Frank Gutch Jr: The Forgotten Past, Recent and Otherwise; Plus a Few (Very Few) Notes

 

FrankJr2

Joseph LeMay‘s album Seventeen Acres has been out how long?  Three months?  I wrote about it in an earlier DBAWIS column and have barely mentioned it since.  I have to wonder why.  I love some of the songs on that album and like everything about it.  It is beautifully recorded, masterfully produced and mastered and, even more important, made up of outstanding songs.  And yet I push it into the past.  So I started thinking— how does that happen?

Ralph GleasonI refer back to that statement Ralph J. Gleason made when asked why he limited himself to virtually all positive reviews when it came to his choices of topics, to which he replies something like, and I am paraphrasing here: There is not enough space to write about the music I like.  Why would I waste it on music I didn’t like.  And this was before the implosion of the major labels and the explosion of Indie product (and I mean true Indie and not the stuff the major labels are marketing as Indie).

Well, I like LeMay enough to follow through, even if I lack the time to do it properly.  Here is a beauty of a song from Seventeen Acres.  Trust me when I say that the whole album is pretty damn exceptional.

ronjimgreenwood 001aTo show you that finding music on the bottomside has always been my way, allow me to tell you about Cowboy.  People who were into The Allmans back in the day undoubtedly knew who they were, though few others did.  Most of the Allmans’ fans, from the stories I’ve heard, weren’t all that enthralled with Cowboy, either.  When you want to rock, Cowboy was not a good lead-in.  I came to them organically, having that back-to-the-earth gene which affected many of us so-called hippies (of which I was never really one).  The band had this country rock thing going on, see, and not the kind with twang (though they did show a bit of that one the first album, Reach For the Sky).  Their’s was city-slicker smooth, harmonies like soft velvet and the band a stagecoach being reined in.  They were clean though dusty, honest as they come and ready to help the next door neighbor at the drop of a cowboy hat.  For two albums.  Then, the band dissolved and Tommy Talton and Scott Boyer became the Capricorn Rhythm Section (Capricorn Records was their label), backing anything and everything label head Phil Walden wanted them to.  True, they put out albums under the moniker Cowboy, but it was the Boyer & Talton Cowboy and not the original.

When I worked for Licorice Pizza in the mid-70s, owner Jim Greenwood allowed the stores leeway in how they handled in-store promotions.  As deep as I was into country rock, I spent a lot of time promoting Cowboy, Pure Prairie League and, later, Heartsfield as alternatives to the whole Eagles thing that had the L.A. area paralyzed.  I look back wondering why none of the bands broke through (with the exception of PPL, and that story is one I have shared in past columns) and if I could have done anything else to have helped them along.  I was young and in love with the band.  Play the video below, then maybe you can understand why.  Pay special attention to the lyrics.

Speaking of Cowboy, I was doing an interview with Bill Pillmore, one of the band’s founding members a handful of years ago and got wind of a project his daughter was putting together.  As jesspickait turned out, Jess Pillmore was working with one Dan Phelps to produce what would become my pick for the Best Album for 2005 (titled Reveal).  Jess Who, you ask?  Album of the Year?  For me, it was.  And I will breaking it down in a future column— the whole enchilada.  The anatomy of a hit, if you will, though hit it did not become.  It is an intriguing story.  Don’t miss it.  In the meantime, if you want to hear some tracks worth hearing on many different levels, click here and stream Atlanta, Open My Mouth and Don’t Show Me.  And they are just jumping-off points.

I mention Heartsfield a lot in my writings for a reason.  They have been the only six-man band I have seen with six solid vocalists (Capability Brown would have been another, but I unfortunately never had a chance to see them).  The night I saw them at The Troubadour in L.A., they a capellaed one song to death, swear to God.  Harmonies stacked to the ceiling.  They were/are a band out of the Chicago area that had their own sense of country-rock and had four albums back then to prove their worth.  You know, you can still get those CDs (I hope).  Perry Jordan, one of the original fielders, made sure that they were remastered and re-released a number of years ago.  Since that time, the band has released a few more albums.  Perry unfortunately passed away a few years ago but another original member, Fred C. Dobbs, has taken up the slack.  I loved these guys!  Still do.  Here is the new lineup, playing live.

teddyrooseveltsI knew Ted Pitney from Sarah White‘s Sweetheart album.  He had played with a band calling themselves King Wilkie and who had garnered quite a reputation as an acoustic band on the East Coast, so much so that they left Virginia for the city of New York for a good run there.  Pitney ended up leaving that band and returning to the Charlottesville area where he played wherever he was welcome, which was evidently everywhere.

After recording the EP with White, he put together a band known as Teddy & The Roosevelts.  It was during this period that he recorded The Genesee EP, which I thought for sure was going to springboard him into fame and fortune— well, today’s version of that anyway.  He played in the area with the Roosevelts for some time, but things did not seem to be happening.  Life was, though, and he got married and headed for Colorado.  And, no,  it wasn’t because they legalized marijuana.  He either had received or was finishing up school for a degree in sound engineering and Colorado called.

I was stunned.  Every time I hear this EP (hear it here), I hear the base of what could have been a long and successful career.  I absolutely love this EP.  And every time I hear it, it is bittersweet.  To be filed under “what could have been.”

