Frank Gutch Jr: The Saga of a Rock Pioneer: Jim Colegrove— Chapter Five

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The music business has always been such that the stars become super and the rest pretty much stay in the background.  A case in point would be The Funk Brothers and The Wrecking Crew and the many session men (and women) who do the grunt work while the headliners reaps the profits.  Not that the stars want it that way.  That is just the way it is.  And maybe that’s the way it is supposed to be.  The people within the music industry sure know the supporting cast by name, if the public doesn’t: the session men and the opening acts and the bands which didn’t get the chance or got the chance and didn’t make it for one odd reason or another.

Jim Colegrove

Jim Colegrove has been on all sides of the biz— musician, engineer, producer, promoter.  He has played with the likes of Ian Tyson and The Juke Jumpers and has worked closely with the legendary Felix Pappalardi and has pulled off a string of triumphs maybe few noticed but which were triumphs nonetheless.  He started in music in the fifties— yeah, pre-Beatles— and has been working in it ever since.  Four chapters have preceded this.  If you have not read them, it might behoove you to catch up, shall we say?  Here are links to the earlier chapters, should you want to:

Chapter One: The Early Years

Chapter Two: The End of the Age of Innocence

Chapter Three: Jim Colegrove in Dreamland

Chapter Four: The Big Apple

Let us begin anew.  When last we saw Colegrove, he and his then band, Thee Rubber Band, had just been given an opportunity by Dunhill Records’ Lou Adler only to be dropped before their chance to hit the West Coast on what they hoped would be a ride to the top.  Due to circumstances beyond their control, it didn’t happen.  The band was left deflated and frustrated and back in the old home state of Ohio, broke and struggling once again.  What’s more, they had no gigs to speak of, either.

They were forced to bury the hatchet with old backer, Jeff Franklin, who set them up at The Bowery in Columbus.  The gig came with complimentary apartment which, according to Colegrove “made our place in Brooklyn look like a mansion.  It was disgusting.  We survived by sleeping on cots and smoking dope.  The club was about as bad.”  They soon moved to a new club and better accommodations, Luv-a-Go-Go, and they replaced bassist Tad Devlin with Jim Wooten, who had had to turn down the offer to move to the West Coast because of other commitments.

Wooten upped the band’s game enough that Colegrove begged a chance to play Mickey’s again.  Franklin scheduled them there (as Thee Rubber Band) right after they finished playing The Bowery.   Things were once again on the up and up.  (The photo below is of The Hobbitts, but was the original lineup of Thee Rubber Band)

Hobbitts in NYC 1966

“I wrote new songs and we did some recording at Film Associates in Dayton,” Colegrove remembered.  “We cut two songs I had written— Brooklyn and What I’m Doing with my Heart, as well as a cover of Jerry Butler‘s For Your Precious Love.  They were good but sounded less than market quality.” 

Right after, Smart dropped a bombshell.  He was leaving the group.  Two Guys from Boston, a folk duo, had decided to go rock and asked Smart to join.  The band needed a bass player, he said, and offered Colegrove a Gibson SG bass and a Vox amp to use.  Colegrove weighed the choices.  Live and die in Ohio or take another chance on New York.  New York won.

Colegrove also faced a challenge from the Army about this time.  Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had called for the dissolution of the Army Reserve and members were ordered to either sign up for a regular unit and face active duty or be reassigned to the Selective Service pool.  Colegrove, figuring he and his pals had given enough (Les Sayre had paid with his life in Viet Nam) refused.  He began tearing up any notifications sent his way.

Smart, while they waited, found a place to live in Boston on Pinckney in Beacon Hill.  It was close to the club they would play first which was good enough for Colegrove.  They played their last few gigs, said goodbye and piled into a car with Smart’s father and brother-in-law for the trek east.  By the time they got to New York, where they stopped to pick up a set of Smart’s drums from Barry Tashian, the snow was falling.  They talked with Barry, smoked some dope and loaded the drums into the trailer.

By the time they got to Boston and their new digs, the roads were passable.  Joe Hutchinson, one of the Two Guys, stopped by and introduced himself.  He was living a block over at a boarding house.  The equipment had to be taken to Eddie Mottau‘s in Avon (Eddie was the other guy) which is where the band was going to practice.  There, Colegrove began to learn the Two Guys’ story.

twoguysfromboston45Hutchinson was from Pittsburgh, played guitar and banjo and teamed up with folkie Eric Andersen when they both attended Hobart College.  He met Mottau not long after at a folk music gathering and they decided to team up which led to hopping freights and playing wherever they could.  After meeting Noel ‘Paul’ Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary, they slicked up their act, put pickups on their acoustic guitars and began playing clubs with full band backup.  Among their entourage at different times were Felix Pappalardi, John Sebastian, and drummer Bobby Gregg.  “Before Pappalardi produced the classic Youngbloods album and before Sebastian started The Lovin’ Spoonful,”  Quite the coup, before the fact.  The two did record an album for Scepter Records, though more than likely without that lineup, but only a single was released from those session.

