Frank Gutch Jr: Notary Sojac, the Formative Years (Meaning The Warloks); Gary Minkler and Duggy Degs: On the Fringe; Gary Heffern: Rock’s Poet Laureate; and Stuff in the Form of Notes…..

frankjr24

I’m like the A-Team’s Hannibal Smith in that I too love it when a plan comes together and love it even more when it balloons into an epic tale of adventure, lust and romance.  The romance part, of course, would be my endless fascination for the music of the bands (past, present and future) which came out of the musicians who comprised Notary Sojac, the band few knew and even fewer knew about.

They were a hippie’s musical wet dream in the late-sixties and early seventies, blazing a trail which might have taken them far but didn’t.  They were among the best if not the best to come out of Oregon, as far as I am concerned, and as far as I will ever be concerned.  They blew my mind.  They also vacuumed out my wallet, beer not coming cheap enough during their nights at Eugene/Springfield’s The Roman Forum, and pre-orders on the album they were recording coming to naught.  How much did they charge?  $2.50 a pop, wasn’t it?  Yep, Sojac was crowdfunding before crowdfunding was invented.

notarysojac3

Steve Koski (now, or should I say again, Riihikoski—- he’s a Finn by heritage, amigos) carried these little special order blanks with him wherever he went and every time I saw them play or whenever I passed him on the street, I would ask him for one or two and would make sure I ordered at least one more album and probably had it in my head to pass them on to my friends and browbeat them into ordering at least one one themselves.  I mean, a Notary Sojac album!  That was my holy grail!  I probably only ordered four or five but it felt like ordering 50, which I would have done if it brought them closer to recording and possibly pressing that elusive vinyl gem, but the gods intervened and the album soon became another dream dashed on the rocks (and rolls) of time.

Notary Sojac is going to record an album, the order blank began.  ‘When?’ depends on response to the idea.  We need funds to do this, and therefore we are going to sell our album in advance.  Those wishing to help us do this may use this nifty order blank.  Remember, at any time you may have your money in full (even if you are not satisfied with the record!)

notarysojacorderblank 001God love those little scamps.  Proper use of “nifty” and full refund if you don’t like the music?  And you have to realize that this was probably 1974.  I might well have tried to buy up any anyone tried to return, I loved those guys so much.  Christmas?  Mom, Dad!  It’s Notary Sojac‘s new album.  Kind of a cross between Ferlin Husky and Johnny Cash.  Sis!  Notary Sojac sounds a lot like The Ray Conniff Singers if you listen closely.  Uncle Ferd and Aunt Flo!  These guys sound like they just came out of the mountains!  Kinda bluegrassy and lots of jigs and reels.  Happy birthday, Grandma!  This is what all the cool kids are listening to in Oregon these days!  Little bit like Glenn Miller and if you don’t like it, you can return it for a full refund.  Try it, though, and if you don’t, I’m hiding a lid in your bedroom and calling the police!

Maybe some of you felt the same way about The Beatles or The Moody Blues.  Well, I felt that way about Notary Sojac.  It was love at first listen.  It was the summer of ’71 and I was fresh out of the Army and there were two bands playing a Rainier Beer Sunbust over at Skinner’s Butte Park and, boy, was I ready!  Two bands— Notary Sojac opening, Sand finishing the afternoon off.  Two or three weeks later, Sand would open another Sunbust for NS at Washington Park in Portland.  I remember both afternoons like the rest of you remember The Beatles on Ed Sullivan (which, to me, was relatively small potatoes compared to this).  It was musical destiny!

quirks1Needless to say, I became a lifelong fan and supporter of the band and all of the band’s members.  Bands, I should say, for the NS dynasty scanned a long stretch from the early sixties to the late seventies and even later,  and while NS held them together for awhile, the bands before and after were important, too.  Bands like The Quirks and Faith from Boise and The Weeds (later, Weeden), The Lollipop Shoppe, and The Warloks.

