Remembering HENRY STONE, 1921-2014

 

Miami music legend Henry Stone

Miami music legend Henry Stone

He taught us the value of perseverance… the importance of distribution… and the results that come from greasing the right palms at the right time.

In his 93 years, Henry Stone rewrote the rule book on how to get a hit record.   Sometimes he threw out the rule book entirely.   He showed the world that instead of just merely standing on the shoulders of giants, he could rise to become a giant himself in the record industry.

Every recap of Stone’s life will be filled with stories of how he launched TK Records, and made it the number one independent disco label in the world.   It was a remarkable achievement, but it came nearly thirty years into the man’s career in the biz.  It was a long way from pressing up demos that he’d distribute out of the back of a car.   It was a long way from those lean years when he would take his latest blues records around to seedy juke joints and whorehouses, anywhere so-called “race records” could be played.    I would hear stories from my father, who worked in the coin-operated machine business and would sometimes accompany Stone, filling jukeboxes with records by folks such as Little Iris Culmer  — records that are worth a fortune today.

Along the way Stone recorded tracks by Ray Charles, Wilbert Harrison, Lightning Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, and even James Brown… whose voice was removed from the 1959 jam “(Do The) Mashed Potatoes” and replaced by the vocal shouts of WMBM disc jockey Carlton “King” Coleman.    The success of “Mashed Potatoes” (with no small help from WINZ disc jockey Bob Greene, who got a cut of the publishing) helped finance more recordings, including the very first tracks recorded by future soul superstars Sam & Dave.   The list of early R&B and soul artists recorded by Stone is truly mind boggling.   With the help of his right hand man, Steve Alaimo, Stone branched out into what are now known as garage band recordings, releasing material by groups such as the Birdwatchers, the Nightcrawlers, the Senders, Proctor Amusement Company, the 31st of February, Mercy, and early studio tracks by Duane & Gregg Allman.   The records were impressive, but a lot of folks put out records.   What set Stone apart was distribution.   This is such an important point that I’ll say it again (and again and again).    Distribution was the key.    Stone was the man to see for independent labels, both large and small.  Without distribution, record stores (and in those days, drug stores and department stores) couldn’t get their hands on most of the records guys like Bob Greene and King Coleman were playing, so independent label artists — and their records — would have been doomed to failure.  With Stone’s Tone Distributors acting as a one-stop operation, small labels had an outlet to get their music into stores, and Stone himself had a way of getting his releases into the hands of those who decided which records would get played.   It was a win-win.

When a Henry Stone release would take off locally, he would make a distribution deal with a larger indie — usually Atlantic.   Atlantic would then use their powerful A&R network to secure national airplay.   Atlantic scored big profits from two major Henry Stone releases in 1971 — “Clean Up Woman” by Betty Wright and “Funky Nassau” by the Beginning of the End — but soon entered into a deal to join forces with Warner Brothers and Elektra Records.  With Atlantic falling from the ranks of indie labels, the whole dynamic had changed.  By the following year, Stone had enough of sharing the profits.   After picking up Timmy Thomas’ “Why Can’t We Live Together” from the tiny Konduko label, and transferring it to his own Glades imprint, Stone decided to handle national distribution himself.   It worked.   The record was a smash, without the help of Atlantic.   Stone learned he could do it himself.  That was Stone’s genius — distribution.   It was also the birth of TK Productions, an independent company that could distribute dozens upon dozens of small labels.   Soon labels such as Malaco, which had been cranking out unsuccessful records for a decade, would score huge with Dorothy Moore;   ditto Juana Records with Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell”.   Sure, TK was (mainly) about disco, but here’s the real truth:   TK was about distribution!   It was about cutting the right record for the right moment, and then getting it in the hands of the right people.   It was that simple!

In recent years, Stone admitted to handing out payola — lots of it.   That’s how the record industry worked.   It still does — only today it’s more likely to be gifts masquerading as advertising revenue, or Christmas gifts to the wife.   Stone’s candor in how he manipulated Billboard Magazine into keeping KC & The Sunshine Band’s #1 song streak alive is refreshing.   Moralize or judge all you want — the music industry is a game, and the guys who know how to play it come out ahead, and Stone knew the game inside and out.    (He would have been the first one to tell you that a bad record was not going to sell, no matter how much money you throw at it.)   The real key to his longevity was not the gifts and money he gave out, but the talent of his artists and staff.   The songs that Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke cranked out for Stone’s labels such as Dade, Alston, Cat, and Blue Candle are true soul classics, appreciated today more than ever among record collectors.   The combination of great writers and producers with “hit” material, great knowledge of distribution, and a little something extra on top, made Henry Stone a legend in the music business.

TKmiamisound

 

TK’s bread and butter was disco, and when that genre started to fade, it was slow to keep up with the changes that were happening on the airwaves.  After the label crashed and burned in 1981, Henry Stone moved on to other ventures, embracing hip hop, Miami bass, freestyle, and other forms of dance music.   In recent years he’s been reissuing many of his classic recordings, and I’ve had a chance to work with him on some of those.  Even as his eyesight failed and his 93-year-old body betrayed him, his mind remained sharp.   He shared many interesting stores at a panel discussion in 2012 at the Miami Art Museum.    He’s shared even more through his writings, and for an upcoming documentary about his life and career.    That life may have ended, but his legacy lives on as we spin his records.  Here are just a few that we will continue to appreciate:

DOO WOP:  “Dry Your Eyes” by the Delmiras, “”Tears In My Eyes” by the Tru-Tones, “Nitey Nite” by the Majestics
ROCKABILLY:  “Kitten” by Jimmy Voytek, “Only One” by Don “Red” Roberts
NORTHERN SOUL:  “I Can’t Sleep” by Jimmy Bo Horne;  “I Can’t See Him Again” by the Twans;  “Stop Hurting Me Baby” by Purple Mundi
FUNK:  “Save Me” by James Knight & the Butlers;  “It Takes Two” by Lynn Williams”, “Across The Track” by the Believers
GARAGE BANDS:  “Girl I Got News For You” by the Birdwatchers;  “The Little Black Egg” LP by the Nightcrawlers;  “What’s Your Sister’s Name” by the Senders
THE SOUL HITS:   “Girls Can’t Do What The Guys Do” & “Clean Up Woman” by Betty Wright;  “Nobody But You Babe” by Clarence Reid
DISCO:  “Rock Your Baby” by George McCrae, “Rockin’ Chair” by Gwen McCrae, “Do You Wanna Get Funky With Me” by Peter Brown, many by KC & The Sunshine Band

Those are just a few of the literally thousands of recordings that received the Henry Stone seal of approval.   Stone was part of a bygone era of record guys that lived and breathed the business, but also had golden ears.   It wasn’t about focus groups or glitzy videos or social media mobilization or search engine optimization.    It was about both style and substance.   For that, we celebrate Henry Stone, and we will continue to do so.   They truly don’t make ’em like him anymore.