The duo decided to head their own ways but after awhile met up in Boston and, after a few drinks, ended up on stage together.  They decided to give it another go and set about putting a band together.  They called Smart and the rest is history.

They spent a couple of weeks working up a repertoire, Colegrove at forst anxious about playing bass, which he had not really done before.  The transition went well, though and soon he was just another member of the band.  Eventually, the band’s debut was upon them.  They named themselves The Bait Shop and dove in.  Everything fell into place.

By Spring, Boston was immersed in the youth culture just like most other cities— “happenings, be-ins, and eventually love-ins” becoming the rage.  Colegrove and his cohorts fell in with a guy named Don Law who was the son of Don Law of Columbia Records— the guy who helped record bluesman Robert Johnson.  Hanging with Law gave them ins to much of the music of the time, from Charlie Mingus to Aretha Franklin to The Band, as well as an early listen to an upcoming album by The Beatles which had a track titled  A Day in the Life“We were all pretty excited about that record,” Colegrove admitted.  “The Beatles were it.”

pappalardipromoJoe became anxious to record, so Eddie called Pappalardi and asked if he would take a listen.  Pappalardi asked if he could bring his partner, Bud Prager.  Eddie said fine.  The night they came down, they watched the show and then headed to the apartment to talk things over.  Pappalardi told them about Windfall Music, an independent production company they had started.  The next morning, after breakfast, they all headed to The Loft where they rehearsed a bit, Pappalardi sharing bass playing secrets with Colegrove.  Before they left, Pappalardi and Prager said they were interested.  They headed back to New York and the band continued playing The Loft.

Colegrove received another letter from the Army Reserve.  Colegrove trashed it.  Smart thought better of it.  He suggested Colegrove talk with Don Law, who had helped Barry Tashian deal with the draft.  Law referred him to a psychologist.  It would cost him, but Colegrove was ready to have the whole thing behind him.  He made an appointment.  The doctor said that the Army liked tests, so they scheduled some ink blot and written tests.  Everything was looking good, then owner Jim Pope closed The Loft.  The band was unemployed.  The only thing to do, according to Hutchinson, was head to NYC.  They could get help from Frank Weber and maybe Pappalardi.  They called and it was arranged.  Back to the Big Apple.

When they arrived, they headed to a bar at which Weber worked.  When his shift ended, he took the band to a small apartment barely big enough to hold their equipment.  “The apartment was filled to the brim and we could barely move,” remembered Colegrove.  “We made spots to sleep as best we could and started our quest for a record contract the next day.”

Their first stop was Pappalardi’s apartment.  He took them to the bank where he took out money for a cash advance.  He said he was working on a deal with a music publisher for rights to their song.  If the deal worked out, the band members would be getting advances from them soon, too.

It worked out.  The band was to get a weekly stipend while they wrote songs and worked on recording.  Hutchinson and Mottau moved into apartments.  Colegrove and Smart stayed at Webere’s.  It was time to get to work.  They amped up on drugs and adrenaline.

They rented a rehearsal space in the same building that housed Atlantic Records’ studios.  They used a room The Richmond Organization (their publishers) kept for their writers.  Huthcinson’s father had bought him a brand new Gretsch Anniversary model guitar which he began playing in place of the Martin.  They began working on new tunes, envisioning themselves as a “ragtime” band a la Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band or The Lovin’ Spoonful until Pappalardi told them that “ragtime” was dead.  They needed to go more mainstream rock.

“After all,” Colegrove reasoned, “big record producers certainly knew what was happening, what people at record labels were putting out, and most certainly knew what people were buying.”  This was lesson number one in big-time record producer hassles.  They would visit Felix from time to time at Atlantic Studios where he was mixing down tracks from Cream‘s Disraeli Gears.  Pappalardi finally decided it was time to record something.  He scheduled time for them at Atlantic.

Pappalardi got Tom Dowd to engineer.  Al Brackman brought down a bunch of bigwigs to see how their investment was going and the recording began.

Felix and T. Dowd

“We recorded a song that Joe wrote titled The Sparrow Tune,” Colegrove said, “and one that Eddie wrote called Think Twice, and then my tune, Brooklyn.  The ‘organization’ seemed satisfied that things were moving along.  That night, we stayed late and felt good about the session.  As a matter of fact, I was going for the three days we were in the studio and had a tremendous crash later and slept for a day and a half, got out of bed for a BLT, came back to the apartment and went back to sleep.”

