INTERVIEW conducted via email in 2011 by John Grove (former bass player for classic surf group Jan and Dean).
David – I talked with Ward Meeker the editor of Vintage Guitar magazine the other day about doing a couple of stories. Would you please put together bio on the band’s (Zephyr’s) accomplishments during its heyday? Maybe 2-3 paragraphs. Mentioning the festivals, Fillmore’s & and other venues of notoriety. Also, the great Eddie Kramer story regarding “Going back to Colorado” (those are still killer bass lines on “Miss Libertine” and other acts you backed and opened for. Now that I think about it, forget the 2-3 paragraphs, take as much room as you need. – John
OK, here goes…
There was a buzz right from the start; Candy and David Givens from Brown Sugar (our pretty popular blues band living in Boulder) and Tommy and John (Bolin and Faris), the core members of Ethereal Zephyr (their pretty popular blues/jazz band moving back and forth between Denver and Boulder) were starting a local ‘super group’ (that was a popular term at the time for the stars of name bands joining together to make bands like CSN and Blind Faith - this was early 1969). We found a drummer, Robbie Chamberlin and immediately started writing material. Within a few weeks, we had been shown to Barry Fey and he declared that we would be the ‘next big thing’ and began making a series of calls to his contacts in the business. Two days after meeting him, he had booked us at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco and the Whisky A-Go-Go in Hollywood for the following month. We moved in together, made a demo, played at a couple of concerts at CU and CSU (Ft. Collins), played some outdoors impromptu gigs at band shells and on flatbeds, and left for San Francisco. At the Avalon, we opened for Love and Moby Grape, both bands were miserable and near the end of their days - we missed the warning. We drove to LA the next day and played at the Whisky for a group of record company A&R people representing the major labels of the time: Columbia, Warner Brothers, Electra, Atlantic, ABC, and Epic. All made offers, ABC offered the most money. Fey didn’t know much about music, but he was a good counter and took the offer from ABC. Think about Candy and Tommy with Atlantic or Columbia instead of ABC Probe...
During the next three and a half years, we made three albums, one for ABC Probe and two for Warner Brothers, the first made it to 38 on Billboard’s Hot 100, the second was reviewed in Rolling Stone by Lester Bangs (he liked it). All three are still in print and we still get a little airplay. We played on American Bandstand with Dick Clark (Momma Cass) and several local TV shows in various parts of the country. We played in most of the major cities at least once and a lot of smaller towns and colleges. We played the Fillmore West and Fillmore East, opening for Chuck Berry, Albert King, Ten Years After, Santana, Humble Pie, Doug Kershaw, and maybe others. We played big pop festivals in Denver, Houston, Cincinnati, West Virginia, and small ones around the Rocky Mountain Empire. We played the provincial fillmores in Detroit (East Town Theatre), Chicago (Aragon Ballroom), Minneapolis, Boston (Boston Tea Party), and plenty more next level down venues where we usually headlined. We played at anti war rallies in Boulder, Denver, and LA at USC. We opened for Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Spirit, Three Dog Night, Johnny Winter, Tim Buckley, CCR, Joe Cocker, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, The Steve Miller Band, Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall, The Staple Singers, Big Momma Thornton, Wille Dixon, John Lee Hooker, Little Feat, Jethro Tull, Mountain, and the list goes on. I’ve performed on stage with Big Momma Thornton, John Lee Hooker, J.J. Cale, Willie Dixon, Little Anthony, The Marvelettes, The Crystals, Bo Diddley, Danny and the Juniors, Leslie Gore and a lot of others I can no longer name.
We opened for Led Zeppelin at the Boston Tea Party and got on well with them. Jimmy Page offered to introduce me to Eddie Kramer, Hendrix’s engineer, who was working on Led Zeppelin’s second album at the time. Candy and I went to meet Eddie at the site of Hendrix’s new studio, Electric Lady, on 8th street in the village in New York. The place was in the middle of being framed and wired and Eddie was working hard to get it finished up. We talked and he agreed to check us out. He came to Colorado and stayed with us for a few days in Boulder. We played a concert in Denver and he was favorably impressed. We wanted him for our next record, but ABC wanted us to use the man who had just produced the breakthrough James Gang album. The ABC president, Jay Lasker, told us to either use Bill Szymczyk or get lost. I chose to get lost - probably not my finest moment, but Eddie Kramer called Mo Ostin, the president of Reprise/Warner Brothers and got us a deal over the phone. We started production in early September 1970 at the recently completed Electric Lady Studio. It was exciting for us, we felt like we were finally on track. After we’d been there a week or so, Eddie told us that Jimi would be returning from London on the following Monday and that we would get a chance to get acquainted, something we had been hoping for as we were fervent admirers. Monday morning began with a phone call from Eddie telling us that Jimi had died in London and no one knew what was going to happen next. I woke the others and gave them the news. We didn’t know what to do, the studio was all we were focused on and so we went over to see if we could get in. The receptionist buzzed us in and we went down to the studio where it was quite dark and very quiet. Studio A was open and we went in. One of Jimi’s guitars had been delivered and was on top of a travel case. Tommy walked over and opened it up - it was a black strat, as I recall, strung upside down. He ran his hand lightly over the fretboard as we all just stood there in silence. Our instruments were set up for the cancelled session, so I suggested we play something for Jimi, and the others agreed. Tommy started playing Hey Joe and we all picked it up. We played that and then started into Purple Haze when the door flew open and the Israeli electrical engineer, Shimon, came in screaming at us to shut up and get out, which is exactly what we did - I don’t think he understood what Jimi had meant to us or that we were completely sincere. Jimi was his friend and that’s all he needed to know, and we were desecrating his friend’s place and we had to be expelled. We left, but we sent Jimi the message of our love and grief first.
Blues players Otis Taylor and Eddie Turner are both former musical partners. I’ve jammed with Steve Winwood, Steve Stills, Mitch Mitchell, and many others along the way. I played bass on a couple of tunes on Carly Simon’s first album. I smoked pot with Jimmy Carl Black and played soccer indoors with Tommy Bolin and Frosty the Drummer against Rod Stewart and the Small Faces. Life is good. I’m married to jazz stylist Anna Givens, the new next big thing.
John, I hope this helps. Let me know if you want a different approach.
1. You had a live-in housekeeper? This sounds almost like the mid-west version of the Billy Gibbons story. He too had a housekeeper that according to his book, Rock n’ Roll Gearhead, had a pretty major influence on his early influence. What did your parents do to afford the Givens family a live-in housekeeper?
2. I somewhat surprised to hear a teenager from Detroit was listening to the Beach Boys. Most of the players I’ve met from that area did not listen to the west coast stuff because of the abundance of the great soul music. Which local Detroit bands bands did you have a chance to experience live
1. My mother was a teacher in the Detroit school system and my father had a business that supplied a segment of the automobile industry. This was the early 50’s and live in housekeepers were not so expensive. Mom didn’t get home until late, we lived in the boonies and she wanted to have someone to watch me and my sister after school. Her name was Maggie Adams and she was treated like an Auntie. She cooked, but she also sat at the table and ate with us. Thanks to her and my parents, I never learned to think of black people as “other” - not to mention the cultural benefits.
2. A lot of Detroit people, white musicians in particular, like to pretend that they ignored white music, but that’s not the case, at least in the ‘57 through ‘67 decade when I was coming up. The AM radio stations like WXYZ, WKNR, and the Canadian CKLW played a mix, just like everywhere else. The Beach Boys shared airspace with Ray Charles, James Brown, Otis Redding, and the other soul and R&B artists. The whole surfer thing actually fit in pretty well with the kid culture in the Michigan lake country around Detroit. There were black stations like WJLB that played exclusively black music and some of us listened to them some of the time, but the Motown groups were played on all the stations. In the youth culture, there was a cultural divide between the “grease” and the “frats” that seemed to break along mostly class borders. The grease girls wore thick makeup, big hair, and short skirts, the boys had elaborate, oily hair and wore Italian shirts, tight pants, and pointy shoes a la Elvis. The frat girls wore sweaters, softer hair styles, and lighter makeup. The boys wore white or blue jeans, v-neck sweaters, and button down collar shirts. (This is a horrible over-simplification, but I hope you get the picture.) There were some, like me, who crossed over and had friends on both sides and some who didn’t and there were a lot of fist fights. After the Beatles arrived, the grease favored soul and motown and the frats seemed to prefer the English music, but there was plenty of cross over.
