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Linn County Leader - Brookfield, MO
  • Was There a Band Here?

  • The title of the autobiography penned by Krazy Kats frontman Lee Dresser—Was There a Band Here Tonight?— was a tongue-in-cheek reference to a momentary incident in time as well as a commentary on Dresser’s lifelong pursuit of making the big time with his music.
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  • The title of the autobiography penned by Krazy Kats frontman Lee Dresser—Was There a Band Here Tonight?— was a tongue-in-cheek reference to a momentary incident in time as well as a commentary on Dresser’s lifelong pursuit of making the big time with his music.
    As the Krazy Kats were packing up their equipment after a gig one night, two elderly women walked into the club where the three-man rockabilly band had been playing. One of them asked, “Was there a band here tonight?”
    Always the gentleman, Dresser, who over a 57-year period provided the vocals and lead guitar for the Krazy Kats, took the obvious question in stride. But as he reflected afterward on how closely he had come to fame and fortune in the music world, Dresser had to be asking himself, “Was there really a band here tonight?”   
    To answer that question, you would have to go back to where it all began for the Krazy Kats. On Valentine’s Day in 1957, 15-year-old friends Lee Dresser, Willie Craig (piano), and Fred Fletcher (drums/bass) made their inaugural appearance at Moberly Junior High School; they had been asked to play at the annual Sweetheart Dance, even though they didn’t own a microphone to amplify Dresser’s voice. Dresser would recall years later that he did his best Elvis impression, which prompted the teenaged girls attending to scream and convinced Dresser that he wanted to do more of the same for the rest of his life. Indeed, this was no passing adolescent fantasy; Dresser would spend the next half-century making a living by making music...But like so many artists, his passion for music emerged from the pain of misfortune that visited him early on; Dresser had already lost both parents by the time he was 13. However, as columnist Buster Fayte has written, “The man didn’t live his life feeling sorry for himself or asking anyone to feel sorry for him. He loved people and made connections to get him through his tragedy.”
    Craig’s sister provided the reel-to-reel recorder that inspired the three boys to begin making music, as well as the name of their band. In an early newspaper article some enterprising reporter had given the nameless trio a name they wouldn’t allow to stick: Lee Dresser and The Dresserettes. After listening to one of their early performances, Craig’s sister exclaimed, “You guys are some crazy cats!” That compliment, expressed in the hipster slang of the day, was adopted with the ‘Cs’ substituted by ‘Ks,’ and the Krazy Kats were born.
    The Kats moved to Columbia a few years later where they entertained the University of Missouri crowd through 1965. Then Craig was drafted to feed the war machine in Vietnam, and Dresser did the same a year later.
    Page 2 of 2 - When Dresser returned from the service in 1969, he headed to California to launch a solo career as a singer and songwriter. He wrote songs and played backup for an unlikely series of artists that included Pat Boone, Danny Thomas, Merle Haggard, Bobby Sherman, Ray Price, the Osmonds, and Dolly Parton. But the dream of making a name for himself continued to be elusive. Dresser moved from Monterey to Los Angeles, but as the lyrics to perhaps the best song he ever wrote reveal, he met with more disappointment:
    El Camino Real
    El Camino Real take me home, back to Monterey ‘cause I didn’t have much luck down in L.A.
    Well, I sang my songs in Monterey
    and built up quite a name.
    Then I went down to L.A. for fortune and fame.
    But no one cared about me there,
    so now I’m coming home
    Traveling north on Highway 101.
    In spite of coming so close to succeeding on his own and not quite making it, nothing could seem to dampen Dresser’s boundless optimism. Fayte notes, “Instead of being bitter that he’d come so close without making it, Dresser talk[ed] about how wonderful it was—how lucky he has been—to have come so close at all.”

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