The music of Our Town
Over the next few weeks, we will be looking back at the music and musicians of Temple and Bell County.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 24, 2021
Over the years Bell County has been home to great music and musicians. Scott Joplin wrote a famous train song here, Boots Douglas learned to swing, and Little Joe and Jerry Haisler became household names. Country bands have packed local dance halls for years, and for decades rock ’n’ roll joined caroling and eggnog as Christmas traditions.
Tom Sefcik Hall was built in 1923 and has hosted all types of bands, parties and dances. But in 1974, Bell County teens began flocking to the popular two-story dance hall in Seaton, and the sounds of rock ‘n’ roll filled the country air.
Texas gives birth to Sefcik rock
By DAVID STONE, Our Town Temple
In the 1970s and ‘80s, bands such as The Moods and The Debonaires were kings of country. They lured hundreds — no, thousands — of fans to dance halls such as Knights of Columbus, Star Hall and Flag Hall.
But, not all music lovers of the day were looking to boot scoot.
It was the heyday of rock ’n’ roll in the Temple area. Bands and fans flocked to venues such as the Peppermint Lounge, The Flagon, the Dam Saloon and Nat’s Place all the way over in Milano. They weren’t the nicest places, or the cleanest — but, boy were they fun!
The biggest names played Bell County’s most popular rock venue, Seaton’s own Tom Sefcik Hall. It was a local version of New York’s famed CBGB Club. No, to my knowledge the Ramones, Blondie or Television never stepped through its doors. Still, some amazing musicians jammed on the Sefcik stage.
David Prater, Gary Pavlica and, of course, The Groove Kings and David Zychek come to mind. But that tiny upstairs stage also hosted bands such as Breaking Point, the Kangs, Katzcan, The Shades, Dry Ice, Crash Landing, Hands Off and Uzi Suite. Over the years, many other rockers hauled equipment up those steep stairs.
Sefcik Hall’s rock era began in 1974 when a band called Texas took to the stage. The band included two of the Central Texas rock scene’s biggest names, plus a roadie who eventually would become a percussion superstar.
The Prater family moved to Temple from Fort Worth in the summer of 1966, and a young David was already into music. The Beatles opened his ears to rock ’n’roll in the early 1960s, and by the time he was 10 he was playing teen clubs around the Metroplex.
“I got my own drum set on my 13th birthday,” he said. “And I was ready to be a rock star.”
That dream was knocked off course with the move to Temple.
“It was a horrendous adjustment,” he said with a laugh. “It was like moving to Saudi Arabia at first. For a lot of the kids I first met in Temple, music was very low on their priority list. My dad owned Centex Ready Mix, and he did a lot of contract work at Fort Hood. I met some young musicians in the Killeen area and started playing clubs up and down Business 190.”
“I really wasn’t in a permanent band,” he explained. “It was just a bunch of musicians who would get together — kind of primitive. I did play with a group called War Horse — we played at the armory by Temple High School — but that didn’t last long.”
Prater’s music world took a giant leap forward with a visit to Temple’s Town & Country Mall in 1968.
“They had a band playing in the mall,” he said. “They called themselves Spine Culture. John Inman was playing guitar. He was older than me, and he was amazing. He ended up playing in the Lost Gonzo Band with Ray Wylie Hubbard, Gary P. Nunn, Jerry Jeff Walker and Michael Martin Murphey.”
Another young guitarist was playing with Inman that day in 1968.
“It was a young David Zajicek — before he changed his name to Zychek,” Prater said. “He was amazing, and I knew we needed to play together.”
Prater and Zychek quickly became friends and began collaborating together musically. Soon, they decided to start a band. And, they did a bit of traveling.
“It was 1974 and I was supposed to graduate,” Prater said. “But the day I turned 18, I walked out of Temple High School. David and I formed Texas, and we headed to Port Aransas and started playing on the beach. Great summer.”
Word spread about the band, and soon they were playing local gigs. Prater played the drums and Zychek the guitar. Kyle Pilgrim joined Texas as the bass player and Henry Corro also played guitar. The band was set. Almost.
“We had one more guy — Sonny,” Prater said with a smile. “His name was Domingo Ortiz and he was always smiling. Since Domingo means Sunday in Spanish, we decided to call him Sonny.”
Sonny — also known as Cheese — started out as the band’s roadie. He hauled equipment into a venue, set up, and hauled it all back out at the end of the night.
“He played percussion, Conga drums … that sort of thing,” Prater said. “At his urging, we started letting him play a little. He got really good.”
But soon Ortiz moved to Athens, Georgia, and eventually joined another band. Today, Widespread Panic is one of the most successful bands in the world and Domingo is their amazing drummer.
OK, back to 1974. It’s December, and Zychek managed to persuade Alice Sulak, owner of Sefcik Hall, to let Texas play a Christmas night concert. She reluctantly agreed, and word quickly spread about Sefcik Hall’s first rock ’n’ roll show.
