The Tommy Coomes Interview Part One

28 Mar

Tommy Coomes

The Tommy Coomes Interview Part One
By: Bob Gersztyn

Tommy Coomes #1
Tommy Coomes is a founding member of Love Song, a pioneer Jesus rock band whose nucleus formed in 1970. By 1975 they broke up, but Coomes was also co-owner of Maranatha Records along with Chuck Smith’s nephew, Chuck Fromm. He helped produce albums and had his own projects over the years, along with an occasional Love Song reunion. I did this interview on March 18, 2010, 4 months before I photographed a stop on the band’s West Coast reunion tour at a Calvary Chapel in Vancouver, Washington. I got to know the band in the early 1970’s when they performed at my church in Los Angeles a few times. I was the emcee of the coffee house ministry and introduced groups and delivered a short message and alter call at the end. When Love Song went on a world tour to the Philippines, my senior pastor Laverne Campbell accompanied them as part of the team. My first assignment as a freelance photographer was to shoot Love Song at a Coffee House in Alhambra, to use in promoting their trip to the Philippines. I included a couple of the shots from 1973, that weren’t used.
Tommy also became the music director for the Billy Graham organization, as well as Promise Keepers and has his own band, the Tommy Coomes Band. The purpose of this interview, as I told Tommy, was to get firsthand information about how CCM (Contemporary Christian Music), then known as Jesus Music, first began, for my book. “Jesus Rocks The World: The Definitive History of Contemporary Christian Music, vol 1&2.” The book was published by Praeger in 2012. After talking with Tommy for a few minutes about my involvement in the Jesus movement and some of the people that we both knew the interview began.

Love Song 1973

Bob Gersztyn: I appreciate you taking the time to from your busy schedule to talk to me. I’m glad to be able to reminisce about some really good times and friends that we both had in that era.

Tommy Coomes: Well that’s very helpful and what a fascinating background you have. Laverne Campbell is one of my favorite all time people. I never knew him really well but the last time that I saw him was probably 20-25 years ago in Atlanta I spent a day and a half with him and stayed in his house and thought that he was a wonderful guy. He really cared about people a lot. Is he still alive?

Bob: No, he tragically died from a horrible cancer, along with his wife. There is some speculation about the school that they transformed into a church had radiation or something that even affected some of the elders who also died of cancer, but it’s never been confirmed. It was a very sad thing. He was a great guy and was one of the kindest and caring persons that I knew. He was my pastor for 2 ½ years and my prototype for what a follower of Jesus was. Nobody else compared.

Tommy: I would agree. One of the things we did with him when we were bopping around and I was just doing whatever he was doing and he had a very busy schedule, but God put this young kid in his heart who was a homosexual that worked at a clothing store in Atlanta, where it was a hotbed for that lifestyle. He stopped in just to say hi to him. It wasn’t like he came to put him in a head lock and say, hey I know that you’re gay, but he just wanted to say, hey, how are you doing? I just thought that was very pioneering, back in those days. I just thought, this guy knows something that most people I know, just don’t know. How to be gracious to people and not try to put them in a head lock and preaching to them. Let’s get going with the interview.

Bob: The first question is how many Maranatha! compilation albums were there all together. I have 5 myself.
Tommy: There were 7. I’m not sure that I can tell you what year it was, but it was around 1978 that it was released. The first 4 were the most powerful and most widespread and they also had some really good songs on it. It was a way to not send a group into the studio to do a whole album. It was a way to capture one song and get them out there quickly.
Bob: How and when did Maranatha! Begin? And talk about your involvement with it.

Love Song

Tommy: I love what God did in that era. I think it’s part of why Chuck Smith Sr.’s philosophy of ministry has developed the way it has. God was already doing something, he wasn’t attempting to start something to see if God would bless it. The work of all these young people coming to Christ was already going on. It was something that God nourished. Nobody can take credit for that. It’s a work of God. It wasn’t just at Calvary Chapel (Costa Mesa, California) obviously. It was El Paso, Texas, Seattle, London, a little bit, Kansas City, Dallas, Ft. Worth. I’ve heard Dr. Edwin Orr, who is considered the world’s foremost authority on revival history. He would say that the Jesus movement wasn’t really a revival, it was really in another category that was literally a people movement, where it didn’t affect all of our society, per se, but hundreds of thousands, between half a million and several million people, you might know better than me. Mostly young people, but then their whole family was pulled into the kingdom. So that was already going on, in the context of the Jesus movement.
I came to Christ in March of 1970 and all the guys in Love Song came to Christ at the same time. Shortly after that it was like an explosion and they kept expanding the church. Chuck Smith is from a full gospel background. He’s not unaware of when God is moving and what it looks like. One of the things that I love about pastor Chuck is that he just wasn’t into kind of artificially propping that up or help God. Something special was happening down here because TIME magazine was coming down because it was getting a lot of news media.
The church was small, when I first went there I thought that there were about 200 people, although might say that it was 350, but it was a small, little tiny church. All of a sudden you had all these people were coming into the church to check out what was going on and all these groups start getting born. Groups like Love Song, The Way, Children of the Day, Daniel Amos and then you had Debbie Kerner, Ernie Rettino and you had all these groups start showing up with the songs they sang. It was very natural that within weeks literally, somebody would come up to us afterwards and say I’m the chaplain over at juvenile hall in the Orange County jail system and I’m wondering can you come and play for the prison system. In another case someone say’s hey I’m at this Presbyterian church out here in Orange and we’ve got this church youth group and I believe it needs what you’ve got, can you come and do our church on Sunday morning. Those things began to happen and pretty soon it’s can you come and do Northern California and things like that. The guys in the group didn’t have any money, we were lucky to have a car and some equipment. We were all about ministering day and night and responding to those requests. So pastor Smith said I need to get these kids some gas money to get from place to place. We’ve got all these songs. I literally got a call one night saying all you guys are going to be involved in an album at a little studio that has 4 track recording called Buddy King’s and you’re all going down there to record your songs. That’s how I found out about it.
So all of a sudden that was Maranatha One. Chuck Girard was involved in taking over production once mastering started and he wound up finishing the album. If I remember right there was supposed to be no more than $4,000.00 but wound up being $44 or $48,000.00, when it was done in 1970 and it came out in 1971. I didn’t find out until 20 years later, that Chuck Smith started it as a practical thing. You know, let’s put out an album and then the kids can sell them when they go places and they’ll have money to pay for the gas, because a lot of the time these churches are giving them nothing, but in the places that they’re going, there is nothing to be given. So what happened with that album when it first showed up, the first boxes of albums, we put them in Sunday school rooms at Calvary Chapel. By that time we may have been across the street I not quite sure. I remember seeing the album on the bigger lot across the way there, but it came out in 1971. Then somebody said that we need to incorporate this saying that it’s non-profit and that turned into, well hey, we’ll get some money coming back from these albums and let’s send another group in like Children of the Day. Let’s have them record their album. So it was a very humble beginning. It was not designed to be a record company. It was designed to just be a practical way to fund some of the ministry that was already happening.

