Frank Gutch Jr: My Memories of Capricorn; Plus Notes
Guy walks into the barracks, tosses a couple of albums on my bunk and it is a benchmark moment. You’ve heard it before, probably too many times, but it happened. The albums? The Allman Brothers Band‘s first album and Steve Young‘s Rock Salt & Nails. Both lodged themselves permanently in my collection and in my heart. Young’s was to take awhile but the Allmans’ was immediate. From the first note of Don’t Want You No More, I was hooked. Desert island time. Hall of Fame.
That was it! I had not heard anything like it and I had been listening for years. I don’t know what it was/is— the combination of instruments, the power, the unity, the originality— but whatever it was, it stuck to the point that every time I pulled the album out after that, it was pure rush!
I remember grabbing the album jacket— it was a gatefold with the barest of information. Titles and songwriting and publishing credits. I was shocked to see that Don’t Want You No More was written by Spencer Davis and Edward Hardin, but thinking about it now, I shouldn’t have been. Davis always had deep roots, even when his band was without Steve Winwood. Muddy Waters had written Trouble No More and while I had heard Muddy, nothing I’d heard was even close to what the Allmans laid down. (This song I would later use to support my lifelong belief that arrangements, when it came to recordings, were crucial) And the rest? The rest was pure original gold— and I mean gold! To this day, I believe the album as good an album, track-for-track, as any ever recorded. And that goes for their much more accepted, on the whole, Live at the Fillmore East album. I mean, Fillmore was solid, no doubt, and I liked it, but when I wanted the kick, I put on The Allman Brothers Band. And turned it up, of course.
As I was saying, I sat on my bunk looking at the album jacket— front, back, and inside— fending off the guys who were as impressed as was I. Something about it grabbed me by the ‘nads— the pics, the simplicity, the… well, perfection, as far as I was concerned, because at that moment it seemed just that, perfect. I’m in the fucking Army and my hair is short and I’m not all that happy and I’m listening to some of the best music I’d ever heard in my life. I mean, at that moment, I actually understood what those crazy ass Beatles freaks were talking about. I didn’t hear it when I heard The Beatles, but I sure as hell understood what they heard.
The album was on Atco Records, a label with which I was familiar, but it wasn’t either on Atco, I saw. Well, yes it was, but it was a new series— a series called Capricorn. Flipping the album cover over and over as I listened, I had this strange feeling that the series, later a label, was going to produce some outstanding music. And I was right.
I would not hear another Capricorn album which would impress me as much until I returned to Eugene upon release from the service and found Cowboy‘s Reach For the Sky at The House of Records. Cowboy would be the first of many albums I would label Country Rock and would hold a very special place in my collection alongside Dillard & Clark, Pure Prairie League, Heartsfield, Flying Burrito Brothers, and others who carried the genre at their core. No album would have the impact of Reach For the Sky, though. Their album was a call back to the land and I was ready, tossing aside my old ways for the, almost, hippie lifestyle. After a year and nine months of short hair, I let it grow and adopted the stance, somewhat, of an idealist (at least when it came to actions and politics). And it can be summed up by the lyrics of Opening (Track One, Side One):
I need time to find out where I’m going
I need people to show me where I’ve been
I know the answer and it feels good just knowing
It’s my friends who show me who I am
No lyrics (or words) came closer to defining me at that point of my life. I loved a lot of music, but that song was me. Years later, when I pointed it out to original Cowboy members Bill Pillmore and Pete Kowalke (now working out of Eugene under the name Peter Giri), they were surprised but understood. Those were crucial times for all three of us.
Cowboy would again knock me out with a second album, 5’ll Getcha Ten, a superb followup but in the end, both albums failed financially (there is a whole story behind that which I shall tell soon) and the band split up, Scott Boyer and Tommy Talton staying with Capricorn as part of their “rhythm section” (think studio band) with the others going their own ways.
I will tell you this much, however. Two more albums would appear under the Cowboy moniker— Boyer & Talton and a self-titled album. Both were good (Boyer & Talton was exceptional, in fact), but for me the original six-man lineup was Cowboy. The band.
Ever hear of Eric Quincy Tate? Neither had I until Gary at the House of Records tossed it in my lap. Bluesy, he said. You’ll like it. I did. There is something about a good Hammond organ which gets my tail a twitching and man, could their keyboard man play! The album was titled Drinking Man’s Friend and the interplay between the guitar and organ freaked me out. It didn’t hurt that they had one hell of a rhythm section, either— rolling bass runs and jazzy drum riffs— I love ’em.
Talk about stepping way out of their comfort zone, Capricorn picked up, of all bands, Captain Beyond! One smoking album and lineup, too. Rod Evans on vocals, formerly with my favorite lineup of Deep Purple (The Tetragrammaton years); Bobby Caldwell on drums— not the soul/latin/disco Caldwell who owned Miami for a period, but the Caldwell who had played with various bands in the late sixties in Florida; Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt on guitar and Lee Dorman on bass (both formerly with Iron Butterfly). This lineup put out a self-titled album which had rockers banging their heads. 3D cover and everything.
What really sold the album, though, was the music. Percussive, tight, bordering the edges of progrock, when it wasn’t floating, it smoked! All song written by Caldwell and Evans, though they do give credit to the whole band for arrangement. Caldwell is one of only two drummers in rock who not only were the core of their bands but were the main songwriters as well. The other is Jon Hiseman (Colosseum). Then again, didn’t the drummer for The Rockets, Johnny Badanjek, write for that band as well?
The band would change personnel for their second album, Sufficiently Breathless. Caldwell left to join Derringer, but the rest stayed, the sound less adventurous but solid nonetheless. Caldwell would return for a third album, Dawn Explosion, but Evans had already retired from music. I would love to read a behind-the-scenes account of these guys. If you know of one, let me know.
