Frank Gutch Jr: The Millennial Kickstart!!!, Life In Proctorville— We The People’s Wayne Proctor Talks Sixties Music Scene in Florida, Plus Notes and Vids!!!!!
Welcome to the new Millennium, ladies and gentlemen, and in this case, the new Music Millennium. I don’t have to go into details to explain the situation with record stores these days (okay— “music” stores, but they will always remain record stores to me). They are struggling, even the biggest of them. Even the best of them. Even Portland, Oregon’s legendary Music Millennium. Sure, they’re hanging on and doing better since the recent vinyl revival, but hanging on is not what owner Terry Currier wants. Hanging on is the least that he wants. And he has never been one to pocket money, either. Most of what Terry has made over the past 45 years he has put either back into his store or used toward something to strengthen the music community. And not just that of Portland. He has stepped beyond that city more than once, mainly in a capacity to organize indie record stores.
See, with Terry, music has always been king. He has helped and supported not only indie musicians (and major label artists as well) but stores outside his purview. He has talked with small store owners, helping them get organized on a store level, giving them names of people to talk with, walking them through various steps. He, in fact, has always been ready to share the knowledge he accumulated over the years. It is about the music, or haven’t I mentioned that.
Terry was the main man behind the annual Christmas party the Pac NW record stores threw each year. I don’t know if he started it, but he kept it going. It was a place to gather, to share information, to meet the people who worked at and owned other stores. It was a time to make connections. It was also a time to party with like-minded individuals— strangers, mostly, but strangers with names you already knew. Names attached to this small store or that big one. Names to which one could finally put faces.
Terry organized the great Garth Brooks boycott in the form of a barbeque. If you remember Brooks’ brain fart in which he chastised record stores for selling used product, Terry was the guy who organized a run down the coast, hosting Garth Brooks barbeques at retail record outlets. What did they barbeque, you ask? Mostly Garth Brooks CDs. I supported it. At the time, in spite of the good that Brooks may or may not have done, I thought his ego was as big as the great outdoors. The man was an embarrassment to the human race. I still feel that way. Garth is one of the handful who have chosen to align themselves with Wal-Mart. Need I say more? (To read more about the Garth Brooks debacle and Terry Currier and Music Millennium’s involvement, click here— titled Break Out the Briquets, Boys… Let’s Barbeque the Bastard!!!, it’s a fun read, unless you happen to think Brooks is worth listening to or has something to say besides me, me, me)
That’s hardly all Terry & The Millennium have done. They fought hard against price hikes in both physical product and ticket prices for concerts. They have allowed their store stage to be used for various causes over the years (yes, the store does have a stage and uses it regularly— the latest having used it being, to my knowledge, The Polyphonic Spree). The store is a focal point in the battle against major labels and their domination of recorded music at the expense of the artists and songwriters. Music Millennium is no ordinary store.
That is why I write this. That is why I ask you to check out their kickstarter campaign, to listen to Terry in the video, and to “donate” (I place parentheses around the word because you get some pretty unique and cool swag for the donations— but you have to visit the page to find out what they are… heh, heh). I hope this link will get you there.
I would like to ask you this. Be you from Portland or Toronto or any other place, donate for the right reason— to keep the music alive and in its proper setting. Then, when you pass through Portland in the future, stop by and tell Terry you helped out. You will undoubtedly be given a righteous handshake from a righteous dude. Truth be told, I don’t consider Terry a store owner. I consider him a curator. And a role model.
The Central Florida Bop— Wayne Proctor Talks Sixties… Early Sixties…..
What is it about teenagers that makes them think they are the center of the universe? Unlike many of us dinosaurs, I remember my teen years mostly as a study in narcissism, though not in the clinical sense. The world was just opening up around me and it was all I could do to absorb what was there. The result was a blinders-on vision of the world, and that included the world of music.
