Frank Gutch Jr: Scott Boyer: A Message In the Wind; A Repeat About Vinyl; and Them Tasty Notes

Scott Boyer has died.  Since the summer of 1971 I have been spouting his name— his and Tommy Talton‘s and Bill Pillmore‘s and Tom Wynn‘s and George Clark‘s and Pete Kowalke‘s (now living and still playing music under his not-so-new moniker, Peter Giri). They called themselves Cowboy and were a six-pronged country rock outfit out of Jacksonville who signed with Capricorn Records right after The Allman Brothers Band— indeed, signed because of The Allmans.  I say Jacksonville because that is where they settled as the band was forming.

I had been interviewing Scott here and there for a few years when health problems pretty much put an end to it.  I had hoped to get enough to write a definitive story of Cowboy and did get all six to talk, but Scott and I both were hoping to take it further.  Scott’s music was important enough to me to try to put his story down on its own, but fate has intervened.  In a way, I hate that I did not push harder to get it done, but Scott would probably agree that if it was to be, it would have been.  I did get enough to write Cowboy’s story, but again I have dropped the ball.  George Clark left first, and now Scott.  I would have had it that they could have read what I would write, but…

I used to get in arguments with fans of The Allmans,  not because of The Allmans but because of Cowboy.  The more obnoxious ones would say that Capricorn would be a decent label if it wasn’t for Cowboy and I would stick my chin out and say, oh yeah?  Duane and Gregg think they’re okay or they wouldn’t have recommended them to the label and then would proceed to tell them the story (unless they were so drunk it would have done no good, which was most of the time), which was basically this, according to Scott:

We (The Bitter Ind) (a band consisting of Scott, Butch Trucks, and David Brown) got a manager from Jacksonville who had  managed a couple of bands and who had managed to take them up the ladder pretty well.  We changed our name to The Tiffany System because it was the flower power age at that time.  You know, to coincide with The Strawberry Alarm Clock and bands with that kind of name.  About a year later, we signed a contract with Vanguard Records and cut an album.  The label didn’t like the name of the band so Brad Shapiro, who was producing us, got together with us and came up with The 31st of February.  It was the psychedelic age and names didn’t have to make sense.  As a matter of fact, the less sense they made, the better, kind of. 

At that point in time, Hour Glass (which included both Duane and Gregg Allman) was doing their thing in California.  After that finished, Duane and Gregg came back to Florida and ended up joining our band.  We recorded some demos for Vanguard in an attempt to get a production budget for the second album.  The demos included like the first version of “Melissa” (later, recorded by The Allmans) and two or three things— later released as a bootleg album titled Gregg & Duane: The Early Years.  Vanguard didn’t like what we’d sent them and wouldn’t give us a budget, so that band dissolved and everybody went back to Jacksonville.  They started having concerts in the park down there and that is what The Allman Brothers grew out of.  I went back to playing folk music for awhile and ended up running into Tommy Talton about six months to a year later and Cowboy happened.  Early ’69, I think.

 

Aaaah, Cowboy.  I remember it like it was yesterday, bringing home the Reach For the Sky album and, later, 5’ll Getcha Ten.  Fresh out of the Army, I was young, politically motivated (thanks to the Viet Nam War), and committed to the back-to-the-land movement— as it was and not how it was presented by the press.  Sure, there were communes and hippies and free love and all of that, but there was so much more to it— a commitment to equality and fairness and common sense and peace.  Along with the movement came the music— not necessarily because of the music, but there was some of that too.  Mainly because of the towering Gargantua and Pantagruel shadow of the military-industrial complex (which was and is a real thing) and war and the feeling that if we did not do it together, the world was going to destroy itself (and us).

