Frank Gutch Jr: Michael Fennelly, Chet Flippo, Mark Lindsay, and Notes…..

FrankJr2I laughed out loud the other day when Michael Fennelly commented that his daughter used to claim that when he hit the high notes, even dogs couldn’t hear him.  I mean, kids can be your toughest critics but she may have been right because he has one of those voices that rides the jet stream at times— rock’s answer to bluegrass and country’s high lonesome, if you will.

Fennelly was not born to sing, at least not like the many who talk unceasingly about seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan and knowing from that point on that that was what they were meant to do.  According to the liner notes, written very ably by one Domenic Priore, cowboys were his world.  One can only imagine the paraphernalia he accumulated as a child— cap guns, chaps, vests, cowboy hats— only to be tossed aside when the cowboy lifestyle was replaced by music.  Yes, it happened.  At a certain point in his young life, Fennelly found American Bandstand more fascinating than Roy Rogers or Wild Bill Elliott and a star was born.  Actually, a musician hoping to be a star.  Or at least an aspiring musician hoping girls would notice (it was easier to catch girls with a guitar than a six-gun, I understand).  See how reality alters, uh, reality here?

He got a job at the local record store, formed a teen band and almost won a recording contract with Kama Sutra Records.  Almost.  The almost forced him out of his comfort zone and one day, he and the drummer headed out to Route 22, stuck their thumbs and out headed for California.  What transpired after that is a story worthy of a B-movie about rock ‘n’ roll— B only because there has never been an A-movie about rock that has been worth a shit.

The Cliff’s Notes version of the Cliff’s Notes version is that he lived the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle (the mid-sixties rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, that is— no swimming pool, no movie stars), lucked into a gig writing songs for Curt Boettcher and Keith Olsen, became the core (though he would argue about that) of a group known as The Millennium (whose album has gained status as a Pop Psych classic), formed Crabby Appleton (with whom he had a hit with Go Back) after which he went solo and put out two solo albums which were less than well received (let us just say that they were ignored, as so many other albums of that period were) before slipping under the radar with Big Shot (and more than likely other bands— Fennelly and I have agreed to follow up on that subject).

fennellydemosWhew!  That’s a lot of years for one paragraph, but it essentially is what happened.  Except that now, Fennelly decided to release an album’s worth of “demo tapes”.  Songs he had recorded in the past.  Songs which, to him, have deep meaning.  The album is titled Love Can Change Everything (Demos 1967-1972) and has been released by the sixties-crazed Sundazed Records label.  Why Sundazed?  Is there a more respected reissue label dealing in sixties music out there?  Not that I’ve found.

Still, setting anything up with any label can be troublesome, if only to a small degree.

“I did go back and forth with Sundazed over the content initially,” said Fennelly, “primarily because I have archived tapes spanning 20 years, but they were interested in my 1960s and early 1970s material (which is historically interesting to Millennium fans and Crabby Appleton fans, but not inclusive of what I consider all my best work). Had it been left up to me, I’d have chosen the 20 best songs/recordings I have that no one’s ever heard. But I do appreciate that Sundazed has a loyal customer base who are enamored with the era of sunshine and psychedelia, so I deferred to their judgment. My music grew progressively harder-edged, as time went by, so continuity was a concern, as well. I’m happy with the 24 songs that comprise this package, but look forward to an opportunity to issue the stuff I did in the 1980s, at some point.”

So what is included in the album?   Twenty-four tracks, in order of recording, each annotated by Fennelly in his liner notes.  Fennelly’s notes are crucial to understanding the journey, the hows and wherefores explaining the whys.  An example:

I’ve Been Found (December 2, 1967)

fennellyThe title is prophetic, as I had been found.  I wrote this song soon after being signed as a songwriter, hoping to have it submitted to The Byrds, with whom I was told Mee Moo (the publishing company) had some connections.  That explains the obvious attempt at copping some of The Byrds’ sound on this demo, recorded with members of The Millennium (before I joined the group) and produced by Curt and Keith.  I’m  playing acoustic guitar and singing all the vocal parts on the four songs from this session.  Doug Rhodes is on bass and organ.  Ron Edgar is on drums.  I think Lee Mallory is adding guitar.”

In this day and age of music, only the most simple-minded ignore such information.  Movies are being made— important movies that people who are not music freaks are enjoying— about The Wrecking Crew and The Funk Brothers and even Big Star and Devo— and are not liner notes a lesser form of the film/bio genre?  I dated a lady once who read liner notes with the same reverence as did I.  For that alone, I should have married her.  Fennelly goes the extra mile with these and it makes a tremendous difference.

