By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Guitar riffs wafted out the gym doors, luring people inside. At one end of the room, four men were belting out lyrics, accompanied by guitars, organ, and the thrump of drums. The audience, seated at tables munching on snacks and clapping, feet keeping time to the beat of the drum. It was Blues Night at Christ the King School.
Three of the men in the band, guitarists Brian Hicks and Bill Dodd, and drummer Allen Fischel, sported T-shirts and jeans. The fourth, organist Father Greg Lockwood, administrator of Christ the King parish, was dressed in cassock and roman collar. His guitar leaned against a nearby speaker.
The synergy was incredible; the band played like they had been together for months, if not years. But Hicks said they’d played together for about two and half hours.
Blues Night, a benefit for Christ the King School, was the brain child of Father Lockwood, who had participated in similar events at a former parish in St. Louis. He arrived in Kansas City late this past summer and is still getting acquainted with his new city. He suggested the event and “threw out a date” to parishioner, school alumna and parent Elizabeth Eichholz. She got in touch with Hicks, whose daughter Jordan attends Christ the King School, and Blues Night was planned for Nov. 18. Hicks enlisted two local musicians, Dodd and Fischel, and the three men met Father Lockwood as the set up for the evening began.
By 8 p.m., Blues Night was rockin’. About 100 Christ the King parishioners, school families and friends talked quietly, tapped feet and clapped hands to the music. Blues Night was billed as an “over 21” event.
“The Blues” refers to the “blue devils,” — feeling blue, sad or melancholy. “Blue Devils,” a one-act farce written by George Colman in 1798, gives an early usage of the term, “the blues.” At least since 1912, when Oklahoma City fiddler Hart Wand’s “Dallas Blues” became the first published blues composition, the term has been synonymous with a melancholy beat and the occasional leave little to the imagination lyrics.
Many artists have written or done covers of well-known blues songs, among them Muddy Waters, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash, the Allman Brothers and B.B. King. At Christ the King, Father Lockwood, Hicks, Dodd and Fischel played a number of old favorites, including Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally,” the Allman Brothers’ “Tied to the Whippin’ Post,” and “Caldonia,” a blues tune recorded in 1945 by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five.
The beat was infectious; three women in the audience got up to dance. Kindergarten teacher Janice Hamill; school secretary Helen Pueschel, and parishioner Catherine Ismert, who had recently celebrated her 84th birthday.
Father Lockwood has a lifelong love of music — classical, blues, pop and rock ‘n’roll. He learned to play the piano and guitar when he was about 8 years old, he recalled. Music has been a hobby since then. As he grew older, blues and rock headed his list of favorites. He has a collection of guitars and a Hammond organ assembled from pieces of other Hammond organs.
He grew up in Cincinnati, and at 18 married Karen who, with their four children, has followed his twisting, turning career path to where they are now, at Christ the King.
He’s gone from a left handed, atheistic submarine sailor who played a right handed guitar upside down and poked fun at his Mass-attending wife, to becoming a Christian and Lutheran-Missouri Synod member who was called to ordained ministry, to conversion to Catholicism, to the call to Catholic priesthood in St. Louis, to a teaching job at Kenrick Seminary, and now to his new double-hat career as administrator of Christ the King Parish in Kansas City, and associate vocations director for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. (Catholic Key, Aug. 11)
After he became a Christian and was called to ordained ministry, Father Lockwood said he settled into the Lutheran-Missouri Synod church because of its strong emphasis on the Bible. He doesn’t regret a single moment of his ministry in the Lutheran church.
“They had the Scriptures, and they had (Johann Sebastian) Bach,” he said.
Today, 23 years after his ordination to the Catholic priesthood, Father Lockwood hasn’t forgotten his passion for music.
“I enjoy music for its own sake,” he said. “But I think it’s important that I keep my church life separate from my pop music life.”
Karen said her husband plays the blues when he’s thinking or feeling a bit “blue.” “I don’t bother him when I hear him playing,” she added. He encouraged all their kids to play a musical instrument, but only their oldest daughter plays some guitar. “They all sing,” she said. “They all have good voices.”
Blues Night at Christ the King was successful, Father Lockwood thought. “Oh, when we first started, we had the usual technical difficulties. I told a few jokes and then told the folks there ‘We’re here to have a good time and enjoy being together.’ The blues are songs about human failure, and we’ve had a lot of experience with human failure lately. It was a good time to have a good time together.”
A raffle was held that night. Eichholz said that a raffle ticket holder could designate his or her name on it or write in Christ the King School (CTKS). When drawn, the winner would receive half the raffle proceeds or, if the ticket drawn said CTKS, the school would receive the full raffle proceeds. When Father Lockwood drew the winning raffle ticket, CTKS was written on the back. Between the raffle proceeds and the $5 admission donation, Eichholz said $880 would all go to the school.
Father Lockwood said there will be more Blues Nights at Christ the King, maybe two or three each year. “I’d like to see the age restriction removed, so younger kids could play and families could attend.”
‘Till the next Blues Night, as B.B. King laments, “Every day I have the blues.”
Drummer Allen Fischel plays at B.B.’s Lawnside BBQ, 1205 East 85th Street, Kansas City, on Sunday evenings. Bill Dodd plays bass guitar with John Paul and His Flying Circus at B.B.’s on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month. Brian Hicks teaches acoustic guitar and stringed instruments at Swope Renaissance, the Upper Room, St. Louis Church, 5930 Swope Parkway, Kansas City.