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Dana Schmitz

I was born during a blizzard on February 1, 1961 at Chelsea Naval Hospital, Massachusetts. My father was an enlisted man in the United States Air Force. I have a sister Kelly, and I had a brother Barry. The Air Force moved us around a lot: Hanscom AFB Massachusetts in the early 1960s, Dover AFB Delaware in the mid 60s, Hahn AFB West Germany from 1967 - 1973.

It was in Germany in 1969 that I began taking guitar lessons from an airman from the base, Don Tigard. I took 8 lessons at $2 apiece. We didn’t live in military base housing on base. We rented a house off base in a small farming village called Hahn. My brother, sister and I were the few English-speaking kids in the village, so I spent a lot of time with the guitar.

I was most interested in playing top 40 pop songs ‘ “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” by Jim Croce, ‘The Sounds of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel, ‘Reeling and Rocking” by Chuck Berry and any Beatles songs I could figure out. The first record albums I owned were ‘Ram’ by Paul McCartney and ”The Beatles 1962, 1966”. I am very lucky because, from very early on, I was able to pick out songs by ear. I still can”t read music.

At the end of 6 years in Germany, my father was given a new assignment to Offutt AFB, just south of Omaha, Nebraska. I was entering the seventh grade, and was spending more and more time with the guitar. It was at this time I began writing songs of my own. By the end of the seventh grade I had spent the entire year in our family’s basement in Bellevue, Nebraska with a record player, a cassette recorder to tape new songs I’d written, and the guitar. My father asked me, ‘What are you going to do this summer, Dana?” to which I replied, ‘I don’t know’. He then informed me, “Well, you’re not spending the whole summer down in the basement with a guitar, that’s for sure’. At the end of our first year in a new town, I hadn’t made any effort to make one friend.

As well as I can remember, it was toward the end of the 8th grade that Ed Reed, a mutual friend introduced Jim Behrens and I to each other. Our common bond was our love for the Beatles. Jim seemed to have all the Beatles albums from before they broke up and I had all the albums they’d done afterwards! We would wander the streets of Bellevue listening to two cassettes he had “Abbey Road” and the English “A Hard Days Night” and talking about music.

I began teaching Jim what little I knew about playing the guitar. Jim is left-handed. Luckily he was comfortable playing right-hander, as I wouldn’t have had any clue how to teach him any other way! Jim eventually became a much better guitar player than I have become.

Jim and I took making music very seriously. For me, I know putting together a great band was everything to me. Jim and I formed many different incarnations of Junior High School and High School bands, but the one that was finally the most cohesive group was formed toward the beginning of our senior year. We had Jim and I on guitars and vocals, Tom Wilde on bass and vocals, and Dave Valdez on drums. Tom and Dave were a year younger than us, and were both from the next town over, in Papillion, Nebraska. We were first called “Variety”. Dave came up with the name “The Memos”, and we switched to that on New Year’s Eve 1980. See ‘The Memos” website and Jim’s biography for a good detailed history of our years in music.

The last incarnation of “The Memos” finally split up in 1986. I went to work with the now defunct home improvement chain, “Color Tile’. It was while I was working there that I was invited to an informal bible discussion group in 1988. While I had certainly enjoyed a fantastic time in the music business, and was fortunate to have good friends (and not just a few unfortunate girlfriends and/or fiancees) who stuck by me, I was wasting my life away in the downward spiral of drinking way too much, and investing 60 hours a week at my job. Deep down, I was very unhappy. I have no one to blame but myself. I’m very fortunate to have survived myself through those years, and am very grateful to still have friends.

My only memory of any other religious teaching was when I was very young. My Mom and Dad used to take us to Sunday school every week from the time I was preschool aged until we moved back to the United States in 1973. I had no bad memories or experiences from that those times. Besides that, at 27 years old, I still had a very child-like, awed (rightfully so!) belief about who Jesus of Nazareth was. After studying the bible with a small group of guys I loved and respected, I was baptized into the family of God on February 22, 1989.

