“Hi. We’re In Debt. Hope you’re not!”
The Q101 hot young afternoon drive-time DJ was Dennis Hughes. Dennis and I got to know each other. He told me he was the drummer in a local rock-and-roll band, In Debt. He invited me to come over and jam with them.
I took my Washburn KC-40 and Peavy Bandit 112 over to a house. I think Dennis was renting it at the time, then Ray (singer) & Dione (wife) did. Set up in the basement, and tried to jam some covers. The band was ok. The founding guitarist, Scott, was a DJ over at Q101’s sister station, a country format. As a guitarist, Scott was a little loose; he wanted to be Bruce Springsteen. I was more rock-metal, tighter. I think Dennis wanted to go a bit more that direction. Enter Sandman was about the hardest we did, with much of the covers being good 70s/80s rock stuff. Scott got pushed out and I became the guitarist.
The original bass player, I forget his name, but he was one of those noodley types. Stu Hamm, 70’s funk walking, he was good. He left because he didn’t like the direction (man). Another dude joined, he was alright. Biggest thing I remember is he borrowed my Randy Rhodes guitar books and I never got them back (the band dissolved shortly after).
At one point we had a keyboard player, Karen, and she could do a good Wilson sister on Alone. She was divorced, 2 small kids – I remember the youngest, cute little button, had a crush on Dennis. It was adorable.
Ray. Singer. I loved Ray, his wife Dione (and her girls Jackie & Jamie), his brother Mike. Good people. Salt of the earth. That blizzard? I managed to escape my apartment and get to the house, now that Ray & Dione were renting it, along with their girls. Dione made a HUGE pot of soup, which she just kept out on the back porch – it was below freezing, so why not! We’d open the back door, ladle soup into our bowl, close the back door, microwave, eat, stay warm! Because we were trapped, we binged. They had the complete North & South on VHS (the first 2 seasons, this was just before 3rd season came out). I had never seen it, so I watched the entire thing. Blizzard. What else you gonna do? Jackie and I dated for a bit. After I first moved to Texas, when I originally moved to Bryan, one day I came back home to a note on my door. It was from Ray. He was driving a truck (Dione was with) passing through town. He stopped by to try to see me. To this day it pains me that I missed him, but that he thought of me is a precious memory. I love you and miss you Ray, Dione, Mike.
Dennis. He’s all about that rock and roll life. He dressed like what a 90’s cute hip boy would do. He was a bad boy drummer. And yes, our egos clashed. Don’t get me wrong – I had guitarist disease too, and Dennis is a good dude. We both just had egos. In some ways it was good, in others not so good. But aren’t those the sorts of tense relationships that make a band? 😂 Dennis was a good drummer. He had big dreams. He put a lot of work into the band. I’m grateful he invited me over, and I’m thankful for all the time we shared together. I’m glad we were able to reconnect. Love you, Dennis.
One thing that helped was being a JMU student, I had access to computer labs. Ray drew a picture of a coin, embossed with a dude showing his empty pockets and a “I’m broke!” look on his face… it was funny, cute, cool. I used the computer lab to scan it in and do some work in Photoshop with it. I touched up a band photoshoot pic and assembled the final promo version of it (e.g. added captions, band name, our names, contact info, etc.)
We played a lot of local shows. There was a battle of the bands at JMU. We played. We came in 3rd place, because we were a good band, but we weren’t a college “prog rock” band. It was rigged, but whatever – we don’t need the approval of no critics because we’re about THE ROCK! 🤘 My parents came out to a couple gigs; that was fun (and where these pictures came from). Dad helped support things, buying us equipment. I remember one show opening for another local band. They did a good Nugent Dog Eat Dog, guitarist did Cliffs of Dover since that was hot at the time. And Karen brought a MILF friend over who tried to fuck me. I went back to her place, but when her son came home and I saw he was about my age, I noped out of there.
A local dude did live sound, and was willing to haul his gear over to our place to record us. I remember when we unloaded his trailer there was a box of Killians Red that we also brought in and consumed freely. He set up his board upstairs, ran the cables down the stairwell, mic’d up, and away we went. Best thing I remember was when we recorded Heart’s Alone I ripped off the best solo of my life at that point. The notes just flowed out of my fingers like never before, keeping the heart of the original solo, remembering the song structure and melody, but also throwing in a bit of my own flair. It was… peak. At that time I had never experienced something so effortless in expression flowing from me. It was great.
Miss Mystery was this sort of haunting power ballad. It was a favorite of our originals. A song from the Scott days was the title song: In Debt. Yup. The band In Debt with a song called In Debt (might as well pull a Bad Company and name the album that too). It wasn’t a bad song. Not the sort of song I would write, a little too poppy/corny, but it’s fun. There was this harmonized a cappella opening that went something like:
Money! Money! Money! (talkin’ ’bout)
Money! Money! Money! (that’s what I want)
Money! Money! Money! (can I get some for me)
then the guitar kicks in. It was a jangley riff. Bouncy. Corny. Fun.
I’ve jammed with other people in my lifetime. But this was as close as I got to rock stardom, which is to say, not close at all. But it was fun.