Henry Stone (seated, right) taking part in a music business panel discussion, April 2012

Henry Stone (seated, right) taking part in a music business panel discussion, April 2012. L-R: DJ LeSpam, Willie Clarke, Jeff Lemlich, Henry Stone.

 

 

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Churchill’s Hideaway: Miami Musical Legend

Churchill's Hideaway in Miami

 

It’s unusual to see a requiem for a place that still exists.   You can still go to Churchill’s in Little Haiti, order a brew, and watch a band with no commercial potential do its thing.   You can still struggle to find a parking space and have a close encounter with one of the less-than-lucid area residents.   To an outsider, it would seem as though nothing has changed.

But it has — and will continue to do so — now that owner Dave Daniels is out of the picture.   Churchill’s lives on, but there are reasons to believe that the legendary dive’s glory days might be behind it.

By now you probably know that any South Florida musical act that’s worth seeing has played Churchill’s over the past three decades.   There have been many eloquent articles and blog posts about the Churchill’s experience, and I would suggest an internet search to read as many of them as possible.   Everybody has their own memories of nights on end spent at Churchill’s Hideaway, and of course I am no exception.

I’ve seen my share of freak shows and my share of fights — some of them on stage!    Monoman and his Lyres played Churchill’s in 1988, and wound up cutting their set short after an on-stage shouting fest.   Some nights ended in barroom brawls, or worse — such as the time someone was shot outside the club in 1996, during a set by Redneck Donut Assembly.   We all remember the weird things that happened at Churchill’s, but not every show turned into a Jerry Springer festival.   Churchill’s is where rivals became friends, and where long broken-up bands got back together.   It’s where Hialeah band I Don’t Know played what was supposedly their farewell performance, only to remind the audience of the date:   April 1st.   It’s where a King Friday show turned into a Quit show, signaling that Miami’s popular pop-punkers were back together again.   It’s where the ghost of the long-departed Trash Monkeys would appear nearly every Friday the 13th, on a night that usually included some combination of Kreamy ‘Lectric Santa or the Stun Guns.

 

We learned to expect the unexpected on Thursday nights at Churchill's.

We learned to expect the unexpected on Thursday nights at Churchill’s.  Click the image to view it full size.

 

 

Thursday nights at Churchill’s belonged to Rat Bastard and bands that weren’t on the A-list at most other area clubs.   You could catch the very early Holy Terrors, the Naughty Puritans (pre-Cell 63), Insanity Assassin (with Bobby Johnston from Load), and India Lovesou, which would morph into Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids.   I remember asking Rat for the name of one of the performers — a young woman — and he told me it was “Marilyn Manson”.   That was a rare performance by Cindy Dietz as the enigmatic character, before a writer for Tonight Today magazine named Brian Warner became known as Mr. Manson.   It was still a few weeks before Warner and the Spooky Kids’ official debut, with the Goods, in April 1990.    One guess where that historic night took place…

 

 

The official debut of Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids... with the Goods

The official debut of Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids… with the Goods… at Churchill’s.  Click the image to view it full size.

 

You really couldn’t count the number of bands that made their debut at Churchill’s.    I saw the Mavericks several times in late 1989, back when half the band was comprised of members of Nuclear Valdez.   After the Mavericks signed with big bad MCA Records, they returned to Churchill’s to shoot their video for “Hey Good Lookin'”.   To make it look like a country bar, someone put a giant marlin on the wall in back of the stage!   I was one of the dancers during the shooting of the video, but never made it to the finished product.    True to the name of the song, only the good looking ones made the cut.

 

The Goods at Churchill's, 1991DELIVERING THE GOODS

Sid King, big red Tonka trucks, and keeping the rubber side down became familiar phrases, thanks to the Goods, who also made their official debut at Churchill’s.  I’ve never seen a combination of band and club that clicked as much as the Goods-Churchill’s connection.  At  one point in November 1991, they played the club five nights in a row, with a different theme each night (including the first-ever public performance of their rock opera “Five Steps To Getting Signed”.)   When they left for California, and when they returned three months later, they received their farewells… and welcome backs… at that pub in Little Haiti.   I haven’t even mentioned “The Good Ole Goods”, “Pud”, or the other wacky alter egos they trotted out on that stage.   If you get the impression I could go on and on about their history at the club, well yes I could.   But you get the idea.   Churchill’s was a place where bands could throw out their set lists if they chose to, and pretty much do what they wanted — a concept that would have been a deal breaker in most other clubs.

 

The first public performance of the Hivebuzzers, at Churchill's

The first public performance of the Hivebuzzers, at Churchill’s.  Click the image to view it full size.

 

 

Churchill’s is where my garage punk band, the Hivebuzzers, played its first two shows.   Dave Daniels liked us a lot, and advertised our second show before we knew we’d be able to play it.   When our drummer (Tim Vaughn from Kreamy ‘Lectric Santa) told us he couldn’t make it, the show had to go on — with lead guitarist Dan Hosker moving to the drums, and his Holy Terrors bandmate William Trev moving to lead guitar.   Of course we never rehearsed that way, and it was clear we’d be more loose than a long neck goose.   But this was Churchill’s.    The show had to go on.    If you wanted technical proficiency, you’d go to the Button South.    If you wanted ferocious rock ‘n roll energy,   this was the place to be.

 

 

THE COOL TABLE

 

Not everyone felt comfortable on South Beach.    Even though there were some dives that offered DIY shows (the Egghouse and the Junkyard, to name just two), it was still South Beach.   Velvet ropes and dressed-to-be-seen divas were all over the place, and even though we loved Washington Square and supported it completely, there just seemed to be a different kind of attitude to the area in general — one that looked at punks as “less than”.   Punk — and Churchill’s in general — seemed to attract the kinds of kids that while in school, never got to sit at the cool table.  Yet as the scene gathered steam, it became a real feather in their caps to get to play a punk night at Churchill’s.  In my book Savage Lost, I talk about how joining a garage band in the ’60s elevated average kids into weekend stars, and how it gave them dignity they could never find while struggling through the school day.   It was pretty much the same thing here, as these misfit kids — the ones who would never be picked for teams, athletic or academic  — managed to create their own cool table.   Yes, we realized, we can do our own thing, and move that cool table to the place where those bands — OUR bands — were playing.   And this time, no one would be telling us we couldn’t!

