Sammy left Rendezvous in late 1998 to join up guitarist, Ed “Buzzy J.” Sarley, and drummer, Tommy Varga, to form The Buzz Band. Since I knew Sammy better than any of the other members of Rendezvous, I left too, becoming the roadie for the new band which played a lot more classic rock and blues. Buzzy J. was a guitar player like I had never seen before in person. He played like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and he was the lead vocalist, too.
I was introduced and quickly learned how to set up and tune Buzzy J.’s rig as well. It took a bit longer, but I soon got to the point where as soon as he would pull into the parking lot, I would be out there to grab his gear and bring it in. It didn’t take long to learn to tune the Epiphone guitar, but the Fender would be a bit of a challenge since he fitted it with string clamps and used a bridge tuner (okay, a bit too technical). This required that the guitar be tuned no less than three times since this fixture floated. In other words, tuning the bottom string perfectly would result in it being overtuned by the time I reached the top string. Okay, enough of that.
Eventually, I was a mainstay in the band. We played all the local bars and clubs, and I was recognized widely as a part of the band. I was a part of the band. Since I did not drink alcohol, I was provided free beverages all night, and if I ordered food, the tab would mysteriously disappear. This was definitely a perk and I loved it. I never took advantage of my post, though. I was always willing to pay for everything that I wanted, but most bars had successful nights when the band played, so I was treated well.
By early 1999, Tommy had left the band, leaving us with a rotating cast of drummers including a bit of a celebrity in Tommy Dobeck from The Michael Stanley Band (look it up, “He Can’t Love You”, “Heartland”, “My Town”). If you’re from Cleveland and reading this, you know who I’m talking about. We also had Sam Romano who could make his four piece drum kit sound like a twelve piece just by knowing where to hit each drum. The power trio became an ensemble at many gigs, incorporating keyboard players including Bill from Rendezvous, a second guitarist in Cy Sulak, and even an occasional appearance from Greg “Bubba P.” Sarley, Ed’s brother. When they were together on stage it was…words fail me here. If you like a lot of guitar playing, this was definitely the gig to be at.
Things were working out by mid-1999. I had graduated from college with honors and a degree in electronics, I had a new job that afforded me a new truck, I had a social life, and I was doing some traveling for work, which came in handy because the music scene was about to take a turn to the insane with new bands, new people, new gigs, and my new title, The BUZZCrew.