I was convinced that we in the Pac Northwest had the best of everything— food (Blue Bell potato chips kicked ass on Lay’s), sports (we only found out that the Portland Beavers were minor league after Sudden Sam McDowell and Luis Tiant were traded to the Cleveland Indians in successive years, and everyone knew that the Buckaroos were the best hockey had to offer, stateside at least), and even politics (Oregon’s Republicans were as liberal as the Democrats back then). Musically? We had The Wailers, The Sonics, Paul Revere & The Raiders and a whole slew of lesser bands who were not really lesser at all. We were the center of the Universe, man!
It would take me a decade to realize that we weren’t the center of any universe but just another region with its own musical DNA. We had hints. The early San Francisco sounds with bands like The Beau Brummels, The Mojo Men and The Vejtables, precursors to bands which would write SF music history (Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Blue Cheer, etc.). Chicago giving us not only major bands such as The Buckinghams, Cryan’ Shames as well as regional floaters (Shadows of Knight, The Mauds, and The American Breed, to name only a few). How can those of us who lived in those days forget Boston and “The Bosstown Sound” promotions plugging Beacon Street Union, Orpheus and others while The Standells, The Barbarians, and The Remains rocked radio silly. Fort Worth Texas had a scene to blow larger cities away, The Elite and The Mods and what seems like a hundred other bands playing music to hundreds and hundreds of young Texans every weekend.
Florida was no different. There were pocket scenes in the various areas of the State. Wayne Proctor knows. He was there with a string of bands. In Orlando, that is.
My first band was The Vibrations, Wayne told me in our first interview. Ron Skinner, before he had The Nation Rocking Shadows, was in it. The Rocking Shadows was a big band in the Leesburg area….. Skinner started out on the drums and his father had gone out and bought him a whole bunch of Fender equipment. He had this beautiful new Fender Stratocaster and a couple of Showman amps and Fender reverbs and echo chambers. He had started out playing drums in the high school band and was just incredible, but one day he decided he wanted to play guitar and he picked it right up.
He asked me to join him, so I did along with another guy named Frank Golden. Our first and only gig was a homecoming dance after a football game in Leesburg. It was in a community building and they had a piano there and Skinner had his Fender equipment and I played a Gibson Melody Maker guitar and that was it. That was the band. No drummer, no bass. We got up there and rocked it with what we had. It went well. It got me inspired.
Later, I happened to be at a dance in a neighboring town, Eustis, where this little band was rocking the joint. Fred Soop, Mike Newman, Terry Abel and a singer named Bill Eichelberger were playing and one of my buddies asked them if I could sit in. They said yeah and I played with them the rest of the night. After the gig, they wanted to know who I was so I gave them my phone number and about a week later, they invited me to a practice. We were called The Coachmen.
You see, there weren’t many guitar players around back then, and my style was a bit unique. I call myself a percussion guitar player, meaning I just beat on the strings and whatever comes out. Skinner, when I played with him, was very precise. Every note had to be exactly like The Ventures. Certain people compared my style to that of Steve Cropper, though Cropper was good. I was just trying to play and never really knew what to play next, although I usually knew the key. I was fortunate in that it came to me naturally. I began with my mom and uncle, Wilbert Harbison, teaching me a few chords and it went from there… basic progressions and then some minor chords.
My first guitar was a Silvertone. It was an acoustic with one hole. I can’t remember what they called it, but it was shaped like a Martin. We went to Sears to buy it. It cost twelve dollars or something like that. I played that for awhile until I was thirteen or fourteen when my dad took me back to Sears and bought me a Silvertone with two f-holes. Which I still have.
I have some pictures somewhere of me sitting on a piano stool playing that thing. It was pretty cool. When I was fifteen or so, I bought a gut-stringed classical guitar from my friend Mike Bray— the strings were nylon but we called them gut strings. I still have that one, too.
Anyway, about The Coachmen. The band consisted of Fred Soop (bass guitar), Wayne Proctor (lead guitar), Mike Newman (rhythm guitar), and Terry Abel (drums) and were short-lived— maybe about six months to a year. While they were making ends meet playing teen dances, The Nation Rocking Shadows, a band put together by Skinner after The Vibrations, garnered airplay from a 45 they had cut. During that period, they were gods, but The Coachmen made an impact.
