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Inspired by the artistry and commercial success of several prog rock bands, Hands began as an idea between Michael Clay and Michael Barreyre. While still in high school, the two, inspired by new and experimental music, hatched the idea of a progressive rock band. The group would be a cross between Yes and the Soft Machine. Concurrently, Ernie Myers, John Rousseau, and Steve Parker were jamming together above the concession stand of a drive-in theater. The three also were active playing in front of live audiences. Meanwhile, Clay and Barreyre were joining with David Carlisle and Sonny Solell. The four began to rehearse in Clay's bedroom, honing cover tunes of Pink Floyd and Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. Through a mutual friend in high school, the two groups of musicians began to blend. Rousseau, Clay, and Myers grouped together for a while but were soon disbanded when Myers moved to California. At that turn, Rousseau, Barreyre, Carlisle, Solell, and Clay formed Ibis and began to rehearse in Solell's den. The name Ibis came from "Flight of the Ibis," a song from the McDonald & Giles solo album. Ibis played a number of gigs in and about the Dallas area. Playing an eclectic cover list that included everything from King Crimson, Frank Zappa, and PFM to Johnny Winter and the Allman Brothers, Ibis grew accustomed to playing technically challenging material in clubs that were ill-suited to their unusual playlist. Still, Ibis managed to book a gig at Deb's Danceland which proved to be Carlisle's last with the band. At that point, Parker entered as the bass player. Although not a bass player at the time, Parker quickly adapted to the bass and lead-vocal duties.

The band changed its name from Ibis to Prism and continued to record and play gigs while incorporating more and more originals into the set list. Clay felt that the original compositions the band were starting to play with would benefit from having a string player in the band. Through a newspaper ad discovered by Rousseau, Paul Bunker joined the group. From that point, the band took on a completely different sound and a seriousness of purpose. Finally, citing artistic differences and an increasing reticence to work together, Barreyre was asked to leave the band. While that particular rift was brewing, Myers had returned from Los Angeles where he had met flutist and composer Skip Durbin, who was asked to join Prism. Solell retired from Prism and Durbin quickly joined, and the sound of the group changed again to a more melodic and flowing sort of sound. Myers' father came to a rehearsal one night with one of his associates. Hearing the sincerity and originality of the band, he invested a sum of money for the band to make a recording. Meanwhile, Rousseau had been busy making contact with the promoters of a Gentle Giant concert that was scheduled for the Dallas area. Through sheer persistence, Rousseau secured the opening spot for the Gentle Giant concert. Spurred on by the great reception they received playing the Gentle Giant gig, the band entered January Sound in fall of 1977 and recorded what would be, some 25 years later, the Hands CD.

1978 was a year of grueling practice and songwriting. The group had to endure another practice-room change, to a storefront warehouse in East Dallas, and, learning of the Canadian band of the same name on Arista Records, had to change their name. After a series of long discussions, they finally decided on Hands. The name seemed to sum up a great deal about the band; just a coordination of hands moving about to make music. The name actual predated many of the minimalist names that would appear throughout the early '80s.

During this period, the band courted Ken Scott, the seminal producer of slick pop/rock. Scott had just finished producing and sinking some of his own money into the band Happy the Man. Although Scott heard the music of Hands and enjoyed it, he was in no position to produce or recommend the band to any label. While Happy the Man, a great progressive rock band applauded to this day, were artistically a success, they did not have the sales to match their great music. Ken Scott could really do nothing. With the advent of music that was less and less sophisticated and the ubiquitous drone of disco plodding incessantly along, Hands found it harder and harder to maintain their goals and the ideals of their sound. In 1979, Michael Clay left the band. Undaunted, Hands continued with keyboard virtuoso Shanon Day. Day was a great player from a heavy rock band called Point Blank. He brought a meaty, Hammond B3 sound to the band and a greater rock sensibility. The band also added the vocals of Gary Stone. His high range and smooth vibrato gave the band vocal appeal.This lineup, consisting of Myers, Parker, Durbin, Day, Bunker, Rousseau, and Stone, went into Crystal Clear Sound for a marathon recording session. In record time, they recorded a tremendous amount of music, including epics such as Myers' "Mindgrind," "Antarctica," and Durbin's elegiac "New Skies." This material would later form the bulk of the CD Palm Mystery.

Hands played an inspired show at the Wintergarten Ballroom in 1980. It proved to be the last public appearance of the band in that form. The concert was well attended and expertly played. However, the years, changing public tastes, and the restless careers of the musicians themselves eventually pulled Hands apart.

Flashforward now to 1995. A longtime friend and relative of Steve Parker, Rich, was interested in progressive rock and progressive metal. Parker had given him some tapes of Hands early recordings from the '70s. Rich was in the process of starting Shroom Records. Shroom, in Rich's concept, would release quality material from progressive rock, hard rock, and psychedelic bands primarily located in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. So it was that Hands became Shroom's inaugural release. The CD sold well and established Hands as quasi-legends in the resurgent progressive rock scene of the '90s. Hands' popularity grew particularly well in Scandinavia and Europe. Two more CDs of the archival material were releases to wide acclaim; Prism Live and Palm Mystery. Hands, after so many years of anonymity, were finally being recognized for the progressive rock pioneers that they truly were. It was suggested, first by Shroom and then by Myers, that a reunion CD be produced. Since most of the original members of Hands were still alive and in relative good health, the consensus was, "why not?" In 1996, Myers and Clay began to write some songs in a style that was progressive but not a recounting of their earlier sound. That sound was gone and would never return. But the new songs began to take on life and, after several personnel changes and midstream alterations in recording technique, the CD Twenty Five Winters was finished in the fall of 2001.