Things happen fast! I met my wife, Irene, and her children, Sarah and Laura in the spring of 1989. We were engaged in June of 1990 and were married October 6, 1990. I went to school in 1991 for my first computer training. Then I was out of work for 2 years during that recession. For those two years I began working nights as a Karaoke host and DJ, so I could be job hunting by day. My brother Barry died in September 1993. I began working for New York Life Investment Management (NYLIM) in Norwood, Massachusetts a month later. I have been working at NYLIM for ten years now.

Irene gave birth to our daughter Taylor in September 1996. Our oldest daughter Sarah was married in June 2002. She graduated from Salem State College, Salem, Massachusetts in June 2003. Our daughter Laura lives in Lowell, Massachusetts with her fiancee, Joshua, and my grandson Tyler. They will be married in May 2005.

I have played music sporadically with the same few guys since 1990. On my way to a band practice last summer (2003), I was gassing up my car at an Exxon station. In taking money out of my pocket, a few guitar picks fell out onto the counter. The cashier asked me if I played guitar. I said yes. She said, “Are you any good?” I told her I’m not as good as I should be after playing for over 30 years!

Taylor and I live happily in our home in Methuen, Massachusetts.

Dave Valdez

I was born on June 1, 1962 in Downey, CA. My parents were divorced when I was 11. Soon after the divorce, my dad brought a drum set over that he had gotten from a friend. I figure he was trying to drive my mom crazy. Think about it, an 11 year old in the house with drums. What could be more enjoyable than that combination? The drums were a three piece set. Kick, one rack tom, a floor tom and a hi hat stand. No snare, no cymbals, no kick pedal. At this point, I could bang on them with some old sticks and make a lot of noise. They were blue / black pearl Ludwigs with the Zig Zag guy on the head of the kick. If I can find a picture of them, I’ll have it put up on the site for all to enjoy.

At some point during this post divorce period my mom showed up at school one day to pick my sister and I up. It was a Tuesday in February of 1975. We went from the school to our grandparent’s house that day. The next morning we were on the road to God’s country A.K.A Nebraska. Three days later we had arrived. No culture shock at all. What difference could there be between Southern California and Omaha Nebraska in February ???

We lived with my uncle and aunt and their five girls for I don’t know how long. Once my mom landed a job we were able to move into an apartment. Not just any apartment, this one had a basement ! Time to get the drums (and everything else) shipped from California. Once the drums had arrived, it was time to start playing them. It was difficult trying to use the kick by actually kicking it with my foot. So, I took the hi hat stand apart to see what it was made of. Much to my delight, the center rod was hinged in the middle. So, I left the top piece off, folded over the center rod and had a homemade kick pedal. Granted, there was a little delay between pushing the pedal and the time the center rod tip hit the bass drum head. But hey, I couldn’t play drums anyway ! Now all I needed were cymbals.

Cymbals are not cheap. If I can’t afford a kick pedal, there’s no way I can spring for some cymbals and stands. Time to be creative again. Unfinished basements are a great thing sometimes. Not only were the acoustics absolutely fabulous for drums (if you like echo and a constant ringing in your ears) there were exposed beams from the floor above. Some string and my mom’s lids from her pots and pans was all I needed. These lids have amazing qualities. If you have ever dropped one on a hard surface, you know they ring quite nicely. And, when hanging by the knobs on top with string nailed to the beams above, the tone and ring quality was perfect. The large skillet lid soon became my ride cymbal and the smaller lids became my crashes. Of course, due to the fact that they are hanging by string, when you crash a crash too hard you had to duck for its return trip. And, the ride tended to “float” around somewhat. Luckily for me I joined the Jr. High band which required me to get a real snare drum. I had all of the pieces now, albeit some of them belonged in the kitchen. Nonetheless, I had my first “complete” drum set.

