Friday, January 30, 2009

15 Minutes of Fame, Part 3

My Constant Readers may remember a couple of other posts in this series, where I document my "brushes with fame" with rock and roll stars or other music personalities. Well, today I want to mention my encounter as a teenager with Ed King, guitarist for the Strawberry Alarm Clock and Lynyrd Skynyrd (and the writer of the guitar riff from “Sweet Home Alabama.”). In the summer of 1970 I was 18 years old and playing with my brother Jack in a band called “Neva Union Museum” (as I’ve said many times before, all the good band names have been taken!). We had been hired by the Roof Garden Ballroom in Okoboji, IA as a “house band” to open for national recording artists booked to play there that summer. We opened for the Strawberry Alarm Clock (by then down to 4 members and a couple years from a hit record, but still sounding awesome with Mr. King on guitar) on a Saturday night that summer. The next day we had gone back to the ballroom to tear down our equipment. In walks Ed, probably to do the same. He hauled out his Les Paul Goldtop and we proceeded to jam on “Politician” for about a half an hour. A memorable moment in time, and I wish I had some audio or video of the jam, but here is some video of the 'Clock at their reunion in 2007. Ed is the 3rd player from the left in this vid. To see what Ed is up to these days, check out his website at, and keep on rockin!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lonesome Electric Turkey

Today in rock history, January 24, 1970, Dr. Robert Moog introduced the Minimoog synthesizer. It was smaller, rugged enough to be used onstage, and was more affordable, having dropped to about $2000. Some of you may remember the recording “Switched-On Bach,” by electronic musician Walter Carlos (later to become Wendy Carlos, but that’s a whole different story), released in 1968, using the then-new Moog synthesizer to perform classic Bach compositions. Judging from the picture on the album cover, it would have taken a truck to haul it and team of technicians to program it. By the way, Switched-On Bach was one of the first classical albums to sell 500,000 copies, and (eventually) to go platinum. The Minimoog opened up the synthesizer sound to a whole raft of touring bands, used here most notably by early adopter Frank Zappa and the Mothers (played here by Don Preston) in their recording of “Lonesome Electric Turkey” (God, I love the names of his tunes!) on “Fillmore East Live 1971.” I'm including the other video because, well, it's really strange, and shows Frank and the original Mothers in their prime. By the way, guys, I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure those aren't turkeys you're herding around! Thanks to and for the info, sorry about the lateness of this post, and keep on rockin’!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part 2

On these subzero days, it's good to look back on a hot August night and relive some good garage band rock. The 2008 Too Much Fun reunion was held at my house this year, and a good time was had by all. Check out "20 Flight Rock" with Bob on vocals, Rick on guitar, and yours truly poundin' the skins. Thanks to Mr. Whoamus for the camera work, keep on rockin', and it's on to Bob's in Peoria this summer!

Friday, January 16, 2009

"Are You Experienced?"

The other day I came across a CNN article about the recordings that changed the lives or represented a seminal moment in the development of the various people interviewed. Some of the records featured were:

“Can’t Buy a Thrill” by Steely Dan
“The Wall” by Pink Floyd
“Nights in White Satin” by the Moody Blues
“1984” by Van Halen
“Good Bye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John
“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye
“Signals” by Rush
“Life’s Rich Pageant” by R.E.M.

The album that did it for me would be “Are You Experienced?” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. You have to picture the scene – it was the summer of 1967; me, a 16-year-old hick from small-town Iowa, trying to be cool. Here comes this album, which featured three really freaky-looking guys on the cover, with music that ranged from hyped-up blues rock to pure acid psychedelia (it’s easy for me to categorize the music now, using 40-plus years of experience, but back then, I didn’t know what the hell to call it; it was just cool music that blew my mind, even without an MTV video to stare at). I played it constantly and played it loud, using a child’s mono phonograph hot-wired to a Silvertone bass amp (since my brother played guitar, we had plenty of amps lying around, but no decent stereo); when the needle started to wear out, we weighted the tone arm with a drum key to keep the record from skipping (which would horrify the audiophile purist, I’m sure). Even now, the record still knocks me out when I play it (my enjoyment made bittersweet due to the recent death of Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell); where else can you hear a frizzy-haired black guy singing, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky?” (or “kiss this guy,’ if you misheard the lyrics like I did). So let’s go back to those days of black light posters and freak outs, and ask the question again: “Have You Ever Been Experienced?” (“Well, I Have…”)

That’s my story – what’s yours?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Never Mind the Bollocks..."

… Here’s the Sex Pistols.” Today in rock history, on January 14, 1978, The Sex Pistols ended their first and only US tour at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom; when Johnny Rotten snarled and walked offstage, it also marked the end of the Sex Pistols. Ah, but despite the hype and the controversy, they were a great band. Let’s enjoy some ‘Pistols video in a rare studio version of "God Save the Queen." And for those of you unfamiliar with British slang, “bollocks” is often used to mean “nonsense” or “useless,” and as an expression to show contempt for something. Thanks to and for the info, and keep on rockin’! (only let’s do it with some ‘tude!).

Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Live at the Fillmore..."

Countless concert recordings have featured this title, and recordings from the Fillmores East and West have become legendary examples of the genre. Today we celebrate the life of rock promoter extraordinaire Wolfgang Grajonca, better know as Bill Graham. He was born today in 1931 in Berlin, Germany and died on October 25, 1991. His promotion career began in the mid-60’s when he moved from New York to San Francisco to be closer to his sister, and began managing the San Francisco Mime Troupe. From there he moved on to promoting concerts and the rest is Bay Area music history. It could be argued that he singlehandedly launched the careers of bands like the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane by continually featuring them at his venues the Fillmore West and the Winterland ballroom. Hours and hours of archival concert recordings from Graham-promoted concerts and others can now be found at, where the recordings can be streamed or purchased. Here is an interview with Bill that features the Byrds at the Fillmore East in 1970. Thanks to and for the info, and keep on rockin’!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

All in the Family

Whenever I get together with any one (or all) of my musical brothers, we try to get a jam going. This weekend my brother Mike and his family were visiting, so I pressed him into service to help me get a vid of my new song, "Get On With It!," a song I wrote on Thanksgiving day while digesting the turkey and avoiding the football games on TV. It's what I call a 21st century protest song. That's me on bass, brother Mike on guitar, son Cody on drums, and my niece Julie falling in on the Hammond organ. Thanks to all that helped, happy new year, and keep on rockin!