To be more precise, Steve Koski was the only connection to The Weeds and The Lollipop Shoppe, and then only for a short time.

The Warlocks and (Wild, Wild) Weeds were concurrent, wrote Koski in a recent message.  (The Weeds) were from Vegas.  They had a foot in the door at the Crystal Ballroom before (The Warloks) did, having played the Folksinger Club in a different part of the Crystal Ballroom building.  They became friends with Whitey Davis, who had the vision to open up the old ballroom for youth concerts.  So we got in on the scene just a little after it started.  The Warloks played several gigs with The Weeds.

crystal ballroom1

The Warloks played our last gig with Family Tree on Dec. 30th (?) 1967.  Two days later, the (former) Weeds lead singer called me from L.A., saying they needed a guitarist for the group because their lead guitarist had been hospitalized.  They remembered me from The Warloks.  I flew down (my first time ever on a jet) and played that evening with The Weeds, now calling themselves The Lollipop Shoppe, opening for Buffalo Springfield.  I learned their whole set in the back of a van, racing from the airport to The Cheetah.  We played the next night as well.  That was January, 1968.

From various pieces of conversations and messages, email and otherwise, I had thought Koski’s attachment to The Weeds/The Lollipop Shoppe more substantial, and I am still not exactly sure if there was more, but that is Koski’s last update from just a couple of days ago.

As for Faith… well, Faith was short-lived.  Still, NS fan and music historian Jim Gratton saw them and was impressed enough to note the impression they made on a young musician, that being himself.  Did Jim say Jim Lowry, Will Herold, and Tom McMeekan were all in that band?  Christ, where are my notes?  Well, no matter for now.  This is not about Faith but about The Warloks.

Here’s the thing.  Steve Koski not too long ago sent me two CDs of recordings by those Warloks.  One, titled nineteensixtyseven, contained live tracks plus studio tracks recorded that year at Ridon Studio in or around Portland.   The other, songs from a live reunion concert in 1988.

Warloks(40)

Picture, L-R: Jon Kiski, Bob Koski, Marty Stites, Steve Koski; kneeling: Jerry Noyes… courtesy of Steve Koski

I don’t know what it was I was expecting.  I guess songs with more of a NS sound and feel— more bluesy with a sense of freewheeling jam to it.  What it was, though, was closer to Strawberry Alarm Clock and The Association with a side of The Byrds.  Very psychedelic in a Hollywood sense with stacked harmonies and minor chords and the occasional psych sound effects/instruments.  In fact, the kickoff tune, Airplane Song, begins and ends with guitar-induced controlled feedback which sounds very much like an airplane.  In between are some of the sweetest 60s psych harmonies I’ve ever heard,  the chorus straight out of a bong:  My mind is an airplane/Flying away from (couldn’t make out this word)/Our troubles behind now/No reason or rhyme…..  This is what psych was about back then— at least the psych coming out of L.A.  Lots of harmonies.  Lots of background guitar.  Psych guitar leads.  Very Byrds-y sounding, say, around 5-D time.  It is blowing me away.  As far away from NS as it could get.

Warloks@Crystal1a

The rest of the album is similar, though maybe not as commercial.  I Can’t Keep Satisfied (#1) has the standard Byrds 12-string intro and riff, though twisted and bent— a bit of Feel a Whole Lot Better for good measure.  The guys, in fact, do a cover of Feel a Whole Lot Better later on the album and do it well.  The originals are impressive, considering the era, and could easily have been hits.  The surprises though are the covers.  Of the two Byrds tracks, I was surprised to find the oft-buried classic Everybody’s Been Burned included with Feel a Whole Lot Better.  A version of Paul Desmond‘s Take Five caught me totally off-guard, what I am assuming is Steve Koski’s guitar lead riding the rhythm into the psychedelic sunset.  Don’t quote me, though, because brother Bob Koski could have taken a few of those leads.  Guitarist and vocalist Marty Stites?  I don’t know.  During NS’s years, Steve seemed to be the guitarist-in-residence alongside Tom McMeekan.  But I don’t want to confuse you here.  Let us just say that it was a very pleasant surprise and the guitar work impressive.