Bob: So how did you end up in Love Song at Calvary Chapel, personally?

Fred Field 1978

Tommy: I came back from being in the army. See I went in the army in 1967 and got out in March of 1969. Before I’d gone into the army, I was playing music with Fred Fields, one of the original members of Love Song and another man named Chuck Butler, who was a great singer. We played in bands together in high school and going into college and we all got drafted about the same time. The very night that I got home from Germany, I got a call from Chuck Butler or Fred Field saying, hey, you have to come with us down to this club and hear this guy and I think that the band was probably called Love Song, playing in a bar on 19th Street. A little bar called the happening on 19th Street in Costa Mesa, California. I went down there and they told me about some of the musicians that were in the band that were friends of mine that I’d taken guitar lessons from, like Jesse Johnson or Larry Britton and Denny Corral, a long time friend, who was playing bass in there.
There’s this guy, Chuck Girard, I’d never heard of before. In context you have to remember, it’s like when you were a kid growing up playing, you’re going to go see other players. You’re going to go see the hot bands. So that was the context before I went into the army. I’d go see Denny Corral playing with this band called 5th Cavalry, he was definitely in with them and another band called the Vibrant’s that was playing at a place called the Cinnamon Cinder, in Long Beach, where I used to see Larry Britton and Jesse Johnson play, so these were people I knew. So I went to see this band. I’ve been gone for 2 years overseas and I come home and the first night I see this band and here’s Chuck Girard and 2 of my friends playing that I know and I’m going, wow what a great band wow what a great singer, wow, great songs.

Chuck & Tommy
That’s how I first met Chuck Girard. Now over the course of a year there’s a lot of movement between Southern California and Salt Lake City, where John Mehler lived and Jay Truax was living. They were in another band called Spirit of Creation. It was a great power trio with another guy Jeff Frarrer, I think it was F-R-A-R-R-E-R, I’m not positive on that one. Truax is T-R-U-A-X. John Mehler, M-E-H-L-E-R. They had this incredible band, it was the best band in Salt Lake City and somehow they came out for a visit and Jay and Chuck Girard had known each other before I knew either one of them.

Jay Truax
It’s interesting that Chuck Butler, Fred Field and Jay Truax all grew up in Downey, California, playing in local bands. So we’re just a bunch of kids. You try to be great musicians, going to see other bands and everybody is trying to make hit records. We’re all just trying to be good musicians. Somehow I run into Jay Truax when he comes into Costa Mesa. I think that I met him at Chuck Girard’s little house on Bay Street, I think that’s probably what it was on Bay Street in Costa Mesa. So I’m coming to see these bands and I remember meeting Jay at Chucks house one time and someone said that they were from Salt Lake. Next thing I know, Fred Field, one of my best friends, he takes off and he goes to Salt Lake City and I get a call from him saying, “dude you got to get up here, we’re opening for “Three Dog Night” and we just opened for the “Grateful Dead” last night. So I’m going, holy cow what is going on? So I literally hitchhiked out to Salt Lake City.

Power Trio
Now this is a long story, but I don’t think that anyone’s ever told it before. So I hitch hiked out to Salt Lake City and ended up living with Fred and the drummer John Mehler from the “Spirit of Creation.” So there is a lot of back and forth movement between Salt Lake City and Southern California, where most of the guys were originally from.
Moving forward a little bit, a lot of these bands started breaking up or going through hard times. Really, what happened was several of us had drug busts. I was busted along with Chuck Butler and Fred Field and a new discharge from the army in Newport Beach, for marijuana possession, late one night in Corona Del Mar. We wound up all living together in this house on the top of Baker Street in South Laguna, California and it’s like the remains of 2 groups. So all of a sudden, I’m living with Jay, Chuck, Fred and a drummer named Bobby Gadoti and a great organ player, Dave, I can’t remember his last name all of a sudden. There were 8 of us living in this house in South Laguna.

Love Song Leader Chuck Girard
Then Chuck Girard and another guy who was living with us was going off to Salt Lake City and they got busted in Las Vegas. So all of a sudden life was caving in on us. We’re all living together, playing together and by now we’re called the Laguna family band. We’re playing at the Hotel Laguna just to make ends meet. We were continuing to write songs, but things were on a downward spiral, but the interesting thing is, everyone is on a spiritual search. That was a good thing.
You remember Timothy Leary and his clan, people who lived right up the canyon and were involved in that kind of artistic, we thought forward thinking, enlightened groups of people or trying to be enlightened. There were people reading everything there is to read about spiritual things, Eastern religions and meditation. We were all vegetarians. We really in our own way, in the natural were trying to pursue finding what’s true? What’s truly spiritual? It really wasn’t all drug related things. There really was a lot of good things with people trying to find out. We weren’t complete druggies or something like that, but we were musicians trying to pick up any clues about where to make a dot connection and how to be a good person and these kind of things. They are very strong natural drives, I think for a lot of people. It was not uncommon at all. It was very common for that era, for that time. It was going on all over. The whole world was in an upheaval about that there’s gotta be something more kind of quest.

Chuck's Side
So while we’re living in South Laguna around Christmas time, before Christmas, a girl that we’d known in Salt Lake City named Sandy Love, spelled just like it sounds. She came to visit and brought us a book. She told us very, very briefly that her life was different now, every day since she met Jesus Christ. She had a pretty desperate situation beforehand. Then she said that there were some people, like us, who were living in this kind of Christian commune up in Newport Beach, some place called the Blue Top and it was a 14 room, if I remember right, old motel. It was 2 story and got destroyed in a flood and a Christian realtor named Ed Riddell, I believe, owned.
As young people would get saved and had no family connections to make a transition into a clean environment where you could study the Bible, work and go to church and you’d kind of change your entire life, leaving the past behind, you could move in there and be a productive part of it. It wasn’t a commune like a hippie commune, but was highly organized and was based around living the life of Christ. Lonnie (Frisbee) and Connie were the elders of the little commune and lived in the back. My future wife, Shelley was living down there as well. She was one of the elder women there, watching out for some of the younger girls.
So Sandy Love drives several of us. Me and Fred and somebody else I think whose house it was and she drives us over. She tells us about this person and about Calvary Chapel. This little church where wonderful things were happening. It’s got this hippie preacher and they teach the word of God. This was all completely foreign to me. Completely! My father was a Catholic and my mother was a Protestant and it was against the rules, the family house rules to ever to talk about religion or politics in our house, because these are the 2 things that send people into controversial discussions. Plus they couldn’t agree about that, so I knew nothing about the Bible and knew nothing about church.

