I am starting to enjoy writing about some of these stories. Albeit is very easy and safe, to sit behind a computer. I find myself very comfortable in this spot these days. No gigs to book, or players to procure. No set lists to worry about (at least very minimal, I still play a little bit). I am to the point where I feel more comfortable behind a drum set. I enjoy playing guitar but I seem to sound best in my garage.I got a drum gig comin’ up and I think back to a time in Dallas somewhere in the spring of 1995 or so (correct me if I am wrong) when the nightclub in East Dallas called Schooners was still around. My uncle used to take me there when I was about 18 or 19 (in 1993-94) and would endure with me until the wee hours of the morning- when they would allow me to get up and play. David ‘Bottlehead’ Miller was hosting the jam when I first got up to play. I watched countless hours of Brian ‘Hash Brown’ Calway, Bobby Baranowsky on drums, and Terry Montgomery on bass. Sam Myers would always come up at the end of the night. It was at these very jams that Brian would give me a tape of whatever blues guy it was time for me to learn…Magic Sam, Howlin Wolf, or BB kING etc.
You might be wondering: “Who is Pat Schramm?” And “What does you playing drums have to do with this?” Allow me to get to that. Pat Shramm wouldn’t exist were it not for Sam Myers and Hash Brown, especially Hash Brown because it was his creation.
Sam Myers was a Dallas blues treasure. He played drums and harmonica with the likes of Elmore James (he played harp on Elmore James’ classic ‘Look on Yonders Wall’) and many others. I remember one time when I got to jam with Sam at Schooners. It was a rite of passage for me. Sam was on harp and he looked at me and asked:
“Well, what do you wanna do?”
That was a profound moment for me.
“E shuffle…?” I said, more asking than declaring.
If Sam wasn’t on the road with Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets, you could usually bet on him being at whatever blues jam was going on. The Bone in Deep Ellum, Schooners, Greenville Bar and Grill, and later on, Lakewood Bar and Grill. He would be at the end of the bar –all night– and would get up to sing usually at the very end. He was a master harp player and singer and I even got to play with him once when he played drums. Needless to say, I was in awe of him and had great respect for him. He was a gentleman too. Sometimes though, he would put young drummers feet to the fire if they weren’t doing what he wanted them to do. I would see this at the jams sometimes and cringe, and be glad it wasn’t me behind the drums(I didn’t play drums at the time). He would look back and say “C’mon A#@ hole!!” While the poor drummer would look like a deer in the headlights. Sam was a big man too. He was at least 6’4 or more…he seemed like a giant to me on many levels. Sam was legally blind and wore real thick glasses. But he did NOT want you helping him get to the stage or he would do the ‘mosquitoe swat’ at you. Don’t try handing him his harps either!
I took pride in being able to survive jamming with Sam (the few times that I did) without being the target of his displeasure. Unfortunately, that all changed one night at Schooners in 1995.
Before I talk about that night I need to give some background on another character in this story: My cousin Brett James. Brett is like a brother to me. It was his dad that helped me and let me stay in Dallas when I first moved there in 1993. I also stayed with my Grandparents in Mckinney which is where I was living at the night I am about to speak of. I will just say that my cousin was a troubled kid. I was too, but he was a little further into some bad stuff than I had been. He was involved in selling drugs and all that that entails. For a little while I let him keep a safe at my place with a pistol,some money and even sold a few ounces for him… but that wasn’t my thing and was never comfortable doing that, and didn’t want to be.
One day Brett said he thought some guys were following him and they pulled up along side of his car. Brett reached under and pulled out his pistol and shot them both. One in the head and one in the chest. Luckily, they both lived. He turned himself in and was out on bond or something. I know that he ended up serving 6 years for aggravated assault(which in my estimation he got off really light). Well, sometime during his judicial procedures ( I just remember we had only a few more days to hang out before he had to go to jail) he came by my apartment (the one before East Side Avenue) and we were talking and wondering what was going to happen to him…he said:
“It would be cool to hear you play one more time before I go (to his incarceration).”
I said: “There is the Schooners jam going on tonight.”
Off to Schooners we go.
We walk in and it’s the normal thing. The band is playin’ and Hash Brown calls me up to play and I’m on guitar backing Sam Myers. This particular night, I guess, Sam wasn’t in a good mood. Sam calls off a blues in A. I was thinking he would start the song…but he wanted me to. He turns to me and says:
“C’mon mother fu$%#er, aint you ever heard of a blues in A?”…
I was stunned at first and then gathered myself and got everything going. Then he sang a couple a verses and I thought he was going to take a solo, so I paused and stayed on the rhythm, then he turned around and said “C’mon A#$# hole! Play!”….Then I was mad, sort of disappointed too, I just put down the guitar and walked off stage. It didn’t seem like a big deal, but I had had enough. I kind of forgot about the reason I was there..and my fiercely protective cousin that wanted to see me play….
I gathered him (Brett) up and was leaving through the double doors that were to the right of the stage….you couldn’t exit without walking past the stage and Sam was still up there (and I don’t remember who else) with the band…This is where I made a big mistake (if I hadn’t made a big enough one already by just bringing my cousin there to begin with) I stopped at the double doors and yelled at Sam: “F%^$ you Sam!…You are the only a#$ hole up there!!”
Sam responded in kind and I continued out the door and had completely exited the club….but my cousin didn’t…I had a sick feeling…and I heard a huge commotion going on inside and the music abruptly stopped…it seemed like it took forever but it was only a few seconds…then I saw the doors burst open ( I was standing outside of the doors) and see my cousin trudge out with people draped around him hanging on to him like they were defensive backs trying to take down Earl Campbell… ripping his shirt completely off…and they stopped when they got to me and I was frozen. Everybody was yelling at me at the same time…not mad at me but my cousin and the situation.
With his ‘rip-away’ shirt completely gone, leaving a few guys holding cloth on the ground, my cousin escapes around the corner and jumps in the mini van I was drivin’ (by divine providence for him it was unlocked) at the time and hid in the very back under the seat…I acted like I didn’t see where he had disappeared to …I knew something bad had happened….
Hash(Brian) came out and said:
“Sam’s out cold and he’s bleedin’ man.”
My heart sank and I thought that Brett had killed a legally blind, elderly man. Not only that but a Dallas blues legend. As ornery as Sam could be, I didn’t think he deserved that. I was at a loss. I spoke to authorities and stayed until Sam was okay. I told the cops the truth (but didn’t tell them he was in the van) and as I was speaking to them they heard some gunshots a few blocks away and they thought it was my cousin and the cops went to that scene…that’s when we left and headed for Mckinney…. I was just silent while I was driving and finally said:
“I know your back there…you can come out now…” (to my cousin)