family-tree

Here is the cool part, though.  During part of The Warloks’ existence, Bob Segarini dragged his band The Family Tree up to the Northwest and took up a short residence.  The Warlocks and The Tree played at least one gig together, the aforementioned concert at the Crystal Ballroom.  Bob had mentioned knowing the guys from NS.  Steve has mentioned his acceptance and knowledge of The Tree.  This is the surprise:  The Warloks actually recorded a Family Tree song during the session.  Do You Have the Time? is a beautiful original in the vein of The Cowsills (one of the most misunderstood bands in rock history, if you ask me) and could have easily have been a hit (I would have B-sided it with Airplane Song).

Editor’s Note: We played more than one date with The Warloks…and how do I get a copy of their recording of “Do You Have the Time”?

Family Tree Crystal Ballroom Poster Warloks

Family Tree Crystal Ballroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These songs have completely destroyed my conception of Notary Sojac and how they came to be, musically.  Of course, to make that jump complete, I would also have to hear songs by Boise’s The Quirks and Faith, each band made up of future Sojac-ers.

You think music history isn’t fun, then you have never searched archives and found something like this.  This is cooler than cool.  Kind of like discovering those Family Tree tracks on the Challenge record label.

Just so you know, two albums by Notary Sojac are available from CDBaby:  Live 1972-73 (tracks recorded in a tavern with one or two mikes suspended from the ceiling— a rough sound but some excellent playing; and the recently released, for the first time ever, Feel It In Your Heart/The Tioga Sessions (1974), studio tracks recorded toward the end of the band’s existence at Tioga Studios in Allegany, Oregon, just outside of Coos Bay.

notarysojac1973cdcover

I knew if I waited long enough, I would get these beauties.  I knew it!!!   Here I am, though, getting more than I had ever hoped.  The Warloks and a collection of sings from Weeden.  I can only hope that songs from Steve Koski’s later band, the esoteric and jazz-laden Arcturus, will see the light of day.  And I know the much-missed Bob Koski had some tracks he was working on at the time of his death  in 2006.  McMeekan has a whole series of albums he has recorded, some available.  NS bassist Jim Lowry has a string of recorded works with other people.  God knows about keyboard player Will Herold, who was one smokin’ hot keyboard man (he could take the top of your head off with that Hammond B-3 he played), and I would hope that drummer Doug Ness has something on tape other than his work on Cam Newton‘s topnotch  Welcome Aliens album (available here).

Just a warning.  There will be lots more coming regarding the Notary Sojac universe.  For a band which never released an album during their run, they were one of the most influential bands to ever come out of the Pac Northwest.

Double-Dippin’:  Duggy Degs and Gary Minkler…..

minklerI have looked for ways to work Duggy Degs and Gary Minkler into columns but beyond the obvious (their incredible talent), it is hard, largely because what they do is more than a bit unique.  Both live on the fringe of rock but neither really rocks out.  Instead, they surround themselves with exceptionally talented musicians and let the music take them where it may.

I found Minkler decades ago in Seattle band Red Dress.  They had released a 45 previous to my seeing them live and it floored me.  The A-side, Money Dream, was a moody step outside the lines and I liked it, but not only did I think the world was not ready for it, I still do.  Still, it got under my skin over the years and I find myself hungering to hear it on a fairly regular basis these days.  Beat’s good, you can dance to it and even though it’s a little dark, I give it a 98, Dick.  The flip was the astoundingly theatrical and funky I Like to Eat My Mouses Raw, a tour de farce ( and maybe a tour de France too).  You don’t think so?  How’s this for cool?

