Here, There and Everywhere - The Beatles®
HARLAN -- In February 1964, The Beatles began touring the United States, bringing with them a musical phenomenon that captured millions of people worldwide, just not 16-year-old Harlan resident Craig Nance.
Nance took no interest in the boy band and preferred jazz and classical music. His sister, however, loved The Beatles, and Nance grumpily sat down to watch them perform live on The Ed Sullivan Show. (He wanted to watch Disney’s “The Swamp Fox,” which aired at the same time.)
As fate would have it, the young Nance changed his mind once The Beatles began singing hits from their first album, Please Please Me.
“Oh a lightbulb just clicked on, and I was like, ‘I gotta get a guitar,’” he said.
Nance received his first Kay electric guitar for Christmas and spent the day working through the instruction book, which he mastered by that evening. Since then, his life became entrenched in music, taking it with him down the two paths musicians know best: performing and teaching.
For Nance, the performance path seemed like the natural first step. As a freshman at Harlan Community High School, Nance formed what he describes as a classic high school rock band, called The Tripp, where they played 1960s top 40 rock songs. Following his attendance at the University of Iowa as a flute major — at the time, one could not major in guitar performance — Nance rejoined his high school band colleagues as the guitarist for their new band, now titled The MOM Band.
They gained traction, playing top 40 F.M. music gigs across the U.S. in the early 1970s, ascending to success almost everywhere, Nance said.
But a band’s life cycle wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t break up. The MOM Band eventually parted ways, but the conclusion of experiences always furnishes new opportunities. Back in Harlan, Nance met the guys who would constitute a new band, called Luna Sea.
This time around, the band composed a record by the same name filled with contrasting music genres. Bluegrass, country rock, and progressive rock filled the venues they performed at across the country.
“Live, we would sometimes follow a progressive rock tune with a bluegrass tune, which would catch the audience by surprise,” Nance said. “It wasn’t always popular, but we loved doing it.”
However, Luna Sea maintained its popularity in Harlan, contrary to The MOM Band. Nance said he remembers The Westside packed with audience members.
Nance, introverted to his core, flipped a 180 on the stage, saying that performing was the only time he felt completely comfortable being in front of people.
“I’ve never been nervous before a gig, which is strange,” he said. “I guess it’s just confidence or overconfidence.”
Luna Sea’s run ended in 1978, cajoling Nance to return home to work a full-time job at R.C. Booth Enterprises and to play with long-time Harlan Community Schools Music Educator Steve Lawson and his local band, Together.
Nance also spent years performing with the local ladies quartet Sweet Inspiration, which featured Geralyn Greer, Kathy Tremmel, Joan Ouren, and Maryalyce Dotzler on vocals, and featured over the years -- Lawson on drums and piano, Shelli Larson on piano, Susan Larson Christensen (now Chief Justice Christensen with the Iowa Supreme Court) on piano, Carr Salvo, Rick Dotzler (Pexton Drug Pharmacy) and Bob Bjoin (Harlan Newspapers) on drums, and Dr. Roger Davidson on bass.
Nance also recorded projects with Scott Allen (notably Celtic songs) and, of course, taught and continues to teach school kids how to play guitar.
Nance has taught students for approximately 25 years at his home, which is saturated with music records, bookshelves, and instruments. At one point, he taught 10-12 lessons per week, though the weekly number has lowered to three.
The musician said he enjoys teaching people how to play guitar and helping them achieve what they wish to learn on the instrument. Once students reached a certain proficiency, Nance would teach the student how to improvise, and they would jam out together. Even though he is an accomplished guitarist, Nance learned from his students.
“I’ve learned things [from teaching],” Nance said. “We’d be working on improvising and they would play something that I never played before or thought about.”
In his 61 years of playing instruments — guitar, flute, banjo, violin, ukulele and dulcimer— Nance said his adoration for music remains unchanged.
“Playing instruments, especially guitar — there’s literally no difference than it was when I was 16,” he said. “I can’t get through a day without picking up the guitar and playing it.”
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