The music?  Pop rock, of course, full of hooks and major chord changes and everything you might expect from, say, The Merry-Go-Round and/or Emitt Rhodes or The Left Banke.  Melodies and harmonies in abundance, the move from front (The Millennium) to back (Crabby Appleton) smooth and gradual as Fennelly begins defining himself and changing his style.  He admits to leaving the sweet and sugary behind a bit as he and the Crabbys began exploring and it is fun to hear and easy to understand.  High school history texts should be laid out as well.

Musically and historically, this is one of the better packages available when it comes to the the past.The bands are noteworthy, the “demos” are of exceptional quality (released in “monophonic”, as Fennelly so proudly points out) and the package very well done.

I will be writing more about Michael Fennelly in the near future.  I am curious regarding those tracks he mentions that he would like to release— those tracks no one has heard before.  I am curious about life in L.A. while sessions by The Millennium were taking place and I would love to hear more about Crabby Appleton and its various members.  And I want to know when and why he gave it all up, because he did, you know.  He hung up his guitar and maybe he still plays it but he’s not knee-deep in recording, is he?  As least as far as I can surmise.

What was life like back then?  Here is a taste…..

Chet Flippo knew…..

chetflippoChet Flippo knew more than we ever gave him credit for.  Maybe he never wanted for a job and saw door after door of opportunity open for him, but that’s because he knew and what he didn’t know he would know eventually.  The important things.  The relevant things.  Relevant to Flippo himself and ergo, according to ego, relevant to everyone else as far as he was concerned.

Chet Flippo died last week and while I am normally adverse to writing obituaries, which is what most articles after death usually are, here I make an exception.  You see, I have been wanting to write a huge article about Texas music.  I want to pick apart the Texas scene and try to cover all of the people and music most writers seem to miss or at the very least deem unimportant to the scene on the whole.  I picked up the bug when I wrote a piece about Fort Worth legends Space Opera.  In doing research for that band’s history, I found a State so packed with music and musicians that even the large size of said State could barely hold them.

Texas was where favorites The Five Americans came from, as far as I knew, and it would be decades after their hits that I would learn that they began life in Hugo, Oklahoma.  Flippo knew that.  The Sir Douglas Quintet was from Texas, though Doug Sahm gave up that State for California, or so I thought.  In fact, he never really left Texas.  Not for any lengthy period of time.  Flippo knew that.  He knew the importance of the old Willie and the future Willie (Nelson, of course) and foretold a country scene in his home State which developed right before his eyes.  Maybe Outlaw Country did not develop completely in a Texas vacuum, but outlaws ended up there.  Because that State adopted the musicians and the genre as their own.

yourcheatinheartYep, Chet Flippo knew more than most, which is why he worked his way to the top of every organization he ever worked for.  Whenever I saw his name on an article or review or a book (he wrote Your Cheatin’ Heart: A Biography of Hank Williams), I read it.  Flippo, more than Lester Bangs or Ed Ward or Ben Fong-Torres gave me musical direction.  He showed me the importance of what they today call “deep cuts” and little known artists and while I had been moving in that direction all along, he gave me the words to explain.

So just last week, a few days before news of Flippo’s death hit the social networks, I was rummaging through my boxes of music memorabilia and had pulled out an article written by Flippo for Phonograph Record Magazine in 1974.  Titled “Texas Rock & Roll Spectacular”, it ran down a Texas that only a few outside of the music community knew.  With an “Historical Supplement by Greg Shaw” and and a Texas music family tree laid out by Peter Green and worthy of the old Zig Zag Magazine trees (at least in terms of who came from where), it did right by Texas and, more importantly, the musicians.

Flippo has been known for his expertise on country music, but he was not whole-hog country at the time of this article.  In fact, his view of psychedelic Texas is a downright pleasure to read, in retrospect.  At a time which found The 13th Floor Elevators, The Moving Sidewalks and Bubble Puppy as barely footnotes on Texas’s or any other music scene, he saw their value.

