LANSING, MICHIGAN (USA). It was a glorious weekend to remember. The weather was gorgeous, in the lower 80's and sunny. It wasn’t Camelot but it might as well have been. It was Lansing, Michigan and during those three days, it was a perfect place for "happy ever aftering" (in a rock and roll sense).
Original members of the Black Knights, a rock and roll band that played during their high school and college years (and mostly lost track of each other between 1969 and 2003), traveled up to four time zones away for another chance to kick out the jams. A second reunion took place here in Lansing during the weekend of August 5, 2005. The effort was truly a labor of love as the "Knights" and their ladies came from all corners of North America for yet another opportunity to rekindle a comradeship born in Manila during the flower of their youth.
The round table is more complete this time and our joy knew no bounds. Bok who missed last year’s reunion in Toronto joined us this year with his wife Beth. He hasn’t seen Tony, Dante and Rick at least since 1968. Romy who couldn’t be in Lansing joined us interactively via telephone from Manila. He was online for more than an hour on Saturday evening.
My wife Soledad and I played hosts this year and a lot of credit goes to my better half. She prepared in advance for this event and cooked up a gourmet feast to feed the Black Knights, their ladies and guests. She kept us well provided with ginger/green tea (salabat) during the jams to soothe our vocal chords. Food and drink flowed from her kitchen almost non-stop throughout the three-day feast.
Rick and Olga were the first ones in, having flown from San Francisco Thursday evening. Tony, Elsie, Dante, Elvie, Bok and Beth arrived Friday morning. Tony had daughter Nikki and nephew Julian in tow to help him lift the heavy stuff and understandably so. We are not 18 anymore :o) Everyone brought many pasalubong including Dante’s famous pan de sal with the "secret" recipe. It was a veritable fiesta Filipino style! The Black Knights’ cups runneth over.
There were the back slapping, hugging and in some cases kissing :o) The joy and laughter were contagious. It is amazing to witness the electricity the Black Knights generate when we are within each other’s close physical proximity. The wives are cognizant of that and they in turn reinforce and complete this legendary Black Knights camaraderie with their loving presence and undying support. After all, they probably have never seen their husbands in a more animated and jovial state as this. The Black Knights have known each other since childhood. Bok is my oldest living friend and we go way back before 1st grade. This is a gathering of the BK family!
Upon arrival, we sat in my backyard patio while enjoying our merienda which included my wife’s famous hot hopia :o) I took out my 6 string acoustic and we went through "Ride The Wild Surf". It felt like 1965 again when we used to practice vocal harmonies in my great grandfather’s balconaje in Tondo, Manila.
Dante and most particularly Bok and Tony traveled with vehicles full of instruments. After setting up in the basement, we did a sound check. We drooled over Bok’s arsenal of guitars which included a Mosrite, a Jazzmaster, a Strat and a Tele. And that is only a fraction of his entire collection. I just had to play the Jazzmaster which instantly transported me back to the seminal days of rock and roll in Manila when guitar instrumentals reigned.
After a sound check and a hearty meal from Solie’s kitchen, the Knights went right into jamming. We went through several instrumentals including Bok’s Shadows repertoire. The man sounded like vintage Hank Marvin and is absolutely phenomenal. "Kon-tiki" and "Midnight" were standouts. Of course Dante’s Fireballs and Ventures tunes were also noteworthy. "Panic Button" was a joy to play. Tony’s drumming as always was impeccable. Tunes like “Telstar” with Dante on keys and Bok on lead guitar sounded astoundingly rich and full. We even played a couple of Celtics tunes in honor of Rey Sanchez.
What was amazing is that the five-part vocal harmonies were intact. Everyone remembered their places. It was such a kick belting out "Ride The Wild Surf" again, a tune I haven't played since 1965! We also did the Beach Boys’ obscure rocker "You’re So Good To Me". Bok and I played tandem notes on that one. Rick did a superb rendition of the Pacemakers’ "I’ll Be There" which we dedicated to Romy and traveled the phone line from Lansing to Manila. Modesty aside, we sounded pretty darn good for a "band" that hasn't played a real gig since 1969 :o)
As a plus, three friends from UST High class of 65, Delia Macaranas, Denise Del Rosario and Fidela Naval joined us from Calgary and Toronto. Delia was the rhythm guitarist of The Velvet Teens, our sister combo circa 1964. Tony, Romy and I attended high school with the three women and it felt good to see them again after all these years. It was a reunion within a reunion.
The Black Knights went through tunes from our old repertoire without rehearsal. The tape was running and it recorded every note and noise that we emitted during the two nights of jamming. Once again, Dante provided the whole crew with t-shirts to commemorate this wonderful occasion. True to tradition, we ended Saturday evening’s jam session with the Byrds’ "We’ll Meet Again". We don’t know where, we don’t know when, but we know we’ll meet again some sunny day - - - - so the song goes.
Like most knightly quests, it had to end somehow. Rick and Olga had a pre-dawn flight to catch on Sunday morning. The rest of the Knights and their ladies stayed until Sunday afternoon to continue the celebration of this great friendship, the telling of tales some of which were legends in Black Knights chronicles, the laughter, the food and the warmth of the sun. They all pulled out of my driveway with all vehicles sounding off with a "Barbara Ann" one after the other. The neighbors were wondering what the commotion was as Solie and I watched them drive off into the sunset one by one. The Black Knight castle was again quiet and I missed them immediately.
Say what you will about geezers trying to relive their glory days etc. This is more than that. This gathering is a statement of a great friendship and a strong bond reinforced by love of rock and roll. After 37 years and with God’s graces, the Black Knights’ round table has been reconvened one more time and their brotherhood duly resurrected. We are truly thankful for this blessing. Inspired by the great PCR reunion of 2003, we will probably keep doing it as long as we can. I can testify that after all these years, the Black Knights circle remains unbroken.
Let it be said that for one brief shining moment, in a house in Lansing, Michigan full of friends and family, the Black Knights rocked as if we were riding the wild surf at Manila Bay again :o)
Rock on Black Knights! Gotta take that one last ride . . . until the next time when we once again sound off with our battle cry “Tayo na, BK na!!!”