Dave Chastain recalled his first public performance as a guitarist.
He was about 11 or 12 and in the sixth grade in his hometown of Paragould, Ark. There had been a class project. The students made animal heads to wear on their heads, and then the menagerie assembled in the gym for a convocation.
“Somehow, the teacher found out I played guitar,” he said. “I wound up taking my guitar and this little amp I had to school. I was sitting up on the big stage in a gym, and all I remember is playing this.”
Chastain reeled off a bluesy riff with lightning speed. It was his own piece of music.
He picked up the story.
“I looked up, and all these kids were dancing around in a big circle with animal heads.”
Down the road, he would play before even stranger crowds, but that was his first brush with rock stardom.
Chastain is 65 now, a well-traveled artist who started his first band in 1977, played Southern rock before moving into blues, and has reformed the Dave Chastain Band since moving to North Port from Peoria, Illinois, in June 2018.
Chastain and his band are scheduled to perform for only the third time since he moved here. They will play at a benefit concert, Anniversary Rock, planned for 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. March 30 at American Legion Post 254 in North Port.
Tickets are $10. The post is located at 6648 Taneytown Road.
The event coincides with the 100th anniversary of the national American Legion. Proceeds will support veterans charities such as Veterans Village in Punta Gorda and Final Salute, which assists homeless veterans who are women.
The current members joining Chastain are Andre LeCroix on drums, Randy McCormick on bass, Mike Cooley on keyboards and Todd Rogers on guitar.
They will be performing on the same bill as the Redline Band and Maiden Cane, which is headlining. Maiden Cane is a six-piece band whose signature is ’70s and ’80s arena rock. It plays the music of Boston, Journey, Def Leppard Bon Jovi, Styx, and Kansas — all noted for strong guitars and vocals.
“If I can do what I love to do more than anything and help somebody at the same time, it’s a no-brainer,” Chastain said of playing the benefit.
“Musicians like me love to go play. That’s what we do. It’s a chance to go play a gig and give back at the same time.
“Hopefully, we’ll get a great crowd.”
Chastain fell in love with the guitar when he was 5 or 6. He saw a Pentecostal preacher in Texas by the name of Johnny Little. The preacher was sermonizing on an old Telecaster. Chastain’s father borrowed an acoustic guitar from a friend and told little his son he had a week to experiment with it.
“I played until my fingers bled,” Chastain recalled.
He began playing bars and clubs at 14 — so young he was not allowed off stage when the band went on break. He formed the Dave Chastain Band in January 1977, won a radio contest with his song “Highway Man,” and began touring.
In his Southern rock days, he opened for acts such as Molly Hatchet, Marshall Tucker, Charlie Daniels and Gregg Allman. Later, when he turned to the blues, he shared stages with Johnny Winter, Robin Trower, Buddy Guy and Albert Collins.
Chastain is self-taught.
“I learned the old-school method: radio and records,” he said. “Someone might ask, ‘Hey, did you ever take guitar lessons? Sure. Who from? Jimi Hendrix, Dickey Betts, Eric Clapton.’”
And he’s not about to slow down.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I’ll be B.B. King at 90. As long as my fingers work, I’ll be playing. I live and breathe it. It’s all I do.”
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