“Owing to the peculiarities of the Texas character,” he wrote, “the psychedelic era in the Lone Star State was as bizarre as possible.  Texas hippies worked hard to be what was expected of them.  Long hair and peyote and marijuana had been common with the folkies since 1960 and these folkies became hippies without realizing it.  As a result, the psychie era actually started about two or five years before it really did.  And it continues to this day.  The most, ah, interesting musician in Texas today is a short one-eyed Mexican named Esteban “Steve” Jordan, who plays— get this— psychedelic accordion.  Inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Jordan records for an outfit named Falcon and was discovered by— who else— Doug Sahm, who has an uncanny talent for disappearing into San Antonio’s Mexican barrios or the wilds of the Rio Grande Valley and reappearing with a Rocky Morales, Flaco Jiminez, or Freddy Fender.  ‘Jordan,’ says Sahm, ‘is really far out.  Freddy, now— Freddy’s done time in Angola and he’s a far-out cat but Steve is the only Mexican cat who’s dine like 600 ac id trips.  Those old-time Mexican conjunto cats in the Valley, man, they can’t figure him out.  Steve could be the next Johnny Winter.  Dig it.’”

texasr&rspectacular 001

He wasn’t, but he could have been, and reading this makes me want to find out what exactly happened to him.  That’s what Flippo always did for me.  He pointed not to the stars as much to the scene which made them stars.  Like I always say, nothing happens in a vacuum.

About The Elevators and International Artists Records:  “The Elevators and their record company are one of the strangest couples in music history.  International Artist was a strange, faceless Houston company that, quite obviously, didn’t know the first thing about music and, consequently, would sign anybody.  The Elevators, as IA’s first act, were a virtual baptism of fire for the company.  Neither the band nor the record company had any idea what the other was up to, but both were sure that they were onto a good thing.  That first album (The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators— IA LP no. 1)–  was a good indication of what was to come:   God’s Eye peering out at you, blotchy psychie cover and cosmic liner notes advising you that ‘Recently, it has become possible for man to chemically alter his thinking and change his language so that his thoughts bear more relation to his life and his problems, therefore approaching them more sanely.  It is this quest for pure sanity that forms the basis of the songs on this album.’”

The quote in the preceding paragraph, if you know anything about The Elevators’ Roky Erickson, was almost prophetic in its statement.  Sadly, Erickson’s quest for sanity hit many potholes on the long road ahead.

Texas Rock & Roll Spectacular” until this past week had been folded neatly and protected by a wooden box of treasures I knew were treasures.  Beneath a couple of pages cut out of an old New York Rocker in which Alan Betrock raled against what he called “Promola”, the music industry’s twist on Payola, the cash-for-play replaced with parties and trips to The Bahamas and drugs and whatever else major labels could use to get the attention of every radio station major market music or program director.  Beneath my only three remaining copies of Bomp Magazine (the Standells/Seeds/Leaves issue; the California Surf Roots issue; and the Gala Girl issue).  Beneath my two copies of Kicks Magazine, one of which has a piece I wrote about Pac NW rock.  Beneath my copies of Zig Zag Magazine and Crawdaddy and Fusion, one of which has my favorite article about Big Star, written by Jon Tiven.

I’m really not sure about that article I was hoping to write about Texas music now.  Chet Flippo wrote more in the few pages of “Texas Rock & Roll Spectacular” than I could in a hundred.  He was a Fort Worth boy, you know.  He knew Texas.  He knew music.  Man, he just plain knew.

Mark Lindsay:  Here He Comes…..  Again!

Mark Lindsay concertWhen people began talking up Mark Lindsay the past few weeks, I admit to a fit of apprehension.  I mean, Lindsay was not only one of the Pac Northwest’s biggest musical exports, he was the biggest.  When it came to rock ‘n’ roll, Lindsay was a monster here in Oregon and in fact all over the Pac Northwest.  Well, Paul Revere and The Raiders were and, of course, Lindsay was the Raider of choice for most of us.  At least by the time Dick Clark dragged them down  south to bolster Where The Action Is (more than one of us felt betrayed that they went, even if it was their big chance).  Pre-Action?  Maybe not.  It took Lindsay a bit of time to make his mark and when you’re playing the D Street Corral and county fairs, it ain’t easy.

Lindsay did it, though.  He was a wild man.  Crazy as a loon.  A friend of mine told me a story about him, about how he disappeared one night when the Raiders were playing this club outside of Springfield— The Cascade Club.  The band could hear his voice— he was still singing— but they couldn’t tell where he was, exactly.  Finally, they looked up and there he was, hanging from the rafters with one arm, holding the microphone with the other, singing his ass off.

Was it true?  Hell if I know.  Rumors like that spread like wildfire when the press started picking up on the band and Lindsay was the brunt of most, so who knows?  Do I believe it?  Why not?  Like I said, the guy was a wild man.  And when he played, he played like a wild man.  The whole band was wild, for Chrissake!  That version you saw on the TV screen?  That was the G-rated version.  From what everyone tells me, depending upon the night, the band could crank it up to XXX.

raidersheretheycomeSo was I nervous about Lindsay doing a new album?  Absolutely.  Paul Revere & The Raiders’ Here They Come is a favorite today, but when I was a senior in high school, I played it a minimum of once a day for months.  I loved those guys!  Do I ever want to see Lindsay fall on his face?  Hell, no.  I may have stopped loving the band, especially after personnel changes, but the band who played on that album were gods to me.  I was heartbroken when Doc Holliday left the band.  I accepted Phil Volk, but Doc was my man, you know?

