Hittin' the Note #35 - Summer 2002

Now available! Issue #35 features a behind the scenes look at the recent Allman Brothers Band vault release from American University, Washington, D.C. 12/13/70. Additional features include Los Lobos, Jerry Joseph, King Curtis, and Dickey Betts. You can catch a glimpse of these stories below. In addition, our Summer 2002 issue also presents a review of Bob Dylan's lost film classic, Renaldo & Clara, as well as a look into the rising jamband the Big Wu. CD reviews, book reviews, and live show recaps can also be found in this issue. From the Allman Brothers Band in New York City to the recent Willie Nelson book and Robert Randolph's live CD release, this music information and much more awaits you. Pick up your copy today and own a part of history.

One from the Closet:
The Allman Brothers Band
American University
Washington, D.C.

by John Lynskey

Patience is a virtue, and that is certainly the case when it comes to finding recordings of the original Allman Brothers Band. There is no better example of this than the discovery of the tape of the 12/13/70 show from American University in Washington, D.C. Kirk West tells us how this tape was found and restored, and believe me, after thirty-one years, it has been worth the wait.

HTN: So tell us how this tape came to see the light of day.

Kirk West: Larry Brantley, who is one of Dickey's old guitar techs from the '70s, is a cabinetmaker now. He is a very talented and accomplished cabinetmaker, and he was doing all the cabinets for us. Larry was in the house every day or two for a couple of months. In the course of one day, we got to talking, and he mentioned to me that he had some of Mike Callahan's old tapes. Mike was the soundman and front of house engineer from the time the band began in 1969 until he was let go in June, 1973 right after the RFK shows. I had a feeling that these would be really good tapes, and Larry told me that they were reel-to-reels, but he couldn't play them, because he didn't have a reel-to-reel player. So he told me he'd just bring them over and give them to me. I told him that was cool, and he said, "Oh yeah there's about half a dozen boxes in the closet, and I'll just bring them over and you can have them." Well, when a guy makes you an offer like that, you don't say no. Then a few weeks go by, and the tapes didn't show up. When someone is offering to give you something, you just don't go, "Hey where are those tapes you were going to give me?" One day, I finally did ask him, "Larry, did you ever find those tapes?" He told me, "Oh yeah they're on the kitchen counter. I just keep forgetting to bring them." A couple of days later, he comes over with them. He's got half a dozen reel-to-reel tapes, with writing on the boxes. Some of them were ten-inch, some were seven-inch, and all of them were quarter inch reel-to-reel. Two of them said American University, and had a setlist on them. I go upstairs and start to listen to the tapes. A couple of them were blank, one of them was one side of Eat a Peach, and one of them was a live show. It was badly recorded, and pretty rough sounding, but it seemed like a good show. It was a ten-inch reel, with one channel being a soundboard feed, and one channel was an audience feed. It sounded like a mic at the soundboard, and it was real boomy and far away sounding. The left channel was the soundboard feed, but it was only about one-third of the tape, and two-thirds was the audience tape. You had to pan it quite a ways to the left channel to get rid of most of the boominess. It was a great show, nobody had heard it, and it was an unavailable piece of tape.

Tell us where American University stands as a moment in time of the band's history. December 1970 where were the Allman Brothers at, and where were they going? What does this tape capture?

If you compare this to the 2/70 Fillmore East release where the Brothers opened for the Grateful Dead this is ten months later, and there is a lot more finesse to things. There is a lot more swing, and I think there is less of that aggravated, aggressive edge to these songs. It's a sixty-minute show actually, the "You Don't Love Me" and "Whipping Post" are the last two songs of the first show, and "Statesboro," "Trouble No More," "Don't' Keep Me Wonderin'," "Leave My Blues At Home," and "Stormy Monday" are the first five songs of the second show. The "Leave My Blues At Home" is amazing just spectacular. We re-arranged it so it would be like a normal setlist it starts with "Statesboro" and ends with "Whipping Post," and the only problem was on "Stormy Monday" the tape ran out about two or three minutes before the end of the song, so we just faded it out.