~ Cesar Lanzarini, All Music Guide


A Whimsical, Odd, and Somewhat Tall Texas Tale of Hands

(originally included in the CD booklet from Hands-Hands)

Admittedly, those of us who are progressive rock musicians and/or fans are an intriguing and, well, different cast of freaks (not unlike, my wife reminds me, serial killers or members of the Illuminati).

In any case, we've always reveled in our strangeness and singularity, and that's why the genesis (no pun intended) of any great art rock band is fascinating. How does it happen? What was it about the players and their histories that made them into a PFM or a Kayak, instead of, say, a Bachman-Tumer Overdrive or a Foghat? (And is there someone specifically responsible for the latter two whom we can lynch?)

The quixotic and entertaining tale of how HANDS came to be is particularly bizarre.

That Farmers Branch, Texas, a dolt-choked patch of suburbia just northwest of Dallas, could spawn amidst its fast-food franchises and Baptist churches an astonishing group like HANDS is as ironic as it is poetic and laughable. And if, during the band's all-too-brief career, it seemed as though every single citizen of the town, at one time or another, claimed membership in the band, well, that's because fourteen different guys did play in HANDS—just not all at the same time. In fact, core members MICHAEL CLAY, STEVE PARKER, SKIP DURBIN, PAUL BUNKER, ERNIE MYERS and JOHN ROUSSEAU were fairly consistent in their membership and, more importantly, responsible for the bulk of the outfit's prodigious and always compelling material.

But, in a state where high school football, wooing cheerleaders and murdering non-Republican U.S. Presidents are de rigour, that a group of teenager misfits and wannabe rock stars, enamored of Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Jethro Tull and Yes, would all exist and come together in their little Leave It to Beaver community was due to a remarkably convoluted and pretzel-shaped series of events and chance meetings.

Without question, HANDS would never have come to be were it not for the twisted muse of pianist/guitarist Michael Clay, who might be described, depending on which of his former girlfriends one talks to, as "a musical

genius with a cherub's smile and a caustic wit," "a tireless love god" or "a towheaded misanthrope." It was in the latter guise that, in 1972, Clay entered R.L. Turner high school with a figurative chip on his shoulder and a literal King Crimson album under one arm. A surprisingly perceptive classmate took note of Clay's eccentric musical tastes and introduced him to her older brother, Mike Barreyre, a recent graduate whose interests revolved around the mastery of classical guitar, metaphysics, progressive rock and his bong.

They whiled away afternoons visualizing a band of their own, crafted of Crimson, Yes and Zappaesque sensibilities. A supplier of the hashish which fueled these dreams, David Carlisle, happened to own a bass, and soon bought into their expanding, time-share musical hallucination. And when Clay's best pal from school, a saxophonist named Sonny Sollel, broadened his frame of reference beyond Mountain, Cream and Black Sabbath, the foursome began to jam on and off together under the working title Quarts of Wheat.

Over roughly the same period, Ernie Myers, a burgeoning guitarist who'd managed to learn the opening lick to Ten Years After's "I'm Going Home," moved one summer to Farmers Branch from Louisiana. In search of new pals, Myers went to a sock hop at which a group called Hope, Faith and Love was performing. When the drummer successfully pulled off the solo to Iron Butterfly's "Inagaddadavida," Myers went up and introduced himself. The percussionist was named John Rousseau and, when the two hit it off, they decided to form their own group. They dubbed their band-to-be Argyle Gargoyles, and in preparation of auditioning musicians, worked up skeletal arrangements of tunes by Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Who in a storage room behind the snack bar at an X-rated drive-in theater where the underage Rousseau had somehow secured a gig as the projectionist.

After countess rehearsals in which Myers and Rousseau tried out a variety of essentially useless musicians (and just as many nights sneaking after-hours perusals of a film called A Taste of Taffy), a mutual friend introduced the priapic duo to a multi-instrumentalist of similar musical tastes named Steve Parker, who had recently moved to Farmers Branch from Colorado. While proficient on piano and guitar, Parker shrewdly noted the Argyle Gargoyles' need for a bass player and, despite having never played the instrument, gamely volunteered to take it up. With an intuitive and creative skill which brought to mind both Mozart and noted American kiddie-show host Captain Kangaroo, Parker learned bass with alacrity.

The trio began to assimilate material by such groups as Trapeze and King Crimson, but significant progress was interrupted by the advent of another school year (not to be confused with "the Advent of Panurge") in their young lives. Bored by the inactivity, Rousseau split to California, ostensibly to study film but more probably to find the star of A Taste of Taffy. In the meantime, Myers and Parker auditioned several other "vanilla wafer" drummers to no avail, and fulfilled their collective creative Jones by performing as an acoustic duo at parties.

As satisfying as it must have been to sing Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Moody Blues songs for hordes of teenage hippie girls in long white dresses, reeking of patchouli oil and hormonal overdose, Myers and Parker were desperate to be in a band. Fortunately, at that point, Myers met Clay at yet another party; Farmers Branch was nothing if not a partyin' suburb. Clay was as impressed by Myers's waist-length hair as Myers was by Clay's brooding countenance (which Myers later said reminded him of a bust of Beethoven-the composer, not the movie dog).

By that point, as Barreyre found Quarts of Wheat to lack sufficient "philosophical grooviness for the vibe set within my personal parabolas of Being," and retreated to a Peace Colony for Sensibility Ripening, the Wheatsters and the Gargoyles merged to form Festoons. A search for a drummer proved unnecessary, however, when Rousseau unexpectedly returned from the Golden West, empty handed and libido raging.