We played youth centers and the occasional Friday Night dances after football games. There were also dances at the Elks Club, which was a big, big dance for the kids at the time. In Orlando, there was a really cool place called The Orlando Youth Center. Just outside of Orlando, in Winter Park, there was another. We would play those places and would even play as far away as Satellite Beach, south of Daytona. We got gigs at hotels in Daytona. They would give us a room, but it was more like a maintenance room. We slept on the floor and partied all day and all night. That’s when I came of age. When I found out what life was really all about. Sometimes we would stay at a hotel for a week or two weeks at a time. Mike Newman was doing the booking at the time. He was a couple years older than me. I was the young kid in the group.
We got this one gig which I remember well in Satellite Beach at the Officer’s Club. They offered us fifty bucks! We had to drive two vehicles two hours to get there. Terry Abel carried all of his drums in the back of what I think was a ’57 or ’58 Plymouth station wagon. He got caught for speeding in some little town and they hauled him in. They were going to put him in jail unless he came up with bail, which was fifty dollars. So there went our profit. (laughs) Luckily, it was on the way home, so we had the cash.
I seldom got the chance go to a football game. We played every weekend for six months. Or maybe every other weekend. It was a good time and we learned a lot. I dropped my guitar at one gig, my Gibson Melody Maker— and the neck broke. Cracked right in half. Someone in the audience said, hey, I got a guitar and he went home and got it. I finished playing the gig with a Gibson SG. A white Gibson SG. It was right after that that I bought my Gretsch Country Gentleman.
The Nation Rocking Shadows were really good! They had the best equipment and sound— you name it. They released a 45— Anesthesia on one side and Going Down on the other, both instrumentals. They were happening, but the band members became disgruntled with Skinner. They decided they didn’t really like his style and wanted to get a little more Beatle-esque, if you will. They had heard about me and had heard about my friend Randy Boyte, who was a great piano player. So they came to me and Randy and asked us if we wanted to form a band. They were ready to break away from The Nation Rocking Shadows and, with us, formed The Trademarks. We had a manager at the time, an older guy named Elmer Watson, who started doing some advertising for us and handling booking and financial matters. We started playing a lot of frat parties in Gainesville at the University of Florida and in Tallahassee at Florida State and Lord knows where else.
Elmer had connections with some folks in Jacksonville. I remember a guy named Jim Atkins, I think it was. He was a big wheel in entertainment in Jacksonville. He had a little recording studio and we recorded there. It was just a little room, maybe 12′ X 12′ or something like that, and there were egg cartons on all the walls. That’s what they used for acoustics back then. They had them all over the ceiling and the walls to deaden the sound.
We recorded a couple of songs there. I had heard this song with a certain chord progression and decided I was going to take that same progression and put words to it. I changed the progression a bit and wrote lyrics. I titled it Don’t Say You Love Me Too. When I played it for the guys, they said okay, let’s do it. For the flip, we just recorded an instrumental, a jam session thing we ended up calling Here Comes Elmer’s Boys, Elmer being our manager and all.
We released that on Arlington Records. That was the name of the recording studio and it was in an area of Jacksonville called Arlington. The studio was run by a dude name Jim Phillips.
During this time, I realized that music was a revelation to me. I had finally found my niche in life. When you become a teenager, you really don’t know who you are. I had no idea who I was or what I was going to be good at. I tried playing football, but I was a pretty skinny dude. I did okay for a little guy, I guess. I was out there trying to find women through football, I think. We scrimmaged with the varsity team one afternoon for a big pep rally and I was going up against the big star offensive end. I was pretty quick and happened to be in the right spot at the right time and intercepted the ball out of the hands of this star end and he just picked me up, and the ball, and ran across the goal line. The real revelation was that I was also a musician and people knew me as a guitar player. I didn’t need football to meet girls.