The Cowboy albums reinforced what we thought was a viable option to what was, simple as that.  I began listening to albums more closely, finding lyrics and music which not only touched my soul but reflected it.  At that point, I found my music mantra in the form of the first song on Reach For the Sky:

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 knowin’

It’s my friends who show me who I am

The title was, simply, Opening, and it said in very few words the struggle I was then having.  I was idealistic and conflicted and frustrated and hopeful all at the same time, and I was having trouble handling it.  No, the song was not written by Scott (it was written by Bill Pillmore and Pete Kowalke) but it didn’t matter.  Scott and Bill wrote the companion piece to it (Livin’ In the Country) and hearing those songs together calmed my soul.  I have written many times the effect Cowboy’s music has had on me.  For instance, from a column dated November of 2012:

Cowboy/5’ll Getcha Ten (Capricorn) (1971)— I was fresh out of the Army in 1971, a civilian for the first time in a year and nine months, feeling alone and questioning everything I had once believed in (like, for instance, not putting prepositions at the end of a sentence). It was a long year and nine months, the longest of my life, and when I got out I threw every bit of myself into every ideal I possessed, political and otherwise. Music fed those ideals. I didn’t realize how much until I picked up two Cowboy albums at The House of Records in Eugene and found the soundtrack for the back to the earth movement. Reach For the Sky screamed hippie but 5’ll Getcha Ten kicked my ass. There was a smooth country rock vibe to it and it got under my skin. Let us say, it spoke to me. The album was loaded with light rockers such as She Carries a Child and Seven Four Tune, songs head and shoulders above most of the music I’d been hearing, but what really sold it were the slower tunes. Like The Wonder, about a soldier who dies wondering if us humans will ever get along; like All My Friends, homage to the importance of friends and family; like What I Want Is You, a song dripping with love; and like Please Be With Me, which most people believe is an Eric Clapton song but which was really written and sung by Scott Boyer and first presented on 5’ll Getcha Ten. I almost fell to sleep one night (something akin to David Crosby almost cutting his hair) but vaulted wide awake when Cowboy reached deep into my consciousness and pulled me back to life. I really heard it for the first time and ended up pulling an all-nighter. Many a time I have listened to it over and over in an attempt to pull me out of a negative spiral. I loved this band. I love this album. Especially when it rains.

I came up with some emails Scott and I had passed back and forth.  I was in the process of interviewing him for a piece on Cowboy and had evidently mentioned that I think he had enough stories to put together an intriguing book.  After all, he had been in the music business enough to have a trunk full of stories.  I think he said he would never be able to do it, his expertise with words being limited to song lyrics and letters.  We chuckled over that before I offered to help.  He must have been thinking about it because he immediately came back with ideas.  Probably other writers had approached him.  He was leery, I could tell, but he was thinking about it.

Any thoughts about that stopped when health issues presented themselves.  I had not heard from him for some time when a message was posted about it by his son.  Dad is in hospital and will be temporarily indisposed…  A shock, but Scott had mentioned failing health.  I waited.  We struck up our communications after a number of months but the book was never again mentioned.

I believe it was 1973 when I moved from Eugene to Los Angeles.  It was becoming obvious that if I was going to do anything with my life it was going to involve music and what better place to be than Los Angeles?  West Coast home of all the major labels and beaches and, as that guy on The Beverly Hillbillies said, “swimming pools, movie stars”.  I had a sister and brother-in-law living there and they didn’t mind too much if I took up a little space (they probably hated it, but what could they do once I was down there?).  I started looking for a job right away.  I talked with a few labels (it didn’t help that I berated them for not selling records the way they should) and ended up running projector in a porn palace (that Army training sure came in handy there).  While talking with a guy about a job at University Stereo, he told me to hold on a minute and went back to his office.  He came back a few minutes later  and told me I had an interview with Susie at Licorice Pizza on Wilshire Boulevard the next day.  Four o’clock.  Don’t be late.  I showed up and Susie asked if I would mind working the floor for a couple of hours for a free record and I said sure.  Ten o’clock that night, I asked her if I should check in with her later.  She had forgotten I was there.  She apologized, handed me a Licorice Pizza jersey and said “You’re hired”.

