Frank Gutch Jr: Between Assignments? A Look at a Few Bands Which Weren’t, Really… Or Were They? Plus Them Nefarious Notes

I was looking through the Book of Face pages the other day and ran across a post about The Sidewalk Scene.  I remember them, friend Ray Brandes having been a frontman for them how long ago?  Two years so?  Three years?  The post linked to a page which showcased four studio-produced tracks, all jangly and sixties-oriented.  Music, in fact, that I remember fondly.

The thing is I had to concentrate to really remembered what happened to them.  I got a message from Gary Heffern about them one day and contacted Brandes and even posted a video they had posted on YouTube in one of my columns and the next thing I knew, the video was pulled and the band was perpetually working on what I thought was going to be an album.  The four songs posted make me believe that it was probably an EP.  But here’s the thing.  By the time the music was completed, the band had somehow faded from sight.  Not everyone’s sight, I suppose, but mine.  I cannot remember any details beyond the fact that they were working on something.  Were they a band?  In San Diego they were.  Posters have showed up here and there and a live video or two.

Here’s the thing, though.  They were a band.  They should have been a band of national prominence, in my opinion, but somehow I was locked out.  Or maybe it was Mad Cow Disease.  More than one person has told me I have had it all wrong over the years, one I consider completely sane.  But how is it that a band I was really looking forward to dropped completely off my radar?

Hell if I know, but it got me to thinking… I know that I am a little eccentric when it comes to music, but what if… what if there is a parallel universe— a Bizzarro World of music so obscure that if a bear shits in the woods…?  I mean, have you heard of The Sidewalk Scene?

I have been thinking about the flipside of that as well.  Were Blind Faith or The Traveling Wilburys bands?  It is true that they performed together for a short period of time and that they recorded together, but were they bands?  I never really thought of them as such.  Bands have, to me, always been musicians banding together out of a need to make music.  Both of the stated bands, to me, got together more on a whim.  Their purpose was never to exist as a band but to make an impression with the star power.  In my world, it just doesn’t fly.  Let me put it this way because I am for some reason always ready to put the target on my back.  Had they really been bands, they would have recorded music much better than what they did.  Having Winwood or Petty toss a song or an idea into a session does not always work out.  To be fair, I am not saying the music sucked.  It just seems less than it should be what with all of the talent involved, that’s all.

Talking to members of bands helps fill in the holes.  I thought I knew about Seattle’s Skyboys until I started talking with Tom Kell.  He straightened me out on a lot of things.  So much so that I am going to make an attempt to research the band and the era and try to make sense of their whole situation.  I listen to their albums and 45s today and I wonder why a major label didn’t scoop them up right away.

Another from that same period comes to mind— Hi-Fi.  Supposedly just a conduit for frontmen Ian Matthews and David Surkamp (Pavolov’s Dog), I was set straight by lead guitar player Bruce Hazen.  Here was my take.  Surkamp, already in Seattle and playing gigs with fellow Dog Doug Rayburn, he runs into Matthews and they put together a band to hopefully further both of their music careers.  They played around a bit but only on occasion and after recording an EP (Demonstration Record— A Musical Test of Your Phonograph Performance) and then an album (Moods For Mallards) but received no major label bites.  It all ended when Matthews signed a major label deal as a solo artist with ROS Records in 1980.  I don’t have the exact details yet, but here’s a scenario closer to what probably happened.  Matthews, coming off a deal with RSO Records (they released Spot of Interference in 1980) ran into Surkamp, liked the idea of performing with him and put together a band they called Hi-Fi.  They sweated their asses off playing various venues around the Pac NW hoping for a break.  For three years, the band, calling themselves Hi-Fi played venues all over the place but could not get signed.  I assume, like all bands, they had put enough time in om a losing proposition and disbanded in 1983.

Hazen said that they played almost every weekend in whatever venues they could find.  For three years!  How did I not know this?!  I was right there!  Such is evidently the black hole in my brain the size of the aforementioned Mad Cow.  Thank the gods for Hazen.  I am sure I would have gone on with my erroneous version of Hi-Fi-dom until some other person whacked me upside the head with the fraternity oar.