Martha and the Vandellas played at a parking lot dance at my high school. There was a great night club on the river in downtown Detroit called the Roostertail (after the racing hydroplanes that ran on the Detroit River in the summer) where, for a while, they had Motown Mondays. They had shows featuring the various Motown stars - The Supremes, The Temps, The Four Tops, The Miracles, and Little Stevie Wonder come to mind - and I saw several of them. The guys who played on a lot of the Motown tracks were in the band. I saw James Brown at Cobo Arena in 1966. I saw Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, who were amazing when they first hit the scene. Bands were much less common back then. The guys who later gave me my start in rock and roll, The Fabulous Del Reys, were one of only four or five young local white bands in town - in 1965 there were about 5 million residents in the Detroit metropolitan area. The Amboy Dukes (Ted Nugent) and Bob Seger and the Last Herd (??) were around. There were blues and jazz clubs and we used to go when we were feeling adventurous. The Beatles inspired a band from one of the wealthier neighborhoods and we all envied their expensive and great sounding VOX equipment. There was a dance hall called the Walled Lake Casino that had Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and everyone else from the late ‘50’s through the late ‘60’s and we went there once in a while, but there were a lot of fights so the girls’ parents didn’t allow much of that.
3. When did the guitar pop into the picture?
4. Were you a “true” bass player from the git-go or did you start off as a guitar player?
If you started off as a guitar player (or other instrument) how long before you switched to bass.
5. What brand / kind was your first instrument.
3. I fooled around with the guitar from the age of 12. My mother bought me a steel string flattop for Christmas 1960, but it was not really a guitar. Someone sold her an unplayable piece of stuff; she didn’t know enough to know, but it made “playing the guitar” a charged subject with me because I couldn’t make it work except as a slide guitar. As I told you, one of my fellow folk group musicians lent me a four string guitar that I could play, but I learned to make chords without the low E and A strings - this didn’t help much later on either. Guitar remained a mystery up until Candy and I got together. She had a Harmony Sovereign that I played a lot. After ZEPHYR blew up, we decided to make me the guitar player in the band and I did that for several years with first Otis and later Rocky Duarte on bass. I went back to bass when we revived the 4Nikators in 1978. I played guitar on ZEPHYR recordings starting with our second album. Played quite a bit on ‘Sunset Ride’ (3rd album) and played lead on about 1/3 of ‘Heartbeat’ (4th album).
4. I learned to play bass when I joined my first rock band in 1965. The guitar player attempted to tell me how to play bass (don’t they all?), but as usual, he thought bass guitar was a guitar. I quickly learned that bass was a separate discipline. I discovered James Jamerson through my Motown-loving drummer and I was hooked. To me, it’s really something special that I now spend several evenings a week hanging out with a guy (Claude Black) who grew up with and played with Jamerson, Benny Benjamin (the first Motown drummer), and Pistol Allen (the second Motown drummer).
5. My first bass was an EKO violin bass I bought new in late 1965. I had played a borrowed Fender Jazz a first, but had to get my own pretty quickly. The Eko was light, had a great skinny neck, and had a woody tone I really liked. Played it through a used but unplayed and for all practical purposes brand new white Tolex black-face Bassman I bought at the same time. Wouldn’t mind having the whole rig now. My first actual electric guitar was a cheap Gibson SG with flat rectangular pickups I bought from Nick the Greek in about 1972. It played great, sounded fair, but with that guitar, I began to really learn to play. About the same time, I bought a Favilla acoustic from Nick the Greek for $60 for my father-in-law who was doing time in Canyon City and wanted to become the next Johnny Cash. He never learned to play and gave the guitar back when he got out. Favilla was a New York ukulele maker who made a few guitars that resemble very large ukuleles. I still have it and play it with a drop-in pickup. It sounds wonderful and I love it. I bought Candy a Danelectro six-string and a 1960’s maple neck, white, left-handed strat, both of which disappeared after her death. I bought a white, maple neck 1973 strat new from Nick the Greek and played it for a couple of years before it was stolen. I then traded some old ZEPHYR gear for a two-color sunburst, rosewood neck 1959 Strat and a Fender extension speaker (a vintage equipment collector/dealer named Chuck?). That one was a killer, but it, too, was stolen after a couple of years.
John - If you want answers that are more to the point and ramble less, let me know.
I started my freshman year at Michigan State University in the autumn of 1965 a few weeks before my 17th birthday. Talk about ‘Free At Last’. I made it through two semesters before the administration decided I needed a year off to contemplate my academic future. They didn’t know I had already learned something priceless that was in direct conflict with my academic future - I’d started playing rock and roll with a band the day I arrived in East Lansing and I fell for the lure of music, fame, fortune, with a ton of female encouragement. During my year off, I played music, worked for a ski shop selling and setting up ski equipment and clothing, and before I knew it, it was January 1967 and I was back at MSU. I went with the best of intentions, but things were heating up in the battle over the war and the counter culture was coming into its own. I was inspired by the upheaval and failed to take my academic career seriously. I made great grades on my exams and papers, but I missed too many classes and in those days if you had more than three unexcused absences, they knocked your grade down a full mark for each additional miss. That June, I was asked to just go away and not come back.
I worked construction that summer, digging big deep holes in the ground and sanding concrete abutments. At one point, I walked into a Ford plant, took a look around, listened to the racket, and realized that Detroit was not for me. I was still playing at night and my bass playing was getting me a reputation as an up and comer. I even played on a couple of sessions in Detroit that were supposed to be used for Jackie Wilson, although I doubt that was the truth - it’s a nice thought.
My girlfriend headed to Laguna Beach in late July and I followed in September, driving my black 1960 Rambler Cross Country station wagon down Route 66 to the promised land of California. Hated it. Hated her. Took everything I could carry and set out for Jackson’s Hole, Wyoming where I had a friend who was a ski instructor. Well, my Rocky Mountain empire geography wasn’t too swift, so I flew from LA to Denver thinking I’d catch a plane from there to Wyoming. Wasn’t one, so I looked at the board and saw “ASPEN”. I’d heard all about Aspen, seen it on TV, and thought, “Well why not”. I bought a ticket and flew on the Aspen Airlines DC-3 from Denver to Aspen. It was my second plane ride and it was memorable - flying over the Rockies in an old, fat, slow, twin prop, wing-wagging silver bird is something it will take a serious case of Alzheimer’s to erase. Landing in the valley between the mountains was pretty exhilarating.
I walked into the little shed that used to serve as a terminal and the place was full of young people leaving town, going back to school after working the resort for the summer. A guy walked up to me and asked if I needed a job and a place to stay. All thoughts of Jackson’s Hole evaporated and I was in Colorado for the next 20 years. I worked for a lodge at first, then a construction crew building Snowmass, and then the Red Onion Restaurant. During the winter, I worked for the ski corporation as a ski mechanic and rental fitter and skied for free for most of the winter. I fell in with the wild ‘locals’ and had never felt as at home as I did then. Once I met Candy in the early spring, I quit my job, moved in with her, and then we started our adventures as a pair. That’s another story
6. Did you do any playing while you were in Aspen?
7. How and when did Candy enter the picture?
8. So did you and Candy do any playing - performing at all in Aspen?
Just a comment;
Aspen in the mid to late sixties was still kind of a secret right? It was my understanding that it had not yet became really famous amongst the “jet setters”. To us folk that lived on the plains and prairies of Colorado, Aspen was another planet. I remember reading a paperback novel back in junior high called “The Red Car”, it was all about a kid that bought a wrecked Red MG-TD, fixed it up and entered it in an Aspen Sportcar race. In the book it talked about Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins and how exotic they were for such a little mountain hick town with white pickett fences. Now those same autos are a common sight up there. I remember a jazz rock trio from around that area called “Madura” I think they were managed my Guercio. Also, there was a 9 or 10 piece horn band from the late seventies or so, can’t remember their name though. Kinda like Chris Daniels and the Kings.
6. Well, I auditioned to play with the Leopold Fuchs Hate Band as I mentioned earlier and I auditioned to play with a really cheesy LA nightclub act called the Spice Rack (there’s a memory I haven’t awakened in lo these many years). In fact, the Spice Rack told me I had the job, I quit my wonderful job at the Aspen Ski Corporation, and then they said, “Uh, we changed our mind” which led to me working as a busboy at the Red Onion for a minute until I told the German owner, reputed to be a former NAZI (Is that even possible?), to go fuck himself the night Candy and I got together.