I stood outside the window of The Rainbow Tavern in Seattle in the rain and watched Red Dress perform that live and didn’t even notice the rain, it was so captivating, especially when Minkler dangled the toy rubber mouse over his open mouth in mimic cannibalism (or maybe rodentism).  It made me laugh and while it didn’t make me an instant fan (I already was, having heard the single many times), it solidified my belief that the band would stand as one of the most underrated Pac Northwest bands of its time.   Minkler?  He’s a madman!

minkler_front_cover_rgb_square_373So when Minkler resurfaced awhile ago with The Gary Minkler Combination, I was both dumbfounded and thrilled.  I had not heard his name since leaving Seattle ’92.  I guess I had forgotten about him, pretty much.  Not completely, though, because Minkler has this approach to his music, see— creative and off the wall— which draws me to him.  Conrad Uno, who played a major hand in the original Red Dress recordings, took up the standard once again and the result is much the same as before— amazingly good.

Minkler takes a step to the left on the new album.  Still very creative, of course, and maybe a little less manic, he still paints far enough outside the lines to make his music unique, yet he doesn’t go so far as to alienate.  In fact, he walks the line beautifully, teasing while entertaining, his music melodic without stepping into formula.

But why am I telling you when you could be hearing it?  Here is a little Gary Minkler to put a knot in your shorts.  He’s a good guy and as important, a good songwriter/singer/musician.

Meet the man.  Hear the man.  And, seriously, hear the band.  Minkler has one of the best in the Pac Northwest.

duggydegs1Had someone told me a couple of decades ago that there was another Minkler halfway around the world, I would probably have accepted it but not really.  Yet one day, I found the guy.  He goes by the name Duggy Degs and at present plays in a group known as The Beachy Head Music Club.  Odd name, I know, but he’s British and if they are known for anything, it’s oddity.  A few years ago, I would have said something like, yeah, they’re oddballs, but they’re our oddballs.  Now that the neocons have made the States the laughing stock of the world, politically, I can’t say that anymore.  But you have to give the Brits one thing.  Since the British Invasion era, they have always given the world a fair share of the best music available.

Degs carries on that tradition and though you have probably not heard him let alone heard of him, his music is topnotch.  And he’s all over the place.  Most musicians only wish they could write and record songs like this.

And those barely touch the surface.  You can check out Beach Head Music Club and Duggy Degs by clicking here.  Do it.  Super highly recommended tracks are Embrace, Waiting For the Tablets to Come, Faggots and Gravy, Clissold Park, and When We’re Gone.

I haven’t found anyone else quite like these guys.  Aural palate cleansers, they are.

Gary Heffern:  From Life, With Love…..

heffern

Gary Heffern and I have been friends for many years now.  It is one of those friendships forged in music and the arts and honed over the years.  We never really had a chance to develop a real friendship, but we are brothers under the skin.  Gary recently published a book— of poetry and of thoughts (and let me tell you, this guy thinks).  Here is a video of him reciting a short piece with the musical backing of Bill Frisell, Kenny Wollesen, Tony Scherr, and Greg Leisz.

One story I never tire of telling is of a very young Gary at an off-the-cuff party with the young turks of San Diego’s infant punk scene— Jacqueline Ramirez and brothers Tom and Tim Griswold among them.

heffernjackieestradaGary disappeared at one point during the night, utilizing the facilities we assumed.  All of a sudden, he reappeared but with a head of white, foamy shaving cream (it was Foamy, in fact— my then choice of pre-shaving facial lubricant) covering a collander “hat” and spent the next few minutes head butting everyone, shouting “Look everybody, I’m Sieve Bators!” (the reference being to The Dead Boys‘ frontman, Stiv Bators.  Gary told me that night he was going to be in a rock ‘n’ roll band and I patted him on the tiny space of his shoulder not covered by Gillette’s pride and joy and said, yeah, sure.  I left San Diego shortly thereafter for the more Northwesty confines of Seattle and one day, while checking in records at a record store, flipped over the jacket of this new band calling themselves The Penetrators and sonofabitch if there isn’t Gary’s picture there on the back.  I think I laughed out loud.  More likely I called my friends around to tell this very story.  Just goes to show you.  What, I’m not sure.  Anyone wishing to check out Gary’s new book can find it listed on Amazon.  Here is the link.  This classic photo, by the way, was taken by Jackie Estrada.  If he had a collander and shaving cream on his head, this would have been the Gary Heffern I saw that night.

