Once upon a time, my friends and I had a band called "The Goods". We named it after Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode, because:
1) We loved all music from the 50's and 60's
2) It was the only song we could play that sounded remotely like the song we were trying to play.
We spent uncountable hours playing in my friend Daryl's parents basement in Saline, MI - long before it became a connected neighborhood of Ann Arbor. It was a great time. We'd practice our songs, drink Vernors and talk about music non-stop. We schemed and dreamed and hoped we'd be good enough to get out of the basement.
One day, we decided to practice in the backyard (that's kind of getting out of the basement, isn't it?) and one of Daryl's neighbors heard us. She said they were going to have a birthday party for her grandfather who was turning 80 years old and asked if we could play.
We looked at each other, did a quick count of how many songs we had learned and realized, maybe this was it. Maybe this was our "break". Maybe Grandad was actually president of Epic Records or something, so we said, "Yes!".
By this time we had maybe 20 songs, so we spent the following weeks figuring out how to stretch a 2 minute song like Buddy Holly's Peggy Sue into a 5-10 minute grand production. There was a lot synchronized jumping as I remember.
The day arrived and we were ready. We setup in the backyard next to the potato salad and fried chicken table and started into our "set". People were in a good mood and fortunately they were on their second keg of the day, so it was a nice, mellow crowd. Some little kids were even dancing in front of us. We figured it was a good sign that a sober person was dancing, even if they were only 5.
To finish the first set, we closed with our best song thinking:
1) Finish strong and leave 'em wanting more AND
2) Maybe, just maybe, with some additional keg time they'd forget all of the second set (which was going to be filled with painful 10-20 minute versions of 2-minute songs).
Suddenly, to our amazement after the classic "Johnny B. Goode" opening guitar riff, everbody got up and started dancing. We looked at each other and were thinking, Wow! All that work perfecting "Johhny B. Goode" has really payed off. This truly is the power of rock n roll!
Out of nowhere, a couple of girls appeared, dragging, the 80 year-old guest of honor into the dancing mob. The scrum cleared and formed one of those dance circles where people try to out-do each with slick moves in the center - kind of like that movie "Dirty Dancing", except this was the G-rated version of that.
The birthday boy was having a great time and all the daughters and grandaughters were taking turns at the center dancing with him. Everybody joined in the chorus, "Go. Go Johnny Go Go Go".
It was then, when someone yelled out "You go Johnny!", and grandpa started duck-walking, that we realized the 80-year old family patriarch's name was, in fact, yes, Johnny. We closed the set to thunderous applause.
After a "short break", during which we made sure no ones beer glass ran dry, we started into our second set.
We thought we'd kick it off with our version of "Twist and Shout". Whose legs don't start moving when they hear that one? This would certainly pick up where we left off and get the party rolling again.
The response? Crickets. Nothing. Not even the 5 year-olds moved from their seats. We were starting to sweat.
Then, as if from the wilderness, a lone voice from the back shouted: "Johnny B. Goode!". After a quick, on-stage conference, we decided that our plan to liquor-up the crowd had gone horribly wrong. Instead of a happy, yet memory-impaired group of party goers, we had created a monster.
We started into "Johnny" and as if a light switch had been turned on, the crowd left their seats and started dancing again. We repeated that song 3 times to complete the set. And good, old Johhny never stopped dancing. I think our drummer's arms fell off at some point toward the end.
So by now, you are asking yourself: What does this have to do with The Waifers?
Well, all I can say is the inspiration for The Waifers comes from many places; a ride on a train, a backyard picnic, you never know. One thing's for sure. I'll always be grateful to Chuck Berry for writing "Johnny B. Goode".