Frank Gutch Jr: Moments In Time— A Selfish Remembrance of Music…..

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I  saw a photographic exhibition once in which a photographer attempted to lay out his life in black & white.  I don’t remember the person’s name but you wouldn’t know him anyway— he never reached any level of fame as far as I know— yet, anyway.  He was a nobody who loved taking pictures and being in pictures and he laid his whole life out in photos, mostly of himself and people who must have been nobodies too.

No doubt there were relatives— Uncle Fred and Aunt Elma and the obligatory string of humans to whom we are attached by the mere circumstance of life.  Probably there was a mother and dad in there, and siblings of one sort or another.  Friends, undoubtedly, but close and casual.  And there were moments.  One picture I remember distinctly having been taken at a race track of some sort— auto, not horses—  our subject/cameraman posing on the back of the back seat of a race car, arms around what I assumed was the driver on one side, a beautiful teen on the other.  I stared at that picture for a long time, trying to envision that moment in time.  Was she a girlfriend or one of the teen beauties race promoters used as incentive?  Was he a brother or friend or just someone the subject talked into allowing the picture to be snapped?  There was a story there.  There always is.  Every moment nis a story unto itself, or becomes one eventually.  I walked away from that exhibit wishing I had taken notes.  And I wonder today if anyone remembers either the person or the exhibit.  Every step we take, to my mind, is a step in a different direction.  Every decision we make is unique and gives us direction.  Every moment is a different world.

mejerry3aI look back over my life and wonder what life would be if, say, my father had taken a job he had been offered in Reedsport, Oregon  when I was young.  If I had had a real goal in life before I left Sweet Home for college.  If I had had different friends.  If I had had special talents.  If I had refused the draft.  If I had gotten married— I wanted to, you know, but life sometimes has other plans.

Probably the biggest if would be if I had not become completely consumed with music.  It was my parents’ fault.  I was surrounded by music, as limited as the choices were.  My father hummed all the time (and very poorly), occasionally breaking out in song for one line of Rock of Ages or I See the Light (he was not a religious man, per se, but loved hymns like you wouldn’t believe.  My mother, when music was playing, always whistled, and always in the wrong key.  My sister, prodded by Momma more than anyone, learned violin and, later, clarinet.  I had wanted to play trumpet but was handed drumsticks because the instrument rental store had run out of trumpets.  A pair of sticks and a drum pad.  I didn’t really care about drummers outside of their usefulness as beat-givers, but I soon learned to.

See what I mean?  You don’t always control your own destiny, and yet you do.  I could have refused the drumsticks.  I could have forced the trumpet issue and demanded that the store find one more trumpet or cornet.  But I didn’t.  I couldn’t wait.  The music gene had been planted in me so deep that I actually did not care, as long as I could make some kind of music.

(FILE) 50 Years Since The Beatles First Appeared On Ed Sullivan

And I think, what if that photo exhibit had been mine?  What pictures would define my life?  What moments have defined my life?  Well, not the moments which defined most of yours.  For one thing, that Ed Sullivan Show with The Beatles?  Nothing more than interesting to me.  I had already seen girls scream at Frank Sinatra and even Eddie Fisher, so what was the big deal?  The music?  They were somewhat unique, but not enough to make me take notice.  I liked the band and would become a real fan with the release of Rubber Soul, but it would take that long.

There were moments, however, which had definite impact, but they were personal.  As I grew, I found myself leaning more toward the personal aspects of music and not the social (well, outside of dances at which I was not playing).  I began listening as much to learn as to hear.  I began dissecting songs in my head, intrigued by what I would later discover was music arrangement, a concept I assumed was inherent in the song itself.  You begin to get a feel for the music when you do that, not just feel it.  You begin to become fascinated and then engrossed until you finally realize you are hooked beyond all reason and are then consumed.  My life in a nutshell.  I have delved into the sixties with in previous columns.  Here are some moments and musicians from the seventies that also cracked that shell.

Steve Young and The Allman Brothers Band…..

SYoungRockI’ve told the story of my finding Steve Young so many times I hesitate to do it again, but it bears repeating at least one more time.  It was January of 1970, I was incarcerated (okay, drafted) and serving my sentence at Fort Lewis, Washington.  A guy named Robert Hall had gone home on leave to his home state of Florida and when he came back, came to find me.  “Here are two albums you won’t be able to live without,” he said, and tossed Young’s Rock Salt & Nails and the first Allman Brothers Band albums on the bunk.  It didn’t take me long, like a few seconds of each, to get into them.  With the Allmans, it was pure lust, an insatiable thirst like I had seldom had.  Steve Young took a bit longer, but his music got into my genes and would not let go.  While that first Allmans album remains my favorite of theirs to this day, albums by Steve Young began to pile one on another until there was a stack which, had it toppled, would have killed me.  (I exaggerate, of course).  Each of those albums became what I now term benchmark albums— albums to which so many others are compared to assimilate their worth.  The Allmans faded for me, musically, with the passing of Duane Allman and then Berry Oakley, but Steve seemed to get better as the years passed.  Lately, Steve’s son Jubal Lee Young has taken up the standard.  Like Steve, he gets better with every album.

