By Haley Remenar
This year marks 50 years since the original Woodstock and 10 years since Abilene began celebrating its own special music festival: GarageBand Woodstock. Musicians who played at Abilene dance halls in the 1960s will reunite on the stage at the Abilene Convention Center for the 10th annual GarageBand Woodstock.
Started by Charles and Kathy Taylor and Cheryl and Wayland Huey, the event began 10 years ago as a reunion for their friends and fellow musicians. The Taylors said the idea started after their friends, the Hueys, moved to East Texas and hosted a crab boil.
“Many of their friends were musicians, and they just kind of jammed,” Charles said. “There were half a dozen or more high school bands, from Abilene High and Cooper both, that were playing at that time.”
The Taylor’s couldn’t go to the event, so when those same friends passed through Abilene later on, they decided to throw another party in Abilene.
“I said, ‘I’ll see what I can do,’” Charles said. “I said, ‘Kathy, what are we gonna do? Where can we have it?’ So she checked and found the Round Building at the fairgrounds.”
So, in just three weeks, and almost 50 years after their high school days, they put together an event at the Taylor County Expo Center for the party. More than 800 people showed up, and GarageBand Woodstock was born. The bands were former members of The Living End, The Chevelle V, The Furies, The Continentals, The Traditions, Full House, The Coachmen, Stumblin’ Blox, Noblemen, Chicken Little & His Fabulous Eggwhites and others.
“They picked up exactly the way they did in their high school days,” Kathy said. “They sounded like they did then.”
Back “then” in 1967, Charles played drums in a band called Chevelle V. (“A lot of the bands had car names,” Charles said). Chevelle V won a local music competition sponsored by Vox Amps, American Airlines and Capitol Records. They went on to the final round in Dallas and won the statewide competition and their own recording session in California. Though the band didn’t become famous, Charles said some members of the 600 Texas bands who competed did make it big: Don Henley and ZZ Top.
Charles got drafted to the Army a year later in 1968. He came back after two years and the band had moved on, but, he said, they would sometimes reunite to “share old ‘war’ stories about playing rock ‘n’ roll in the 60s.”
The first year of GarageBand Woodstock, the bands performed for free and gave all the proceeds from the event to the West Texas Rehabilitation Center. The second year they gave to the Rehab Center again, then for the next five years they continued the event in support of United Way and Meals on Wheels. For the last three years, the event has benefited New Horizons, and they made enough money to pay the bands an honorarium for their services as well.
Most of the band members performed in Abilene back in the 1960s, but they’re now scattered from all over Texas, to Nashville and California, the Taylors said.
“The main attraction is the camaraderie between friends,” Charles said.
Kathy said one band member was so dedicated, he sold a guitar amp to buy a plane ticket to come to Abilene for the show. When the rest of his band members found out, they gave him money for a new amp.
As for the concert-goers, Kathy said the crowd changed over the years from mostly Abilene and Cooper High School reunions, to a younger audience of families and the Abilene community. But many remain dedicated, like a woman who brings her handicapped husband on the city bus. Kathy said every year she calls and asks if she can reserve a certain spot for them to sit.
Another lady in her 80s can be seen dancing with 20-year-olds, Kathy said. And then there’s Johnny, an elderly man whom the Taylors say can be seen grooving to “Johnny Be Good” every year.
GarageBand Woodstock 10 takes place July 27, sponsored by Honda of Abilene, the main title sponsor, and other local businesses. The performing bands will be The Furies, The Continentals, Soul Free, Knight Reign, Full House, KT & The Blues Scientists, and The Chevelle V. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and tickets cost $25 in advance or $30 at the door. Tickets can be purchased online at http://garagebandwoodstock.com.