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Thursday, Dec. 8, 2005 04:57 am

Host with the most

Bill Laymon hosts a weekly open mic at Marly’s on Tuesdays

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Bill Laymon
Seems as though everyone knew a beautiful dreamer when they were in high school who said, “I’m heading to California to make it in a rock & roll band.”
At Pleasant Plains High, our traveling man was Bill Laymon, and he did go to the land of the do-re-mi — and guess what? He did make it in a rock & roll band. After several years of playing bass for anybody and everybody around Santa Cruz and the Bay Area, he landed a gig with the New Riders of the Purple Sage. That particular position propelled him into the thick of San Francisco music mayhem. The late Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead was an original NRPS member, and Phil Lesh, the Dead’s bassist, produced their first record. Peter Rowan wrote their big hit “Panama Red,” and David Nelson, a lifelong friend of Garcia’s, was a founding member. The group had steady bookings for many years, until John Dawson, the main songwriter and frontman, moved to Mexico for a well-deserved and sorely needed break from the rigors of rock & roll. After that, Laymon stayed with Nelson and, along with Barry Sless and Mookie Siegel, formed the David Nelson Band. DNB spent the next several years crisscrossing the United States, playing every imaginable venue, from beautiful old theaters to decrepit taverns. In 2000, DNB was the featured band at the famed Kerrville Music Festival, outside Austin, Texas, where founder Rob Kennedy called them “the best band in America today.” The mixture of Grateful Dead-style jamming with original songs was a winning combination and allowed the group to cash in on Nelson’s Dead connection (he played acoustic guitar on the early ’70s albums) while pursuing their own artistic direction. After years of hard travel and boom-or-bust payoffs, the group slowed down the bookings a few years ago. Sless and Siegel are now playing a high-profile gig with Phil and Friends, Lesh’s current project of ever-changing musicians and music. Laymon has returned to the land of his formative years to rest, recuperate, and, of course, continue making music with the world.
Bill Laymon hosts an open mic (both acoustic and electric acts are welcome) at Marly’s Pub (9 W. Old State Capitol Plaza, 217-522-2280), 9 p.m.-1 a.m. every Tuesday, starting Dec. 13.

Calling all bands willing and able to do battle for the opportunity to perform at the Firehouse, located at the corner of Fifth and Monroe: Report for duty to Mark Ballinger (217-522-1717 or burnone978@aol.com) sometime in the next week. Bands play on a Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday night. A contract for gigs on selected Saturday nights over the next six months will be awarded to the winning group. Bands will be judged on the basis of audience interaction and the register. May the best band win, and remember: Those not chosen as the ultimate victor may be awarded gigs as well — think of it as a live audition.
Clear the decks and duck your head: Friday, Dec. 9, marks the return of the Bottle Rockets to the Underground City Tavern (700 E. Adams St., 217-789-1530). Their August show was a bang-up, knockdown affair in which the pride of Festus, Mo., rocked a full house. Since then, the group has finished recording a new CD, now in the mixdown stage. It features, among other songs, a tune by the newest Bottle Rocket, Springfield resident and St. Louis native Keith Voegele. The singing bass player singlehandedly rescued the Rockets from rock & roll oblivion last spring when he joined the band. Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but we sure like Keith, and the Bottle Rockets have been hotter than a firecracker since he joined the band. The Damwell Betters, the latest project by Josh Catalano of Mugshot fame, open the show at 10 p.m. Advance tickets are available (and highly recommended) at Recycled Records (625 E. Adams St., 217-522-5122) for $12 ($15 at the door).
It’s hard enough to believe that John Lennon is dead, but it’s perhaps even more difficult to comprehend that it’s been 25 years since he was murdered outside his New York City home. Springfieldians will gather at the Douglas Park bandshell for a memorial tribute to the multitalented genius at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10.
The one and only B.B. King returns to the University of Illinois at Springfield’s Sangamon Auditorium on Feb. 12. Tickets for the newly octogenarian bluesman go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 9, at the Sangamon Auditorium ticket office (217-206-6160 or 800-207-6960) or online at www.sangamonauditorium.org.
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