When Barreyre returned, psychic batteries re-charged, it became quickly obvious that the group was overly festooned with talented guitarists. Myers volunteered to exit, joining forces with a regionally popular club band called Cottonmouth (whose core of meaning was to somehow cross the Allman Brothers with the New York Dolls); Myers stuck it out for several hellish weeks, ignoring that rehearsals were fueled by beer and glitter make-up rather than anything musical.

Meanwhile, Festoons changed their name to Ibis, after the McDonald & Giles tune, "Flight of the Ibis," and an original plan that Parker would serve as rotating instrumentalist while Carlisle carried on as bassist didn't work out. They'd begun to sound fairly adept—with the exception of Carlisle. His skills seemed to favor rolling joints rather than replicating Ray Shulman licks. With the realiziation that they could find an alternate drug source a lot easier than they could teach Carlisle to play his instrument, he was dumped, Parker took over, and Ibis moved into Sollel's parents' den and began intensive rehearsals.

It was by now the summer of '73, and Ibis began to master incredibly arcane material by exclusively progressive acts. A milestone was achieved when Clay brought in what would be the band's first original tune, "Zombieroch." The song, a two-part instrumental piece, was vaguely reminiscent of Tull's newly-released A Passion Play by way of a carnival ride. It is also noteworthy, given the Dallas musical community's Three Power Chords And A Refrain About Beer And Bush mentality, that Ibis began to actually secure gigs in reputable rock rooms.

In a perhaps extreme example of their new-found success. Ibis scored an opening slot for legendary blues guitarist Roy Buchanan at the notorious Electric Ballroom. While assuredly a plum gig, the pairing was nonetheless incongruous. Zealous fans of Buchanan, a fleet-fingered drunkard and soon-to-be suicide, were incapable of comprehending Ibis's intricate time-changes and brain-testing material.

When Clay brought out a cello for a quick sashay through Glazunov's Russian Funeral March, the crowd erupted and Parker was gashed severely on the head by a flying MD 20-20 bottle. A full scale riot was quelled when Buchanan himself came out to lead reluctant cheers for the terrified opening act, and Clay later commented that at least they knew how to survive in the event that they should ever tour with Molly Hatchett, a Southern rock band of professional wrestlers and circus geeks who would not yet form for another four years.

Ibis continued to perform into the Spring of '74, but Barreyre was again experiencing spiritual difficulties. In May, he quit the group to follow Brother Sandy, a Pagan Monk whose teachings combined pantheism, Zoroastrianism and minor league baseball. Myers, long since retired from his glitter rock phase, returned to the fold and Barreyre, whose newly-heightened sense of ornithology was surely more acute than McDonald & Giles ever dreamed, pointed out in a postcard to his old band mates, that an Ibis is a bird whose standout biological achievement is to suck the feces from its own anus. Sheepish but grateful, the band changed their name to Scylla after a mythological monster fancied by Sollel if for no other reason than it left its turds alone.

But, though Myers enjoyed the music and performed one classic outdoor gig at something called the Pet Inn that summer, unexpected familial maneuverings dictated that he relocate to the beach front rich person sanctuary of Malibu, California. To the consternation of all concerned. Arch Kook Barreyre re-entered the scene. In spite of that disconcerting fact, and that the band changed names yet again (and were now known as Prism): they continued to concentrate on writing original material. Rehearsals shifted to Sonny Sollel's new, parent-free bachelor pad, and the wealth of new songs seemed to be paying off with an increasingly heavy slate of bookings.

The most notable gig was a concert at Dallas's Richland College, opening for Capitol recording artists Nitzinger. It was, invigoratingly, completely opposite of the Roy Buchanan debacle, and a review in the Richland Bugle-Trumpet said:

"Opening act Prism was a multi-dimensional sound experience, interspersing material by such acts as Gentle Giant and King Crimson with effective original songs like "After the Games," "Death is a Door" and "Suspended Evening." Later, headliner Nitzinger, a hard rock guitarist fresh off an international tour with Leon Russell, encored with his hit "Jelly Roll," during which he brought Prism's Mike Clay out to sit-in on vibes. The two alternated a series of cascading solos which resulted in a dazzling unison run which lasted several bars, sounded like a heavenly union between Dickie Betts and Lionel Hampton, and ended with a huge flashpot explosion which ignited one of Clay's knee-high suede boots. The quick thinking Nitzinger extinguished the conflagration with the contents of his beer bottle, and when the house lights came up, the two musicians embraced in a bear-hug and bowed at slack-jawed fans."

By comparing copious diary entries, it has been determined that, at the exact moment Clay and Nitzinger were hugging onstage, Ernie Myers was walking into a lavish, celebrity-encrusted soiree in the Malibu home of actor Jack Palance. Among the revelers were members of the Eagles, Marc-Almond and Beach Boy Mike Love (the latter of whom was leaning against a wall in a darkened comer, beating on a solitary conga drum and muttering—which Myers originally construed as an attempt by Love to communicate with Brother Sandy, and in retrospect realizes what were probably the first initial babblings of what would become the song "Kokomo").

Ignoring the blanket lunacy and array of famous Hollywood types, Myers was instead impressed with a teenage woodwind player whose participation in a loose acoustic jam between Johnny Marc and Eagles Bemie Leadon and Don Henley was done so quite without any encouragement from the famous guys. Myers introduced himself to the flutist, whose name was Skip Durbin, a prodigal musician whose first flute was given to him by a family friend, Walter Parazaider of the band Chicago, and who numbered teen pin-up hunk Sean Cassidy among his motocross buddies.