The timing was perfect.  Capricorn had just signed a distribution deal with Warner Brothers and, Surprise!  Surprise!, the label repackaged the first two Cowboy albums in a double-album package titled Why Quit When You’re Losing.  Perfect!  You have to realize that Jim Greenwood who founded the record store chain was almost as idealistic as myself and encouraged the different stores to develop personalities.  I became “Cowboy Bob” and spent time trying to sell not only Cowboy’s albums but those of other country-rockers such as Pure Prairie League, Uncle Jim’s Music, and later, Heartsfield.  I also became enthralled with the folk scene in Southern California, discovering a whole string of artists, from Jim Ringer and Mary McCaslin to Bill Staines, Country Cooking, Tony Rice.

When Why Quit hit the stores, our store promoted them stealthily.  About a year later, when Boyer & Talton was released, we pulled out the stops.  Boyer & Talton was not the original band, of course, but both Scott and Tommy Talton were there.  I found out manyyears later that it wasn’t even really an album, at least not in concept, but unfinished tracks which they quickly completed for a release coinciding with the Gregg Allman Tour album.  As Scott explained it:

(After 5’ll Getcha Ten, Cowboy split up, only Scott and Tommy Talton staying with the label.)  We pit together a band which at that point had Bill Stewart on drums.  David Brown came in and played the bass— the same guy I was in The Bitter Ind with— and we had a keyboard player by the name of Tranthem Whitley who we had found in Florida.  We went on the road with The Allman Brothers, which was probably one of the worst billing arrangements ever.  We were sweet harmonies and guitars and they were what they were.  Their fan base was not really receptive to our kind of music.  But they were really popular and Phil knew that there was going to be a house full of people there to hear us and he just wanted to put us infront of a lot of people, trying to sell some records, which he did.  We came back after that tour and split up for maybe three or four months.  For the rest of the time we were together, we were Cowboy but we spent a lot of time in Macon not touring and not being a band but rather the Macon Rhythm Section.  Whenever a solo artist came into town and needed studio musicians, we were that.  Phil had us being a band when he needed it.

We went out and toured with Gregg in 1974, but we also recorded albums with Kitty Wells and Martin Mull and Percy Sledge and Dexter Redding and I don’t know who all else.  But for a lot of that time, we were a sometimes studio rhythm section and sometimes band.

How the Boyer & Talton album came about was this.  We had been in the studio recording Gregg’s Laid Back album and Gregg said he wanted to go on tour to support it and wanted us to be his backup band.  At that point, Phil Walden said, look, I need a Cowboy album.  If we’re going to do this tour, we might as well have a Cowboy album in the racks that people can buy.  We had done a lot of demos over the past few years and when there was free studio time for one reason or another, Tommy and I would record some of our own things.  Tommy would say, hey, I have song I started.  Let’s cut a track on it.  Or I would say the same thing.  So we had several— maybe thirty— partially finished tracks.  We finished them and went out on the road.  And that was the Boyer & Talton album.  It was kind of a weird experience because we were finishing up tracks that we had cut two years before.  Some of them I had lost the lyrics to and had to write new ones.  It wasn’t at all like writing a song and going in right away and cutting it, you know?

And I never thought once that the album was put together thusly.  The songs are smooth and strong, the production excellent, the personnel— well, let’s just say that I envision the musicians in real time.  I know it is ridiculous because even back then session players recorded their parts separately on occasion or maybe on the whole.  Still, it was the picture in my mind’s eye.

I loved (and love) Boyer & Talton, but it wasn’t/isn’t Cowboy to me.  I told Scott that and he understood.  The band, he intimated, was the band and Boyer & Talton were Boyer & Talton.  Both Scott and Tommy Talton had problems with Capricorn— promises made with no followup, smaller compensation than they would have liked, other problems— some small, some large.

Scott again:  After we got back from doing Gregg’s two tours, we had a sort of hiatus.  Tommy went back to Orlando for awhile. I stayed in Macon, living at the time with Chuck Leavell out at a place called Idlewild South which the Allman Brothers had rented for a short time.  Chuck and I had found it for rent in the paper, oddly enough, after the Brothers had bought some farmland and moved up there.  This place was like a hunting cabin on about a five acre lake surrounded by about 130 acres of land. 

