Frank Gutch Jr: Random Thoughts On a Rambling Past (Plus Notes)

FrankJr2

I watched/listened to a short clip of a Jim Dawson concert this past week.  Most of you don’t know the name, I am sure, but Dawson was at the forefront of my obsession with records back in 1971 and his Songman album is a treasure I would not part with except to Dawson himself.  He was part folkie as were so many back then— the beginning of the real singer/songwriter movement— and experimenting with layers of sounds.

The clip sent me immediately into the bedroom for my copy of Songman and as I slid the record out of the sleeve, I almost felt a sense of pride.  I listened to that record a lot over the years— a whole lot in the early seventies— and was ecstatic that I had taken such good care of it.

jimdawson-lorilieberman300hWhen the needle dropped on Side One, I was amazed at the simplicity of the sound.  I remembered the music being more layered and more complicated.  Songman is a short song, less than two minutes, and at the end there is a segue— a link between that track and Saturday Airplane— and it came back to me.  I loved the record for the music, of course, but I really loved it because of the sequencing, that being the laying out of tracks in a specific order for effect.  More than that, really, but choosing the lengths of times between the tracks and, in this case, inserting segues sometimes from one to the next.  (Picture:  Lori Lieberman and Jim Dawson, 1973)

So I decided this weeks column would be about sides because, pre-digitally, sides were important.  Ask any Pink Floyd or Beatles fan.  I mean, the Dawson album would be a good place to start.  Side One fits, you know?  Together.  Then I realized that I am not the most organized writer on the planet and a column on sides would take an inordinate amount of thought or beer and I’m fresh out of both.

No, no sides this week.  Instead you will get stories and brain farts— about music and everything with which I associate it.  Bits and pieces of why I am who I am.

garypuckettBut first, a story.  Back in the mid-seventies I worked at the Pacific Beach location of Licorice Pizza, a small but well thought of record store chain of its day.  One day, a fairly refined (and beautiful, I might add) lady walked in and wanted to know if anyone knew anything about Gary Puckett.  I asked what she wanted to know and she wondered if we had a picture.  She had evidently entered a bar the previous night and sat down next to a guy who claimed to be Puckett and who put the make on her.  As luck would have it, we had a copy of the greatest hits album and one look was all it took.  It was him.  A few days later, the lady came in again, this time confirming that he was, indeed, the same Gary Puckett who wowed the ladies with Woman, Woman and Young Girl not that many years before.  She wouldn’t say much more, but her smile spoke volumes.  Gary, you owe me

On a similar note, a number of years later another refined lady walked in to Peaches in Seattle and asked about The Monroes.  The band had had a short run on radio in Seattle with a cool pop song titled What Do All the People Know but the label, Alfa, had folded and the record disappeared.  I told her I had a copy I would gladly give her (truth be told, she looked and smelled so good I would have given her anything I owned except my still sealed copy of the Cargoe album), but she declined.  She did ask if I could tape it for her, though, and I did.  A few days later, she walked in with a bottle of wine and insisted I take it as payment, all other forms having been refused.  I did.  Must have been good wine, too, at least according to the person I gave it to.  Got sick on wine in college once and could never stomach the stuff after that.  I call it liquified baby puke, but then that’s just me.

Speaking of gifts, I was handed many a lid in Los Angeles for helping people find music.  A year in L.A. and a year and a half in San Diego and I could have become a dealer, I was handed so much of the nefarious weed.  Music and weed.  A volatile combination.  Sad thing was that I was not smoking then.  Timing is everything.

darrell2At one time, I evidently had close to 10,000 albums— multiple copies of some (I will bet that DBAWIS‘s Darrell Vickers has more than that).  I didn’t count them myself but one day a friend started and after the first couple of beers I didn’t heave the heart to stop him.  Shortly after that day, I thought about it.  If I started listening to those albums right then, front to back and both sides (this was in the mid-to late-seventies, sports fans), I might be able to finish them before I died.  So I started giving them away.  Many were there specifically for that purpose, anyway.  Like I needed ten copies of It’s a Beautiful Day‘s first album or of Dreamboat Annie.  But when you run across certain albums in used record shops in good to pristine condition for less than a buck, it is hard to resist.   I bought every copy of Cargoe I ever found because even though it was not yet rare (it is now), it was worthy.  In Los Angeles, you could find Heartsfield albums for a quarter, Barclay James Harvest albums for a buck, Cowboy albums for a dime.  My collection grew by the hundreds when I lived there, as did my thirst for more.  And while it was all about the music when I started, it soon became about the hunt.  I soon found that finding a Jukin’ Bone album a second or third time was as heart-pumping as the first.  It was a cup of coffee, for chrissakes, and not the crap that Starbucks hands out but real and satisfying coffee.