Over the course of a year, Myers spun enticing tales to young Durbin about the wondrous band he'd left behind in Dallas. Amazingly, Durbin, who was playing in a band of rich kids called Bags of Glass, let Myers talk him into moving away from the land of tasty waves and transparent bikinis, and the two headed to Texas in August of '75. Word had reached Myers from the Prism camp that all was not groovy: though the group had acquired a bountiful amount of high tech gear, and were now sharing stages with the likes of Eric Johnson and the Electromagnets, Mike Barreyre was setting new standards for irrationality. This behavior culminated when Barreyre dotted the sheet music to a new composition of Clay's with Tabasco sauce and ate it. For the final time, Barreyre left the group—this time at their invitation, and with the promise of swift and brutal punishment should he ever show up again.

Myers again slid easily into Barreyre's vacated role, and any further personnel conflicts which might have materialized with the appearance of Durbin were avoided when Sollel, who was growing disillusioned at the long odds of succeeding in progressive rock, retired from the band. At that point, then, the new and eager line-up of Prism consisted of Mike Clay (keyboards and guitar), Steve Parker (bass and lead vocals), John Rousseau (drums and percussion), Ernie Myers (guitar and lead vocals) and Skip Durbin (woodwinds). Two further important decisions were reached: to perform only original compositions, and to run a newspaper ad seeking a full-time string player.

Paul Bunker, second chair viola with the Dallas Civic Symphony at the ripe age of 22, responded to the query in the paper. In spite of his lofty resume. Bunker was also versatile on rock guitar and looked more like he played in Steppenwolf than a classical music ensemble. Furthermore, if his brand of personal mysticism was eerily reminiscent of the departed Barreyre (Bunker slept under a pyramid of his own design, subsisted on plankton and peanut butter sandwiches, and harbored guilt feelings that his dad had been an integral part of the team that created the atomic bomb). Bunker at least expressed a wild affection for Prism's material and the opportunity to improvise on stage. Two other possibilities were tempting: a white-haired grandmother who'd played fiddle with honky tonk legend Ray Price and thought Jethro Tull was a Hee Haw character, and a Totally Buff male-model type who came to his audition wearing only bikini briefs and carrying an acrylic violin. His talent was outstanding, but an insistence that Prism work their schedule around his gig as a male stripper didn't quite cut it. Bunker got the job.

Rehearsals intensified: Sollel continued to allow the band to use his house for practice purposes, and Myers began to augment Clay as a songwriter. His first effort, "Left Behind," a rural bit of folk balladry which recalled Strawbs, clearly indicated that the loss of Sollel's compositional skills would not hurt the band, and they roared through the holidays and into 1976. The first official gig for this line-up was April Fool's Day at an outdoor crawfish boil at a house which had once belonged to war hero/actor Audie Murphy. Though tomadic winds literally blew Bunker's viola into a gurgling vat of crawfish, he managed to rescue the instrument and the band was able to joke through the incident with an ad-libbed zydeco version of the Yes song "And You and I."

One attendee at the party that night, Michael Clarke, who looked like an anorexic John Tesh if he was an NBA center, approached the band to inquire about their management. When informed that they had no management, Clarke modestly described his successful career as a PR guy, told them he was a former musician-and added that he was interested in perhaps furthering their careers. A meeting was set up, and the members of Prism, who had never before dared dream of the possibilities of having a Real Manager, went home salivating over what was surely their impending Big Break. Naturally, however, Clarke lead off that meeting by leaning forward and sagely intoning that the band would have to change their name to Bleeb Alien at top speed.

Myers, whose own beliefs in UFOlogy are substantial, remembers thinking that Prism had, in its short existence, cornered the world market on lunatics—and the moral of the story is that Prism had just had their first lesson in What Is And What Will Always Be the Business of Music.

Void of management. Prism continued to play the usual college gigs and for anyone open-minded enough to listen to their decidedly non-heavy metal music. In the dead of a Texas summer, when bookings grew scarce, someone within the Prism camp had the perspicacious idea to have an outdoor concert. A multi-acre site was obtained on the shore of a small, man-made reservoir called North Lake, and preparations were undertaken. Friends and band members loaded up enough equipment to service Woodstock, and Rousseau became so zealous that he stole a lawn mower and, moronically oblivious to the 104-degree heat, mowed the entire field so "his fans" wouldn't be uncomfortable—an exercise which took him four hours.

Meanwhile, the band's hard-earned reputation was paying off. Word began to spread of the concert, and Dallas's premiere rock station began to espouse the event. By show time early that evening, an estimated two-thousand kids braved the oven-like heat to congregate and experience music which would curdle the collective imaginations of their beloved Peter Framptons and REO Speedwagons.

And, remarkably enough, the crowd loved it!

Or they did, anyway, until about ninety minutes into the set, when the borrowed generator which was powering the show began pulsing in and out. A spliff-addled fan in the crowd, obviously suffering delusions that he had a three-digit IQ, popped onstage with a set of jumper cables, some copper wire and a pair of pliers. He announced he was an electrician who had actually done the re-wiring on the electric chair at Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana after the reinstatement of capital punishment in that state, and set to work on Prism's generator. "If I can figure out how to barbecue Leonard "Bad Hair" Parmeleau, I can fix this sonofabitch," he said.