I continued to do some studio work and one day Tommy called me up and said, hey man, let’s do some more stuff.  We ended up moving the band from Macon down to Mobile, Alabama— or actually, a town across the bay called Fairhope.  A friend of ours who was our bass player at the time had grown up there.  It is a gorgeous spot and macon at that time had gotten to a point…

We had sort of a falling out with Capricorn.  They had brought up some contractual obligations.  We were looking to find another label but there was no way to get out of the Capricorn contract without doing a final album for them.  So that’s how the fourth album came about.

We had a few different guys in the band.  We eventually got a guy named Arch Pearson to play bass.  We knew him from playing in a band with Randall Bramblett.  And a drummer named Chip Miller and a keyboard player (Chip Condon).  We had two Chips in the band— that was weird. (laughs)

Johnny Sandlin, who had produced the first three Cowboy albums, was involved in a production deal with somebody else, so we decided to go ahead and produce the album ourselves with help from the engineer who had worked on the previous two albums, San Whitehead.  Like I said, Capricorn and us weren’t getting along so we figured let’s just do this and get it over with.  As it turned out, that was the last album we did.  But to be accurate,Sam, myself and Tommy produced it.  All decisions were made by us three.

I asked Scott if it made a difference, dealing with the music along with the distractions.  He didn’t really answer, just saying that every situation was different and this one needed resolution.  Of course, there was little support from the label, though the band played out a bit.

Scott:  Capricorn put the album out (titled just Cowboy) and it ended up selling around 40,000 copies in six weeks time and then it took them about two months to restock the shelves and, of course, any ball we’d gotten rolling when the album was first released was gone by the time the album made it back to the stores.  Which was another thing that pissed us off.  They just didn’t have their act together.

I could tell the story stifled Scott at times.  He would coast along and be talking up a storm and then he would hit a speed bump, like above.  Those years were fun, on the whole, but they took a toll.  What a lifetime of stories, though!

I think he needed to tell some of them— to get them out in the open and let them breathe.  He mentioned at one point that it was tough going over certain moments, that he had not realized how much of a grip the past had on him at times.  He also said that he felt blessed that he had had the opportunities he had.  He had gotten his music recorded.  He had the opportunity to play with so many class musicians and friends.  He lived a life he had not really contemplated when playing the bars with The 31st of February and, later, The Convertibles, The Decoys, and The Locust Fork Band, among others.

  Above: Scott with Bonnie Bramlett and Tommy Talton

It wasn’t easy being in Cowboy.  Not all the time.  There were some real highs but with the highs come the lows. I will end this with a story about one time they opened for The Allmans in the Pac Northwest.  This will give you perspective.

I remember our gig outside of Seattle very clearly.  They had just built this concert hall and both The Allmans and Cowboy were booked.  Both bands went in in the afternoon to do the sound check.  There were two shows scheduled for that night— a six o’clock show and a nine o’clock. They were to change the audience out for each show.  I remember hearing some guy backstage say, hey man, where’s that little black box?  The other guy said, I don’t know and the first guy says, well, that’s the connector for the whole PA.  It won’t work without it.  They looked around and couldn’t find it and come six o’clock, they decided they had to ride into town and rent a PA, bring it back and set it up. So six o’clock rolls around and then seven o’clock. Then eight.  The house is full of people and we hadn’t hit a note.  Nine o’clock rolls around and they open the doors and let the people in for the nine o’clock show.  They’re packed in there like sardines and by nine-thirty, there is 8,000 Allman Brothers freaks in a club that was meant to hold only 4,000 and we hit the stage.  Well, they didn’t want to hear no Cowboy.  We went out and said, “Hello!” and they said “Fuck you!  Bring on The Brothers!”  We played two songs and left the stage.  I was afraid that they were going to rush the stage.  I really was!  It was spooky.  They had every right to be pissed of, you know, but it wasn’t our fault, you know?

I am sure Scott was a bit frightened.  Read the histories of some of the rock ‘n’ roll riots of the seventies. People died in some of them.  Can you imagine going to see The Allmans and never going back home?  Scott could.

