The Renovators is actually a band that has been evolving over a thirty year process. The following is my experience with the band but it actually started years before with Rick and Pete who were both part of a traveling youth group. 

I first came across Rick and Pete back in 1989. I had a new shop in Santa Rosa where I was conducting auto tinting as a business. A side purpose for my shop was in order to have a place for recording music. I had a carpenter friend, Jim Lienhardt who was a very good keyboardist who I had played in past bands with. Jim was helping me to build a shop office area and a stairway to gain access to the space above the office. Jim had been jamming with Rick and Pete and I offered my shop space as a place for them to jam while I went on a trip to Hawaii. 

When I returned from Hawaii my shop was ready for business and Jim and I started doing some recording in the new office space after hours. Soon there was a opportunity for another jam session and I met Pete and Rick for the first time which would evolved to a 30 year musical relationship. Sadly the relationship with Pete, whom I considered a close, dear friend ended abruptly when he committed suicide a year or so ago. I will talk more about that life shattering event at a later time. 

The jam sessions quickly evolved to a band situation and we played at my shop every Thursday when ever possible. Soon after meeting my new friends I was invited to Rick’s wedding and the preceding bachelor party. The bachelor party took place in San Rafael at George’s ‘Animal House’ where the boys had all lived together for a time in their wild youth. There were no strippers at that party but I recall that Rick was presented with a blow-up sheep doll. 

The band went through various personal changes and several different band names. Our first bassist was contentiously drunk and couldn’t hold a beat or a tune for any length of time. I think we first called ourselves, ‘The Big Kahuna’ which seemed to imply that we were some kind of a surf band which we were not. Eventually we hired Rick’s new brother-in-law, Phil and we settled into a Simi tight unit for a time. 

We needed a new name and I thought of a line from a Tom Wait’s song, ‘ Lickity-Splitly’ would be a good name. At this time there were no women in the band and we all thought Lickity-Split would be a good name so we adopted that name. But when we eventually had three women in the band and that name seemed to imply that we were a Lesbian band the name Lickidy-Split was no longer in favor. The problem was that with Maria behind the keyboards and the computer we had put a fair amount of promotion into that name and it wasn’t that easy to switch it out with something less controversial. 

There was a certain Thursday rehearsal that we all remember in infamy where the personalities of Jim and Pete came to a breaking point. To the rest of us it seemed like Jim who was a bit of a hot head or as some might say , an Asshole, just blew a fuse. Jim dumped a ton of abuse on Pete who was dumbfounded by the whole episode. It was a five minute in your face profanity laced yelling oratory which ended with something like, “I can’t believe that your wife even sleeps with you!!!” So that effectively  ended of our relationship with Jim. I continued to be friends with him but eventually his radically right wing politics caused me to let him go also. 

There was another key friend in the bands history who as it turned out I unknowingly replaced when I started playing with the band. This person was Al who was kind of our own Homer Simpson character. Pete and I would often go to Al’s house and jam and smoke weed in the back house. Once Al was invited to come and play music with us at Maria’s house. He inadvertently placed several guitars behind the back wheels of his van before being distracted by a phone call ( probably reminding him not to forget the dope). He came out of his house having procured the weed and promptly drove over all of his guitars. Thankfully they were all in heavy duty cases that saved their guitar lives but they never trusted him again. Al was a good friend to all of us and there are many more funny stories about Al. 

Al had a close friend Maria who he had known for many years. When I first met Al he told me that his friend Maria was having a hard time because her husband had just died due to a very unfortunate anesthesiologists mistake while he was undergoing back surgery. It appeared the the anesthesiologists was using a new machine that he was not accustomed to and he put air into Jerry’s blood stream which killed him. It was a legal medical mess and Maria who should have been awarded millions ended up settling for a much smaller dollar amount and a Non Discloser Agreement so that she wouldn’t lose her home. She settled right before the story hit the papers and she would have had a much more solid case. 

Al convinced Maria to come back to the back house jam where she played a little Casio keyboard. I could see that even though she was in a very depressed state that she had a kind soul and a good since of humor and that she was an accomplished pianist. This led to us asking her to join the band which was a huge distraction for her and it helped her to slowly crawl out of her highly depressed state. I went with Maria to Zone Music where we bought a nice Alesis Keyboard. Maria became another life long band mate and close friend. She past away a year ago several years after quitting the band because it was just too hard for her to get around anymore. 