So far as anyone in Prism knows, those were his last words. Moments later, the generator exploded in blue flame, and no one ever saw the electrician again; all possibilities for the concert's planned dramatic finale, during the song "Abbracadaver" (in which Durbin was scheduled to emerge from a coffin in corpse make-up, and lurch into the crowd performing a lilting flute solo), were short-circuited— literally—and the concert was over.

Still, Prism was encouraged by the large crowd and their enthusiastic response and, throughout the autumn, worked up a fine batch of virgin material composed by Myers and Clay in a creative burst of new confidence. Quite without the benefit of professional representation—and in particular not the brain-dead guy who'd suggested Bleeb Alien-Prism launched a long-term plan to finance their own recording project. As such, at selected "private shows" during the winter and into the spring of '77, Prism managed to attract enough investors that they could afford to enter January Sound, a state-of-the-art 24-track studio, early in the summer of that year.

In anticipation, on June 1, Prism kicked-out a frenetic and witty one-hour set on Homegrown, an acclaimed in-concert radio show on KZEW (Texas's top rock station), which was normally reserved for regional or national acts-and yet another sign that the band was breaking through to a normally jaded and closed-minded audience.

And, once more. Prism shifted rehearsal spots; Sonny Sollel complained that the band's work interfered with his near non-stop perusal of Star Trek re-runs, so the group set up shop in one of several storage warehouses collectively called the Yancey Camp. With its luxuriant (40' x 40') dimensions, Der Yancer (as it came to be known) was soon a noted party spot and hang-out locale for friends of the band and young chicks eager to know the secret implications of 19/8 time.

It was at Yancey Camp that perhaps the creepiest of all the Prism experiences happened. Irritated by a malfunctioning volume pedal which wreaked havoc with Paul Bunker's stage gear-but only while the band was playing a song called "Fish Deluxe"—group members decided to assemble in the drive outside their rehearsal space and perform a ritual destruction of the offending pedal. While beating it into so many microscopic parts, a variety of theatrical screams was heard from a nearby warehouse space. Chalking the disturbance up to teen chicanery, the group completed their task and returned to rehearsal.

Three days later, police questioned the guys after the dismembered body of a young woman was found in a warehouse not far from Prism's-and the estimated time of death, of course, was the night they destroyed the pedal. It is a fact that, from that moment forward, whenever they blasted through "Fish Deluxe", the dying screams of a young woman could be heard through the P.A. speakers. Eerie coincidence or occult phenomenon? Perhaps we'll never know...

Ghosts in the machine notwithstanding, it came time to enter the studio. It was true that none of the band members had ever been in a studio, but the sheer precision of their execution, coupled with the technical expertise of January's house engineer, Dan Peterson, ensured that the recordings were pristine and sonically excellent. The sessions, which stretched out over the entire summer, generally utilized "live" rhythm tracks-usually first or second takes. The vocals were then overdubbed, along with occasional madcap embellishments as they occurred to the group (including an unsuccessful attempt to mic an armadillo which Bunker found rooting around in a dumpster behind the studio).

Songs recorded were: "Zombieroch," "Prelude #2," "Worlds Apart," "Kings' Mischief," "Left Behind," "Ditty," "Dreamsearch" and "Triangle of New Flight."

Giddy over the obvious quality of the tapes, and inspired by the sudden news that Gentle Giant was going to appear at the Electric Ballroom in late August, Rousseau literally camped out for three days and nights in the front yard of the hall's booking agent, pleading for Prism to be awarded the opening slot for the Giant show.

To the surprise of probably everyone but Rousseau, Prism got the gig—and it went without question that the highlight of All World Events For The Period Of Time Covered By Recorded History subsequently went down the night Prism played with Gentle Giant. Afforded a rare chance to show-off an hour's worth of original material for an audience which not only appreciated progressive rock music but in fact sought it out. Hands responded with the best set of their career—while the members of Gentle Giant stood just offstage cheering them on.

After the well-received gig. Prism actually hung out back stage with the Tender Behemoths, basking in the aura of being treated as equals by the Penultimate Progressive Rock Band. And when Giant drummer John Weathers commented on a series of distinctive sounding percussion instruments Rousseau had utilized during Prism's set (and which he had himself constructed of metal discs from a device used to recover golf balls from water hazards), Rousseau gave one to the bespectacled Giant skin-pounder. The unmistakable sound of Rousseau's make-shift noisemaker surfaced shortly thereafter on the song "Winning," off of the ensuing Gentle Giant album The Missing Piece.

Under the advice and encouragement of Gentle Giant, Prism began to tentatively send copies of their newly completed tape to the few folks on the fringe of the music industry who might seriously listen to a band who couldn't seamlessly fit in the marketing scheme for Ted Nugent. Though no record or management deals were immediately forthcoming, enough positive comments came in that, for legal  purposes, a cautionary search of band names revealed that a Canadian band owned the rights to the name "Prism." Once again. Our Heroes were forced to come up with another moniker.

"Hands" was chosen, possibly because that's what most of the other band members wanted to wrap around Myers's neck during his more obstinate moments. A close runner-up to Hands was "Vincent Baboon and His Trial Balloon," an idiotic suggestion which was utilized in a supplemental capacity when "Vincent Baboon" became a fictitious member of the band. Thenceforth, whenever unsuspecting and curious fans or journalists had questions about Hands, why, nuttily, one of the real band members would bring up the mighty contributions of Vincent Baboon.

Acting on an offhand comment from a record company flak who'd heard their tape. Hands decided it would be prudent to add a front man-someone who's sole purpose was to stand center stage and sing. After a snowstorm of auditions, a Genesis fan with a distinctive baritone voice named Tom Reed entered the fold.

