Frank Gutch Jr: The Saga of Jim Colegrove, Chapter Six: Plus Notes…..
Having given you five chances to look behind the curtains of a life of a rock ‘n’ roller of more stature than most people these days could possibly know— that of Fort Worth’s Jim Colegrove— I have decided to give you a sixth. Call I a bonus, if you will— a chance to experience second-hand an era of music most of you could not possibly know. A chance to see the machinations of an industry, for that is what it became, in its growth stages. So far it has involved a string of names many would recognize— Felix Pappalardi and Gene Pitney and Lou Adler and so many more. Let us add a few more as the band he is in at this point of his career, Bo Grumpus, prepares to spark a major label career.
For those who have missed the first five chapters and wish to do so (it is not necessary but highly recommended that you do so), here are links:
When last we checked, Bo Grumpus was working the night shift at The Wha?, a Village hotspot. Money was short and they had begun wondering whether they would ever get to complete the album they had scheduled, to be produced by Felix Pappalardi.
“It seemed to us we’d been shelved by Felix and Bud,” Colegrove said. By now, the new Cream LP, Disraeli Gears, was out and Felix was getting offers left and right for new bands to produce. One of them was a new band out of Canada called Kensington Market. During off nights we would stop by the studio where they were recording to check them out and smoke a couple of bowls with Felix. We enjoyed the band and the music but quickly grew bored with the project and returned to hanging out at Eddie’s at 106 MacDougal Street where we continued to take speed and work on new tunes.
“We finally convinced Felix to book us a session at Atlantic that fall. We tried a couple of new tunes which didn’t come out well and the session was shelved along with the rest of our tapes. That night, the only good thing that happened was meeting King Curtis, the sax legend from Fort Worth, and one of the founding fathers from Atlantic, Ahmet Ertegun.
“At this point, we were pretty discouraged. October in New York can be lovely or lonely and I was mostly feeling the latter. But that fall, N.D. And I met a record producer of some stature. His name was Richard Gottehrer and he had risen to fame as a member of the rock group The Strangeloves a few years previous. Their big hits were Cara-Lin, I Want Candy, and Night Time. We met through a folk artist named David Santos who we knew through David Bromberg with whom we had worked at The Gaslight. Bromberg was doing sessions for Santos’s new album and he had asked N.D. And myself to play on some of the tunes. We met Richard at the studio where we did the recordings. The songs came out okay, considering I was rather inexperienced in the studio. The tracks were issued on Santos’s LP in 1968 on the Phoenix label. The bottom line was that we were paid. Those were tough times. I was always hoping for more of these types of sessions and from time to time, they did.
“N.D. began hanging out downtown more and more. He stayed with either Ted Spelios or John Hall, two musicians who had come up from D.C. to work at The Wha?. Their band was called Kangaroo and they were disciples of Roy Buchanan, also from D.C. They had come into town without a drummer and N.D. was more than happy to to fill in on their sets at The Wha?. It gave him a chance to stretch out into heavier rock than we were playing at the time. Ted and John were speed freaks and acidheads and N.D. jumped in with both feet.
“At the same time, a blues band from Ohio calling themselves The Turnkeys came to the Wha?. By November, N.D. was playing with three bands on the same stage on the same night. Youth on amphetamine.”
To survive, the band finally ended up taking a disco gig, one in which they had to play Top Forty and had a restricted playlist. Colegrove lost it.
“We’d arranged a gig at Joel Heller’s 8th Wonder to make some money,” he explained. “It was a disco with go-go dancers but had bands too. You couldn’t be creative, though, and had to play Top-Forty dance music to pull it off. We were willing since it meant money but it was doomed from the start. We couldn’t play enough Mustang Sally or In the Midnight Hour and to top it off, the manager told us to turn it down. I turned my amp off and walked off the stage and went to the dressing room in the basement. I was burned. This was the bottom. It was nothing more than we had been doing back in Ohio but back there we got better money for less hassle. A big discussion ensued. N.D. announced that he was leaving the band at the first of the year to join Kangaroo. Well, great! Let’s just blow it all off and go back to square one. We lost the gig at the 8th Wonder and went back to The Wha?.
“Joe and Eddie wanted to keep t he and so did I. We talked ot out over coffee and apple pie at Mitera’s restaurant. Ronnie Blake‘s name came up. He was then playing with Hello People in the room above The Wha?.
“The Hello People were a unique group. They came into The Wha? that September with an LP on the Phillips label with a combination of mime with music. No one in the band spoke a word. Instead, they communicated with mime routines. They were whiteface and assumed characters. The only time they used voices was when they were singing. Upon release of their album their manager, Lew Futterman, arranged for them to do their shows upstairs from The Wha? In a room called The Players Theater. The previous act to work the theater was the Village Fugs and they had been quite successful. We knew that Blake was not happy with Hello People. He didn’t like the whiteface and having to assume a character. We thought he would be a good replacement for N.D.
