Celebrating the Winston-Salem Sound (Live at the Ramkat 2018)


Don Dixon remembers:

My first exposure to the Winston-Salem scene was a show in what I believe was the old civic center. Anyway, it was a boxing arena of some kind and I was there with my new band mates, Mike Greer, Robert Kirkland and Jimmy Glasgow to play a set with some other bands from their hometown. I was struck by the rustic, dusty building in contrast to the beautiful brand new Marshall stacks set up on the makeshift stage surrounded by kids that looked straight off the set of Hullaballoo or Shindig. I was from a little mill town in South Carolina and the kids there did not look like these young people. My band, which would eventually become known as Arrogance, was still billing itself as Dogbreath Blues Band (from a Frank Zappa song) and doing songs like "Willie the Pimp" and "Race with the Devil" as well as our original numbers. We were freshmen in college, older than the other bands on the bill, and I remember first laying eyes on Mitch Easter, an eighth or ninth grader at the time. Little did I know that this kid with a perfect pageboy haircut would become one of my closest friends.

The details of the gig are fuzzy but I've been told we brought our top game to the evening's festivities.

In the summer of 1970, I was strolling through Reynolda Gardens with some friends (hundreds of hippies came out on any given Sunday to check out what was happening in the gardens) and came across two young men, one playing an acoustic guitar and the other an upright bass. They were singing "The Sound of Silence." That was the first time I saw Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple, two more people who would become dear friends.

In the early years, there were a number of memorable venues in Winston-Salem. A slew of church coffeehouses, city-sponsored events at the rec centers, even a club would pop up for a short time. But some of the most enjoyable shows I played (and saw) were at the Starlight Swim Club, a man-made lake somewhere on the Southside of town. I can remember singing until I blacked out . . . more than once. As a matter of fact, I felt like I hadn't given a proper show if I hadn't passed out at least once!

In the summer on 1970, on the heels of our "Black Death" single, Arrogance signed a production agreement with Orville Atwood to record at his small studio in Hickory, NC. We did several sessions there, including our first attempt at "To See Her Smile," one of Robert's songs. It was also when we began to solicit help from Winston-Salem's answer to Nicky Hopkins, Marty Stout, teen pianist extraordinaire. When nothing came of our recordings with Atwood (and we discovered our tapes had been erased to record a Burger Barn jingle), we signed with Wayne Jernigan and Roger Branch at Reflection Sound in Charlotte. In early spring of 1971, with Marty now a full-fledged band member, we recorded the LP Knights of Dreams, finally released on vinyl in 2018. A few songs from those sessions emerged in 1973 on the Greer LP, which featured vocals by Robert Kirkland and me as well as Jim Glasgow and Marty Stout. All the compositions were by Mike Greer, and releasing this album was our way of trying to help Mike get his songs out into the world. Robert, Marty and I were developing a more acoustic version of Arrogance by that time and would release several regional records before signing to our first national record deal, with Vanguard, in 1974.


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