“David and Alice had come to an arrangement,” Prater said. “Texas would get all the money from the door, and Alice would get all the drink sales. She didn’t pay the band a fee, we just got what we brought in.”
Word spread, and a line of cars headed from Temple to Seaton after a day of presents, family and feast.
“We had 1,000 people come and go during the night,” Prater said. “We just charged $5 per person, but with that many we cleared $5,000. Immediately after the show David went downstairs to the office. It didn’t have a door, just a curtain at the end of the bar. David and Alice counted the money, and a guy stood guard with a firearm just in case.”
The concert was so successful that it immediately became a tradition, and it continued for decades. But, in 1975, Prater left Temple for greener pastures, although he did return for the Christmas shows some years. Eventually, Texas was gone. In its place, Zychek put together the Groove Kings, and they became Central Texas gold.
Prater had heard San Francisco was the place to be, and acting on advice of a member of the musical “Hair,” he headed west.
“I left Temple in February 1976, and eight months later I was playing drums for Carlos Santana,” he said. “I kind of got lucky. One day I saw a bunch of bags sitting outside a hotel, and some were marked ‘Santana.’ I asked a guy what was going on, and he said they had just returned from an international tour and Santana was auditioning new band members.”
With some coaxing, Prater got a tryout, and soon a man in a suit was pushing papers in his face.
“I auditioned for about a week, then I was told to fill out a bunch of forms — IRS stuff, Blue Cross/Blue Shield applications … I thought: ‘This is like a business,’” he said. “Of course, it was a business.”
Prater toured with Santana for several weeks before an agent from Columbia records — the band’s label — came calling.
“The label wanted Carlos to produce hits again,” Prater said. “He replaced all of the new guys with studio musicians. I was playing with one of the biggest names on the West Coast one night and back on the streets the next.”
Prater wasn’t out of work for long. Soon, he was drumming for LaBelle, an all-female singing group featuring namesake Patti LaBelle. After that, he began touring with Nektar.
“Nektar was a progressive band similar to Yes and Genesis,” he said. “And they were really good. We toured Europe and Asia.”
During a trip to Tokyo, Prater purchased a four-track recorder, a high-tech model not yet available in the United States. He didn’t realize it, but that piece of equipment would soon launch his second career.
“Our tour ended in Germany, and I went back to California and visited some friends,” he said. “I walked into an apartment, and there were a bunch of people sucking on bongs and watching music videos. It was MTV.”
“My first thought was: ‘This isn’t good.’ I knew the future of rock was about to be unveiled. When videos came out, band members became easily identifiable. The days of touring with a band were going away. Now, you had to be IN the band. I was 30, and I knew I had to do something different or music would pass me by.”
Prater toured with one last band. After the Stray Cats had split up, singer/guitarist Brian Setzer had started a combo. Eventually, that Tokyo recorder came out of the closet.
“I figured it out and got really good using it,” he said.
By 1986, Prater had produced his first record, and by 1989 he was working with rock band Firehouse. He produced the hit single “Love of a Lifetime” in 1990 and continued with Firehouse the following year.
In 1995, he was hired to bring new life into Night Ranger.
“David (Zychek) and I hadn’t really talked much since 1983,” Prater said. “I called him and soon we began collaborating, hanging out and shooting ideas off each other. We worked on Night Ranger arrangements at a little house in Austin and we put together some good stuff.”
During that time, Night Ranger had gone through several guitarists and were in need of someone new.
“It took some convincing, but David joined Night Ranger and toured with the band for a year and a half,” Prater said.
Zychek died in 2016 after a battle with cancer.
Over the years, Prater’s work received many awards, most notably the 1987 Academy Award song of the year, “Time of My Life,” and the successful release of “Hungry Eyes” by Eric Carmen from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.
Today, Prater resides with his wife in Colorado.
HANG TIGHT: MORE BELL COUNTY MUSIC STORIES ARE COMING. AND, WE AIN’T DONE ROCKIN’ YET!
Alice Sulak, owner of Sefcik Hall, poses with one of the many bands that packed the house — The Groove Kings. That’s David Zychek, Gary Pavlica and San Davis.
David Prater, a member of the original band Texas, went on to play with Carlos Santana and Patti LaBelle, among others. As a producer, he worked with legendary rock bands Firehouse and Night Ranger. His musical influence? Frank Zappa and The Beatles. Here’s a Firehouse song he produced and made extremely famous:
Emergency rental assistance available in Temple
The city of Temple has partnered with United Way of Central Texas to allocate emergency rental assistance for residents impacted by COVID-19.
“While we’ve all been affected by COVID-19, many members of our community are still struggling as a result of the pandemic,” said Nancy Glover, city of Temple Director of Housing and Development. “We are grateful for this partnership that will bring some much-needed relief to residents.”