“We discovered he had already given notice to the Hello People when we asked him to work with us. He was quick to say yes. While he was not the drummer N.D. was, I thought we could work with him. N.D. had planned on staying with the band until Christmas. When we came back from Ohio after Christmas, we planned on working him into the band.
“Around this time, The Mothers of Invention were in residence at The Garrick Theater on Bleeker Street and I went to see them a number of times. I marveled at the spontaneity of the group and the very casual way they approached performing. I admired them as musicians and remember seeing Billy Mundi play drums for the first time. They looked like textbook weirdos— strange.”
Colegrove fell into a bit of a funk. No gigs, little money and he was now sharing an apartment with a cat, Homer, even though he was allergic. N.D. said that he would take him after the beginning of the year, 1968, and Colegrove hunkered down until then. One night, the phone rang. It was Debbie Hutchinson, a girl Colegrove had met not long before and felt an attraction toward. I’m in town, she said. Come over to Joe’s for dinner. Colegrove couldn’t get there fast enough.
“Now, I’ve fallen for girls before and since,” he explained, “but you must understand that there is something about being in Manhattan (I believe it’s Autumn in New York— they write songs about it) that does something to you, a romantic thing. It was like being in a movie at the moment of boy and girl.”
Debbie flew back home the next day.
There were health problems. Colegrove began suffering from asthmatic bronchitis, bad enough that he would have to get out of bed and walk around the room until the attack passed. He met a girl who had just been asked to join Kangaroo, Barbara Keith, who had had asthma as a child. She told him that she took a prescription drug at the first symptoms of an attack and offered to contact her doctor on his behalf. An hour later, he had pills and an inhaler. He took a pill before the gig that night and was doing fine until his legs began feeling numb. He told N.D. “I think I’m passing out” and passed out. A quick trip to the emergency room and an explanation to the doctor there and he was told to not take any more.
“I decided it was time to stop smoking,” he continued. “I’d smoked sine I was fifteen and lately had been going through a pack and a half of Tareyton filters a day (the brand that makes you rather fight than switch). I decided that I would rather quit and breathe.”
His troubles with the draft continued. He had to resolve the issue and thought that his visit to Ohio at Christmas time might do it. Still, he was anxious.
He began writing songs.
“The music we were writing was introspective and furtive,” he said. “At the same time, it was trying t cry out in the wilderness of a new technocratic age. Not what our manager, Bud Prager, wanted to hear. He pressed us to be direct, simple. Write tunes like the Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody to Love. That was his big example. He loved the repetition of “Don’t you want somebody to love” and kept hammering us to produce good commercial product. Be creative, say what you want, but say it over and over again, he seemed to be saying.
“We tried. We still felt like we’d been shelved, but we tried. Felix knew that N.D. was leaving the band with no drummer. He was certain we were going to break up even though we told him we weren’t. Felix and I collaborated on a tune he really loved titled Yesterday’s Streets. He wrote the melody to the bridge and I wrote the rest. Joe had new songs Felix liked as well. There seemed to be no reason to not complete the LP. We talked to our publisher and put pressure on Felix from that angle.
“That fall, we got a break on a booking. Don Law got us a job at Boston Tea Party in Boston. It was a popular club which booked the best acts week after week. It was a bit like The Fillmore on the West Coast— a psychedelic environment. We played the club and had a great time. We spent the weekend at Law’s apartment and saw Phil and Germaine again. It was a homecoming of sorts.”
But the return to New York brought back the same feelings of disillusionment. Spinning wheels. No real progress.
“Others seemed to be doing the things we wanted to do. Everything was going on around us and we were standing still. That fall, Cream played the Cafe au Go-Go. I still remember standing on Bleecker Street and hearing them play. The volume of the band carried well outside the club. The Hello People LP was out. Circus Maximus, formerly The Lost Sea Dreamers, a group which uncluded Jerry Jeff Walker, had their first LP issued on Vanguard. Kangaroo had plans to do an LP for MGM. We were still waiting.
“Felix gave Eddie a call in December. We got together at Felix’s apartment and heard that the Richmond Organization had called Bud about our situation. Felix was miffed at our going to them but was willing to discuss the possibilities of finishing the LP. While it was true that we were losing our drummer, we would have a new one in January. Felix thought we should go into the studio with a studio drummer to save time. That was okay with us. About material, the real bottom line of the project? We could record the new tunes we had written, though Felix thought we needed more material. We decided to reassemble the band after the holidays and work on new songs. Then we would talk about sessions. Until then, we would work at The Wha? until Christmas at which time N.D. and I planned to return to Ohio for the holidays. When I returned in January, we would set up practice sessions at The Wha?. At least it was a plan. Something we could go on.