Rehearsals integrating the new singer took several months, but by March of '78, Hands was gigging again. A 4th of July outdoor show at Dallas's Reverschon Park was unforgettable, not because it was 110-degrees and Reed still insisted on blow-drying his hair before they went on, but because Dennis Hughes, the owner of an 8-track studio called JD & D Sound, saw Hands and was sufficiently impressed to offer them free studio time.

The sessions were the first to feature Reed on vocals, and a body of new material was laid down, along with, for the purposes of pressing a single, two older tunes: "Abbracadaver" and "Castle Keep," which the band considered to be their most commercial songs. A thousand 45s were released on the JD & D label, and on the strength of a solid performance at "Zoo World" (a massive, indoor precursor to Lollapalooza featuring dozens of regional, local and national acts, carnival rides, booths and enough keg beer to inebriate an entire country). Hands scored limited radio airplay and, to their surprise, sold some records.

That alone would have been astounding, considering the sheer complexity and decidedly wow-commercial quality of the songs, but Hands began to secretly harbor new hope: in spite of the lingering popularity of disco and mindless radio drivel from Journey and Fleetwood Mac, an American progressive rock group called Kansas was—in defiance of accepted radio wisdom—reaching platinum sales and sold-out-arena status.

Watching the progress of Kansas like meteorologists tracking an out-of-season hurricane. Hands decided the time had come to play a small trump card: among Skip Durbin's enduring California connections was the Dragon family (Dad was orchestral conductor Carmen, Older Brother was Daryl, AKA "The Captain" of Captain & Tenille notoriety. Younger Bro was Dennis, road drummer for the Beach Boys and a noted producer).

Durbin secured an audience with Dennis Dragon and was dispatched to the (Theoretical) Great Man's 24-track studio in sunny So-Cal. The vibes were encouraging, the timing was perfect, Durbin and Dragon were old pals—and halfway through the first song, the (Theoretical) Great Man turned the tape off, glared at Durbin, and demanded, "What is this, man? Fuck You music?!"

So much for that strategy, but the tenacious Durbin wasn't done yet. Before returning to Dallas, he somehow got a tape through to producer Ken Scott, who had engineered on Beatles sessions and produced David Bowie, Supertramp and Stanley Clarke.

Scott called back to say the music was "brain-sizzingly cool" and he would love to work with Hands-except for one small thing: he'd just spent a quarter of a million dollars producing a new progressive act called Happy the Man.

Mike Clay was Unhappy the Keyboardist at that news and, frustrated, decided in November to quit the band to pursue a career as a classical pianist. But the remaining six Handsters still felt the group was too important to give up on. They re-shuffled, dividing Clay's chores between Durbin and Reed, and, since Durbin's role as a composer had become increasingly significant, the band felt jazzed about carrying on.

Around that period. Gentle Giant, which was by then on the down side of their career, came back through town and performed at a rock club called the Bijou. After the show, Rousseau re-introduced himself to vocalist Derek Shulman who, it turned out, had married a Dallas woman and was now living in town part-time. He was enticed out to JD & D Sound, where Hands had set up quasi-permanent camp, recording and rehearsing whenever there was an absence of paying customers.

Durbin, who was also in film school at Southern Methodist University, had needed some music fow cinematic assignment for Chrysler Boats and had, naturally, involved Hands; they were recording several new pieces for Durbin's project which would soon become Hands staples when Shulman visited the studio (among them "Mutineer's Panorama," "Grean Soap" and "I Want One of Those").

Shulman was mightily impressed and volunteered to see if he could get the material to Someone Important, but at the same time counseled the band to not pursue progressive music. He pointed out that despite their critical acclaim, Gentle Giant had barely survived from a financial standpoint, and that a new surge of minimalist bands like the Police could possibly render progressive rock obsolete. Myers remembers the moment as "like having Ted Williams as a hero, and he tells you not to go into baseball because there's no future in it." Still, Hands was encouraged by Shulman's endorsement of their music and willingness to try to help, and plowed ahead with the recordings (Shulman's dire predictions proved correct—at least insofar as his subsequent efforts to get Hands any record label interest failed).

The "Boat Sessions," as they came to be called, lasted into the early months of '79, during which Rousseau and Parker were asked to judge a battle of the bands contest in Farmers Branch. It was a ludicrous assignment: trying to find anything redeemable in the assemblage of barely-competent garage bands intent on playing out-of-tune versions of ZZ Top and Van Halen songs.

But, incredibly enough, their attention at the contest was riveted by the drummer of one the acts, a guy named John Fiveash. Not only was Fiveash a damned good player, but he had a plethora of weird and tempting percussion acoutrements which quickly attracted the gadget-happy Rousseau. After he and Parker adjudged Fiveash's band the winner of the tawdry little event, they introduced themselves to the young drummer. It seemed fortuitous that, not only was Fiveash an ardent admirer of Rush, Yes and Crimson, he'd been an enthusiastic fan at many of Hands' all too rare appearances. Instantly, the paternal Rousseau became a mentor to Fiveash, and the latter began to hang around Hands like a doe-eyed Secret Service agent.

In early 1980, friends, groupies and acquaintances of Hands showed up at JD & D Sound to surprise Ernie Myers on the occasion of his 24th birthday. Among them was a keyboard player named Shannon Day who, aside from possessing considerable ability, also owned thirteen-count 'em, thirteen, keyboards. Given that this was still the era when Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson thought nothing of filling entire stages with banks of pianos, synthesizers and mellotrons. Day was a technically attractive specimen, indeed. Hands thought Day would be a splendid addition, but first had to attend to a bit of untidy business.

