Frank Gutch Jr: These Are People Who Died, Died….

With apologies to Jim Carroll, of course.  Had I used his actual lyrics, it would be “Those”, and until today I have to confess I had no idea what the song was about.  I bobbed my head and listened to the beat more than the lyrics the many times I heard the song and I now wonder why because I am a day closer to that day, every day, and am just now seeing death for the loss it really is.

I know as a culture we are prone to mourn the losses of  celebrities, thus the public outpouring of emotion for artists like Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston and Etta James, among too many others, and thus the long lines for viewing (of caskets) in past years for Rudolf Valentino, Huey Long and John F. Kennedy (that’s right, kiddies, they used to line up to look at dead people).  As much as I know it, I do not understand it because there is no doubt that only a very few had had a personal connection with those people and it seems so strange to me that such emotions should be shared so publicly, regardless.  Don’t get me wrong, I have reacted to deaths of celebrities, mostly musicians like Janis Joplin and Tommy Bolin and a few others who seemed hellbent on their own destruction.  It is a sad thing to watch.

Reading the lyrics to People Who Died, I began wondering who Teddy and Cathy and Bobby were, and G-berg and Georgie.  It got me to thinking about all of the people in between, as well— the unknowns and the almost-knowns and the better-knowns.  It got me to thinking about the inequalities in life and how they sometimes follow people into death.  In music, it happens all the time.  It seems that lately it has been happening every day.

Bugs Henderson died last week.  Did you know that?  Do you even care?  I think it odd that you expect me to care about Michael and Whitney and Etta, yet you do not care to return the favor.  You see, I never met Michael nor Whitney nor Etta, but I met Bugs once, in passing.  He was doing a short radio station tour to plug his new at the time live album, At Last, and I happened to pass by and was introduced.  I had just received a copy of the album but had not yet heard it.  After talking with Bugs for just a minute, I moved it to the top of my priority listening list.  That night I was turned on to some smokin’ three man rock— guitar, bass and drums— and I never looked back.  Bugs was a monster guitar player and, from the short time I talked with him, seemed like one hell of a nice guy.  Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, At Last did very little outside of his home state of Texas.  Neither did his succeeding albums.  But Bugs was home there.  He must have loved playing for friends and fans.  He did it for decades.  As soon as the news leaked about his death, my Facebook page lit up.  I have numerous friends from Texas and the news hit hard.  Harder to those people than news of Michael or Whitney or Etta, probably.  Bugs was their man.   Bugs was their friend.  To them, it is more than likely personal.

I know it was personal to Randy Cates, who knew Bugs from what must seem now like a previous life.  See, Bugs and Randy served time at The Cellar, that legendary and most odd venue which, from what I’ve read, was like no other.

The Cellar was kind of a cool, avant-garde coffeehouse jazz bar which opened at like six o’clock in the morning.  In front of the stage, there were cushions that people sat on and behind the cushions, there were chairs.  The waitresses wore bras and panties.  It was a beatnik-type place that started out that way and turned into a legendary rock kind of place.  There were three of them— one in Dallas, one in Fort Worth and one in Houston.  Bands would play two weeks in each bar.  Most of the big bands like Led Zeppelin and Johnny Winter, when they would get off, would all wind up at The Cellar.  So there was lots of music being played and lots of sitting in with lots of great people.  I became aware of the place in 1964 and in 1966, when I was a senior in high school, I was playing until six o’clock in the morning and then going to school.”

Neither Bugs nor Randy could have asked for a better school.  Bugs stuck around, but Randy soon tired of what he calls three-chord blues and took the first opportunity which presented itself to get away.

“I grew up playing Motown,” Cates explained.  “I loved Motown.  And moving to Los Angeles was my way of getting away from the blues and getting into what I really wanted to play, if I could find it, and Gypsy was it.”

Which is a sneaky segue, but Gypsy came to mind directly after I heard about Bugs.  They also had as a member someone who died.  Someone very important to me— Enrico Rosenbaum.  The band called him Rico.  He died in 1979, killed himself in fact, and I didn’t hear about it for years.  At that point, I was establishing myself in Seattle and, though working in records, missed the news.  Those were heady days in the music biz.  Sales were booming and the stars were coming out of the woodwork and, to tell the truth, not many in the music business cared about anything besides getting their noses stuffed with powder.  If you wanted attention, you had to be a superstar to get anyone to even look.