Fast forward to sometime later.

After scrimping and saving for quite a while, I was able to scrounge together enough money to buy some real drums. Let the shopping begin! The first place I went was to Hospe’s music across the street from Crossroads. I think this was the biggest music store in Omaha, it might still be. They had everything, guitars, horns, and drums, even pianos. However, they didn’t have a real nice attitude. I basically got the cold shoulder when inquiring about drum sets. Hey, I was all of 16 or 17 years old or so, why wouldn’t they take the time to help me ? Due to the lack of service, I turned to Joe Voda’s Drum City which was just down the street from Hospe’s. Joe was more than happy to help me choose my first real set of drums. I ended up getting a silver CB700 set and a few extra cymbals and stands.

Although we were already playing out as Variety with the old kit, it was time for this major upgrade. Now we looked more like a serious band ready to hit the road.

Fast forward to the early 80s

I’m moving to Massachusetts ! It was Halloween night of 1980 that I landed at Logan airport in Boston, MA. From a town with a population of 6,000 to a city with a population in the millions in just eight short hours. Eight hours because that was the only flight I could afford. I think it stopped in Minneapolis, Detroit, and Philadelphia before ending up in Boston. With my drums in tow, I had arrived. Of course, there were only 2 band members in MA at this time. This gave me ample time to hang out and sleep late. Things every 18 year old needs.. After 3 months of living in MA, I had to go back to NE for my mom’s wedding. So, I packed up my drums and all of my belongings (2 shirts, 2 pairs of jeans, a parka and some shoes) and flew back home. The wedding went fine and life was good. Until they started remodeling the house. These construction guys start work way too early in the morning ! After about 3 months I packed up my drums and all of my belongings (2 shirts, 2 pairs of jeans, a parka and some shoes) and flew back to MA. Now Jim and I had to work on getting Dana to follow soon.

Dana eventually showed up and the search was on for a bass player so we could get the band rolling in the right direction. Once we found a bass player and had been playing for a couple of years, I took my college money and bought a “real” real drum set. I actually had to order these and wait for them to come in. The guys at Daddy’s Junky Music were great ! Now I had real drums and was in a real band playing real music for real money. What a gig !

In 1986 I was reminded that I was mortal. Up to this point, I hadn’t realized it. This is when things changed and I started thinking about getting a “real” job with a future. By 1987 I was retired from the music business and headed down a whole different path in the sunny state of Florida.

While I may sometimes think that I wasted 6 years of my life chasing a dream, I also realize that not everyone gets to experience the life I had. I often think that perhaps I should have stuck with it until we made it. However, with the odds as great as they are against ‘making it” in the music business, perhaps my choice was right. At least I gave it a fair shot!

I put myself through school and have only had 2 jobs since then. When I look around at the people who I work with that are younger than me and are further along in their careers, I just subtract 6 years from my age and I come out even. A different way of thinking.

Jim Behrens

I was born on March 20, 1961 in Rapid City, South Dakota. My father owned one of the oldest businesses in town, a furniture store that was opened in the late 1800’s. My parents were divorced when I was 5. About that same time my dad’s business closed. My brothers (Jon and Bill) and I spent most weekends with our dad playing baseball, going to games and all of the things kids do with their fathers. We also spent a lot of time with our mom’s parents. Our dad’s parents died before we knew them. In 1969, my mother remarried a man in the Air Force and we were stationed in Torrejon, Spain for 4 years. I loved living in Spain. We didn’t have any phone or English TV, so we spent our time playing sports and reading. We traveled throughout Spain and Europe. While in Spain my sister Beth was born. After Spain, we were stationed in Omaha, Nebraska. It was about this time, that I began to find a love for music. My older brother Jon had two Beatles tapes and I was instantly hooked.