I finally actually played some music after Candy and I got together. We started a band with Mick Durbin (Claimed to be Joni Mitchell’s “Michael From Mountains”, which could be true) on guitar, Bernard Heidtmann (best friends with Oscar Acosta, the ‘Brown Buffalo’ of Hunter Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas”) on drums, and a guy named Bruce something-or-other on other guitar. Mick had a great house up on Red Mountain overlooking the town, the first rich hippie house I ever saw. He owned a black Les Paul ‘fretless wonder’ with strange L shaped magnets on one of its pickups. Candy had a high school friend who had a friend back in Oklahoma who owned a 1960 cherry sunburst LP that I bought for $110 - a beautiful guitar that is now owned by Jock Bartley who bought it from Mick Durbin who bought it from the stupid me who thought he was a bass player for life. I borrowed a Hagstrom 8 string bass, we rehearsed at a club called The Abbey, and played a couple of gigs. This was the period when I bought my Telecaster bass. We were a happy little family for a while, but Candy and I became frustrated by the lack of musicianship on the part of the others and we moved on one night after trying to start ‘2120 South Michigan Avenue’ three times in a row without success. We ran into a couple of gay surfer junkie guitarists who were staying in the same little cabin complex we were and started our blues band, BROWN SUGAR that eventually led us to Boulder and then on to ZEPHYR.
7. I met Candy at Thanksgiving dinner 1967. She was living with a girl I knew who invited me. Candy was there with her jug band bandmates. We didn’t really notice each other, but figured it out later when I told her about a girl who had a rabbit that was trained to do back flips - turned out she was the girl. I first became interested in her when one of my roommates, Candace Van Dolsen, started raving about this wonderful singer, Candy Ramey. She took me to The Abbey to see her singing with the Piltdown Philharmonic Jug Band. She was pretty cute in her shiny mini-dress playing washboard, harmonica, and singing with this very genuine jug band - they had a guy who could play jug (plastic Clorox jug), gut bucket bass, and guitar. The leader was an Englishman, Tim Walker, who had come to America to learn to play and sing early 20th century New Orleans jazz. How he ended up as the dog catcher in Aspen, Colorado I don’t know, but there he was. He referred to Candy as their ‘silver-throated song thrush’, had a handlebar mustache and was sweet, intelligent, and a complete loon. I was captivated by her charisma, her amazing voice, and her quite incredible washboard playing. Anyhow, Candace introduced me to Candy at the end of the night. Candy smiled ‘Hello’ and gave me a little squeeze on my inner thigh, which got my attention (I was pretty cute myself at the time), and then we said goodnight. I bumped into her a few times around town as the winter passed and we were always warm toward each other but no further. On the night I quit the Red Onion, I was walking toward the center of town. It was February 29, 1968, a cold, crisp, and windy night with a clear black and starry mountain sky. I was walking and mulling over what I was going to do next when she appeared on the corner up ahead. She smiled and waved me over and asked me if I wanted to go get something to eat with her. As it happened, I did, and we marched over to Pinocchio’s together. Turned out she needed a ride back to her apartment in Snowmass. I had sold my car to pay a bondsman when I was arrested for murder and drug possession a few weeks earlier (I didn’t do it, honest) so I called my roommate, Candace (who had introduced us), and borrowed her green 1949 Chevrolet fastback coupe. I drove her out to Snowmass, she invited me to stay, and we stayed together, more and less, for the rest of her days.
8. After we left for Boulder in late August, 1968, we still considered ourselves Aspenites, but when we went back to play, we quickly noticed the changes as the developers developed. Many of our friends moved on to Utah, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Alaska, and Hawai’i as they tried to find a ‘new Aspen’. In a couple of years, Aspen was gone and we became Boulderites. We played up there many times over the years with Brown Sugar, Zephyr, and The 4Nikators. I think my favorite Aspen gig of all time happened in the summer of ‘68 before we left town. Black Pearl, a band from Boston, had come to town and we were all friends. On the Solstice, a bright, sunny day, approximately all of the drug users in town (a not insignificant portion of the population) gathered up a generator, amps, and instruments, drove up to the parking lot at Maroon Lake and started walking and carrying all that stuff up into the valley towards Maroon Bells. There may have been psychedelic drugs involved. Anyway we reached a meadow with a 360 degree view that included the Maroon Bells and the rest of the Elk Mountains and set up to play. I still have a picture of Candy singing that afternoon. It was a moment. We all played together, just a-jammin’ away until it was time to get out before sundown. I highly doubt I’ll ever experience a day like that again in this life.
Comment - At that time, Aspen was known as a safe retreat for people like Lucille Ball and John Wayne, who could go there and be treated like normal people. John Wayne was a good friend and business partner of the father of some of my friends. There were still people who were descendants of the original miners who could afford to live in town. No TV, one paved road, no cutesy crap, no mall, no traffic lights, lots of empty buildings. Lots of very sophisticated people, but no glitz. Fine restaurants, beautiful homes, exotic cars, but it was very kicked back. I worked construction at Snowmass and later, in town with guys who had worked for the CIA and the State Department and had decided to get away. I rode to work at Snowmass with the guy who had prepared the reconnaissance photos used by JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A friend of mine, who worked as a busboy, tried to push Robert McNamara over the railing at the restaurant up on Aspen Mountain by running into him with the bus cart. I thought and still think it was close to paradise, certainly for us mountain hippies. I used to get pot and acid from Mo Siegel, the gentleman who later made a fortune with Celestial Seasonings. I skied Aspen Mountain with my eyes closed after imbibing peyote. I stood naked outside in the middle of winter on top of Buttermilk Mountain with an equally naked and very beautiful girl named Debbie. It goes on.
Unlike today, the off season lasted for a couple of months in the autumn and the spring (big hunting season business in the fall for a couple of weeks) and the population dropped to about 450 people, most of whom knew each other, at least by sight. The whole town was outdoorsy, a little artsy, but very civilized and very European thanks in part to all the former NAZI’s who had moved there after the war - they said it reminded them of home. Skiing was the draw in winter, of course, but in the other seasons it was the exquisite beauty, the perfect climate, the great hospitality, and it’s remoteness that added up to something that was so wonderful that it was destined to be crushed out of existence by the mass of rich people seeking it once it became well known and I-70 was finished. It was pretty much gone by 1972.
Ok, David, This is the one I really enjoyed. Funny, Funny, stuff.
Comment: The Les Paul you’re talking about, were the Customs made from 1954 to mid 1957. The rear pickup (bridge) had the standard P-90 “Soapbar” pickup with adjustable pole-piece screws. The neck pickup on those guitars had a P-90 but the pole pieces were small rectangular magnets probably somewhere between 1/8 to 1/4 inch long. These guitars also had mahogany tops rather than maple tops as they’re intended was for Jazz and produced a warmer sound.
9. So it was around this time that you purchased your Telecaster Bass correct? Was it the first Fender Bass that you had actally owned?
10. Where did you purchase it? and why did that bass appeal to you rather than a Precision or Jazz Bass.
11. What amps were you using during this period?
9. When I left Laguna Beach for Colorado, I had to choose between carrying my skis and my EKO bass. For obvious reasons, the skis won and I made arrangements to leave the bass with a friend for a later reunion. Ultimately, she became impatient and gave it away before I could reclaim it. When Candy and I first started playing, I borrowed instruments for a while but I knew I’d need my own bass. The closest real music store was in Delta, a fair drive in those days, but any excuse for a trip to the McDonald’s in Grand Junction was good (Nearest McDonald’s). I knew I wanted a good bass, preferably a JB, but when we arrived at the store, they showed me the Telecaster. I fell for it as soon as I picked it up, it fit my hands perfectly and I liked the looks, I never even plugged it in, I just knew it was THE ONE and so I paid the man and we headed home. This was the first of many Fender basses and guitars I’ve owned over the years and it’s the one I miss the most. I heard one of the tunes from the first ZEPHYR album day before yesterday on good speakers and I was struck again by what a great sound it had.
10. See above.
11. I borrowed a black bassman from a friend when I first started playing again. When Candy and I put Brown Sugar together, there was really only one choice for a place to play in Aspen. Galena Street was the happening nightclub and we were friends with the guys who owned it, Gary Luhnow and Lenny Luckner. They gave us our first gig and we did a pretty bang up job. Out of the blue, they offered to back our band and manage us, we accepted, and they lent us enough to go to Denver and purchase amps and a PA from BRUCE AMPLIFIERS (were they in Englewood? That’s the origin of the 4-10 columns).
