Last night was my return to playing live music with my band “The Itchy Pickles”
I started playing music in bands when I was 13 years old. My old bands ILLUSION and FANTOM were the talk of the 1980’s junior high party and college bar scene. I then got into radio and forgot about being a musician. Then in 1991 I had an idea… “why not merge the two”? That’s when the concept of the station band started for me. I began a band called Ray Lytle and the Snappers that played all over Peoria and eventually spread out to Macomb, Bloomington, and even Springfield when my radio show syndicated in the 90’s. The Snappers ceased to be when my radio career had me leave Peoria for a stint out east and an eventual return to Springfield radio in 1996. It was a year later when I started RAY LYTLE AND THE ITCHY PICKLES. It was fun, it was wild, it was a good time filled with all kinds of goings on backstage. My buddy Jim the Photographer was the one who benefited from groupies more than the guys in the band did but still there was a rockstar feel to all the things that happened around the Itchy Pickles. I even wrote a couple of songs that were played on a handful of radio stations and of course on my syndicated show. The crowds grew, as did the money and it was great. There was a time when we regularly opened for Big rock acts or played in front of thousands of people. Those gigs you think would be the most memorable and the funnest. HOWEVER that was never the case. The pressure mixed with the stress and of course the Hurry up and do nothing process of rushing to get sound check done and get on stage on time and then get off stage at a set time always got to me. The negotiations of the guarantees for the band members and the club owners wanting to keep us from playing the club down the street got to me. The drummers with addictions or attitudes got to me. The amateur music critics and musicians from other bands that said the only reason people came to see me was because I was on the radio got to me. The fact that people never bothered to research that I was an all state honors vocalist and my scholarship was for vocal music when they were saying we had no musical training got to me. The pettiness of it all just got to me.
It got to me to the point of I didnt want to do it anymore. In 2005 I wrapped up playing and said I was going to take a few months off while knowing that in my heart I was actually never wanting to do it again.
Then about 5 years later I had an urge to play some guitar and wrote about it on facebook. I had a message instantly about some guys literally down the street from me that were screwing around playing music. I went over there and sat down and started playing some fun classic rock. We knocked out some Paul McCartney and it was a blast. The fun jam sessions grew into a weekly thing and eventually we even played a handful of gigs under the name “Two Ton Baby”. Then we played a few gigs as “breaking curfew” and eventually even played a few as the “itchy pickles” but it never was anything serious and it was always play a gig then take a couple months off, play another gig take a month or two off. No set schedule and no pressure.
The lack of pressure was something that I liked. The other thing I liked was the song selection. I had no pressure to do Original material or covers of Grunge rock acts or Disturbed, Metallica, Tool, or the latest Puddle of Mudd song. We were doing the music I like.. classic rock. We were doing some of the same songs I played when I was 14 years old and it was fun.
It was fun until I started doing a show on another Rock Station in Springfield that played new Rock. I was wanting to play the music I like and the people were requesting songs that required me screaming or rapping which are two things I have no desire to do… So I quit again.
Now I find myself on WYMG and the music I play is Classic Rock. I feel like there is no pressure to explain why I am not playing the latest Slipknot Song when I am on a station that doesn’t play that type of music.
So last night my band and I got together and did a private party jam for the coolest people who had a block party in Chatham. We played songs from Billy Joel, Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney and Wings, The Beatles, Neil Young, The Eagles, Supertramp, The Cars, ZZ Top and many more Classic Rock Staples and it was what they folks expected because they had all heard me on WYMG. Not one single request for a song I hate.
It was no pressure and all fun. Most of the night was sitting on an amp reading music from a cheat sheet since we havent even practiced together in over 10 months. Most of all it was something I want to do again and again. Look for Ray Lytle and the Itchy Pickles to be back out again later this summer playing a laid back no pressure style of great classic rock.