They fired Tom Reed, a move which had been secretly contemplated for a while. Reed's inability to either show up on time or learn the lyrics to the songs he was singing-despite having been in Hands for two years—coupled with the fact that Myers and Parker were simply better singers, resulted in his expulsion.

That done. Day was brought aboard as keyboardist and quickly learned the entire Hands catalogue. On Easter weekend, the group managed to secure a fine 24-track facility. Crystal Clear Sound, for one massive 72-hour session. They locked themselves into the studio and, while the rest of the Christian world was dyeing eggs, recorded around the clock. "Mindgrind," "I Foreign I," "Antarctica," "A Narrow Bridge," "Candor" and "New Skies" were the fruit of the endeavor.

Dave Davis engineered the marathon session, which was also memorable because-in studio-a total stranger named Gary Stone entered the picture and sang all the vocals on the material. It seems that Myers and Parker were still enamored of the front-man/lead singer concept, so Day suggested Stone, with whom he had played in a group called Blaze. Despite Stone's rather pedestrian background, singing tunes by Grand Funk and Bloodrock, he came into Crystal Clear, learned every lead and harmony vocal line for all six songs in one day—admittedly a fairly complex assignment—and recorded them all perfectly before the end of the session! Plus, several Hands' girlfriends indicated that Stone's film star good looks could do nothing but help the group's rather pathetic self-marketing attempts.

The plan, of course, was to use Stone as the permanent lead singer, and after his miraculous performance on the recordings, one would have thought the job would've been his. And it was-until, two weeks later, when Stone was shot by his irate girlfriend (who was not as perturbed by the pretentiousness of the songs Hands wrote as by her boyfriend's infidelity).

The wounds weren't fatal, but Stone's situation was sufficiently critical that he faced a protracted hospital stay, and then, when noted Texas recording act (and ZZ Top starter kit) Point Blank called Day and asked him to tour the world with them while they opened for the likes of KISS and Boston, Day simply couldn't afford to turn them down.

Less than a month after the Crystal Clear sessions, then, Hands had been effectively derailed. It seemed to Durbin and Bunker, when the weight of those two last developments sunk fully upon them, that things were simply not to be. Durbin decided to return to California and a real film school, and Bunker, seeking metaphysical solace, headed for the mountains of New Mexico to build bigger and better pyramids beneath which he might more effectively attain nirvana.

And then there were three. It was December of 1980. Myers, Parker and Rousseau took a collective deep breath, assessed their situation as fundamentally hopeless—and said so what? Shannon Day agreed to continue working with Hands until Point Blank's tour kicked off early in the new year, so Hands promptly added Rousseau protege John Fiveash as a second drummer, then went out and secured the services of a spectacular violinist named Mark Menikos, whose work in the noted fusion outfit Aurora was well-known in the Texas musical community.

After a flurry of rehearsals. Hands performed what would be their only gig in that configuration, a well-received show at the Wintergarden Ballroom. Mournfully, it turned out to be the final show ever by Hands. In January, as scheduled. Day left to join Point Blank, and the remaining band members, at last recognizing that the tide of rock music was changing, decided without regret to turn their talents to the future...

It's interesting that some of the more standout members of Hands—Myers, Parker, Clay, Fiveash and Rousseau—have continued, in assorted personnel combinations, to work in a variety of streamlined outfits. In bands such as the Fun Guys (punk), Non-Fiction (new wave), the Elements (progressive pop), Shiny Beast (post-progressive progressive rock) and All the Tea in China (melodic pop), their collective thirst to create brainy, compelling and always challenging music has never abated.

That these recordings of Hands have at long last surfaced is good news, indeed—and are without debate a treasure for anyone to whom progressive rock is an indispensable part of the musical experience.

~ Rick Koster

Rick Koster has covered music, books and dining for The Day Newspaper (New London, Connecticut), and is a regular columnist. He also host’s the paper’s online Behind the Scenes feature. A native Southerner, Koster is the author of two books, Louisiana Music and Texas Music. He thinks, for the most part, dogs are better than people.

Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock

(scroll down to HANDS)

...Hands is a Dallas, Texas area band, which is where I live, so I had the pleasure of seeing them playing in concert several times here. One of those times was the prog fest the GEPR co-sponsored with them on December 7, 2002, the infamous Cattle Prog. But after their excellent Cattle Prog performance, Hands more or less vanished from the Dallas music scene. I kept in occasional contact with keyboardist  Michael Clay via e-mail, but he said that other commitments were keeping Hands from getting together again as a group, though he hinted that this may not last forever. In the meantime, he and guitarist Ernie Myers worked on their own projects, and they also recorded an album with several King Crimson alumni under the project name Fission Trip.

Now, in April of 2006, I've heard that they are in the process of finishing another new Hands album. The line-up has changed quite a bit since Twenty Five Winters, now including Mark Cook (99 Names of GodThe Minefield) and two of Ernie Myers' bandmates from his other band All the Tea in China, namely Steve Powell and John Fiveash in addition to Hands stalwarts Michael Clay, Ernie Myers and Martin McCall. I'm looking forward to hearing the new album with bated breath, and I hope they'll start performing around Dallas again with their new material, and maybe some of the Fission Trip material as well, which was penned largely by Clay and Myers.

Fred Trafton

ProgDay 2006

(from the souvenir program booklet)

...Classic American progressive rock is this year represented by the legendary Hands from Texas.