One of my favorite Churchill’s memories happened outside the club, during the Music Generated By Geographical Seclusion & Beer  CD release show in May 1993:   a simple game of hacky sack with Hosker and Quit frontman Addy Burns.   As we stood outside the building, bouncing that sack around on a perfect spring evening, it occurred to me how special moments such as these were.    It occurred to me that there was a special bond between the bands, the club, the fans, the dj’s, the writers.    We all wanted our little scene to succeed.   The New Times, XS, WVUM, Yesterday & Today Records, Open Books & Records, and dozens of fanzines were helping things along, but where would it have been without Churchill’s?  In an area where dress codes and high admission costs were the norm, this was an oasis.    There would be other dives, and we’d enjoy those, too, but this was the constant.   And yes, we had Dave Daniels to thank.

 

 

FAREWELL TO DAVE

 

The last time I saw Daniels was when he opened up the bar to what was then known as the Southeast Soul Club.   This was Miami’s first taste of a UK-style Northern soul night, where dj’s played rare soul 45s (original vinyl only) while dancers did their thing.   For Daniels, who’d taken part in Northern soul nights back in his native England, this was a return to his roots.   It was an interesting night for me as well.    I had gone from a fan who hung out watching the bands, to someone who booked some shows there, to a brief stint as a performer.   I came back to spin discs that night, but it would be my only trip to Churchill’s since moving away from Miami.   I hated to miss all the “Farewell to Dave” shows, but there was just no way around it.   As George Harrison once told us, “life goes on within you or without you.”

Churchill’s lives on, but I’ve been told there are changes in the works.    We initially feared the worst when the new owners announced a 21-and-older policy.  Fortunately, that has been reversed.   (It’s the college aged kids that do so much to support local scenes.    They’re the ones playing the bands on college radio, writing for fanzines, and promoting them via social media.    They are crucial to the health of a local scene, helping bands that want to go to the next level  reach their goals.)    Even with changes on the way, it’s only fair to give the new Churchill’s every chance to succeed.   The new owners deserve that much.    It’s either that or the prospect of something I hope I never see:  a bloody CVS on that history-rich corner.

*******

One footnote to the story:  The history of Churchill’s will be preserved in a film called Little Haiti Rock City.   As of the July 4th weekend, the film’s producers have met their financial goal on Kickstarter.   Production on the film — and the legacy of Churchill’s — will continue.

 

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Deep City: The Birth of the Miami Sound – A Biased Review

This writer with Willie Clarke, at the Miami premier of the Deep City film

This writer with Willie Clarke, at the Miami premier of the Deep City film.  Photo by Don Shetterly

 

“Willie Clarke, this is your life!”

So read one of the live tweets that was shown on the big screen, prior to the Miami premiere of Deep City:  The Birth of the Miami Sound.   In many ways, it was accurate.

Clarke, as you may know, co-founded the first black-owned record company in the state of  Florida.  I’m not talking about a one-off vanity label for a friend or relative, but a serious business venture that started with virtually nothing, and ended with a stable of acts that years later would form the backbone of mighty TK Records.   The TK story will be told in the forthcoming film “Rock Your Baby”;   this film concentrates on Clarke’s ventures, prior to the number one records and Grammy win.   It’s the story of a part of town that’s been drowning in blight for decades, but once was vibrant with nightclubs, hotels, and music, music, music… and how that backdrop, mixed with the sounds of the nearby Caribbean islands, and simmered with the brassy sound of the Florida A&M marching band, came together to produce a funky Miami soul stew.

Before I go any further, it’s time for a disclosure:   I am featured in the movie, and part of it was shot in my house.   If you’re looking for objectivity about the music that Willie Clarke, Johnny Pearsall, Clarence Reid, and Arnold Albury created, you’ve come to the wrong place.   I was one of the first guys to spread the word about labels such as Deep City, Lloyd, and Reid, and provided many of the records that were a part of the Numero Group’s Deep City reissue project.    Where I can be objective, though, is in how the information was presented, and how the producers brought it all together.   To me, the most impressive thing about the film was the storytelling.  The producers (Chad Tingle, Marlon Johnson, and Dennis Scholl) more than succeeded in making the story compelling, even for those who had no idea who Willie Clarke is, or why anyone would care.   That’s why Deep City:  the Birth of the Miami Sound has been accepted at film festivals around the country (including SXSW in Austin and the Cleveland International Film Festival).  Even those who don’t give a hoot about Miami records from the 1960s will find this documentary fast-paced and interesting.   That’s a real credit to the crew, who managed to make this part of Florida’s musical history interesting even for casual viewers.

The first artist to appear on the Deep City label was Helene Smith, who later married label co-founder Johnny Pearsall (and was inadvertently caught up in the tug-of-war that ended the label).  Smith retired from the music business, and the only singing she had done in years had been in church.   As she told her story to the film’s producers and listened to her pre-Deep City solo single, “The Pot Can’t Talk About The Kettle”, something magical happened:  she started singing along with the tune.    Fast forward now to the Miami premiere, on March 14, 2014.   Smith was introduced to the audience at Miami’s Olympia (Gusman) Theatre, and with a little urging broke out into an a cappella version of “Wrong Or Right He’s My Baby”, part of her Deep City catalog.  It was a priceless moment,  not only for those of us in attendance, but also for the usually shy Smith, who more than earned enthusiastic applause.  Others in attendance included Clarence “Blowfly” Reid, Willie “Little Beaver” Hale, Arnold “Hoss” Albury (Deep City’s indispensible musical director), TK founder Henry Stone, and of course the man of the hour, Willie Clarke.

 

Helene Smith in the studio, 1964, at sessions for "The Pot Can't Talk About The Kettle".   Her backing band included members of the Avengers.   Thanks to Chuck Stewart for the photo.

Helene Smith in the studio, 1964, at sessions for “The Pot Can’t Talk About The Kettle”. Her backing band included members of the Avengers. Thanks to Chuck Stewart for the photo.

 

 

deepcitylogorecord

What’s next for the Deep City documentary?   More film festivals, followed by an airing on PBS (though likely not before November).   A DVD release is also in the works.   What’s next for Deep City’s surviving artists?   More recognition, and more appreciation, something that was missing when they were young and making music that took 40+ years to discover.  Deep City is a winner.   See it.   You won’t be sorry.

                                                                                                            

Some of the Deep City cast members & producers, including Arnold Albury and Willie Clarke on the far left.  You'll have no trouble finding Helene Smith in this picture.

Some of the Deep City cast members & producers, including Arnold Albury and Willie Clarke on the far left. You’ll have no trouble finding Helene Smith in this picture. Click on the image to view it full size.

deepcitycast

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The Echoes of Carnaby Street: No Place Or Time

Four members of the Echoes Of Carnaby Street, 1966

Four members of the Echoes Of Carnaby Street, 1966

Little has been written through the years about the Echoes Of Carnaby Street, and most of what has been written has been… well… false.    Most ’60s garage band fans first heard the band’s name — and record — through a Louisiana garage band compilation, which is strange, considering the group came from Miami Beach!   You might have also read that the Echoes of Carnaby Street was a recording alias for the well-regarded Miami band the Echoes (aka Echo).   Also false!   With three of the band’s members going on to get some notoriety in the music world, it’s more than time to set the (pardon the pun) record straight.