Another main player in the Renovators is Ceasar. Ceasar is another top notch cabinet maker who Rick had known for years through his wood supply business, Mount Storm Wood Products. Rick’s wood connection is the reason the band is called The Renovators. We are 60% carpenters, one doctor/preacher man, and one lowly window tinter. Anyhow Rick had been asking Ceasar to come by and jam for several years and when he finally came out it stuck and Ceasar became a band member. Ceasar plays great trombone and amazing percussion and has a very soulful singing voice. He is our token Mexican who speaks no Spanish but is always asked if he’s ‘finished clearing those tables,” when he would ask for another beer. He is the one band member that has tons of charisma and he can always be counted on to get people dancing. 

I should say something more about Rick and Pete since they represented the core of the band since the beginning of time. Rick is our awesome drummer/ vocalist. Ricks vocals are so strong that sometimes his vocals drown out the band. He has giant lungs and an musical ear of gold. Some say that his huge voice is just compensation for his otherwise physiological shortcomings. (Just Kidding…sorry Ricky) 

Pete was really our fearless leader. He was the song man in that he seemed to know a million songs and was a great singer and conveyor of the song. His best friend from college, Joe, told a story about how he and Pete traveled to various cities back east with Joe acting as Pete’s manager as he did a one man show. Pete was very intelligent, funny, and everybody’s best friend. 

We went through several other players over the years. Several were people that Pete and Rick knew from their travels with the youth group. Dan was the obnoxious friend who bought some bongos and said, “Now I’m in the band.” His playing was so bad that he came to known as,’Tennis Shoes in The Dryer.’ 

Pete B is a phenomenal sax player who was part of a musical family of brothers. Pete B’s sax playing would blow everyone away. Unfortunately his back injuries have gotten so bad he can’t hold his horn anymore. We had Jane at another time playing tenor sax and refusing to play at Spanky’s Bar because they had porn along with the stuffed animals in the Arcade Claw Machine. Then we had Terri, Rick’s sister as another singer. 

So at one point it really was becoming a family band since we had Rick’s Brother -In-law, and sister in the band. There came a time when ‘family’ became too damn complicated, Maria was unable to continue playing and Jane was too involved with other bands. 

That was the point at which we cut ties with other players and found Rob, ‘The Maestro’ who came in and took over playing bass. Rob was a trumpet player in high school and college and is a great guitarist and writer of songs. He possesses a keen knowledge of music and gave the band a solid bass bottom to stand on. We changed our name to The Renovators and along with Maria’s assistance we came up with a cool logo which is a Stratocaster guitar with a hammer head. 

After we lost Pete the band was pretty much shaken to the core. No one had any clue that Pete was feeling so bad that he would take his own life. He seemed to be the most well adjusted person amongst us. Pete had a large network of family and friends, a loving wife, and two teenaged children. 

As a band we were not sure if we could continue without Pete our friend and leader. After the initial shock we came to the understanding that Pete would really want us to continue onward and upward. For until that terrible point in time we as a band the Renovators were really hitting our stride. 

 We decided to shift Rob into the 2nd guitar position where he could do more singing. We had Cliff who had been doing sound for us on occasion slide into the bassist position. Cliff is a great guy and a pretty good bassist but there was a looming problem with having Cliff in the band. That problem was that Cliff is a Jehovah’s Witness. It wasn’t a problem in that we could not except someone of that or any faith into the band. It was just that as a Jehovah’s Witness Cliff was unable to play during any holidays, birthdays, or basically any fun event unrelated to Jehovah Witnessness. That put a serious Kibosh on our ability to get gigs especially Bar Mitzvahs. 

We have been trying to find a good bassist since Pete’s passing. There was a fellow named Paul L who did an amazing job of sound for us at Pete’s Mother-In -Law, Linda Lou’s 70th B-Day party where Pete and the Renovators were able to play to all of Pete’s loving extended family. This event happened just months before Pete took his own life and if you could see how Pete was surrounded by so many close friends and family it makes it very hard to understand why he did what he did. Everybody had a great time that day. 