Michael Nesmith…..

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I liken Nesmith to Rick Nelson in that both went country rock after their pop and rock beginnings and were both pretty much rebuffed by old fans.  I saw Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band one night at The Palomino Club in North Hollywood and Nelson put an end to people screaming names of his old songs from the audience with a statement that he would play a medley of his old hits but that he had a band he was damn proud of onstage with him and he wanted people to hear what they had put together.  The medley would be it.  Nesmith put together similar bands, originally called The First National and Second National Band(s), but I never had a chance to see them play.  Both Nelson and Nesmith, by the way, broke out of the country rock mold and went rock & roll, but they held on as long as they could.  And both gave me direction and purpose in a record business pandering more and more to money and what became superstars.

This video is part one of four and I post just the first because you can easily track the others down on YouTube.  It is a radio program Pacific Arts (Nesmith’s label) put together to promote his Infinite Rider On the Big Dogma album and incorporates music from the album interspersed with segments of an interview Nesmith did capsulizing his musical life.  Fascinating stuff and, again, very influential to me.

Cargoe…..  oh, and Big Star…..

cargoebeneathThe very first long piece I ever wrote regarding music was The Story of Cargoe, a piece I am right now rearranging for posting on the Net.  A Tulsa band, they made the jump to Memphis in the early seventies, recorded an album (now lost) with Dan Penn, and finally made the leap to Ardent Records where they released the first album on that venerable label.  The intervening years have found Ardent’s Big Star gaining god-like status (I mean, they were good, but come on!) while Cargoe’s lone album collected dust.  Well, these guys were my pick straight out of the gate.  Since the BS resurgence, Cargoe reformed and put out another album on their own label.  Were these guys cool?  I will let you find out for yourself when I get the story of the band reposted.  Stay tuned!  Oh, by the way, a review I wrote on Cargoe’s album was the first ever review I had published in the national press, thanks to Barry Glovsky and Fusion Magazine.

Emitt Rhodes…..

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Is there a better song anywhere than Time Will Show the Wiser?  I guess it depends upon who you are, but I haven’t found anything as good as far as pop music goes.  It was the flip of The Merry-Go-Round’s Live, a song which deserved to be #1 but only made it to— #63?!!!!!  WTF?  This is why I only use Billboard Magazine as a yardstick.  Willamette Valley radio played the hell out of Live because it was a freaking excellent song!  Let’s see who beat them out that year… uh, okay, most of them were good songs, but not as good.  I mean, Something Stupid?  Kill me now.

Rhodes was to move on to a solo career which was critically solid but a financial disaster.  Three solo albums tanked so bad the world toppled off its axis for a second.  Sure, wiki says that the first Dunhill album made it to #29, but I have no idea what chart that was.  Lower Slombovia or something.  The thing was, all three albums were, to my ears, superb.  To my knowledge, Rhodes played every instrument himself (take that, McCartney) and wrote some of the best pop music of that period.

If Rhodes’ story told me anything, it was that the cards were stacked against the music and controlled by people who had no real interest in music beyond the profit it generates.  I began to sour on the industry about this time.  Call me fickle.

And I think it unfortunate that the documentary about Emitt Rhodes was titled The One Man Beatles.  Of course, the guy who put it together was Italian.

Barclay James Harvest…..

barclay_james_harvest_bandI love progressive rock, which made a big push in the early- to mid-seventies.  Some is a bit harsh but even the harshest is worth hearing, if only for the musicianship (I feel the same way about jazz).  The thing is, it would have been quite the leap from, say, The Merry-Go-Round to Van der Graaf Generator.  I mean, sweet pop to intense prog?  Only a small percentage of serious music listeners can make that jump.  I made it, but only with the help of groups like The Moody Blues and Barclay James Harvest— bands which were sweet and melodic but adventurous when it came to arrangements and instrumentation.  The Moodys I heard everywhere but it took the guys at Eugene’s House of Records to get me to listen to BJH.  I saw these guys at The Troubadour in L.A. during their Time Honoured Ghosts tour.  What an amazing show that was.