The Echoes of Carnaby Street began as the Tidal Waves, a group that had no trouble getting bookings.   Guitarist Mark Resnick’s father happened to be the executive director of the Monte Carlo and Shelborne hotels, so there would always be a place to play.  But this was not a case of some no talent hacks being given an undeserved break — the boys were actually pretty good, and made their way from the Surfside Community Center and one night stands at the 163rd Street Mall, to the Dinner Key Auditorium and all around the Florida Bandstand circuit.  Steve Palmer of the Florida Bandstand was impressed enough to take the boys into Criteria Studios to record two songs for his Thames label… under the coaching and guidance of former Canadian Legends drummer, and super-producer Jim Sessody.

The release that put Thames Records, and Travis Fairchild, on the map

The release that put Thames Records, and Travis Fairchild, on the map

 

 

Palmer (and Thames Records) had a lot of success in 1966 with “Stop! Get A Ticket” by the Clefs of Lavender Hill, which was picked up by Columbia’s Date Records subsidiary.    Palmer believed in the Clefs, especially their frontman/chief songwriter Travis Fairchild.   For a year or so, Palmer had been passing around a tape of some of Travis’ compositions, offering them to the bands he recorded.   (Examples included “Bucket Of Tears” by the Squires V, and “For A Long Time” by the Tropics.)   The Echoes Of Carnaby Street didn’t just choose one Travis Fairchild song to record — they chose two — although one of them, “No Place Or Time”, didn’t have any lyrics yet.   No sweat for Mark Resnick, who scribbled out a set of words to go with Travis’ music, and voila, an instant collaboration!   “No Place Or Time” was immediately picked up by WFUN Radio, though it only managed to make its way to #52 on the Boss 79 survey back in September 1966.    Still, a pretty good showing for a group of Nautilus Junior High students, none of whom were over fourteen years old!

A very impressive showing by a group of junior high school kids

A very impressive showing by a group of junior high school kids

Click image to view full size

Double-click image to view full size.  Check out #52 & other local hits.


                                                                                                                                                          The group, then consisting of Resnick with Russell Frehling on guitar, Jeff Laibson on keyboards, Sammy Weiselberg on bass, and Eddie Marcus on drums, didn’t stay together long, despite the great credentials behind their record (and the fact that it rocks like crazy).  The Echoes of Carnaby Street were soon forgotten… until their unexpected inclusion on the aforementioned Louisiana Punk Groups From the ’60s compilation.   

"What are we doing on a Louisiana punk compilation?"

“What are we doing on a Louisiana punk compilation?”

Mark Resnick with Wowii, 1979

Mark Resnick with Wowii, 1979

 

 

By then, the members had moved on, with a few of the guys (now all grown up) enjoying some success.   First, Mark Resnick, who emerged in the Miami-to-New York glam band Wowii, and its successor, Broken Heroes (a favorite of the Miami News’ influential columnist, Jon Marlowe).   Wowii has enjoyed a cult following over the past four decades, with many fans still singing their praises.   Laibson has a made a career out of mixing music with “emotionally evocative” paintings.  Frehling has achieved success in avant-garde music, particularly the area of sound installation, creating original soundscapes that are about as far as you can get, musically,  from his teenage band.   But in two-minutes and six-seconds, the time it takes to spin “No Place Or Time”… or the two-minutes and 15-seconds of the flip, “Baby Doesn’t Know”, it all comes alive again:   The Shelborne, the Dinner Key Auditorium, the recording session with Jim Sessody.   In the time it takes to spin a great little piece of garage band magic, the hopes and dreams of five 14-year-olds all come true… and at that moment, as the guys sang, there really is no place or time.

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The 13th Hour Glass… vs. the 13th Hour Glass

The Pensacola version of the 13th Hour Glass

The Pensacola version of the 13th Hour Glass

 

Up until now, there has never been an accurate discography for the Florida Panhandle group 13th Hour Glass.  There’s a good reason for that:  there were actually two separate groups using that name, and both released 45s around the same time.   It was no coincidence that both lived in the Florida Panhandle, and it’s safe to say that the confusion hurt more than it helped.

In addition, one of the bands had a chance to record for a major label… almost.   Their name appears on the label, but outside of the singer, the band is nowhere to be found (and not surprisingly, has pretty much disowned this release).   This is what it was like to be a struggling young band (or in this case, bands), trying to navigate the treacherous waters of the music business in the 1960s.

The better-known, and longer-lasting 13th Hour Glass came out of a Pensacola group called the Coventry Sextet.  Bass player Robert Lewis suggested the cooler sounding name,  which was fine with vocalist/rhythm guitarist Tom Turner (replaced shortly after by Guy Pinney of the Laymen), lead guitarist David Dorman, drummer Rick Harris, and keyboard player Alan Hinrichs.  After Pinney returned to the Laymen, whose vocalist Tommy Ratchford then joined the Hour Glass, the group scored a local hit with a version of the Young Rascals’ “Baby Let’s Wait”.  This was more than a year before Ocala’s Royal Guardsmen took that song into the national top 40. 

The Pensacola band's debut 45

The Pensacola band’s debut 45

 

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Just 140 miles away in Port St. Joe, Florida, six young men (most of them still in high school) were starting to make a name for themselves.   The guys traveled to Birmingham, Alabama to record an original tune (“Try”) and an updated version of the Coasters’ old hit, “Young Blood”.   The name they used:  The 13th Hour Glass. “They came along after we did,” said Robert Lewis of the Pensacola band.  “I guess they stole the name, because I came up with it in 1966.”   Shortly after, the Port St. Joe group (Clark Downs, Robin Downs, Chick Mathis, Larry Parker, Prasopsuk “Pook” Prasartthongosuth, and Jim Raycroft) gave up on the name, with some members emerging in a group called Sheffield’s Gate, which also recorded for the Prestige Productions label in 1967.   This time around they put their stamp on two British invasion favorites:  the Zombies’ “Tell Her No”, and “No Reply” (a Beatles song that was also part of the repertoires of Florida bands the Maundy Quintet, the Certain Amount, and the Last Words).

An original song by the Port St. Joe band that called itself the 13th Hour Glass.

An original song by the Port St. Joe band that called itself the 13th Hour Glass.

