Zitherese

Back in '92, I was in school at UAB working on an English degree and killing bugs for Cook's Pest Control. Lucky for me, I had a good route with some great customers, including my life-long friends, John and Kathy English. I will never forget the first time I showed up at the English residence with my B&G sprayer and met Kathy, an amazing writer. You can imagine how inspired I was to have this new soft-spoken and kind client to chat with about writing and my literature classes, or how curious I was about her husband John’s music room where he kept his wine-red Stratocaster and a cool picture of Muddy Waters. When she learned of my love of music and playing guitar, she immediately suggested that I meet John and jam with him. Six months later, I met him at the Fifth Gate Art Gallery. We became fast friends and a few months after, I invited him over for a jam session with my bassist brother Joe and I. The musical chemistry we shared that day was both immediate and quite profound and started a beautiful musical journey between us that continues to this day.

We started doing random jam sessions in the carriage house I lived in with Scott Fuller on drums, who was serving as the president of the Magic City Blues Society (MCBS) at the time. After attending a couple of their jam sessions, someone suggested we sign up for the upcoming Battle of the Blues Band competition hosted by the MCBS. Since Scott felt it would be a conflict of interest, he stepped down. A few days later during a casual conversation with my Linguistics professor, Kathy Leffel (RIP), I told her about our vacant drummer dilemma that was keeping us from entering the contest and she suggested I call her husband a jazz drummer. On our first phone call, Spencer Leffel and I connected as we compared our common love for a broad array of musical styles and genres, including my new found affection for all things Jazz. In the meantime, I met a great singer, Chuck Knighton at another jam and invited him to sing with us. A few weeks later we were gigging as the band Terraplane and having a blast playing blues and rock standards. For some reason I cannot remember we never played the contest. From the very beginning, we all loved to just jam and see what happened, often resulting in some cool improvisational pieces and ideas that kept it fun and interesting. Fast-forward a few years later and my newborn son Wil took over the practice room in our little carriage house and we moved our rehearsals to John and Kathy’s living room while we were searching for our third lead singer. On a tip from a mutual friend, Spencer invited UAB music student Charlotte Gill to audition with us. Not long after her audition, she and Spencer, who by then was a recently divorced single parent with a young son, became immediate friends and were married a few years later. During the interim while searching for a singer, we spent some time improvising with various instruments and working on some of my original material. This one was a jam we called, Zitherese.


8 Comments

  1. Ed Foy

    Wow, the story brings out some memories that wrap around my friends and our shared experiences. Like during your Terraplane practice days late one Saturday when Robin and I walked into the carriage house after I had finished playing rugby with Nashville that day against Birmingham. I was befuddled when the drummer asked me if I used to have a dog named Faustus. It Spencer Leffel, one of my my former college housemates from Washington & Lee! It had been so long I had not recognized him. You guys have long shared a love of music.

    Reply
    1. Bill Ledbetter (Post author)

      Thanks for that memory, Eddie. I love to tell that story and also how my connection to Spencer started in 1980 when I met him on a weekend visit to Lexington when you were roommates and I was fresh out of Coast Guard boot camp and attending Machinery Tech school in Yorktown. That was a fun weekend!

      Reply
  2. Beverly Baker

    Very cool! Y’all were so young.

    Reply
    1. Bill Ledbetter (Post author)

      Thank you! Yes, we used to be young but not as young as you :)))

      Reply
  3. Terri French

    Enjoyed the music and the story, thanks for sharing. Merry Christmas!

    Reply
    1. Bill Ledbetter (Post author)

      Thank you for the kind words and for following my blog all these years, Terri! Merry Christmas to you and your family.

      Reply
  4. John English

    Bill:
    This is fantastic! thanks so much. I’d forgotten about “zitherese.” I hope spencer for hihya sees this. It’s very Shakti-esque.

    Reply
    1. Bill Ledbetter (Post author)

      I have such fond memories of those days. I’m so lucky to have met you guys and had the great fortune of being friends all these years!

      Reply

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