Oh yeah. Many. And there were nights we felt like it was the worst. Where I just wanted to hide someplace— get behind the amplifier and away from the crowd, we sounded so bad. We had more good days than bad, though. I liked playing in The Trademarks, but I think I had more fun with The Coachmen. It seemed like the older I got and the bigger and better the band, the more serious everyone got. At the beginning, we were just a bunch of high school kids having a hell of a good time playing music— trying to do James Brown and others. We had fun!
You remember a song called Yellow Bird? Scotch and Soda? We did those with drums and electric guitars. That was pretty unique for the time. We played James Brown and Ray Charles. We were in Central Florida and picked up a radio station out of Nashville, WLAC. John R. It came in really strong at night and we would sit around listening. We heard this fantastic stuff by these black guys— Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and Chuck Berry and Ray Charles. We went to record stores and bought the records and learned how to play them.
See, there weren’t very many bands around then. I guess you could say that we were a model for a lot of the younger guys. I get emails from guys who knew our music. They heard us and went out and formed their own little bands. Some of them were thanking me for helping them get started.
And that was a strange time for radio. There were two big radio stations down there at the time— WHOO and WLOF. They played everything except the deep R&B and linked them all together. We had hits by Lawrence Welk and Serge Gainsbourg and Bobby Vinton and Bobby Rydell and Johnny Cash. They even threw in some Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett now and then. You were never sure who was going to have the big hit next, or what genre of music it would be.
There was this one time, among a few others, that really made an impression. It was when Proctor was with either The Coachmen or The Trademarks. Proctor explained it this way:
I think it was around 1962 or 1963…
We were playing at a Friday night gig upstairs at the Leesburg Elks Club after a football game. Wish I could remember which game, but it doesn’t really matter now. Wish I could remember which band I was in at the time, too, but it was so long ago. It may have been The Coachmen, or it could have been The Trademarks. Just not sure at the moment… I just remember that it was a rockin’ night, the lights were low, and all the teenagers in Leesburg (and, from some surrounding towns) were there having fun. I know I was. And, then, one of the older, prominent Elks Club members who chaperoned the dances came up to the stage and wanted us to do them a favor. They wanted us to play music from some “almost famous” folks who were just passing through town on their way to another gig…
It was a time in history when only “whites” were allowed at the dances, but in walked four sharply dressed, “older” black singers escorted by the chaperone, up to the stage where we were likely playing some silly teenage, so-called “white boy” soul music, or early rock and roll stuff. The singers, who were so very humble, felt they were an imposition to us when they asked if we could play music for them to sing a couple of songs. We (the band and crowd) really didn’t know what to think, but we thought to ourselves, “This could be cool!” It was….
I don’t remember the exact songs they sang, but I think one was a catchy little tune they called “Under the Boardwalk,” but at my age I wasn’t yet familiar with it — yet. They kindly offered some guidance regarding the beat and key they wished to sing in, and we humbly obliged…
They rocked, and that young crowd lost all their prejudices for awhile that night, if only for just an hour. And I learned something that night, too.
When they left the stage amongst the cheers from the crowd, they each walked over to us and shook our hands. I felt a warmness in those handshakes that I had never had the opportunity to experience before. My high school was segregated then, and I had never really talked to a black man before much less heard one sing live — not to mention shaking one’s hand. And I got to play guitar for them, too. They were so professional and great, and I was stunned, to say the least.
That is my story of playing for The Drifters. But, it wasn’t about playing for the Drifters at that moment, because I really didn’t know who they were. I just knew I had experienced the friendship of four kind, gentle black men who could sing and dance like hell. Damn. My only regret now is that I didn’t get their autographs….
Oh, to have been a rock star. Of course, Proctor’s next big move (after The Trademarks) was We The People, a band which today gets more publicity than when they were in existence (not unlike many bands from the sixties, such as Tacoma’s The Sonics). Better we stop here and save We the People for another time because their story, even Cliff’s Notes-style, would take up at least another column. We shall leave Wayne Proctor for now, probably polishing one of the bikes for which he is well-known, but will return for the WTP saga soon. I give him many thanks for the time spent helping me put the early Florida R&R days together, at least the portion he helped write. He is certainly one of the good guys.