Next Chapter: Death, Chicago and Nixon…
New and Impending Albums…..
Seems like a thousand years since No Small Children announced that they were going into the studio. Supposedly, they are right now tying up loose ends, readying the album for release. These ladies are one of my favorite bands for good reasons, not all of which are songs. They have a positive attitude and a great sense of humor (how can you not get a kick out of their fashion sense?) and are one of the most supportive groups I have ever seen. The music is pretty damn good too. If you have not heard them, please follow this link. Listen more than once. They are major league, as far as I am concerned. Click here.
Green Monkey has announced the release of Jimm McIver‘s long-awaited Sunlight Reaches project. McIver has been a Seattle favorite since the days of fronting The Life, one of the city’s bands of renown. You can take a listen over at GM‘s home page (click here), and while you’re at it you might as well listen to Tom Dyer‘s History of Northwest Rock Vol. 1, 1959-1968, a tribute in Tom-ism (meaning that it is a tribute to, not a copy of the chosen songs). This has been a super strong summer for GM, given the previous release of The OF‘s Escape Goat, an album which captures the halcyon days of Chicago’s The Flock supported by the ghost of Zappa.
Nocona, an L.A.-based roots band, just released Long Gone Song and I am quite impressed. The band is tight, the songs the best Chris Isom has yet written, and the production loose but outstanding. Worth a click to the band’s website (click here). Here is a sample:
Austin band The Madisons are touring to support their brand new album, No One’s Ever Gonna Know Your Name. What I’ve heard is very impressive and you can hear it too by heading to their website. Like I said, very good stuff. (click here)
Aussies Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton totally blew me away with their recent album, Declaration. There is a traditional folk side to it which hit my ear just right (but then, I am a huge fan of trad folkies such as Steeleye Span and Fotheringay). They did a beautiful job.
Also from Down Under comes the new Bill Jackson album, The Wayside Ballads, Vol. 1. Here is a link to hear two songs from the album. (click here) I am of the opinion that Jackson will go down as one of Australia’s greats when all is said and done. You can check him out at his Facebook page (click here).
The deadline looms, so I will cut this short because it would not be a column without…
Notes….. When I talk about the depth of music in Charlottesville I do not kid. I recognized it years ago when Danny Schmidt and Devon Sproule led me down the C-ville yellow brick road to one of the most vibrant scenes in the U.S. One of the voices of that scene was and is one of the voices which makes the scene beyond the norm, that of the man I call The Professor— Brady Earnhart. The guy is a wordsmith and paints pictures for the heart and soul. From his album, After You:
I don’t know how these guys got away from me. I heard their album last year and whenever I planned to write about it, something prevented it. I am a sucker for Pop and especially Power Pop. I would categorize these guys as a cross-between. Here is a sampler. Ladies and Gentlemen, Ransom and the Subset, another outstanding Seattle band.
And speaking of Seattle, C-Leb & the Kettle Black call it home. And they rock!
Amy Correia has been involved with some pretty adventurous music but none more than this, a project known as Onward With Love (OwL). Reminds me a bit of Ophelia Hope in direction. Nice stuff. Song recorded by my good friend Sheldon Gomberg.
You can’t talk sixties rock ‘n’ roll without mentioning Australia’s The Easybeats. Fans might want to check out this documentary because it may not be on YouTube all that long, what with the heavyhanded treatment of copyright and all that.
Was doing a bit of Facebook diving this past week and Aussie Bill Jackson, spurred on by my posting of the Easybeats’ documentary above, posted this freaking killer of a track by Easybeats vocalist Stevie Wright. I’ve been hunting records for decades and didn’t know this existed. Outstanding!
Right after putting a review of Nocona‘s Long Gone Song to bed (it’s a beauty), I dove into Zombie Garden Club and can’t believe my luck. Back to back, they blew me away. While Nocona had the goods in the shuffling country and rock and blues category, ZGC blasted everything from deep sixties Brit blues (think early Animals to T Rex) and beyond.
I have a feeling both will be right in the mix when I put my Best of the Year list together.
Proof positive that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Here is a tune from someone I see doing some outstanding things in music over the next number of years— Kora Feder, the offspring of Sean Feder and Rita Hosking, who have obviously passed down their musical genes. With all of the songs readymade for the compost heap due to lack of lyrical talent, I pin my hopes for the future upon musicians such as this.
Frank’s column appears every Wednesday
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“Frank 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.”