The Ottumwa Courier

April 28, 2013

Names are labels man

Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA — I once played in a band back in high school called “Names are Labels Man.” We had the name taped to the drum set at one point. It was me and Tom Brickey (“Brick” or just “Brickey”), the founding members.

Oh sure, we had a few journeymen roll through like David Vittetoe (“Vitt”), John Rudisill (“Rudy”), Dave Carpenter (“Carp”), Chris Mefford (“Meff”). I think even Paul Collett (“P.C.”) and Stephen Vittetoe (who we called “Crazy Joe” just for kicks) stepped in for a gig at one time. Of, course Chuck Ray was “Fuzzy,” and Jim Wilbanks was “Wilbur” or “Wilbs.”

But, they were only there for just a few shows ... or maybe it was a school assembly. Fame is foggy looking back. Tom and I were the founding members who played through it all.

And we could jam. Brick would always say, “Let’s jam, Brindo!” We would get together for jam sessions and we could play a three-song set just like that ... bam, bam, bam! Brick and I (“Brindo,” which somehow morphed into “Brindog”) only knew about three songs, but they were pretty good ones. Tom would play the songs he knew on the guitar, and I’d try to drum along and keep the beat. We were loud, too.

“Names are Labels Man’s” most jammin’ song was “Ridin’ The Storm Out” by REO Speedwagon. That’s because it was the song Brick knew the best. Sometimes we’d start and finish with that, as you’ll see in some of your better concerts.

Most great bands split up for one reason or another — our reason was we went to different colleges.

When I visited my old bandmate Brick at Iowa State, I met his girlfriend and future wife, Jean. Jean told me, “I just thought your first name was ‘Brindley’ all this time and ‘Brindo’ was just an offshoot of that.”

A lot of it just goes back to when Doug Pumroy taught me tennis lessons. He has taught and developed players for years. Out of banter at lessons, he’d say, “It’s Brind!” and it morphed into “Brindo.”

Doug used to have a lot of nicknames during lessons. He’d say to Lon Thurman, “Thurmy, wormy, c’mon and burn me.”

With nicknames, I’m sure you’ve all experienced the “not-miss-a-beat” name you used to call someone or they called you years later. It’s kind of strange — like a “memory burn” — you skip several years and are suddenly transported to past memories.

Longtime Ottumwa coach Bill Kramer is affectionately known around town as “Coach.” I also affectionately call longtime former swim coach Mike McWilliams and tennis coach Dan Staggs simply “Coach.” That’s what they’ll always be to us — longtime mentors who tried to bring out the best in us. I know Dave Clement and Joe Curran from my era will always be known as “Coach” by their former players.

Along with the old nicknames, you remember quirky, feel-good memories. For example, “Fuzzy” who was a brainiac, used to declare any item of food he ate before taking the first bite. He’d pick up a hamburger and he’d say, “Hamburger” and take a bite. Or he’d pick up a pizza and say “Pizza” and take a bite. I didn’t understand it — but it was funny. He would always reassure you by saying, “Relax, later we’ll get ice cream,” a line from Dudley Moore’s Arthur.

“Wilbur” — our Ottumwa state champion in tennis — went out jogging in what turned out to be an intense thunderstorm. We sent a few search crews out for him. I found him first, so “Wilbs” came up with the idea to throw a shoe out on the road for one of the other search crews to find. Pretty funny.

“P.C.” — every single time he’d wake up, he’d say, “Grub!” He was hungry; he wanted to eat! That was funny too.

“P.C.” (Paul Collett) lost a long battle with cystic fibrosis several years ago. He played on our tennis team, and we used to hang out quite a bit. His humor could get a little raunchy at times, and he always had everyone laughing to the point of tears. If there was a world award for causing pop to come out your nose after a hilarious comment, P.C. would have won it. I’ve got those comedy bits he used to do burned in my memory bank and can pull them up whenever I want — whenever I need a smile.

Anytime you hear those old nicknames, those memories just come back. Those names and memories don’t miss a beat.