Love Song  #1
The only church’s that I went to were a little strange. As far as my first church experiences they were either deader than a door nail, going through a ritual that I couldn’t understand or wild and crazy and I’ve got to get out of here. So I didn’t have much to go on. I had no Biblical information, no positive church background, but in fairness to this gal, she had kind of an intriguing story.
We went to this commune late one night and found out that it was too late, but we found out where it was and she told us about Calvary Chapel. And about a month later, if I remember right, we were in this house in Laguna Beach. Fred Field has come to Christ because he read a 4 Spiritual Laws or a Chick tract. Something like that. He accepted Christ, and the other part of the story is that reading this book that Sandy Love left. This book by John Sherrill perhaps. About 1969, late 69, that would be at Christmastime. He’s reading this book called they speak in other tongues and it was about the Baptism with the Holy Spirit and the cost. Since I had come from a Catholic background and had never read the Bible either. To Be Continued….

Love Song Zoom

Fortney Road

12 Mar

Jesus Freak guitar

Fortney Road is a soon to be published book by Jeff C. Stevenson. Jeff contacted me and asked me to read an advance copy of his book and provide an endorsement that he could use for the book jacket. The reason why he asked me was because of the fact that the book is about a religious cult that had a successful Jesus music band called the “All Saved Freak Band” and I wrote about them in my book “Jesus Rocks The World.”

The leader of the cult is pastor Larry Hill, who was also a keyboard player and lead singer for the band. Glenn Schwartz became the lead guitarist for the band by the time that they began recording albums in 1973. Schwartz was a renowned blues guitarist from the Cleveland area who formed the James Gang in the late 1960’s. When he left the James Gang to play with Pacific Gas and Electric Company Joe Walsh took his place. Schwartz was in his prime as a guitar player and was considered the most impressive guitarist who played at the 1968 Miami Pop Festival. He was in the same class with, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. At the same time he preached to the crowd about Jesus from the stage to the embarrassment of his bandmates.

Soon after Glenn left the secular music world and joined a religious cult that included whippings for discipline. What began as a sincere effort to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ became a trap that some lost their lives in before escaping from, after a decade of abuse. Read more about it at Fortney Road: and buy the book when it come out. An article came out in Cleveland Scene about Glenn Schwartz and the book

Pacific Gas and Electric Company:

Glenn Schwartz:

All Saved Freak Band Utube cuts:


5 Mar

Spirit 1976 #1
Spirit: One Of The Greatest Hippie Rock & Roll Bands of the 1960’s.

Randy color solo #1
The first time that I saw Spirit was on Halloween, October 31, 1969 at the East Town theater on the East side of Detroit, Michigan. I had heard their radio hit “I Got A Line On You,” and I knew that they had a bald headed drummer, but other than that I didn’t know anything about them. The headline band that I had come to see was Canned Heat another L.A. band, along with Spirit, who was appearing as a special guest. Spirit blew me away with one of the most infectious high energy and original performances that I had seen up to that point.

Randy 1976 color solo

Then as a resident of the Greater Detroit Michigan area for 22 years, at the time, I’d seen all the Motown artists like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder and major rock groups ranging from Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd to the Iron Butterly to the Mothers of Invention and dozens of others. So I wasn’t that easily impressed. In fact I had just seen Grand Funk Railroad perform at the East Town in July, before their appearance at Woodstock, and I was not at all impressed.


The band was comprised of skinhead Ed Cassidy on a supersized set of drums, Guitarist Randy California in a black leather jacket and sunglasses with curly black hair and a short beard, lead singer and tambourine twirler Jay Ferguson, bass player Mark Andes and keyboardist John Locke. They were so tight that they squeaked and proceeded to blow the roof off the place. They were playing songs off their new album, along with their 2 previous releases. Their repertoire was as impressive as their performance was awe inspiring with a stage presence that completely controlled the audience.

Ed Cassidy

I saw them in a variety of states since this was back in hippie times. Most of the time I was just smoking grass, but the second time that I saw them I was on mescaline and it was a very freaky experience. I saw them at a place in Birmingham that was called the Factory or something like that. It was a square box of a place with I Beams for rafters and absolutely no acoustics. I experienced Spirit in a totally different way than the last time. Plus I now owned their first 3 albums and was familiar with all their songs. However, I was so stoned that their set was nearly incoherent, but then it was a real trip.

Spirit Randy b&w Spririt Randy Teeth

At one point I remember Randy California telling a story as a lead in for playing Foxey Lady. It was about a guitar duel between the devil and some hick from down South. Randy played a searing guitar solo representing the devil and then he vamped up a notch and the hick played his explosive solo that blew the devil away.

Spirit #3

I didn’t know it at the time, but I found out that Randy California was a name given to him by Jimi Hendrix and in actuality Randy Wolfe was his name. The story according to Randy goes like this; when he was 16 he was living in New York City and was a member of Jimi James and the Blue Flames, Jimi Hendrix’s band in Greenwich Village. This was in 1966 before Chas Chandler of the Animals discovered Jimi and whisked him off to England. Randy told the story many times about how he was in Manny’s Music store, in Manhattan, when he saw a black guy playing a fender Stratocaster who he asked if he could look at it. The licks he played impressed the black guy enough to ask him to join his band that was currently playing at the Café Wha?, in Greenwich Village. While he was a member of the band there was another Randy in the band who was from Texas, so to avoid confusion he named one Randy California and the other Randy Texas.

Randy color 1995

I saw the original 5 members perform a total of 4 times over the next year and every show was great. Then after they released their 4th album, “The 12 Faces of Dr. Sardonicus,” they began to tour and broke up in the middle of the tour. I cried and moved from Detroit to L.A. a few months later. Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes formed a band called Jo Jo Gunne and I saw them perform at the Golden Bear, in Huntington Beach in June 1971. I photographed them, but was not a very good photographer at the time, so all my images were taken at a slow shutter speed and blurred.