“When we listened to the results of the sessions with a more sober ear, we were less than excited.  As a matter of fact, the only song we thought worth keeping was Brooklyn.  Not a great start…  I talked with Felix about going to Talentmaster to record.  Talentmaster had only a 4-track as opposed to Atlantic’s 8-track, but we thought it would be a better environment, especially with Chris Houston doing the engineering.  Felix agreed and we lined up a session.”

The trip into Talentmaster was a storyfest.  Chris Houston regaled them with stories of his days with The Undertakers, a favorite being the day they all bought handguns and ended up shooting Jackie Lomax, quite by accident of course.  Obviously, it didn’t kill him.

There were only six people in the studio this time and they laid down some good tracks on The Sparrow Tune and Think Twice.  “I played guitar and Felix joined in on vocal harmony and played bass on Think Twice,” said Colegrove.  “They were good enough to get excited about the next day and later when we had acetates to play.  It was a step in the right direction.”

It came time to play live again.  An arrangement was made for the band to play a two-week gig at The Gaslight Cafe in August.  Felix wanted a name change.  “What’s wrong with The Bait Shop,” we asked.  “There was an aura of being manipulated.  But we soon gave in.”  Felix’s girlfriend, Gail Collins, had done a drawing they had on their wall of a strange looking character with weird creatures of various sizes, shapes, and colors coming out of a hole in its belly.  She called the character Bo Grumpus.  Felix thought it was great— ‘a name that sounds good but means nothing.’  He seemed to think we could define it with our music.  This was particularly interesting in light of the fact that a ragtime trio would use the same name some 30 years later.

gaslightcafe

The Gaslight was a cellar club on MacDougal Street.  Every folk act, blues singer, and comedian had worked the club at one time or another and it was one of the central cafes during the Beat era in The Village.  It was small and dark, a typical coffeehouse with a kitchen and a dressing room behind the stage.  We opened to a good crowd and had good response to our music.”

Also on the bill were Marshall Efron and Hugh Romney, who would later become known as Wavy Gravy.  They did comedy improvisations.  Second on the bill was David Bromberg.

kettleoffish“We did two shows a night with two hours between shows so there was time to kill walking the streets or hanging out in the Kettle of Fish, a bar near the Gaslight on McDougal.  The Kettle was a favorite hangout for musicians, singers, and writers in the West Village.  You could meet just about anyone there.  Down on the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal was the San Remo Cafe and on the opposite corner, the Cafe Figaro.  Down Bleecker Street was the Cafe Au-Go-Go and The Bitter End, just above the Tin Angel bar.  Across the street was The Village Gate.  All were relics of the Bohemian culture that sprouted and thrived during the fifties and early sixties.  On the north end of MacDougal on the corner of Third was Mitera’s, a restaurant at which you could get a decent meal at a reasonable price.  It was a springboard for Greek immigrants looking for work in America.  Mirrors and tiny white lights surrounded the booths.  On the opposite corner was a pizza stand and a door down the street was the old Night Owl location.  In the opposite direction was the Cafe Bizarre.  Down near Sixth Avenue was the new Gerde’s Folk City.  Directly across from the Gaslight, on the corner of Minetta Lane, was the Cafe Wha?, another cellar club.  On the other corner was a fine Italian restaurant, the Minetta Tavern, then the Cafe Feenjon, which served middle eastern food.  The streets were packed with people on weekends.  During the week, traffic was not as heavy, but there was always something going on in the Village.  This was where I spent most of my time in New York during the next three years.”

The Gaslight wasn’t the biggest club in the world.  It sat only about a hundred or so.  But it was central to the Village scene.  Colegrove felt as home there as he ever could in NYC.

The good times would not last, though.  Windfall stopped their contributions as did the publishing company.  The gig at The Loft ended.  They had to do something.  So they looked for gigs.  Cafe Wha?, not exactly a go-to destination, offered them a weekend gig with an option to play the next weekend, as well— Labor Day.

cafewha

The Wha? Was an old Village club,” according to Colegrove, “and had a tradition of its own, more rock ‘n’ roll than the Gaslight.  Its legends were Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and Bill Cosby.  They had two shifts of bands working day and night, six bands in all.  The day shift worked during the week in summer only.  The night shift got better money— probably the only money— $250 a week (five nights) regardless of the band’s size.  That meant my share was $62.50— not a lot of money, even in 1967.”

The schedule was one hour on, two off, just like the Gaslight, which gave the guys plenty of time for walking the streets or seeing bands at other clubs.  The biggest problem for Colegrove were the lights.  “While they looked good from the audience perspective, playing a guitar under green and purple strobe lights was difficult.  Especially if you were stoned”.

catmother45

“The bands on the night shift when we started were Cat Mother & The All-Night Newsboys and Peepl.  Cat Mother went on to have a hit with Good ol’ Rock ‘n’ Roll.  Two of the guys in Peepl, Joey DeJesus and Peter Alongi, went on to record with a group called Banchee.”  Other bands which worked there during the late sixties were The Raves, The Cherry People, The Roman Numerals, Kangaroo, The Hello People, The Turnkeys, Meat, and Jessie’s First Carnival.