Well, there was no Doc on the new album, Life Out Loud.  I know.  I checked.  No Raiders at all, in fact.  There was a Grip Weed, though.  The Grip WeedsKurt Reil played drums on about half the tracks and supplied some backing vocals.  Little Steven sang backup on a track.  East Coast legend Gar Francis added guitar, keyboards and vocals.  Mike Caruso on bass, ladies and gentlemen, and Richard X. Heyman on drums when Reil is missing.  Myke Scavone on harmonica and Mike McGinnis on sax (along with Lindsay— he was a sax man back in the day, don’t you know).  Do I recognize any of them?  I do now.

Truth is, the album grew on me and it didn’t take long.  By the end, first time through, I was a happy man.  Not only was the album not an embarrassment, it was good!  In fact, it was damn good!  Successive hearings have had me bopping my head and smiling like a demon because while this is not the Mark Lindsay who fronted the Raiders, this is an alter ego who approaches and on occasion equals him.

lindsaylifeoutloudThe band?  Solid.  On certain tracks, freaking outstanding!  Special notice has to go to Gar Francis who completely blows the amp apart on a couple of tracks and whose musical legerdemain surpasses even what he did on his own project (read my review of Francis’s Shine On EP here).

Surprises on the album are Rush On You, written by Francis and sounding like a followup to The Sonics You Got Your Head On Backwards with touches of the Raiders’ hit Steppin’  Out, complete with Yardbirds freakout;  I Can’t Slow Down, immersed in the late fifties and early sixties with question and answer sax and guitar; the completely smokin’ Easy Street; and the very Raiders-like New Thing.

Ah, hell.  Truth is, they’re all surprising.  Lindsay and Francis put together a string of impressive songs, hence an impressive album.  Of course, songs without attitude mean nothing.  They have that too.

When you buy this, play it LOUD!!!!!

Music Notes smallNotes…..   This is how much or little of an impact you can have:  Bobby Gottesman, wanting me to listen to everything he found and liked, music-wise, bugged me and bugged me until I finally just said, “Damn it, Bobby, do it yourself!”  And he did.  He’s been writing reviews ever since and getting better at writing every day.  The really cool thing is that he’s finding a lot of little known artists and helping spread the word.  He believes, as do I and Bob Segarini and a whole host of writers here at DBAWIS, that it’s about the music!  You can read Bobby’s reviews (and odd articles and hopefully in the near future, interviews) by clicking here.  If you like what you read (and hopefully, then hear), let him know.*****  Again, this “covers” craze is out of hand.  I see that Wilco is going to emphasize covers for their impending “all request” sets.  If I want to hear Wilco play covers, I will head down to the nearest tavern that has a Wilco tribute band.  Or will they be the only bands playing Wilco originals?  To see bands following trends is, to me, disturbing.  It’s a FAD, people!  Let’s hear some ORIGINAL music!*****  You probably don’t think of Jim Terr when it comes to songwriting, but after hearing this interview conducted by Diego Mulligan a short time ago, I’m thinking that way.  Jim may not have the best voice (though it fits well on his more humorous tunes), but he is one hell of a tunesmith.  He leans toward Country— that born between Country & Western and Modern Country— and puts together songs in the manner of, say, Tom T. Hall and Bob McDill— those of a storytelling variety.  Terr, for those who don’t know, steveyoungsevenbridgesowns  Blue Canyon Productions and has worked with Junior Brown, Steve Young and Slim Pickens (bet you didn’t know ol’ Slim recorded, did you?).  Terr played a special part in the life of Steve Young, having re-released Young’s Seven Bridges Road album, originally released on Reprise Records (to read a Cliff’s Notes version of that involvement, click here).  To fill you in a bit on Terr’s songwriting skills and as a tribute to Diego Mulligan, who evidently passed away just shortly after this interview happened, Terr has made an mp3 of the interview available online.  Songwriters, you might want to listen to this.  Click here.*****  Hadn’t heard of River Whyless until Shanti & Buck Curran (Arborea) re-posted this video (click here) of a song off of A Stone, A leaf, An Unfound Door released in January of 2012.  They released the  video this month in preparation for a tour which starts in, I believe, July.  You can stream the album (the track on the video is outstanding) on their Bandcamp page (click here).  Consider this a recommendation and a half.*****

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

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.”

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