Frank Gutch Jr: Notes From the Underground— What You Missed While You Were Focusing On the Stars…..

FrankJr2But before we go there, I got quite the little wake-me-up this morning.  Just when I thought no one was paying attention, the Facebook page for the Big Star documentary (Big Star:  Nothing Can Hurt Me)  found and posted a column I had written (or reworked for DBAWIS, anyway) last year (click here).  It was basically a rundown of the Ardent Records story as told in an interview I conducted with Ardent head at-the-time John Fry and gives the background info you should have before viewing said documentary.  The best part of the interview was that it was conducted in 1975, not long after the label was gutted by the forced bankruptcy of its distributor, Stax Records.

Fry had sold the studio, had bought it back and was moving forward, but the raw emotions bled through.  The failure of the label and, yes, Big Star and labelmates Cargoe was still fresh.  Amazingly, back then, no one seemed to care except for a handful of writers (Jon Tiven, Alan Betrock, Ken Barnes and Greg Shaw come to mind) and true fans were few and far between.  Forty years later, both bands (and the label) have gained a strong foothold in music history.  If you know Big Star (and even if you don’t), I recommend Big Star:  Nothing Can Hurt Me very highly.  If you know Cargoe (and even if you don’t), you can catch up with many of the minor details in The Story of Cargoe, a piece I wrote a handful of years ago about the trials and travails of said band (click here).

While you’re thinking that over, the rules for this column are as follows:  It’s my column and I’ll write what I want to (Special thanks to Lesley Gore and the songs writers, John Gluck, Wally Gold, and Herb Weiner).  The only theme here, sports fans, is what I want it to be (and I’m not altogether clear what that is).  Let us begin.

Terry Knight— What an Ego, and How ‘Bout Them Bands?????

terryknightI am old enough to remember Terry Knight when he was with The Pack and strafing AM radio with the classic and, in those days, ever present I (Who Have Nothing), a remake of the 1963 Ben E. King hit.  As I remember it, in 1963, rock ‘n’ roll radio where I grew up (The Willamette Valley of Oregon) was still in its infancy when King hit the charts, but by 1966, rock ‘n’ roll radio was going berserk.  Stations in the smaller markets like Corvallis, Lebanon and Albany were doing toe-to-toe battle with the bigger markets (Eugene and Portland) and used looser playlists to make an impact.  Terry Knight & The Pack was made to order for those stations.

Knight had had hits in Detroit (my buddy Mike Marino says I have to call it Deee-troit, for some ungodly reason, and place multiple exclamation points behind the town name) and a few other larger cities, but could not seem to break through on a nationwide scale (though I (Who Have Nothing) did chart on Billboard, making its way to #46).  Besides the success of that single, Knight would be known mainly through his connection with Bloodrock and Grand Funk Railroad (Mel Schacher would join former Pack members Don Brewer and Mark Farner to form GFR with Knight managing the band).  Not far into GFR‘s train ride, Knight and the RR would have a falling out and Knight would show his true colors.  Basically, and this is paraphrasing, he said that without him, GFR would be nothing, and he set out to prove it.

Following his mantra (as related by Roger Force of band Mom’s Apple Pie), “I can take a piece of shit and turn it into gold,” Knight set about doing just that, though the bands he chose were hardly the shit he mouthed.  Maybe Faith and Mom’s Apple Pie were not destined to set the world on fire, but they were not amateurs, either.

faith 001Faith, in fact, was known as Limousine (and before that, The Chosen Few) before Knight got his claws into them, and later became the Faith Band.  In fact, the album Knight released on his then brand new Brown Bag Records label in 1973 had already been released on another label in 1972— GSF Records, out of New York.  Knight bought the record, remixed it and changed the titles on all but one song.  For some odd reason, Such a Lady, Such a Lover was listed as the same on both the Limousine and Faith albums, leading some to believe that it was a way of redistributing royalties, as the songs, published by Erstwhile Music Corp/Limousine Music on the first album with individual composers listed, showed up as published by Brown Bag Music on the latter, songwriting credits given to the entire band.  Not only that, the producer was changed from Adrian Millar to Good Knight Productions (or so it says on the 45 I have— I lost my album years ago).

After the initial album, the band changed its name to Faith Band and signed to Midwest label Village Records  for which they recorded four more albums, having a regional hit with Dancin’ Shoes.  From what I understand, they still play on occasion.  You can read their story here.

Get the picture?  Knight was a manipulator.  The album jacket was a picture of the band posing, backs to the camera, and there was talk of them being another Masked Marauders… superstars playing incognito.  Those rumors, it was rumored, came mainly via Knight, himself.  It became a case of Dr. Knight and Mr. Hype.