Jo Jo Gun #1

Randy 1976 color solo

Then in 1976 I was attending Bible college to become a minister, but attended a Spirit concert at the Golden Bear. I brought my camera and got shots of the concert with Fuzzy Knight on bass. At the same time Jay Ferguson had a solo career that made him a album oriented FM station top 40 radio star. Mark Andes began playing bass for Northwest sister’s band, Heart and Spirit continued in its many incarnations with Randy California and Ed Cassidy at the center and a variety of sidemen. It was a father son venture. Folk Singer Steve Forbert Opened the show and I accidentally did a double exposure of him and Randy.

Spirit & Steve Forbert

By 1984 I had moved back to Michigan after 13 years on the West Coast, for a couple of years. While I was there Spirit was doing their 1984 tour, based on their radio hit “1984” from 1970. They were playing at a new place that opened while I was gone, called Harpo’s. It was on the East Side of Detroit, on Harper, like the East Town theater, but was more of a night club, like the Golden Bear. They had guards in the parking lot and I enjoyed the show. The band was made up of 4 people.

Cass Sunglasses

Then in 1995 one day I was looking in the entertainment section of the Oregonian and saw that Spirit was going to be playing at a club in Portland called Bojangles. I bought 2 tickets and took my just turned 21 year old son, Michael with me. I called ahead of time to get permission to photograph the show. They connected me with Randy and we became Spirit’s guests. I shot the show and after the show I talked with Ed and Randy and they wanted me to photograph them for an upcoming promotional poster. I invited to come to my house the next day and gave Randy my address and phone number.

Randy test strip

The band was a 3 man group made up of keyboardist Scott Monahan, Randy and Ed. Ed Cassidy was 72 years old when I photographed the show and then the next day. He became the oldest performing rock drummer. Cass, as Ed Cassidy was called, was originally a jazz drummer and was in his mid 40’s when he formed Spirit with his stepson and his friends. Originally they were the Red Roosters and won a battle of the bands contest.

Spirit & Bob

They came and I photographed them on 5 rolls of black & white film that I gave to Randy for the cost of the film. Since they were bulk loaded film they only cost about $2.00 a roll, including the cartridge, which was reusable. Randy let me take some color shots of them with and without me in it for my collection and even signed a model release along with Ed and autographed my Spirit compilation album. I told them that they could use the shots any way that they wanted. They would give me credit and that was all I wanted. Randy tragically drowned in 1997 at the age of 45 and Ed Cassidy died of cancer at the age of 89 in 2012. You can still get their music and even some videos on utube, but as any experienced rock concert goer can tell you seeing a great group perform live in their prime is something that recordings and films can only present a limited representation of. They were great and if I only had one band to be on a desert island with it would be the original 5 man Spirit of 1969.

Spirit signed album reduced

“I Got A Line On You 1968 & 1984 Spirit

“When I Touch You” Spirit

Entire album: “The 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus” by Spirit

Run, Run, Run by Jo Jo Gunne;_ylt=A0SO8wv74QBVnDEAEiOl87UF;_ylc=X1MDOTU4MTA0NjkEX3IDMgRmcgNzcGlnb3QteWhwLWZmBGdwcmlkA2RvbGk4MC40UUsySHV0WkN2VzBRQUEEbl9yc2x0AzAEbl9zdWdnAzUEb3JpZ2luA3NlYXJjaC55YWhvby5jb20EcG9zAzEEcHFzdHIDUnVuIFJ1biBydW4gam8gam8gZ3VubmUEcHFzdHJsAzIzBHFzdHJsAzMxBHF1ZXJ5A3J1biBydW4gcnVuIGpvIGpvIGd1bm5lIHlvdXR1YmUEdF9zdG1wAzE0MjYxMjEyNjY-?p=run+run+run+jo+jo+gunne+youtube&fr=spigot-yhp-ff&fr2=sa-gp-search&type=903578&iscqry=;_ylt=A0SO8wv74QBVnDEAEiOl87UF;_ylc=X1MDOTU4MTA0NjkEX3IDMgRmcgNzcGlnb3QteWhwLWZmBGdwcmlkA2RvbGk4MC40UUsySHV0WkN2VzBRQUEEbl9yc2x0AzAEbl9zdWdnAzUEb3JpZ2luA3NlYXJjaC55YWhvby5jb20EcG9zAzEEcHFzdHIDUnVuIFJ1biBydW4gam8gam8gZ3VubmUEcHFzdHJsAzIzBHFzdHJsAzMxBHF1ZXJ5A3J1biBydW4gcnVuIGpvIGpvIGd1bm5lIHlvdXR1YmUEdF9zdG1wAzE0MjYxMjEyNjY-?p=run+run+run+jo+jo+gunne+youtube&fr=spigot-yhp-ff&fr2=sa-gp-search&type=903578&iscqry=

Thunder Island by Jay Ferguson;_ylt=AwrTHQor4wBV6hQAyc.l87UF;_ylc=X1MDOTU4MTA0NjkEX3IDMgRmcgNzcGlnb3QteWhwLWZmBGdwcmlkA0NZRFA3RWhCUVl5X0xrdlppX2ZBQ0EEbl9yc2x0AzAEbl9zdWdnAzEwBG9yaWdpbgNzZWFyY2gueWFob28uY29tBHBvcwMxBHBxc3RyA2pheSBmZXJndXNvBHBxc3RybAMxMQRxc3RybAMyNwRxdWVyeQNqYXkgZmVyZ3Vzb24gdGh1bmRlciBpc2xhbmQEdF9zdG1wAzE0MjYxMjE1NDI-?p=jay+ferguson+thunder+island&fr=spigot-yhp-ff&fr2=sa-gp-search&type=903578&iscqry=

Shake Down Cruise by Jay Ferguson

Bo Diddley Interview

16 Feb

Bo Diddley Interview #1
Back in 2006 when I was an associate editor for Blues Revue/Blueswax and the Wittenburg Door magazine I had the privilege of interviewing Bo Diddley, who is a rock & roll legend. It was before his concert in Salem, Oregon that I reviewed for Blues Revue/Blueswax. It was published in both online publications and can still be found online at the Wittenburg Door’s website, which is still up, even though the magazine quit publishing in 2008. Blues Revue/Blueswax quit publishing in 2013, but their website is no longer up. The link to the online interview is at the end of the interview. I took all the photos at the Elsinore Theater in Salem, Oregon, the day of the concert.
Bo Diddley Interview.
September 26, 2006
By: Bob Gersztyn

Bo Diddley Interview #2

Bob Gersztyn: You began your musical involvement through the church. That seems to be common among many of the early pioneers of Rock & Roll. Why is that?

Bo Diddley: I don’t know. That’s where we learned how to do something.

Bob: Were you going to church with your parents?

Bo: Yeah, but I wasn’t playing no rock & roll in it then.

Bob: I read that your first music teacher, who taught you violin was the pastor of a church wasn’t he?

Bo: No. Professor O. W. Frederick.

Bob: I must have misread it in your biography.

Bo: Somebody added some shit to something that you read. It wasn’t so. My Pastor of my church was Reverend Smith, and the man who took care of the music part, was the professor O. W. Frederick, Oscar Frederick, and he taught me violin, so I played classical music for twelve years.

Bob: When you first were starting out, I mean as very young, in the thirties and forties, who were the people that influenced you at that time?

Bo: Nobody. Nobody influenced me to play classical music. I saw a dude with a violin and a stick, and that looked really cool. You know? And my church got together and took up twenty-nine dollars, and that’s what it cost, back then. Twenty-nine bucks was a lot of money back then.

Bob: I’m sure it was.

Bo Diddley Interview #3

Bo: It was man. Laughter. You could get a sack of potatoes for like damn near ten cents.

Bob: When you look back on the tumultuous period that was going on in the 1960’s, how did that affect you? Were you involved in that in any way?

Bo: Like what do you mean?

Bob: Everything from Civil Rights to the Hippies.
Bo: I wasn’t involved in that, but I benefited from that, from the people that was doing it. You know. Because this shit should have never been that way in the first place. America has got some deep bullshit going on, you know, that we’re walking in. This is a beautiful country, and I think we got one of the greatest systems in the world, but it’s got some flaws, a lot of bad flaws, and it makes us no different from the people, like the people that they fighting right now. We got some shit going on right here in this country, that should not be going on. I’m talking about freedom. I don’t think that you’re supposed to go out and do wrong and then hide behind the flag, but a lot of people are doing that right now. Being a Black man, I used to wouldn’t even say shit like that, because I think that one day everybody would be as one. Regardless of who we are, if the Bible is right, we are all sisters and brothers, regardless of what color we are. What nationality or whatever way you want to put it. That’s the way I see it. I never thought about people being black and white, yellow and green and all that crap. We are all one.

Look at how the war is going on. I’ve been involved in it just as much as my white brothers. Now if it’s going to be separated, what do you want me to go fight for? It ain’t no business of mine, I didn’t do it, so why should I fight. I’ll stay back here and take care of the house. Sweep the floors and all that, but instead, we’re all in the same boat baby. We all in the same boat, and America needs to get rid of these standards that we got going on. See, just wake up and smell the roses, that’s all.

Bob: How has racism affected you in your career, over the years?

Bo: I’m still working. I never got a royalty check from Chess Records. It went to Sugar Hill and I ain’t seen no money yet. Everything that I own, I got it from working one nighter’s. A lot of people don’t understand how that can happen. All they have to do is, the people don’t pay you, that’s all. If they can stay away from me long enough, because first of all you got to have money to get a lawyer. You dig?

Bob: Yeah, I dig.

Bo Diddley Interview #4

Bo: And then if there’s no money in what you’re doing, you can’t get no lawyer. So they ain’t worried. They fight you with your money, and I’ve been a victim of that, and I’m not happy about it, and I figure one day maybe before I leave this damn Earth, that I’ll go out and look in my mailbox and they’ll all be in there. In other words that ain’t gonna happen, this is America. That’s what you call a good old American rip off. You look at me right now. If I decided to jump up and go 100% suing somebody, it would be crazy for me to do it. You know why? Because they got something up the road called “Statute of Limitation”. Just like you’re doing a story right now. Alright, now if somebody else copies something that you did, and it might be a “statute” of three months, if there’s anything called a statute. It could be a hoax for all I know. Somebody gets something of yours and you wait four months to go after them, you might as well go back over and sit down, because they got it for their own. There’s a statute on that, you should have did that 23 days ago. Laughter. Do you hear what I’m saying?
Bob: Yeah, but….

Bo: You’re screwed right there man. You ain’t going to get nothing, so you might as well shut the hell up, and go back home. And that’s what’s happening right now. These people don’t have to run from me, but they know that I ain’t going to get nothing if I take them to court.

Bob: How many times, do you think, in you career do you feel that you’ve been ripped off?

Bo: I been ripped off for millions baby! Millions! I’m not just saying that as just a word. I’ve been ripped off. I have never seen a royalty check that came to me. I had some problems with a song. I’m gonna tell you this, but I don’t talk about it. A song that I wrote back in 1957, called Before You Accuse Me, I had some problems that the publishing company was paying another dude, and my name is Ellas, and they was paying another dude, and somebody sees something in a magazine and calls me and says, Bo did you write a song called such and such. Yep. Well there’s some other dude in there that say he got paid for a song that he don’t remember writing.
Eric Clapton did the song, but Eric don’t have nothing to do with people getting paid. Whoever it was, sent the money to the wrong dude. What kind of shit is that?

Bob: I read how you became the Deputy Sheriff of Los Lunas, New Mexico. How did that come about, and how long did you do that?

Bo: Two and a half years. Then I went back to Florida.

Bob: How did that even happen?

Bo: It’s worse than the police man. I like law. We got to have law. We got to have it. If we didn’t have laws, you couldn’t walk the streets. You dig? It’s bad now that we got the law. You can’t hardly walk the streets. You got crime. People getting away with all sorts of shit. It’s just not right. The drug scene can be stopped. If they go through people’s shit, like they do if I go to Canada, they go through my guitar case, tearing up shit, pulling stuff loose, wouldn’t no drugs get in here. So what is the thing? Everybody turns their head and look the other way, because we’re talking about a dollar bill. There’s a lot of money involved in that shit. People ain’t gonna hang themselves. They ain’t gonna put no rope around their own neck, you know. It’s almost like the kids that we’re dealing with today. With all the gangs and crap like that. Now when I was a kid coming up, if you were involved in gangs and making trouble in the streets, they put your ass in the Army. You understand? Go in there and learn how to be a man. That’s damn near about what needs to happen, I think. Because with this mess that we’re fighting right now, we’re not gonna win this, because this is a different type of man that we’re fighting. I don’t know who he is, but this dude is like a ghost.
What kind of man will stand up and kill by just putting a bomb on himself, and go stand around to kill six people. This is the thing. They have no regard for human life, and all this kind of stuff. I call it a ghost that we fighting. We need to leave them, and just tell the innocent people to get the hell out of Dodge, because we coming. You understand? We need to try to wipe this crap off the face of the planet. I don’t like to kill nobody, but this is not….he’s called a human being, but what kind of human being is he? You dig? What kind of man is this that they’re trying to eradicate? We’re trying to straighten out, trying to turn him into our ways, and they don’t want to be like us. It’s like trying to train a dog to do arithmetic. Set up and talk to you. I don’t like the things that go on where we stepping outside of our civilization. A civilized world as we call it for us. We are able to negotiate. We’re able to sit down and talk, and find out who stepped on who’s foot, that pissed them off. Don’t jump up and say the hell with you, I’ll step on it again. No, I’m sorry. That’s the reason why that word is in our vocabulary, is because I’m sorry for doing what I did to you and it won’t happen again. We due to have that one chance to prove that we are really sorry. What did we do to these people that make them want to kill everybody in America? What did we do? Somebody tell me something. You dig? I don’t know what it is, but I don’t think that God meant for us to be doing what we’re doing. I just don’t believe it. It’s like a family. Are they our brothers and sisters, as I said before? Are they involved in it? I don’t know, I’m scarred of it. It’s really weird. We’re fighting a ghost, and these people are not going to yield to our democracy, and all the stuff we trying to put on, they don’t want it. You can take a mule to water, but you can’t make him drink.

