Frank Gutch Jr: Stone Darling (A Bio I’m Afraid Not To Believe), Them Crazy Multi-Tasking Artists, Time-Travel to Washington D.C. Circa 1970, and Notes…..

FrankJr2I swear to God, when Kim Grant is not pushing me toward something, she is.  A simple post of a video in her last newsletter (see the link at the beginning of the Notes section) regarding The Grand Ole Echo dragged me in an unsuspecting direction, this time to a group out of L.A. calling themselves Stone Darling.  Kim, of course, knows my Achilles Heel (Whispering Pines, for all who don’t know) and knows I cannot resist a short walk through the pines, and I’m pretty sure she posts these things just for me because I ask around occasionally and none of my friends seem to know anything (but come to think of it, they don’t know anything about anything).  This time, though, I’m not sure what she’s gotten me into.  Want a hint?  Read this bio written by one Eric Filipkowski:

stonedarlingechoplexPaige, Lindsay, Mikki and Liv all met at the Valley State Prison for Women in 1983. The veterans of over 1000 actual crimes, they were brought together by the power of song. They joined the prison’s show choir eliminating the better singers and dancers through faked suicides and prison yard shankings, until they rose up the ranks to become the stars of the facility, serving as an inspiration to anyone looking for a second chance that they don’t really deserve. In between their more mainstream gigs, the ladies still take time to perform at rest homes, schools and churches, as these places are often populated by the ‘softer’ elements of society and are therefore easy pickings. Prior to their incarceration and subsequent semi-rehabilitation, they came from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life. Paige was a gospel singer in Connecticut’s only all-African American gospel choir. Lindsay spent several years posing as a transsexual MAC makeup consultant. Liv honed her shanking skills as a knife-thrower in several of the south’s seedier traveling carnivals and Mikki was created spontaneously through a combination of chemicals. Their fifth and only invisible member, Mr. Pickles (who now goes by his Hebrew name “Luke”) is a singing hamburger. When asked, ‘Why an invisible singing hamburger?’, they responded, ‘Because if he wasn’t invisible, we would have eaten him a long time ago.'”

Tongue-in-cheek?  Jeez, I hope so, but what if it’s not?  I mean, I’ve never thought of shanking in terms of skills before, you know?  So pardon me while I give these ladies a plug.  Just in case.

stonedarlingI like female vocals.  There is usually something soothing or sometimes raw in them that the male cannot reproduce.  So when I decided to search the Net for Stone Darling (especially having seen the video with Whispering Pines and Benmont Tench), I figured they were a pretty safe bet.  But I was not prepared for what I found.  In the video, the girls were somewhat buried by muddled sound and came off more like The Williettes than anything, The Williettes being Wet Willie‘s backup singers.  I could have handled that, but what I got was a mixture of mid-fifties to early-seventies girl groups.  Especially on a song I have listened to many times since finding it, All I Wanna Do, which has enough girl group genes to be labeled a distant cousin if not sister to the genre.  This could have been a huge hit back in the old days and it caught my ear and won’t let go.  (To listen, click here)…..  Oh, they are hardly all girl-group— at least in terms of genre— and they prove it very well with a cover of Funkadelic‘s Can You Get To That (listen here), the electric rhythm guitar having that Pops Staples aura and the girls’ voices upfront and not so much.  I mean, this song makes me smile wide and I’m wondering what the hell is wrong with a world which rejects music like this?  Or did they?  Could Stone Darling have gained a following without my awareness?  Sigh.  I guess anything’s possible.

There is also the three song-EP, so to speak— three songs uploaded for free download (as is Can You Get To That).  The download is listed as Out takes 2009-2011 and are outtakes, though from what sessions, I have no idea.  Well, two are outtakes.  Baby Come Home is listed as a live track, meaning live in the studio.  All are strong tracks.  I mean, I’m digging the hell out of them and all the while being upset because these are old, man.  I mean, it doesn’t keep me from loving the music, but where are these guys?  I mean, besides singing backup for the Pines or other such gigs?  Are they still together?  Hell if I know, but you can bet I will find out.  In the meantime, I heartily recommend you scope out the Outtakes EP along with the other tracks listed (click here).  Download it.  Download everything they have for download, in fact.  Which you will do if you like the music anywhere near as much as do I.

Musicians, Actors, or Both?

Know what I saw the other day?  A post which stated that Kevin Costner had put together a band.  First thing I did was check the calendar to see if it was April Fool’s Day yet.  Costner, a musician?  What devil’s curse is this?  Well, I’ve always said that music was personal and I suppose he couldn’t be much worse than Bieber— as a musician or an actor.