                                                                                                                                                        GIVE ME MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE

The Pensacola crew was now free to use the 13th Hour Glass name, without confusion — or so they thought (more on that later).  Their manager/producer, Jerry Ray (known as Daddy Rabbit on WBSR Radio) took them to Memphis, along with their label-mates the Dickens and Little Johnny Dynamite.  The Hour Glass took advantage of the situation, recording many tracks, including the Spencer Davis Group’s “Keep On Running” and Buffalo Springfield’s “Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It”, re-titled “Indecision”, since it was shorter and much easier to remember.   “Indecision” became a top 20 hit on WBSR (no surprise) but it’s their version of “Keep On Running” that really stands out to me.   It’s probably my all-time favorite version of that ’60s mod classic.

This version of a Buffalo Springfield song is probably one of the earliest Neil Young covers.  A local hit in Pensacola in 1967.

This version of a Buffalo Springfield song is probably one of the earliest Neil Young covers. A local hit in Pensacola in 1967.

The 19th biggest song in Pensacola, during the second week of 1967.  Another Panhandle band, the Kords, was also riding high.

The 19th biggest song in Pensacola, during the second week of October 1967. Another Panhandle band, the Kords, was also riding high. Click on image to view it full size

                                                                                                                                                       While in Memphis, the 13th Hour Glass backed Milton, Florida soul singer Johnny Dynamite, on what would become his Format label 45,  “Baby (Wish You Were Here)” backed with “Midnite Hour”.  The deep soul ballad “Fruit From Another Man’s Tree” was also recorded, but I can’t find any evidence of it ever being released.  The band’s collaborations with Dynamite (real name John Adams Jr.) were excellent, and one day I hope to be lucky enough to find and obtain an actual vinyl copy of their record.  Robert Lewis also recalls the Dickens providing background vocals on some 13th Hour Glass tracks, and if you’ve ever heard the Dickens’ Left Banke influenced sound, you know what a good thing that is!

The 13th Hour Glass in Memphis, June 1967

The 13th Hour Glass in Memphis, July 1967

 

 TOMMY’S TUNE

Disc jockey/managers such as Jerry Ray and Thom Smith had a lot of influence in the area, but the king of them all was Papa Don Schroeder, who scored big in 1966 with his production of James & Bobby Purify’s “I’m Your Puppet”.  Schroeder assembled a top notch studio band to back his roster of soul acts (which also included Mighty Sam, Oscar Toney Jr., Moses & Joshua, and Buddy Grubbs).   Schroeder seemed to take an interest in the group — or so it would appear to anyone who finds a copy of the band’s record on the national Bell label, which was credited to Tommy Turner and the 13th Hour Glass.  While the group prepared for their shot at the big time, Papa Don Schroeder had other ideas.

Tommy Turner and the... umm... umm

Tommy Turner and the… umm… umm

                                                                                                                                             “Schroeder felt that Turner had a ‘marketable’ voice — he was also over 21 and capable of contracting without his parents’ consent — so (Schroeder) offered him an opportunity to record a song,” remembers Tommy Ratchford.   “Needless to say, we (the band) were overjoyed and eagerly awaited the session.  On arrival, we were informed that the only person necessary was Turner, as all other parts would be recorded by studio musicians chosen by Schroeder.  We were not particularly pleased at this turn of events, but had to be cool because this could have been Turner’s big break.  Events moved along, Turner cut his record, Schroeder got it released by Bell Records, and that was the last Turner or any of us ever heard about it.  We never learned the damn song, never played it on stage, and were never asked to by anyone… and no one that I know ever made any money on it.  Schroeder may have, but he never said and I guess nobody ever asked since all of us (including Turner) were kind of bitter about the whole thing.  When asked about the records that the 13th Hour Glass made, I never include that one as I do not consider it ‘honest’, if you know what I mean.”

The Tommy Turner record was even released in the Philippines... but it wasn't a hit.

The Tommy Turner record was even released in the Philippines… but it wasn’t a hit.   It’s since received a little bit of attention on the UK Northern soul scene.

                                                                                                                                                         “WE NEVER RECORDED IT”

One more single was released following the Papa Don debacle, but there’s some question as to whether the 13th Hour Glass is actually the artist.   When asked about “Apple Cider”, originally by the California band People but popularized in Pensacola by another one of Papa Don’s bands, King James & The Royals, Robert Lewis said “I never heard of it.   We never recorded it.”   Adding to the mystery is the B-side — a remake of the Arthur Alexander/Beatles song “Anna” — which Tommy Ratchford had recorded three years prior with his group the Soul-7.  The only evidence of this single’s existence came from a couple of YouTube videos, which have since been taken down.  Here’s the really strange part:  the alleged 13th Hour Glass version of “Apple Cider”… and the Papa Don produced one by King James & The Royals… sound pretty much identical!   Could Jerry Ray have “taken” the King James recording, and put it out on his Format label using the 13th Hour Glass name?   And could he have “taken” the Soul-7 version of “Anna” and re-released it on the other side?   Jerry Ray passed away in 1989, so there’s no way to get his take on all this.   Just one more mystery in the life of a band whose name kept appearing on records that didn’t always feature them!

"Anna" was recorded by the Soul-7 back in 1966.  Was it recycled for a mysterious 1969 release?

“Anna” was recorded by the Soul-7 back in 1966. Was it recycled for a mysterious 1969 release?

 

 The band hung on for a while, despite the departure of several key members.   Drummer Rick Harris was drafted (and replaced by Larry Kennedy).  Then Tom Turner went back to Florida State to get his doctorate.   “Our manager at the time, Charlie Capri, decided to merge his two bands, the Hour Glass and the Phatons,” Lewis told 60sgaragebands.com.  “Alan Hinrichs, Dave Dorman, and I joined the Phatons.  The Hour Glass continued for a short time with Forrest Higgins (from the Laymen) coming over.  After about a year, Alan and I quit.”

Fast forward now to the present day.  Turner and Lewis have resurrected the 13th Hour Glass name, and are back playing in the Pensacola area.  It’s a similar story for the Downs brothers from the other 13th Hour Glass band, who are also back and playing (in Panama City, Florida) with the Go Big Or Go Home Band.   Left behind are 13th Hour Glass 45s by two different Florida bands, using the same name.  Also left behind are 13th Hour Glass appearances that are not credited on the label, and 13th Hour Glass credits on a record that did not actually feature the band.   That was the ’60s, after all.  That’s rock ‘n roll.

