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While I was still living in Shorewood, my mother bought me my first electric guitar, a Stella acoustic. Unlike my grandfather’s guitar, which was somewhat impaired with a broken tuning peg, my new instrument allowed me to get a grasp on the beginning stages of playing guitar.  When I received the guitar, I was so proud of it that I displayed it in the window to for everybody to see. Across the street from us lived Punch Davis, a guy with a cool hotrod. But more important to me, he had a guitar that resembled the one that Rick Nelson played.

Reed & His "Basement" Ricky Nelson Show

With all this momentum building up, I felt the time was right to get out of my shell and experience the idea of what it would be like to perform. This would be my very first gig. I posed a litany of questions to myself. What is the meaning of performance? Just what would I perform? Since I had no material of my own, the next best thing would be to imitate one of my all time musical idols, Rick Nelson. I was indeed fortunate to have taken advantage of watching him every week on the Ozzie and Harriet Show. This provided me with a strong foundation. In my young mind, I had no visual images of the Everly Brothers or Duane Eddy to draw from.

What was the venue? The venue was downstairs in my basement. And the band? The band on stage consisted of myself playing the role of Rick Nelson, Pat Burgess on drums, and Greg Vompomgarden on guitar (playing the part of James Burton). The actual sound would be provided by Bob Philips, who played the 45 records on my old RCA Victrola. So what did the audience see and hear? I lip-synched and played air guitar to music Bob played on the Victrola placed under the stage. First came the electric shock as Bob placed the needle on the record, then came the hiss, then the music. The effect was heightened by an occasional ungodly grunt of “Ouch” that confounded the audience. Bob, you see, was not properly grounded and experienced some rather uncomfortable electrical shocks.

Finally, there were the refreshments. I pursued them at my all-time favorite soda fountain on Lake Bluff and Oakland Avenue. Meanwhile my brother Patrick, who worked there, served me a hot fudge sundae. Pat spoke up to Mr. Raschke, the pharmacist, “Did you hear Reed is performing the Rick Nelson show in the basement of our house? He was wondering about talking to you about getting some candy refreshments that could be sold at the show. He’s gonna use the profits would to build a soapbox with all the other neighborhood kids.” To my surprise, Mr. Raschke offered me Snickers, Three Musketeers, and various other candies that he sold at the shop for five cents a piece. He let me have them at half price, which was his cost. Mr. Raschke remarked, “I’m glad to help. Good luck with the show. Let me know how it goes.” I was so excited that I ran home to tell all my friends. Then the reality set in, “O my goodness, I’m gonna do a show.”

That show went on without a glitch. The songs were Mary Lou, Bucket’s Got A Hole In It, Poor Little Fool, and It’s Late. To this day, I still have the photo that my mother took on the day of that show at 4437 North Murray Avenue, Shorewood, Wisconsin. Who would have thought that the “Little Warrior” from Waterford, Wisconsin would perform in Shorewood--the big city--in the year of 1957, with the help of all the kids in my new neighborhood. My first performance made $17.35 after expenses. The rest is history.

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