Not really anything like you will hear on the next few videos.  I can thank my friend Darrell for turning me onto Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator, thanks to the bedrock laid down by BJH and the Moody Blues.  It was a bit of a stretch, but I became very comfortable with it in very little time and from that point on started filling holes in my collection with Ash Ra Tempel and Popol Vuh and Greenslade and a whole slew of bands which lived on the edges of prog.  And here you thought Yes was prog, right?  Not like this…

Damnation (The… of Adam Blessing…..

damnationshubaCleveland folks will know what I’m taking about here because that city is Damnation’s hometown.  Or was.  Damnation was another one of those bands which could have and should have made it nationally.  They had the chops and the right amount of push.  But they were, at least on the Left Coast, a victim of their label because by the time Damnation came around, United Artists had all kinds of problems with radio and record distribution.   In those days (you know, the Stone Age), it was hard enough to get records in the various stores than it was supposed to be, and if the records weren’t there, radio wasn’t going to play whatever was in the grooves.  I approached a lot of people in the handful of years the band had the record deal and very few had ever heard of them, even in Los Angeles, and I’m talking people who worked in the industry.  What I learned from these guys is name recognition.  When you don’t have it, you’re dead in the water, no matter how good the music is.  (Photo by George Shuba)

Pure Prairie League…..

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Let this be a warning about the influence you have over others, even in the smallest way.  I was working at Licorice Pizza in L.A. one day when the owner, Jim Greenwood, came in to do an interview with someone from, I think, Radio and Records.  Jim and the interviewer sat on the couch over by the window which looked out on Wilshire Boulevard and seemed to be having a decent conversation when Jim got up and came to the counter.  What’s this, he asked, pointing to the speakers hanging from the ceiling.  Pure Prairie League, I told him.  Say again?  Pure Prairie League.  Make sure I take one home with me, he said, and went back to the couch to finish the interview.  Now what happened next might not be exactly truth, but it is what I heard.  Jim took both albums home that day, the self-titled album and Bustin’ Out, and fell in love with him.  The next day he called RCA Records to see about advertising.  Funny you called, RCA said.  We just signed PPL to a new deal and they are coming to L.A. soon to record a new album.  Of course, we will give you advertising on that.   What’s that?  You want to sell the first two albums?  Well, I don’t know.  Those albums have been out for awhile.  We don’t like to put good money behind old product.  Well, ol’ Jim must have been might persuasive because the next thing you know, Darren the head buyer was on the phone asking me how many did I think we could sell.  I don’t remember the number I gave him but it was mighty high for records which had already fallen off the grid, so to speak.  I know because he choked a little when he asked me if he had heard right.  Long story short.  RCA okayed the advertising and rather than just toss $5000 in ad money down the tubes, decided to re-release Amie and it hit.  Word has it that they even held up release on Two Lane Highway to give Bustin’ Out time to sell.

Now, whether that is totally true or not, I don’t really care.  The point I’m making is that you never know the power you might have in certain situations.  I really had nothing to do with anything except playing one of my favorite records.  Oh.  I think some of it is true because RCA gave me a belt buckle.  Nice pewter one with the RCA dog on it and everything.  I still have it.

BTW, I’m closing this column (besides the Notes) with a track I’d never heard before and just found.  Here is what they are calling the “rare fiddle track” version of Amie.  It is actually very cool.

NotesNotes…  Texans have been talking a lot about this Ginny Mac person.  Plays the accordion, they say.  Puts on a hell of a show, they say.  Going to be a star, they say.  After watching this, and assuming that she finds a direction away from just covers, I think they may be onto something.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/122822621″>Ginny Mac and some Texas Blues</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/fortworthfunky”>Fort Worth Funky</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com“>Vimeo</a>.</p>

I have the best friends in the world.  They are constantly passing along information about musicians I really need to check out.  The latest is from John Troutman, who sent me this gem of a video from a guy named Ryley Walker, telling me he reminds him of Tim Buckley and John Martyn.  He knows his stuff.  Early Martyn, for sure, and Buckley too, and a handful of others I can’t place right now.  Folk Rock— when it’s done this good, it never gets old.

Elliott Randall has had one long and glorious career as a musician.  Here he is playing with an early band, Randall’s Island.  This is classic stuff!

I always liked these guys.  Their first (self-titled) album was a killer, thanks to some exceptional production by Roy Thomas Baker.  And this song— well, I normally do not like covers, but this isn’t anywhere near what The Beatles did.

Because I’m in the mood for San Francisco:

It’s hard to miss when you have a bass player like Jack Casady.

Here’s some Janis Joplin footage I’ll bet few of you have seen.

I met John Cipollina when The Dinosaurs came to do an instore at Peaches in Seattle in the early- to mid-eighties.

My beautiful picture

All of the guys were pretty cool, but Cipollina was the coolest.  Like the guy says in this film clip, he spent time to get to know the people who came in to see him a little, and he did look me in the eyes, though I didn’t watch him enough to know if he did it with everyone.  Gary Duncan, his counterpoint in Quicksilver, told me in an interview that Cipollina had an obsession with his sound, always tinkering with speakers and horns and toys of all kinds.  I liked him enough to follow him through a number of bands such as Copperhead, Man and The Dinosaurs, always listening for the signature guitar sound.  I had no idea a film was in the offing.  Hell, it might already be out there.  If you liked Cipollina at all, dig this.  And the picture above is one I took of that in-store.  Not too long afterward, Cipollina tripped off this mortal coil.  It must have been his time.

=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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