                                                                                                                                                         13th HOUR GLASS (Pensacola) Discography:

Fiesta Five 101
Baby, Let’s Wait/Somebody Help Me  (67)

Format 5002/03
Indecision (Do I Have To Come Right Out & Say)/Keep On Running  (9-67)

With uncredited help from members of the 13th Hour Glass

With uncredited help from members of the 13th Hour Glass

(as LITTLE JOHNNY DYNAMITE, uncredited backing by the 13th Hour Glass)

Format 5000/01
Baby (Wish You Were Here)/Midnite Hour  (9-67)

(as TOMMY TURNER AND THE 13th HOUR GLASS, though the band wasn’t a part of it)

Bell 736
I Wish I Knew How To Make You Happy/Reach Out And I Have You (7-68) (Also issued in the Philippines on Stateside 857)

 

 

13th HOUR GLASS (Port St. Joe) Discography:

Prestige Productions 67-208
Try/Young Blood  (5-67)

                                                                                                                                                            (as SHEFFIELD’S GATE)

Prestige Productions 67-235
No Reply/Tell Her No  (67)

Featuring members of the Port St. Joe 13th Hour Glass group

Featuring members of the Port St. Joe 13th Hour Glass group

                                                                                                                                                         13th HOUR GLASS (the name was used, but this is likely King James & The Royals on one side, and the Soul-7 on the other)

Format 5006
Apple Cider/Anna  (69)

Was this Papa Don production "borrowed" for a phantom 45?

Was this Papa Don production “borrowed” for a phantom 45?

The 13th Hour Glass in Pensacola, 1968.  Thanks to Robert Lewis for photos and information, and to Tommy Ratchford.

The 13th Hour Glass in Pensacola, 1968. Thanks to Robert Lewis for photos and information, and to Tommy Ratchford.  Thanks also to Mike Dugo and 60sgaragebands.com.

 

Now that you’re here, check out the other posts on the SAVAGE LOST blog.

 

 

JEMKL Records: Modern Soul and More From Miami

JEMKL 45 by Dewey Knight, whose name was misspelled on the label. Misspellings were common at JEMKL.

JEMKL 45 by Dewey Knight, whose name was misspelled on the label. Misspellings were common at JEMKL.

 

 

JEMKL? What in the world is a JEMKL?

This cryptic Florida record label has baffled collectors for several decades now. In addition to its “initially” baffling name, its musical selections — here, there, and everywhere in between — have proven just as baffling. But where there are questions, often there are also answers.

JEMKL became a reality on October 11, 1971, thanks to North Miami entrepreneur Emile Petitte. One of his earliest orders of business was to work out a distribution deal for the Nashville label Bullet, a venerable independent label whose history stretches back to the 1940s. That collaboration led to a one-off 1972 single by Aardvark, with two songs written by Jeff and Felicia Cohen. Cohen’s name would later turn up on a 1974 release by the Kids, on another JEMKL-distributed label, Moonstone. These days Moonstone is best-known for “Super-Fi’Ci-Al’i-Ty” by the Unit III, a clumsily-named but collectable 1975 modern soul/funk single.

Bullet Records of Nashville, now distributed by JEMKL

Bullet Records of Nashville, now distributed by JEMKL

Moonstone Records, a division of JEMKL. Jeff Cohen also co-wrote the Aardvark 45 from two years earlier.

Moonstone Records, a division of JEMKL. Jeff Cohen also co-wrote the Aardvark 45 from two years earlier.

Moonstone's most collectable 45. The Unit III also appeared on a 45, as Gwen Calloway's backing band.

Moonstone’s most collectable 45. The Unit III also appeared on a 45, as Gwen Calloway’s backing band.

As for the JEMKL imprint, well, it was all over the map. Its first radio “hit” was by local country singer Don Jarrells, whose 1973 single “Everything But Mine” scored on Miami radio station WWOK. As you’d expect, more country releases followed, but just about anything was fair game with the label. For an explanation of Petitte’s philosophy, and the definitive word on what the JEMKL initials really stood for, we turn to one of its recording artists — Jeff Levine — whose specialty was “Flying Saucer” style break-in novelties, using bits and pieces of popular songs to tell a story.

“Petitte started the label with little knowledge of the business, so he learned as he went along. JEMKL supposedly meant ‘Just Easy Modern Keen Listening’, but it was actually an acronym for the Petitte family members: John, Emile, Marie, Kim and Lee.

Where Trip/Trip Universal Records by Bill Stith was a flat outright rip-off of artists (100{d3c861a8d6aef233eeacdca50b281691062a0afd274fde171092d4bcdfcb380f} funded by them, period), Petitte financed some records on his own, and made others ’boutique’ releases. In other words, the artist or songwriter would front the production and promotion costs, but it was stipulated in the contract that any monies laid out would be reimbursed before any profits were taken (should the record happen to take off).

Break-in novelty pressed by JEMKL for 96X Radio

Break-in novelty pressed by JEMKL for 96X Radio

This is why you’ll find anything and everything on the label from pop, rock, country, easy listening and my novelty records. Emile put those out because I was his ‘volunteer helper’ and he wanted to give me a break. He also handled the manufacture of the 96X novelty record; Mr. Gums by Hobie Cat (a 96X DJ)/”Stash City High” (their novelty contest winner).”

Thank you, Jeff, for your insight into JEMKL. So now we know what those initials really stood for. Now let’s take a closer look at some of the label’s releases.

JEMKL used several different numbering systems over the years. It would be impossible to list every one of the vanity releases, but since Miami soul music is so hot, and JEMKL’s soul 45s are their most popular with collectors, I’m going to focus on the 5000 and 6000 series from the label’s catalogue. Not every record in the following discography qualifies as soul, but here’s where the more desirable releases would tend to be.

A few obscure 45s were issued on the "JEMKL Soul" imprint

A few obscure 45s were issued on the “JEMKL Soul” imprint. How do you spell “Transcendental” again?”

JEMKL 5000/6000 Series:

5001
TONY LAMPKIN
He’s A Better Liar Than Me/Gonna Get Easier (11-74)
(label name reads JEMKL Soul)

5002
JAMES T. TAYLOR
Trascendental Soul (sic)/Epoch IV (74)
(label name reads JEMKL Soul)

5003
LADY NICOLE
I Keep My Love Up To Date/I Can See Everybody’s Baby But Mine (77)

5004
LEROY MORRISON
Disco Fever/Instrumental (77)

5005
REGGIE LAING
The Well Run Dry/Instrumental (77)

City Magic: A soul version of a '60s rock classic, on JEMKL's 6000 series

City Magic: A soul version of a ’60s rock classic, on JEMKL’s 6000 series

5006
PAUL HIDDO
Latino Reggae/Sugar ‘N Spice (78)

6000
GARY WILLIS
I Think I’m Gonna Love You One More Time/Two A.M.

6001
JERRY THOMPSON*
Angelica/Country World (75)
*Despite sharing the same name and home state, this is not the Jerry Thompson who wrote “Urban Meadows” for the Rockin’ Roadrunners, and worked as a disc jockey on WLOF Radio.

