And Now, On Bass, Robert "Kool Kat" Kuhlmann!

The first step in regrouping was finding a bass player.  The Lava Pups could perform as a trio.  In fact, that was something on which we were working before Don announced his sabbatical.

After going through a mental check list of friends who play bass and might be interested, I picked up the phone and called Robert Kuhlmann.  Certainly, he would bring a lot of musicality to the Pups.  He teaches guitar, writes songs, and plays guitar and bass.  Back in the 1980s, he fronted -- lead guitar and vocals -- an alternative rock band which played the clubs of Sacramento.  Some music aficionados say that he was the best of the crop at the time. 

For the past decade or so, he has focused on jazz -- primarily free jazz.  At the beginning of that period, he was the guitarist for his eponymous quartet.  For the last few years, he has played electric bass -- actually lead bass -- in Chikading, which is a SAMMIE-nominated jazz trio.

Robert is a real musician.

Robert is open-minded musically.  Maybe that is due to his skills as a lyricist or just his outlook on life.  In any event, unlike some jazz players, he does not look upon rock ‘n roll as some bastard stepchild to be shunned.  Nor does he approach rock as being somehow infradignitatem.  Rather, he has attended a couple of performances of the Lava Pups, complimented us, and offered encouragement of my rock ‘n roll fantasies.  He repeatedly emphasizes how important playing in front of people is to becoming a better musician and getting full enjoyment out of music.

My entreaty was straightforward.  “Do you want to be in a rock ‘n roll band?  I can’t guarantee that you’ll make any money at all.  But so far we’ve put fannies in the seats.  You’ll get to play in front of more folks than at the usual free jazz gig in Sacramento.”  I then explained how Don announced a sabbatical and the Lava Pups was reduced to half of a band.  The prospect of playing with the Sneaky Tikis was added to sweeten the pitch.

Irrespective of whether it was my finely honed sales pitch or the prospect of playing live, Robert did not hesitate.  “I’m on board.  It may not be for the long-term.  But I’ll play a couple of gigs for sure.  What’s the time commitment?”

“We probably should practice once a week.” 

“I don’t know that I can make that.  But, if you give me the chord charts and MP3s, we’ll make it work.”

Not bad.  One telephone call and we were back to three-quarters of a surf band.  In fact, we were an instrumental trio.  With the buzz about the Sneaky Tikis and some time and practice, we could make this work. 

Isn’t it what you make of it?

Now, I need to start rehearsing, “And on bass, Robert ‘Kool Kat’ Kuhlmann!”

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