Bob: So what do you think that the solution to the problem is?

Bo: They need some rock & roll.

Bob: Could you say that again.

Bo: They need some rock & roll. They need some happy people. They need some good music that is not dangerous to their culture, and they’ve got to be showed something, something’s wrong man. Something went down funky, that we as citizens don’t know. Somebody did something. You take like, this is political. I get tired of talking about rock & roll all the time. I want people to know that I know something else besides the guitar. You dig what I’m saying?

Bob: Yes I do.
Bo: In my studio I’m gonna do a tape of Bo Diddley speaks, because I have a lot of time to think, and I see a lot of stuff that just ain’t right. Even in our own law enforcement, in our cities. We got police running around with dogs, biting people. This is an animal. You can’t talk to him, he don’t know you and he’s trained to kill. That’s like giving a nut a gun, and telling him, go ahead, shoot it. If you tell the police don’t bite me, the dog don’t know what the hell you saying. You know? And the man turning him loose to go bite whoever, that is wrong. I think, don’t sue the State, sue the person who sic the dog on you. I had a person tell me that a dog jumped on their mother, and I said that I’d like to ask the Governor, or whoever it is, that’s been having all this dog jumping on people. I said if you have to use a dog for a vicious criminal, then so be it, but people with a traffic ticket and stuff like that, you going to sic a dog on them? Would you want a dog sicced on you Mother? No. Uh uh. You dig what I’m saying? No this is wrong. This is something that we’re fighting against. This is German tactics, Russia and all those kinds of places like that. Now we got it here in America? No! Uh uh! That’s not right! It’s not right, and people need to think. I just jump back and say, well this is an old rock & roller talking and I ain’t biting my tongue about it. It needs to be looked at, because we’re turning into something that we ain’t gonna like man. It’s almost like you try and change somebody’s way of living, and after you change them, you might not like what you change them into. You dig? We need to look at this and get happy. I mix it up with rock & roll, with music. Let’s go back to doing something worthwhile and nice. America the beautiful, and all that good stuff. That’s where I want to be. I don’t want people telling me, I don’t like your country man.

Bob: So do you think that music has the potential to be able to make some changes?

Bo: I think so. If you can soothe a damn ape, where he’ll sit and look at you rather than tearing you apart, if you’re playing something. It’s funny man that we can train animals and we can’t even train our own kids. Really weird. Like I was getting ready to say a moment ago, when I got into something else, because there’s so much on my mind about different things that I get it all mixed up. Like the kids. Kids going to school with guns, and all this stuff. We didn’t have no crap like that when I was coming up. That’s what you call a change. That’s some kind of change, but what kind is it? For the better or the worse? Because parents are not allowed to train their own kids, cause you can have 9 kids, and one of them is liable to give you a heart attack. So what is happening? We need to get back to the good book. Our whole thing is based on God bless America. You think God’s going to bless the bunch of crap that’s going on?

Bob: Are you a religious person?

Bo: Very much. Very much. I play my little rock & roll, but I believe in that book man. That book is like a schematic to our life, and look what’s happening right now?

Bob: What’s your favorite part of the Bible?

Bo: All of it. It’s all in there. It’s like a map that you get from here to Chicago. If you follow the right road you’ll end up at the right destination, but if you veer off, you’re going to get lost. Okay?

Bob: Okay. What do you think of the current state of the music today?

Bo Diddley Interview #5
Bo: That’s one of the things that really is confusing to me, because the rap music that’s going on today, is okay, but I just don’t like the dirty rap. With the dirty lyrics. I don’t like that. No. Some of the lyrics of the rap songs I don’t like. I’m from the old school baby. You can make music without using the dirty lyrics and exploiting our girls and mothers. Women in general. I just don’t like that. Everybody talks about censorship, and this shit, some of it is out here, just like I said it right now. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t of said that. All of a sudden, my mouth got to the point where, I didn’t have to worry about certain words, which I still don’t like it. That one just slipped, just then. You understand?

Bob: Uh huh.

Bo: I still don’t like it. I don’t understand how the FCC allows this stuff. A couple of things I’ve heard, that I couldn’t figure out, how did they let them get through to say that. How did they let some shows get on television, with chicks half naked, ain’t got no clothes on, and some dude licking all over them, you know, and your kid’s looking at this shit. You know what I’m saying?

Bob: Uh huh.

Bo: So now how do you raise a kid, to try and let him get 15, 16, 17 years old before you take your hands off of him. Since he got to be with us that long anyway. You know what I’m saying?

Bob: Uh huh.

Bo: We’re the only species on the planet, that I know about, that our kids stay with us til they’re 21, 25 damn near 30 years old. If you leave them when they first come in the world, they starve to death. There’s nothing else that will do that except little bitty things that can’t see. How they going to do nothing? But everything that comes in here, almost know how to start finding something to eat, to survive. We are not that way. We rather kill then survive. So we got all these different things going on. Like these people that I was talking about a moment ago. What kind of man is this? A man that take a plane with a lot of innocent people, and run it into a building. What kind of man is this? We need to try and find out, what it is, of where he come from. Who is he? Because he looks like a human being, but is he really? What do we have? How can we fight this? Cause something is wrong baby. Something is so wrong. I’ll get back to the rock & roll thing what you asked me.

I wanted to say this as I’m talking about it. Like everybody jumped on Bush, because they think that Bush is such a bad person. I don’t think so. You know why? Because we put Bush in the office to do exactly what he did. To protect us. If there’s something that sounds funky, go out and shut it down. You know what I’m saying?

Bob: Uh huh.

