(Note: Ken and I have been e-mailing back and forth about our experiences as a duo. I am going to post here what we started talking about in interview format. I hope you find it interesting. Many times I have looked back and thought leaving Silver Laughter was a big mistake. But had we not broken up, Ken and I may have never made it to California; a place we love dearly! Though Ken is currently in Reno with his wife, Yan, and family, he has hopes of making it back to the Bay Area one of these days. – Mick Orton)
Mick: I got to thinking how we ended up in Canada twice in our musical careers. We played Sault St. Marie and Thunder Bay, Ontario as Double Shot. Were we up there for both jobs together or did we go back and forth? I was also trying to remember all the places we played as a duo. If you can help me clarify for a piece I am writing. Howard Johnson’s – Moline Illinois (where I met Sandy), That place in Illinois where I sang “Fillings…” (Sandy came to see us so it was after Moline), Escanaba, MI where we were getting so depressed, Thunder Bay (wasn’t that the country and western gig?), Sault Ste. Marie (wasn’t that the disco place?) and Grand Rapids (our last gig as a duo before heading to California). Were there others?
Ken: We went back and forth. There was no set up route to take as they booked us whenever there was an opening. I’m afraid I don’t have many memories of our duo dates. I remember a place in Michigan where you met some good looking brunette that came to our motel. Didn’t we play a place that had great piroshkis? We kept going to it for eating (Milwaulkee maybe?) I think that was a Duo memory. Escanaba. Mich. was the last place we played. It was a disco club and 3 long hairs kept coming in requesting “Sweet Home Alabama”. We kept saying, “We can do this. We can’t do this any more. We can do this. We can’t do this anymore.” Before the week was out we finally decided, “We can’t do this anymore.” That’s when you made the life changing question: “Do you want to go back to Davenport or go to California where my sister lives?” I’m so glad we made the right choice.
Mick: Funny, I thought it was Grand Rapids that was our last place as a duo. We quit after the first or second night to the club owner’s relief! I think what you are talking about was the Escanaba thing; an Upper Peninsula specialty called pasties pronounced past-ees. We kept seeing signs about them on the side of the road and wondered what they were. The only pasties we knew about were what strippers wore when we went to that club in Rock Island (can’t remember the name, do you?) on our days off at home. And I remember Escanaba as a really low point where you were writing “doom sayings” in the fog on the mirror after your shower. It was one of our few laughs during that depressing time. I don’t remember any women on those trips other than Loraine and Sandy (our future ex-wives). I do remember finding Guinness Stout in Thunder Bay. The Canadian stuff was far superior tasting (in my opinion) the stuff they now import from Ireland. As for Milwaukee, I don’t remember playing there, but we could have. I know the manager booked us in cities we had never played in before. And I remember putting us in a club where they wanted disco, then a country bar, then an easy-listening bar… learning all those songs as quickly as we could. And the Punk (Glenn Stone) being with us for a few jobs before he quit.
Ken: Boy, you sure remember a lot more than I do. You mean all of these years I’ve been telling my story of our last Duo job and I had the wrong city??? Damn! I remember the strip club in Moline I used to go to all the time. Was there one in Rock Island. I remember the Yankee Clipper. Was that a strip club? I remember the guy in the space thingy dressed like Elvis where he sang country western songs and spun in all directions with women sitting with him. Too bad we don’t have a song list.
Mick: Remember, we started with what we wanted to play; Stephen Bishop (On and On), Roger McGuinn (Don’t You Write Her Off Like That), George Harrison, (the one where you sang onstage about Escanaba Michigan…), an original called “It’s Such A Shame” with a disco beat we wrote together early on… kind of an ELO thing in my mind. There was a McCartney Beatles acoustic song “I’ve Just Seen a Face” where we both played guitar. Then we had to learn all this material we didn’t want to do like Everly Brothers, Elvis, etc. Can’t remember the others. But we had to learn them quickly because our manager would book us into a new place every week with a different style of music. Remember that?
Ken: I Do remember that. We also did “Runnin’ Away” (Ken and Mick original). “Good Night Tonight” (Paul McCartney) and “Blow Away” (George Harrison) Why didn’t we make jokes about this song?
Mick: We did… every chance we got to make fun of a song like “Feelings”. In Harrison’s “Blow Away” song you sang, “Sky cleared up, day turned to bright, Closing both eyes now the head filled with light. Hard to remember the state I was in… Must be Escanaba, Michigan!”
(Note: After some thought and a trip to the grocery store, I do remember what Ken was talking about with regard to the brunette who came to our motel room in Escanaba. I believe it was Denise, a friend from one of the little Minnesota towns Silver Laughter played… possibly Willmar. [Updated 1/20/14 – It was New Ulm, MN at the Kaiseroff where we met. She and I have since reconnected on Facebook. She approved the following post which I had written back in July before I got permission from her.] We had become very close. She came to see us after her family was killed in a tragic car accident on a road near another one of the places Silver Laughter used to play, Chateaux Paulette in Park Rapids, MN. It was a popular summer vacation destination. On a road just outside of town, a drunk driver hit her family’s car and killed everyone. It was a heart-breaking incident. Denise and I remained friends, even after I met Sandy and got married after moving to California. She knew I was eager to become a photographer, so she sent me a wonderful Olympus OM-1 35mm camera. With a few other pieces of equipment, I became Star Photography for a few months until I lost interest. Short attention span.)
…To be continued!