zigzag28The more I found, the more there seemed to be.  Music began to revolve (or evolve) around the family trees I used to see in Zig Zag Magazine.  You’ve seen them.  Charts that follow musicians from band to band and which usually show how incestuous the record business really is.  Zig Zag posted some beauties.  One of my favorites followed Richard Greene, a name not as prominent as it should be these days given his music history.  Sure, you could follow Greene from one project or band to another and have his story, but there is more of a six degrees thing to it— taking the linkage in every direction.  The whole chart involves Kaleidoscope (the US band), Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Seatrain, Old & In the Way, The Blues Project and more.  Greene, in case you don’t know (and I’m betting you don’t) played fiddle on Steve Young‘s classic Rock Salt & Nails album on A&M under the name Myer Sniffin.  See the things you could learn, hanging out with me?  There was another which I dig out occasionally under the heading “The Influence of the New Wave Nine.”  It runs down personnel from a number of new wave and punk bands from the UK, including The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Damned, Siouxsie & The Banshees among a string of others.

Anyway, digging through record racks is a good way to learn.  Like, are you aware that George Harrison sat in with Cream on Badge (Goodbye)?  Had to use a fake name, in this case L’Angelo Misterioso, but it was pure Harrison.  You start digging, you can’t help but learn stuff.

I am a huge Gypsy fan.  HUGE!  So I’m reading music magazines and there is a band from the UK called English Gypsy.  Not a bad name, I figure, until I find out that the band’s real name is Gypsy and that in order to be marketed in the US, they had to alter the name.  Strange thing was, in order for Gypsy to be marketed in the UK, they had to alter their name to American Gypsy.  Freakin’ copyrights or something.

Gypsy1971a

I discovered Gypsy, the American band, the summer of 1971 right after leaving the Army.  I was in a record store in Denver and the record they were playing was so good I couldn’t concentrate, so I asked if I could see the cover.  Double album.  From Minneapolis.  On Metromedia Records.  Sold. I followed them for a handful of years through four albums which, to this very moment, hold a treasured position in my collection.  Not all that long ago, I was lucky enough to link up with Randy Cates, who played bass on the last two albums, for an interview.  The story behind that band is both exhilarating and tragic.  For that story, click here.  And to hear the song I first heard in Denver and see pictures of the band itself, watch this video.  I love these guys!

Ever hear of Elliott Randall?  If I came to your house and found any of Elliott’s albums in your collection, or if you even knew anything about him, we would become friends.  When I first elliottrandallheard of him, he was being touted by a couple of writers as a prodigy on guitar.  His band, Randall’s Island, had just released their second album, Rock and Roll City, and when I bought it, I couldn’t get it home fast enough.  At first, I think I was a bit disappointed.  There was no real rock ‘n’ roll punch to most of the songs.  Indeed, parts of it were heavily jazz- and blues-influenced.  I quickly got used to that, though, and fell in love with the band’s unorthodox take on rock.  I recently connected with Elliott through the social media because we seem to have much the same take on the music industry these days— we ain’t none too happy with the money distribution on the digital side nor do we like the money grab by the major labels regarding the so-called “legacy artists”— people whose music was recorded before 1972 or so.  He has had a long career, all of it to my knowledge in music, and has given me hours and hours and hours of listening pleasure.

A couple of years ago he offered a free download of a song he recorded with a band he called Elliott Randall & The Deadmen, a bluesy rock number titled Bedroom Window, with a chorus which goes “That’s not the hardest part/Everyone’s watching you break my heart” the last part repeated over and over.  I’ve wondered whether there was an album attached to that song.  It is on my MP3 player and I wait for it to come up whenever I am on my walks.  This isn’t the song, but this is Elliott Randall— one hell of a musician and a kickass guitarist.  And just so you know, that guitar solo on Steely Dan‘s Reeling In the Years— that was Elliott, too.

First time I heard the long version of Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s cover of Susie Q, I thought it was Hendrix.  Sometimes your ears do strange things.  I’ve always liked Creedence but only to a degree.  I find them repetitious and one-dimensional on the whole, but have to admit that the aforementioned Susie Q and the asskickin’ Keep On Chooglin’ on the Bayou Country more than makes up for the other tripe they have put out.

I had a girlfriend when I lived in San Diego in the mid-seventies (hard to believe, right?).  We met in the Licorice Pizza I worked at.  She was experimenting with music and I talked her out of ksheradioa John McLaughlin album, replacing it with Soft Machine‘s Bundles.  She dug through my record collection and found a few she really loved.  Headstone was one of the albums she would play when we got together.  It didn’t work out, but it had nothing to do with the music.  This video also points to one of the best radio stations to ever rock the vinyl:  KSHE in St. Louis.  Heartsfield, Gypsy, Headstone?  That station played the best!