Originally I had a bass amp with two 15” Eminence speakers, Leonard Bremerman, our lead man, had the guitar version of the same amp, and we bought the PA with two 4-10” speaker columns. Each speaker cabinet was powered by a cutting edge solid state amp that had the circuits embedded in plug-in plastic modules. The amps had true stereo pre-amps and the PA had four channels (as I remember - not a trusty memory). Later, when ZEPHYR got under way and Leonard was abolished, I used both bottoms with one channel accenting highs and the other set for lows. I was the first bass player I knew who went for the scratchy highs along with the deep lows. The Telecaster bass was the right guitar for this approach and I really liked my sound. Our demo and our first album were recorded with mics on this rig. It was hard to compete with Tommy’s four Twins on ten, and so I later switched to the Acoustic 360 you’re familiar with. I still had one of the Bruce power amps until 1987 when I sold most of my gear to Warner Logan before leaving for Hawaii. I used it to power my monitors which I had built around the Eminence 15’s from my amps. It was definitely a truck - didn’t care about trivialities like impedance.
You are the first person to recognize the description of that Les Paul. As I recall, it had a smooth, sweet sound and the frets were very narrow and low. It was all black with those see-through cylindrical knobs - beautiful to behold.
12. The "Acoustic 360/361" was the most advanced bass rig being produced at the time. It had high power, low distortion and a state of the art speaker cabinet with a folded horn and power amp in it (speaker cabinet). Every serious player was using that amp, what attracted you to it?
13. What encouraged your decision on choosing to bass rather than guitar, and, how did you first learn to play? Zephyr had no musical boundaries, what did you're style of playing bring to the table in this very "heady band"?
14. Any formal music training or lessons in the past?
12. This question started me thinking seriously about Alzheimer’s again (Here, in Ohio, the working class call it “Oldtimers”). As I remember it, we played in Philadelphia with Santana. Dave Brown, their bass player, and I were friendly and he suggested I use his rig to save turnaround time and just so I could experience playing through four 360’s (I think that’s right, can’t remember for certain if it was three or four). The Acoustic 360 was all the buzz at that time - Ampeg hadn’t yet produced the SVT - because of the 18” speaker, the power, the folded horn, and the extended parametric EQ on the preamp. When I played through Dave’s amp, it literally shook the auditorium; you could hear the ceiling and walls shudder during sound check. I liked that quite a bit. I bought mine by remote control from LA, I think, and I had travel cases made for it - the one for the bottom was big enough to house a small family of migrant workers. The single 360 couldn’t compete with multiple amps, but it was good and loud. As you know, you can’t hear HOW loud when you’re close to the thing, so I probably played too loud on a few occasions. It was a sturdy beast, but one of the airlines managed to break mine, even in the case. The bottom of the bottom cracked and broke the wire from the connector to the speaker coil. Steve Kahn, a good friend and ace roadie (he was the guy flying the helicopter when he and Bill Graham were killed in California years later) was at the gig with another act and he and I performed surgery to repair it. Steve soldered in a piece of coat hanger wire to replace the missing lead. It stayed that way from then on and never caused a problem for me in the ensuing years.
13. Thanks, I always felt I held up my end. As I said earlier, I started playing bass at 16 with a working band. The guys I played with were all really good by that time, particularly the guitarist, Rick Stawinski, and the drummer, Julie (Julian) Wilson. Rick and I had been friends in high school and were roommates at Michigan State University in 1965-66. Julie was a great drummer and his taste in music ran toward Motown and Atlantic R&B. I had a knack for hearing bass, maybe because I sang bass in my high school choir. Rick tried to tell me how to play bass, but as a guitarist, he tended to play bass parts that were really guitar lines. Julie taught me to listen to the kick drum, leave holes, and go counter to the guitar in many cases. I was already a lover of Motown and when I started listening carefully to Jamerson’s lines, I found that I couldn’t figure out what he was doing. Julie and I used to put Tempations records on and play along until we finally got the right feel. I think we must have played ‘Ain’t Too Proud To Beg’ a thousand times altogether. The upshot of that was that after I’d been playing for six months or so we started straying from the three minute song format and stretching out on the instrumental breaks, I found improvising to be fascinating and I practiced a lot to develop my facility. I wanted to be able to play like Jamerson, but I wasn’t playing Motown songs and so I had to make up my own “Jamerson-like” lines for the material we were playing - Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, Animals, Paul Butterfield, and 1966 top forty (GOOD top forty). The older guys I ran into, white and black, around our part of Detroit encouraged me a lot; they thought I was a wild but highly talented kid and they said so. For many years, James Jamerson’s playing was my standard. During the mid-70’s, I learned to play funk while playing guitar with Rockie Duarte, one of my all time favorite bass men. He played (plays?) with a 1 mm pick and that’s a whole other ballgame, one that I adopted as part of my bag of tricks.
In BROWN SUGAR, we blended Jeff Beck TRUTH type blues, first album Fleetwood Mac, first album Creedence Clearwater, Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin, and a little 1968 top 40 (think ‘Born To Be Wild’). At that time, I was dead set against playing things ‘stock’ and I tried to find my own take on the material. When we started with ZEPHYR, many of the people we were involved with were guitar-god worshipers and there was a lot of attention focused on Tommy. My opinion is that all of us, including Robbie Chamberlin, were equally talented and equally valuable to the overall equation. I took it as an opportunity to go for it - probably too much so since I didn’t have the technical foundation, but I wasn’t shy and that counts for something.
Candy was the focal point a lot of the time, Tommy had his share, but the overall vibe was the sum of all of our contributions. We all knew that and, until Tommy went over to the dark side, we had it going on despite the adversity caused by our inferior management and terrible record company relationships.
When we went to make our first album at Wally Heider’s in LA, the producer said he thought we were going to be another Cream (he had engineered some of the later Cream sessions) - he didn’t get the fact that we were something entirely different and that there wasn’t a ready made cubby hole for us. I think the improvised interplay between the instruments confused him. John Faris was really the most advanced musician in the band and was familiar with a wide range of jazz as well as most everything else. He had been teaching Tommy for a couple of years by that time. I had a talent for playing walking bass lines - it came naturally to me, I could hear the changes and could go with it. Robbie and Candy both had studied jazz as teenagers, Candy on piano, and so we all had a feel for it. It quickly became apparent that we could play music that crossed over and back from the various genres. We improvised rhythms, feels, melodies, and dynamics using alien mind reading techniques given us by UFO drivers we met while crossing the vast dark mountain ranges of Colorado - no, wait, what did I just say? Ignore that.
During our improvisational outings, I believed my role changed depending on the environment we were creating - during guitar breaks, I tried to feed Tommy interesting textures and melodic cues while John provided atmosphere and Robbie created the space. When John was playing lead, Tommy and I stuck pretty close together to create a solid foundation for John’s often very outside approach. When Candy played harp, we usually went for a big blues feel, tried for Muddy Waters and ended up short often times, but our heart was in the right place. The vocal sections were the most scripted, but never completely so. We all liked dynamics - loud louds, soft softs, but the gradual build ups, the abrupt break downs, and the unexpected rhythm changes were equally important components.
Right from the start of ZEPHYR, we were listening to everything from Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin to Miles Davis and John Coltrane and everything in between. We used to know all of the hip current records and we collectively despised ‘commercial’ music - no ‘Three Dog Night’ on our turntable thank you very much. Kind of elitist, but it was for love.
14. The music training I received in junior and senior high school served me very well. I was taught to hear intervals, use my voice, sight read vocal parts, to harmonize, and to understand the roles of different sections working together. I sang fairly difficult classical pieces as well as choral arrangements of standards and show tunes with a choir that eventually won the state of Michigan competition. My teachers were first rate people and very competent.
I’ve never had a real guitar or bass lesson, but I’ve listened carefully and jammed a lot over the years with good people willing to share their stuff. I’ve also recorded and listened to myself a lot, which I think is the single most important thing a musician can do.
NOTE - I googled Bruce amps and found a picture of the guitar version.
15. Regarding Jamerson, Did you know who he was, or did you recognize him as “the guy on the Motown sessions”? A lot of very well known players, i.e. John Enwistle, said they use to refer to him as the “guy on the Motown records”, which is really very sad that those cats did not get the recognition that they deserved.