Funding is available through the Texas Emergency Rental Assistance Program. It is open to eligible tenants who are behind on their rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program can pay up to six months’ rent for income-eligible households.
For more information or to apply, visit templetx.gov/TERAP.
What’s up, Temple?
August 25, Wednesday - Open Mic Comedy, Corkey’s, 8 p.m.
August 27, Friday - 13th Chamber Golf Classic Powered by Amos Electric. Wildflower Country Club. 11:30 registration and lunch, 1 p.m. shotgun start.
August 27, Friday - Craig Howell with Somewhere in Texas. Bo’s Barn Dance Hall. 8 p.m.
August 27, Friday - Karaoke Night at Corky’s. 8 p.m.
August 27, Friday - Megan Brucker & Charles Edward Ott, O’Briens Irish Pub. 9 p.m.
August 28, Saturday - Totally Rad 80’s Prom Gone Bad, A murder mystery. The Venue by Inn on the Creek, Salado. 6:30 p.m.
August 28, Saturday - Comedy Showcase, Corky’s, Show starts at 8 p.m.
August 28, Saturday - People’s Choice, Bo’s Barn Dance Hall. 9 p.m.
August 28, Saturday - Caftan at Fire Street Pizza in Belton. 6 p.m.
August 28, Saturday - Full STEAM Ahead! Learn about optical illusions and how to make them. Bell County Museum. 11 a.m.
August 29, Sunday - Margarita madness. Corky’s. 1-5 p.m.
September 2, Thursday - Central Texas State Fair, Bell County Expo Center. Wade Bowen. 5 p.m. to midnight.
September 3, Friday - Central Texas State Fair, Pat Green. Twisted Metal Mayhem Derby. Bell County Expo Center. 5 p.m. to midnight.
September 4, Saturday - Central Texas State Fair, Flatland Calvary, Professional Bull Riding. Bell County Expo Center. 5 p.m. to midnight.
September 5, Sunday - Central Texas State Fair, Aaron Watson, Professional Bull Riding. Bell County Expo Center. 5 p.m. to midnight.
September 11, Saturday - A Sami Show Arts & Crafts Market, Bell County Expo Center. 10 a.m.
September 11, Saturday - Weird Science. Explore different adaptations animals have made through presentations, fun games, and activities. Bell County Museum. 11 a.m.
September 11, Saturday - Pink Fishing’s Reeling in the Cure, 6th annual bass tournament. Proceeds benefit breast cancer patients and cancer research. Cedar Ridge Park. 6 a.m. Call (254) 681-0102 for details.
September 11, Saturday - 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb & Ceremony. Wildcat Stadium. 7-11 a.m.
September 11, Saturday - Rescue Magazine’s Pet Adoption Extravaganza. There will almost 400 Animals up for adoption and fun for the whole family. Bell County Expo Center. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
September 12, Sunday - A Sami Show Arts & Crafts Market, Bell County Expo Center. 10 a.m.
September 12, Sunday - Rescue Magazine’s Pet Adoption Extravaganza. There will almost 400 Animals up for adoption and fun for the whole family. Bell County Expo Center. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
September 15, Wednesday - Tiny Thinkers, Kids 5 years old and younger are invited to the museum to experience the State Fair! Bell County Museum. 10 a.m.
September 18, Saturday - Harvest Celebration. Bring your family and friends to enjoy grape stomping, food trucks, music, and wine. This is a ticketed event. 3 Texans Winery. 6 p.m.
September 25, Saturday - Fun at the Fair! Join us at the museum to for fun at the fair! View the newest exhibit and take part in fun activities - explore symmetry by decorating a popcorn bucket, build your own mini rollercoaster, race your family in duck races, and visit our petting zoo! Bell County Museum. 11 a.m.
September 25, Saturday - Dale Watson, Texas Music Series,Cultural Activities Center. 7:30 p.m.
September 30, Thursday - TLC’s Celebration of Crazy, Sexy Cool with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Bell County Expo Center. 7:30 p.m.
September 30, Thursday - Funniest Comic in Texas semi-finals. Corky’s.
October 8, Friday - Painting with a Twist, 3 Texans Winery. 6:30 p.m.
October 9, Saturday - Shinyribs, Texas Music Series,Cultural Activities Center. 7:30 p.m.
November 6, Saturday - Chris Hillman, Texas Music Series,Cultural Activities Center. 7:30 p.m.
November 13, Saturday - Market in the Vines. Take a walk through the vines and shop with over 50 vendors! Free to the public. 3 Texans Winery. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Have an event you would like to promote? Email info to OurTownTemple@gmail.com with “What’s Happening” in the subject line. Keep it short and sweet — what, when and where. You may include a short description. You must include a phone number for verification purposes. The phone number will not be published unless requested by submitter.