Funny thing, I had been thinking about musicians as actors and vice-versa for a few weeks and had in fact begun a list of those who fit the bill, nicely or not.  I mean, Jeff Bridges put out an album, right?  Was Jeff a musician before he starred in Crazy Heart?  I really don’t know, but I do know that he put in a lot of work with Stephen Bruton, the legendary Fort Worth musician, and no doubt came out of it with a whole new outlook toward music.  Of course, it never hurts to have all the money and all the connections in the world to launch an album and if Bridges didn’t have all, he came damn close to it.  Have I heard the album?  Not yet.  Would I listen if given the chance?  If I had the time.  Yeah, like that’s ever going to happen.

The thing is, we accept so many actors as musicians these days (and vice-versa), but I wonder if it is even in our consciousness.  It has been going on for decades, this melding of the arts, and has become so commonplace that it is out of mind, if not out of sight.  How far back can we go?  Well, if we must, we can go back to the days before Hollywood when many actors lived off of the stage and performed both on and off.  Take your pick.  Lillie LangtryLilly PonsEnrico Caruso?  I mean, they qualify.  They all sang and hit the stage with regularity.

Of course, Hollywood would more than likely be the real starting point, at least in terms of today’s world.  Who could deny the dual talents of actor/singers such as Rudy Vallee, Dick Powell, Al Jolson or Bing Crosby?  And that is outside of musicals.  I mean, musicals were a backbone of Hollywood for a number of years.  They alone supplied us with a plethora of multi-talented stars.  Hell, Judy Garland worked her way from dancer/singer to megastar in ten years, beginning with The Gumm Sisters and culminating in her most famous roles as Dorothy in The Wizard of OzsonsofpioneersrogersDoes that count?  And who can forget the all-too infrequent outings by Kay Kyser and Glenn Miller?

Those were all before my time.  My earliest recollection of actor/singer would have to be Gene Autry and The Sons of the Pioneers (out of which spawned Roy Rogers).  To a kid, cowboys were the penultimate Hollywood stars and were cool even when singing, unless it was some sappy love song to an actress dressed up in Hollywood’s poor excuse for western wear.   Still. Dressed as poorly as they were, they were every kid’s wet dream.

It wouldn’t be long, though, before rock ‘n’ roll took over the screen— for the teen and pre-teen, anyway— and we began seeing fab and pre-fab all over the silver screen.  The fab, of course, were musicians who had made it on record before the screen.  There was Elvis, of course, probably the biggest fab of all.  And Fabian and Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.  All sang.  All acted.  My favorite of those days was Ricky Nelson, whose part in The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet was a perfect springboard into music.

mumy1God knows how it happened, but the whole actor/musician thing really blew up in the sixties through today.  Yesterday’s Billy Mumy, that kid who was always following the robot around on Lost In Space, picked up a guitar and began working his way toward a career in music, gathering a cult following with Barnes & Barnes before shifting toward the serious side and a solo career.  Bill Mumy makes a decent living doing voiceover work for animated features as well as narration for biographies and documentaries, but what I’ve heard of his recent albums tells me his heart is really in his music.  You can check out many of his albums at GRA Records (click here) and I recommend that you do.  He’s put some very nice stuff “on vinyl”, as we used to say in the record biz.

You might not know it, especially if you’ve seen the reruns, but My Three Sons was at one time a teen favorite on television, part of the popularity courtesy of one Don Grady (who later put out a solo album under what he said was his real name, Don Agrati).  His was the teen face of the series and girls went nuts every week.  Didn’t hurt that he was drummer for The Yellow Balloon, who had a minor hit, and later had his own band which performed on the TV show as The Greefs, but would be under the moniker The Windup Watchband by the time their hit The Children of St. Monica hit the streets.  (Hey, you fossils want something fun?  Just click on this link and dig on information we either forgot or didn’t know regarding bands on TV)

RickSpringfieldTalk about stuff you didn’t know!  Rick Springfield is a freakin’ Australian!  I’ve heard him talk.  Didn’t sound Australian to me.  Of course, he has been stateside since ’72, striking it rich with his hit Jessie’s Girl before hitting the gold mine on the soap opera, General Hospital.  He didn’t put down his guitar, though.  He’s still out there pumping the music out.  I sat in the parking lot of a casino a couple of years ago, listening to Springfield do what he does.  I was quite impressed.  He put together a hell of a band.

First time I saw Phil Collins on screen, I didn’t know it was Collins.  I’d never paid much attention to him, though I was a certified Genesis freak until Peter Gabriel left.  Then, one night, I actually read the credits of an episode of Miami Vice and sonofagun if Collins wasn’t the bad guy.  I’ve seen him on screen a few other times and have to admit— the guy can act.

Everyone always gives Roger Daltrey the big thumbs up for Tommy.  Myself, I give him thumbs up for his work on a CSI episode titled Living Legend in which he portrayed a mafia-type character risen from the dead to do dirty deeds.  Again, I have to admit— the guy can act.