The band certainly had more finesse. This was the middle of December, they had just come from playing the Fillmore East, and they were working all the time. Twiggs was in jail up in Buffalo, Willie Perkins was the tour manager, and they had the Winnebago. They were driving all around the country in that old windbag, and they were hitting their stride as a band. A couple of weeks later, they did that three or four hour show at the Warehouse in New Orleans, which was a spectacular show. There is a tape every couple of weeks from this period, and it's cool to track how the solos grew, how the arrangements shifted a little. This band was not like the Dead, because they didn't change the setlist every night. These guys played the same couple of dozen songs, but they played them magnificently and differently every night. Over the course of things, you end up with thirty-minute "Liz Reeds" or eighteen-minute "Dreams." You look at the setlist, and it's the same twelve songs as it was two nights ago, but it ain't the same show. That's the traditional way the Allman Brothers did things.

The Howling of a Lone Wolf

by Jon Rochmis

They've been rocking for thirty years.
They're known as some of the finest, most emotive improvisational instrumentalists in the music business, a business of which they're not very fond.
They are a roots band, paying deeply reverential homage on practically every note they play to the music they fell in love with and began to master as kids.
They encourage tapers, who keep databases of their live performances and marvel at their ability to make songs sound completely different from one night to the next.
They feature more than one drummer, and the band members frequently birth and nurse side projects that, some fans say, are more exciting than the original source.
They frequently frustrate their growing legion of fans by geographically limiting their touring schedule, obviously favoring one coast for the other. Undaunted, fans journey to see them.
They've been popularly associated with their one hit song and consciously didn't play it for years, lest they be typecast or worse fall into a moneymaking but artistically barren rut.
They've been staggered by personal tragedy.
Their progeny are talented musicians.
They hate to rehearse and avoid the recording studio for long periods of time but they're in the final production of their first CD in years.
They occasionally delight fans with versions of "One Way Out," "Revival," and "Don't Keep Me Wonderin'."
They could be the Allman Brothers Band, and they really do love each other like brothers.
One difference: they don't believe in setlists.

     Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles
(the Wolves of East Los Angeles) are, many observers insist, the finest damn band in the land. Los Lobos rocks. They swing. They jam. They sing the blues (even occasionally referring to themselves as the Los Lobos Blues Band, if that's the type of show they feel like playing that night). They serenade the ladies, who swoon to the dizzying love song Sabor A Mi (The Taste of You) or melt in their partner's arms to one of the many "grinders" they love to play, like the ranchera "Volver, Volver" (Come Back, Come Back) or Bo Diddley's "I'm Sorry." And you may need a Kleenex handy when listening to "Tears of God" or "Little John of God." "Some of their songs really do make me weak in the knees," admits Leslie Rogers of Vancouver, B.C., Canada, who often travels to California to hear her boys.
     And during their two-hour sets, they simply stand up and play with no elaborate staging, seamlessly segueing from one song into another into another in which the only apparent direction, as the Grateful Dead liked to say, is to let the music play the band.
      "We do have a lot of parallels with the Grateful Dead and with the Allman Brothers," says drummer/guitarist/keyboard player/songwriter/band intellectual Louie Perez who, like every other band member, is a virtuoso on several instruments. "The obvious one is that we've been together thirty years. But deeper than that, like them, we've created our own little universe, and our band has developed by the way we perceive our place in the world of music."
      No rundown of Los Lobos' history would be complete without a mention of the infamous if not legendary April 1980 concert at downtown Los Angeles' dilapidated Olympic Auditorium longtime home of second-rate boxing matches, professional wrestling (Freddie Blassie's professional home) and roller derby (the L.A. Thunderbirds ruled the world). Los Lobos was chosen to open for Public Image Ltd., which was the band Johnny (Lydon) Rotten formed after he left the Sex Pistols.
      Angry punk rockers met Mexican folk singers the only way they knew how first with one-finger salutes, then with loud epithets, next with the dreaded, vile loogey, finally with garbage, even bottles. Los Lobos ultimately completed their set, flipping off the audience while exiting the stage.
      "Oh man, I'll never forget the sight of David with somebody's saliva dripping down his chin," Perez said with a chuckle, implying his happiness was a one-time-only deal. "Our wives and girlfriends were in tears. Anybody else would have run back to East L.A., but we really got off going toe-to-toe with that crowd."
      And then came "La Bamba." If the Whisky was Los Lobos' coming-out party to everything west of East L.A., the movie and song transformed the band into instant worldwide superstars. But it also created a richly ironic dilemma: here was this band that had bucked all conceivable trends by devoting their focus to their Mexican-American roots, and it was headed toward being pigeonholed into a pop band because of a recording of a famous Mexican folk song.
      "We were definitely at risk of being trivialized," Perez said. "The next thing you knew, we'd be selling Doritos on TV commercials. So we decided we had to derail it. We put a moratorium on playing it." Or anything close to it.
      Induction into the Hall of Fame "really does matter," Perez added. "The way we approached our music from the start, the way we held onto the Mexican-American tradition and merged it with rock and roll, it's how we contributed to musical history. That's what I really think is important about us, and what we represent means a lot to us. We're a kind of ambassador to our culture. What we represent is of huge importance, especially to where we came from."
      And that, many Los Lobos fans would agree, is not the howling of a lone wolf.


