in '74). I play a Saturday afternoon jam session every week at BB’s Lawnside BBQ. Steve Barrett, who is a drummer from the Southwest class of '73 and who is a guy that I played with back in the days I’m talking about here, has been coming in and sitting in with us occasionally. I also got Steve involved with Jose Hendrix and we have done some gigging with Jose. It has been a wonderful thing, recently reconnecting with a really great player from all those years ago. Steve has been around the block a few times, including a stint with Bobby Whitlock. Anyway, Steve told me about the reunion, and that Larry Baeder was going to be in town for it, and Steve promised to bring him by BB’s. I contacted Bill King and a couple of other guys that I knew might be interested.
Well, not only did Bill show up, but he brought me the Open Road Conspiracy poster from that last gig in '79! Steve and Larry Baeder showed up, as did Brad Waldo, the original rhythm guitarist and a founding member of Open Road Conspiracy. I hadn’t seen Brad since he popped into a gig I was playing in late '79 with a band called Cloud. Brad is in the radio business and lives in Dayton these days. He informed me he hasn’t touched a guitar in decades. Bill signed up to jam but had to leave before we called him up. Larry Baeder sat in and played great. He’s living and working as a musician in Key West. He confirmed that my memory was correct and not just a drug-fueled hallucination – his lead singer indeed performed with a lizard.
Jay and Bill King - 2013
Jay and Steve Barrett - September 8, 2012
Larry Baeder - 2013
Brad Waldo - 2013
Brian Scott, Charles Fielder, and Jay EuDaly - 2009
Then, a year later in 2014, the Southwest class of '74 had their reunion and a jam was arranged once again at BB's on Sunday, the day after the reunion. I was in that class although I moved and actually graduated from a different school. But I spent some formative years learning how to play and how to be in a band with some people from that school (see above). So I was delighted to be in the host band for the event. I saw and played with guys I have not played with in decades. Old friends who took different roads than the one I took. But many of them still play professionally or semi-professionally. It was a fun and nostalgic gig for me. I caught whiffs of patchoulie and weed here and there. Sweet! It was like tiny little time pills were going off in my brain.
Below is Bill King and Jack Dougherty. Bill was the bass player and Jack was the guitar player/vocalist in the Stone-Streak-at-La-Salle-Hall story referenced above. Also Jack back in the day (1971).
Brian Scott and Steve Barrett. Brian was the drummer in Stone Streak - he might have played with Open Road Conspiracy for a time, I can't remember for sure. But Brian and I played together in many situations throughout the '70's. Our friendship transcends our shared musical experiences and has remained vital ever since. Our families are close and I consider him one of my best friends.
Here's a couple of Brian back in the day
A picture taken through the control room glass - Brian and I in a recording session - probably 1979
Playing with Steve Barrett and his sister Jackie. Jackie Barret is a wonderful bass player and was in Open Road Conspiracy circa 1972.
Here is the rhythm section of the last Open Road Conspiracy gig in 1979 reunited in 2014;
Myself, Chris Symmonds & Bill King.
And here we are in 1979.
Post Script: In September of 2009 I received this email from England:
Way back in 1981-2-3 period in Southern England, I played bass in a hardrock band that inherited the name of an earlier incarnation, a country-rock semi-pro outfit we played around workingmen's clubs in North London. We called it Open Road Conspiracy - a name I know for sure I invented for myself!!
The weird thing is, the hard rock version, we had an English guitarist playing a red SG called John, I think Riggins was his last name. And he looks exactly like the bloke in this picture....
Small world, or weird coincidence...?
Coincidence. I have never been in England. That picture was taken in the early seventies, 10 years before your band of the same name. The Open Road Conspiracy I was in was named by the lead singer in the Band, Dave Dayringer. We played mostly in the Mid-West of the US. Maybe you and I live in parrallel universes and you worked with the parrallel me!