I had loved playing sports, but became disillusioned with the role that adults could have. I had a friend Ed Reed, who told me that he knew a guy who would teach us how to play guitar for free. That guy was Dana Schmitz. In the 9th grade, he began to teach me how to play. I am left handed, but he taught me how to play right handed and it seemed natural enough anyway. I bought my first guitar for $20 at a pawn shop. We spent many hours in my basement strumming to Beatles tunes as we were both huge fans. I learned how to play chords and songs that he taught me but not how to read music or any theory. Eventually we started a band so to speak with all of our friends. We had no drummer or bass player, just 4 guitars, one microphone, 2 amplifiers and a chord organ. We had a lot of fun, but weren’t really very good. From the start, we always played original music.

Our friend Kirby Hills bought a drum set and we were almost a real band. Then our buddy Steve Bailey bought a bass and we started to get a little more serious. We were all still rough and self taught, but we practiced constantly and eventually got better and played gigs for some money. We didn’t have state of the art equipment or even close to it, but we did have determination. The name of the band was Phase II, and we were together for about 2 years. In that time we recorded a 45rpm at Rainbow Recording studio in Omaha. We only pressed 100 copies, but did sell them all. That was the summer of 1978 and I goofed around with some other friends still playing under the name of Phase II, but nothing seriously.

By the end of the summer, Dana had asked me to join him in the new band he was in with Tom Wilde and Dave Valdez. The name of the band was Variety and was different from Phase II because Tom was a good singer and songwriter that complimented Dana. We were much more serious and played more gigs for real money. We hooked up with Rod Toll, a local booking agent. We got a lot done our senior year of high school and recorded another 45rpm single. This one got some airplay on a local radio station. I graduated from Bellevue East High School in June of 1979. I wasn’t a member of any of the popular cliques, but was in my own group and that was good enough for me. Like a lot of kids, I received my fair share of abuse from the popular groups, but in the long run it wasn’t much to worry about. I enrolled in the University of Nebraska at Omaha as an education major, but my heart wasn’t in it. During the summer, I had met a cousin of Steve Bailey and she was from Massachusetts. She was different than other girls I had met before, she actually accepted me for who I was. As the end of 1979 came around, we felt we needed to change our name as it didn’t really fit what direction we were headed, or the way music was headed. We were being influenced by Elvis Costello, Blondie, The Clash and others. We talked about moving to Boston and on January 1, 1980, we changed our name to The Memos. I moved to MA in February to be with my girlfriend and wait for the band to follow. It took 2 years but it finally happened, but without Tom. Living in an urban area was quite different than growing up in the suburbs. I got a job working in a textile mill until I got laid off too many times and got sick of playing that game so I went to work in the liquor store across the street. When The Memos finally reunited in 1982, we practiced in the cellar of that store. When my boss sold his store, he bought a pizza shop in Nashua NH. I moved up there and lived above the shop. I met my wife Patti in this time frame. We got married in November of 1984 and I moved back to MA. The Memos are well documented in this website.

I went to work at a leather tannery in 1985 that Patti’s father was part owner of until it closed in 1988. After The Memos, Dana and I reunited in Kangaroo Kourt and while this band was good technically, we just could never get it going.

Since The Memos, I’ve been in Cool Blue Sky (1989-1993), which is documented on this website as well. My wife and I have 3 kids, Ali, Cody, and Mikayla. We moved to Granite Bay, CA. in 1993, which is just outside of Sacramento. We really loved living in California and I was very involved in the community as President of our local youth football and cheerleading organization for 3 years. It was truly a highlight in my life. In November of 2003, my job with HP relocated to Houston, TX. We didn’t want to move, but the job opportunities in California weren’t there.

While some may say that I wasted 13 years of my life chasing a dream, I disagree. I believe that I was living my dream and had the guts to go and do what I wanted to. While I didn’t ultimately become famous, I wouldn’t change a thing. The turns that my life has taken have made me who I am. I’ve had numerous jobs and have learned many things that I may not have experienced otherwise.