Well, Scott, your time was up, I guess.  That is how you would have said it if it had ever come up, I am sure.  But you can be assured that the music will be around long after we are all gone.  Some people think that only the superstars deserve real recognition at the end of the day.  To me, Cowboy was a band of superstars.  Like I said many times when we talked, it’s the music, man… the music. And with that, I will leave you all with the music— one of Scott’s songs which captured the essence of who he was.  You were a friend to us all, Scott. You will not soon be forgotten.

On a Lighter Note…

Back in 2012, I had opinions (whereas now I am opinion-free— Ha!).  Here are some thoughts for your perusal.  God knows what I was thinking.

About Vinyl…..

Not more than three months ago, the discussion was going hot and heavy in the music forums over the negatives and positives of digital vs. analog (CDs and downloads vs. vinyl). The alternative communities seem to have this idea that analog is where it’s at, that digital recording drains the very lifeblood out of music. I’ve heard it before and I suppose I am damned to hear it many more times. Everyone has an opinion. My opinion is that each song/album stands by itself. What comes to the format comes out of the way the music is handled before it gets there. Anyone who blankly states that vinyl is better, period, is a (to quote Monty Python) ass.

See, getting an album or song ready for release is a process. How that process is handled makes the big difference when it comes to final outcome. I have compared CDs to vinyl at times and found no differences and at other times with other albums have found great differences. The thing is, what you like is what you like. Argue all you want, you will never convince me that vinyl is always better than digital. It just won’t happen. You will also never convince me that originals are always better than remakes. If you haven’t learned yet that music has to be considered in a vacuum, you’re just not paying attention.

That said, there is one thing I miss more than the analog aspects of certain recordings. The packages. I miss liner notes. I love the booklets they sometimes include in CD packages, especially the sixteen page ones filled with historical info, but how cool would it be to have those in a form where you didn’t need electron microscopes to read the fine print?

Just a thought. Oh, and as long as I’m thinking, when you as a musician are ready to package your next album, please choose your colors with more discrimination. Yellow on orange may look pretty but is sometimes damn near impossible to read, or haven’t some of you figured that out yet? Class over.

Now, how about some of them tasty…

Notes…

It has been way too long since I wrote a few pages about Hymn For Her and I won’t now— or should I say, not yet.  One of the more dynamic duos and virtually always on tour, they have taken some time to put together this brand spanking new music video for your dining/wining pleasure.  Shades of Maggi Pierce & EJ.  From the album Drive Til U Die.

They tried to sneak Loma past me but I was too quick.  I’m not sure if this is a one-time thing, but I love the dirge-like flow of this one.

Jim Caligiuri makes it a mission to back the music he loves.  He’s more right than wrong, trust me.  Like this track from a new release by The Mastersons.  Good stuff.

Jesus, but I’m getting old!  I just saw a picture of Neko Case standing on the hood of a Mercury Cougar and my first thought was, “Damn, that’s a beauty of a car!”  And Neko’s one of my favorites!

Answer me this, sports fans… how is it that mediocre supposed American idols get the breaks while Charlottesville’s Erin Lunsford busts her ass year after year and can’t get respect outside of Virginia?  Sometimes I want to punch the supposed “listening public” right in the mouth!

Jeff Ellis is back in the studio.  His plan is to record a couple of songs every time he visits West Virginia during the course of this year and see what he has when that is done.  Who knows what he will come up with?  The boy plays just about anything and everything, though he says the ones he recorded this time around are barn burners.  Here is a taste of yesterday.

=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.”

One Response to “Frank Gutch Jr: Scott Boyer: A Message In the Wind; A Repeat About Vinyl; and Them Tasty Notes”

  1. As The Bitter Ind…I knew them well as one of their first gigs was at the Sigma Nu house at FSU…they lived next to me in the dorms & my room mate was Pete..& we swam with Pillmore on the Swim team..interesting story about the first time they played…Scott even bunked on the couch in Pete & my apt later…I made Butch’s first drumhead cover…….I love these guys & the music…of special note is at the bus stop in I think 1953 I met Tom Wynn…..and he joined Tommy Talton in a band at our high school [ Winter Park] that rocked the youth center……..My life is so much better form knowing them over all these years…~ Del Seaman.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: