Frank Gutch Jr.: Tom Kell & The Skyboys, Michael Fennelly, Stu Nunnery, “Goin’ Down”, and Just Plain Nuts– erm– Notes…..

FrankJr2I have learned my lesson.  Numerous times over the past few years, I have been caught at my desk, coffee at hand, spewing said coffee in copious amounts thanks to the writings of my colleagues here at DBAWIS, sometimes through the mouth and sometimes through the nose.  It is altogether possible that I have unknowingly spewed through various other orifices of my body as well, but by the time I get through laughing, everything is dry and, therefore, in the distant past, as it were.

Spit TakeAt first, it was Bob Segarini, tripping the words fantastic and forcing loud guffaws and choking gasps.  Then, it was Jaimie Vernon.  All in their turn, each of the writers here (Nadia Elkharadly, Roxanne Tellier, Doug Thompson, Cam Carpenter, Gary Pig Gold, Justin Smallbridge, et. al.)  have added to the slowly growing brown tinge on monitor and keyboard and never fail to leave me with deflated ego and a softly gagged “Gosh, I wish I could write like that” as mantra.  The latest has been Darrell Vickers‘ column, “A Tux On Both Their Houses” (read it here— it is pure writing architecture), which coated not only monitor and keyboard but the entire desk as he spewed phrases like “polishing up a staggeringly spongy turd” and  visions of “lithe young men who could high-kick a trilby off Shaquille O’Neal’s head” while I spewed coffee.  A whole lotta spewin’ goin’ on.

pulitzer1I had two columns started, either of which could have brought me that Pulitzer Prize which has eluded me thus far, but how can one contend with such literary legerdemain?  Better to avoid being released the same week as (place your Top Ten artist’s name here) than to be buried by hype and the machinery of an entertainment industry based upon greed, eh?   So I will save those columns (which have gained raves from some critics whom I have paid stealthily— pre-publicity, you understand) and will travel through fields, so to speak, picking up stones along with the flotsam and jetsam beneath Hollywood’s level of interest.  Like…..

Tom Kell & The Skyboys…..

People in Seattle know Tom Kell from The Skyboys— well, the older people anyway.  I moved from San Diego to Seattle in 1978 and was pleasantly surprised to find a local music scene more impressive than any I could find down south but which unfortunately was a bit limited in its scope.  Venues are the key to any scene and there were few which supported bands beyond those of the meat-market variety (bar bands whose sole mission in life is to play cover songs, ad finitum).  Selling beer is the name of their game and one certainly could not blame taverns for wanting to make money and/or survive.  So few allowed music anyway and if you could sell kegs of beer whilst bands cranked out Bungle In the Jungle or New Kid In Town for the young adults lusting for the hits (and, later, the sex), what the hell, eh?

When I hit town, there were few bands who could pack out whichever venue they played:  The Skyboys, who found themselves smack in the middle of the Country Swing craze;  Jr. Cadillac, what would now be called a ‘roots’ band, full of sixties’ Pac NW rock ‘n’ roll and R&B;  and Annie Rose & The Thrillers.  They were the core of the Seattle bar scene and if you wanted to party with those guys, you had to show up early.  I remember lines around the block on weekends and packed houses on weeknights.

annieroseAnnie Rose had this soul revue thing going on then— lots of Stax and Motown with a few bar standards thrown in for good measure and when they were on, they were really on.  Members varied for the various shows and while they had a core of musicians who were very impressive (there was this guitarist called Vashon Dave who never failed to catch my ear), they were most impressive with the whole revue— backup singers and horns included.

Jr. Cadillac were the essential Pac NW band, having at their core Ned Neltner, who started his rock & roll life with Spokane’s The Mark V.  A move to Seattle later and Cadillac took form.  Ned was a roots kind of guy from the beginning, living the rock ‘n’ roll and R&B lifestyle.  You never knew what you were going to hear when Cadillac played, but you could count on plenty of originals along with classic covers from bands like The Dynamics, The Viceroys, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Don & The Goodtimes and a plethora of Pac NW greats.

skyboys1The Skyboys, though, were the King of the Locals (I discount Heart because after they scored their major label contract, they were no longer part of the local scene).  I remember standing outside The Rainbow Tavern watching the band (or what I could see of them because it was standing room only and they blocked my view somewhat) and hearing them faintly through the huge plate-glass window.  Even under those limiting circumstances, I could hear they were good.  I would not see or hear them live for a number of weeks when I attended the band’s album release party.  And party , it was.

