Music & Nightlife

Charlotte pilot rocks into retirement with influential ’60s garage rock band

The Sonics will perform at Neighborhood Theatre on Friday night.
The Sonics will perform at Neighborhood Theatre on Friday night.

Thirty years before Nirvana and Sub Pop made Seattle ground zero for grunge, there was another mélange of raw, thumping rhythms, surf guitar and yowling vocals emanating from the Pacific Northwest.

In the mid-1960s, the Sonics were a regional force whose influence extended well beyond its hometown of Tacoma, Wash., and its biggest hit, “Have Love, Will Travel.” And long after the group disbanded, Kurt Cobain, the White Stripes and Bruce Springsteen were still sharing the Sonics’ songs and story.

The Sonics – guitarist Larry Parypa, keyboardist/vocalist Gerry Roslie, and Charlotte-based saxophonist Rob Lind – make their Charlotte debut Friday at Neighborhood Theatre, shortly after returning from a month-long tour of Europe and a decade after their first show in almost 40 years.

Lind left the group in 1968 when he was drafted. Already an experienced pilot who flew the band to gigs around the region, he joined the Navy, which allowed him to finish college before his deployment.

“Life descended on us,” Lind says. “I had to go into the military. Our guitarist got a job in a home office of a big insurance corporation doing fraud prevention. Our keyboardist started an asphalt paving company. We didn’t even think about getting back together until 2005.”

With the exception of hopping on stage at the behest of his squadron – for three songs with a Filipino rock n’ roll band at the Clark Air Base officer’s club in the Philippines – Lind didn’t perform in public.

“That was the only organized music I was involved in for 40 years,” he says.

After Vietnam, Lind got his Masters in film and advertising and worked on commercials until his buddies in the Navy Reserve attack squadron convinced him to join them as commercial airline pilots. He moved to Charlotte to work for Piedmont, then USAir.

After he retired at 60, he worked for NetJets flying private planes for celebrities, and wound up with some musical greats on his passenger manifests. Once, he flew Mike Love to a gig in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; they reminisced about the Sonics opening for the Beach Boys. Another time, he piloted for Bruce Springsteen, who has covered “Have Love, Will Travel,” and at the time had given the Sonics a shout-out from the stage in Seattle.

“I got an assignment to pick he and his wife up in L.A. the morning after the Grammys and fly them to West Palm Beach because Bruce’s daughter was in a horse show there,” Lind says.

He introduced himself and thanked Springsteen for the shout-out. The three talked music for half an hour.

While his retirement has been filled with such bucket-list moments – including recording a critically acclaimed new album with the Sonics in 2015 – Lind has yet to play in his adopted hometown. Until now.

In-the-know diehards and rock n’ roll history buffs will undoubtedly turn up to hear tracks like “Psycho” and “The Witch,” but Lind wants to blow the crowd away. “Our goal,” he says, “is to make the floor move.”

The Sonics

When: 8 p.m. Friday.

Where: Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St.

Tickets: $22-$25.

Details: 704-942-7997; www.neighborhoodtheatre.com.

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