Bo: So we did that. Now he went and they didn’t find what somebody told him that was there. The poison gas and the mass destructions weapons, and some kind of crap. He ain’t found nothing, but I bet you on my life, I bet you they there. They there. They probably buried in that sand. You know what I’m saying?

Bob: Uh huh.
Bo: And they probably put the stuff so deep, that our little detection machines only detect so deep, and all they had to do was go another two or three stories down, after our little detection machine won’t reach. So we said ain’t nothing there, so Bush lied. No uh, uh I don’t think he lied. I think he acted in good faith. If he’d had of went, and the man came up out of there with something, we’d still be beat’in him up. We beat him up on the front door and the back door. You know what I’m saying?

Bob: Uh huh.

Bo: We going to jump on him anyway, and I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think that’s right. They need to leave him alone. He did what they put him in there to do. He didn’t find nothin’, but at least he went to look. He went to look. He didn’t set on his butt. He went to look, and I think that they should leave Bush alone. I wouldn’t be the President for nothing in the world man. If you don’t find something they send you to look for, then they want to beat you up, because you didn’t find it. So that’s about all that! Now back to rock & roll!

Bob: What kind of music do you listen to today?

Bo: A lot of Country music.

Bob: Like who?

Bo: A lot of guys, you know. A lot of them I can’t pull their name up. Vince Gill, I like him, and Sheryl Crow. She’s my favorite, and Dolly Parton, in the early years. Well now too, I think that girl is remarkable. Charlie Daniels too. There’s so many of them, I can’t think of their names. There’s so many of them, and I love their music, because they got lyrics. Right now Rap music wouldn’t be so bad, with the part that I’m talking about, if they just clean up what I’m talking about. I like some of the Rap stuff, you know? I’m not against it at all, because it’s a new generation of music, and a new generation of kids, and every generation’s got their own bag of tricks.

Bob: How did you feel about Jimi Hendrix?

Bo: Jimi was okay. Jimi was a great friend of mine. He was a guitar player for Little Richard. I knew him very well, way before he made it big. He was in the “Upsetters”. That was Little Richards band, called the “Upsetters”. He got all by himself in upsetting stuff.

Bob: You play a guitar like a drummer plays drums. How did you first come up with that technique?
Bo: I don’t know. I wanted to be a drummer, but it didn’t work. My hands would not do one thing, while the other was doing the other. They both trying to do the same thing. I taught my daughter, Tammy Deane, to play drums. She calls herself Tammy Diddley. She’s about 4′-7″ or something like that, or 5′-2″. I don’t know, she’s short, a little bitty thing, and she plays like a man, and I taught her.

Bob: When you write a song, what is the process that you go through?

Bo: Put together lyrics, and make them have a meaning. Don’t just say some stuff. I don’t like songs like, things with guys that say I’ll swim the ocean for you, and can’t get out of the bath tub. I don’t like songs like that. I like song’s that’s with reality. Something that people can relate to.

Bob: Do you write the lyrics first or the melody?

Bo: I write sometimes the melody first, and then fit lyrics to it. Something that I can say. Whatever way the melody and rhythm is going. You know?

Bob: If you look at your entire life, and say this is the single biggest accomplishment that I want you to remember me by?

Bo: By the rhythm that I created. I’m a rhythm fanatic. I’m not a watcha call a finger fanatic, that you do a lot of little fast picking and stuff, I can’t do that. That rhythm that’ll make you undress.

Bob: Is there anything that you would like to add that I haven’t talked about?

Bo: It’s just that we deserve, I think that we deserve all the rock & rollers that really want to do something before they really say, I’m through with it. Let these kids know today, where it all began, and the way it’s really done. Don’t sample our stuff, think for yourself.

Bob: So getting back to the roots of gospel and blues?

Bo: That’s right, that’s right. One other thing, when you said roots, that triggered something in my mind that I’ve been telling people about. This is going back. I have to put this in with the political crap that I was talking about. To find out how these guy are working, over there, when our boys is over there. With roadside bombs, homemade bombs and all this. They need to find out where are they getting the material to do this stuff with, because they need to go to the roots of the crime, rather than playing with the leaves and branches, on the tree. You know what I’m saying? You don’t kill a tree by fooling with the branches. You got to get the root. That stops it from growing, and see they’re never going to stop these people if they never find out where they getting all of their stuff from, to make these stupid bombs. They could be making them in somebody’s front room. You know. They got to find out where it’s coming from.

Bob: Kind of like the drug thing.
Bo: That’s it. You gotta go to the roots in order to stop it. You’re not going to stop it by grabbing one of these little punks in the streets with $2.00 worth of something in his fingers. You ain’t going to find out nuthin, because he ain’t gonna tell you nuthin. You got to find out where he got it from. This is one of the baddest things that’s going on in our country, is that we got people that we’re passing by, and letting stuff in. Then other times let a little ship get caught. They sent it out there to get caught, so they can tell the treasury people, oh look what we did, we’re really cracking down. What about the big sucker that went by. Ha. Okay? In other words turn your head, you didn’t see this. You know what I’m saying? See, and we got a lot of crap that needs to be addressed. In other words ghetto tactics, not college. Cause college ain’t working. How do these dudes in the ghetto manage to stay away from the police so easy? Cause that’s their thing. Learn how to hide. That’s what they doing. So you ain’t going to find that in a law book in college, in a classroom. You got to get out there and go where the mess is at, and look for it, and dig deep baby. I’m going to have to let you go. God bless America, and God bless you bro. Take care of yourself. Bye.

Bo Diddley Interview #6

I also had my interview with Bo Diddley published in the Wittenburg Door magazine and this is the online version.

Bo Diddley Concert Review

12 Feb

Bo Diddley zoomBo Diddley & group

Ellas Bates McDaniel, also known as Bo Diddley was one of the most important artists to help create the new genre of music called rock & roll out. McDaniel’s first hit was co-written with blues legend, Muddy Waters to establish the connection between blues and the new genre. His career lasted for 60 years until his death in 2008 This is a concert review that I did for Blues Revue/Blueswax 2 years before his death. I also interviewed him and will post that interview in another couple of days.

Bo Diddley & Friends in Concert
Historic Elsinore Theatre
Salem, Oregon
Friday, September 29, 2006

Ruthie Foster #1

Ruthie Foster opened the show a few minutes past 7:30 P.M.. Her performance was an acoustic set combining Blues, Folk and Gospel, that included six numbers, including original compositions, and selections from Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Odetta. When Alvin Youngblood Hart took the stage the music tempo went up a notch, as he belted out his brand of rock & blues. He was backed by Tony “T” Leindecker, playing incredible lead guitar, Sandy Gennaro pounding the drums, James “Jimmy” Hinds thumping out electric bass and Scottie Miller playing keyboards.