Scott Boyer was there.  Scott, a member of country-rockers Cowboy, had flown in from the South to produce the album, recorded at Tioga Studios in tiny Allegany, Oregon, the same studio at which Notary Sojac had recorded theirs.  Duncan Cameron, guitarist with The Amazing Rhythm Aces was there.  He had played on the album.  Lots of people were there.  It was packed!  The Rainbow wasn’t the biggest tavern in town and the stage was already overflowing with the equipment and bodies of the band, which numbered seven at the time, so you can imagine the shifting which went on every time someone came out of the audience to sit in.  The only one I remember was Boyer, largely because I have from the outset been a huge fan of Cowboy.  He only played one song with the band and graciously bowed out.  That must have been when the alcohol really kicked in because the next thing I remember was stumbling the three or so miles home in the dead of night singing Skyboys’ songs to wake the dead.

skyboysalbumcoverKell recently told me that the band had recorded only two albums.  Evidently, the first was a demo and was not released to the public, to their one album, self-titled (First American FA-LP-7709) was the total of their album output.  Two singles made their way to the stores— one in 1981 (Get It Up b/w Backing Into a Heartache— Mench Records MHR-001) and one in 1982 (She’s a Young Girl b/w Memorize My Number— Mench MCH-9329225).  Shortly thereafter, and I hope I get this right, Kell left for Southern California and greener pastures, eventually provided by Warner Brothers Records.  Everywhere I find Kell’s music, I find notes about John David Souther, obviously an influence.  One day soon I hope to hear about Kell’s relationship with him.

There is a whole story behind this band which should be told.  I shall attempt to contact any and all members of the band to tell me the ins and outs of the Seattle bar scene to their recording experiences.  Stay tuned.

Michael Fennelly:  As Personal As Personal Gets…..

crabby appleton go backWho is Michael Fennelly, you ask?  Actually, my good buddies in music would not have to ask that because they all know Fennelly from his days with The Millennium and Crabby Appleton.  The names sound familiar at all?  Well, Crabby Appleton had an actual hit (Go Back— 1970) and The Millennium have become legends after-the-fact.  Fennelly also put out a couple of solo albums before pretty much calling it quits.  The record biz takes a lot out of you sometimes (and rather quickly).

This just came in the door a couple of hours ago and I won’t be able to listen to it until this column is completed, but here’s the deal.  This one is personal.  Fennelly himself picked the tracks.  In fact, most are from his personal archives.  Maybe all.  This, in fact, seems to be a chronology of what he wanted to do and not what the various labels told him to do.

Pluses?  It is in mono.  No fancy dressing up in stereo clothing for these.  They are demos on the whole and as demos they should be heard.  You get two sets of liner notes.  The first is a basic history of Fennelly and his partners in crime, written by one Domenic Priore, author of Riot On Sunset Strip: Rock and Roll’s Last Stand in Hollywood.  The second is a track-by-track explanation of the tracks written by Fennelly himself.  Minuses?  I don’t know yet.  I have a feeling there will be none, as far as I’m concerned because not only do I deal with demos on a day-by-day basis, I many times prefer demos to finished tracks.  So you will have to fennellydemoswait until next week to get the full rundown.  Until then, though, you can look up this album on the Net if you so desire.  It is titled Love Can Change Everything – Demos 1967 – 1972 and is being released by Sundazed Records (click here).

And by the way, it will be available on 180-gram vinyl as well as compact disc, driving a stake into the hearts of the idiots who said that vinyl was dying and are saying that compact discs are also soon a relic of the past.  Doomsayers, I say!  And idiots.

Monophonic.  I love it!

Get Thee to Stu Nunnery…..

stununneryI’m sorry.  It’s this sick sense of humor of mine.  See, way back in the Stone Age (1973, in fact), this guy named Stu Nunnery put together this album released on Evolution Records.  The importance of the label was that at the time I was already into a band which had recorded for Evolution (Game) and snatched  the Nunnery album up on that alone.  While it was a game I played often in my head (Cargoe and Big Star were purchased because they were on Ardent Records) and in  this case, a game worth playing.  I immediately found a favorite track (The Isle of Debris) and used that as incentive to find more.  Eventually, I found myself a dyed-in-the-wool Nunnery fan and awaited a second album.  Which never came.

Turns out that Stu fell upon hard times, health-wise, and had to exit the business, post-haste.  The story is a tragedy, of sorts, but the good news is that Stu is back and on track.  Thirty-plus years later.  He is trying to figure out exactly how he wants to go about it, but is getting back into music.  Well, not getting back into music, rather the music biz.  His first step is slowly posting samples from his 1973 album onto his Reverbnation page (click here).  Next, he hopes to have that album ready for re-release.  Then, new recordings.

You have to read hist story to appreciate the journey from there to here.  Let me say that it is gripping in its details and a fascinating saga (click here).

I will be following Stu as he gets back on the track, but you should too.  The man has talent and could have been a real success story but for…  Just sayin’.

A Classic Song To Beat All Classic Songs…..

