This is part of a series of interviews with several Eastern Iowa musicians who have been playing music in this area for about 40 years. These guys are personal friends of mine and they have put together an exciting new band called The BarnRockers. These interviews will all be exploring the pre-BarnRockers experience of these fine musicians. This is number 4 of six. I hope you enjoy the interviews with this talented bunch of guys. If you ever get a chance to see the BarnRockers play make sure you tell them you read their interview on Independent Midwest Music.com.
Dave (Bingo) Layton
Billy Rose: Well Bing let’s start out with your first memory of playing an instrument or getting excited about music.
Dave Layton: Well it’s not an or. When I was about four years old, my mom got me started with piano lessons. I lasted on that ‘til I was in second grade. That was my first experience with an instrument. The first real excitement was in Junior High School when I had to do a bass solo with the High School Orchestra. It was on a big stage and everybody was out there. It was the first time I nailed the solo. And I thought, that’s what it takes. It takes a little excitement. It takes some energy. To make the fingers go where you want ‘em to go. That’s when I also first realized that something like stage freight or the fear that comes from playing in front of people can also be transformed into energy.
Billy Rose: You were a little young to get that out of playing, some people never learn that. So was bass the first instrument you played in school?
Dave Layton: Well I had a violin at first. As soon as I took it to the teacher he said your fingers are to fat to play violin, you need to play bass. I said I don’t have one of those. He said that’s okay the school has one. So I don’t know if it’s fat fingers or what (laughs) but he was right. I needed to play the bass.
Billy Rose: So you also played bass in the High School Orchestra. If I’m not mistaken, you had some accolades in High School for playing bass.
Dave Layton: Well like I said I played a solo with that orchestra.
Billy Rose: Didn’t you win the State competition for bass?
Dave Layton: Well, yeah that too.
Billy Rose: (laughs) Could you embellish a little on that?
Dave Layton: I went to State the first year and I was the last chair in the all-state orchestra. Four out of six bass players that tried out, made it. So I guess I was better than two other bass players in the State. I wasn’t completely a bottom feeder for that (laughs).
Billy Rose: While you were in High School were you in any bands out side of school?
Dave Layton: Yeah my first Rock ‘N’ Roll band was Vicki Webb and The Spiders (laughs). We were a nineteen fifties retro band. The problem was it was the 6o’s and nobody was ready for a retro fifties band at that time (laughs). Until Sha-Na-Na came along.
Billy Rose: Did that band play out anywhere?
Dave Layton: We did play down at the old band shell at Riverfront Park. We played there a couple times. All of our friends would come and try to make us laugh and screw up, which was pretty easy for them to do (laughs).
Billy Rose: From Vicki Webb and The Spiders, to what? What was your next band?
Dave Layton: My second band. That would have been just out of school, with Dave Schneider. Let’s see who all was in that band? Dick Olson him or Bill Henley and I think Bob Finch. That band was called Hard Luck and Trouble. We tried to play cool stuff. Songs by the Cream and Blue Skies. Songs that were way to hard for us to do (laughs). But we did them anyway.
Billy Rose: So that was with Schneider. Did you go to school with Dave?
Dave Layton: He was a year ahead of me in school. He was in a couple other bands before that. But after Hard Luck and Trouble I played in Motorway with JC. After Motorway I played in Dancing Bear with JC. Then sometime after that I played in Ric Pike Band with Dave again. Then we put together Dave and The Rave. I was in a house band over in Sterling (Illinois). There was a time after my house burned down I played in Mason City in a band that I can’t remember the name of. I played with them for a long time I should remember the name. Some time after Dave and The Rave and the house band Dave and Jack put together The Nationals which was The Unidynes first name. I soon joined them and kind of takes us up to date.
All along I also been playing with my pals Jim Peart, Dave Evers, Bill Mort in a band called Rock Creek Ramblers, Doing old time fiddle music not Rock ‘N’ Roll.
Billy Rose: Wasn’t JC in that too?
Dave Layton: JC was too at one point, yeah. In the second go round. The more successful version.
Billy Rose: So when did you meet JC?
Dave Layton: When I joined Motorway.
Billy Rose: I’ve always known you as Bingo. When I was talking to JC he said he met you as Bingo Strange. Where did that name come from?
Dave Layton: That is a good reason for underage kids to not go out on gravel roads and go drinking (laughs). Other than getting killed, you also might get a stupid nickname out of it. It started out that everybody in the car were getting nicknames and somebody said I don’t know what Dave’s nickname would be. It would be strange. I go (snaps fingers) Bingo! One of the other guys yeah that’s it Bingo Strange. So that’s how I ended up with Bingo Strange. I couldn’t shake it (laughs). Actually every March 31 was Cut Some Slack To Bingo Strange Day. In those days when we were drinking I had a tendency to spill my beer or wine, whatever we were drinking, and everybody would jump all over me for it. It was okay if he spills some wine don’t give him a hard time, it’s Cut Some Slack To Bingo Strange Day. The other side of the coin was if I was still there after midnight it was April Fools Day. So I always got to be the fool. So I always behaved on Bingo Strange Day (laughs). It’s been a hard life (laughs).
Billy Rose: So did you do any recording with any of the bands you were in?
Dave Layton: No never really did. Except The Unidynes. We made a CD, sold it, got rich off it (laughs). We’re still raking in the profits (laughs).
Billy Rose: Actually you made two CD’s and have one in the can.
Dave Layton: Yeah, and that one will be out of the can someday. Jack’s son John is pushing it forward.
Billy Rose: So I know how you got into playing Rock, but what about the old time Bluegrass sound of the Ramblers?
Dave Layton: I was living in an old farm house with Jim Peart, Bob Quint and some other guys. Bob was in the original band, I don’t think it was called The Rock Creek Ramblers yet. Bob, Jim and Tony Quartell and me all lived together. We had a lot of fun playing out there. When it was with Quint I think we called ourselves Yankee’s Revenge or something like that.
JC, Jim and I have a little trio called the Ripplers. We want to play all the winery’s so we thought we name ourselves something that would remind people of fine wine (laughs). We thought the Bali Highs would be a little vague (laughs). We do some Old Crow Medicine Show, Gillian Welch some alt-country acoustic and stuff like that.
Billy Rose: You also write. Do remember the first song you ever wrote?
Dave Layton: Well, the first fairly good song. It was a lost love song. It’s a good song. I was married to Kathy and she was kind of wondering why I was writing a lost love song about somebody else. But it’s just a song. The songs I’ve written don’t fit what we’re doing as The BarnRockers. If I do come up with something that would fit, I will push it. But I feel honored to be playing the songs JC, Dave and Ken are writing. They’re such good songs.
Billy Rose: There were some great original songs done by The Unidynes and this band has some great songs. Were do you see The BarnRockers going?
Dave Layton: Well I saw a cartoon the other day, I thought was hilarious. This musician is being interviewed and he says “Well we’re just a garage band, but we got a manager now and we’re gonna be playing bigger garages now.” (laughs). So I think The BarnRockers are gonna be playing the most famous barns in Iowa (laughs).