The last time the Black Knights played together as a band was probably in 1966 before it metamorphosized into the Hallucinogenic Citrus Juice. 1963 through 1966 saw the most productive years of the Black Knights as a rock and roll band. When we parted ways in Manila, we never thought we would ever get together as a band again nor could we have dreamed that a reunion might take place in North America someday.
But it happened. The Black Knights reconvened the round table for three days and nights of exhilarating rock and roll joy and camaraderie. It started with an eMail from drummer Tony Layno in March 2004 telling me that he has somehow connected with Rick our long lost rhythm guitarist. The exchange of communication became fast and furious between me, Dante, Rick and Tony. Vokh even chimed in a few times.
Inspired by the great PCR Reunion of 2003, it was inevitable that a reunion plan would start to brew. After the difficult process of reshuffling personal schedules and tracking down the other Knights, a date was agreed upon and "bahala na lang kung sino ang makarating". The date will be July 9 to 11 of 2004. And since two Knights reside in the Toronto area, it was most convenient to choose TO as the place to stage it. Tony and Dante have tons of equipment to facilitate the jams.
Rick commissioned his brother-in-law Toots Palacio (one of the BK Monkeys, our brother combo) to search for other lost Knights in the metro Manila area. Eddie our #1 roadie and technician couldn=t join us. Romy and Bogo couldn’t be located. Vokh and Larry had major conflicts with their schedules. It looked like the reunion lineup will be Dante, Rick, Tony and I. Toots was invited to attend. Dante and Tony requested a visa for him to enter Canada. Everyone was excited and ideas for tunes to do came flying in via eMail. The excitement kept growing as the date neared. The feeling was a mixture of excitement, apprehension, nervousness, full of great and not so great expectations but with a certain amount of determination.
The drive from Michigan took 6 hours. My wife Solie and I arrived at our hotel in Scarborough around 3:00pm on Thursday July 8. Tony picked us up. After the emotional hugging and backslapping, we proceeded to his house where Elsie his wife was waiting for us with a nice merienda. Half an hour later, Dante and his wife Elvie arrived and another series of emotional hugging and welcoming ensued. I was trying hard to control my tears when I first saw Tony and Dante Thursday afternoon. It felt great to be in their physical proximity again.
After a great meal which Elsie prepared, Tony, Dan and I went right into jamming and went through some instrumentals. Torquay, Bombora, Zambesi, 707, Bulldog, Rawhide, Penetration, Pipeline etc. We even managed a few Beach Boys tunes to loosen our vocal chords. It was amazing how things fell into place even after a forty-year hiatus.
Rick, Olga, Toots and Emmie arrived Friday afternoon and stayed at Tony’s place. I felt the same happy emotions when I saw them. Next to Vokh, Rick is one of my oldest friends. I have known him since the 2nd grade. I was happy to see Toots. The BK Monkeys were our brother band and they completed our Abarkada@ back in the old days. We all shouted “Tayo na, BK na!!”
The following three days were filled with good vibrations. I haven’t had this much joy in my heart since my wedding day and the birth of my twins. I can only say that it was one of the greatest weekends I have ever experienced in my old age. The conversation was nonstop. When we parted ways in the 60's, we were young single men. Now some of us are grandparents. There=s a wealth of stories to share, notes to compare and photos of children and grand kids to pass around. Even though we were all frazzled from jamming, we did not want it to end. The talking, the music, the laughter, the camaraderie, the partying and the food! It was all magnificent. We would start playing around 6:00pm and quit nearly around 3:00am. Thankfully Dan and Tony=s basements were soundproofed. The mornings were spent making “ronda” in Scarborough.
Tony, Elsie, Dante and Elvie were great hosts. They did everything possible to ensure the smooth flow of the activities. Elsie and Elvie prepared the most sumptuous meals and meriendas. All the BK wives were very supportive and got along tremendously well. Our heartfelt thanks go out to all of them. Elsie, Elvie, Olga, Emmie and Solie, we love you!
The Friday evening jam at Tony’s had a richer fuller sound with all five of us on instruments and vocals. We did tunes by the Beach Boys, Byrds, Everly Brothers, Trini Lopez and others. Tony's friends and relatives stopped by to see and hear us. Elsie had a great buffet table of food. We also drank a toast to Loren, the BK Monkeys drummer who passed away recently in Manila.
Saturday night the party moved to Dante's place. His friends and relatives were our audience. Elvie cooked up a fabulous feast. By that time, our fingers literally hurt and our voices cracked. Solie made us some green tea and honey to soothe our throats. Elvie prepared some Asalabat,@ to heal our wounded vocal chords. That was the night we recorded the jam session and Dante did a great job in his well equipped studio. We were frazzled physically and the recordings reflected that. Paos na talaga. Nevertheless we jammed to our hearts content. We did not want the feeling to end. We were in a time capsule and it was 1964 again. When we did “We’ll Meet Again” our last song for the evening, we were hoarse and we couldn’t hold back the tears. What a poignant end to a wonderful weekend. That song said it all. It promises another meeting. We don’t know where, we don’t know when but we know we’ll meet again some sunny day. So the song goes . .
When it was finally time for me to leave Sunday afternoon, it was hard to contain the emotions. The tears fell when I took a last look at the guys and their wives outside on Tony's driveway and I blasted with a “Barbara Ann” on the car horn. All the guys answered with a resounding “toooouuooot!” which was our manner of greetings in the old days. Solie and I felt the melancholy joy as we drove off. I also felt gratitude. Not everyone is given this gift of “reconnection” and I thank God for it. This was more than a reunion of the band, it is also a reaffirmation of a great friendship. The Black Knights are my oldest and closest friends. Knowing that we all have made it this far in life and are able to reconnect now feels wonderful.
That is how the great Black Knights reunion of 2004 in Toronto unfolded. We don't know when an event like this will happen again but we have started the ball to roll. At any rate, we have proven that the Black Knights still rock in 2004.
It is hereby decreed that the Black Knights have added a sequel to their Rock & Roll saga on the 9th to 11th of July in the year of our Lord 2004.
Long Live The Black Knights!!