It’s been said that we often don’t notice the most significant moments of our lives, right while they’re happening. But there are occasions when we’re given a gift so clear and evident that we sense something utterly new has arrived, beckoning us in directions unimagined. The arrival of The Beatles in the U.S. was an unavoidable signal to me. It wasn’t so much about being a “fan” as it was about an energy and spirit of expression that were compelling, joyful, and full of possibility. I started as a bass player and was in bands throughout high school in Cincinnati. As is often the case in these stories, the origins are humble but the players are hungry, motivated by a seemingly insatiable desire to learn songs and play them in front of eager listeners. By the time I started college Cincinnati was a celebration of music. I’d moved on to guitar. Along with drummer Gary Brichler and another friend, I formed The Secret People, a progressive rock group which, along with The Dingos, was among the best-known bands in the area. I was a freshman when I met John Domaschko, and a journey of musical collaboration was begun, built on a common love of the ensemble vocals and unpretentious songwriting of artists we admired. We practiced, we recorded, we ate macaroni and cheese in order to afford studio time with our friend, Ken Creech. While John went in one direction professionally, I moved to Boston, pursued a Ph.D. in political science and wrote books. With the completion of graduate school I felt a need to return to music, full-time. For the better part of a decade I performed in rock bands – Precious, Computer Blue - working in Boston and throughout New England. I also spent too brief a time in the Southwest. And then I moved to a lake in New Hampshire. John and I continued recording. And years went by. We encountered multi-instrumentalist Bobby Frasier when he was working in pro audio in Phoenix and knew he was the right fit for our emerging repertoire of rock- and folk-rock-based original compositions. Despite – or because of – the unusual geographical distances between band members, we discovered a joint process of recording which involved cooperation, interpretation – and a lot of travel. And years went by. Quite unexpectedly, Cara Miller began adding natural vocal backings to our work. Most recently, Ken rejoined the band. Some sort of critical mass was reached with the completion of Beneath the Burning Sky. Once Bobby had finished production, and Bob Ludwig had applied his unique gifts of mastering, it was time to release the music and let it find a home. If you’ve ever sat in silence before the vastness of a Southwestern sunset… If you’ve known longing and found a way home… If you think that sometimes the only medicine worth trying involves melodic guitars and voices in harmony… Those are the kinds of feelings that have come to inform the music. Many of our most meaningful moments involve very thin lines of distinction – between light and dark, between love, loss and hope. We’re trying to explore these experiences without insulting anyone’s intelligence.
Mine was one of the many heads that popped out of the musical primordial goo on February 9, 1964 at the sound of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. Sent off on a new evolutionary path, my neighborhood friend, Denny, and I bought acoustic guitars and learned how to play. Within two months we had traded in the acoustic guitars for electric ones, and within three we played our first gig. Mercifully it was not recorded. The beauty of that era was that the public’s appetite for live music encouraged our efforts and was unfazed by mediocrity (OK, for some time, I suspect mediocrity would have been an upgrade for us). Endless hours of practice honed our skills and we began to enjoy a certain level of success. After six months of being a guitar player, similar to the story of many bass players, I picked up the bass because no one else would. And another evolutionary turn was taken. It seemed that every new album in the mid to late 60’s registered at the next level on the musical Richter scale … exponentially increasing impact and advancing possibilities. The harmonies, melodies, and experimentation of The Beatles; the vocals and jangling twelve-string guitar of The Byrds; the guitar work of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck; the musical power of the Who; all helped reinvent the art. Learning this music for the increasing number of gigs we played on the weekends was subconsciously leaving an indelible mark on our musical tastes and our lives. But we just thought playing music was merely a really cool way to pick up extra cash in college. In 1969, I put my bass in its case and focused on a career in business. Since that time I was managing partner of a CPA firm for 15 years, owner of my own consulting firm thereafter, COO/CFO of a start up company, and interim president of a community visioning non-profit. I’ve served on a number of boards of directors, including some for-profit companies, and have served in many non-profit capacities, including chairman of Kentucky Educational Television, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, St. Elizabeth Healthcare Foundation, and the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport Board. I am past Vice-Chairman of Public Broadcasting Service in Washington, D.C. In 2000, a concert promoter contacted my band from the ‘60s, The Dingos, and asked if we’d be willing to play a reunion gig. I pulled out my bass for the first time in 31 years, dusted off some of the old chops, learned a few new ones, and once again fell down the rabbit hole of music. Having stimulated that old insatiable appetite for performing music, I soon joined a classic rock band, Glory Days, and am co-founder and managing partner of Suits That Rock, an annual charitable concert event staged by current day executives who are recovering musicians like me. And, of course, Dave’s and my musical paths and fascination with harmonies have intersected (again) in Thinline. Funny how some seeds lie dormant for 40 years before they sprout.
So, I’m the newbie to the group. But my association with Dave and John goes way back. Back to the days of playing in various bands in the Cincinnati area in the 1960s and ‘70s. Sometimes together, sometimes not. But we were always friends. We last played and recorded together in a band called simply, “Each Other”. Like many of my Thinline colleagues, that February 9th Beatles performance was the catalyst for my getting into music and it has been a part of my life, one way or another, ever since. I have just finished a career as a university professor, where I taught and published in the communications field—more specifically, media and entertainment law and policy. Yeah, I know. The cool thing about that, though, is it allowed me to stay in touch with my music and the music industry. I continued to play, write, perform and record. So, when, after many years apart, Dave, John and I reconnected, I was ready to be a part of Thinline. Dave didn't have to ask me twice! I am so thrilled to be working with Dave and John again after all of these years, and so happy to have the opportunity to sing and play with Cara, Bobby and Gary. Wow! Let's do this!
Here are the facts. My exposure to music began with accordion lessons at an early age – 1st Grade. By the 8th Grade I was recruited to join my Cincinnati high school’s nationally acclaimed marching band and I learned to play drums. During this period I worked in various local rock bands and helped form The Secret People. We played venues throughout the region – some of the best times of my life – during my high school years and into college. Forty years later, beyond school, a corporate career, and raising a family, I continue to follow the music. The passion is still there.
I was visiting an informal rehearsal, John and Dave playing acoustic guitars and singing. Old songs, new songs, it didn’t seem to matter as long as there were possibilities for harmony. They didn’t limit themselves to duos, occasionally trying something brash like covering an iconic Mamas and Papas song. The thing is, it worked. At one point, during a break between songs, John looked over at me and said, “You know, we could use another voice here, Cara. I can hear you singing over there.” He didn’t have to ask me twice. I played bashful but, in fact, I had been wondering if one of them would ever invite me in on the fun. So I slid my chair over next to the guys. John suggested I sing the part he’d just been covering and that he would work out a different one. The song was “California Dreaming,” a composition Dave has said he’d never have dreamed of trying, even with a full band. But we launched into it and it felt as if everything were where it was supposed to be. I stayed up until 2 a.m. that night, listening to the song and working out my parts to near-perfection (minus the perfect voice) so that the next day we could knock it out of the park. The effort paid off when I got to see the guys get giggly at the end of a run through. I am given to understand that giggling is a very good sign. I was present for John’s sessions of vocal recording on four original Thinline songs. After he was done, I had to admit that the invitation to add parts was intriguing. And that’s what we did, filling in and blending. I never imagined myself doing something like this. It has been a unique and wonderful experience and a much needed counterpoint to a very technical career in aviation. It’s a spectacular feeling when that elusive “fifth voice” shows up during a jam session. I think I am beginning to feel a little giggly right now.