Our family certainly has a musical history. Mom’s mother Clare was an amazing piano player and known for her “stride-based” ragtime genre. And for years, Victor, our father’s dad, played both cornet and saxophone in the Genoa Community Band. Thus, both our parents were musical. While growing up in different Nebraska communities and at significantly different periods of time, mom and dad both played clarinets in their school bands and sang in their school choirs. We were given the gift of music too.
Beginning at an early age all three Salestrom boys were forced into piano lessons. I was the first to branch out beginning in the second grade with dad’s clarinet and then switching over to the bassoon in the 7th grade. Brother Jim would later take on the trombone and younger brother Tom would become a drummer. But it was Jim’s 7th birthday gift that really started it all.
Jim’s birthday present-his first guitar at age 7, was blond Kay “F hole” archtop acoustic guitar. Mom and dad bought it at the local music store in Beatrice where we were living at the time. Along with the purchase came six free guitar lessons–taught be the music store owner who was also a local professional jazz guitar player. As I understand it, Jim’s first lesson didn’t go well and Jim was told to come back when his hands grew bigger. It would be the last formal lesson he would ever take on guitar.
Each year, our dad, who managed stores for Sidles Company-a wholesale automotive parts distributor, received a bonus based on the productivity of his stores. One year his bonus paid for our entry into camping including a family sized tent, five sleeping bags, a Coleman camp stove, lantern, dishes, silverware and aluminum cooking equipment. But none of us knew the impact his next bonus check would someday have on our lives. Not long after dad’s bonus came through, they took us to the Sears store located at the Crossroads Shopping Center in Omaha where by purchased a ¾ sized Harmony electric guitar for Jim and a Kay Electric bass guitar for me. They also bought a Sears Silvertone guitar amp with 6-10” Speakers to share between us. That amp burned up immediately after we got it home and Sears swapped it back for two smaller amps. Talk about heaven! Those pieces were the only musical instruments our folks ever purchased for us. But it was THE START…
The beginning of Timberline
By the late ‘60’s, the music was Steppenwolf, Hendrix, Led Zepplin, Beatles, Stones, and the Who and consisted of loud dance music using basic electric guitars, drums, Hammond organ/Leslie units, and occasional brass horn sections. The venues were high school proms, college dances, and 18-year-old permissible 3.2 beer-clubs located in the border towns across Kansas and Colorado state lines. By then Jim and I had been playing in bands together, in separate groups and all the while developing the ability to learn our instrument and perform in front of audiences.
We had moved to Kearney between my junior and senior years in high school and I had stopped playing in my latest group for some forgettable reason. Jim had also left the group he had been playing with which left us together musically and basically focused it the same direction.
By now it was the summer after my first year at Kearney State College, mom and dad left town for a week of vacation taking youngest brother Tom with them. That left Jim and I home alone. Over the past year, Jim and I had been fooling around with playing more mellow music especially with more sophisticated vocal harmonies. It was unique-no one else in our circle were playing Crosby Stills and Nash, or James Taylor, or America type songs. Audiences had stopped dancing and started sitting on the floor listening for the first time. We had connected with Dick Jensen, a drummer who was much more interested in what Jim and I were playing and quickly got involved. Then Jim had met Bill Howland who played the piano which added a unique sound to our concept and he soon joined in.
Since now we really needed a place to practice and with the parents gone for the week, Jim and I decided that mom’s living room could work-with a few modifications. So we moved all the living room furniture out to better utilize our space needs. It was certainly big enough and each night we experimented with songs, harmonies and musically possibilities. It was that week in the living room that was the pivotal point in the formation of Fresh Air later to become Timberline. And it was also the pivotal point in Jim and my life when Mom and Dad came home from their vacation a day early.