Kevin Bacon, Michael BaconI know what a lot of you are going to think when I mention Kevin Bacon and shame on you!  The guy’s last name is Bacon, for chrissakes!  I mean, we all love bacon, right?  Well, I’m pretty sure I don’t have to go into his acting career here, most of us over thirty having lived through a string of Bacon moments.  What a lot of us are unaware of is his career as a musician.  Oh, a lot of us know that he plays in a band, yes, but have you ever heard them?  I hadn’t until I grabbed a review copy of Philadelphia Road—  Best of the Bacon Brothers only to find out that they had been recording together since 1995.  While I had never heard them, the melding of voices on the opening track, Unhappy Birthday, put me at my ease.  Who knew?

Kris Kristofferson is too easy.  He’s been recording since the Stone Age and has been in more movies than Bob Hope and Bing Crosby combined.  He will always be a musician to me.  I’ll bet younger people don’t even know he’s a musician.

pidgeonslingshotYou’ll never guess who my new favorite actor/musician is.  Rebecca Pidgeon.  Just last week during one of those Jesse Stone marathons Hallmark has, I watched a movie in which she co-starred.  I knew her.  I had seen her in numerous movies and TV programs, had gone through the typical crush because she is an extremely attractive lady.  Just a few months ago, I saw her perform at Portland’s Alladin Theater opening for Marc Cohn.  I was mesmerized.  She has a very disarming stage presence— quiet but in control.  And a voice.  She was supporting her seventh album release, Slingshot, and aced her show.  Seven albums!  I went home after the show thinking I would do her and a few fans a favor and write about her (because it was a good show) only to find out that she was that Rebecca Pidgeon and like she needs me to do her a favor, you know?  The thing is, I don’t know one damn person who has one of her albums.  Not one!  Admittedly, I hang out with ne’er do wells and ex-cons because we share the same tax brackets, but not one?  I am saddened.  The music I heard that night deserves more.  Oh, I know, she can buy and sell me a few million times, but that’s not the point.  Like my buddy Darryl used to say, “It’s about the music, man!”

Just makes me wonder how many more actors have music waiting discovery.  It’s the curiosity, don’t you know.

A Wormhole to 1970’s Washington D.C.

I had a buddy once who took his girlfriend to hear Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon only to find out a few months later that she was leaving him for his best friend.  He trashed every Floyd album he had and even left parties when Floyd hit the turntable.  My point being this:  Music is a benchmark in many of our lives.  He was the biggest Floyd fan I’d ever known until he wasn’t.  Both benchmarks at opposite extremes.

So when I ran across an old clipping about the Washington D.C. music scene published in a newspaper supplement called On the Town, it was a major rush.  A guy named William Holland went out of his way to highlight five rock acts ready to vault D.C. for the fame and fortune of musicdom, one of which almost made it.  When Gary at Eugene’s House of Records handed the aryicle to me back in 1971, it was interesting but not much more.  Today, though…..

grinHe gave it to me because I had just discovered Grin, the band which spawned Nils Lofgren onto the national stage.  Grin was, in fact, the lead.  I was just beginning to wrap my head around See What Love Can Do and 18 Faced Lover and Pioneer Mary and the other songs Lofgren had loaded onto that first album and I was ready to learn.  The only information at hand were basically PR sheets and what little Rolling Stone was willing to share, so I grabbed the article and ran.  It didn’t tell me much, I thought.  But that was over forty years ago.  Let us take a step back in time.

Grin is the closest thing to a starbound rock group Washington now has,” Holland wrote, “and more important, it found its own sound while playing for local audiences.  All the signs are there:  a prodigy who plays guitar, sings and writes songs.  Crack sidemen.  Personal magnetism.  Driving, no-nonsense, individual-sounding songs.  Experience playing with established rock stars.”  (Lofgren had evidently already played with Neil Young and Donovan and had played on Young’s After the Gold Rush album)    “Young… talked to some of his friends which eventually resulted in a record contract which gave Nils nearly complete production control, a lot of front money, and a share in the label, Thunder, which will be marketed by Columbia.”  (The label was actually named Spindizzy)

I loved that first album.  I played the hell out of it.  Years later, Nils would stop by the Peaches Record store I worked at in Seattle as part of a promotional junket for his new Rykodisc release.  It was the first day of the NCAA basketball tournament and we had a bracket pool going on.  Nils begged and begged to be let in and the more we told him that the pool was closed because the tournament had already begun, the more he begged.  We finally had a meeting and decided in favor of Nils because he had no clue as to what had been going on.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a happier musician.  He hung around for a couple of hours, listening to radio updates, and then headed out to a few radio stations.  He went around the basement, shaking everyone’s hands and thanking us for letting him in on the pool.  He left contact info with John, our manager, just in case he won.  He didn’t have a chance.  After the first round, half of his teams were out.  I think the only person who finished below him was me.  Of course, I have this thing for underdogs, you know?  See?  It’s not just music.