The more well-known Knight trick applied to Mom’s Apple Pie, who Knight found through his wife, Pia.  She had heard a tape being played in a studio in the same building as Knight was working at and raved about the music.  Knight headed down the hall, checked out what was being recorded as a demo tape and signed them on the spot.

moms_apple_pie_genitali

Love it or hate it, it was the album jacket rather than the music which gained the band attention.  Knight, utilizing his penchant for hype, saw a chance to make headlines— in the trades, if nowhere else.

“That album cover!” Mom’s Apple Pie saxophonist Roger Force told Barry Stoller for his biography of Knight, I (Who Have Nothing).  “I remember thinking, ‘what the heck did I get myself into?’  I remember Knight at one of our recording sessions, showing us the cover. He said it was one of his publicity stunts, like the billboard for Grand Funk in Times Square. He had it all planned.  The record would get recalled and it would be a big deal. It was 30,000 albums covers that were recalled!  I was 19 at the time. My older brother was a two-term Vietnam veteran and I was the one with the long hair. I took that album home to show my parents and – I’m embarrassed. My father looks at it and he says, ‘well – it’s not that bad.’  It was ridiculous!  I remember Saturday Night Live and the host was Geraldo Rivera – and he flashes the album cover over the air, live!”

Indeed, it did make an impression, especially with the John Lennon/Yoko Ono Two Virgins controversy.  That album, featuring a picture of John and Yoko on the cover, naked, had conservatives screaming for their heads.  The compromise was to market the album with a cover showing just their faces.

Stoller wrote in his book, “Mom’s Apple Pie was Brown Bag Records’ debut. Released the same month as GFR’s first post-Knight album, the cover of Mom’s Apple Pie moms-apple-pie-censoredfeatured a parody of all-American family values. A young mom standing proudly in her colonial kitchen offers up a freshly-baked apple pie, one piece already removed. In the slice’s space – a dripping vagina.” (To read excerpts from Stoller’s book, click here)

So Brown Bag delivered the Mom’s Apple Pie album in, what else?  A brown paper bag!  (To be fair, they were to deliver all of their releases in a trademark brown paper bag)  It was almost as if Knight knew that not showing the cover was as important as showing it.  Sometimes it is what you can’t see.  Even that did not stop the controversy, though, and Knight opted to have the cover redone with a WWI-style bunker in the place of the obvious image of the vagina on the original.

The hype itself was enough for one Rolling Stone reviewer to write this:  “This is Terry Knight’s new group, and it’s another grand flunk… A discerning glance [of the cover] reveals that inside the pie is a distended vagina. Now you gotta admit that Knight’s got balls – on a grossosity scale of one to ten this one rates an 11. But like a gopher in a snake pit, Knight picked the wrong hole. The flip side would have been more appropriate, seeing how everything on this album has a definite anal smell about it. Terry’s normally pretty sharp; why didn’t he see this? It couldn’t have because he was afraid of looking like he was telling the record-buying public to eat shit – didn’t he do it before with three lads from Flint?”

I had become accustomed to reading reviews like this in Rolling Stone.  Many of the reviewers spent more time writing about everything but the music, and this reviewer obviously knew of Knight’s reputation.  Which one was it who wrote a supposed review of a Runaways album which consisted of nothing but praise for Cherie Currie‘s tits?  Or were they Lita Ford‘s?

The Amazing Story of the Louisville Orchestra…..

louisvilleorchestraSorry about the timing.  I see that this video telling the incredible story of one of the United States’ most amazing orchestras is set to expire in five days, which means that if you want to see it in its entirety (without purchasing a DVD from PBS, I assume), you have to do it by the 22nd.  I happened upon the program a few weeks ago whilst flicking channels and was glued to the screen (and the speakers) until it had run its course.  Who would have thought that Louisville would have been the center of the arts movement for even a short time, but it was.  Way back before most of us were born.  Way back before commercial television, too.  The Dark Ages.

Seems that the city, through a set of circumstances put into place by certain people, created a music scene as viable as any which has existed in the rock world.  An orchestra was formed and concerts were given, but it goes way beyond that.  That orchestra, it seems, became a center for modern classical composers to shop their compositions.

If you thought it was hard to get radio airplay, even at the height of rock radio, imagine how hard it must have been to get an orchestra to perform your written work.  For one thing, there were only a handful of orchestras throughout the United States which would even consider performing any work from an unproven composer and you can imagine how overwhelmed they must have been when their “season” rolled around.  Hundreds of composers trying to get a foot in the door, to get someone to listen.  The probabilities had to have been incredibly small.  And then The Louisville Orchestra came along.  All of a sudden, there was an orchestra which would not only perform certain works (chosen by the conductor and a small body of musical personages), but ended up commissioning works from certain composers considered worthy.  That would be comparable to a major label paying you to write and record an album in today’s world.  Interesting concept, nes paux?

MusicMakesCity2The story behind the orchestra is captured in a film titled Music Makes a City, an excellent look behind the strange set of circumstances which made The Louisville Orchestra an historic anomaly in the world of classical music.  Like I said, it will only be available for viewing in its entirety for five more days (and I apologize for not writing about this earlier), so I suggest that if you have any feeling for the world of classical music at all, click on this link and be prepared to be entertained.  The film rivals any of the rock documentaries which seem to be all the rage these days.

