September 1978 brought the changing of the leaves and a new direction for Sweet Cider. Glenn was officially on-board and we were developing a style and “sound”. Glenn played his first gig as a member of the band at the Buckshot on September 3, and with summer winding down we only had the 10th as our last show there. It had been a wild and crazy ride at the Buckshot. We learned that free beer was a fringe benefit, shed a couple of wives (Walt and I) and had picked up a mandolin player. We also realized we needed to book some more jobs.
Tom and his wife came up with the idea of auctioning our services out at the annual WMHT membership drive. A couple from Troy came in with the winning bid and on September 9 we headed over there for a party they were having. We were set up on a hay wagon and it was a real fun day. The next day, Sunday, we played at an Arts Festival in Guilderland. My Aunt was involved in it and asked if we would like to play. We never passed up a chance to play during that time, so even though we weren’t going to be paid we felt it would be good exposure. We also had our last Buckshot Inn job later in the day and we’d be getting paid for that.
We sped from Guilderland up to Mayfield, pulled into the Buckshot parking lot and began to unload our gear. Tom suddenly looked panicked and said “I forgot to pack the mics”. He jumped in his van and flew off back to Rotterdam. Meanwhile Joe, Walt and I began to setup. Not long after Glenn arrived. He had driven up in his own car and said he had seen Tom’s van speeding south. We explained the situation to him as we shrugged our shoulders and laughed. This wouldn’t be the last time Tom forgot to bring something to a gig causing him to speed home and back. Just about 10 minutes before we had to start playing Tom came barreling into the parking lot. He ran in with the mics, we plugged them in and began playing. Tom had made the 70 mile trip in under 45 minutes.
The following weekend was another with one free gig and one paying one. We’d be back in Mechanicville for two nights at the Out of Towner, and on Saturday afternoon we were going to play in front of the Schenectady Public Library.
The Out of Towner was a unique place. All the times we played there it was always a sparse crowd. And of course there was the time when Tom punched a guy through the kitchen doors before we started playing. It never ceased to amaze me that the guy he punched stayed for the next set. Other times there would hardly be anyone there (I guess bluegrass wasn’t a big draw in Mechanicville in 1978), but still the owner always asked us back.
Friday was slow as usual, and when we arrived there Saturday evening it looked like it was going to be more of the same. The afternoon show at the library had been terrific. Glenn’s mother and father both showed up (I think they were there to see the group of degenerates their son had hooked up with) as did Tom’s Mom and lots of our friends.
At the Out of Towner we knew after our first set, when there were only two people at the bar, it was going to be a long night. In the end we just went into the bar and played for that couple the rest of the night. It was the last time we played there. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact Tom had increased the number of chairs in his kitchen by two.
We didn’t play anywhere for the next three weeks, so we decided to record a demo tape to use to get more jobs. Walt brought a stereo tape recorder over to Tom’s and we ended up with a pretty decent tape.
Our first gig after our little hiatus was in Cobleskill at a small bar called Uncle Jacks. Cobleskill had a college and Jacks was one of the bars frequented the the kids. Our first gig there was an accident. Duane Morgan, who we had met in August at the festival in Northville, had planned on playing there. He suggested we take the job instead, but he neglected to tell the owner. Naturally when we arrived Friday night for the show there was some confusion but things worked out fine and we had a great two nights with packed houses and crazy fans. It was the beginning of a fantastic relationship.
The next weekend we were back at our old haunt the Woodstone Inn in Schenectady. We had built up a nice fan base in Schenectady, so when we played there it was always a hootin’ and a hollerin’ wild night. We were also building up the courage to ask for more money since we had added Glenn, but also because we were building a following and the bar owners would almost always have a good night if we were appearing. Amazingly enough we never had a problem getting a “raise”, and as a result had created a nice paying side job.
And now for the Forgotten Road Trip. I’m able to remember a lot of the early places because I never throw anything away. As a result I have a notebook that has 1978-mid 1981 chronicled. Every job with dates and how much I made. Unbeknownst to me Tom did the same and I also use his records as reference. We took a famous road trip in 1979 where we played in Alexandria Bay on Friday and then drove to Potsdam to play there the following night. We would always reference that trip in our reminiscences. I discovered that on October 20-21 1978 we played at the Wild Oat in Potsdam. I don’t remember doing that one iota. I asked Joe if he remembered doing it. He had no recollection. This past October when Glenn was in town for his annual visit I asked if he remembered. Nope. So if anyone reading this was there and remembers it please let me know. Did we have a good time?
Our next gig was a direct result of having played at Uncle Jacks in October. The folks who ran the coffee house on the Cobleskill college campus booked us for two nights in November. This was exactly the kind of gig we were looking for, playing colleges etc. It was a step up from playing in bars, and although we’d been together for only a year we could see the difference. Playing at the Brickyard Pointe Coffee House on the Cobleskill campus paid much better. We had begun to build a following in Cobleskill also.
After another weekend at the Woodstone Inn our next show was at a place new for us. The Johnstown Hotel had a bar/restaurant called The Hungry Horse where they would have entertainment on the weekends. It seemed like a good fit for us since we had fans from all our time playing at the Buckshot that summer. We played consecutive Sundays there. Glenn had a commitment the second Sunday, so we did that gig as a quartet. That was also the night that Joe acquired a bicycle.
We played one more weekend in December at the Woodstone Inn and then didn’t play out again until the new year. We rehearsed and jammed over the holidays, and 1979 was shaping up to be a wild and eventful year. We were becoming very comfortable playing music with each other, and were looking forward to getting out again in the new year.