15. In Detroit, musicians knew his name, even us white kids. He was referred to by his last name most of the time, as in “Did you hear what Jamerson played on “I Was Made To Love Her”? I never saw a picture of him, never knew what he looked like until I saw him at the Roostertail with the “Motown Orchestra” (Funk Brothers). I know a guy who went to high school with him and sang with him early on. And Anna’s pianist grew up in the neighborhood with him and knew him well. Everyone smiles or laughs when you mention his name and they all talk about what a good guy he was. Claude Black, the pianist, always laughs as says “James, he was a wino, you know”. Jamerson, Benny Benjamin, and Pistol Allen were all part of the Detroit jazz scene before Motown. Claude played with all of them on bebop gigs. At one point, Claude and Pistol were the house pianist and drummer at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit and they played with all the greats who came through without their own bands. I have a recording of them playing with Sonny Stitt, the amazing tenor player, back in 1981 that’s out of this world.
While watching “Standing In The Shadows of Motown”, I shed a couple of tears listening to his (Jamerson) daughter talk about how depressed he was leading up to his death - seems he didn’t know how much we all respected and loved him.
16. So the next step after Aspen was Boulder. What did you and Candy do upon arrival there?
David, You are doing a great job. This is wonderful, wonderful stuff. This is information that comes from the innocent period of rock n’ roll. I’m just hoping that you’re enjoying doing it. I’ve never done this before either. I just know that since I was 16 I loved reading anything about rock, and I mean anything. It didn’t matter to me what is was, 16 magazine, Circus, Creem, Rolling Stone. So I’ve always thought that I probably knew what questions to ask, and in what order. I know what I like to see in an interview. I’ve been forwarding our interview to a close friend of mine for feedback and has enjoyed it tremendously. The other day at breakfast, I asked how he liked some other article I sent him, his reply was “ I liked it but I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the David Givens interview. Give me some feedback, how am I doing on the questions? Also, when done with this, I’m going to get with a another friend of mine that is the longtime sports anchor at the local NBC affiliate and he and I will edit the whole thing, which I will send back to you for approval.
Seriously David, this is good stuff. Many times we have an impact on peoples lives without realizing. I think you guys fall into that category. I went to an event a couple of months ago at the Pueblo Memorial Hall and the sound man / videographer stopped me and said you’re John Grove aren’t you? I replied that I was, he went to explain how he had followed my carrer from the late sixties to present and how the bands I was in continued to inspire him through the years. He told me in front of my wife that it was because of me he is doing what he enjoys to do. It made my day. Hell, it made my week. John
16. John, it feels like it’s going fine to me. Your questions have summoned memories I didn’t know I had and that’s been really fun for me. I’ve been interviewed a couple of times before and I’ve written a couple of brief pieces for the Tommy Bolin Archives website (Mike Drum) but this has been the most interesting for me.
It’s impossible to measure our impact - you know Harold Fielden kept the adjective ‘awesome’ alive during the 70’s and 80’s and look at it now. I still run into Zephyr impact - I met a guitar playing music teacher in Toledo recently whose students are really excellent young musicians. He was questioning me about my past and when I said “Zephyr” he flipped. Turns out he’s a big Tommy fan and still has and plays Zephyr records for pleasure. Last year, I became acquainted with one of the popular local blues/jazz singers, a woman a couple of years younger than me, who told me the story of how she snuck into a Zephyr show in Detroit in 1970. She knew Candy’s and my history in some detail. It was the last thing I expected from a large, black grandmother, quite blew my mind, to coin a phrase. It’s been 40 years and ripples are still spreading.
I like the idea of a round of editing and review. Everything I’ve sent you has been a first draft and I’ve found that sometimes that’s good and sometimes not so good.
Bottom line, I like this - let’s continue.
David, I remember your road cases for the 360. I think because of yours, I bought mine. My cases are very early Anvil cases. My bottom case stands up and the lid swings totally open and you roll the amp inside then lay it down and roll it. I wish I had a buck for every time some stupid redneck (and I’m from Kansas & Oklahoma) made the remark - “what ya’ got in there?” “A body?” . Your cases were made by Ball, I seem to remember seeing that on your case when we played with you. Your speaker cabinet case case If I remember right, was two halves, the bottom half was a tray that the speaker bottom remained in, probably 5-6 inches tall, and then you just slid the top half over the speaker cabinet and latched them together.
When I was with Jan & Dean, I watched my 57’ Precision (the Van Dorn Bass) get dropped from the belly of an airplane. I just about shit. No, come to think about it I did shit. Because of the Anvil case it survived perfectly.
Never a commercial music fan either of that period of time. I can remember picking up my girlfriend Patty, who is still my wife , and she and her sisters were playing The Three Dog Night album “Captured live at the Forum” (I think it was called that) and I gave her so much shit and teased her so much for playing that album. Although, their bass player, Joe Schermie was one bad-ass bass player (at least I thought so) his lines on Eli’s coming are wonderful. You know just a few years before that time top forty was absolutely great...Knock on wood, Hip-Hug Her, all of the Stax - Motown - Muscle Shoals (another one of my favorite bass players along with Joe Osborn is David Hood the muscle shoals guy) great great stuff. Hey, I’m talking with Harold as we speak. He says Hi !!! John
John, you’re exactly right about the case. I’ve seen my Fender basses get dropped going into airplane cargo holds a couple of times, but they didn’t even flinch.
We played with Three Dog Night at the Denver pop festival and their band totally kicked ass. Floyd Sneed (drummer), Michael Allsup (guitar), Schermie, and Jimmy Greenspoon on Hammond were excellent. The singers all reminded me of LA junkies, but the musicians were cool. I remember Michael Allsup standing on the back of the stage during our set taking pictures with a Kodak Instamatic with a big smile plastered across his face. One of my good friends in Boulder, Lureen Carpenter, a college professor at CU, went to Hollywood High with Floyd and we used to send “Hello” messages back and forth through her.
Yeah, Top Forty seemed to really decline as the cultural divide increased. Probably had something to do with the demise of the 45 and the ascent of the LP among the young.
David, Which part about the case am I right about? your Acoustic case or the fact that they are indestructable. I am assuming you mean your case. It’s funny how something as trivial as the brand name of a road case sticks in my mind. But during that period of time, I wanted to know everything about rock n’ roll. I noticed everything. What else is funny is I can’t remember last week. Hey this is pretty cool, I just got a call from our B-3 player, we’re playing a 3 day festival in Taos New Mexico on July 11. July 10th has Grand Funk Railroad, we’re on July 11 along with Puddle of Mudd. Oh well back to the interview. John
John, Right about the description and that it was made by Ball. Seems to me that Ball made all of our road cases and that Anvil wasn’t around yet. I think I still have a briefcase the guys at Ball gave me, also indestructible.
Taos in July sounds great, I haven’t been there for many years, but Candy and I used to go there pretty often. Cool you get to play.
17. What did you and Candy do upon your arrival in Boulder?
17. Candy and I were living in Aspen and things weren’t going well. We’d hooked up with three guys from San Diego, Guitarists Leonard Bremermann, his partner, Rod (can’t remember his last name), and a drummer named Jim Moore. No gigs in the mountains, but with some help from some natives (Gary Luhnow and Leonard Lookner, who owned the Galena Street East nightclub and financed our Bruce Amps), we booked a gig in Colorado Springs, one in Denver, and one in Boulder at the Buff Room on the Hill. Candy and I had a big orange-ish 1946 flathead Ford sedan ( a local Aspen legend named the “ThunderChicken”) and Leonard had a 1960 Ford Galaxy that we loaded with all of our worldlies and headed out, fully expecting to come back ‘home’ in a couple of weeks. We played at Kelker Junction(?!) in the Springs - I seem to remember hearing “Born To Be Wild” a lot on the jukebox. Candy took me up to the Garden Of The Gods and I was suitably impressed. There were a lot of black lights and strobes at the actual gig - I think we may have played two nights. Anyway, it was on to the Green Onion in Denver - right next door to a whorehouse. I know it was a whorehouse because the whores stole all of Candy’s stage clothes out of the ThunderChicken while we were setting up. She was deeply saddened, but at least they didn’t steal her dog, Janie Bones. Next was Boulder. We drove west to Golden so Candy could see her old neighborhood, Applewood Grove on the way. Typical 60’s suburban development to my eyes, it was where she lived after her family moved down from Evergreen. She said it was a big adjustment since Evergreen was still quite isolated back in the pre-I-70 era and she was pretty much a cowgirl before coming to the big city.