Delving way past even the likes of Captain Beyond, Capricorn somehow latched onto what I guess they thought might be an entry into the glam sweepstakes— White Witch. Formed from the core of a popular Miami band known as The Tropics, the band featured one unique voice in Ron Goedert, who took the band on some very strange journeys. They had a bit of luck with one what I would call “novelty” song off of the first album (It’s So Nice To Be Stoned) but did not really gain any traction, due in part to Capricorn’s not really knowing what to do with them. They recorded two album, both collector’s items as far as I know.
It didn’t take me any time at all to get into Duke Williams & The Extremes. The cover caught my eye and I figured it was worth it for that alone.
They released two albums, the first of which revolved around funk to a certain degree. The second smoothed out a bit. For some reason, the critics didn’t warm up to them but I thought they were cool. Just listen to these. Oh, they were out of Trenton NJ as far as I can ascertain. Guitarist in the band, by the way, is T.J. Tindall. Look him up.
Released about the same time as the Duke, the James Montgomery Band looked to be the next J. Geils Band, Montgomery having put a damn good rockin’ blues band together. It didn’t take them long to turn heads, their style of blues packing out the typical Boston haunts in the seventies. Two albums, both good, but no sales.
Hydra was the kind of band that Capricorn is known for— Southern hard rock, or so they tell me. I love these guys but had no real love for Skynyrd or .38 Special or Molly Hatchet or any of the other standard bearers of Southern Rock. There was something about the way they handled their guitars which took them to the next level, as far as I was concerned. You can especially hear it on their third album, Rock the World, which was released on Polydor after the band’s two Capricorn albums tanked.
Did you know that Kitty Wells recorded an album for Capricorn titled Forever Young? Neither did I. I wonder how I missed it.
There was a time you couldn’t get away from the Dixie Dregs. Guitarist Steve Morse had a sound all his own— well, the band did— and Capricorn had them from the very start. By the time they left the label, after four impressive albums, they were firmly entrenched as stars. The members of the band have played for a few decades, either as The Dregs or in other combinations.
Of all the artists working out of the South, one of the most revered and least successful— at least, as a solo performer— was Eddie Hinton. The boy worked at Muscle Shoals studios in the late sixties and had soul in his veins. Capricorn released his Very Extremely Dangerous album to a resounding one hand clapping. I knew a number of people in the music biz at the time who went out of their ways to sell the album. Every time I see them, we end up shaking our heads. He shoulda been a contender.
Tim Krekel was one of those guys you maybe knew of but never knew. You maybe knew of his songs, for he was one solid songwriter, but it seemed he was blocked at every turn when it came to marketing himself as musician. Capricorn was trying to help him along when they released Crazy Me in ’79, but the label folded three months after the album hit the streets.
I saw a short documentary on CMT a number of years ago in which Phil Walden talked about the early days with Atlantic Records artists he worked with (including Otis Redding, Al Green, Percy Sledge, and Sam & Dave), the marketing of the first Allman Brothers album and more, he mentioned a chart they had put on the back of a door which showed sales as they happened. As I remember it, he said that he never thought they would sell through the five thousand copies they had pressed (meaning it took way longer than he’d hoped), but they did. What I remember is ordering it after it had been released and waiting over three weeks for it to come. It was a different business back then. When labels lived and died by marketing strategies and pure blind luck.
Capricorn, by the way, was the first label I ever collected. Thanks to that first Allmans album. The label made some of my favorite memories.
Notes….. Finally! No Small Children, after what seems like months in the studio are releasing their new album, one track at a time, evidently. The first blast from the tunnel, posted yesterday, is the big wall-of-sound Big Steps, a buoyant rocker along the lines of Might Get Up Slow. These three ladies not only know how to rock, they are positivity personified. I know you’re anxious, so here’s the link!
Mandy Fer gets a bit adventurous on this instrumental recorded with partner Dave McGraw, who tosses aside his guitar for bongos. Shades of Jon Gomm, who twists manic fingers into knots making music. I was very surprised to see and hear this song but maybe it is because I have been so enraptured by their voices that I look upon them as their strength. I will not make that mistake again. Ladies and Gentlemen, Dave McGraw & Mandy Ferr.
I remember Judee Sill, or I remember her albums. She released two actual albums in her all too short career, lost to time until people actually listened to them decades after the fact. Radio killed her. Well, drugs killed her, but radio might as well have. Radio ignored her. To the point that she might as well not have existed. In spite of her talent and her voice and her songwriting and the backing of a label on its way up at the time (Asylum). Perhaps it was because she was too talented— spanned an amazing range of styles. Perhaps she was just born too soon because people are finding her now— finally. Here is a 28-minute BBC radio documentary with comments by Andy Partridge (XTC), Jim Pons (The Leaves, The Turtles), J.D. Souther, and many more. Fascinating. Human. A story needing to be told. Music needing to be heard. Carve out a half hour and treat yourself to a very well written/recorded story of a musician the vast majority of us missed back then. The good thing is that we still have the music. And it’s amazing.
When anyone mentions Fleetwood Mac, this is the band I think of. My favorite period of one smokin’ hot group.
This is why Oregon is proud to claim Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer. While Dave is no longer with us, Tracy carries on. Performance from 2001.
I know I am jumping on the end of a long train as this guy and his band are already pretty big in Canada, but I haven’t heard anything by Sam Roberts I haven’t liked yet.
Hayden Pedigo, guitar whiz, has just announced that his new album is almost completed. I found Pedigo through Kyle Fosburgh at Grass-Tops Recording and was most impressed. You can hear what he was doing back in 2013 on his bandcamp page (click here). Here is some of his recent acoustic guitar wizardry.
As long as you’re here, you might as well meet the guy. Here, he talks about his past and his present.
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.”