If you have hung on this long, you have earned the right to go through this week’s…

NotesNotes…..  I have been on a Droogs kick lately, thanks to a remembrance of Greg Shaw and his focused view of pop and power pop.  Shaw turned me on to a plethora of excellent music people were missing back in the day— Shoes, Flamin’ Groovies (a band I already knew but gained new respect for because of Shaw’s in-depth view of the pop scene, BOMP!), The Leopards, and others.  The Droogs were one of those bands which fit nicely into the Shaw folder and became a favorite, though their music was relatively hard to find— small labels and imports and all.  I have recently come into contact with Dave Provost, who joined the lineup in the early ’80s or so.  He told me that the band is back in the studio recording a new album, so I thought it only fitting that you get a short course in Droogs-ism.  Listen and learn, and be prepared.  The new album will, I am sure, be another in the long string of solid albums in their catalog.

And, hey, if you have to cover someone, why not Johnny Cash?

Speaking of Miss Quincy (and we were not all that long ago), here is a look at the latest video.  These ladies are HOT!!!

Christmas is just around the corner, according to The Living Sisters, who are ready to amuse and amaze us with their new album.  Here’s a preview.

Sallie Ford reaches back to the fifties and early sixties for her punkish sound.  Surrounding herself with basic band (drums, bass and keyboards along with her guitar), she takes me back to my childhood and AM radio before the transistors took over.  No Farfisa sound here, but they use it well on certain songs.  From Portland (Oregon, that is).

All I remember about Fritz the Cat were the comic books and how the movie got universally panned.  This is the first time I have even heard of The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat.  Naturally, ol’ Army buddy and fellow writer Michael Marino know where all the ghosts are hidden.  Anyone ever see the full movie?

Famed Tulsa/Memphis/Miami disc jockey Robert W. Walker points to this as an example of the importance of Record Store Day.  And he thought I wasn’t paying attention.

The Research Turtles‘ take on Halloween.

The UK’s Jon Gomm has gained quite a reputation as a guitarist of consequence.  He went from virtual obscurity to fame in a very short time and all on his own terms.  He was one of the first to kick Spotify to the curb while kicking sand in the face of Simon Cowell and X-Factor and is a prime example of do-it-yourself-ism, as much as it can be done these days.  This is his latest video— a song you can download and which proceeds will be shared with Save the Rhino, a charity to save the rhino.  F you haven’t seen Jon or one of Jon’s video, here is one to start you off.  Chances are, you will be doing some searching on YouTube after hearing this.

Here is another of the many examples of Gomm’s virtuosity available on YouTube, by the way.  Prepare to be amazed.

Musician Stu Nunnery is making a musical comeback after spending decades on the sideline due to health issues.  While I don’t use this column as a forum for fundraising, I make the exception here because of his unique story.  This was his latest post on FB and has a contact link for the Kickstarter page and a video which explains his situation.  Like David Olney wrote and Steve Young sang (okay, Olney sang it too), he coulda been a contender.  From Stu:  JUST 19 DAYS TO GO – have a look-see and climb aboard – with your support, we’re goin plac’es!!!!
http://kck.st/1z45o8j

I hate to say this. I wasn’t all that impressed with Mason Summit‘s first album, but this track from his new one, Loud Music and Soft Drinks, has caught my interest.  Time to listen closer and maybe re-evaluate, methinks.

=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.” 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: