Frank Gutch Jr: Jack Ely & the Accidental Louie; Jim Terr One-Ups a Major Label; The Personal Effects of Kent State; An Apology to Marca Cassity; Plus No Notes…..

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Jack Ely‘s dead!  Long live the King(sman).  I hope that doesn’t come off as flippant for it is certainly not meant that way.  While Jack was not really a friend of mine, he was an acquaintance.  Sort of.  I knew him, though.  Here is how that came about.  (Those who already know the story can scroll down to “Jim Terr.”

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I was working the day shift out of Wilshire Boulevard’s Licorice Pizza in the mid-seventies when this guy comes in asking questions.  “Anyone ever heard of Jack Ely?” he asked.  “Supposed to have been a member of The Kingsmen.  Claims to have sung Louie, Louie.”  “Yep, that’s right, Stranger,” I replied.  “Only song he sang with them, far as I know.  On record,” I clarified.  “Why?  Who’s asking?”  “Ray Benich,” he said, squaring himself and pulling his trenchcoat back to show a sixgun.  “From Cleveland.  Played with The Damnation of Adam Blessing recently.  So you know this Ely feller?”  “Not personally,” I said, “but I know of him.  Sang Louie Louie and left The Kingsmen.  Formed his own band called Jack Ely & The Kingsmen, but changed the name to Jack Ely & The Courtmen shortly thereafter.  Pro’ly a legal matter.  Why you asking?”  “Ran into him the other day.  Lookin’ for someone to collaborate with writin’ songs.  He legit?”  “If he’s the same Jack Ely, he is.  Plenty legit.  You run into him, have him stop by.  I’d like some words with him.”  “Okay.  Thank you kindly.”  He tipped his hat, whirled quickly and was half out the door before I could stop him.  “Benich?”  “Yeah,” he answered.  “Why the hell couldn’t Damnation sell any albums outside of Cleveland?”  “Beats the hell out of me,” he shrugged, and was gone.

Jack Ely of the KingsmenA couple days later, in walks a guy claiming to be this elusive Mr. Ely, asking for me.  “Benich said you know me,” he stated.  “Not really, “ I said.  “Just know of you.  And I’m damn glad to meet you.”  We shook hands, talked of Oregon and The Courtmen and a little about The Kingsmen and then he got to the point, which I was missing completely.  “You guys hiring?”  I was a bit taken aback.  “Seriously?” I asked.  “Seriously,” he said.  “Down here trying to sell some songs.  It isn’t going that well.  Gotta eat.”  So I introduced him to Daryl, our manager, and Daryl gave him a job.

That’s pretty much how it happened, except for the mental references to the Old West.  I only worked with Jack twice, having to spend most of my time readying for a move to move to San Diego and open a store there.  Jack lasted about two months.  Starting wages in L.A. were hard to take.  He moved on, God knows where, but I remember the conversation we had and how surprised I was to hear his story regarding The Kingsmen.  Here is what I learned from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, and what was pretty much confirmed in articles I have read since.

Jack Ely and Lynn Easton, originally the drummer in the later group called The Kingsmen, became acquainted  through a church.  Each played in what has been referred to as “vaudeville troupes,” Jack’s sponsored by Portland newspaper The Oregonian, Lynn’s by rival Journal.  One day Lynn’s group, known as The Journal Jr.’s, had a gig their guitarist could not make, so Jack was asked to fill in.  “…so I took my $13 Woolworth Stella guitar and amp” and filled in.  After the gig, Jack and Lynn decided to attempt being a duo, which lasted six months, Lynn on drums and Jack on guitar and vocals.  Six months later, Mike Mitchell joined on lead guitar and the group became a trio.  Four months later, they added Bob Nordby on bass.

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Through Easton’s mother, the band found out that a band known as The Kingsmen were disbanding.  The band’s leader was approached, permission to use the name was granted, and the band was no longer nameless.

Easton got a job at a food brokerage company, which soon offered the band a gig promoting the firm at various local grocery stores.  Payment was a truck and a PA system.  It was no longer necessary for the band’s vocals to be run through the amps.  This was about 1960.  The band continued playing a variety of gigs over the next couple of years, mainly R&B, and finally went into a studio to record.  It was a rocked-up version of The Theme from Peter Gunn and, according to Jack, “It sounded terrible, so we just made a few acetates for ourselves and forgot about it.”

They decided the band needed a keyboard player but was having trouble finding one.  One evening, the band headed into a club called The Headless Horseman and hit the motherlode.  Jim Dunlap & The Horsemen were playing with a very young Don Gallucci on keyboards.  “This kid was an incredible whiz on the keyboards,” Jack later said in an interview conducted by Robert Dalley for Goldmine Magazine.  “He had a Hohner electric piano and played it through a Sears Alamo amplifier.  We talked to Don and discovered that he was dissatisfied with the Horsemen because Jim was pulling a power play and taking the group away from him.  (Don) wanted to be in a more music-oritented group where he could occasionally play a few instrumentals.  I guess we talked a good game because five months later, Don “The Kid” joined our group.

About this time, a new teen club (The Chase) opened in Milwaukee (Oregon, of course) and the owner, Ken Chase, talked the band into playing.  They soon became the house band.  Evidently, the club, though it could only hold about 150 writhing teens, became quite the success because it looked like a big club and not just another armory or gym.  They even mixed sodas with names like Singapore Sling and the like, and the teens did— like.

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The Kingsmen, before fame, had a relationship with Paul Revere & The Raiders.  After a year or so of playing The Chase, “We went to the coast one weekend and played with a group who were good friends of ours— Paul Revere & The Raiders,” said Jack.  “Everybody thought we were rivals but we were all good buddies.  We would get to the gigs, set up each others’ equipment and jam for awhile before the shows or battles.  Sometimes, Mark Lindsay and I would get up and sing some Righteous Brothers song together.  We couldn’t do it in front of people because our fans wanted us to have this rivalry between us.  We were appearing at the Pipal Club on the coast with Revere and we heard this song on the jukebox.  It was an R&B version of an old gospel tune called Louie Louie and was by The Wailers on a Seattle label (Etiquette).  The Wailers used a full horn section on it and it drove the kids nuts.”

Though it was not a full horn section, the sax sound was fuller than most and made an impression.  Jack went out and bought the record, the idea being for The Kingsmen to cover the song.  Mike Mitchell has been chosen to sing it, but he had not learned the lyrics by the time the rehearsal came around, so Jack took it by default.  When put into action at The Chase, the kids did indeed go nuts.  The place rocked.  Ken wanted them to record it and set up a recording session.

kingsmenjerden“We were just about to tell Ken to go jump,” explained Jack, as he hadn’t done anything for the group but was still taking his cut.  He surprised us by arranging to go to Portland the next morning (this was Friday night) to record Louie Louie.  He said he had taken care of everything.  We were at the studio at 10 A.M. sharp, ready to set up.  The engineer told us it was going to cost $25 an hour and we said fine, thinking our manager was going to take care of it.  Ken informed us that he didn’t have any money.  We were mad but said we would pay for it.  We set up and ran through the song, but the acoustics of the room sounded horrible.  We moved the large curtains, rolled up the rug and set our stuff back up on the floor.  We set one mike in front of each amp and did a second run-through.  Ken came out of the booth and said it still didn’t sound right.  He wanted a live sound.  The room had sixteen-foot ceilings, so we extended the boom stand as far up as it would go and I stood underneath it and yelled the words into the microphone hanging high over my head.  The end result sounded like all bands did in those days.  There was a lot of fuzz, the low end of the bass, a little bit of the guitars, and keyboards, all kind of running together.  We thought it was horrible but Ken loved it.  He was able to get a record distributor friend of his, Jerry Dennon, to press a thousand copies of the record.  We sold them to friends, relatives, and neighbors.  And we bugged all of the radio stations in Portland to play it.”

The record got as high as #20 in Portland.  The Raiders had recorded a version of the song the day after The Kingsmen, using the same studio.  The Raiders got more airplay, but eventually both records dropped off the charts without making any real waves.

Shortly thereafter, Easton made his move.  He and his mother, without letting other band members know, had registered the name of the band under their names.  For all intents and purposes, Easton owned the band name and he let the band know it.  After a my-way-or-the-highway statement, Jack, who had been there from the beginning, decided to take the highway.

A month or so later, Jack found out that Louie Louie was picking up steam in, of all places, Boston.  Jerry Dennon had signed a deal with Wand Records, who released the single nationally.

“I tried to get back into the group,” Jack stated, “but I had too much pride to go begging.  By this time, Lynn’s head was blown out of proportion— he thought he could get up and fake singing Louie Louie and that no one would know that he wasn’t the singer on the record.”

(Note:  The Kingsmen are not playing on this clip, nor is that Jack Ely supposedly singing, though it is Jack Ely you are hearing)

Jack sat around for awhile until a booking agent called and told him that The Kingsmen were having trouble on the road, that when they played no one believed it was the band which had recorded Louie Louie.  So Jack put together a band, calling it Jack Ely & The Kingsmen.  Ely spent two to three years on the road doing the song with his new band.

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Bang Records came along and signed Jack and his renamed band, Jack Ely & The Courtmen.  The first single out of the chute was a remake, Louie Louie ’66.  It did well in the Pac Northwest, but not much elsewhere.

Before signing to Bang, by the way, The Kingsmen took Ely to court, claiming that he infringed on the band’s name and destroyed their bookings.  In fact, the court settlement was the reason why Jack changed from Kingsmen to Courtmen.  One thing that did come out of the settlement in Jack’s favor was that any reissues of the 45 had to show that Jack Ely was the vocalist.

Don and the GoodtimesThere is a lot more to the story.  Don Gallucci went on to form one of the top Pac NW bands, Don & The Goodtimes.  A later bassist, Norm Sundholm, started Sunn Instrument Company with his brother (their bass amps were very popular for awhile and they had this keyboard with a “tubular bells” style stand which was like nothing I had ever seen, before or since).  The Kingsmen recorded many songs and released a few more albums before calling it quits.  It was a mess, but it was a glorious mess.

Jack was quite discouraged by the time I met him.  He had evidently divorced his wife not long before (he told me only that he had girl problems), he was trying to put a band together and sell songs and had to take the job at the record store for survival’s sake.  He was quiet and introverted.  But he was still a nice guy.  The night we worked together on the floor, I kept dragging people over to meet him, saying, hey, this is the guy who sang Louie Louie for The Kingsmen.  I was an idiot, but I liked the guy and wanted people to know.  Mostly, it fell on deaf ears.  Los Angeles was the happening thing then.  If it wasn’t Joni or The Eagles or Linda or Jackson, few people cared.  God, but that was a lo-o-o-ong year in L.A.  It got to the point I wanted to punch out anyone who even asked for an Eagles album, swear to God.

Jack ElyAnd now Jack’s gone.  I know I’m not too awful far behind.  One thing— whether you’re famous or not, you’re going to eventually take the same trail as everyone else.  I pulled out my Jack Ely & The Courtmen singles to use while writing this, thinking that maybe Jack would appreciate it if he knew.  I think he would have.

An aside:  Many of the quotes used in this piece appeared originally in an article written by Robert Dalley and printed in the February, 1981 issue of Goldmine Magazine.  To my knowledge, that was the first look at the true history of the band.  Goldmine got lots of my money over the years.  One of the best retro magazines available back then.

———————————————————–

Jim Terr— The Man Who Hustled a Major Label (and lived to tell the tale)…

Jim_TerrI met Jim Terr through musician Steve Young, whom I was interviewing for an article.  I think my question to Steve was, how the hell did that Blue Canyon album come about, and Steve said, you would have to ask Terr.  It was a bit of an aside for Young, who had two major label albums to his credit and was soon to have two more.  I mean, who would have thought to walk into an office and say, hey, you’re not doing anything with that Steve Young album.  Why not sell it to me?  Well, Terr did, and evidently his purchase was the last of its kind ever allowed— by Warner Brothers, anyway.

