Now I Know High

“The Grape’s saga is one of squandered potential, absurdly misguided decisions, bad luck, blunders and excruciating heartbreak, all set to the tune of some of the greatest rock and roll ever to emerge from San Francisco. Moby Grape could have had it all, but they ended up with nothing, and less.”
-Jeff Tamarkin

Peter Lewis – rhythm guitars, vocals
Jerry Miller – lead guitars, vocals
Bob Mosley – bass, vocals
Skip Spence – rhythm guitars, vocals
Don Stevenson – drums, vocals

Their first album, “Moby Grape” (1967) is widely recognized as a classic.
While recording their second in New York City, Skip Spence’s schizophrenia began to take over. Famously chopping down a band member’s hotel room door with a fire axe. He was committed to Bellevue for six months while Moby Grape soldiered on, finishing “Wow” (1968). Skip never returned to the band full-time. While incarcerated, he wrote enough songs to record “OAR” (1968), in Nashville, playing all the instruments. It’s an un-hinged masterpiece, in many ways similar to Syd Barrett’s post Pink Floyd albums.

Then came “Moby Grape ’69″, “Truly Fine Citizen” (1969) also recorded in Nashville, and finally,
“20 Granite Creek”(1971). Although Spence was no longer in the band they included him when possible, depending on his health.

This compilation covers their initial run.

They have disbanded and reformed many times, and often having to use a fake name as their manager, Matthew Katz, hung on their contract like a drowning man to a log, or worse, a sociopath. They signed their contract under duress, with a large dollop of naivete, resulting in not even owning the name Moby Grape.

From wikipedia:
“Matthew Katz insisted that an additional provision be added to his management contract, giving him ownership of the group name. At the time, various group members were indebted to Katz, who had been paying for apartments and various living costs prior to the group releasing its first album. Despite objecting, group members signed, based in part on an impression that there would be no further financial support from Katz unless they did so. Neil Young, then of Buffalo Springfield, was in the room at the time, and kept his head down, playing his guitar, and saying nothing. According to Peter Lewis, “I think Neil knew, even then, that was the end. We had bought into this process that we should have known better than to buy into.”

Due to continued legal battle between the band and Katz over ownership of their name, pseudonyms were used during several decades for performance or recording purposes; including Mosley Grape, Legendary Grape, Maby Grope, Fine Wine, and The Melvilles.

Moby Grape today:
Peter Lewis – rhythm guitars, vocals
Jerry Miller – lead guitars, vocals
Bob Mosley – bass, vocals
with
Joseph Miller – drums (son of Jerry)
Omar Spence – vocals (son of Skip)
Don Stevenson – drums, vocals (guest appearances)

They were all incredibly talented, and Jerry Miller deserves to be included in any conversation about guitar heroes.

Enjoy!
-BBJ

Now I Know High

Weed, Whites, And Wine

I’m “Willin’” to admit that Little Feat’s “Sailin’ Shoes” just might be my favorite album of all time.

I’ve written elsewhere about the life changing moment I received “Looney Toons And Merrie Melodies” (1970), a Warner’s Loss Leader’s 3 record set I sent away for.
“Strawberry Flats” was the third song on side one, after Faces “Had Me A Real Good Time”, and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, and before Fleetwood Mac’s “Tell me All The Things You Do” from “Kiln House”.
I liked the other songs, and I bought all those albums too, but “Strawberry Flats” stood out. So many ideas packed into a little over 2 minutes.

I didn’t know what a record store was. All I knew was the local Target equivalent. They didn’t have “Little Feat”, so I settled for “Sailin’ Shoes” with it’s bizzarre cover art.
From the chiming opener, “Easy To Slip” I liked it. A lot.

I’ve come to recognize it as a perfect encapsulation of it’s time and place. Southern California in the early ’70′s. I hear elements of Country Rock, CSNY, The Eagles, Flying Burrito Brothers, Warren Zevon, Captain Beefheart, and of course, The Mother’s Of Invention.

I’m on my third vinyl copy and have the cd.

This compilation is a tribute to Lowell George, founder and guiding light. He was a tremendously gifted guitar player, singer, songwriter, producer, and bandleader. It recreates the order I first heard them. “Strawberry Flats” followed by “Sailin’ Shoes” in it’s entirety, and then highlights from “Little Feat” and “Dixie Chicken”.

