Frank Gutch Jr: And Now For Something Completely (Well, Almost) Different, Plus Notes…..

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Before I begin this, a little heads up.  Fort Worth, that bastion of musical lugubriation which has been producing worthy quarter and eighth note treatises since before Rock was born, is gracing us with two projects of which you need to be aware.  One involves Jim Colegrove and cohort Roscoe West (and a cast of others) who have come together in a group calling themselves Men of Extinction.  With music dipped in Country & Western and old-time Rock with a little Soul thrown in on the side, they have put together a very tasty and sometimes humorous album titled We Made It Ourselves.  And they did.

The other, featuring original Space Opera member David Bullock, is a flash from the past.  Not the music but the music stylings.  Bullock has returned to the studio as a solo performer, bringing in hand-picked friends and even family to produce what I hear as a return to the past and a step into the future.  Anyone who knows me well has had to listen to my diatribes about Space Opera and what they meant to me over the years.  Stay tuned.  I shall more than likely be giving the same treatment to Mr. Bullock.  In the meantime, here is a mental exercise which had to be done before I could move on.  This, sports fans, is what watching TV can do to you.  Be forewarned.

Tonight more than any other in recent memory do I feel that the Arts are tied together.  While some people think that sculpting and painting and writing and acting are separate paths, tonight I know that they are not.  They are the Arts and cannot be separated.  No one can do it— neither the artists nor the patrons nor the audience.  They are, as I said, inseparable.  I know this because I just finished watching a movie on TV— I Remember Mama— and it brought from the depths of my soul not just the pleasure of the story nor the magnificence of film nor the performances on that film.  It brought sadness and happiness and a love for the characters and the time period and the place (it takes place in the San Francisco of the early 1900s) and so many others thoughts and feelings.  I remember seeing that movie as a youth and thinking ‘so this is what it was like.  And these are the people who were there.’  Not that they were, but it seemed that they were as real as any people in the small town I grew up in and even more real in a variety of ways.

I remember things from my youth.  I remember Uncle Lee Culbertson who was not really our uncle but a very close friend of my father.  I remember when he died.  There was a house fire and a young girl was trapped in a bedroom and Uncle Lee rammed his shoulder against the clapboard of the house until it gave way and then tore through it with his hands to save the girl.  A few days later, he died of a stroke from a blood clot.  Uncle Lee was a huge man and bigger than life.  As children, we would wait for him to come home from work.  As soon as we saw him, we ran the two or three blocks up the street to greet him and he would pick us up and whirl us around and then pull out a treat for each of us.  Mostly it was a piece of candy, but sometimes it was a nickel.  You don’t know how much a nickel was to a kid in the early fifties.  It isn’t the treats I remember as much as what a friend he was to our family.  Lee watched over us like a mother wolf over her den.  His was my first brush with death.  Even today I can see him in the distance, a packsack thrown over his shoulder, waving to us as we ran toward him.  Such are scenes from movies.  I remember a lady known as The Blonde Bomber who was, according to Momma, a very friendly and nice girl when she was sober but who turned maniac under the influence.  The cops arrested her one night and threw her in jail only to have her trash the place to the point of ripping the plumbing from the walls.  I remember them dragging the river down by our house one day gbecause someone had tried to swim across the river and drowned.  I remember walking down the road, and I call it that because all roads outside of our small downtown were roads in those days, passing men leaning against fenders or with shoes or boots on running boards of cars as they listened to Oregon and Oregon State duel it out at a track meet.  That’s right.  They broadcast track meets on the radio back then.  They would have broadcast births if they could have gotten into the birthing rooms at the hospital.   I remember so many things and I realized tonight that it only takes one remembrance to bring them all to life.

shsantiammill2 001

shsantiammill1 001

Sweet Home was a logging town back then, peppered with sawmills and enveloped in smoke from the burnoff.  For every mill there was a burner, standing like a 30 or 40 foot teepee, with a treadmill carrying wood scraps to their fiery deaths.  When I was very young,many of those mills ran 24 hours a day and the burning structures along with them.  Driving through town at night was as much science fiction as it was real life, the burning sparks escaping through the mesh at the top (placed there to prevent larger sparks from surviving to start fires) like a firefly hatch (which we do not have in Oregon, by the way— fireflies).  Jesus, sometimes I can’t read my own stuff, it’s so convoluted.  Sorry, Mr. Daghlian.  Where were we?  Ah, the drive.  It was much like Blade Runner, the yellows and oranges of the fires shining more light on the surrounding areas than the streetlights.  And it would seem that way to kids today— the various machines (loaders and lumber carriers and logging trucks) like ancient space vehicles from another time and place, maybe even planet.

