Steve Wilkerson of Vaughn showed up at an open mic night hosted by Roger Gemelle at the Lakebay Marina three years ago. “I’d been playing at Blend for a while, then went over to the marina one night and started playing rhythm guitar with this guy,” Wilkerson said. “The next thing I knew, I was in a band.”
Longtime Key Peninsula residents Gemelle, his wife, Glory Rose, and Wilkerson have been bringing classic rock to the KP Friday nights at the Lakebay Marina and other venues in Gig Harbor, Port Orchard and Tacoma as Band 302 ever since.
Gemelle plays lead guitar, mandolin and sings vocals. He grew up in New York City and, while still in high school, received a scholarship to a ballet academy run by André Eglevsky, a famous Russian dancer and veteran of the American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet. The academy needed more male dancers, but “wearing tights was the most painful thing” Gemelle ever experienced in any sport, he said.
In 1964, Gemelle heard The Beatles on the radio for the first time and changed his dreams from ballet to music. He apologized to his teacher, quit ballet school and moved to Boulder, Colorado, playing music for local bands. While on tour in Las Cruces, New Mexico, he met Glory Rose.
Rose plays keyboards and harmonica and sings backup vocals for Band 302. She had left New Mexico at 17 for New Orleans to attend “bunny school” for the Playboy Club, but dropped out when she realized she would have to serve drinks while wearing red spike heels. After returning to Las Cruces, she met Gemelle when he was playing bass for a singer in a local club. She had planned to wash her hair that night but opted to go out instead.
The two ultimately moved to Los Angles, where Gemelle worked as the staff writer for The Tokens, performers of the hit song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” while Rose wrote promotional material for comedian Nick Griffin. They still maintain websites for Griffin and another comedian. Rose also tried her hand at acting while in Los Angeles with small parts in a couple of movies and a promising part in a bigger production that ran out of money before completion.
After moving to Washington to find a less expensive place to live than Southern California, Gemelle played piano at the Edgewater Hotel and Canlis Restaurant in Seattle. The couple bought 5 acres on the Key Peninsula and raised two daughters here. Gemelle expanded his resume this year by publishing “New York Song: A Seedling in the Big Apple,” an autobiography covering the journey from his teens to his retirement years.
Wilkerson plays rhythm guitar and sings for Band 302. He graduated from Peninsula High School in 1964, then moved to Los Angeles “to find a life,” he said.
From 1967 to 1988, he split his time between Laurel Canyon—home of the hip and famous—and Big Sur. He wrote publicity material for five years at A&M Records and worked as a studio musician, occasionally playing late-night basketball with the likes of Marvin Gaye and hanging out with Henry Miller. Wilkerson once assisted a lady friend with a baby-sitting assignment only to discover their charge was the son of Bob Dylan.
Wilkerson moved back to Washington to raise a family and continued to play music while commuting to a day job. He said he was asked to join Band 302 because he was “the cute one and had long hair.”
Band 302 plays most Friday nights at Lakebay Marina from 7 to 10 p.m.