“Working at The Wha? Gave us the opportunity to meet other bands and work on our act.  We decided to dress the band up and went to a West Village clothing store called The Brick Shed House  (not Paul Sargent’s on 4th Street).  We cast ourselves in late-sixties mod images with Eddie wearing a white double=breasted suit with a black polka dot shirt, and Joe wearing a long flowered Nehru jacket with Navy bell bottoms,  I wore a red jacket and N.D., we decided,would come from a different direction.  He went topless, displaying his fine upper body development and wearing leather armbands and beaded jewelry— sort of proto-punk.”

It was about this time that the band started wondering about their LP.  Which is where we will pick this up in our next installment.  Remember to tune in then, same Grumpus time, same Grumpus channel.  Chapter Six is going to have some real surprises in terms of people and bands.  In the meantime, here is your weekly allotment of…

NotesNotes…..  I left San Diego before The Penetrators took the punkers and set them straight.  Of course, the first wave of punk bands had softened the skulls of the chosen, the bands being The Zeros, The Dils, and The Hitmakers.  But The Penetrators were the band that carried the local scene into the future.  Not quite as raw and more woven into the fabric of the movement, they had an infectious way about them.  I wish I could have seen them because I knew vocalist Gary Heffern, keyboardist James Call, and drummist Dan McLain (later, Country Dick with The Beat Farmers), but only in passing.  This band was the real youth movement.  This band was for the movement more than against everything, which was the original credo of the punkers.  This video was posted by Heffern, whom I now consider a good friend, just today.  It’s rough, just like the band was rough, but it is true to the core.  Opening for The Ramones in 1978.

Just stumbled onto this song by Amy Kuney, who records under the moniker Ames.  I love this kind of stuff.  And her voice.

When I first got to Seattle in ’78, The Meyce were giving it up and Meycees Paul Hood and Jim Basnight were headed to bigger and better things.  Hood headed to SF and became a member of Toiling Midgets, Basnight stayed in Seattle and formed The Moberlys.  Both have had long and not so illustrious careers in terms if finances, but most of my favorites have had trouble breaking out in this commercial cesspool of a music business.  I am proud to call each of them friendly acquaintances (it would be friends but our contact has been so erratic, though positive) and am ready at the drop of a hat to write about them and pass on their music.  Basnight has announced a reunion of The Moberlys this August in Seattle (for a show, I assume, and not forever) and Hood is presently promoting an LP of Midgets’ tracks from back in the day.

The Honeycutters finally released their new album (it took long enough).  Their first two impressed the hell out of me, having that semi-country feel that made Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers a true favorite.  In fact, Zoe and Honeycutter Amanda Anne Platt are at the top of my songwriting/singing list when it comes to female country-oriented artists.  The band’s new album is titled Me Oh My but I suggest you don’t stop there.  The first two albums, Irene and When Bitter Met Sweet, are available for streaming and buying on Bandcamp (click here) and are damn impressive as well.  Here is a taste.

Time flies when you’re having fun, they tell me, but I can’t believe it has been three years since I was turned on to Hannah Miller.  She put out an EP which laid me back on my heels.  I liked her voice, her phrasing, her songwriting… man, I thought she was going places.  Then she took a bit of personal time and I lost track.  Until now.  Miller has released a new album, self-titled.  More good stuff.  The voice is intact as is the focus.  Take a listen.

For comparison’s sake, here is the video which made me a Hannah Miller fan.

In keeping with my belief that Steve Young is one of the major talents of our time, I keep coming across these choral presentations of Seven Bridges Road which makes me think maybe he will get his due eventually.  The quality of the recording is not the best in this video, but these kids really have the voices and work ethic to pull it off.  I wish they had talked to me first, though.  I would have squared them away on the true story behind this song— that it was Steve Young‘s and not The Eagles and that the arrangement was courtesy of Ian Matthews (as much as people love The Eagles, they have never had the chops to put together an arrangement that good).  But they did have the hit, didn’t they?

That’s not the only video I found either.  I had no idea Steve had become the favorite of the high school choirs, but I’m beginning to wonder.  This one seems to be some kind of competition.

I have no idea how much kool-aid these kids were drinking, but this has to win awards for the strangest arrangement ever.  You have to give them credit, though.  It takes guts just to be on stage and those voices are spot on.

Williams College Ephlats?  Anyone know what an Ephlat is?  Me neither, but they have this down.  I wish they hadn’t quickened the tempo after the initial blast but at least they slowed it down again later.  Man, I could post these forever.  Wonder if Steve got royalties on any of these?

Brand new from Filligar.  These guys have been evolving since they were embryos.

This is what they were doing a year and a half ago.

=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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