Lowell George met Bill Payne when he was a member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention.
Payne auditioned for the Mothers, but didn’t join. They formed Little Feat along with former Mothers bassist Roy Estrada and drummer Richie Hayward from George’s previous band, The Factory. Hayward had also been a member of the Fraternity of Man whose claim to fame was the inclusion of their “Don’t Bogart Me” on the million-selling Easy Rider film soundtrack.
The name Little Feat came from a comment made by Mothers’ drummer Jimmy Carl Black (The Indian of the group) about Lowell’s “little feet”. The spelling of “feat” was an homage to the Beatles.

There are three stories about the genesis of Little Feat.
One has it that George showed Zappa his song “Willin’,” and that Zappa fired him because he was too talented to be a sideman, and he should form his own band.
The second version has Zappa firing him for playing a 15-minute guitar solo with his amplifier off. The third version says he was fired because “Willin’” contains drug references.
On October 18, 1975 at the Auditorium Theater in Rochester New York while introducing the song, George commented that he was asked to leave the band for “writing a song about dope”.

In any version, Zappa was instrumental in getting George and his new band a contract with Warner Bros. Records. The eponymous first album delivered to Warner Bros. was recorded mostly in August and September 1970, and was released in January 1971. When it came time to record “Willin’,” George had hurt his hand in an accident with a model airplane, so Ry Cooder sat in and played the song’s slide part.
“Willin’” was re-recorded for “Sailin’ Shoes”, this time with guest Burrito “Sneaky Pete” on pedal steel. It’s the the first Little Feat album to feature cover art by Neon Park, the artist responsible for Zappa’s “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” (On which Lowell is a member of The Mothers).

Despite good reviews, lack of success led to the band splitting up, with Estrada leaving to join Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band (And even more lack of success).

In 1972 Little Feat reformed, with bassist Kenny Gradney replacing Estrada. Also added was second guitarist Paul Barrere, a friend of Lowell’s from Hollywood High, and percussionist Sam Clayton (brother of session singer Merry Clayton). As a result the band was expanded from a quartet to a sextet.

I was so excited when “Dixie Chicken” came out, until I played it. They had 3 new people in the band and it tilted towards New Orleans, and lite funk, which was not what I was looking for.
However, the title is a classic and “Fat Man In The Bathtub” is one of their finest moments.
I didn’t hate the album.
Then came “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now”. Another Neon Parks cover, and a reworking of two songs from “Sailin” Shoes” played as a medley. Which I now understand was made to better reflect their live shows at the time, for which they were getting quite a reputation, but to my ears was a travesty.
I didn’t buy any more of their albums after that.

George continued to produce the albums, but his songwriting contribution diminished as the group moved into jazz fusion, a style in which he had little interest. In August 1977, Little Feat recorded a live album from gigs at the Rainbow Theatre in London and Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC. “Waiting for Columbus” is considered by many to be one of the best live albums of all time, despite the fact that significant portions of George’s vocals and slide work were over-dubbed later in the studio. It was released in 1978, by which time it had become apparent that Lowell George’s interest in the band was waning, as was his health.

In an interview with Bill Flanagan (for the book Written in My Soul) conducted eleven days before his death, George made it clear that he felt the demise of Little Feat was due to his having allowed the band to be run democratically, with the result that Payne and, to a lesser extent, Barrere, had a presence as songwriters and in production which was disproportionate to their abilities.

Nowhere on the wikipedia page I reworked for some of this does it mention that Lowell’s drug use was a contributing factor to his abdication of leadership in the band. Or that Zappa fired him for smoking dope.

His only solo album, “Thanks, I’ll Eat It Here” (1979) is mostly covers. I’ve never heard it.

Too bad there isn’t more of this.

Link In Comments

Tabby’s Blues Box

 
 

This might be where we were

This might be where we were

My Dad dumped my mom so after the divorce she decided to move to Panama City, Florida, to get away from all the pain that California had to offer. Her brother and a lot of his kids, and her sister lived there so it seemed like a good idea.
I really wanted to move to New York City and figured anywhere on the East Coast was closer, so I took the opportunity to go along.
In June of 1986 we hired my friend DV to help move all our stuff from Huntington Beach. We loaded up the 24 foot Ryder truck and dragged my Honda Civic behind all the way to Florida in 3 days. We drove for 48 straight hours of sleep deprived halucinations. Texas, which is really wide took what seemed like forever to cross. Falling asleep at the wheel was a constant problem, you don’t know how bad it is until you’ve almost killed yourself.

Because we couldn’t ever see the car we were towing, driving in reverse was something we didn’t want to experience. We were driving through Baton Rouge when we saw a Red Roof Inn right on the highway that looked like we could pull into and out of without too much trouble, so we went for it. We checked in and I was ready to fall asleep the minute I lay on the bed when DV insisted that we had to make a pilgrmiage to Tabby’s Blues Box, a club featured on a public television special called Rainin’ in My Heart. Before I knew it he was on the phone talking to the club and they were open.