by Dave Harris

     For over two decades Jerry Joseph has been playing music to audiences worldwide. Noted for his high-energy shows, distinctive guitar style, and songwriting ability, Jerry has experienced the highs and lows of a musical career. Self-admittedly a man who has delved into the depths of addiction, the fascination of spirituality, and the miracles of communication through music, Jerry yearns to bring his talents to the spotlight. A major portion of '80's touring stalwart Little Women and a solo artist, he has been playing with Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons for going on seven years now. Signed to a new deal with Atlanta-based Terminus Records, Jerry seems to be building a strong following yet again. I had the good fortune to catch up with Jerry just prior to the tour for the Jackmormons new album, Conscious Contact. This is his story…

      Raised in La Jolla, California in the 1970s, Jerry Joseph found himself drawn to music at a young age. His parents purchased his first guitar for him at the age of five. When he was six years old, he began taking guitar lessons and progressed to the formation of his first band by the time he was eleven. He was influenced heavily by some of the most notable bands of the time, as well as some less known. Certainly shaped by growing up in the Southern California surf scene, Jerry found himself drawn to the music of friends and their older brothers. The sounds of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Carlos Santana, and the Allman Brothers Band shaped his early guitar playing. "I had a guitar teacher who taught me a lot of At Fillmore East," says Joseph. Billy Cobham's Spectrum and Jeff Beck's Blow by Blow came out when Jerry was fourteen. "I was really into that stuff…and the Stones." A used copy of the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street found its way into his hands and changed his concept of how rock music was played by the pride of British bands.
      At the age of fifteen, Jerry Joseph moved to New Zealand and lived there for two years before returning to the United States. Just prior to leaving the U.S., Jerry witnessed an impressionable performance, seeing Bob Marley and the Wailers with Toots and the Maytals in San Diego. Once in New Zealand, everything changed a blond-headed San Diego surf punk was introduced to the world of "tough guys and motorcycle gangs." "Everything I listened to was considered wimp-ass stuff, so I started listening to a lot of AC/DC and ZZ Top, but the reggae thing really stuck. I'd also seen the Grateful Dead a couple times when I was really little and somehow when I came back to America, all of it stuck together."
      At age seventeen, Jerry returned to California and started a band, its sound a mix of influences reaching from the Stones and the Dead to the Clash and back to reggae. At twenty, Jerry moved to Humboldt County and joined a "super hardcore roots reggae dub band." Shortly thereafter Jerry Joseph met drummer Brad Rosen, with whom he would form the band Little Women. They relocated to Boulder, Colorado in 1982 and began to play their own mixed brand of reggae and popular music. Starving and desperate, they got a gig in a club called the Blue Note, and Little Women began to come into its own. With a reggae booking agent, Jerry and Little Women became associated with the reggae scene and would play with nearly anyone linked to that world. They also garnered a strong following amongst the Grateful Dead community. "We were definitely a hippie band, with noodling guitar solos laid on top of reggae grooves," Jerry states.