Hands is a band that ProgDay has attempted to book in past years only to have things get in the way to not make it possible. We are glad that things

finally worked out this year...

Steve Sly

ProgDay 2006

Overall Festival Coordinator

August 22, 2006

ProgDay 2006

(from the souvenir program booklet)

At last!  Sunday afternoon the legendary Texas band Hands brings their live performance to Storybrook Farm.

We are honored that this fantastic group of musicians has chosen ProgDay as their first high-profile festival appearance! It is a dream come true for many of us, who never thought we would ever be lucky enough to

see a Hands concert.

The Hands story begins roughly 33 years ago in the progressive nowhere of Farmers Branch, Texas, when a group of like-minded kids (including present members Ernie Myers and Michael Clay) decided to form a progressive rock band in the mold of their heroes of the day (Crimson, Giant, Yes, etc). The next three years saw the boys practice non-stop with a solidified lineup, and they began to write increasingly complex eclectic music.

One of the highlights of the band’s career was when they landed the opening slot in Dallas for Gentle Giant touring in support of ‘Interview’.

Hands were thrilled to finally be able to play their original music for an appreciative crowd...and it didn’t hurt to have the guys in Gentle Giant at the side of the stage cheering them on! (Note: After this performance Hands drummer John Rousseau presented John Weathers with a handmade percussion instrument...which Weathers plays on ‘Winning’ on ‘The Missing Piece’).

Buoyed by this experience the band went into the studio in the fall of 1977 to record the bulk of material they had written up to that time. And thank goodness they did.

These songs were not to see the light of day for almost 20 years, when the band’s first CD ‘Hands’ was released.

However, at the time the tape made its way to producer Ken Scott (David Bowie, Supertramp, Stanely Clarke). Although Scott found the music to be

‘brain-sizzingly cool’, he had just spent a fortune doing a Happy The Man record and was unable to help the band.

In 1979 the group entered the studio once again with a batch of new material and a new keyboardist Shannon Day, who replaced the departed Michael Clay. In one 72 hour marathon session they recorded the tracks that would form the bulk of the 2nd Hands CD, ‘Palm Mystery’. A great

singer by the name of Gary Stone came in during this session, learned all the vocal parts to six songs in one day, and laid down all the vocal tracks!

You all know what happened next---the same thing that happened to so many great bands around this time.

The public’s taste was changing to embrace punk and disco, and there seemed to be no room for engaging, well-played music.

So it was with Hands, who formally disbanded in 1980.

And then, after the release of the two Hands CDs in the mid-1990s, the band finally began to receive the recognition they had long deserved...

the discs met with critical acclaim the world over. This interest in the group

was not lost on original members Clay and Myers, who began to write new Hands music. Together with a new lineup of musicians (and 1979-80

drummer John Fiveash), they released a new Hands record in the fall of 2001, ‘Twenty Five Winters’. The band’s new album ‘Strangelet’ is set to be released in the fall of 2006.

And things have come full circle for Clay and Myers...on September 12, 2006 look for the first CD release from Fission Trip, a group they formed with their early heroes from King Crimson--Ian Wallace, Mel Collins and Adrian Belew!

What a strange and beautiful thing...

Geoff Logsdon

Rock Detector,;jsessionid=4F758898D06280F3F4A3F66799CDED50


A string driven Texan Progressive Rock outfit founded by former members of PRISM and IBIS. As HANDS the band was active between 1977 and 1980. The nucleus of the band was rooted in a union of guitarist / keyboard player Michael Clay and vocalist / guitarist Michael Barreyre. This duo would unite with bassist David Carlisle and keyboard player Sonny Solell to found a proto band. Meantime, another formative unit of vocalist / guitarist Ernie Myers, drummer John Rousseau and vocalist / guitarist Steve Palmer were also experimenting with getting a Progressive Rock band off the ground.

At the suggestion of mutual friends the two parties fused as IBIS, counting a line up of Clay, Rousseau, Carlisle, Solell and Barreyre. Early live gigs found this band finding their feet by delivering cover versions of KING CRIMSON, FRANK ZAPPA and THE ALLMAN BROTHERS. Before long Steve Parker was inducted on bass and a name switch to PRISM was adopted. Further changes in the roster saw Barreyre's departure and the addition of Paul Bunker on viola. More turbulence followed, Solell made his exit and PRISM welcomed onboard old acquaintance Ernie Myers and saxophonist Skip Durbin.

Following exposure as a local support band to GENTLE GIANT the group went into the recording studio in 1977 to lay down a proposed album. However, these tapes would not surface and to compound matters the group learnt of the Canadian Arista signed PRISM. The group evolved into HANDS but would lose the services of Clay in 1979. Regrouping, HANDS drafted vocalist Gary Stone and erstwhile POINT BLANK keyboard player Shannon Clay. Further recordings ensued, but once again were not released. Finally in 1980 HANDS folded.

The 1996 eponymous album, released by Shroom Productions, comprises of the band's tapes recorded in 1977. With interest gathering in the HANDS legacy the band reformed for a concert that same year. Joining Ernie Myers and Michael Clay would be the new faces of vocalist / bassist Rex Bozarth, violinist Mark Menikos and drummer Martin McCall. Further archive recordings surfaced in 1998 billed as 'Palm Mystery' before HANDS issued a brand new album, 2001's 'Twenty Five Winters'.

HANDS members, along with personnel from SHIVAS HEADBAND, also created AURORA for a 1977 album.

Credit/s: Garry Sharpe-Young

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