DV can tell the rest. (This is from the comments section of A Ass Pocket Of Whiskey post)

Reminds me of a cab ride in Baton Rouge, La. one night after driving for 48 hours straight from California. You and me, jumpin’ out of our truck and into a cab, tellin’ the driver the address of the now defunkt Tabby’s Blues Box. We were on a mission. When we arrived to this venue without even a sign on the front and in not such a good part of town. Night had fallen hard and our African American driver turns his head around and says “Are you sure you guys wanna go in there? I don’t think I would go in there!” “Oh yeah, we’re sure!” We jumped out and thanked our good natured driver who stood by for a minute, watching us to see if we were gonna stay. We moved toward the door of the “club”. Someone sitting at a folding card table just inside charged us what might have been two dollars. We entered the room that was lit with a single red light bulb where a few scattered patrons (maybe eight people)averted their gaze in our direction. To the left was this old black guy with a silver Hard Hat on, playing a beat up old guitar. He sounded like blood, mud & magic. Ahead of us was the tiny makeshift bar…we both simultaneously decided that if we were to get murdered in this place that it would be well worth it. We proceed to head straight for the whiskey. The musician, we found out, was Silas Hogan. He was everything we were looking for in this possible misadventure. It was great talking to him after he finished. We got him to autograph the singles we bought of his tune “Hairy Leg Women” that he was hocking from a small suitcase. He was the real deal. We bought him some grapefruit juice and we all raised our drinks and said cheers. We did die that night, and wound up in blues heaven.

Actually he was wearing a Train Conductor's hat

Actually he was wearing a Train Conductor's hat

That was such a powerful night. I felt like I was Gumby walking into a book about the history of the blues. Everything was hyper vivid. We were exhausted but we knew what we had to do. On our third wind and three sheet to the wind as well. I think you got me on the selling records from the guitar case deal. And here I thought my brain was still functioning. Nothing like a rented moving truck with pink flamingos tied to the vertical curb feelers and three thousand miles of road in your face.
My reply:
I still have my autographed copy of “Hairy Leg Woman” b/w “Bad Little Puppy”, and will post it sometime soon. When I do I’ll just use your comment for text, as your memory needs no correcting, although I thought the singles came out of his guitar case.
And you forgot to mention our cabbie gave me a card with a phone number for the cab company. I called, it was after 2 am, and we got the same driver. We were pretty lit and told him what a great party they had going there.
(The next day we drove to Panama City)

Tabby's #2

Tabby's #2

Tabby’s Blues Box and Heritage Hall opened its doors in 1979 as the first and only blues club in Baton Rouge. It featured authentic blues music, offered the original blues “jam,” and welcomed fans from all over the world. The Thursday night Hoo Doo Party was a favorite with college students.

Famous local musicians — Henry Gray, Silas Hogan, Raful Neal — could be found playing there when they were in town. Tabby’s son and Grammy Award winner, Chris Thomas King, got his start there and signed his first recording contract in the Blues Box. The “Box” was visited by many famous people: Mike Tyson, Paul Newman, Bruce Springsteen and Shaquille O’Neal were just a few.

In 1999, the North Blvd. railroad overpass project caused the demolition of the original location and a new location was found on Lafayette St. in downtown Baton Rouge. The new “Box” opened in 2000 and stayed open until 2004 when Tabby had a massive stroke while waiting to go onstage.

Tabby Thomas was a great host, too.

Tabby Thomas was a great host, too.

Hairy Leg Woman
Bad Little Puppy

Red Red Meat /Califone

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

One long delirious swamp suite

One long delirious swamp suite

Every once in a while an “indie” record gets released that so nears greatness, and comes so far to kiss it, that it endears itself to me in a profound manner. Probably the best example is Little Feat’s Sailin’ Shoes, a record never far from the turntable since shoplifting it as a teenager in 1972. I’ve owned three vinyl copies and have the cd. (Vinyl #3 is another escapee of the infamous Malibu fire). In many ways, it pushes a lot of the same buttons for me as Bunny Gets Paid, Red Red Meat’s 1995 Sub Pop release, and another one of my favorite albums. They are both off-kilter country, folk, and blues rock mash-ups filled with great songs. Great listens from beginning to end that deserved bigger audiences than they got.