      Little Women started touring heavily in 1985, dominating the Rocky Mountain clubs. They were one of the only bands constantly touring that didn't have a record deal. About the time that they began to get popular, their agent began to bring other bands to the Rockies to play with Little Women. Little Women played together for ten years; the members of the band were living in different places and meeting just to play gigs. In 1990, they all decided to move to Portland, Oregon to be in the same location, but what they expected to be there wasn't. "There was no room up here for noodly guitar bands," Jerry laughs. "I mean there was, but there was so much other cool shit going on like Nirvana and Alice and Chains and all those bands." Little Women's sound began getting harder; Jerry was about to turn thirty and wanted to follow the direction of the time. "Little Women started to get harder, and I think better the grooves were a lot crunchier and we still had the dub going on," he says. After a short time in Portland, Little Women was asked to sign with Capricorn Records, but the deal fell apart, as did the band, finally fizzling in 1993. Ten years of touring, five albums, personnel changes, and no stability took a toll on them.
      More notably, Jerry began to spiral downward with an addiction to heroin. After the breakup of Little Women, Jerry moved around a bunch. In 1995, John Bell of Widespread Panic sponsored Jerry's release of a solo album titled Love and Happiness on Bell's own label. Jerry's close connection to the South and with artists like Chuck Leavell, Oteil Burbridge, and Dave Schools prompted the album to be recorded at Johnny Sandlin's Duck Tape studios in Decatur, Alabama. A large conglomeration of players came out to help, including the Muscle Shoals horn players, Leavell, Burbridge, Schools, Kelvin Holly, David Hood, and Scott Clayton, with the finished product reflecting the soulful side of Jerry's talent. Unfortunately the day the record was released, Jerry Joseph decided to quit playing music. "I thought I was going to quit for good I was dying," he says. Jerry's struggle with heroin had dragged him to the abyss. Jerry flew to New York and took six months off to get clean. The career boost the album should have provided became lost in the struggle for Jerry to retake control over his life. After kicking heroin in New York, Jerry relocated to Montana, and there the impetus for the Jackmormons was born.

Soul Serenade:
The Life and Times of King Curtis

by Tim Hoover

     August 26, 1971. Just two weeks after the death of King Curtis, the Allman Brothers Band performed a live radio broadcast for WPLJ radio station in New York City. During the broadcast, Duane pauses to reflect on his fallen friend: "About King Curtis that was one of the finest cats there ever was. He was just right on top of getting next to young people, you know. It's a shame. If y'all get the chance, listen to that album he made out at Fillmore West…boy, it's incredible, it's unbelievable, the power and the emotional stature the man had. He's an incredible human being. At the funeral, boy, Aretha sang and Stevie Wonder played…they played 'Soul Serenade.' " Duane breaks off into the melody of Curtis' signature song, and a few in the audience respond with polite applause of recognition. "Y'all probably a little bit young. It's fantastic. We'll do some of that…yeah, I know where we'll do it…"
      Duane and the band jump into the intro for "You Don't Love Me." A little over eight minutes into the song, Duane slows the band, reaching an achingly slow transitional phase, gradually leading everyone into his own version of "Soul Serenade." When Duane plays the melody of the song again, the audience immediately begins clapping along to the sweetly melodic tune. Suddenly, Duane jumps in and absolutely cuts the melody to shreds with one of the most moving, heart-felt solos you will ever hear, taking it right up into the stratosphere. Mirroring his words for Curtis, the "power and the emotional stature" of Duane's own very personal and passionate eulogy for his lost friend is delivered as only he can do it powerfully, lovingly, and gracefully. If you have never heard this "You Don't Love Me/Soul Serenade" medley, you can find it on Dreams, the Allman Brothers' box set. Do yourself a favor and listen to it…it will leave you with a lump in your throat, and the hair on the back of your neck standing straight up.

