A small group of local musicians had big dreams: After playing together for a few years as “amateurs,” they decided to make a recording and go commercial. With the help of Tacoma’s Jerry Miller, of the ’60s band “Moby Grape” fame, and producer Robert Yeager, Key Pen’s Wes Wilson and father-son duo Bob and Matt Bentley were ready to try out the big times.
Only a couple of weeks before the scheduled studio time, Bob Bentley came to his Longbranch home on Jan. 9 to discover five guitars gone. Three of those cannot be replaced, and two were handmade through hundreds of hours of work by Wilson. The stolen 1995 Taylor was the group’s main sound—they wrote their original songs and practiced them to that sound.
“When you write songs, you produce them for the guitars,” Wilson said. “They are all unique; they are our sound… They (the thieves) took our sound we’ve been working on (for months).”
The guitars, with a total value of nearly $10,000, were taken without cases. Wilson thinks they may have been taken by kids — since nothing else was stolen, and there was thousands of dollars worth of equipment in the house. The group has been trying to spread the word in hopes to get the guitars back, but Wilson doesn’t hold out much hope. He doesn’t think the guitars will reappear, and the thieves would have a difficult time selling them because they are easily identifiable.
The band, however, is moving on. Called “The Ruston a Way Band” (a play on words for Ruston Way, where Miller grew up), the five-member band (Wilson, Miller, the Bentleys, and a drummer, Billie Jones, en route from Texas) plans to overcome the setback. Wilson said the timing was good for the group, which had played around the Key Peninsula (sans Miller and Jones) at various events.
Wilson and Bentley, longtime friends, started playing together on Herron Island in 1981. Wilson said Matt, a Peninsula High School graduate now in his early 20s, has come of age, and created his own following. The two friends’ desire to showcase Matt’s talent, coupled with Miller’s interest in teaming up with them (though he plays with other bands as well) has compelled them to create the new band. “This is the first time we were going to make a business out of it,” Wilson said.
Their plan is to buy new guitars, redefine their sound, reschedule studio time — and make a debut in spring at the Longbranch Improvement Club. “We’ll practice a lot, and we’ll put on a show,” he said.
Wilson is grateful for the community support and the help of the local sheriff’s detachment in trying to locate the guitars. “We hope people keep an eye out,” he said.