“Sulfur” is the amazing opener from an otherwise pretty weak last album, There’s a Star Above the Manger Tonight.
“Rosewood, Wax, Voltz+Glitter” is from Bunny Get’s Paid. I like that they used breaking glass instead of cymbals.
“Oxtail”, and “There’s Always Tomorrow” can also be found there. “Snowball” is from Red Red Meat, while “Stained And Lit” is off Jimmywine Majestic.
Tim Rutili, Red Red Meat’s leader, singer, and principle songwriter, began Califone as a solo album, which ended up with most if not everybody from Red Red Meat getting involved. Califone has fewer electric guitars, but otherwise is just an extension of where Red Red Meat was headed, anyway. Rough Diamonds are strewn across their entire discography.
“No Expectations” is Califone from somewhere unknown.

Early Red Red Meat.

Early Red Red Meat.

Red Red Meat was a ’90s Chicago-area blues-influenced alternative rock band. After their break-up, frontman Tim Rutili went on to form Califone, for which many of Red Red Meat’s former members, including producer Brian Deck, often record and perform. Tim Hurley went on to form Sin Ropas.

In 1984, Tim Rutili moved from the suburb of Addison, IL into the city to go to film school where he met bassist Glynis Johnson. Together with Ben Massarella their first band, Friends of Betty attracted a reasonable following. The 1988 studio pop album Blind Faith II included drummer John Rowan was not much of a success.

With new recruit Glenn Girard they renamed the band Red Red Meat. The bands name possibly came from Ben’s Truck washing business which cleaned meat carrying trucks on their way out of Chicago. Regarding the band name, Tim Rutili said in an interview: “i think we just thought it sounded good.” Red Red Meat released their first single disc including “Hot Nikkety Trunk Monkey” and “Snowball” in 1991. They were recorded with Brad Wood at Idful Studios in Chicago. Engineer Brian Deck who recorded the drums for the session was asked to become a full time member behind the kit, after the departure of Ben Massarella, who left for a job as a studio session drummer.

It was during the recordings at Idful Studios with Brad Wood that Sub Pop director Jonathan Poneman decided to sign the band making them the first Chicago band on the label. During the summer of 1992, Red Red Meat toured with fellow Sub Pop Chicago group The Smashing Pumpkins. Glynis Johnson left the band after ending a romance between her and Rutili after the tour. She later founded the short lived The Gore Gore Girls. Johnson would later contract A.I.D.S. and pass away due to complications that fall. The Smashing Pumpkins wrote a song “Glynis” as a tribute, which was released on “No Alternative” compilation. Sub Pop released Red Red Meat’s second album in early 1994, Jimmywine Majestic. It was a step away from the grunge and general label characteristics of Sub Pop but was generally well received. Massarella returned, instead of replacing Brian Deck on drums, began employing his “batterie” techniques. In 1995 Red Red Meat returned with “Bunny Gets Paid”, which, according to Sub Pop, “is easily one of the high points of the entire Sub Pop catalog.” In 1997 Red Red Meat released their final album, “There’s a Star Above the Manger Tonight”. (3 good songs-Ed)

Red Red Meat has since ended their contract with Sub Pop. They appeared in Scott Petersen’s film Out of the Loop, which documents the Chicago indie rock scene. RRM’s own Perishable label released Loftus in 1999. a collaboration with New York trio, Rex. Red Red Meat has since dispanded and each member has moved on to other projects. Tim Rutili along with several other Red Red Meat alumni founded Califone, a project which all Red Red Meat members have participated in at one point or another. Brian Deck currently is a American Music Producer based out of Engine Studios in Chicago, IL.

Later

Later

Sulfur
Rosewood, Wax, Voltz+Glitter
Oxtail
Snowball
Stained And Lit
No Expectations
There’s Always Tomorrow

Rosco Gordon, Prince Buster invent Reggae

 
 
 
 
 
 

Charly Records pulled Rosco out of obsurity in the late '70's

Charly Records pulled Rosco out of obsurity in the late '70's

Seems incredible that an artist partially responsible for the invention of both Reggae and Rock n Roll is someone you probably never heard of. He was a great singer, songwriter, and a very charismatic performer.

Rosco and Elvis

Rosco Gordon (April 10, 1928 – July 11, 2002) was an African American Blues singer and songwriter. He is best known for his 1952 #1 single “Booted”.

Born on Florida Street, in Memphis, Tennessee, Gordon was one of the Beale Streeters, a moniker given to a group of musicians who helped develop the style known as Memphis Blues.