Notes….. For those who are wondering where the Research Turtles are, they are at this very moment in Jud Norman‘s back pocket. Whereas the members of the band separated into two entities— they going the way of The Flamethrowers and Jud keeping the RT name, both entities are active and working. Here is a short film featuring the RT’s Rhinestone Gal and a whole shitpot of sports moments caught on film. Let us hope this means Jud is back with a vengeance!
Roxanne Tellier, after reading my snippet on Ken Nordine last week, sent me a link to this— spoken word jazz by Toronto’s David Deacon. I’m impressed.
Bongo Boy Records‘ Jana Peri is lining up a hell of a lineup of interviews for her TV program, Gotta Talk About It. The name that jumped out and slapped me in the face was Paul Collins (The Nerves, Paul Collins Beat), but there are many hevayweights. Here is a promo clip you should catch to see what she has in mind.<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/87601871″>Promo Clip For R E V I E W – Gotta Talk About It With Jana Peri</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/bongoboy”>Bongo Boy</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com“>Vimeo</a>.</p>
To show you how No Small Children-deprived I feel these days, I am posting this extremely short NSC clip announcing their tour and new CD release, Trophy Wife. Just the title has me chuckling, knowing the dry sense of humor these ladies sometimes bring to their songs. I knew, of course, the first time I heard Salad, a post-punk look at societally-induced starvation. Here’s their nineteen seconds of fame:
Rumor has it that Lisa threw up on the pool table after that last twirl. That reference to salad? Here you go:
Three of us – producer Chris Eckman, videographer John Bosch and I – are flying back to Mali, a landlocked African country that, until recently, has rarely garnered international attention. We’re here to record a new album with Malian musicians for the Dirtmusic project. We’ve brought no songs, just a few pages of notes and fragments, and a plan to create something out of whatever comes our way.
So begins Dirtmusic‘s Hugo Race in his short piece, The Storm Breaking, written last summer about the band’s recording sessions and the general situation in Mali, a country which is war-torn and impoverished. He goes on to lay out scenes which paint what can only be described by Western standards as horrific, about the struggles, about the fear, about the every day problems of survival. He writes so beautifully and so simply that I wish I had written what I believe is a document many of you should read, especially the musicians among you, because he captures the hope that music brings to those who have little else. I have read it twice and want to read it again, but I am going to let it sit for a few days because there is so much to digest— about the music, about the brotherhood involved in music, about the stark realities we (I) do not have to face on an every day basis but others do. I shall post the link right here in the hope that some of you will take the time to acquaint yourself a little with the situation in Mali and a feel for what is beneath Dirtmusic‘s Troubles album. And for the new album, as well.
Hugo, I dig the music, but I understand it better now. The trials, the everpresent tension, the electricity. I hear it in the music, but maybe that’s just me. After reading this piece, I could not help but be affected. You’re a hell of a writer, man. And a hell of a musician.
In case you’re interested, here is a blurb I lifted off of the Music OMH page about Dirtmusic‘s impending album, due out 31 March:
The brainchild of Hugo Race (Fatalists, Bad Seeds) and Chris Eckman (The Walkabouts), Dirtmusic are back in 2014 with a follow-up to last year’s successful album Troubles. Arising from the same Bamako sessions which resulted in their last album, the new full-length Lion City takes a turn for the more ambient, contemplative and introspective, with guests including Tamikrest, Samba Touré, Super 11, Aminata Wassidjé Traoré and Ben Zabo and his band. According to the band, what sets this album apart from Troubles is that neither the Western nor the African element is more important, with each instrument’s voice and idea being equally vital to the whole. The album, out less than a year since its predecessor, and unlike Trouble, concentrates on a meatier sound rather than a global fusion vibe. Lion City is out on 31 March through Glitterbeat.
This video is from the band’s last album, Troubles:
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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.”