The White Summer Band
The White Summer Band
I had the good fortune to make a modest living playing music for twenty years. I got to travel extensively; and bring joy to multitudinous numbers of people. I am a drummer, singer and songwriter.
The White Summer band was a Michigan rock group that I formed in 1973. It remained quite active on the music scene until we disbanded in 1991.
The White Summer band rarely took a break from performing live during those years. We also worked on writing songs and recording them. Eventually, five recordings (albums) were made of our original music. For these last twenty years, we play together once every year at a White Summer Reunion Concert.
The White Summer band saw quite a few lineup changes over the years. Two of its members were in the group from 1976 to 1991—Jimmy Schrader and James Watkins (your author).
Jimmy Schrader was born blind. As a consequence, three things happened: He developed preternatural hearing; He was gifted by God with an incredible natural talent to play a guitar; And since he was unable to join in on many activities most of us did as youngsters, he practiced his guitar eight hours a day for many years.
I met Jimmy Schrader in 1976. The White Summer band had already produced one album of all original material. The group needed a new guitarist. I happened to run into another musician I know, and he said, "I know a guitar player and he is fantastic! But he is having a hard time finding a band."
I asked my friend why that might be, and he replied, "Well, he is blind, you see, and most people don't want to lead him around. He doesn't use guide dogs or canes. So, if you go on the road you would have to lead him everywhere you go, and everywhere he needs to go."
I pondered this for a minute and decided all I cared about was his musicianship. So I asked, "Where is this guy?"
I got the telephone number for Jimmy Schrader and gave him a call. He was interested so I went to his house to meet him (in Benton Harbor, Michigan—my hometown as well).
Jimmy Schrader had a very protective family (including a decidedly unfriendly Airedale). I went down into his basement and he picked up a 1957 Fender Stratocaster; plugged it into a 100 watt double-stacked Marshall amp—wide open! And he began to play—all by himself—as loud as a freight train. He explained that this was the only way he could get "the sound" he wanted.
It took me about 30 seconds to decide. I had, by then, seen many of the greatest rock bands in the world in concert but Jimmy Schrader was the most spectacular guitar player I had ever heard. I hired him on the spot and it was the best decision I have ever made.
The King: Jimmy Schrader
For quite some time, after Jimmy Schrader joined the White Summer band, our fans called him "The Blind Man." I also noticed that, as we traveled on the road, strangers in towns hearing us for the first time called us "The Band with the Blind Guitar Player."
Over time, this faded out and Jimmy Schrader acquired a new moniker: "The King." As in, the king of guitar. And the band was simply "White Summer."
We had tough times and we had great times. We toured a lot and we recorded a lot. And The King and I became best of friends—as we remained until Jimmy sadly passed away February 2019.
The White Summer Band
A friend of mine sent an email to me that said: "I saw your band, White Summer, on YouTube. Man, you guys sucked when you were young!."
I went to investigate, since I was not aware of the White Summer band having any videos on YouTube. To my horror, I found two kiddie bands with videos on YouTube—one from Canada and one from Australia—that were using our name! I wrote to them, asking to stop using our name, but received no response.
The real White Summer band had made a few videos in the past, but they were either lost or of poor sound quality. We did have lots of recordings, both of our five albums and of live performaces.
A friend of mine, Scott Raymond, who is a very talented architect (and formerly a champion ballroom dancer), heard me lament this problem and he created four videos of our music and uploaded them onto YouTube.
Three of these videos utilize original tracks from our last album: "Dreams Come True;" "To Be With You;" and "Last Chance." The first two were written by Jimmy Schrader and James Watkins; the third song was composed by Jimmy Schrader with one of our former bass players, John Sidoti.
The final video used a live recording of the White Summer band playing an extended version of the great Jimi Hendrix blues song "Red House" that was recorded on a simple cassette player in a nightclub. "Red House" features Donnie Brown from Greenville, Mississippi—the blues capital of the world—on bass guitar; Danny Frye from Sandwich, Massachusetts on keyboards; James Watkins on drums and vocals; and Jimmy Schrader on blistering guitar.
The original songs feature Jimmy Schrader on guitar and bass guitar; Danny Frye on keyboards; James Watkins on drums and vocals on "To Be With You;" and Steve Douglas from Cincinnati, Ohio singing lead vocals on "Dreams Come True" as well as "Last Chance."
Please enjoy the music!