“A friend turned me on to Steve Young‘s Seven Bridges Road album when I was living in Southern California, the summer of ’72 or thereabouts,” said Jim Terr when I asked him how he and Young had gotten together. “I became really obsessed with it. I loved it— the writing, the sound, the feel of it. (To that point), I had never listened to anything quite so obsessively, I would say.

“I think I must have gotten in touch with Steve who was either in Southern California at the time or was at his guitar shop in the Bay Area. Or maybe he had just left there and gone to Nashville.”

steveyoungsevenbridges“We became friends,” Young said. “He thought Seven Bridges Road was the greatest record ever released and he had this little dinky record company in New Mexico. (When I explained that the record was out of circulation and just sitting around), he came up with this crazy idea to ask Warner Brothers Records if they would sell it. So he went to Warner Brothers and bought the masters for almost nothing.”

“I don’t know how I got the idea, but I did,” Terr said. “I bought (the album) for some ridiculous amount— like $1200 or $2000 or something like that. Some time later, I was told that that was the last time Warners sold tapes that were lying around. For any amount of money. It was apparently an embarrassment to them that someone bought the album for next to nothing and got some mileage out of it. Not that I made a fortune on it, but somebody could have.”

After the purchase, it didn’t take long for Terr and Young to get to work.

lastmileramblers“I began gigging with this band from New Mexico called The Last Mile Ramblers,” Young remembered. “Terr had been trying to work with them and I just went along with the flow. We had played some around Albuquerque and there was kind of a good vibe between myself and the band, so I wasn’t opposed to going into the studio and seeing what would happen in a session.

“I ended up re-recording one song (The White Trash Song) with them for the Blue Canyon release while I was hanging out in New Mexico, playing. New Mexico was a fascinating experience for me. More contact with the Mexican-Indian world. I’ll never forget it.”

It should be noted also that there was a change beyond the new version of The White Trash Song. One Car Funeral Procession gave way to a cover of Merle Haggard‘s I Can’t Hold Myself In Line. Terr thought that maybe the reason had to do with Young’s admiration for Haggard, that Young had a thing for Haggard’s music.

“I do,” admitted Young. “I think Haggard is absolutely brilliant on a lot of his songs and is probably the last ‘real’ country guy around anywhere. When he’s at his best. I Can’t Hold Myself In Line is from that original L.A. session. We cut a bunch of different songs then and I can’t remember why or who decided, but we ended up using that track on the Blue Canyon album.”

The Last Mile Ramblers were from my home area,” Terr added, “and I had done some recording with them. As you may know, the now semi-famous Junior Brown was their guitar player at the time, calling himself J. B. Brown. That blazing guitar was probably half the reason I wanted to record them.

“Steve did a big concert out here with Waylon Jennings and The Last Mile Ramblers. The Ramblers backed Steve up and maybe that’s how he got turned on to them. But Junior Brown being such a hot guitarist, maybe that is the key to their recording of The White Trash Song. Shortly after that concert, they all went into the studio and recorded it with that fast guitar of J. B. Brown.

“I had had a couple of albums out prior to Seven Bridges Road. I would describe Blue Canyon Records as a dilettante operation, if you know what I mean. I was just lucky to have had contact with Steve and Junior and The Ramblers— some good writers, pickers and singers.

The Last Mile Ramblers album may have, in fact, been released after the Blue Canyon version of Seven Bridges Road. It is amazing that I can’t remember which came first. There was at least one earlier album. I was in San Francisco the summer I met Steve and recorded an album by a band called Sweetgrass.

“I don’t think I pressed more than a couple thousand of the Seven Bridges Road album. And there was a sort of press version, too. It was in a plain white sleeve with a square label on it. I couldn’t tell you how it compared to the actual release, but there were probably some differences. I may have pressed a couple of hundred of that one. I only did it to dig up interest from the press.

“I had a lot of ambition and a lot of energy, but I wouldn’t say I was organized. I repackaged the album in a black-and-white album jacket, nothing fancy, and got it out. It got some circulation because there were a number of Steve Young fans out there, and even with my poor efforts it got some reviews. Rolling Stone reviewed it, which didn’t necessarily guarantee a best-seller, that having to do more with distribution and all.”