dadhandfalling 001My Dad cut right-of-way for the Santiam Highway from Sweet Home to Sisters back in the thirties.  Back then, the highway was a wagon road— the Old Santiam Wagon Road, to be exact.  He hand-bucked Old Growth (I give the term capital letters because there is too little of it in the world these days) and there are pictures somewhere of him standing in the midst of a stump you could have built a shack on.  Those old Doug Firs may not have been Sequoias, but they were close.  (The picture on the right is one of only a few of Dad at work)

Sweet Home was a wide-open town in the old days.  Loggers were two-fisted in everything they did, evidently, and you could probably chalk a lot of it up to moonshine.  Moonshine was everywhere, though you had to be careful where you bought it.  Put enough in your stomach and you would go blind, Dad used to say while holding his glasses while shaking his glasses at you.  Alcohol was the bane of the logger, on the whole.  The town was a brotherhood of wife-beaters but I was young and really had no clue.  Looking back, I cannot even imagine the horror victims must have felt.

I was playing home run derby with my pal Smitty when the Oregon Plywood mill went up in flames.  We were maybe eight or nine.  We would set up home plate a small distance from the grandstands to the side of the high school football field because Smitty like to watch the ball bounce around the bleacher-style seats like they would should on the TV version of the game.  He had just knocked a ball into the stands when I noticed smoke.  I pointed and Smitty turned to look, but neither of us could speak.  From seeing wisps of smoke to watching the entire mill engulfed in flames took less than fifteen minutes, though it felt like hours.  All the firefighters could do was try to protect buildings close to the mill.  Sweet Home was front page news in The Oregonian the next day.  A million dollar fire.  In those days, a million was as high as anyone could count.


Those who did not live the days of the Space Race may not even know about Sputnik, but it was a big deal to everyone.  We got bested, did the US of A, and most people didn’t seem to care all that much.  They were more fascinated by the idea of space travel than they were of the implications and/or politics involved.  The papers printed the times Sputnik would fly over and the areas of the sky to search and it became a party.  Most unobstructed views were available at the various empty fields around town and there were plenty of them.  Neighbors and strangers alike would meet in the fields, the men with drinks or a thermos full of coffee and cigarettes and the women with snacks and cokes.  It was an excuse to visit and if people in Sweet Home did nothing else, they visited.  Over fences, in back yards, at the grocery stores… any excuse to get caught up on the town news.  The parents made it a game for the kids to see who could spot Sputnik first and we fought for positioning, hoping to be the one.   Cold War that night.  Just Sputnik.

womendrinkingcoffeeThe adults in town seemed to survive on coffee and cigarettes, the kids on coke or soda pop of choice.  If families could afford it, they kept the pot going all day long and into the night.  Wives worried about neighbors stopping by, no matter what time of night, and no coffee.  The coffee klatsches you would hear about on the radio were a real thing to almost everyone.  If you couldn’t afford coffee, and many in the town couldn’t at times, logging and mill work seasonal, a close friend would find a reason to drop a can off.  Chase & Sanborn, MJB, Folgers, Maxwell House, Hills Brothers— any would do.  Everyone had a preference, but when coffee was offered, you didn’t quibble about brands.  Same with cigarettes, though menthols and unfiltereds met with the occasional no thank you.

parklanewhiskeyFor booze, it was Old Overcoat or whatever brand you could afford.  Dad, after drinking moonshine all his young life, found blended whiskey more to his liking than anything— probably because it didn’t upset his stomach as much.  The old-timers would pack a pint around in their back pockets and would pull it out and offer a swig on occasion.  Brandy, whiskey, gin, vodka.  Seldom scotch, at least in our part of town.  Scotch was a rich man’s drink.  Dad settled on Crown Royal as his brand of choice because it was smoother than most, and it should be after being aged for twelve years.  For a couple of years, he was able to find a fifteen-year-old blended whiskey called Park Lane, but it became impossible to find for one reason or another.  I think Dad and I started liking Canada because of their blended whiskey.  I didn’t drink, but I knew how much Dad liked it.  He and I would talk, usually when he was drinking now that I think about it, about the trans-Canada train trip we would see advertised in the magazines and later, on TV.  I never lost my fascination for it.  All the way across Canada on one train.  It was a marvel.  I hear you can still do it but you have to switch trains a lot.  Wouldn’t be the same.  Here.  Learn something.

