Bands remember when musicians took care of each otherWritten by Katherine Timpf | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sam Tarsha said he first learned about music from Johnny Gibson of the Johnny Gibson Trio.
“I was playing in the all-black group in high school,” Tarsha said, who lives in Toledo. “That’s how I learned my soul.”
Tarsha stayed with this band, the Tempos, from 1950 to 1952. Then, another Toledo band, the Storms, asked Tarsha to join. Although he was still in high school, he accepted their invitation.
“I was 16 and I was playing seven nights a week with those guys,” Tarsha said. “I was playing until 2:30 in the morning and getting up at 6:30 and going to school the next day.”
Tarsha said the Storms went on to win Toledo’s first Battle of the Bands Contest.
Fellow Storms band member Johnny Rank said he was proud to be a part of the band.
“I was fortunate enough to do it enough to make a living that pays the bills,” said Rank, also a former member of Toledo’s Johnny and the Thunderbirds. “We were just the first rock ‘n’ roll band around.”
Tarsha stayed with the Storms for more than one year, then he got a call from the Raging Storms after their old drummer got caught robbing a gas station.
Tarsha jumped at the chance.
“I was 17; I didn’t own a car,” Tarsha said. “I packed 10 pieces of drums and my dad dropped me off at the Greyhound bus station and away I went to Desell, Ill,. in 1960.”
Tarsha said a brutal snowstorm made his first show difficult.
“It took me 10 hours to get there,” Tarsha said. “I arrived there [with] only part of my drums. I played the first night without any sleep [and] only a partial drum set.”
The shows certainly got better from there. Tarsha remembers one show, Buffalo Bandstand in N.Y., when the audience got particularly wild.
“There was like 5,000 screaming kids in front of us,” Tarsha said, his eyes lighting up with excitement behind his thick, black-rimmed glasses. “I got tackled by four to five teenage girls. They started ripping my clothes off—all they wanted probably was a piece of my clothes or something. [The bass player] hollered at them so [they stopped.]”
Even though Tarsha thinks this is why he got pneumonia the second time, he said he never told the doctor because he didn’t want his family to find out.
Tarsha said the shows frequently got crazy.
“[Band member] Frankie Little would walk out into audience taking shots and would go into the women’s john playing his horn,” Tarsha said.
Tarsha played with the band for three years, getting the chance to play with a lot of big-name acts, such as Chubby Checker, whom he remembers as “arrogant and rude,” and Jerry Lee Lewis. Tarsha said Lewis once punched out his own drummer for bringing some underage girl on tour with them, and then asked Tarsha to be his drummer.
“I told him, ‘No, I punch back,’ Tarsha said.
Tarsha said he believed Toledo’s music scene began to decline after the increasing popularity of karaoke and disc jockeys. However, he still tried to organize young musicians a few years ago.
“They’re really not interested,” Tarsha said. “I think what they’re interested in is their own music and own bands. In my days, the musicians took care of each other. We were concerned. If this guy got hurt, we’d go play a benefit for them. We would go to their houses and offer what we could.”
Tarsha also said a lot of Toledo’s modern bands don’t practice as much as they should.
“I’m not criticizing their music, I encourage them to play their own style, but I know some of my music teachers, they would holler [if they heard it] …” Tarsha said. “I encourage them to play their style for the simple reason that I want the musical scene to continue. I don’t want DJs and people who think they’re artists to swallow up what we started years ago.”
As for Tarsha, he “keeps practicing, even though the phone don’t ring too much anymore.”
“I practice every day. I have a drum set in my basement. In a few hours, I’ll be there, as soon as I go to Dave’s Drum Depot and replace drumsticks I crushed last week.”