Distribution was shoddy, in fact, through no fault of Blue Canyon. The label was forced to work within the frameworks of small independent distributors which alone placed obstacles in the way at every turn. Just the fact that the album was listed among thousands of others, in some instances, made it hard to find. Add to that the lack of publicity and the album was virtually dead-on-arrival. Not that it didn’t sell. It just didn’t sell well enough to warrant keeping it in print.

SlimLater, Terr signed Slim Pickens to a one-off deal. That album took the focus off of Young’s album and it faded beneath the novelty of Pickens and his homespun style of music.

“There is a take of Guy Clark‘s Desperadoes Waiting For a Train on Slim’s album,” Terr told me, “which Steve told me that Clark had told him was his favorite version of the song ever produced. To my knowledge, that was the only Slim Pickens album ever released. He did a couple of other things, but I don’t think they were ever released as albums.”

Memories of Kent State…

I remember Kent State.  I remember being angry and mentally distraught but most of all I felt a strange aversion to what the country had become.  I was aware of the love-it-or-leave-it-mentality, the credo of my-country-right-or-wrong.  I hated the War, I hated the right-wingers and I hated the Army.  Kent State was a 2X4 between the eyes.  I wrote about it in this column a year ago.

Kent State Student Reacting to Death of Slain Protester

I was in the training room the day after the shootings at Kent State and quite emotional and in shock, truth be told.  I felt it a tragedy and believe most of us at Fort Lewis did, too.  Sure, there were the typical asswipes making tea-party type comments, but they were mostly ignored.  Except this sergeant assigned to G-2 at Battalion (G-2 is “military intelligence,” and I put it in quotes for a reason— think about it a moment.  You’ll get it) (Battalion is one step up from Company in the military hierarchy).  This sergeant knew I was anti-war (I never made a secret of it) and when he swaggered in, he made a statement to the effect that he thought they should line up all protesters against a wall and shoot them, too.  I saw red.  I vaulted the desk and decked him.  The guys dragged me out of the room and took me to the mess hall for a cup of coffee while they tried to sort out everything that had just happened.  Smart move.  Like I needed caffeine.  The sergeant, as I knew he would and had every right to do, was calling for a court-martial.  Every guy in the room when it happened, though, claimed that I was provoked.  The First Sergeant told the G-2 sergeant that he could file a court-martial but that he would have to file one against him, too, for whatever technical reason.  The sergeant backed down.

Have you ever done something you regretted?  As much as I hated what he had said, I regretted hitting him.  I have never been a fighter.  I hope I never have to become one.

Every time I see the picture of the Kent State student laying dead, the girl kneeling obviously horrified, it brings back what America could have become.

Only one good thing came out of that.  CSNY‘s Ohio.  Don’t ever think it can’t happen again, and worse.  As crazy as these fucks like Cruz and Ryan and Walker look to most of us, they can do damage.  It isn’t worth another Ohio.  As good as I think that song is, it just isn’t worth it.

Marca Cassity, I Owe You an Apology…

MarcaCassity-SongsFromTheWell-350It was October of last year that I received a request to listen to an album by Marca Cassity.  I followed the suggestion, listened once and promptly got involved in a myriad of other things, musical and otherwise.  Just this last week, I decided to revisit the album.  Ms. Cassity, I owe you an apology.  What I found is an album (Songs From The Well) fully deserving of attention.  I wish I had followed through when I first heard it.

Trust me, sports fans, when I tell you that Cassity has both voice and songs worth hearing.  If I had the time, I would write a review right now, but the deadline beckons and I would rather write about Songs from the Well outside the confines of a column, anyway.  Let me place this one video as an example of what Cassity can do live (be aware that the sound quality is not the best, but let me assure you that what is on the album is primo).  She is Osage, for those who want to know, and has a delicate touch with her songs.

No Notes this week.  You people are letting me down.

Notes

Time for a nap.  No Canadian Music Week down here.  I miss all the good stuff.

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

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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