     Curtis Ousley was born on February 7, 1934 in Fort Worth, TX, and raised by adoptive parents John and Josie Ousley in rural Mansfield, TX, a quick twenty-minute drive southeast of Fort Worth. He was playing the saxophone by age twelve, and quickly formed his own band while attending I.M. Terrell High School in Fort Worth, a remarkable segregated public school that also produced such significant artists as Ornette Coleman, Cornell Dupree (who became lead guitar for King Curtis and the Kingpins in 1962), and Ray Sharp. Even back then, Curtis' superior talent level was quite obvious to everyone. In Dennis O'Keefe's documentary, Soul Serenade-the King Curtis Story, childhood friend Nathaniel Scott recalled: "We were all somewhat at the same level, music-wise, but the only one who was ahead of the whole deal was Curtis Ousley. I don't know, we all practiced, but it seems as though Curtis had some natural ability that we didn't have, or that we hadn't found yet, but he found his pretty early."
      Aaron Watkins and his wife, Robbie, mainstays of the local Fort Worth music scene, hired young Curtis' band to play in their club, the Paradise. It was there that Curtis named himself "King" Curtis, not so much to boast, but to separate himself from every other sax man in town. Curtis not only had the raw talent he certainly had the superior confidence to make it big as well.
      In 1952, Curtis visited an uncle in New York City. Eighteen-year-old Curtis entered the famed Apollo Theater talent night contest, winning two weeks in a row. He suddenly had a taste and a feel for the Big Apple and was confident he belonged, but returned to Fort Worth to begin college. But Curtis continued to dream of launching his career in New York.
      Curtis' first big break actually came on his home turf. The Lionel Hampton Band came through Dallas/Fort Worth on tour, and needed a replacement on horn. Curtis was suggested, and he toured with the band for the next few months. This experience strengthened Curtis' resolve, and he packed up and headed for the big city. In an interview with Dennis O'Keefe, Aaron Watkins recalls the day Curtis decided to eschew college and leave town for the bright lights and hopes of fame in New York "I asked him, 'Well Curtis, what do you want to do? Do you want to go back to Wyley (music school) with all your friends?' He said, 'No, I wanna go to New York, to the music conservatory.' "
      Soon King Curtis became heavily in demand in many mid-1950's recording sessions. Being the preeminent session horn player in New York, however, did not translate into massive public recognition for Curtis.
      In 1958, this lack of public recognition would change forever with Curtis' seminal work with the Coasters on Atlantic Records. His rollicking, stuttering, benchmark solos on their smash hit, "Yakety Yak," changed the role of saxophone sideman in music forever. Curtis vividly recalled the song that exploded his career: "Once you become aware of the mechanism of the instrument, then you can totally-if your mind will let you-put yourself in the vernacular of whatever. You know, like, nothing else would have fit 'Yakety Yak' it's that type of song. When I was playing that because it fit that solo, I wasn't trying to establish myself as playing that type of saxophone. I would get sick of hearing that on every song. I mean, can you hear me playing 'Body and Soul' like that?"

Dickey Betts Returns to His Roots:
The Collectors #1

by John Lynskey

A year after releasing Let's Get Together, Dickey Betts has reunited with guitarist Dan Toler, has fittingly renamed his band Dickey Betts and Great Southern, and recently put the finishing touches on his latest CD, The Collectors #1. On this all-acoustic recording, Dickey acknowledges his musical roots, and pays homage to the artists who helped mold him into one of the greatest guitarist/singer/songwriters the rock era has ever seen. He is excited about Great Southern and the album, and is ready to kick off a tour that will see him play over one hundred shows in the coming months. At age fifty-eight, Dickey Betts continues to break new ground in a career that has spanned five decades, and with The Collectors #1, he moves forward by looking back.

