Cyberband joins forces to blend the sounds of Kansas’ top musicians

photo by: Kathy Hanks

Cyberband trumpeters Chris Cruz, from left, and Terry Moore, go over a musical arrangement with Dan Stecklein, tenor saxophone, on Sept. 12, 2019, in the recording studio of the Lawrence Public Library.

Three musicians walked into the Lawrence Public Library Thursday for a recording session in the sound studio.

Only Dan Stecklein would be recording on a tenor saxophone. Trumpeters Terry Moore and Chris Cruz had previously recorded their parts, but they were on hand to help Stecklein with the arrangement.

Back in the late 1960s, the men had performed in bands with names like Spiders and the Crabs, The Soul Express and Sensational Showmen. In later years they would come together to perform when those bands were inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame, or for other special occasions.

Now they are uniting as the Cyberband to record a song written by Spider and the Crabs member Dennis Higgins titled “I Don’t Need Nobody.”

The thing is, Higgins needs a lot of people right now to help record his song. A retired music teacher, he currently lives in Albuquerque, N.M. He has called on his old band buddies to join him, though not literally, to record the song. Thanks to technology, they can play each part of the song on their own time while never being in the same room or even state.

photo by: Jared Soares

Dennis Fox Higgins of the group Spider and the Crabs tunes his bass backstage before the start of the Kansas Music Hall of Fame concert at Liberty Hall on March 19, 2006.

Also using the Lawrence library’s sound studio at different times to record their parts in the song were Mike Schmidt, drums; Dean Dietz, vocals; and Jon Hischke, saxophone. Craig Steward will record the harmonica piece for the song in Wichita, and Mike Finnigan will be recording in Los Angeles, playing keyboard. Higgins recorded on acoustic and bass guitars in Albuquerque.

The Lawrence Public Library is the only noncommercial studio being used for the project. Though the musicians are in different locations and not recording at the same time, the technology is the same in all the studios, said Beth Meyers, the sound engineer in Lawrence, for the project. No matter when they record in the studios, they can sync the boards and get the same perimeters.

“They work on their own time when they can get to it, and they produce their part and we mix it in Albuquerque,” Higgins said, speaking by telephone to the Journal-World. “It’s great fun. The process becomes very organic. I never know what will come my way. It’s full of nice surprises.”

While Albuquerque has plenty of qualified musicians Higgins could have called on to record the song, his goal was to enlist the help of Kansas Hall of Fame inductees.

“They are such good musicians, and we knew each other but never got to play together because we were in separate bands,” said Higgins, who lived above Joe’s Bakery on West Ninth Street in Lawrence in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He played with the Red Dogs, back when Liberty Hall was the Red Dog Inn.

“All these years later we are getting to play with each other, and it’s great fun,” he said.

This is the second time the Cyberband has come together performing a song created by Higgins. Back in 2010, many of the same musicians recorded “It’s All the Same.” However, the technology they are using today was not available, nor was the sound studio at the Lawrence Public Library. It didn’t open until 2015.

Joel Bonner, technology assistant with the Lawrence Public Library, from left, helps Beth Meyers, sound technician, center, as Chris Cruz, Terry Moore and Dan Stecklein look on in the library’s sound studio on Sept. 12, 2019.

The Cyberband is not recording the song for commercial purposes.

“We are doing it for the challenge,” Higgins said. He expects the song to be completed by early October and he plans to put both Cyberband songs on the Kansas Music Hall of Fame Facebook page, so the public can have access.

Though he sent the other musicians the music he created, Higgins never tells them how to play the song. Instead, he encourages them to be creative.

“They have better ideas than I do,” Higgins said.

Despite being Hall of Famers, Higgins said, after so many years, it can be a challenge for some of the musicians to come to the studio and record.

Stecklein admitted he needed a good warm-up with the tenor sax. There was a sticky key, giving him trouble. Moore said it took a little work to revive his trumpet chops.

Higgins appreciated the process of recording this way and how the song flows and grows on its own.

In the end, Higgins will put all the parts of the collective effort together for “I Don’t Need Nobody”.

“It will be a very different song than what I originally wrote,” he said. “It has morphed, it’s bluesy, and it has a new life to it.”


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