Frank Gutch Jr: The Stories Behind the Music…..

Well, maybe behind the bands.  There are tons of them.  If there weren’t, there wouldn’t be three thousand books about Kurt Cobain, The Beatles, The Stones and the plethora of other bands out there plowing the fields, nor would there be the age-old rumors which made the music business interesting if not accurate back in the day.  You know the ones.  Hendrix dying after shooting himself in the jugular with heroin, Clapton blowing his ears out in front of that stack of Marshalls, Lady Gaga having a semblance of musical talent.  Now, note here, Gaga fans, I didn’t say lack of talent.  From what I’ve seen, she is a good a vaudevillian as we have these days, but music?  Well, if that’s what you want to call music…..

But we all like the dirt, right?  Show of hands.  How many of you headed to the local bookstore to pick up Mick Fleetwood’s bio, My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac, back in 1990 when it was published?   How many of you bought it to read about the pre-Stevie Nicks Mac?  Man, look at the hands drop!  But yeah, I get it.  It is much more fun to dig in the dirt.  But I have to tell you that my interest in who slept with who is primary only as far as I’m included and, unless something happened during my alcohol-induced blackouts, Stevie and Christine did not include me.  (Oh, but if they had, would I have the stories to tell!)

The stories which have always fascinated me are the game changers— the stories behind the music— and every band has at least one.  You more than likely have read about the big ones— Decca passing on The Beatles, Duane Allman‘s unfortunate accident and the demise of the original Allmans, Tommy Bolin‘s overdose— but odds are you miss the small ones.  “Small” is perhaps not the best word because what happens to the lesser-knowns is as important to them as anyone’s life would be important to themselves.  It is, after all, their story and not unlike our own stories and, boy, we all think our stories are important, no?  Luckily, I have been privy to a few interesting twists and turns and have my own takes.  Keep in mind that history is a matter of perception and certainly not an absolute (if it were Bush, Cheney, Wolfie and Rumsberg would be facing criminal charges), so my take more than likely will not be another’s.  Regardless, here are some stories— some about the lesser-knowns and some about the virtual unknowns— I find interesting:

Pure Prairie League—  Every real PPL fan knows of Craig Fuller‘s run-in with the draft board.  (For those who don’t, he refused the draft during Viet Nam and spent time doing alternative service as compensation— hospital work, I believe)  Two albums out and the band was without a key member.  Essentially, the band was dead, only it wasn’t.  They continued on sans Fuller and finally reconnected with RCA Records, the label which had released the original two PPL albums.

Shortly before the newly realigned PPL headed into the studio to record Two Lane Highway, Jim Greenwood, owner of the Licorice Pizza chain of record stores, sat on a couch at the Wilshire Boulevard store doing an interview with trade magazine Radio & Records.  In the midst of the interview, he asked forbearance to find out what the record was that was playing on the store’s sound system.  Upon finding out it was PPL’s Bustin’ Out, he asked to be reminded to take the two PPL albums home with him.  He did.  He was so impressed that he called RCA and asked how many copies he had to buy to get radio advertising for the records.  RCA said we’d be happy to give you advertising money when the Two Lane Highway album was released.  Greenwood supposedly stated that he didn’t want to wait, that he wanted to advertize the two albums which were already released.  At the next meeting, RCA kicked around the request.  Putting thousands behind “dead” records (those which had run their course) was frowned upon.  So one of the RCA people said, why not reservice the 45?  (Amie had been given a short run when Bustin’ Out was first released)  It was passed up the food chain, management agreed and the rest is history.  Amie was a smash hit and Bustin’ Out busted out.  Not long after, Two Lane Highway followed its success onto the charts and PPL was no longer the darlings of the Midwest, but the darlings of the industry.

The details were handed me by a couple of the RCA reps.  I have no doubt that Bill Graham (no, not that Bill Graham) was at least partially responsible for the move.  Graham had this  very un-corporate attitude toward the truth.  Whereas most reps walked into a store and immediately asked for the manager, Graham always cruised the store and talked with the employees.  Word has it that he was behind RCA signing Scorpions for US release.  Why weren’t they being released in the States, everyone was asking.  After all, they were RCA in the UK.  Funny what happens when people listen.

Duane & Gregg Allman—  Not many people outside of the true Allman Brothers Band fans know about the Allmans album which was not an Allmans album.  The Allmans were hitting their stride, steamrolling across the US, knocking people on their ears and all of a sudden, this album shows up in the record bins.  Duane & Greg Allman.  On Bold Records, whoever the hell they were.  Here’s the story:

Scott Boyer, David Brown, and Butch Trucks had been signed to Vanguard Records as 31st of February and had released one album of what you might call folk/psych music.  Just before entering the studio to record their second, Duane and Gregg happened by, fresh from an unsuccessful run on the West Coast with either Hour Glass or The Allman Joys (I’ve heard the story enough to have memorized it, but some details get jumbled in my mind and I’m too damn lazy to really care).  As always, when they ran across Boyer, they jammed and the idea popped into their minds that maybe this could be a band.  They recorded the album (Wikipedia says it was never really finished, but the demos were where Boyer wanted them when they were submitted to the label), but the label rejected it.  The money had been spent, the band had no money to return to the studio and the die had been cast.  Shortly after, 31st of February was history, the Allmans put together The Allman Brothers Band (taking with them the drummer for 31st, Butch Trucks, and Boyer teamed up with five other guys to found Cowboy, one of the better country rock band of the period.

