Super Key's Beginning
"Your One Shop Talent Stop"
My early musical influences are the Everly Brothers and Ray Charles. Remember his first country album? And, of course, Elvis Presley! Since I grew up in a small town I had to go to a store named TG&Y; which was similar to the Wal-Mart stores today, in order to pick up the latest 45 rpm "records" so I could listen to my favorite artists. By that time I could already read music because of my piano lessons which I started when I was 4 years old. But my piano teacher could only help me with the method books chosen.
I remember her I asked her if she could help me with the songs I was hearing on the radio. Bless her soul. She picked me up a boogie-woogie piano solo book with a black "stick" man on it. Ummmm... not exactly what I was hearing on the radio. Guess we had a small communication gap during my teenage years you think?
So, back to TG&Y. Out of my deep desire to learn what I was hearing on the radio I would walk from my house to the downtown area of my hometown, Watonga Oklahoma. Of course I had to cross a raging river and dodge tornadoes in order to get there but I would make it. After returning home and continuing to battle the above... hehe! I would put the record(s) on I purchased and transcribe every single note off the recordings.
Okay... I know this may sound a little insane transcribing music note by note but that is how I learned to play "POP"music, which sounded close to the style of country music back then. I was also very sick when I was younger with Asthma so not being able to play outside with my friends, or play sports including many other activities I just stayed inside. So music really became my friend.
When I was 14 years old I started going to teen hops (dances) at Watonga's City Hall building also located in the downtown area. The top bands of the sixties were performing there. But the main attraction, the band that I dreamed every night of joining after hearing them for the first time was Ron Smith & The Centuries.
When I graduated from Watonga High School in 1966 I started my freshman year at Southwestern State College in Weatherford, Oklahoma. During my freshman year my father passed away with lung cancer on Mayday, 1967. I'm not sure of the exact date but close to that time Bob Mill's who played saxophone with the Centuries father also died in an automobile accident. Bob approached me in the spring semester at South Western where he was also attending and asked me if I wanted to audition for The Centuries. Wow! Wow! Wow! A dream come true - and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I passed the audition and that is when my music career really started.
During the time I was with The Centuries the rhythm/lead guitar player, Stan Stotts taught me how to really listen to parts and blend in with a band. He was a huge influence on my playing as well as Ron Smith. This might seem trite, but I made enough monies to move my family (after my father's death) to Oklahoma City and start a new life for us. It also helped me to acquire enough monies to continue my college education.
Also I purchased a Hammond B-3 organ, which i paid a fortune for. A huge responsibility for a seventeen year old at the time. It put a new sound to the Centuries and everyone seemed to like it, or at least they said so. LOL! All through those early years I still did not have a music instructor to help me learn pop music. So I would sneak into the Esquire Club and others to listen to a group named "The Jades" alias "Third Avenue Blues Band". I would watch their organ player who could play "comp" chords while playing the bass (guitar, etc.) parts with his left hand on the B-3's lower keyboard. I would sit behind the band in a booth and watch Harland's hands move across the keyboards. It was a great learning experience.
Oklahoma City was steaming with talent during those years. Out of the Third Avenue Blues Band, Harland Rogers (organ) Bill Maxwell (drums) and Hadley "Hawkins" Smith (guitar) went on to play with Andrae Crouch And The Disciples. At present Hadley is performing with Neil Diamond and the last I've heard of Harlen he was performing with Ricky Skaggs.
Another Hammond Organ B-3/Harmonica player was Steve Hardin who was also a huge personal influence on my music career. Steve was also setting new trends with the "new" music being heard in the local clubs. A story I remember was when Steve was performing at the Hilton Inn on I-40 and Meridian, in Oklahoma City. When his band would take a break Steve would go out into his van and lift weights. Then he would return and blast those keys! I heard that Steve ended up touring with Glen Campbell.
After the "bands" I rented my Hammond B-3 out to groups/artists that would play concerts here in the Oklahoma City and Norman area, to include Elvis Presley, Sly And The Family Stone, Black Oak Arkansas, to name just a few!
Of course my earliest musical influence was my older brother, Anthony (Tony) D. Schwartz. He went on to play piano with the Glen Miler Band via the Army Field Band in the late sixties. A multitude of musicians came through that band including Steve Gadd. I would sit behind Steve and watch him play drums during the sessions at the army base in Fort Mead, Maryland. Steve actually changed the way drummers played - the transition between early rock drums and the R&B styles. A familiar intro Steve came up with was the beginning drum part on "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" by Paul Simon. What an experience not only to watch him play but to be around him as well. I hope Steve realizes how many young players he has influenced over the years.
Also, Paul Bowmen, a drum teacher who came out of the Navy Band was my instructor in drums while Stan Stotts and I were going to college at Central State University in Edmond, Oklahoma. A huge influence on me as well in music theory and orchestration was Dr. Dillon, also at Central State.
After the Centuries I started a band called The Mark IV and soon afterwards I started another band called Star-flight. One evening Billy Preston came up on stage and played with us for a set.
As of now I'm still in music. After many years of performing I opened up a music school/recording studio, Super Key Music Studios and Super Key Recording, of which I operate to this day... and the next day and the next... hahaha! Two of my students are now working in major studios in Nashville. I helped produce an album with The Prairie Twins and Riders In The Sky which was up for "Best Album Of The Year" at the WMA Western Music Awards in Las Vegas. My students have made the finals in the American Idol Contest as well.
One thing I have a hard time understanding is that I started out in a garage (garage band) and now I've ended up in one. Ummmm... what kind of irony is that?