Hello. We’re The Hot Links. We didn’t intend to be, but that’s the way things go sometimes. Oh sure, we all started out as members of bands. None that you’ve ever heard of – The Acemen, The Extremists, The World’s Only Strunk Machine, Stoned Henge, The Buns, The Fad, The Riot, Tank’s Barn – but just about everyone who was alive and of an influential age on February 9, 1964, and saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show aspired to be in a band, any band.

From the remnants of some of the above mentioned bands, The Hot Links were born in Iba Hall on the campus of Oklahoma State University in January, 1971. We all swam on the Oklahoma State University Varsity swim team. The deal was that we had to come back to campus a couple of weeks before the general student population to work out. We swam twelve thousand yards a day, with not much else to do during those two weeks. It probably started with Big Dave, who nearly always had a guitar, it seems. Turns out that a couple of the other of us had played in bands, so we figured playing a few tunes in the evenings would be a productive way to fill the scant free time of those days. Still, none of us thought we’d turn into a band.

At least nobody considered it a band until fate intervened. It seems that Tom Grula, younger brother to bassist John Grula, still a junior at Stillwater High School, was on the prom committee and was involved in selecting the band. It’s not certain how the discussion began, but soon the idea emerged that the swim team dorm band might be a viable option to play the Stillwater High prom in 1972. The fact is, the band didn’t even have a name at that point. That came later, from a swim team trip when we were eating breakfast at a local restaurant in a Big 8 college town and were inspired by the placemats on the table. That’s a whole other story, though.

Somehow Tommy G managed to convince that powers that be to hire the newly named B.D. and the Hot Links to play the Stillwater prom and things got real. We did whatever we needed to do – practice when we could (in the Grula’s garage), cobble together a p.a. system, borrow whatever instruments were needed (thanks to my high school buddy, Steve Fooshee, for loaning me his beautiful set of Rogers white pearl drums), and basically convince ourselves that we could do it.

The prom theme was “Gimme Shelter”, named after the Rolling Stones song and was held on May 6 in the Starlight Ballroom at the OSU Student Union. We got paid $500, an amazing amount of money to guys who were used to playing for $10, and listening to the tapes from that evening, we kicked ass. A great set list, a little bit of confidence provided by our rock and roll veteran, Big Bill Allen, a dash of fear and a healthly helping of adrenaline pulled it off. It was one of the best days of our lives to that point (and remains in the top ten days), and we finished the evening figuring that we’d reached the pinnacle of our rock and roll lives, a one-off gig that we’d never top.

That was not the way the Hot Links were to end, however. We showed up at school in the fall to find out that based on our prom performance, someone wanted us for a Fall Dance. Thus began our career as a weekend cover band, playing parties and bars in Stillwater for the next two years. Since we were still swimmers, we could play from the beginning of school until about November, and then we’d start up again as soon as swim season was over in March and play until school let out for the summer. For that first year, 1972-73, we lost Big Bill to bigger and better music projects, but we persevered as a four-piece. One good side of losing Big Bill to Tank’s Barn was that as the house band, their equipment was always set up, so the Links would play one evening a week on their equipment to hone our craft.

The fall of 1973 saw Big Bill rejoining the Hot Links (Big Dave prevailed on us to drop the B.D. part) and we carried on as before. Since it was the senior year for four of us, when graduation rolled around, the Hot Links went our separate ways. We did have one last blowout, a weekend set in the middle of July 24, 1974 at the Golden Whaler, an upstairs bar on The Strip. We did get to play one more ill-fated gig on New Year’s Eve 1978 which was marked by our inability to oblige a belligerent septugenarian by playing “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree.” By that time, we were all either starting careers or in graduate school or getting on in life in one way or another.

Fast forward to 2010. OSU discontinued its swimming program on the retirement of our Coach, Col. James Cutter, in 1979. As anyone who has participated in an athletic endeavor knows, everyone remembers the good times. In an effort to give everyone a chance to get back together on the 30th anniversary of the program’s demise, Lennie Norris, the Master of Mirth and self-proclaimed “Organised Chaos Coordinator” got a reunion of the OSU swim team together in October 2009. Everyone had a great time, but we all realized that the thing missing was the Hot Links. For the 2010 reunion, amazingly enough, the Hot Links cranked it up again, and it was not awful. A forced change to the original Hot Links lineup was necessary when John Grula was unable to attend. In a bit of a poetic twist of fate, he was replaced by the man who was responsible for the existence of the Hot Links, Tom Grula.

The next year, Stan Clark of the Joe’s empire in Stillwater was kind enough to let us play one night of the reunion at Mexico Joe’s and we’ve been playing that gig every year since. Shoot, we’ve even been joined by the next generation of Links on occasion when Tom Allen’s son, Nich, sits in on bass. The gigs have been well received and each year we get a little bit tighter.

That brings us to how this record was made. After the Hot Links ended our run in 1974 and we were spread to the winds, some of us ended up in bands that did some recording. The Punk had Kindred Spirits and Mota, Tommy G was a driving force of The Fad in Austin, Texas in the late 1970’s, and Nubs recorded with Kaye Haug, Higher Ground and The Jim Szana Trio. At the swim team reunion in 2013, we all realized that there was enough creative spirit and camaraderie left in the Links to do our own recording project. We didn’t know exactly where it would go, but we committed to each other to give it a try.

In summer 2014, Tommy G agreed to host the gathering and the Links assembled from our current homes in Oklahoma, Iowa and South Dakota at his place in Aurora, Illinois. In a setting that was eerily similar to our origins in Iba Hall, we spent a week in a regimen of eat-sleep-rehearse-write-record. As we played we continued to be inspired and more tunes were born. At the end of the week we had seven tunes recorded that we could live with. On repeated listening, we all agreed that there was more in the tank and that we could put together enough songs for a full record. We got back together again in the summer of 2015 and recorded another six songs with the help and support of our recording engineer Tommy Petritsch, and the result is our first CD – “The Hot Links”.

What we have learned from this whole process is that musical friendships never end and being able to get together and play music is an incalculable gift. Where does it all end? As long as the OSU swim team keeps getting together every year, and as long as we can pick up our instruments and remember what to play, who knows?

Thanks to everybody – family, friends, teammates and supporters. We love you all.

The Hot Links.

Sept. 1, 2015