Still, it shocks me how few people know of the band.  Even in the Northwest.  My knowledge was bad enough, but at least I knew about them.  Liked their records.  Sold their records.  Hyped their records.  They were one hell of a band and it had to be a good time if nothing else.  God knows what I was thinking, though.  I mean, I was right there.

Bridey Murphy was a band, right?  Or were they just a recording contract?  When I found the YouTube posting of their 45, The Time Has Come, I wondered, wandering through a whole long stream of comments by people who supposedly knew.  Sounded like they did, anyway.

So who the hell was Bridey Murphy?  From what I can gather a covey of musicians gathered together by Waddy Wachtel back in 1974 to plug a song written by Wachtel and Judi Pulver.    The band (or session men) included Wachtel, Paul Cowsill, Bill Cowsill (who someone in the stream said did not play on this track), Barry Cowsill and, of all people, Bugs Pemberton.  I read it somewhere, honest to God,but whether that is true or not I have no real idea.

Wachtel evidently had connections or even a contract to put together projects for various labels.  His name shows up on a lot of record, especially promos, in the seventies.  Were any of them real bands or was this an attempt to score a recording contract on the basis of a demo?  My head hurts.

Probably the least known and least understood of the maybe-a-bands involved Duane and Gregg Allman.  The Allmans had just wrapped up a couple of projects on the West Coast (The Allman Joys and Hour Glass) and headed back to the South to farm better pastures.  When they got to Florida, they ran across Scott Boyer, David Brown, and Butch Trucks who had recorded an album for Vanguard Records as The 31st of February.  The contract called for a label option on a second album and Boyer was wondering what to do.  The Allmans said hell, we don’t have anything going on right now, so they all headed into the studio to fulfill the contract, if nothing else.  Vanguard rejected the album they had completed and the rest is history— the Allmans headed into glory with The Allman Brothers Band (along with former 31st of February drummer Butch Trucks) and Scott Boyer eventually put together Cowboy with five other guys.  Both ended up recording for Capricorn Records, so the family stayed together, so to speak.

Here’s the kicker.  After the Allmans struck gold, the 31st of February demo tapes were “discovered” and released by a shady “entrepreneur” as a Duane and Gregg album.  The songs were a bit rough, yes, but when you take into account that they were demos and not Duane and Gregg demos, they sound pretty good to me.  What makes me laugh is that the Allmans were ready to sign as a member of the band right then and there, should the label have accepted the tapes.  Man, that would have changed everything!  Here is a 1968 version of Melissa as recorded by that other band, The 31st of February.

Tell you what.  I have three weeks worth of videos and news to get to so what say we take a gander at the…

Notes…

Ever notice that doing the right thing is never as easy as it’s supposed to be?  Recently, No Depression Magazine decided to become a nonprofit.  They figured, what the hell, let’s keep the heart of the zine and toss aside many of the hassles surrounding finances.  Makes sense to me, but then I don’t know much about the details involved in such moves— the qualifications, so to speak.  I am assuming that any organization operating under the shield of a nonprofit have to meet certain criteria.  From the people I have talked to who have gone through the process with other organizations, in fact, I am sure of it.  One criterion must have something to do with the number of people involved; i.e., subscribersNo Depression, the site, recently started displaying— what would you call it— a plea?  They evidently have a solid base but need a total of at least 7,000 people willing to shell out $6 a month for the print issues, published quarterly.  Sounds simple enough but it will be a test.  Getting people to sign on to anything except cheesy “apps” these days isn’t easy.  But when you look at the various successes of artists who have used crowdfunding sources to their (and their fans’) advantage, it is not out of the question.  The real question is, are there 7,000 people out there willing to buy into a quality print zine (I have seen it and, trust me, quality applies) covering the areas of music to which the zine applies itself?  We’ll soon find out.  They need to meet their goal sometime in June and it might well be a scramble.  If you want to know more, click here.  The link will take you to their page explaining the situation and how you can help if you’re of a mind to.  Can’t hurt to look, can it?  Me, I’ve been a fan for years.  Back when I was writing for The Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange and Pop Culture Press, I hit the magazine racks for every issue of ND as they were published.  I learned a lot.  Then again, I’m a reader.  I have three books going at a time.  I used ND between sittings to, shall we say, cleanse the palate.  If you read and if you love music, perhaps this would be something you would be willing to support.  If 7,000 of you don’t, the print edition, as I understand it, goes away.  That would suck.  Use the link.  Learn more.  This message provided by your local DBAWIS columnist (sorry, but blogger just sounds so lame) and music junkie…

