Early on in the pandemic, three veteran Wichita musicians decided there was no need to sit home playing tunes alone.
“We just decided we could probably socially distance in Doug’s spacious basement,” Dan Monnat said of Doug Webb’s home.
Phil Snow rounds out the trio – called, appropriately, the House Band – which will have its first public gig from 8 to 11 p.m. on May 7 at YaYa’s Eurobistro in Bradley Fair.
The group has practiced every Saturday morning except for a handful in the last couple of years.
“That’s exactly right,” Monnat said. “We are at our peak at 10 in the morning.”
He said they started jamming, and “with the usual vanity of many musicians, we said, ‘Hey, this sounds so good, we should go out and play in public.’ “
Initially, it was therapy.
“We had to play,” Snow said. “It was a thirst and just a desire and need, not just to play but to play with others.”
Snow said they all recognized early on they were creating something special. He described it as a magical experience.
“We would sometimes finish a song and just look at one another. ‘Wow. That just happened.’ ”
Webb said he never expected to be 75 and playing anywhere other than a rocking chair on a front porch.
“To be able to do this, it’s very freeing, very liberating.”
He said it makes them feel alive.
“That’s one of the benefits of being in this band,” Monnat said. “It keeps us all from growing too old too fast.”
The big time
Each of the House Band members played not only with each other through the years but a whole host of other Wichita-area musicians.
“All of us started playing in garage bands in the ’60s,” Monnat said.
He was in the Lion’s Mane and later the Crime Doctors. Snow was in the Jokers and the FunTones. Webb was in Sawdust Charley and then Cady & Webb.
Monnat said he thought music would be his career.
He moved to San Francisco in 1970 but was a bit overwhelmed by the music scene and how many truly great musicians there are.
Also, there was “just the hustle of trying to get gigs and be at the top of our game.”
Instead, Monnat became a criminal defense attorney.
Webb traveled nationally with Sawdust Charley and played famous places such as the Troubadour in Los Angeles.
“We thought we were going to make it, but we didn’t,” he said.
He ended up working in public relations and communications for Boeing,. Sawdust Charley was inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame in 2016.
Snow stayed in the music business for his career, both playing and working for music companies, including three decades with Senseney Music in Wichita.
In the House Band, Monnat is on drums and is the lead singer.
“I’m a loudmouth.”
Webb is on the guitar and harmonica and also sings lead on a few songs, and Snow plays bass.
“What feels different about this band to me is that we have all played in so many different bands and know the emotional pitfalls of getting along,” Monnat said.
He said everyone is accommodating.
“There really have been no disputes in the two years we’ve been playing. Everyone is very mature in this 70-plus-year-old band.”
There’s still a bit of drama, though.
“The drama now is health,” Webb said. “Everybody’s worried about getting sick and back aches and all that.”
The House Band plays an unexpected mix of songs.
“We have a wide, wide range of repertoire,” Snow said.
“We describe it as bootleg rhythm and blues, but it’s really an array of all sorts of different music,” Monnat said.
That could be anything from Taj Mahal to Bruno Mars to Frank Sinatra to George Jones.
“It’s going to be hard to pigeonhole us, honestly,” Snow said. “I think everyone will be very entertained.”
Monnat said they got their first gig the usual way, by sending out pictures and posters “and begging for gigs.”
Snow said it makes sense to go from jamming in a basement to playing in public.
The next step is to “want to actually share it with others.”
Webb agreed with Monnat about the chemistry of the group.
“It’s a comfortable band,” he said. “For as long as this lasts, it’s a joy.”