By Don Paris
Finding Our Singer
In the early 70s, Freeflite (then a trio) was not yet soaring high in the local music scene. As any band knows, finding the right singer is crucial. For these young musicians, it was a journey of trial and error. They tried out a guy named Jim who had been fired from another local band and it didn't take them too long to figure out why they fired him. He wasn't much better than any of the young guys in the band and besides their parents thought he was much too old to be hanging out with them (he was already 19!). The band members must have been 14-15 at the time. They even tried out Don's sister but she wasn't the right sound for Freeflite since they were into Cream and Black Sabbath and she had more of the Motown sound. As they continued to practice and improve their musicianship, they kept their eyes and ears open for any potential leads.
It wasn't until Roger landed a job washing dishes at the local Holiday Inn restaurant that they found their diamond in the rough. One of Roger's coworkers would sing along while they worked, catching Roger's ear. He suggested the singer, Larry Galbraith, try out for their band. And did he impress! With a natural talent for singing and even guitar playing, FreeFlite had found their missing puzzle piece.
The chemistry between the four members was undeniable, and word quickly spread throughout the town that there was a new band in town. FreeFlite was ready to take their music to the next level with their newfound singer, and the sky was the limit.
Making the Scene
Their first gig was to open for a band called Sky King at the Rapid City auditorium. They had all seen a lot of bands there like Rare Earth and this was the first time they were on a real stage and little did they know that we would be opening for many of the super groups in the future. Some friends of Larry's lent them some lights and there they were with hundreds of, screaming teens listening and dancing to their music. The feedback they got was very positive and felt ready to talk with the local booking agency. When they went to meet with him, he had already heard of FreeFlite's success and immediately started booking them for school dances and concerts. As the summer ended and they went back to school, they met every day and practiced. The band expanded their repertoire. Some weekends they would play gigs but the main focus was to develop musically. They all took the band very seriously and practiced any moment possible, either as a band or one on one with other members. By the time school was out, they were ready to hit the road. They started playing almost every weekend somewhere in town or within driving range so as to not have to spend the night. Eventually the distances were just too far because they were often driving 3-4 hours after a gig to get home and it was getting dangerous. One night Don had fallen asleep in the car on the way home and when he awoke, Larry's '68 Mustang they were in was parked on the side of the road. Larry had been driving and when asked why they stopped he said that as he was driving, the whole world went white and he couldn't see anything! He felt it was better if he stopped... Don roused himself and drove the rest of the way home.
First Outdoor Festival
One of the band's first big breaks was to open for the Guess Who and Jo Jo Gunne. It was an outdoor concert and it attracted almost 10,000 people. As they walked out on stage and heard thousands of people clapping and screaming, it hit them like a wave of energy. Never having felt this kind of energy, it was quite experience! Not having any time to think about it or worry about it, they launched into their set and played their hearts out. The crowd came for the super groups, but they were very kind to FreeFlite and it seemed like everyone enjoyed the music. The guys were still quite young, (15-17) but they proved that they could hold a crowd and have a great time on stage together. No recordings were made so no one really knows how it sounded, but it was music to FreeFlite's ears.
After the Summer of 72, three of them still had to get through high school. They practiced every day after school and played out on as many weekends as they could. Sometime during the school year, they enlisted Mark Parkinson to play keyboard. He was new to Rock music and had studied mostly classical, but he jumped in and because of his training, soon found that Rock was his new home.
Live at Central High
Toward the end of the school year, they talked the principle of the school into letting them do a free concert in the auditorium during a normal school day.
"Live at Central" was the groundbreaking event that changed the course of history for Central High School. For the first time since the school was built, the entire student body and faculty were let out in the middle of the day to attend a rock concert, and FreeFlite was the band that made it happen. After this stunning event, rock concerts became a yearly highlight.
Their electrifying performance was captured on tape that is now a treasured piece of Central High School's history. This album captures the energy and excitement of that historic day, and serves as a reminder of the power of music to bring people together.