The Pac Northwest’s Jim Basnight just reposted this pilot (or whatever it is) of “Where the Action Is.”  I think I may have actually seen this but I am not sure.  I am thrilled to see the Raiders lip-synching and play-synching to Money,” though.  This must have been about Steppin’ Out time.   And Oo-Poo-Pah-Do?  Man, that Here They Come! album is still my favorite Raiders album.  Cool shots of Jan & Dean, too!

More good news!  Nobody writes or sounds like Jeff Finlin and he has a new album coming out May 26th.  This makes me very happy.

Heartbreak is contagious, so says Kris Angelis.  After hearing this, I am sure it must be so.  Lots of hooks in this one.

That ol’ Keb’ Mo’ is one busy sonofagun lately.  Here is a new video on which he is featured by The Dustbowl Revival, who sound nothing like I expected.  Nice track, though.

This is the last song I’ve heard Mr. Mo’ make better.  I like this one too.  A lot.

I have been listening a lot to Anna Fermin’s Trigger Gospel a lot lately— You Belong Here.  A solid album by a musician who really takes me back to two of my favorite singer/songwriters, Kelly Flint and Jill Stevenson.  There is a common denominator among the three and while I have yet to put a finger on it, it comes down to the music.  Let us compare.  The first video is a look at Fermin through a TV lens in Sweden.  Don’t let the Swedish throw you.  There is an excellent interview toward the end in English and the performance clips are outstanding.

Kelly Flint is mostly known as the vocalist for a New York band of old known as Dave’s True Story.  She stepped away from the band for a short time to record one fine album from which the song in this video came.  Cartoon is a look at love from a cartoon world.  It has haunted me since I first heard it.  Kelly dropped off the edge of the Earth awhile ago, at least for those of us who try to follow her, but has recently announced the possibility of more music in the near future.  If you have never thought of love through cartoon eyes, listen closely.

Jill Stevenson wanted to be a singer since she was little.  She made it but was not really given her due.  When I listen to the songs she recorded in New York, I am taken away.  There is a sincerity in her songs.  Maybe that is the thread for all three.  Honest, simple music.

And this is the song that made me a hardcore Stevenson fan.

Holy Mother of God!  Here’s a video you might not want to watch just before hitting the sack.  Jealous Butcher Records probably has tons of songs like this in their archives.  From The Geraldine Fibbers.   Whew!

Danny Barnes is one of those banjo enthusiasts you should listen to to get a real appreciation of the instrument and its importance to country/bluegrass music.  This is 26 minutes long and packed with real understanding.

Seattle’s Peter Blecha has written some absolutely excellent pieces about the history of music in the Pac Northwest.  His latest, a piece on Phil Moore, combines jazz, race and radio and is one of the finest pieces he has written yet.  This is true history, sports fans, and damn fascinating, besides.  You can access the article by clicking here. 

Whew!  Must be summer.  In Raelyn Nelson‘s neighborhood, anyway.  Bikes in the trees and lots o’ dancin’.  And dig those lawns!  You could putt on ’em!

Here’s something a little more recent.  Raelyn has one fine band behind her.  And I dig her attitude!

The guy who posted this on the social media said that this was recorded around 2001 by Danish band Baby Woodrose.  I guess they have garages over there too!