We drove north on the Foothills Highway. I’d visited Boulder once in late 1967 with some crazy woman, but it had been at night and under the influence of God knows, so I had no real picture of Boulder. We came in to the south end of town on South Broadway. I remember the view of Boulder as we came down into the valley. It was late August and the students were just coming back. We stayed at the Rainbow Court, right next to Uncle Joe’s Old Plantation BBQ (what became Daddy Bruce’s BBQ) on Arapahoe and 20th. Back when it was called Uncle Joe’s, it had GREAT food. Joe and his wife were really cool and they had the best jukebox in the state as far as we were concerned. The following year, after ZEPHYR started up, we all lived there for part of the summer of ‘69 - the Rainbow Court, that is, not Uncle Joe’s. We first heard ourselves on the radio sitting in our cabin at the Rainbow Court when Jim Mason played our first demo on KMYR. Anyway, back to the fall of ‘68. There was some kind of mix up and when we showed up at the Buff Room, no one had ever heard of us. Fortunately, or not, depending on your view of what happened to us over the next 18 years, Pete, the owner was there and he took a liking to us and gave us the gig anyway. We played, it was a success and Boulder was starting to grow on us. We still considered ourselves Aspenites, but Aspen was not being particularly hospitable to a bunch of freaks with untidy hair and questionable devotion to respect for the Hierarchy. We had made friends with the Fuchs Hate Band in Aspen and they had a club house out on South Broadway where the phone company has a switch building now (last time I looked). There were three little bungalows that looked as if they’d been dropped out of a twister sitting all haphazard in a dirt field. Turns out the owner had bought the houses and moved them to the place years earlier. We went up to the first house to ask about the Fuchs and this really beautiful older girl (probably 22 or 23) came to the door. She was just in the process of moving in - boxes all over, but the living room was together and she invited us in. The house we were looking for was the next one over, but no one was home. She invited us to stay for tea and we stayed and chatted with her. I’m trying to remember her name - maybe it’ll come to me (Barb Hoffman?). Anyway, she asked us what we were doing and we said we didn’t really know, didn’t have a plan or a place to stay but that we liked what we’d seen of Boulder and we were a band and we needed places to play and Aspen didn’t have any. She lit a joint and passed it and the afternoon took on a golden glow as evening came on. For no apparent reason other than she liked us, she offered us her house. Said she didn’t really like it that much and had a place she could move into closer to the campus. We accepted. For a few years, we used to see her around town. Always beautiful, always glad to see us. Lovely woman. We took the house. Candy, Janey Bones, and I got one bedroom, Leonard and Rod got one, and Jim slept in a closet off the kitchen. What a zoo. We had a sorry ass black and white TV that we all watched at night when we weren’t playing. We had our equipment set up in the living room (including the infamous Bruce PA) and we played a lot. I hooked up Candy’s little portable record player to our amps so we could listen to Electric Ladyland, CCR’s first record, Jeff Beck Truth, Fleetwood Mac’s first album, the Doors, and Moody Blues really really really loud over and over again. Never been really impressed with a stereo since sitting with all those Bruce amps in a circle around me, high on whatever and Jimi Hendrix jamming with Steve Winwood on Rainy Day at several million decibels.
18. So this band was immediately preceeding Zephyr, correct? How long did this group last?
18. This band, BROWN SUGAR, started in Aspen in early summer 1968 and lasted through very early 1969 when we formed ZEPHYR with John and Tommy. We played covers, mostly blues and British blues, Aretha Franklin, a couple top forty numbers like ‘Born To Be Wild’ and ‘Suzie Q’, some Rolling Stones. We were pretty popular at the Buff Room, played there almost every week during the fall of ‘68. Played Fort Collins, Greeley, Trinidad, Aspen, and Denver as well. It was during this time that I started to resist playing bass ‘stock’ and began stretching out a little more. Typical teenager, thought I knew better than everyone else - it was a good phase, but led to quite a few crimes against musicality. We were a pretty happy little family, Candy and I were pretty straight - a bit of weed, no alcohol, and the guitar boys were gay heroin junkies, the drummer was a smart, forthright guy and other than a bit of relationship drama from time to time, things went pretty well. Larry Wilkins, the guitarist, was our neighbor and we were friends. In addition to the Thunder Chicken, Candy and I had a brand new ‘69 Ford Super Van with no windows in the back, heavy duty suspension, a 302 V8, and a three speed manual transmission - a true band hot rod. From our front door we looked up at the Flat Irons above Table Mesa and NCAR. Boulder was pretty slow and low key in those days and we grew to love it a lot. She and I spent a lot of afternoons hiking in the foothills. She grew up in Evergreen and was right at home up there - saved my ass a couple of times when rock climbing. Her family: mom, dad, brother, little sister, lived out on the plains near Brighton and we’d go out there often enough. I played chess with her dad, who’d learned it in prison where they take it very seriously. It took me a year of Sunday afternoons before I won a game from him. Candy had a beautiful black and white paint gelding named Comanche out there. She was a great rider, fearless. The view of the Front Range was always changing and always breathtaking - until the smog over I-25 rose into the air on quiet mornings.
Candy and I married on October 23, 1968 and the guys in the band were our witnesses and guests. Her parents were mad that we were ‘living in Sin’, and she said that ‘since we’re always going to be together, we might as well get married’ and I thought that seemed logical. We weren’t going for the traditional wedding, so we got a marriage license, loaded the band into our van and drove around Boulder looking for someone to marry us. There was an interdenominational chapel up toward the Hill and we stopped in there. The minister was a guy name Wally Toevs, who sat us down and asked if we meant it and that marriage was serious and we said ‘Yes, we mean it’, and he agreed to perform the ceremony. We were pretty casual, blue jeans and sneakers, but we were happy and it was all over in a few minutes and there we were. I think we just went home and that was it. We only managed to stay married for 8 years, but it was an action packed 8 years, and we stayed very close until her death in ‘84. I was the one they called from the hospital when she died.
19. I’m assuming that the Denver Pop Festival was the first “big Zephyr gig”. what were the venues you played from the start of the band up until the Denver Pop. Were you playing on a weekly basis? If so, how many nights a week? obviously you woodsheded a lot to hone the bands chops and get the arrangements down. Also, where and how long and often did the band practice in this period.
19. OK, this is a tough one, but I’ll see what info still lurks in my skull.
Between jump and the DPF, we played out infrequently. We moved into Frank Anton’s house at 427 Canyon shortly after forming the band. Candy, Tommy, Karen Ulibarri, John Faris, and John’s girlfriend, Sheba, all lived together for most of the first half of ‘69. We rehearsed nearly everyday, writing and arranging our tunes and jamming with each other and the occasional visitor. If memory serves me, we played in the band shell in Boulder’s Central Park for free a couple of times, and then a couple of times at CU in the Glenn Miller Ballroom for the Balls for Peace, as well as at the fountain outside the student union. We played in the field house at CSU in Fort Collins. We played in Denver at an old movie theater that had been converted to a hippie concert hall - again I can’t remember the name, although I sort of remember that it was out on South Broadway. We played at a club in Greeley – The Green Onion rings a bell, but we’d played there as Brown Sugar the preceding year - where the crowd was primarily “jocks” who wanted us to play “some soul” and requested “Moon River”. I think they mostly hated us - one of our few bonding experiences. Nothing like being hated to drive folks together. That was an aberration; however, everywhere else we played to people who really seemed to love what we were doing. We were very unaffected at that time, no rock star nonsense at all, just high energy music. We played very freely with lots of improvisation within the frameworks of what we were doing.
It’s a shame we never recorded our early rehearsals at Candie’s parents place in Brighton, or later, at 427 Canyon. The energy we generated as we worked out “Cross The River” and “Hard Chargin’ Woman” was tremendous. We were all pretty seasoned for as young as we were and there wasn’t a lot of explaining involved, more like “OK, we need some dynamics here, how about this...” and away we’d go.