There was a time I thought every band in the world should (and later, did) record Don Nix‘s Goin’ Down.  First time I heard it, Don Nix himself played it with The Alabama State Troupers on The Alabama State Troupers Road Show album but it wasn’t long before the song was everywhere.  It had originally been recorded by Memphis band Moloch, according to Nix’s Wiki page,  but a song this good spreads like a virus.  J.J. Cale recorded it on his Really album.  Pearl Jam  and The Who and even Led Zeppelin have covered it in live shows.  But the best damn version I’ve ever heard was by a largely ignored southern rock band known as Hydra.

Hydra70sFirst time I played Hydra, Glitter Queen rocked me back on my heels but it wasn’t until the fourth track on that side— you guessed it— Goin’ Down— that I heard what could be done with that stack o’ Marshalls.  I assume smoke was pouring out of the speakers during the session because the guitar sound was whelming (I would say overwhelming but the louder I turned it up, the louder I wanted it).  This, my friends, is what classic is all about!   (click here)  And turn it up!

Next week:  Michael Fennelly‘s new/old release.  Perhaps I can get him to elucidate on it.


Music Notes smallNotes…..   This just in via Chris Eckman (The Walkabouts, Dirtmusic), who speaks of the release of Dirtmusic‘s new album, Troubles:  “I guess I should be happy that someone cares, but a mere three days after the release of Dirtmusic‘s Troubles, a quick internet search reveals a few pages of free download links. I know many people that have fashioned rather byzantine defenses of this. I would love to hear one that I found convincing.”  Seriously, people?  Are we going to go through this again?  Rita Hosking experienced the same thing recently upon releasing her Little Boat album.  Who is doing this?  Why are they doing it?  These musicians work hard and spend a lot of money bringing us the music.  Are we going to have to go vigilante to stop this bullshit?  On the plus side, both Troubles and Little Boat are blowing me away— Dirtmusic with their African-rhythmed choogle and Hosking and her pop-flavored Americana.  Killer stuff*****  Wha-a-at?!!!  Dirtmusic has more music available?  No one told me!  As always, a day late and a dollar short.  Here is a video from 2010.  Dig this!

It seems like only yesterday that Kim Grant turned me onto a kid named Phoebe Bridgers.  Bridgers was one of those talented but raw singer phoebebridgerssongwriters you hear about or hear every once in awhile and while you hear potential, you wonder.  Well, I’m not wondering anymore.  She just posted a song which takes her from wannabe to for sure.  Click here to hear her latest, Radar.  If you like it, just continue listening.  You’ll be hearing a lot about her in a couple of years*****  No doubt that Devo was a music juggernaut and, of course, there has to be a documentary about them, but I wonder how over the top in terms of love this will be.  Are We Not Men?  The Devo Documentary‘s trailer (click here) is so loaded with sugar, I almost need an insulin shot.  I am hoping that the trailer soaked up most of the sweet.  I suggest that if you want to see this, you pick up on the Akron music documentary titled It’s Everything and Then It’s Gone, a rundown of the early Akron scene out of which Devo came.  It’s about an hour long but it is a fascinating hour.  Click here*****


Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

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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.: Tom Kell & The Skyboys, Michael Fennelly, Stu Nunnery, “Goin’ Down”, and Just Plain Nuts– erm– Notes…..”

  1. Robert Home Says:

    The Skyboys frequently performed at the Tides Tavern in Gig Harbor after Peter Stanly purchased the property from Three Fingered Jack in 1973. My wife and I moved to Gig Harbor in 1973 and became regulars at the Tides. I attended Clover Park High School with Tom Kell and Pat Bohley in the late 60’s so it was always fun to see the guys perform with the Skyboys at the Tides. Their bass player, Linda Waterfall, was and still is a PNW icon. We recently saw her on KCTS 9 cooking her favorite entry on KCTS Cooks.
    Of course nobody could flatpick like Dudley Hill (God rest his soul). His tenure with Pearl Django was short-lived.
    A friend of mine produced sound for another iconic local group TSCSEA who also frequently performed at the Tides. The lead guitar player for TACSEA was Jayce Baldwin and he formed the band largely as a project for his doctorate thesis in psychology. TACSEA was around for 2-3 years and their music was all original and absolutely amazing. Guitar player BIG RED was part of TACSEA. He went on to some notoriety in the Christian rock scene and still performs today. I have half a cassette tape of TACSEA and I am seeking more of their recordings. I think they recorded one LP but I can’t find it anywhere. I would appreciate any info on
    TACSEA recordings.
    My wife and I have become close friends with Jim Valley ( Viceroys & Paul Revere and the Raiders). We frequently enjoy jam sessions with Jim and friends from the 60’s & 70’s.
    Very fun!
    Rob Home
    Branch Manager
    Windermere Key Realty

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