Part I of the Upside of R&R Home

Page 117

Part II of the Upside of R&R Home

Japan: December, 1972

    Tokyo is always great for cutting edge toys and arcade stuff. Always ahead of the U.S. in that department. Someone came up with some radical remote control cars. There we were, late at night, down in the lobby of the Tokyo Hilton. Racing and ramming these cars across these expensive tile floors and under lavishly decorated tables and couches. Needless to say we got some real looks from the employees, not to mention the other guests. They all had one look on their face. It was "could you at least try to be a little cool?" We did try ... after an hour or so. Seems to me that Greenspoon got 86'd from some famous nightclub. You'll have to ask him. He's dangerous. He DOES remember lots of stuff.

    In yet another case of brilliance on my part, I remember calling home and telling my new wife about these "cool bath houses" that they had in Japan. Yes, the ones where you walk in, remove your shoes and put on sandals, then the women bathe you in little octagon baths with lemons floating in the water. Then, they pour warm water over you with a wooden ladle, while you sit cross-legged in the tub. Special massage was optional. (Did I opt? No comment). I just couldn't grasp why my wife was going off on me about it. I would say, "But honey, it's okay over here. It's acceptable." So much for my international naivety. We were married 3 years and I still think nicely of her. A good person. It just seemed a little shallow of her, in that instance. (Yeah, right. It couldn't have been me. Nooooooo.)

Honolulu: Dec. 1972

   We flew to Hawaii and played a concert there. For some reason the concert from the previous year sticks in my mind. In July, 1971, we played a gig at the the H.I.C. (Honolulu International Coliseum) and the group CHICAGO went on before us. This was when Peter Cetera was still in the band playing bass and singing as well. Also, Terry, the original guitarist, was still alive and in the band then, too. They're such a great band. We kind of started out playing together at the Whiskey, in Los Angeles. Back then, their name was Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). You may know that the Chicago horn section, (Lee, James, and Walter) played on a couple of our songs, "Celebrate" and "Feelin' Alright." Yes, they did. Good guys and great players. Their record company, Columbia, got a little upset with them for doing this without getting permission, and with us for using them, but they got over it. Of course, we gave them credit on the album.

1973: Cruisin' in the eye of a hurricane

   On January 1st, 1973, the very first New Years Rockin' Eve was aired. It was actually called, "Three Dog Night's New Years Rockin' Eve." Up until that time it had been big band leader, Guy Lombardo, that was the traditional New Year's Eve host on television. Thinking back on it, I think we pre-taped it in November, before we went on our tour of the Pacific. Dick Clark synched it in, to coincide with his Times Square broadcast from New York City. It was quite a show. Lots of fun. We had Al Green, Blood Sweat and Tears, Billy Preston and Helen Reddy on the show with us. It was done onboard the famous old cruise liner the Queen Mary. What a beautiful ship it is, too. While walking the decks at night, I was reminded of an earlier time, the 1930's or 1940's. I expected to see Humphrey Bogart or William Powell come around the corner in a trench coat at any moment. Wonderful ambience. I have a VHS tape from that night and maybe, in time, I will post a quicktime movie of some excerpts. For now, below is a shot of the tv on the night of broadcast showing me and Chuck. We were performing "Pieces of April."




   The end of 1972 brought about the first change in the band's personnel. After returning from Hawaii, Joe Schermie was no longer a band member. This came as quite a blow to me; it was like losing my left arm. In my opinion, Joe was integral to the chemistry, but problems arose that were apparently unresolvable.Out of respect and admiration for all involved, I don't think it proper to go into details about it.


Besides, it would only be my perspective and I'd surely get something wrong in telling the specifics of it. I'll just have to let it go by saying what a great bass player and music man Joe Schermie was. I'll always be indebted to him for the musical rocks we turned over together. He'll always be my brother.