 Paul L turned out to be a great bass player who could just step in and play almost anything without rehearsing. We did rehearse with him one time and it seemed like we had found the bass player at the end of the rainbow. And he hated that Dick-Wad Trump with a passion so he was obviously the right man for the job. But as soon as we’d hired him he developed an intense case of Carpal Tunnel and he needed to back off playing bass. He was another cabinet maker and soon after he’d discovered this hand aliment he was over at Rick’s place of work purchasing a large heavy piece of wood with which Rick mistakenly smashed his ailing hand. Paul did play a gig or two with us but his recording business was picking up so he had to beg off playing with The Renovators. 

So we were back on the hunt for the allusive bass player. Rick had heard about a bass player person through his work and we had a rehearsal time set up but then that person had to suddenly go to China. We were thinking that as soon as we get close to that unattainable magic bass player, to when it’s just barely out of our greasy hand grasp they suddenly ship him off to China to work in the bass player penal colony or they smash his hands. 

We were back where we started. A band without a bottom is a very sad thing. We just dawdled around crying out, “Oh, WOE IS US.  We will trade our castle for a individual who can slap a da bass. We’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a bass player today.” 

We managed to convince Paul L to play another gig with us because his hand had somewhat healed but he was still too busy with his recording studio. It was a shame because we really had a good time playing with him and people said he looked like Robert Plant with his long blonde curly locks. He also cracked the whole place up with one of his famous one liners. 

Then an amazing thing happened. They released the bass player from the Chinese Penal Colony and told him he is free to become a world famous bassist playing with the renowned Renovators. (The Most Famous Band at Mount Storm Wood Products) 

As it turned out he wasn’t really sent to a penal colony but I think that he went to China to obtain an emergency ‘ordaining’ so that he could  come back and perform the marriage of his gay brother-in-law in New Mexico. ( It’s very possible that my facts are totally screwed up here so please correct me if I’m wrong .....I don’t think you have to go to China to get ordained)

Enter Jesse. So we set up another rehearsal with Jesse the bassist who actually seemed to be a very well adjusted individual who did not have an opioid addiction or a face covered with tattoos of devils eating babies or any of the usual bass player mental illnesses. We had a really good rehearsal and he seemed to know most of the songs we threw at him. 

Jesse had a couple of young adult kids who were off going to college just like the Renovator’s kids. The Renovators seem to produce mostly daughters. Ceasar has two daughters, Rick has one, and Rob has one, and I have a newly acquired daughter-in-law in Switzerland. Jesse did have a son so that could present a problem but because his son is going to college in Hawaii all is forgiven. 

Ceasar picked up on the fact that Jesse was a preacher and he was a little concerned when various Renovator members would throw out the F-Bomb which could be known to happen on occasion. He would be like, “Shush… guys, exnay on the F- way. When we let Ceasar know that Jesse was just a  ‘Ordained in One Day’ type of preacher he was able to relax a bit and continued calling himself, ‘Boneman.’ 

I visited Jesse at his place of work recently. Turns out Jesse is a radiologist and works for Sutter Hospitals. I was at his place of work to look at putting some frost film on some interior windows on the third floor. When I went up to the radiology counter and asked the nurses there if Jesse was in they looked puzzled and said, “ OH, you mean Dr. Rael.” May we ask who is inquiring?” I said, “Just tell him it’s Michael from the band.” Then suddenly all the other women in the reception area looked up expecting to see a tall long hair Fabio type character but alas, it was just little old me. 

So now Jesse is officially a Renovator and we actually have a band member that we can call.                           ‘THE DOCTOR’ or ‘ Preacher Man’

A little over a year ago I decided that I didn’t have nearly enough gear to haul around so I decided it would be a good idea for me to start playing keyboards along with guitar in the band. It started with just wanting to play organ on a certain Santana song. I had Maria’s old Alesis keyboard And so I started practicing with that. A gig came up and as it happened we did not get a chance to have a rehearsal where I could demonstrate my new keyboard skills to the Boyz in the band so I just showed up at the gig towing this rather large keyboard along with my guitar rig. As I was setting up my new mystery keyboard the guys in the band were kind of giving me the evil eye and saying, “Just what do you think your gonna do with that!? “Why I’m going to play it,” I replied. They weren’t so sure because they’d never heard me play keyboards before and their lack of confidence didn’t inspire faith in my own abilities because, let’s face it, I’m not a keyboard player. I kept it to just a few songs that I knew I could pull off and I changed some minds that day. The more I worked with the keyboard the more songs seemed to demand that I play some keys on them but I’m also playing guitar and often times playing both instruments during the same song. I have created monster but I’m enjoying playing new things and getting better a little at a time.