I suppose I could go on and on and, truth be told, and bore you to death.  I needed to clear my head and this has served its purpose.  Next week I will be back with a column more musical in direction— hopefully a rundown of the new Tom House, David Bullock, and Men of Extinction albums and maybe some surprises.  I do have music this week, though, so let us munch on a few…

NotesNotes… Steve Stanley is a class dude who has forgotten more music than I will ever know (that’s a lie, by the way— Stanley only forgets the forgettable) and passed this puppy along for perusal.  Psych is back, methinks, with a vengeance.  The Butterscotch Cathedral?  Shades of The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, in name if nothing else.  This is spliced but will give you an idea of what these guys are all about.  Interesting, to say the least.  Stanley, by the way, handles music reissues for Now Sounds Records and does a damn fine job at it too.

Ah, the Seventies.  The years of discovery.  Wishbone Ash and Cargoe and Stray and Slade and… and…  Terry Reid?!  Yup.  A few of us used to sit in living rooms and basements and soak in anything and everything guitar, from Django to Terry Reid.  They are evidently getting ready to raise funds to put together a documentary on Terry called Superlungs.  They could put together scraps and soundbytes for all I care.  If it’s about Reid, I’m in!  Here’s the trailer.

<p><a href=”″>Superlungs Extended Trailer</a> from <a href=””>Fine Light Entertainment</a> on <a href=”“>Vimeo</a>.</p>

Here is a stunning track from Morwenna Lasko and Jay Pun‘s upcoming album, The Hollow.  This song features the vocals of colleague and friend Ezra Hamilton.  This is good, good stuff!

I know I have shared this video before but not sure if I did it in my column here.  The music is provided by one of my favorite duos of the past few months, Aussies Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton, and is from their new album, Declaration.  The album is stunning in its grasp of the trad folk music coming out of the UK in the mid-seventies— Fairport Convention, Fotheringay, Steeleye Span and the like.  The video was put together via Cindy Minogue, to whom the hands and arm creating the work of art belong.  Magical stuff, this.

The more I find of Jeff Ellis, the more impressed am I.  Here is a video clip from 2010 of Jeff performing with mate Bud Carroll and band.  Jeff has talked very highly of Carroll over the short time we have been communicating and I now see why.  The man has a real touch with the guitar.  Ellis has a new album on the way.  You will be hearing about it if you read my column at all.  In the meantime, let’s step to the Wayback Machine, Sherman!

Good buddy John Hicks uncovered this beauty of a video by Aussie garage band Black Diamonds, circa 1966.  How parallel our worlds were, though we had no idea.

Speaking of memories, Howie Wahlen pointed this video out to me with a comment about it having only 14 views.  It is a news story of the closing of the Fabulous Rainbow Tavern which was across the street from Peaches Records where Howie and I worked.  I have written about the place and the shows I saw there— Gatemouth Brown, The Neville Brothers, Horslips, Flying Burrito Brothers with Gib Gilbeau, David LaFlamme Band, Big Joe Turner, Jim Ringer & Mary McCaslin, the album release party for The Skyboys, and many more.  Many of the faces in this news piece were standard faces of the Seattle rock scene.  The show I remember best, though, was Herb & The Spices.  Classic Seattle names graced the stage.  Herb was actually Bruce Kirkman who had caught Dr. Demento’s ears and was featured fairly regularly on Demento’s radio show with a track called Cannibal CutieBarry Curtis of The Kingsmen played guitar next to Kirkman and Fred Dennis, who had played with a number of Seattle-based bands (including a stint in the last years of The Liverpool Five) was on bass.  I’m sure the drummer was one of the old Pac NW dudes too but his name escapes me.  They played Pac NW oldies and had props onstage, including a pair of platform running shoes and a scoreboard marked “Them” and “Us.”  Bruce would tell a joke.  If anyone laughed. He tallied one of “Us.”  If not, for “Them.”  Needless to say that the end of the night score was overwhelmingly in favor of “Them.”  Kirkman was a really good guy with a truly odd sense of humor, in reality and in his songs.  I hope he is still with us.  A truly good man.

This puppy courtesy of musician and good guy Peter Holsapple who sez this is good.  Very understated, Peter.  And thank you!  Ladies and Gentlemen, Skylar Gudasz!  Just kill me now.

More Jeff Ellis?  What the hell is the matter with me?  Hey, the more I hear the guy, the more I’m impressed.  Here is a track from an album he released in 2007!  How this stuff stays under the radar, I don’t know.  The guitars are straight out of Illinois Speed Press and Mighty Bay.  Outstanding track!


Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

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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.”

2 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: And Now For Something Completely (Well, Almost) Different, Plus Notes…..”

  1. tell colleen to get in touch with me george

  2. Michael Colfer Says:

    Nice trip down thee lane, Frank. I got a small piece of this when I was living on the Peninsula. Yeah, pretty much like that. Good to read your stuff. [Michael Colfer]

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