There is probably a scientific theory somewhere serving as explanation, or maybe it’s just rock ’n’ roll nature taking its course. But if you have a father with an extensive performance background in local club gigging, a son with an eager music instinct of his own, and a basement full of instruments just waiting to produce noise, something cataclysmic is going to occur.
That’s essentially what happened as Wils Quinn, an eager student of rock music and all its battering potential, took to the drums with father Bill Quinn, the front man for 10 Foot Pole, an omnipresent funk, rock and groove presence in the Lexington club scene during the late 1980s and ’90s, serving as the happy enabler.
“We always had a ton of instruments in the house,” Wils recalled. “We’d be jamming around, with Dad playing guitar and me playing drums. It was just for fun. Then, when I was a freshman in high school, someone said, ‘Hey, do you want to have, like, a serious band?’ That’s when I started practicing and feeling it out. But there have been drums and other instruments in the house my entire life. We would just go downstairs and mess around with them.”
I’m proud of Wils as a musician, but the pride comes from realizing that, on a good day, I give them a basement and that’s it. They’re doing this on their own.
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The someone, in this instance, was guitarist Grant Curless, and the band that would emerge out those local high school dreams was Johnny Conqueroo, a power trio that plays elemental- and roots-driven rock as if they were elder scholars, even though the band members were too young to legally get into the clubs they would soon play.
“Oh, there’s tons of fatherly pride here,” Bill said. “Tons. I’m proud of Wils as a musician, but the pride comes from realizing that, on a good day, I give them a basement and that’s it. They’re doing this on their own. They write these songs where I sit back and go, ‘I could never come up with that.’
“Maybe in the early days, I might be like, ‘Don’t do that, do this.’ But not anymore. These days, I give them a basement and get out of the way. Although I’m helping them a lot with management-type things. I enjoy that kind of stuff. That way, they can just be musicians.
That doesn’t mean the father rocker doesn’t occasionally have professional homework for the son rocker.
“I jumped them once before they played a headlining show. I was like, ‘Show me your set list. Don’t leave the house without a set list. I’m serious, don’t leave the house unless you’ve got at least 20 songs ready.’ That kind of stuff.”
This weekend, both generations of the Quinns team up, as a reunion show by 10 Foot Pole shares a bill at The Burl with Johnny Conqueroo. Though Wils has frequently seen his father perform, it has never been with 10 Foot Pole, but with Rebel Without a Cause, the more streamlined rock outfit Bill played with during the mid-1980s before it took “a 20-year break.” Rebel began playing regularly again in 2008, but 10 Foot Pole reunions are infrequent, largely because band trumpeter John Turner long ago relocated to New York. He will be on hand for the Saturday show along with 10 Foot Pole mainstays Brian Arnett on bass and Dave Farris on drums.
“The Rebel band practice would be every Thursday,” Wils said. “Plus they play a lot of all-ages stuff, so those are the shows I’ve been able to see.
“Our house already had all the equipment to have band practice, because my dad was having band practice. We just used that stuff. Our house was always the place where people who wanted to play music would come.”
Johnny Conqueroo has already released two recordings in as many years and established a loyal local fan base. With Wils and bassist Shawn Reynolds graduating from the STEAM Academy this spring and entering the University of Kentucky in the fall, and with Curless working locally at Big Hair Records, the music store/all ages performance venue that has been one of the trio’s favorite haunts, the members are focused on staying put in Lexington but remaining open for whatever the future may offer.
“We’re going to keep practicing, recording and playing, saving up and trying to do the best we can do on our own,” Wils said. “If at any point something happens or someone else jumps in, we’re going to go with that, too.”
Our house was always the place where people who wanted to play music would come.
As Wils looks to the future, Bill will enjoy a brief appreciation of the past this weekend at The Burl, setting 10 Foot Pole back into motion.
“When we rehearsed for this show, everybody was going, ‘You guys just need to keep playing.’ If we all checked with reality, we’d go, ‘Oh, we probably can.’ It’s a good feeling when you come to rehearsal going, ‘Why did we ever stop doing this?’ ‘Let’s do this more frequently.’
“Of course, with JT in New York City, we really can’t. There is something special about his ingredient to the band. It’s just not quite 10 Foot Pole without him. So the dispersal is the hard part. We all have our wish, but I’m in my 50s now. You know how it gets.”