Rosenbaum was hardly that.  He had spent years pouring himself into four unique and excellent albums and when none struck it big, the industry turned their collective backs.  Rosenbaum more than likely took it personal (hell, I took it personal and I was just a lowly fan) and the spiral downhill started.  It ended one night when he decided he’d had enough.  It was a tragedy.  Who knows how much more great music he had left in him?

What he gave us, though, endures.  I guess it isn’t fair to say he gave it to us because if ever there was a band with a sound like no other, it was Gypsy.  But I can’t help believing that Rosenbaum was largely responsible for— well— that sound.  As Cates put it:  “Rico was Gypsy.  He had help from Jim Johnson and James Walsh, but Rico was Gypsy.  He was the main songwriter.  He was the main guy.  When Rico started singing a (new) song, those other two guys would sing their parts and it wouldn’t be five minutes and they’d have it.  There was a natural harmonization between the three of them.”

A harmonization as unique as was the band.  Cates describes their sound as “a soul rhythm section with three fabulous vocalists who blend beautifully.”  I couldn’t agree more.  Gypsy was all about the rhythm and the voices and the sound.  I think I can safely say that of all the musical artists the public missed on, none was better than Gypsy.  God, but I miss Enrico.  And I miss Gypsy.  The lineup through those four albums was something else.

After Gypsy folded, Cates returned to Texas to continue his music ways.  He played in a number of bands with a number of musicians and now suffers the fate, as do all people our age, of watching many fall by the wayside.  A list of Texas musicians who have died within the past decade would take more space than I am allotted, but right off the top of my head I can think of a few:  Brett Owen Wilson, Scott Fraser, and Phil White (Space Opera);  Stephen BrutonDoyle Bramhall Sr.Jimmy Wright (The Five Americans);  Pinetop Perkins.  That is just the tip of the Texas iceberg and I will not go on.  Death saddens me.

On a positive note, I am quite taken by how many musicians have migrated to Texas over the years.  There is something about the state which consumes them, I guess.  Texans do love their music.  If only their politics weren’t so fucked up…..

And the winner is…..

Charlottesville’s WarHen Records has unwittingly stepped into the collector’s game without even really trying.  Okay, maybe they tried— a little.  Their release of the new Sarah White & the Pearls 45 (Married Life b/w ILY) is on both black and white vinyl.  Here is what they said when contacted:

“We had 325 records pressed – 100 on white wax, 225 on regular black. We are selling 300, hand-numbered 7″ records. The first 90 are on the white wax, then 210 on black. The additional 25 are freebies for those who were included and promo copies.

“We had them pressed at United Record Pressing in Nashville. They will be available to the public tomorrow (Friday 3/9) via a google check-out on our Facebook, and also at the Rob & Dana Benefit Show at the Jefferson Theater that night. Record #1 is being put up for auction at the show.”

Record #1 was won by one Mark Dennison, a friend of those at the label.  No mention of the amount of the bid, but who cares?  It was a benefit!  And it was signed.  And it was #1!  That has got to mean something.

Anyway, getting back to WarHen and the quantities pressed, just look at those numbers.  A total of 300 for sale, each one numbered.  Ninety on white vinyl (good luck scoring that one), 200 on black.  Those are numbers collector’s items are made of and Sarah White is a talent awaiting recognition beyond C-ville.  It’s a magic combination and will be the leadoff for a future column on today’s return to vinyl and the collectability of same.  Stay tuned.

Huh.  I just noticed I had written about this in the Notes section.  You know what?  I’m leaving both references.  I think it warrants the attention.

Music That’s Kicking My Ass Recently…..

The key word being “recently”.  While I would love to separate my life into two equal and separate segments— that dominated by new music and that dominated by accumulated favorite music— it won’t happen.  There is barely enough time to cover the new stuff and the favorites of the past have to stay there, which is truly unfortunate.  Luckily, I have a brain which consumes and retains music, so even when I am not listening, I am hearing.