And here is a little King Wilkie, where Ted had his roots.

Keith Morris has roots themselves, but no one has been able to find where they are.  I’m kidding.  Morris is another denizen of Charlottesville, where half of my favorites of today seem to call home.  True, Danny Schmidt, Paul Curreri, Devon Sproule, and Mariana Bell have dual citizenships in Austin and L.A., but Morris will never leave.  Probably because of the ankle bracelet.  Again, I’m kidding!  The thing about Morris— he’s one of the funniest guys I have ever not met.  And he is talent-deep.  This is my favorite track from his latest album, Love Wounds & Mars.  And it isn’t all that new.  For you, though, I am assuming it is.  Pay close attention to the smooth background vocals and the use of, is that an accordion?

What year did Greg Laswell release his first solo album— what I think was his first, anyway— 2006, 2007?  It seems like an age ago.  That album was a sledgehammer to the heart.  Simple story— wife leaves husband, husband locks himself in bedroom, curtains drawn, husband writes himself out of depression and comes out of said bedroom six months later with a killer album wrapped around the implosion of his marriage.  That’s heavy stuff, but my God, what music!  I feel a deep twinge in my heart every time I hear it and the deepest twinge with the song in this video— High and Low.  I know the guy has done well, but every time I hear the album (Through Toledo), I cannot believe that he hasn’t done even better.

From a huge Maggi Pierce & EJ fan to consummate Hymn For Her fan is no jump at all, but you wouldn’t know that, would you?  MPE slipped right past you while you were buying hymnforherfingeryour third copy of Zeppelin’s Runes album and who the hell is Hymn For Her, anyway?  I will tell you.  They were Pokey’s band— my old friend Pocahontas Illinois Cloud, roadie road manager and background vocalist for H4H, as they call themselves.  Two people, a guy and a gal (and if you’ve seen their vids, you understand why I call her a gal).  And some of the coolest music I’ve heard, most involving a cigar box guitar.  You know what that means, don’t you?  Lotsa slide guitar!  I’ve seen them a few times (Oregon is a bit off the beaten path, but they do stop by when they are in the neighborhood) and trust me when I tell you you shouldn’t miss them.  They are fun as hell and you will be surprised at just how much music two people can make.  They even throw in a Zeppelin cover once in awhile and make it sound a lot like Zep, their own selves.  Turn this sucker up and you only have an indication of what they sound like live.

Their latest, by the way (Lucy & Wayne’s Smokin’ Flames) is on vinyl and it is just what it says.  Smokin’!  And dedicated to my old pal, Pokey.

That band that slipped past you?  Here is only a taste.  Man, they could do just about anything.

Music Notes smallAnd with that, I’m quitting.  The brain is malfunctioning and I’m sweating like a pig (although I’m not really sure how much pigs sweat).  Oregon is presently in a pattern of hot and humid, something unusual for this area (though I will bet, not any longer).  What I’m saying is that it’s the humidity, not the heat.  So I will leave you with the few Notes I have picked up on my anemic rounds and bid you adieu.  Pant.  Puff.  Wheeze.

  1. Notes…. How did I miss this? Waylon Jennings digs into the cowboy— a natural combination.  Full documentary.  Fascinating.

Back in the sixties, there was this whole sub-genre going on which most people ignored, though some artists had hits with folk/psych.  Much of it was buried, though— bands such as The Millennium and Southwest FOB and West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band making more of a living (if a living it was) off of the pop and rock side of music.  Randy Burns was a second-generation folkie who tied up with musicians to form Randy Burns & The Sky Dog Band and did fairly well on the East Coast nut not much elsewhere.  His albums on ESP-Disk Records are legendary, but before that, he was in a band called Randy Burns & The Morning.  This is the first indication I have had that such a band existed and it is so obviously a precursor to albums like Song For an Uncertain Lady and Evening of the Magician, two albums which are staples of my collection.  I am amazed that this is seeing the light of day— only one reason I embrace the Internet.

lavacadoWhat with Lavacado making a run, it seems right to take a look back to the ’90s and Tal Goettling‘s old band, Son of Man.  I am always taken aback when songs and videos and old interviews surface after a lo-o-ong period but this video more than caught me by surprise.  While most people with whom I have contact (and appreciate grunge) are ready at the drop of a hat to talk Mudhoney and Soundgarden and Nirvana, I have found very few who knew and supported Son of Man.  Their story is one of what looked like a meteoric rise amidst the explosion of grunge, but somehow the wheels came off and the train crashed.  Timing?  Circumstances?  The band and the music?  Only the people who were there, and mainly the band members, really know what happened.  When I heard their demo, I would have emptied my bank account to buy stock in them, but a house fire and a news flash later, there was seemingly no band in which to invest.  Years later, this video surfaces.  I feel the stirring of life in the grunge band few knew.  I feel that there is more to come.

It’s coming up fast, sports fans!  The Boys from Lake Charles, Research Turtles, will be playing a one night reunion at the Luna in that fair city.  If I hit the lottery before then, I will be there, but I say that every times these guys play.  The humidity down there would probably kill me, but it would be worth it.  Here’s what those of us in the northern tundra are going to be missing:

=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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