The Azure Dominion

In my sophomore year of high school, I was invited by friends Eric Bengtson and Bill Bland to become a keyboard player for a group they were forming. Bill was a completely self-taught guitar player, and Eric, a completely self-taught drummer. I'm not sure what Bill's musical background was, but he hadn't been playing guitar very long. A year, maybe? Basically, he could play some chords and was therefore our rhythm guitarist. Eric was actually an accomplished trombone player who decided it would be fun to play drums. Luckily, we did have one fairly proficient musician in Jim Kenyon, who played lead guitar. We had at least one trumpet player; I can't remember if it was Bob Edwards or Blair Pfahl, or both. At some point we admitted that none of us could sing well at all, so we recruited Paul Pilgram as our lead vocalist. I'm pretty sure that Paul had no vocal training.

There was one problem, though. I had no electronic keyboard. So, I approched my father about how I might procure one. Although my father was one of the most frugal persons I have ever known, he was also one of the most generous and supportive of his children. He showed me a "combo organ" ("combo" was, at that time, a nearly-out-of-date term for a musical group) listed in the Montgomery Wards catalog and offered to buy it for me. An amplifier and speaker as well. Forty years after that moment, I feel gratitude beyond words for his willingness to buy this equipment for me. (That was not the end of it, either. He drove me to NYC more than once for additional musical equipment.) Below is what is left of the page out of the catalog and the descriptions of the organ and amp/speaker.

4. Organ and bass guitar amplifier. as 9052, but no tremelo or reverb. for 9055 speakers. 26 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. 140 rms watts. wt. 27 lbs.
62 a 9054 b . . . . . . . . . $6 monthly or cash 129.95

6. Organ/bass speaker. two 15-in. jensen speakers match 9054 amp. with casters. 26 1/2 x 12 x 48 in. ship wt. 55 lbs.
62 a 9055 r . . . . . . . . . $6 monthly or cash 124.95
2-pc. organ/bass system. includes 9054 amp, and 9055 speaker. ship wt. 92 lbs.
62 a9068 r . . . . . . . . . $10.50 monthly or cash 239.95

13. Portable electronic combo organ. transitorized single manual model. 16, 8, 4, 2, 2 2/3 foot voices. 2 octave bass, 61 keys. vibrato and repeat with speed controls, percussion tabs, reverg and differential. vinyl case, silting stand, volume pedal, music rack, cable. ship wt. 65 lbs.
62 a 8917 r ........19.50 monthly or cash 549.95

Note that this equipment was apparently used by the group The Cryan' Shames. I cannot verify whether this is true. However, when I was traveling in Budapest in 1971, damn if I didn't see a group playing a huge outdoor concert in which the keyboardist was using exactly the same model combo organ: a Whitehall Grand Prix.

We did not have a bass player, so I had to use the bass keys on my combo organ to fill in bass lines. It was a lot of responsibility for someone with as little talent as I. I usually did little more than play the root in the bass with my left hand and chords with my right. Occasionally I did arpeggios. To this day, my style has remained pretty much the same.

The way that we chose the name for the group was unique. I made as long a list as I could of adjectives that I considered interesting, and another list of nouns that I thought were interesting. I then tried combinations of adjectives and nouns and settled on Azure Dominion.

According to my records, The Azure Dominion played exactly one paying job. We did play Venus by the group Shocking Blue (the link is to them, not us) for the high school talent show in 1970. That was a mortifyingly embarrassing experience. I think the paying job was a junior high school dance, because I have a copy of an audition tape for the Westerly Parkway Junior High School Social Events Committee. This is thankfully our only recording. Thankfully, most of the recorded songs are excerpts. Sadly, our one good musician, Jim Kenyon, does not seem to be part of this tape. I can point to the numerous shortcomings in our work, but that would be belaboring the obvious. Hey, it was my first group.

Azure Dominion Audition Tape

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