Another member of the band’s extended family history has left this world. Buz Durbin was a good man. He was a carpenter, sound man, and a good friend to the band. It would seem a bit ironic that a sound man would be named ‘Buz’ but that moniker was actually a reference to some 1940s movie, maybe Busby Berkeley or something about Clarke Gable. It almost made him seem like a character from Dragnet. “Good evening Madame. Buz Durbin at your service, Soundman Extraordinaire.”  

Buz’s biggest claim to fame seemed to be that he had been married to a daughter of one of Andrew Sister’s a popular singing group from the fourties. He had lived in Los Angeles or Hollywood during that time of his life and probably had some stories to tell but all I know about is his time with the band doing sound for some memorable gigs.  

He hung around with the Lickidy-Split Band for a couple of years during the band’s heyday. Buz was very much into sound and extremely huge speakers. Some people collect guitars or small dragons but Buz collected very large speakers. His pride a joy were some humongous speakers that he had procured from a theater in L.A. We only used those giant theater speakers for one gig for the Cloverdale Fire Dept. but they did sound quite good indeed. 

 Buz’s theory on eliminating the annoying 60 Hertz Hum that haunts all bands with a lot of electrical equipment was to plug every single piece of band equipment into a single electrical outlet. We always felt that by doing that we would burn the place down but fortunately that never happened and Buz was able to curtail the noise factor. It might also have been that most of the microphone cables he supplied didn’t work and that had a way of cutting down the noise. 

There were a couple of memorable times with Buz but they may come off as young rocker whipper snappers giving the old sound man a rough time but we only mocked him in a loving way. One time we were having a rehearsal at Maria’s house and Buz brought some of his giant speakers to demonstrate how good they would make the band sound. These speakers were easily as tall as Buz and probably weighed about the same. The speakers had wheels on one side so that you could lean them back and roll them to their position. The large speakers just barley fit through Maria’s front door and as Buz was wheeling in the first speaker he lost his footing and the speaker actually fell on top of him to where all you could see of Buz was his arms and legs underneath the large speaker. He looked very cartoonish at that moment. We did jump to his immediate rescue but the image of arms and legs squirming  helplessly under the speaker stuck in our minds. Fortunately it wasn’t really a cartoon and Buz was not squished as flat as a pancake. He didn’t suffer any damage and continued with his usual sound antics. 

Another time we did an outside gig in November in Placerville California which is the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains. (We don’t need no stinkin’ Badges ) The gig was a birthday party for Ceasar’s sister and that is not a location where you want to do a outside gig in November because IT’S FRICKEN COLD!!! Fortunately there were a pair of patio gas heaters on the patio where we were playing so as I recall I was actually hot. Tuning was a definite challenge because if I turned my guitar neck towards the heater where the temperature was probably around 90 degrees the strings would quickly loosen up where as if I turned my guitar neck away from the heater the temperature suddenly dropped to below freezing and the strings would tighten to close to the breaking point. While I was sweating under the heater Buz was positioned far away from the heaters at the edge of the patio. I recall looking over at him in his large jacket looking like he was at the South Pole with ice sickles hanging from his nose and seeing Polar Bear creeping up behind him. I think the bear was just my imagination running wild. 

Buz did belong to a church and one thing he would do with his wife was to go various prisons and help the prisoners with their musical groups which he said were very talented. I guess you get a lot of practice time when confined to a cell. He would go to some pretty heavy prisons. One place he would go was to Pelican Bay Prison which has a reputation as a place where some pretty hard core criminals are confined. 

Buz’s passing marks the fifth person associated with the band moving on to the next realm. It would almost seem that it’s dangerous to be a part of this band but in reality it’s just the circle of life and death. As we get older the incidence of people we know passing on gets to be a common occurrence. Other members have had close encounters with Father Time. Rick spent several weeks in the hospital with a case of acute Pancreatitis and I’ve had a case of Non Hodgkins Lymphoma which hopefully I’ve managed to kick with the help of a new drug.( the only time I’ve appreciated Big Pharma.) Rob and Ceasar are both proud recipients of their first colonoscopies with squeaky clean results. I think I’m now the old codger in the band so I guess I need to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and playing Rockn’Roll to soothe the soul. 

We’ll miss you Buz. Show your huge speakers to God and CRANK IT UP!