The second band mentioned was Tractor, who (according to the article) had signed a deal with Janus Records and would “shortly have an album out”.  Here, things get dicey.  In all of my research, I have yet to see a Tractor album listed anywhere— not this Tractor.  Not only that, they list Bill Manning, the band’s keyboard player, as a former member of D.C. Group Puzzle.  In all of my research regarding that band, Manning’s name is missing.  It doesn’t mean anything, really, because bands have a tendency toward revolving doors when it comes to members, but one would think that the name would show up somewhere.

Claude Jones is probably the most well-known, and with the possible exception of Grin, the most popular rock and roll band in the area.  The group plays in a country-tinged style and enjoys reviving classics such as Not Fade Away and Ubangi Stomp as well as some Dylan/Band songs…”  A little bit country.  A little bit rock and roll.  Through the wonder of the Net, I actually found a page devoted to Claude Jones and actually has music available for listening.  If you’re curious (I sure as hell was), click hereThis is adventure in music, my friends.

sageworthEver hear of Sageworth & Drums?  First I heard of them was in the article and that was printed a number of years before Walter Egan scored with Magnet & Steel.  Yep.  It was Egan’s band.  The band also featured the lungs of Annie McLoone, a vocalist who was quite well known on the cult circuit (the group of people who knew all and saw all and, sometimes, heard all).  Egan would end up heading for L.A. and eventually team up with Lindsey Buckingham to come up with Egan’s one really financially successful album, Not Shy.  Annie would head to Boston/New York to produce the Fast Annie album.  Curious what they were doing back then?  Watch this video…..

Crank was a band put together from the remnants of The British Walkers, or so it seems.  I remember The British Walkers as a band all the vinyl freaks wanted on 45 because 1- the name was cool and 2- they were rare as hell.  I don’t think any one of the people in my little group ever heard them.  We just saw the 45s listed on various lists and wondered.  Years later, we would find out that the Walkers were the guitar domain of one Roy Buchanan of blues guitar fame (if you’ve not heard Buchanan, I suggest you log onto a site which streams the Roy Buchanan Live album.  Turn it up.  It will give you the chills).  At the time of this article, the Walkers were no more, guitarist Geoff Richardson having put together the blues-rocking Crank.  Here’s what Holland wrote:

Crank, of course, also does original material, most of it hard-driving rock.  Richardson’s playing is sinewy in texture with intriguing single-note lines taking the listener to unexpected places between chord changes, almost like jazz lines, although his approach is firmly rooted in British blues.  Richardson is… fed-up with the withering area rock scene and rightfully feels that he didn’t come to the States just to spend the rest of his productive life ‘playing Top 40 tunes in some dance club.’”

It remains to be discovered whether he did or not, though.  Very little info on Crank seems to be available, especially after the time of the published article.

Man, what I wouldn’t have given for the Internet back then.  Finding information on any band was like pulling teeth.  Even the people who knew many times didn’t, ready to make up stories rather than be found ignorant (meaning ‘lacking information’).  Which is why I save articles like this.  Even with its bit of misinformation, it has truth between the lines.  I mean, it reads like 1970 Washington D.C., you know?  I wish I had one for every year and every city.

Music Notes smallNotes…..  Notes are slim today, folks.  I think my mind is being recycled.  Kim Grant, who runs the Grand Ole Echo (with partners?) every summer down in good ole L.A., included this video at the bottom of her last post and I found myself in Delaney & Bonnie land (or a land of similar musical tastes).  This video features Stone Darling, plus one of my top bands from last year— Whispering Pines, and Benmont Tench, keyboard player for Tom Petty.  I may be a sucker, but I just like the groove.  Click here…..  Speaking of Stone Darling, here is a very short clip of a live performance from not too long ago.  It’s rough, but I think this band has a lot of potential.  Click here…..  And here is even more.  Now, if Stone Darling ends up connecting up with a major label, I’m going to deny this, so enjoy it while you can.  Click here…..


Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

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DBAWIS ButtonFrank 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: Stone Darling (A Bio I’m Afraid Not To Believe), Them Crazy Multi-Tasking Artists, Time-Travel to Washington D.C. Circa 1970, and Notes…..”

  1. Steve Markman Says:

    Thanks for taking me back to a time I remember well. Fortunately, I was able to see the bands Crank and Grin many times in the early 70’s, primarily at a music venue in Georgetown called the Emergency Room. It was a fantastic place for young people to hear music. I enjoyed Grin very much. Nils was a lot of fun to see play, and was an excellent guitarist even then. I always felt that Crank was more exciting. The drummer was crazy fun, the sax/flute player was crazy good, and Geoff Richardson, the guitarist, was one of only two musicians to ever give me chills. I loved the way he played – it was intoxicating. It’s amazing to me and others that they never went national.

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