Joe Schermie




   We held auditions at a rehearsal studio in Hollywood for a new bass player. When it was all said and done, a fine young bass player named Jack Ryland was our choice. Besides being a good musician, Jack was a sweetheart of guy. Although my loyalty will always be to Joe Schermie, as the original bassist in our group, Jack and I became best of friends in no time. A very tender person with a quick wit, Jack was always fun to work with. We even went camping and fishing together a few times. Jack, 22, had been a member of the band backing Mac Davis and Helen Reddy on a recent joint-tour of the country. Earlier, he'd played as a sideman with Lou Rawls, Carla Thomas, Wolfman Jack and Albert Collins and for a time was a member of Seven, a group formed by former Steppenwolf members, Jerry Edmonton and Goldy McJohn. Jack Ryland turned to music at the age of 12, moving from drums to guitar bass. A year later, he was part of a group called "Boundaries," made up of musicians, 10-13 years old, who scored a modest hit with a single, "Raving Mad." Below is a picture of Jack. I always called him "Little Jackie Ryland," said with an Irish accent.


Jack Ryland

   A funny thing that I remember about Jack is that when his bass strings would get "dead" sounding from age, instead of buying a new set of bass strings, he would just take the old ones off the bass and boil them in some water with a touch of salt to make the water boil quicker. This would remove all the "finger funk" and corrosion from the strings and they would sound brand new again. I doubted him, but the proof was in the pudding. It worked for him. Also, Jack had a bass rig (amplifier/speaker) that was the best I've ever heard ... in a small room. It was a Cerwin-Vega speaker cabinet with a reverse mounted 18" speaker, powered by a Gallien Kruger (GMT) amplifier. His tone settings were such that you could hear his fingers on his strings, which produced a wonderful edge to go with the extra bottom bass tone that the speaker cabinet was made to reproduce. In the previous sentence I said "in a small room" because it sounded particularly great in rehearsal rooms. Unbelievable, really. At a big venue, it had too much of a bottom end (bass) sound to it. Joe Schermie's old rig of 3 or 4 Bruce bass cabinets with 2 - 15" JBL self powered speakers in each cabinet, was the best I've heard for on stage. Hartke is cool, as well. Of course this was the "old days of rock n roll." This was before bands figured out that you don't need a wall of amplifiers to get a wall of sound. Still, us old guys love a wall. Nyuk. I hear that the Doors had 57 Acoustic amplifiers (a wall) on stage at the Hollywood Bowl back in the good ol' days. Greenspoon was there. He says it's so, therefore ... DONE. Fact! End of story. (He loves when I refer to him as "the source of all that is true and unchallengeable.")

   Getting back to Jack Ryland, "Little Jackie" was a wonderful person that I miss a lot. His death in 1996, due to depression that overcame him, hit me very hard. I had just seen him months earlier, when we had played in Lake Tahoe. Jack was living and playing music in Reno. He made the trip up to South Shore just to see us one night, but had to get back for his own gig later. In fact, here's a picture from that night. The very last time I ever saw my good friend Jackie. A wonderfully talented, personable,and tender person.


  Jackie and I used to get really stupid on planes when traveling together. I had mentioned something to him once about chickens and how they are running a total bluff, apparently not even knowing what's standing right in front of them. Being a semi-rural dude, I'd start making chicken sounds, the kind they make when they're not completely going off with a full-blown crow, like a rooster. More like the, "just walking in the barnyard, making a throaty scratchy sustained kind of sound" and then, finally breaking into a "buh-caw cluck cluck." This is very hard to explain in writing. It got to be a routine with Jack and me. We'ed phone each other at a hotel, room to room, when the person picked up the phone and said "hello," the caller wouldn't answer. Instead, we would start that quiet croaking, scratchy, pre-clucking sound that a chicken makes. Of course, we knew who had to be on the other end of the line. In later years, after my daughters, Natalie and Layne were born, Jack would call and leave a message on the answering machine for me. One time, Natalie came to me and said, "Dad! Somebody left a chicken on the answering machine. Who is that?" I fell out and knew immediately who it was. He didn't even say his name, but it was Jack. I called him back with more of the same. "So," you say, "this is how rock people pass their time?" I suppose it was so for "Little Jackie Ryland" and Mikey.

   You should see Jack's son, Jason. Talk about a chip off the old block. Jason looks so much like him. The picture below was taken in the Bourbon Orleans hotel, in the French quarter of New Orleans in 1973.


Photo courtesy of Freeman Batchelor

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