It went fast; I doubt it took more than a couple of hours to assemble any of those tunes. I came up with most of the arrangements of the instrumental sections, for example the middle of “Hard Chargin’ Woman”. John had created the I, -III, VII, I chord progression for the verse and that was it. I added the turnaround after Candie and Frank had written the words. We were all Zap Comix fans and R. Crumb had created a character named ‘Whiteman’ who was, as he put it, ”A Real Hard Charger”, a guy out to make it big in the wonderful world of business. Frank had one of those square jawed faces that belong on a CEO and he got a kick out of adopting the persona of Whiteman for laughs. When they wrote “Hard Charging’ Woman”, it was a gag. We all thought the mix of the big dramatic music and the ludicrous comic book character was a hoot. Anyway once we got to the end of the verses, it was time to make a dynamic move and our favorite was to make a fancy guitar break into a double time section. I played a riff, Tommy picked it up and that was that. Candie wrote a couple more lines and then we were ready for the guitar break back into the verse. Add one big ending, stolen from Procol Harum who had stolen it from Beethoven, and finis; that was it. And, best of all, we all remembered it. Candie and I had played a version of “Cross The River” in Brown Sugar, but with Zephyr, it got a serious makeover thanks to the capabilities of the players. Frank Anton, also known as “Number 9” or just “Number”, coached Candie through completing her lyrics. We then just assembled it piece by piece - modular construction as it were - and it just came to us as needed - I don’t take credit for how the music ended up being played, we each took care of our own parts, but I do take credit for creating the frameworks that defined the course we took. That’s pretty much how it went with the rest of the first album material, although we never again reached the level of interactive creativity we had in the first couple of months.
Our repertoire changed from show to show. I remember we used to play “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” late in the set. I had seen an actor playing it on harmonica on a TV western and suggested it to the band and we all thought it would be fun and it was. Of course, we were pretty romantic at that time and so we started it out very sweet and sentimental and then flipped into a fast gospel style swing feel and then on to the big ta-da ending where Candie, Tommy, and I all sang the tag - pretty fun. At the Boulder band shell, we played with Kenny Passarelli’s band, Conal Implosion, and his earlier band, The Beast, that I remember. We were the last one’s up and by that time it was dark (no lights)and the crowd was high on whatever and it was a great, classic ‘69 Boulder scene. There were a lot of people. About the time we started “Swing Low”, Candie started inviting the crowd onto the stage with us and we were completely surrounded by dancing, spinning, singing people, happy as could be, no stupid stuff. We’d been joined by John Alphonse, “John the Conga” as he was known, and a trumpet player , John something or other, who played a lot like Miles Davis and the music had really gone out there. A good time was had by all.
I believe the first time we played out formally after meeting Barry Fey was at The Sink. The Sink was the 3.2 beer and cheeseburger emporium at one end of The Hill in Boulder owned by Herb Kauvar. Chuck Morris, later of Tulagi, Feyline, Ebbets Field, and now CEO of AEG West, was the bar manager, just a young guy from New York either just graduated or still attending CU. This was his first experience with a rock show and he was pretty tense. The gig came off, the place was packed, and we did our part providing lots of electricity.
Barry paid to record a demo at Summit Studios in Denver, produced by Wyndham Hannaway, our first roadie. He didn’t pay to keep the 8 track masters so all that’s left are the rough mixes. His refusal to spend a hundred dollars to save the masters made me nervous about his understanding of what we were up to, but we didn’t want to rock the boat and so we just went along. (Play ominous music). We knew a DJ, Jim Mason, at KMYR, the Denver underground FM station. He’d seen us around and had invited us to join him a time or two late and let us pick songs to play. Candie and I had heard Led Zeppelin in California in late ‘68 but they hadn’t really hit yet. We played tunes from their first album, their first airplay in Denver. Anyway, enough bragging. We played our demo for Jim and he volunteered to play it on the radio. We were ecstatic. By this time, we had moved out of 427 Canyon and into the Rainbow Court Motor Lodge on Arapahoe in Boulder, at that time a group of little tourist cabins arranged around a central parking lot. We all sat in the dark listening to ourselves sounding like real music on the radio - a career high point. The future looked really good at that moment. Jim kept playing our tunes and a few days later he told me it was the most requested music he’d ever had at the station. I just knew we were on our way to world domination - I was wrong, of course, but it was fun to believe it at the time.
Within days of becoming our manager, Barry set us up to play The Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco and the Whisky A-Go-Go in Hollywood. These were our first ‘big’ gigs. Before we went to California, he sent us to Phoenix to get ready. We opened a few concerts at the local rock venue; Steve Miller, David Lindley’s band, Kaleidoscope, and Vanilla Fudge come to mind. We lived in a motel, but we spent a lot of time with new friends, Charlie and Charlotte, at their cozy home. It was there we met Tim Bogert of Vanilla Fudge. I remember how excited Candie and I were to meet Steve Miller, whose album, “Children of the Future”, was one of our favorites. We expected to meet a super-hip artist that would just blow our little minds with his transcendental enlightenment and the power of his vision. Into the dressing room we walked, hearts a-flutter, and there he was, a little overweight, drinking a beer and talking like any musician you’d meet in a bar back home. He was very pleasant to us, a really great guy, and he sometimes came to visit backstage when we played San Francisco over the years, but we were disappointed to find out he was just a regular human being. It was a good lesson, one to which we should have paid more attention.
The Avalon was a very successful competitor for the Fillmore West. I think it was run by Chet Helms, who was Barry’s partner in The Family Dog in Denver. I’m really winging it now, and this could be all wrong, but whatever, it seems right. We played one night with Love and Moby Grape, both bands we’d known and admired for a while. Both bands were on their last legs and neither sounded very good, although Moby Grape had such good musicians, they managed to sound better than the pathetic Love. The bass player, Bob Mosely, was a guy I had admired a lot, and I was disappointed to hear it was to be his last gig before joining the Marines. We never talked with any of these guys, we just looked at them. The San Francisco crowd was vicious, they heckled Candie and Tommy between songs and we weren’t ready for it. We responded by playing harder and faster and ended up in a draw with the audience. Candie pushed too hard and her voice went adios. Next stop was the Whisky in L.A. and our first stay at the Tropicana Motor Hotel, home of up and coming (read: poor) rock bands in Hollywood circa 1969. It was a zoo; all of L.A. was a zoo as far as we could tell. Candie and I stayed to ourselves while the others played scenes from a Fellini movie. We went over to the Whisky in the afternoon of the gig day to set up and have a sound check. Candie was in bad shape, almost no voice. Her job, back then, was to keep up with Tommy, a la Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. No voice, no chance. It was a big night, all of the record companies were coming to check us out and we were in hot water. I give her credit, she drank at least a gallon of hot tea with lemon and honey and we went on as scheduled. We got through the first set, a lot of light, but no heat. She didn’t make the second set, though, and we played instrumentals. It turned out OK, between the demo and what she managed in that first set, we got offers from most of the companies in the following days.
After signing with ABC Probe records in April, Barry sent us to New York to work with the new manager, Stan Greeson, Barry had picked out to handle our business affairs. We lived in the Earle Hotel in the village, a very musty and dusty place. This was May, I believe. About this time, we played at the Boston Tea Party opening for Led Zeppelin on their second American tour. We had been unhappy with Robbie Chamberlin; he had stayed in Denver rather than moving to Boulder with us and he was reserved, if not standoffish. I had suggested we try my old drummer from Detroit, Julie Wilson, and we left Robbie behind and met Julie in New York, where he was living. He played drums at the Led Zeppelin job. He played well, but he didn’t fit in so that didn’t work out and we went back to Robbie shortly thereafter.
We played in the student union at the University of Denver and we played in the rodeo barn at Reed’s Ranch in Colorado Springs in late June or early July, opening for the Grateful Dead. The Dead were passing out jugs of acid Kool-Aid and the crowd got very loose. The Dead got into some truly amazing jams - really outside, much different than the folksy country music they got into later.
Everywhere we went, people were very enthusiastic. The young hip people of Colorado sort of welcomed us as their representatives to the rest of the country; we could show that Colorado was more than just cowboys and skiers, that we had it going on culturally as well. I think we kind of overdid the sales pitch, though, as way too many people from all over started showing up in Boulder.
You were an early riser today. Me too! I remember going to bed at the same time we got up. I’ll open the attachment when I get in the office in about an hour, haven’t set my laptop to open certain types, this is one. You’re right, the sky’s blue this morning, it’s brisk, life’s pretty darn good. Talked to Harold yesterday, were you with the band when they played the Blue Note and the movie screen dropped down and showed a certain type of adult entertainment? Funny stuff. John
Yep, I’m guilty. That was in the Real Legendary 4Nikators days. Kevin Fitzgerald calls latter day 4Nikators “4Nikators Lite”.
