PALMER – Tucked back in the woods at the end of a curving dirt drive stands what appears to be an old wooden home. Outside sits a red 1963 Chevy Impala giving a first-time guest a feeling of going back in time.
And going back in time is what four members of a then high school band from Waxahachie called the Techniques did April 16. They gathered in the old wood building, better known as Palmyra Studios, to record again for the first time in more than 40 years.
Once in the studio Sammy Compton, Larry White, Dickie Todd and Mark Garth, the band’s original members, reunited for an all-day session to remember many of their old songs and add a few new ones to their set list. Joining the original band members was Larry White’s son, Gary, who sat in the place of Nick Esparza, a Vietnam veteran who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country 42 years ago, April 20.
“Nick was really a great, great player. It is an honor to sit in with these guys,” Gary White said. “I grew up listening to them on 45s and then on reel-to-reel tapes practicing along with their music.”
The younger White got his first chance to play with the Techniques in October 2010 at Waxajam 8 as a sit-in for Esparza.
In the studio sat Garth at his keyboard going over the strains and rhythms while getting some coaching for Sam Taylor at the sound console.
“It has been a long time since I’ve been in a studio. It really feels different,” Garth said.
After a few adjustments, the band began its first track, the Everly Brothers’ “Bye, Bye, Love,” with Compton on electric bass, Todd playing drums, and Larry and Gary White doing both guitar and vocals.
“Hey, Rick, give me a little more back beat; this is a rock-a-billy song,” Taylor said as way of suggestion as a 1-2-3-4 downbeat came over the speakers to start the next take. With Larry White doing the vocal, the group finished its next track.
Taylor again made some style change suggestions for Larry White, recommending he use a Chet Atkins’ style for playing each note.
“Chet who?” was the quizzical response and, after the laughter and a little coaching, the single note melody began coming out of the room to create the effect Taylor was looking for.
“Now, let’s try it again,” said Taylor, who was assisted by Paul White as sound engineer on the board. While the band played through the music, Taylor listened carefully to the sound quality as Paul made the fine adjustments required on the board’s many buttons, slides and knobs.
When not playing or waiting for microphone checks to be made, the band members reminisced about times past: playing gigs and about old friends with whom they had played music.
“I was just a kid in the seventh grade playing with guys in high school,” Todd, who was their first drummer, said, saying they would practice at Compton’s house. Compton, a cancer survivor who no longer has the ability to speak, sat listening. He smiled and made the note on his scratch pad: “1966.”
Todd went on to start and play with other bands when he was in high school. He rejoined his old group for Waxajam 8 last October.
“At first I said I would sit in for old time’s sake. The drummer they had lined up couldn’t make it so I played the whole time and now I feel so honored to be here in the studio,” he said.
“I feel really good being back in the studio with these guys again,” Garth said of the all-day Saturday session.
The group is recording a CD that will be released this October at Waxajam 9. The CD will include new versions of their original 45s (which were produced by the late Ronnie Dawson, a rock-a-billy icon). They also plan to include many favorites from the mid-1960s.
The Techniques can be seen live for the second time in as many years at Waxajam 9 on Oct. 8 at the historic Texas Theater, downtown Waxahachie. Their “Tribute to Nick Esparza” CD will be available at the door for a donation.