This should give you an idea of what you will see and hear, taken from the PBS page:

“This documentary reveals the inspiring, nearly unbelievable story of an American city and its orchestra. In the late 1940s, community leaders of Louisville, Kentucky, embarked on an unusual scheme to save their struggling civic orchestra. The ambitious plan propelled the Louisville Orchestra to Carnegie Hall and international acclaim, and made a lasting contribution to musical history. The film features interviews with composers Lukas Foss, Gunther Schuller, Elliott Carter, Chou Wen-chung and William Schuman, and an evocative soundtrack of selected commissions recorded by the Louisville Orchestra. Will Oldham (Bonny Prince Billy) narrates.”

The World Had Yogi Yorgesson, But Seattle Had Stan Boreson…..

StanBoresonWhen I was a kid, many of the Christmas music you take for granted these days were being implanted in our brains.  Bing Crosby had an inroad thanks to his movies, but many of the others had yet to earn the fame their versions would accrue each year.  In fact, Christmas became such a big thing that record labels had many of their artists recording Christmas albums during the summer months so they could have the albums ready to ship by Thanksgiving.

All in our family had their favorites.  My sister was enamored by the songs of Leroy Anderson, so Sleigh Ride saw plenty of airplay on the old console, along with Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops‘ outstanding recording of an Anderson work titled A Christmas Festival.  Dad reveled in the old country standards, especially the seasonal songs of Gene Autry and Sons of the Pioneers, as well as the gospel and choir versions of holiday songs.  Momma stayed with the tried and true— Bing Crosby, Doris Day and the like.

The one song we all agreed upon, though, was Yogi Yorgesson’s I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas.  Us kids would sit in front of the console and laugh and laugh and beg to hear it again.  And sometimes, when Dad was drinking, he would turn it over so we could hear Yingle Bells.  The accent is what got us, and the absurdity we would later recognize as parody.

Imagine how astonished I was when I moved to Seattle in 1978 and began hearing another version of the song.  I mean, it sounded like Yorgesson, but it wasn’t.  It turned out to be a guy named Stan Boreson, who had quite the run in the Pac Northwest as an accordionist and childrens TV show host.  Odd, too, that they were both Pac Northwesterners until you factor in the large number of fishermen and loggers from Scandinavia and thereabouts who inhabited that area.

Boreson, I found out, had a series of albums he had recorded for Golden Crest Records, the same label The Fabulous Wailers recorded for in the very early days.  He was well known as an accordion player (catch this little guest spot on The Lawrence Welk Show)…. Man, that is accordion power!

Among the youth, Boreson was most known for his TV show Kings Clubhouse as well as other shows he hosted over an 18-year run.  When you watch the following clip, keep in mind that things weren’t as complicated as they later became, especially for kids.  A dog and  what looks like a cockatoo went a long ways among human beings who spent a large part of their existence hitting rocks and making mud pies.

I didn’t really get a chance to see what he had done over the years, but I did meet him once and found him to be a very gracious man with a humility as big as the State of Washington.  We talked for quite awhile at Standard Records in Seattle (I just happened to bump into him while delivering a record to, I believe, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, for a customer).  They, in fact, introduced me to Boreson because Our store (Peaches) referred people who wanted the albums to Standard Records, giving them quite a bit of business.  Standard was the only store in Seattle, to my knowledge, which carried the entire Boreson catalog.

Boreson talked a little about Yorgesson while we talked.  He had known him fairly well and had a lot of respect for him.  Here Boreson is doing his own version of the Yorgesson Christmas classic.

Coming soon…..

An abbreviated rundown of Fort Worth’s Jim Colegrove, the early years.  Jim graciously sent me his self-penned biography awhile ago and I am picking out the good notarysojacliveparts (only a few are dirty).

A look at Portland’s Sand, a band which teetered on the precipice of real fame only to have the rug pulled out from under them.  It’s a great story with references you will appreciate.

Bits and pieces regarding Portland’s Notary Sojac, a band of real legend.

And that’s just the tip of this year’s iceberg.

Music Notes smallNotes…..  True, Valentine’s Day was last week and The Minnows posted this video as an homage to the holiday, but more important is the fact that lead Minnow Michael Rafferty held this face for the entire length of the song.  I just wonder how many takes it took.  The Minnows, by the way, are threatening us with another album of musical profundities.  I suggest you keep your eyes open.  And ears.

My sources are letting me down.  This is all I have from this past week.  I shall have to start hammering people for more info about videos and bands, I guess.  Until then, though, it’s time for a nap.

=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.” 

One Response to “Frank Gutch Jr: Notes From the Underground— What You Missed While You Were Focusing On the Stars…..”

  1. Loved the “Mom’s Apple Pie” cover

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