Let’s talk Cam Newton.  No, not that Cam Newton.  I remember being a bit peeved one day when I wanted to find information on the Cam Newton who played with the last vestiges of Notary Sojac, which at that time had shortened the name to just Sojac.It was crammed with hundreds of mentions about this, gack!, football player.  No matter how I framed my web search, I got pages of the wrong guy!  I wanted to write about him.  Sojac’s Steve Koski had told me about him, sending him my way when Cam signed a recording contract with jazz label Inner City Records and I’d even met him once, on a promotional junket for his first album.  It was titled The Motive Behind the Smile and it was cutting edge jazz at the time (1979) and featured some high powered players:  Eddie Daniels, Larry Karush, Michal Urbaniak, and Billy Hart.  I liked it and I wasn’t what you would call a jazz fan.

camnewton

By the time Cam got to his second album, he had stepped into another dimension.  He went all Northwest on Welcome Aliens: Party Music For the First Authenticated Landing, getting help from a whole string of exceptional jazz and rock musicians.  It was jazz, kind of, but it was as much experimental fusion as anything.  Portland legend Jim Pepper played on it as did future members of Group 87, Mark Isham and Pat O’HearnDavid Leslie played keyboards and Rob Thomas, violin.  Jack Newton, who I believe is Cam’s brother, filled in on percussion and a dude named Hom-Nath Upadhyaya played tablas, though I always questioned the authenticity of the name.  The real key to the album for me, besides Cam that is, came in the form of Steve Koski and drummer Doug Ness, both (by that time) former Notary Sojac-ers.  The lineup was oddball at the very least and yet it worked so well that the album has remained one of my all-time favorites.

A couple of years ago, Irv Kratka contacted me to say that the albums were finally available in CD format and that he had uploaded them onto cdBaby’s website.  If you like Group 87 or if you’re into hearing what Cam put together (he is an exceptional guitarist— exceptional!), you should stop by the cdBay pages and sample some tracks.  You can access them here.  There are no videos I am aware of, which is to me a bummer.  This is the kind of band I would kill to hear.

Here’s ol’ Cam himself, a few years after the albums mentioned.  The dude can play!

Getting late and you’ve had enough to read and hear for today anyway.  What say we get to some…

Music Notes smallNotes…..  Seldom do I start the Notes section with pyrotechnics, but guitar players have to see this.  This is why I get as close to the stage as I can.  So I can watch the hands…..

 

 

 

Last week’s column started off with a rundown of Jubal Lee Young‘s lastest album On a Dark Highway.  Here are clips of Jubal and Co. performing the album at the album release party at the Full Moon Cafe in Tulsa.  Hell of a band and proof that background vocals can make all the difference.

If you happened to catch David Olney‘s video of Sad Saturday Night from his new album, When the Deal Goes Down, you saw Annie McCue packing a tuba all over hell and gone (yep, that was Annie).  On this song, Olney (and John Hadley, by default) returns the favor (partially) by supplying input to a song for her new album, Blue Sky Thinkin’.  It’s retro and blues/ragtime-oriented and fits her voice perfectly.  Annie’s one of the good ones.  (And talented, to boot)

If you happened to miss the Olney video mentioned above, this should correct that.  Steve Young turned me onto Olney who is a master songwriter (and not a bad performer either, although I’ve heard he can be a cranky SOB sometimes).

Please explain to me why, when I find a band I wrap my ears around to the exclusion of just about any music of that period, I somehow allow them to slip behind the growing mass of music being released on a constant basis.  I dearly love The Abramson Singers and what they do and yet it took a repost of this video to bring them once again to my attention.  There is something in the sound, in the voice, and on this track, the arrangement.  You can stream the band on their bandcamp page by clicking here.

Cat’s out of the bag now!  Stu Nunnery, who put out an album in the early seventies which was pretty well thought of in music circles, is ready to record again.  He posted in the social media that he just finished filming a part of his fundraising video at The Brooklyn Coffee Teahouse in Providence RI and praised the beauty of the place.  Anyone going through Providence should check the place out.  More news on Stunnery’s fundraiser as it happens.  While you’re pondering on that, this is one he recorded back then.

=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.” 

2 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: Random Thoughts On a Rambling Past (Plus Notes)”

  1. As the beneficiary of many wonderful records, I thank you again for your continued dedication to the discovery and the sharing of music!

  2. elliot randall played a set with us live (the penetrators) a week after i met him in los angeles and gave him a tape. i too had rock and roll city, and used to fake playing piano with an air group called the trilobytes and we did the song brer fox boogie. i was hanging out at the rainbow shortly after we had done 4 shows with robert gordon at the roxy in los angeles. and mario the owner of the roxy also was part owner of the whiskey and the rainbow, and he gave me free food and drink tickets for the rainbow as i had run into him on the strip. so i am sitting there, and i hear some say hello elliott and i look and it’s HIM! i tell him about brer fox boogie, and give him a tape. he calls me the night before and says “hey can i come in and set in with you guys?” i say sure, and am thrilled…so he comes down for soundcheck and i say what songs do you want to sit in with? and he says “i learned the whole album”. so pretty much sat in with us for the whole set. afterward’s we had a party that lasted all night, and the next morning he had to fly out to do a session with yoko ono for that album with john lennon’s broken glasses on the cover. i know I KNOW. weird life. much love to you brother. glad to see you writing about that album!

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