HTN: So, why an acoustic album?

Dickey Betts: Well, I did a big project last year with Let's Get Together, and even though it's an acoustic album, this has turned into a big project, too. It wasn't like I got in the studio and thought up all these new things to do it's just that the things that I had preconceived turned out a lot bigger! [Laughs.] I mean, this record sounds like a ten-piece band playing acoustic instruments it's really pretty neat. Listening to it, some of the tunes sound so big that people are going to think that we doubled everything up, but there is not one double on the entire record.

So you went back to your roots on this one.

Yeah. You see, I'm calling it The Collectors #1 because it has turned out to be a collection of influences, all the stuff that has influenced my songwriting and my instrumental thinking. It is also a collection of stray musicians who just kind of wandered into the studio! [Laughs.]
      We do a nice version of Dylan's "Tangled Up In Blue," and it has a different kind of chord change to it. Not that we changed the song, but we gave it more movement, which is interesting. I also cover some Delta blues stuff, some Western swing things, and then I wrote a tune called "Beyond the Pale," which has a real nice historical meaning to it I'll leave it up to whoever is interested to find out what it is, but does it goes back to the fourteenth century of Irish history.
      I wanted to include some of the old, old music that influenced American music, and I'm talking pre-bluegrass. It is the kind of music that most of our music came from, including jazz, blues, and country. It's has a Celtic, Gaelic old country sound to it, and that was real intriguing for me. Mike Mahar mixed the record, and before he did, I had him come over and listen to the Chieftains, so he could get an idea of what I wanted it mixed like. I think we definitely have that Chieftains spirit on this album.
      This is a record that you put on in the morning it has a real good feeling to it. It doesn't have that real strong electric quality to it, but it is real music. It's like Highway Call you could put that record on, and it would make you feel good. That's the way this record is.

What are some of the other tunes you included?

One tune is an old instrumental track I cut with Warren Haynes, Thom Douchette, and Gary Stewart some years back called "Willie and Poor Bob." I named it after Willie McTell and Robert Johnson, and it's a compilation of how I hear the guitar on Robert Johnson's "Steady Rollin' Man" and "If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day," and it starts off with how I hear in my head the guitar part to Will McTell's "Blues at Midnight." Now, of course, when I go back and listen to the originals, I realize that I play it totally different than the way I though they were doing them! [Laughs.] I also included a version of "Change My Way of Living," and I do it in as a kind of a "Stormy Monday"-type thing. I do it in a kind of humorous way, because this guy has the blues, and he's all tore up over this woman, but still, you can chuckle at it, because you know exactly how he feels! [Laughs.] That's something the old blues masters were so good at. They could talk about serious things, but they could do it tongue in cheek. One of the swing tunes I do is Billy Joe Shaver's "Georgia on a Fast Train" and it has a real Western swing thing very nice stuff. It has Kris Jensen on tenor sax and Lenny on fiddle playing kind of a neutral version of "San Antonio Rose" behind my vocals, and I know it sounds kind of out there, but it works beautifully.

Great Southern Rolls Again:
Danny Toler on Playing with Dickey Betts

HTN: So how is it to be playing with Dickey again? What has changed, and what remains the same?

Dan Toler: I think Dickey is playing fantastic he's never been better. His writing is still so solid, and The Collectors #1 is very cool.
      As for what has changed, I think I have. When I played with Dickey in Great Southern and the Allmans, I was too wrapped up in his style, the Duane style and all that, so I don't think I had a voice of my own. Now, I think I do I don't sound like anyone else. I'm also playing a Strat, which I think is a good combination with a Les Paul. They are so different, but the combination makes for a real good sound.
      It just seems like Dickey and I have this chemistry of being able to play harmonies together very well, and playing with him again hasn't been difficult at all. In fact, it's been a lot easier than it ever was. Some of the songs and guitar lines are a little more difficult than they were before, but it's easier to play together this time. I think it's more maturity, and hopefully, we're a little smarter! [Laughs.]

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