Sage Run—  For some reason, my ears have been leaning toward folk/psych/rock lately.  The Winterpills have jumped right to the top of my holy-crap-I-need-to-listen-to-these-guys-more-often list followed closely by Sage Run and Lewis & ClarkSage Run is at present dominating my listening time, the debut album raking my soul smooth with sounds vaguely reminiscent of what the sixties and early seventies could have been but were not quite.  Think the fringe of Simon & Garfunkel with a Pop twist and a spritz of psych.  You can stream it here.

Ticktockman—  I seldom dip my toes in the prog pool these days, but these guys are too damn good to resist.  They play a mix of prog/rock/psych which stuns me every time I hear them.  They have a seventies sensibility wrapped around present day musicianship which at times leaves me almost breathless.  I love the crunching staccato approach to the guitar and keyboards, the upfront vocals and the drive provided by what I can only describe as power jazz percussion.  These guys are damn good musicians and push each other at every turn, but the drums freak me out!  Musicians, take note!  You can stream it here.

Goblin Market—  Never heard of Goblin Market?  About time you did.  The group consists of Jeff Kelly and Laura Weller of The Green Pajamas and their music follows that dark path provided by the likes of Emily & Charlotte Bronte and, of all people, Joyce Carol Oates.  Music inspired by?  They take it a step further on their latest, Beneath Far Gondal’s Foreign Sky, using Emily Bronte’s poems and ideas as the base here and there— sharing writing credits, if you will.  The music is beautiful, eerie and strangely uplifting in places.  Released in conjunction with Green Monkey Records, a record label with a heart.  You can watch Goblin Market‘s new video and stream the album at  Do it.

Notes…..    The Big Motif.  I know I haven’t mentioned them before, but I really should have.  They play a three man rock of the highest caliber.  Out of Colorado.  Just found this video.  Watch it.  Learn.  This is great stuff…..  You remember that I mentioned Filligar last week?  Well, I just found out that they are playing Canadian Music Week in Toronto on March 23rd.  For those in that august city, let me recommend a quick listen to their music (you can get a free download of their album The Nerve on Noise Trade) and consideration of seeing them live.  The more I listen, the more I like…..  In the I-don’t-have-the-energy-for-this department, I have to pass along the information that British Columbia’s Jesse Dee & Jacquie B (who recently released a freaking killer of an album—  Our Ghosts Will Fill These Walls— have changed their name to Picture the Ocean.  If you want to hear some exceptionally good not-quite-describable roots music, I cannot recommend them highly enough.  Remember both names.  In the near future, you will be reading about them in  more than just this column.  And get this!  If you pre-order the up-and-coming brand spanking new Picture the Ocean CD from their website (click on the band name above), they will toss in a free copy of Ghosts.  That’s a deal you can’t beat with a stick…..  On the you-better-get-this-or-it-will-be-gone front, WarHen Records who operate out of Charlottesville, are pressing a limited quantity of the new Sarah White 45 and are offering it up for sale as I type.  The 45 is Married Life b/w ILY (b/w = backed with, an old record industry term, and ILY I believe stands for I Love You, but what do I know?).  The honchos at WarHen say that they are releasing only 90 copies on white vinyl (good luck scoring that one— White is a Charlottesville staple, which means that they will go fast) and 210 on black vinyl.  You can catch Sarah’s video of ILY here…..  And as if colored vinyl really means something (hey, it does to me),  the hard rockin’ Virginia band Freedom Hawk has offered up some beauties of their last album, Holdin’ OnHere is the page for the Aqua Blue (also available on black and red).

Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

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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.”

One Response to “Frank Gutch Jr: These Are People Who Died, Died….”

  1. Jeffrey Latawiec Says:

    Man, you write well. I found your piece by looking for info on Enrico Rosenbaum. I only saw Gypsy once, and they were the highly unlikely opening act for Black Sabbath, whom they blew away that day, but I had such a psychic connection w/ their 2nd lp “In the Garden”, that I have always had a soft spot for the band.
    I was deeply saddened to learn that he died so very long ago, of his descent into the abyss too many of us fell into back then.
    Your are correct when you say they were one of the best “undiscovered” acts ever. And watching them perform and then hearing their albums it was plain for all to see that Enrico was the driving force behind them.
    Thanx for the words…thanx for the tribute. Rock on bro…pretty good…pretty neat….

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