20. David, I want to backtrack for just a bit and go back to the forming of Zephyr. I’ve heard and read stories about Tommy arriving in Denver from Sioux City and knocking everybody out. Can you describe in detail when and where you and Candy first met Tommy and John? Were you aware of each other, or was it a just “by chance” meeting?
20. Candy and I were living in Aspen. We’d been together for a couple of months and had recently started a band with guitarist Mick Durbin, drummer Bernard Heidtmann, and Kevin Lachman on rhythm guitar. We had a regular once a week gig at The Abbey, a little bar in central Aspen. Mick was a bright, friendly guy who made a point of knowing what was going on and who was doing it in the high life wherever he was and he knew a lot of people from all over. He had been Joni Mitchell’s boyfriend for a while the year before and she had written the song “Michael from Mountains” about him. They were still friends and she used to write to him to tell him what was going on as her career took off.
Tommy was playing guitar with a band named American Standard (after the plumbing fixtures, I guess?) who had arrived in town to play at the local hot nightclub, Galena Street East. If I remember correctly, Mick knew the singer, Jeff Cooke, from Denver where they grew up. Jeff told Mick about this amazing kid guitar player who had recently arrived in Denver from Iowa and who had appeared at his band’s rehearsal hall one night wanting to jam. Tommy blew their socks off and they invited him to join the band. Their band improved a lot thanks to the new addition and they had been opening shows at The Family Dog, a hippie concert hall run by Chet Helms of San Francisco and Barry Fey a local promoter. This is where Tommy and Barry became acquainted. Another regular local player was Jeff’s friend, Otis Taylor.
Candy was already a good blues harp (harmonica) player and a good, young, white female harp player was a very rare commodity in 1968. Mick told Jeff about her and they hatched the idea of having her sit in with Jeff’s band during their afternoon sound check. Mick called to invite her and after a little convincing, she accepted. She and I walked downtown along Highway 82 from our little two-room house out on East Cleveland Street to Galena Street to meet up with Mick.
Galena Street was a 21 and over nightclub run by a three young guys, Gary Luhnow, Lenny Lookner, and Sam Appleton. It was the only real rock and roll club in town and it was therefore the hangout for the “local” young crowd. “Local” didn’t necessarily mean you were born in Aspen, rather it meant you were part of the local business infrastructure that catered to the tourist trade – skiers in the winter, hunters in the autumn, and outdoorsy people in the summer. There were only about 500 permanent residents in Aspen in those days and during the spring off-season, it went down to maybe 300 residents. Once you started working and living in town, it didn’t take long to be known. If you were smart, willing to work hard, and knew how to have a good time you had a good chance of being accepted by the “locals”, especially if you looked a certain way. Candy had been spending time in Aspen since 1965 and she was part of the local scene. I came to town in late summer 1967 and after spending the winter working at the ski area, I’d become friendly with a lot of the locals. I was only 19 and Galena Street was a 21 bar, but Lenny knew my face and would let me in anyway. In fact, the first time Candy and I really hung out together was there.
We met Mick around three in the chilly afternoon shade and walked downstairs to enter the club. The band was already set up and they were going through a song. Jeff waved to Mick and at the end of the song he came out on the dance floor to say hello. Mick introduced us and Jeff introduced the members of his band, including a very young looking guitar player with long dark hair and a bad complexion – Tommy. Jeff explained that Candy was a harp player and asked if she could sit in. “Yeah, sure”, was the response and she got out a harp. Their sound man offered her a mic and he quickly got her a sound. The band went into a standard 12-bar blues shuffle and Jeff sang something to get it started. Tommy took a chorus and he sounded pretty hot – not set your hair on fire hot, but good and solid. Jeff sang some more and then Candy took a turn. She sounded good and there was a round of smiles and shaking heads – “Wow, a chick who can jam” was the gist. The music got a little more intense and everyone seemed to be having a pretty good time. I was a little put out having to sit out in the room with Mick just watching. Back in Detroit, I had been a rising star among the rock bands and I wasn’t shy about my skills. But, I was okay with Candy getting her licks in and when the song ended she came down to join me and I was proud of her. She and Jeff thanked each other and we left. That was it. No lightning, no earthquake. A year later, we’d be starting Zephyr together, but there was a lot to do before that could happen.
Candy and I spent most of the summer in Aspen living in our little house and growing closer. We told each other our life stories and learned about love. We played music, danced all night at Galena Street, listened to albums by Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Little Walter, Buffalo Springfield, Pink Floyd, Cream, The Bee Gees and especially Jimi Hendrix. We hiked in the mountains with our little half whippet half border collie, Janie Bones, drove our ’54 Chevy through the mountains and over the passes to Denver for my draft physical, wrecked the Chevy, bought the ’46 Ford known as The Thunderchicken and dreamed of a future in the rock and roll world. Soon we felt like we’d known each other all our lives.
I had gotten in trouble when one of my friends died under peculiar circumstances and I was charged with murder and possession of marijuana. This meant court dates and a lawyer who ate up my very small personal fortune. The adventure featured cops who lied in court, a night in jail complete with a strip search, a lot of anger, tears, disillusion, and a visit from my estranged parents who saved me by lending me money to pay the lawyer. The lawyer pushed the proper buttons and eventually the case was dismissed.
We started our second band with three guys from San Diego who had come to Aspen on a whim. The guitar players were a couple who shared a liking for heroin. Not exactly junkies, but they used it when they could find it – thus the name of the band: Brown Sugar. We played songs like “Natural Woman”, “Respect”, “Born To Be Wild”, “I Ain’t Superstitious”, “Long Grey Mare”, “Messin’ With The Kid”, “Satisfaction”, “Midnight Hour”, and so on. Candy’s harp playing was improving at an amazing pace and the band was sounding tight. We played in Aspen some, but there were only a couple of venues and soon we were traveling to nearby towns to play. It was slim pickings and we knew we had to make a move. We hated to leave, but there was no choice. We decided to move to Boulder where it was rumored there was plenty of work for a good band. On the way, we booked gigs in Colorado Springs at Kelker Junction and then in Denver at the Exodus. Candy had a pretty good collection of hip 1960’s stage clothes that she had made for her jug band gig. While we were setting up at the Exodus, we figured that someone from the brothel next door broke into the Thunderchicken and stole all of them. This hit us pretty hard, but they hadn’t harmed Janie, and that was something to hold on to. We played the gig and Candy got a new look.
We arrived in Boulder in late August, roughly a year after I arrived in Colorado. As I’ve said elsewhere we started working regularly up and down the front range, traveled to Salt Lake City for a couple of weeks, and then on to California before returning to Boulder. We were sounding really good and had started writing our own tunes. We met Freddie and Henchi and The Soulsetters, a soul band from Phoenix who had moved to Boulder about the same time we did. We became friends and stayed that way for 20 years.
We met the local hippies, some of whom were putting on concerts at the University of Colorado and at other venues around town. We met people who would be our brothers and sisters to this day.
In December of 1968, a young guy invited us to play at his New Year’s Eve party to be held in a Denver shopping mall owned by his family. Things were about to change for us; our dream of making the big time was about to become much more than a fantasy.
There were several bands booked for the party but I only remember two for sure: Brown Sugar and Ethereal Zephyr. Ethereal Zephyr included a wild Hammond B3 player with a big mop of curly hair and incredible passion. He played lightspeed licks over complex chords and lent fantastic atmosphere to the music. The band was fronted by a loud brash guitarist with hot riffs and distinctive crackling rhythm patterns. The drummer and bass player were okay, but nothing like the first two. They were inspiring and Candy and I couldn’t wait for our set to begin.
We went on around 11:15 and started out with some fast blues as was our usual choice. Our second guitarist had left the band in California and we were now just guitar, bass, and drums backing up Candy who was singing and playing harp. The party was on and it was crowded. A strange scene: several hundred young people of all kinds and styles dancing and partying in the courtyard of a closed shopping mall while a loud blues rock band blazed away in the bright stage lights six feet above the floor. I spotted a lot of other musicians watching us, the keyboard player and the guitarist from Ethereal Zephyr among them. We didn’t speak that night, but we made lasting impressions on each other and when we jammed a few weeks later in Boulder, the sparks flew and we had to make a band together – it was too good not to. So we did.
“A lot of the interview will be redundant, but I like the unaffected style of the writing. The review is pretty much on the money for me”.
(David Givens, July 2016)