Scott, My Brother & Musical Pied Piper (part 2)

Dr. Christie’s Galvanic Curative (l-r): Jim Scheppke, Dan Havlik, David Rodowick, unknown drummer, my brother, Scott

Part 1 offered a quick snapshot, that’s all. I could never fully list all of the bands my brother introduced me to. His early combos played most mid-60s rock staples like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Doors, Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, and plenty of others.

As psychedelia emerged as a major force in the music world, his band, Dr. Christie’s Galvanic Curative (pictured) covered various psychedelic bands from the Blues Magoos to the 13th Floor Elevators to the Velvet Underground. I remain convinced they were probably the only high school combo to play “The Gift” by Velvet Underground.

Combos came and went: names changed, line-ups shuffled, and players joined and left or were kicked out. Easy enough to get started as a novice player when they were fewer combos. What started out as nothing but fun started turning competitive. And expensive. Along the way, the better players shone through and banded together, slowly squeezing out less expert players. I remember Scott telling me one day, more startled than angry, that he’d just gotten kicked out of a band he had helped start.

Maybe it would be better to fly solo. Easier, at the very least. And the time was right.

Rock & roll was shifting gears, too, from bands to solo performers and acoustic singer-songwriters. Artists like Peter, Paul & Mary, Simon & Garfunkel, the Mamas & the Papas, and Judy Collins drew from folk music. Dylan and Donovan melded folk with rock, blurring the lines, while bands like the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield brought this element into their styles as well.

When Buffalo Springfield splintered with Neil Young and Stephen Stills each releasing their own solo albums, the die was cast. Scott dropped the rock bands and became a modern troubadour.

He started picking up songs from folks like Gordon Lightfoot and Judy Collins. “Leaving on a Jet Plane” (written by John Denver, popularized by Peter, Paul and Mary) became Scott’s signature song. It suited his voice well, great for sing-alongs, and truly tapped into the listener’s emotions, like good music always does.

Scott went off to college, leaving me to develop my own musical interests. I went on to expand my own musical tastes somewhat, but most of our musical choices still overlapped and some things never changed. The Who and the Grateful Dead (and its numerous sequels and off-shoots) remain major influences on me to this very day.

When Scott headed off to college in Austin, he ran into a fellow freshman playing the piano in the basement-level corridor of the dorm. Scott and this guy named David Rodriguez struck up a conversation, then a friendship, and then a musical partnership. They swapped songs and practiced together, eventually playing a few gigs. But Scott never quite adjusted to playing in bars instead of  a quiet setting like a coffeehouse.  He had become accustomed to attentive audiences, but the paying gigs were in bars where the audiences were often drunk and rowdy. David learned to adapt and persevered, eventually helping establish Austin as a singer-songwriter’s town during his days as a featured performer at the Chicago House.

Scott never stopped playing guitar, mind you — just gigging. He continued to play and sing for friends and write original songs. He still enjoyed playing enough that he cancelled a hitchhiking trip to Europe to use the money to buy a better guitar. A couple of years later, I got Scott and his old bandmate, David Rodowick, to play in the studio for one of my projects in a Television Production class at UT.

The resulting clip is glitchy, and our set-up time ran short, so David is poorly lit, but I am grateful that to have this video recording of Scott singing one of his original songs.

David Rodowick (poorly lit on the left) and my brother, Scott
The second, unrelated clip came from the same production class

After graduate school, as life increased its demands, that guitar got less and less use. He’d pull it out on special occasions or to share songs with old friends, like Vince Bell (before Vince’s life-altering accident) , still on the rise when Scott briefly lived in Austin in 1981.

I miss the days when Scott did sing. He had a beautiful, powerful voice.

The last time I heard Scott sing — other than joining in with music — was the song he wrote for his daughter, Jessie, after she died at age 5. He sang it to me a cappella, just once on the back steps shortly after her death. No guitar, just his voice, pure and simple. I wish I could remember the song but he never sang it for me again. I only remember how much of his heart he had poured into it as he sang of  that immense loss.

It’s impossible to describe how much Scott’s musical journeys impacted me. Not only did he turn me on to great music, I met his friends who did pursue musical careers. Bill Browder, one of his high school buddies in a short-lived band, Night Rain, went on join Denim, a local band on their way up, headlining at places like the Armadillo World Headquarters, as they released their first album. Bill still plays in the Lost Austin Band these days, as well as the occasional Denim gig — loved their Sunday Saxon matinees I could walk to while still living in Austin. Whenever I’d see him, he’d always ask after Scott.

His friends, David Rodriguez and Vince Bell, both became noted singer-songwriters with their music covered by such artists as Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett.

After all the music he wrote and played through the years, I find it mildly ironic that the one lasting legacy of his musical interest is a printed publication, Townes Van Zandt‘s songbook, “For the Sake of the Song.” Published in 1977, the songbook credits Scott as “Publication Assistant.” It cracks me up to see that a copy of that songbook was recently selling for close to a thousand dollars. Makes me wish I’d snagged one of the signed hardback copies when I could have.

Music is fundamentally temporal. It fades away, just like we all will do. But the joy my brother, Scott, spread while sharing his music will ripple outward beyond the last distant echoes.

Thanks again, Scott.




About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
This entry was posted in Family, music, musicians and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Scott, My Brother & Musical Pied Piper (part 2)

  1. Dan Havlik says:

    Just found this upon doing a search for Dr. Christie’s Galvanic Curative. What memories! As you know, there was a time when I used to hang out at yours and Scott’s house almost every day. We listened to rare recordings such as Boris the Spider by The Who, as well as your Dad’s crazy Spike Jones LP. I remember the band playing songs such as 7 and 7 is, by Love, and White Light/White Heat, by the Velvet Underground. I was also in a prior band with Scott, David Rodowick, and Brian Mains (who went on to have a great art career). Some of the songs that we played in those 2 bands were Gloria, Last Time by the Rolling Stones, Hey Joe, Satisfaction, and Dirty Water. The drummer in the above pic is Randy Baum. At one point, Greg Larson also joined Dr. Christie’s on organ (Farfisa?). Also on drums after Randy, was Mike Quinn, who started Carnival in Austin. I remember a bunch of us had Bogen PAs for our amplifiers, and also a bunch of us built our own speaker boxes. I had a Danelectro copper and white bass. Our biggest gig, of which we got paid $50 to split among the whole band, was at the Humble Building, I believe, in downtown Houston. I have the Dr. Christie’s business card right in front of me. It says “For fits and hysteria, est. 1848, Dr. Christie’s Galvanic Curative, acclaimed by millions of sufferers, Dr. Jim, (phone #), Dr. Scott, (phone #)”. Enjoyed seeing the video of Scott and David above. Dan Havlik

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