6002
HARRISON FREESE
He Cares/Would You Still Bother
(Freese was a Fort Lauderdale police detective who had previously recorded teener-style 45s for the Roulette label.   This was also issued on Eagle 101)

6003
CITY MAGIC
Do You Believe In Magic/Going Back To FLA (76)

6004
IMAGE
Holiday/When You Know Love

One reason JEMKL singles are fun to collect is the ever-changing label graphics. JEMKL changed its logo and its label colors as often as it changed musical styles. Most JEMKL releases are relegated to “quarter boxes”, since they weren’t exactly hit material. Yet the label managed some true musical contenders over the years, particularly Tony Lampkin and City Magic. (Speaking of City Magic, I can use a reasonably-priced copy of their 45, if anyone has one for sale.)

Emile Petitte is no longer with us, but collectors will continue to discover the vinyl treasures (and trash) that he released over the years: Just Easy Modern Keen Listening!

Jeff Levine produced several break-in novelty tracks for JEMKL, including this one with former WFUN disc jockey Dan Dayton

Jeff Levine produced several break-in novelty tracks for JEMKL, including this one with former WFUN disc jockey Dan Dayton

One of the later JEMKL releases. The label sure changed its graphics a lot!

One of the later JEMKL releases. The label sure changed its graphics a lot!

JEMKL does not appear in my book Savage Lost, since it didn’t exist during our main time frame of the 1960s — but you will find plenty of other Florida record label stories and discographies within its pages.

Now that you’re here, check out the other posts and articles on the Savage Lost blog.

“Whenever You’re Ready” by the Novas — Florida’s Moodiest ’60s Garage 45

"Whenever You're Ready" by the Novas, on Chelle Records

“Whenever You’re Ready” by the Novas, on Chelle Records

 

If you asked me to name my all-time favorite South Florida garage band records, I’d probably rattle off some familiar names – Evil, the Montells, et al.    These bands earned their place in the Miami band hierarchy, and the collectability of their music bears this out.   But that answer is just too easy and convenient, based on decades of digging those beyond-classic tracks.   Those records are just as wild, vital, and super-cool as they were in 1966-67, but I’ve lived a million miles since then.    Those records will always be close to my turntable, but they’re not the one – the (singular) one – that gets the most spins these days.   The local record with the deepest connection to my soul these days is neither wild nor savage.   It’s moody and world-weary, filled with turbulent introspection.   It’s a heat-warped, but much cherished 45 by one of the many bands from Palmetto High School in 1966.

Years back, I suggested “Whenever You’re Ready” by the Novas for inclusion on one of Gear Fab’s Psychedelic States Florida compilations.  The brighter-sounding flip side (“Please Ask Her”) was used instead.   Moody garage is the Rodney Dangerfield of the teenbeat record-collecting world:  it don’t get no respect.   My fellow Teenbeat Mayhem record-raters only gave the song a consensus “5”, on the 1-to-10 garage-o-meter scale.  Five isn’t a bad rating by any means, but it’s nothing special, either.  One of my roles on that rating panel was to balance out the guys who think a song such as “Gorilla” by the Shandells deserves a higher rating than a moody monster like “Sorrow” by the Sounds Of Night, or “Out She Goes” by Carroll’s Mood – not that there’s anything wrong with “Gorilla”, but the caveman thing will just go so far.   When life wants to get your attention, it will, and no cave can keep reality away.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying there’s no other record in the world like “Whenever You’re Ready” by the Novas.   The group was one of many teen combos at Palmetto, in a small scene that included future hit-maker Bobby Caldwell (then with the Nightwalkers) and bluesman Fleet Starbuck (then with the Druids).  Surely, the band — Kenny Wynn, lead guitar (later a member of the New York Square Library, with Palmetto guys including Brooks Reid);  Jim LeFevre, bass;  Rick Calabro, guitar;  John Bernard, drums — wasn’t serious all the time.  After all, they cut a demo with the title “Frog Eyeballs”!  But you wouldn’t know it from “Whenever You’re Ready”, which was dripping with teenage heartbreak, wrapped around some longing Zombies/Searchers harmonies… or at least they approached Zombies/Searchers harmonies.   Those English bands never released a mix this muddy, or lyrics that were this hard to decipher.   But that’s a huge plus!  It’s why the Novas fall into the teenbeat/garage category (a good thing, not a knock on them), and the Searchers – great band, but very few rough edges — don’t.

 

The Novas, and other Palmetto High School bands, from the Palmetto Panther, December 1966

The Novas, and other Palmetto High School bands, from the Palmetto Panther, December 1966.  Thanks to Burt Compton.  Click the image to view it full size.

 

To understand why this record is so unique, just consider the lyrics, and the psychology that they’re wrapped in.   The first two verses revolve around a girlfriend who “never leveled” with the singer, and will never love him again.   She taunted him by saying “whenever you’re ready, I’ll be ready to love you”, but it was all a line.   Yet he was blinded by his love for her, and would cave whenever she’d speak those words.   By the third verse, she’s long gone, and our singer is with his new girl.   But he’s damaged goods now.   Instead of enjoying the moment, all he can think is “maybe someday you will hurt me too.”   Those feelings have become him.   As the song ends, he now turns the table by being the one speaking the words “whenever you’re ready, I’ll be ready to love you.”  OK, so songwriter/vocalist Rick Calabro hit a home run, lyrically, but musically this thing is just as powerful.   The harmonies give me goose bumps every time I hear this, even though I’ve known this song for years.   I never get tired of hearing it.

 

So why is this song so unknown?   It was one of just four releases on the Chelle label, and all of them are extremely hard to find.    I know of only two copies of the Novas record out there, including my warped copy with a damaged label.  It’s much scarcer than “It’s Trash” by the Cave Men, the best-known record on Chelle (and the best record ever to come out of Key West).   “Whenever You’re Ready” has yet to see an official reissue.   I included it on a private, not-for-profit mix CDR, “Jeff’s Moody Monsters”, that you might be able to find as a download on the web.   We also played it on an episode of Florida Rocks Again (#39), which you can download here.   But that’s it.   Even with the success of compilations such as Shutdown ‘66 and No No No, moody garage is still a largely unmined area, with gems galore waiting to be discovered.   Garage band fans love snotty songs about guys who tell their girls to take a hike, but sometimes the guy gets hurt too.   For those moments when the curveballs in life outnumber the good times, it is sure great to have records like this to remind us that we’re not alone.

 

 

The Novas, at the WQAM Tea Council Battle of the Bands

The Novas, at the WQAM Tea Council Battle of the Bands. The Gas Company (pre-Proctor Amusement Co.) won the competition. Photo by WQAM photographer extraordinaire Bob Sherman.  Click the image to view it full size.

 

** THIS JUST IN from Novas guitarist Kenny Wynn:   “I spoke recently to bassist Jim LeFevre.  We’re trying to get the band together to play at Palmetto High 1966’s 50th class reunion in 2016.  Hopefully we can all still remain on the planet to do the gig.”    Thanks, Kenny, and thanks to the Novas.   Whenever you’re ready… I’ll be ready.