There is a whole story behind the Allmans and Cowboy and soon, barring act of God or Congress, I will write it.  I spent too many years hearing supposed experts making comment on the Bold album and on 31st of February and Cowboy to let the opportunity to set the record straight pass.  Log this under “Coming Soon”…..

Cargoe—  Here’s one for the handful of Cargoe fans out there.  How Max Wisley became Cargoe‘s bass player.  Not long after the original Rubbery Cargoe lineup disbanded to make way for the merger with The Dirty Blues Band‘s Tommy Richard and Tim Benton and the formation of Cargoe, the four headed into the deep south for a swing of dates.  After spending a night at one of the motels on the route, the band packed their gear into a U-Haul, crawled in the car and backed out of the parking space.  The crunch they heard was Wisley’s father’s Gibson ES-135 being ground to dust beneath the U-Haul’s wheel.  Rather than stand around and bemoan their fate, Wisley and Bill Phillips, the band’s guitarist and keyboard man, decided that it was time for Wisley to play bass.  Phillips had been tiring of playing bass on a console (a little keyboard instrument which emulated bass sounds) and thought the demise of said Gibson an omen.  Wisley acquiesced.  Bass it was.  Wisley not only became a bassist, he became a damn accomplished bassist.  Strange how things like that work out.

Ray Ruff and Bolo Records—  When is a hit not a hit?  When there is no product.  Cargoe had a hit in the making with their recording of Feel Allright on Dan Penn‘s Beautiful label.  Memphis was playing it and it had been added to the KAKC playlist in the band’s hometown of Tulsa.  Thing is, they ran out of records.  When it ain’t sellin’, it ain’t on the charts.

Same thing happened to Ray Ruff‘s Pledge of Love.  A light rocker with hints of Buddy Holly and Bobby Vee, the record was ready to break out when the pressing plant declared bankruptcy.  Bolo’s Tom Ogilvy found himself sitting on a shitload of debt because he had just ordered a boatload of 45s from the plant and that transaction was on the record.  Supposedly, the record had been pressed and was awaiting shipment.  The bankruptcy stopped it.  Radio was playing it, stores were requesting it and Ogilvy had just emptied the label’s coffers.  Pledge of Love dropped of the charts and into history and Ogilvy slowly paid down the debt.  And you thought it was easy being a record mogul.  Sometimes timing is everything.

Timber—  Speaking of timing, Timber‘s was unfortunate.  They had a contract with and a record out on Kapp Records towards the end of that label’s demise.  They had completed a fairly successful West Coast tour and was heading back to L.A. to talk turkey about a second album.  When Wayne Berry, the band’s guitarist and representative went to the meeting, he found himself listening to buzz about this new guy from the UK, Elton John.  Needless to say, the focus of the label had changed.  The label was putting its full resources behind John and the other Kapp artists were at risk.  In the end, Timber disbanded and Berry went solo, releasing the critically praised but financially unsuccessful Home At Last album on RCA.

Wayne Berry‘s story, in fact, is a cornucopia of bad timing and missed chances.  I will be posting the whole thing, straight from Wayne’s mouth to the screen, soon.  I will let you know.

Notes…..  I repeat this because I think it bears repeating:  Barry Diament has let me know that Jason Vitelli‘s Confluence album has been released.  Vitelli amazed me with his handling of songs on his last album, No Photographs, and must have amazed Diament as well because they continue the journey together.  Diament, by the way, is well known as a mastering engineer, having mastered albums by various superstars over the years.  Today, he continues his mastering ways but has expanded to include the entire recording and sound spectrum.  You can learn things from this guy.  Check out his website:  http://www.soundkeeperrecordings.com/…..  I have yet to listen to them, but Sharon Koltick of Kink Ador sent me a link to download three new Kink Ador tracks.  I downloaded them and I think it might behoove you to do also.  The band has had two monster albums out (they are not quite like any band I’ve ever heard) and is a favorite of a handful of musicians I trust.  Granted, they recently lost their guitarist, an integral part of their sound, but something tells me that though the sound might change, the music will still be solid.  You can ask Sharon all about it by sending her an email at sharon@kinkador.com.  The tracks are free and you only have to sign up for their mailing list to get them.  In the meantime, I suggest you check out these vids:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wwy2efrQHH8 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHDXrlr7teQ.  Killer vids…..

A Reminder:

The First Annual Don’t Believe a Word I Say Reader’s Poll

To everyone who may be having a problem with copying and pasting the Poll from Monday’s column. Try this:1. Highlight the Poll 2. Right click on the Poll and choose ‘copy’. 3. Open a new word doc or email. 4. Right click and choose ‘Paste’, 5. Fill out the form and 6. Email either as a word.doc attachment, or as a straight email. The Poll is also available to copy and paste on my Facebook page Let me know if that works. If that doesn’t work, email me at segarini@rogers.com, and I’ll mail the Poll directly to you to fill out. That might be the easiest way. Sorry for the inconvenience. We really are interested in hearing what you have to say. Also, your answers can include any music, movies, TV, etc, from any year, not just 2011. 

Thank you,

bob

We now have an email address where all of us here at Don’t Believe a Word I Say can be contacted: dbawis@rogers.com. Please use it to ask questions,  tell us what you’d like to read about, send links you’d like to share, and let us hear what you have to say.

Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

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