Gordon created a style of piano playing known as ‘The Rosco Rhythm’ and made a number of his early recordings for Sam Phillips at Sun Records. This rhythm placed the accent on the off beats, and is cited as the foundation of Jamaican bluebeat and reggae music. “Booted” (1952) gave his career a sound start, and was followed by “No More Doggin’” the same year. Sam Phillips later sold the master tape of “Booted” to two competing labels, Chess and RPM, both of whom released it as a single. This seeming mix up did not prevent the song from hitting number one on the Billboard R&B chart. However there were no further hits despite Gordon’s youth, talent and exuberant and oddball personality. In 1962, he gave up the music industry and moved to Queens, New York with his new wife where he purchased a partnership in a laundry business. Following his wife’s death in 1984, he returned to performing in the New York area.

In 2002, he was invited by filmmaker Richard Pearce to be featured as part of a documentary about several blues musicians returning to Memphis for a special tribute to Sam Phillips in conjunction with the May 2002 W. C. Handy Awards. Called The Road To Memphis, the documentary aired on PBS television. Six weeks after filming finished, Gordon died of a heart attack at his apartment in Rego Park, Queens. He was 74 years old. He was interred in the Rosedale Cemetery in Linden, New Jersey.

“That’s What You Do To Me” and “Honey Let’s Get High” come from “Sun Records, The Blues Years, 1950-1956″, a nine record set released by Charly in 1985, and unissued at the time they were recorded (1956). “Keep on Doggin” is not the 1952 hit, “No More Doggin”, but a 1957 sequel.

Cecil Bustamente Campbell, (born May 28, 1938), better known as Prince Buster and also known by his Muslim name Muhammed Yusef Ali, is a musician from Kingston, Jamaica ans is regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of Ska and Rocksteady music. The records he made on the Bluebeat label in the 1960s inspired many Reggae and ska artists.

Campbell began his professional career as a singer in 1956; performing in Kingston nightclubs. He formed a succession of bands with several of his friends, none of which were successful.

Campbell’s music career reached maturity with the growth of the Jamaican Sound System. Across Jamaica, music promoters drove vans filled with stereo equipment to stage mobile parties. The operators of the sound system would play the popular Rhytmm and Blues dance records of the day and often they would have a vocalist called a “toaster” call out the dancers’ names, chant in rhythm, and make light-hearted boasts. Deejay “toasting” was one of the precursors to the style of vocal delivery that eventually evolved into Rap music.

Eventually, Campbell was introduced to Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, a musically-inclined businessman who operated one of Kingston’s most popular sound systems. Interestingly, Campbell was not hired as a musician but as security; because of rivalries between fans devoted to a particular sound system, the parties sometimes could become quite rough, and Campbell had been a skillful amateur boxer as a teenager. It was in this line of work that he earned the nickname “The Prince”, which along with his boyhood moniker “Buster” (from his middle name Bustamente), formed the name under which he would later become famous.

He joined the Nation of Islam after meeting Muhammad Ali whilst on a tour of England in 1964.

In 1960, Buster produced a record for the for the Wild Bells label, “Oh! Carolina” under his nickname. This record was Jamaica’s first to involve an element of African music – the drumming in the record was provided by “Count Ossie” , the lead nyabinghi drummer from the “Rastafarian” camp, Camp David in the hills above Kingston. It was an instant hit in Jamaica, and Buster’s early records, which were released in the United Kingdom by Blue Beat” Records contributed greatly to the developing sound of “Ska”.
Buster was soon recording his own compositions as well as producing records for others.

From 1963 to the end of the decade, Buster wrote and produced hundreds of songs for Blue Beat” . Soon after his initial success, Buster was drawing international attention. He toured Britain extensively during this period, playing to sellout crowds, and appeared on commercial TV broadcaster Rediffusion London’s Friday early-evening pop show “Ready Steady Go!” in 1964. He became notorious for releasing “Big Five”, a raunched-up re-write of Brook Benton’s “Rainy Night in Georgia”.

Ska Originator Prince Buster

Ska Originator Prince Buster

Besides being a pioneering musician, Buster, like Clement Dodd, was also very interested in business. He started a Record Shop in Kingston in the early 1960s which is still owned and operated by his family today. Later he founded a Jukebox company. He also started the Prince Buster Records label, at first as an attempt to keep the Melodisc label viable, but today is used to reissue his music.

“Oh Carolina”, “Millie Girl”, and “Never Never” come from “Prince Buster Record Shack Presents The Original Golden Oldies” on the Prince Buster label. No date, but I bought this vinyl lp at the Rhino Records Shop in West LA in the early ’80′s.

That’s What You Do To Me
Honey Let’s Get High
Keep On Doggin’
Oh! Carolina
Millie Girl
Never Never