 

Now that you’re here, check out the other entries in the SAVAGE LOST blog.   And read about the Novas on pages 35, 51, 100, and 116 of Savage Lost, the book.

Celebrating Miami Garage Bands of the ’60s

TeenMiami '60s music exhibit at HistoryMiami.  Notice pictures of the Mar-vells and the Milk Truck on the wall.

TeenMiami ’60s music exhibit at HistoryMiami. Notice pictures of the Mar-vells and the Milk Truck on the wall.

 

If you enjoy the music of South Florida’s ‘60s garage bands, you must make your way down to the HistoryMiami museum. They’ve turned the place over to a group of teenagers, who along with the curators have put together an exhibit of teen culture and contributions to life in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Many of my garage band artifacts are a part of the exhibit… and this Saturday, November 17, 2012, I’m going to be doing a presentation on Miami garage bands and soul music artists.

Consider this an invitation. Please join me on Saturday at 2PM, at HistoryMIami, 101C West Flagler Street, in Downtown Miami. I will also be signing copies of my book, Savage Lost: Florida Garage Bands of the ‘60s.

 

 

HistoryMiami flyer for Jeff Lemlich Savage Lost '60s garage band presentation

 

See you at HistoryMIami on Saturday, November 17, 2012

See you at HistoryMIami on Saturday, November 17, 2012

Jaco Pastorius’ Funkadelic Sound: A 1971 Session

Little Beaver, around the time of "Funkadelic Sound"

Little Beaver, around the time of “Funkadelic Sound”

Jaco Pastorius was a big Little Beaver fan. Watching the young guitarist/singer perform around South Florida had a deep, profound influence on the future superstar bass player.

We know Jaco enjoyed playing Betty Wright’s “Clean Up Woman” (which featured Little Beaver’s guitar licks) with both Tommy Strand & The Upper Hand and Wayne Cochran’s CC Riders. We also know Jaco had a chance to play on Beaver’s “I Can Dig It Baby” in 1974. But what isn’t well-known is Jaco’s first major recording session was on an earlier Little Beaver track – one recorded at Henry Stone’s famous Tone Studios in Hialeah, back in 1971.

Willie Clarke, who was Beaver’s producer (and songwriter, many times) was in the studio that day, and couldn’t believe his eyes and ears. He shared the story in a recent interview.

“One day Beaver caught me downstairs, and said ‘Willie, wherever you’re going, forget it. I want you to come upstairs and record this guy. He wants to play bass with me.’
Beaver had big grin on his face. I was like, ‘What is this? I have no time.’
I saw this hippie-looking guy with long hair and a fretless bass. I said ‘Oh my lord, he’s gonna be playing all over the place!’

I hit the button, Beaver counted, I said ‘okay, take one.’ I was, like, so surprised, I forgot to stop the tape when they finished. This guy, he was so great. I thought I’d have to tell him to tone it down, or you’re goin’ a little bit making the strings hit… NOPE! This guy was VERY good. One take. That was all.”

Little Beaver's "Funkadelic Sound" 45

“Funkadelic Sound”, co-produced and written by Willie Clarke, who recalls a young bass player who made this super funky.

The song was “Funkadelic Sound”, issued on the B-side of Beaver’s local soul hit “Joey”. Because the song was left off of Beaver’s debut album (which listed the names of the musicians), this piece of history remained pretty much unknown until now.

Clarke was not surprised to learn of Jaco’s later fame. He knew talent when he heard it. “ I was looking to get him back in the studio, because I love a bass player to just stick it – just stay right on the head – and everybody can just keep driving and do whatever they do, and that groove remains steady. It was really tragic what happened to this guy.”

Pastorius fans should check out Bill Milkowski’s book Jaco – The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius. And while you’re here, check out the other posts in the SAVAGE LOST blog.

While We Still Can Reunion #3

While We Still Can Reunion 2012

“Gettin’ together is better than ever.” – Richie Cordell

150 or so players from South Florida bands of the ‘60s and ‘70s plan to get together in Boca Raton, on September 10, 2012. The event is the third While We Still Can Reunion… and there’s a good reason why its organizer gave it that name.

I attended the first While We Still Can Reunion, back in July 2006. Some of the folks I spoke with that night included Jamene Miller from Fantasy, Don Goodson from the Echoes and the Invaders, Johnny Hartigan of the Mor-Loks and Truth, and Bob Abernathy of the Las Olas Brass and Hard Knocks. I mention those four because they are no longer with us. All of them have passed away since that wonderful summer night.

The late Johnny Hartigan of the Mor-Loks, having a great time in 2006

The late Johnny Hartigan of the Mor-Loks, having a great time in 2006

The highlight for me was seeing the smile on Johnny Hartigan’s face, as he reunited with his fellow Mor-Loks for the first time in ages. Hartigan had been battling cancer, and everyone knew he was in poor health… but for that night, he was on top of the world. For that night, his smile was that of a young, healthy guy, just aching to get on stage and play like he was 17 again. For Hartigan, that night was worth all the gold in the world. That’s the power of these reunions. It’s not about who plays the best, or showing off your chops – in fact, going all virtuoso tends to spoil some of the jams. It’s all about having fun. It’s all about seeing people you haven’t seen since your teens. For non-musicians, it’s about talking to these guys, and either reminiscing with them or learning from them. There is something for everyone, and the sad truth is, the number of reunions… and participants… will be dwindling. The sad truth is… nobody is getting any younger.

Don Goodson (right) and Don Fedele of the Echoes, enjoying some of the band's memorabilia

Don Goodson (right) and Don Fedele of the Echoes, enjoying some of the band’s memorabilia

Now is the time to dig through your attic and get out those old scrapbooks and local band 45s. Some might say that’s living in the past, but I completely disagree. Connecting to wonderful days gone by is what’s needed in our present times, amid all the stress so many are facing, be it financial, health, or what-have-you. Deep inside, we are still those young, idealistic kids who were going to take the world by storm, with rock ‘n roll as our soundtrack. While we still can, we can… and we will.

Unlike Geezerpalooza, which featured reunited bands performing, this is more of a jam atmosphere. It’s possible that not everyone who wants to play will get to play. (This usually holds true for guitar players. Drummers tend to be in shorter supply.) If you don’t want to play, that’s fine too. Just stop by and say hello. Take some time to appreciate old friends, since you never know who might not be around for the next reunion.

The While We Still Can Reunion takes place on Monday, September 10, 2012, at the Funky Biscuit, 303 SE Mizner Blvd., in Boca Raton, Florida. Doors open at 6PM. For more information, contact Ray Lenahan at alldigitalray@yahoo.com.

While you’re here, check out the other posts on the SAVAGE LOST blog.