The first years of my life were spent in Arlington , Va. right outside of Washington, D.C. in the late 1950's. John Glenn America's second astronaut, lived down the street from us and our next door neighbor was Dick Lugar who is now a senator from Indiana! He and his wife sometimes looked after me when my mother had errands to run! We all experienced the Cuban missile crisis together huddled in the adjoining basements to our apartments and we were all typical struggling American families in the Eisenhower era!
My life's course would have most certainly pointed in a total different direction had it not been for my very talented guitarist brother Phil Hasselvander! Around our house he was known as "Flip" so as not to be confused with my father Phil Sr. , something my parents had worked out long before I was born in 1956. My earliest memories of Phil was him being the type of kid who was highly independent and would stay long hours away from our home sometimes until the middle of the night on his Schwinn bicycle riding all over Arlington , Va. and down around the massive Pentagon and then back home via Falls Church which was miles away! My parents were concerned about his detachment from the rest of the family but also realizing that he was very mature for his age. They knew he could take care of himself and stay away from danger. He also drew charcoal pictures often depicting single standing trees on windy mountain tops with no other vegetation in sight. This really concerned our mother as she thought that maybe this was the view of his world that some day would make him prone to being a social outcast! In reality I think it was my sudden arrival as a new born that might have caused some of that as Phil had been an only child for 9 years of his life and suddenly a lot of the attention from our loving parents was focused on me and away from him!
As I grew older I was totally fascinated by him and all the things he was in to. He never missed an episode of The Twilight Zone, The Steve Allen Show, The Groucho Marx Show or The Honeymooners! He loved snowball fights, leather bomber jackets, B.B guns and illegal fireworks! So there I was being a pest and wanting to share all of these things with him but ultimately getting in the way of his self imposed solitude! I remember his friends being just like Eddie Haskle and Lumpy Rutherford from The Leave It To Beaver Show! These guys were real pranksters and loved torturing Phil's dopey little brother! I loved it! I wanted to be them so bad but was only 3 or 4 years old!
In 1959 I remember the day my brother changed! That was the day he got his first guitar! It was a Dan Electro built for Sears Silvertone! All of a sudden our house was screaming with the twanging sounds of Dick Dale, The Ventures , Santo and Johnny, Duane Eddy and The Astronauts! He was playing along with this stuff on the turntable and learning every aspect of these great brand new guitar styles that were sweeping the country! I had witnessed his life's calling come to roost on his shoulders!
In 1962 our family moved to Woodbridge, Va. which at the time was nothing but cow pastures, abandoned pig farms and a beer swilling boater community that lived along the Potomac River! It was a far cry from Arlington and Falls Church and my parent's middle to upper class friends.
That year my brother Phil attended Gar-Field Highschool and soon found others who played surf rock! He played the annual school talent show along with a very young Emmy Lou Harris who also attended Gar-Field! He knocked the crowd out with his band The Stingrays and proved himself as a local gunslinger guitarist! In 1964 he formed a new surf band called The Rip-Tydes! This time out he had surrounded himself with top notch players all with ambitions as big as his and it really showed at their gigs which started coming fast and furious! They cut their first acetate at Delmar Studios in Washington, D.C.! It featured 5 cover songs one of which was "I Need You" by The Kinks and also featured an original composition written by Phil! This lead to an appearance on the Wing Ding T.V. program hosted by D.J. Kirby Scott! It was surreal for me to see my brother on my favorite dance show lip sinking to his music! Our whole family was very proud!
All of this inspired me more and more to toy with the idea of some day doing this myself! But I couldn't seem to figure out what instrument would be preferable until that fateful day that my brother's drummer Bobby Ware stored his drums in our living room overnight! I finally got to see a real Ludwig drum kit up close and personal! At that moment something just grabbed me about the whole strangeness of these silver sparkle tubs staring back at me with the gleaming chrome snare drum rattling as you raised your voice! I was compelled to play them but didn't for being in fear of my brother's reaction!
I was soon old enough to go with my dad to see Phil play at dozens of summertime shopping center parking lot events hosted by the local D.J.s of the day! I remember in 1966 the first time I had ever seen bell bottom pants as they had just newly arrived on the scene! They were mostly for the girls with the exception of the unisex minded bands of the time! My brother became bigger than life to me with every rock and roll conquest that he made! He had become friends with another popular band called The British Walkers that featured a very young Roy Buchanan who became a top Warner Brothers recording artist and one of the world's most famous guitarists in the mid 1970's!
The British Walkers were D.C.'s most famous group in 1965 with their remake of Little Richard's "The Girl Can't Help It" I saw them play with The Rip-Tydes many times!
Phil started opening shows for much bigger national acts like Neal Diamond! Phil's band The Rip-Tydes were also being seriously looked at by A&R people in the business when suddenly the cloud of doom hovered over our family and every other American family that had teenage boys! The draft suddenly became an issue and every long haired, Beatle boot wearing rocker had to register for selective service! This included my brother Phil and a few of his band mates! The Vietnam War killed more bands than Vietcong! Needless to say my family was devastated and the glory days of British beat music were over!
At this time I had already learned to play the drums so my father thought that it would be a good idea to get me a drum kit for Christmas! I thought I was going to burst when I woke up that morning to find those red sparkle drums set up in our living room like Bobby Ware's had once been! These were mine!
My first engagement was going solo in a student talent show when I was in 3rd grade to over 200 kids! I played to a record of Van Morrison and Them playing their rendition of "Gloria"! This was my destiny set before me! It also proved to me the theory that girls liked musicians because here came the hotties in my class that would never look at me suddenly trying to pull off my Manfred Mann style black turtleneck shirt and slobber me with kisses! WOW!!!!!
1968 came around and so did my brother with an honorable discharge from the army! He had changed so much and had reverted back to his behavior so many years ago in Arlington! We didn't know him and he didn't want to be known! Like so many others he too came home from that crappy war stressed out and with issues concerning substance abuse! With things as they were, he could no longer live under the same roof as the rest of the family so after a year or so he sort of got back in to the swing of things and went back in to music landing a job with Little Joe And The Romans, a traveling band managed by then booking agent Charlie Daniels! Our Dad flew all over the country to see his shows when possible and I think a lot of it was out of guilt for not paying enough attention to him as a young child! My Dad was real proud of him as he was me! Years later after our father's death, Phil went on to play guitar and become band leader for the famous 1950's crooner Ronnie Dove!
My brother Phil paved the way for my success in the music business! Without his inspiration I would not have been able to weather the many storms a career in music brings! 27 albums and countless world tours later I think that proves my point.
I still play a gig or two with Phil today playing his beloved surf rock! I always let him know, My Brother Paved The Way!