Friend/poet/musician Gary Heffern and I go way back to the mid-70s and the beginning of the punk scene in San Diego.  He was a punk kid then, wrapped up in all of the angst of the period, and parlayed all of that angst into a career in music which included stints with The Penetrators, The Cunninghams, and other bands.  He has shared music and poetry stages with the outguard of the beat/punk movement such as The Alvin Brothers and Peter Case and others.  He has helped me negotiate my journey through music, something for which I am most grateful (he knows the behind-the-scenes details one like myself need to make sense of it all).  About a year ago, he sent me a video by a guy calling himself Burkney Jack,  a musician I found interesting and cutting edge.  This is the video he sent.

Here is Burkney Jack from 2011.

Turns out, ol’ Jack is recording a song utilizing lyrics from one of Gary’s poems taken from his book, Unholy Dreams.  I will say that after watching the vids and reading a bit of Heffern imagery that it makes sense.  They both live on the edge when it comes to the arts.  Should be one of those automatics I’ve heard about over the years.  Stay tuned.

Few bands have a depth of stories as did Elton Duck.  Recognize anybody?

I know you’ve been wondering.  Yes, Cindy Lee Berryhill has a new album out and will be touring.  Cindy has long been a favorite of the Pac NW (actually, I should say West Coast) and is known for her unrelenting giving of time and effort for various charities.  Deserving of support for that alone.  Here is one of her latest videos.

Frogville Records has just put together a long string of videos  they have in their vaults of ThaMuseMent and I sent them a note about one of my favorite F-ville acts, 100 Year Flood.  I dig them so much I’m going to share.  Ladies and Gentlemen, these guys shoulda been big!  Maybe it’s not too late.  Very Nocona-like.

Speaking of ThaMuseMent, a hundred to one you missed these guys!!!

No Small Children never stop(s)!  Here is a brand new track.  You HAVE to see this band live to appreciate how really good they are!

More Thomas Wynn & The Believers.  I had a feeling this guy and his cohorts were going somewhere a long time ago when he was playing with The Wynn Brothers Band.  At least, I think that was him.  From Orlando or thereabouts.

There has been a lot of talk about Steel Wheels lately.  This is why.

Play like it’s 1965 and Dion‘s album is about to hit the street.  Because it is.  Finally.  Norton Records has announced the release of Kickin’ Child, The Lost Album, 1965!  Anyone who loved Dion back in the day will be impressed!  Check it out by clicking here!  (This ain’t no ad… I just remember dancing to Dion as a kid so I’m letting you know)

Walter Spencer is a denizen of the Los Angeles contingent of Country-leaning Americana contingents.  Here, he follows in the path of, say, Country Joe, Kinky Friedman (who actually ran for president at one time, I am told), and The Holy Modal Rounders, espousing the benefits of the nefarious Weed!

Well, waddaya know?  Here’s another one!  Sonofagun.

And the award for the best comedic blues album is… Bobby Messano!

Notes on Gary Duncan of Quicksilver Messenger Service…  When I interviewed him back in 2007, his sense of humor shined through like a beacon, yet there was truth in the humor.  I just saw this again about Quicksilver’s equipment.  I had to laugh.  “Cippolina liked those solid state Standel Amplifiers.  He would put drivers and horns on top of them and they would get so high-pitched onstage it felt like the sound was going to kill you.  I used Fender Amps for the most part.  At one point, I was using eight Twin Reverbs, each with a Showman bottom, all going at once.”  Which brings up a point I shall have to address.  While most musicians I know are so busy singing the praises of Marshall and Voxx amps, the ones I revered were Fender.  Paul Revere, before signing the deal with Voxx, were known in the Pac NW for their use of the Fender Showman, top-o’-the-line at the time as far as most of us knew.  I need to do some research on that.  Expect a column on amps in the future.  In the meanwhile, here is some of that sound that almost killed  Duncan.

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7Frank 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 Frank bottle capone 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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