Memories of Gold -Home

Page 56

Upside of Rock n Roll -Home

A chance to go for it

   1969 would be a buzzing good year, playing gig after gig, plus tv, radio shows and interviews around the country. Live performance after live performance. I suppose you could call it grueling, but the adrenaline kept us going. It was exactly what we were wanting, a chance to do our thing. Bill Utley and Burt Jacobs did a fantastic job of coordinating the efforts on different fronts. We had released our first single in late 1968 called "Nobody" and had some success with it, reaching number 5 in Los Angeles and it hit in a few other markets as well. We broke into the national charts with our very first single, although it only reached about #116 on the Billboard Charts. Next we released "Try a little Tenderness" which reached #29 on Billboard's charts and boy were we excited about it. People were actually recognizing our songs when we would start them at the concerts. This, in itself, put us on another level, something none of us had experienced before. I can't explain the feeling that comes over you when you start a song and the audience recognizes it by the intro. A wonderful feeling. This phenomena began to happen more and more with each passing gig.



   We closed out the 1968 season with the Miami Pop Festival. The largest audience to date, that we had played to. This was a great show, one of the very early pop festivals. Besides the gig and a group called Sweetwater, with a guy named Albert, the other thing that sticks in my head was using a couple of new Fender amplifiers called Fender 6. They had 6 - 10" speakers in each cabinet. I liked them, but for some reason, they never caught on and were discontinued. I remember after we played, Jimmy and I decided we were going to head across the field, (we played at the main stage in Gulf Stream Park race track), so we could see Junior Walker and the AllStars play. It was quite a distance. As we started walking we found 2 hippie chicks sitting on the ground, giving out orange juice in little cartons, like at school. They smiled and offered us some. Jimmy took his and drank it down, but I passed for some reason. One girl's name was Sunshine, the ever present name of the 60's. This should have told us something. Anyway, we continued on and messed around a little on the way over to the other stage. Twenty minutes passed and we thought we had better hurry and get there, so we started to run. Suddenly, Jimmy ran into a low strung rope that caught him right by the throat and swung his feet straight up in the air, then dropped him flat on his back. He was wearing glasses and it popped both lenses out of them. With the wind knocked out of him, he opened his eyes to a blurred world, but more than that, he was "coming on" to something called PCP, which was like LSD except it was a 3 DAY HIGH, instead of a one day high. Those hippie chicks were passing the stuff out without telling anybody what was in it. Not uncommon in the 60's. Nonetheless, this was a unique experience. I babysat Jimmy for the next few days, not that he needed it. He was off relating to God and the universe and doing quite nicely, thank you, but I stayed close anyway. He was quite a show, to say the least. There's more to this story, but you won't find it in this chronicle. Sorry.

   Playing more and more dates, things continued to roll. There were gigs in-between, lots of them, but the next festival I recall is the Atlantic City Pop Festival. There were a lot of big name bands playing, such as Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, The James Gang and more. We were backstage before our time to go on and Janis was carrying around a bottle of Southern Comfort which she was somewhat famous for among rock bands. She had parked herself down on the floor, leaning up against the wall with her hand on the southern comfort bottle. Chuck (Negron) walked by in front of her, paused briefly and looked down at her, smiled knowingly and said in his most effective, condescending tone, "IMAGE MAKER." Then he smirked at her and walked away. Man! What a shot. She wasn't that toasted, but she just sat there in disbelief that this "rock rookie" had the balls to say that to her. In reality, he had no problem with it at all. Cherished it, actually. Oh, he was right, of course. That's exactly what she was doing, just trying to be impressive and further the "image" that she had created. Showing off backstage for all us rockers. Chuck was nicknamed "razor tongue" within the rest of our band. He was a great talent, but it was suicide to spar with him verbally. I've had plenty of fun times with Chuck and will be forever thankful that he was in our band. A great singer and paramount to our success. He was my band mate; we have history together and nothing can change that.

   Back to the Atlantic City Pop Festival of 1969: The group on before us, if I recall correctly, was The James Gang. Jimmy was familiar with them individually, but I was only familiar with them by name. In the middle of their set the guitar player went off into a solo. All other band members stopped playing. I couldn't see him, but I was listening from backstage. He had an old echolette tape unit, the kind that had a moveable playback head, and was doing your basic delay routine and answering himself. You know, play a guitar lick, the echo repeats it, play a different lick, the echo repeats that and so on. But he was doing it really, really good. I punched Jimmy in the side with my elbow and said, "Man! Listen to that guy. Nice routine, he's smokin'. Who is that?" Jimmy's answer: JOE WALSH. Yeah, Joe Walsh. Of course, I'm familiar with him now. What a great player, even then. In my opinion, Joe is one of the premier slide guitarists out there. His tone on "Rocky Mountain Way," in my opinion, was the funkiest rock tone I've ever heard. For me, if you want rock slide, Joe's the man. Ry Cooder and Bonnie Raitt and others are great, too. They are leaders in their area, but Joe has this distinctive attack and tone that just does it for me.

   Later in the summer we played THE DENVER POP FESTIVAL. Again, lots of big groups on that one. We were all staying in the round Holiday Inn with the restaurant on top, next to the old football stadium. Lots of rock revelry and all that you can imagine was going on. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was playing and I was to find out later that it would be their last gig together, as the original three. Also on the card was Frank Zappa. Frank was amazing. I've never been that big of a fan of his music, (although his concepts and lyrics were of the highest level of good bullshit) but what I saw him do has stuck in my mind to this day. His RAP was what I saw as his greatest gift, on stage and off. That day, he was playing to a corner of the stadium. Most of the audience was directly in front of the stage, which was on the playing field facing one side of the field, but the audience also wrapped around the corner to a some degree. In one of the first exhibitions of "The Wave" I ever saw, Frank told the audience, "When I stick out my tongue, I want you to all make a barfing sound and do it only when I point to you." He stuck out his tongue and made this awful barfing sound over the microphone, then pointed his hand at the audience and they started with the "barfing" sound. As he moved his hand slowly to the right and around the corner, you could hear this barf sound PAN across the entire audience. He then followed that with, "Okay, now when I give you a BIRD, like this, I want you to do the same thing except make it a farting sound. Ready?" He then does this mouth farting sound way up close on the microphone and then gives the audience right in front of him THE BIRD FINGER. They started laughing and making the most horrendous farting sounds you can imagine. Then, he moved his hand slowly to the right, giving the bird to the rest of the audience as he went along. The farting sounds panned around the corner of the stadium and THAT is a sound I will never forget. Is that audience control or what? I laughed my ass off at his genius. The last time I saw Frank was when he did The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (could have been Leno). He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and was aware he was dying. He was asked if he "had to pick one thing in his life that he wanted to be remembered for, what would it be?" I'll never forget his answer; it was so like Frank. He shrugged his shoulders and said "It doesn't matter" and that was the end of that question. The audience just kind of sat there in a solemn, surprised state. Frank use to live right down the street from Danny, Jimmy and me on the corner of Lookout Mountain and Laurel Canyon Blvd., across from Harry Houdini's old place. If I remember correctly, the early cowboy film star, Tom Mix use to own it. It had a one-lane bowling alley built in the basement. Below is a picture from a Japanesse magazine of the one and only Frank Zappa. Not hard to figure out what the english translation of the words are. I swear it looks like spanish. But, in a Japanese magazine? Go figure.

Next Page