Alvin Youngblood Hart #1

After a brief intermission, Bo Diddley, the “Prime Minister of Rock & Roll”, as Alvin Youngblood Hart called him, took the stage at 9:00 PM. He was backed by Gennaro, Hinds, Leindecker and Miller. The set began with Ellas Bates McDaniel’s first hit, from 1955, that became his moniker. It was released two weeks before “Bill Haley & the Comets” released Rock Around the Clock, Bo told the crowd. “Bo Diddley bought his babe a diamond ring” the master began to sing. Dearest Darling followed, which displayed his tender side.

Bo Diddley #1

Between songs Bo talked to the audience. He told the light man to turn up the house lights so he could see who he was talking to. “I’ve been in the business 52 years, and I’m not 100 years old like some people say. I’m only 78. My first record was Bo Diddley with I’m A Man on the back.” Then he explained. “The reason why I’m sitting down is because of breaking two bones in my back, and I’ve got diabetes. If your feet start to swell up, go see the doctor, because it ain’t gonna get better.”

Bo and the band dove into I’m A Man, which is credited to co-authorship with Muddy Waters, who released it as Mannish Boy. After completing the song, Bo explained, “I’ve changed the lyrics of the song for women, so now the title is Shut Up Woman.” Then he began “I’m yours, so you’re mine, so we’re each other’s, so shut up.” Some of the politically correct members of the audience weren’t sure how to react. Tony “T” Leindecker provided some great intricate guitar work, behind Bo’s thumping rhythm, as well as an occasional solo.

Bo Diddley #2

“Back in 1958,” Bo told the crowd, “if you were anybody, you had a 1957 Chevy, with mud flaps and dual exhausts.” Then he continued. “I had a 1949 Cadillac.” This was an introduction to I’ve Seen Them All, a litany of major musical artists that he shared the stage with, at some point in his career. Names like, “Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Church Berry, the magnificent Elvis Presley, I’ve seen them all and been on the stage with them.” The list went on for another five minutes, including Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Janis Joplin, James Brown, the Rolling Stones, as the crowd was drawn into the frenzy by being encouraged to clap along.

When band began Don’t Be Caught Digging In My Yard, the audience was exposed to some classic double entendre. “I’ve got two German Shepherds and a Rottweiler, and I might be coming home early, so don’t be caught digging in my yard.” Roadrunner rounded it out with a few beep beeps, as the band got into a jam, and drove the audience’s adrenalin up.

Bo Diddley & drummer

“I’m gonna mess with your head a little bit,” Diddley announced. Then he asked everyone to stand to their feet, and do their own thing. This brought on the opportunity for all those disposed to do so, to shake their booty, or at least tap their foot, as Bo Diddley and company blasted out Wind Me Up. I’m gonna Eat Me a Pig Tonight was performed with a rap like delivery, as the master sang “I wanna do it with you”. By this time Ruthie Foster and Alvin Youngblood Hart were on the stage for the grande finale, and less than a minute later, after I got to the balcony and took a few shots of the entire cast, the show was over, the stage was empty and the lights came on.

Bo Diddley & Friends #1

Black Francis & Frank Black

4 Feb

Frank Black & the Catholics0001

Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV was born in 1965 and lived in Boston and Los Angeles as a child. He had a religious background and was influenced by the music of Larry Norman after he saw him at a summer camp that he attended as a youth. His parents played 1960’s rock and 1970’s Jesus music as he began to play the guitar at around the age of 11. After attending college he began to play with other people and in 1984 his college roommate was guitarist Joseph Alberto Santiago who he later formed the Pixies with. To complete the band they added a rhythm section comprised of bassist Kim Deal and drummer Dave Lovering. Thompson changed his name to Black Francis as the front man for the Pixies.

Pixies #30002  Pixies b&w0002

The band drew critical acclaim as an alternative rock band and began a new genre for bands like Nirvana and Radiohead. Their fans range from David Bowie and Bono to P. J. Harvey and Thom Yorke. Thompson was the primary song writer and singer and the songs used surrealistic Biblical imagery in much of the music. They released 5 albums during their primary heyday and “Surfer Rosa” was considered their peak in 1988. . A documentary chronicling their career with interviews and music clips tell the story very well at:

Pixies #10002

After the Pixies broke up Thompson changed his name to Frank Black and formed Frank Black & the Catholics.” The band was comprised of Scott Boutier on drums, Rich Gilbert on guitar, David McCaffrey on bass and Dave Philips on guitar & keyboards. Thompson in the form of Frank Black fronted the band as the lead singer and guitarist. Utube 1998 release “Frank Black & the Catholics.”

Frank Black & the Catholics0002

I saw them play in Portland, Oregon at the Crystal Ballroom in 2001. I covered it for the Wittenburg Door as part of a story I was working on about the relationship that Biblical imagery has to pop music. I photographed it as well and included some of the images. .At the same show David Lovering, the drummer for the Pixies performed a magic act prior to Frank Black and the band taking the stage where he created smoke with a drum and barbequed a pickle between 2 forks using an electric cord.


Then in 2004 I photographed a reunion performance from a Pixies tour in Eugene, Oregon. It was after I became friends with Larry Norman who informed me of his friendship with Charles Thompson and how he influenced his music. I found out that Thompson even recorded and performs a cover of Norman’s song “666.” . One day when Larry was over my house in 2002 he was in my office sitting in my swivel chair with his feet up on the desk and he pointed to a box that said “Frank Black and the Catholics.”

“Can I see that box?” He asked.

When I brought it down and gave it to him he asked for my loupe and I turned on the translucent viewing screen for him to view the slides and negatives on. I had some black & white enlargements that I printed up in the dark room and even a contact sheet, along with some 4×6 color prints that I had the custom lab do. I gave Larry the prints that he liked and he told me about how Thompson’s mother was a Jesus freak like we were. Larry went to the same show that I did in Eugene in 2004 and I sent him scans of some of the best shots that I took at the show, which I included in this blog entry.

Pixies #10001

Chuck Girard Interview Part 2

28 Jan

Chuck Girard #1

I forgot to post part 2 of my Chuck Girard Interview. With all the hoopla of the “United We Will Stand” concert last week and the emphasis on the roots of CCM and Jesus music, I thought that it would be advantageous to let Girard finish his story. His interview and dozens of other pioneers of CCM were what I used to write my book “Jesus Rocks The World: The Definitive History of Contemporary Christian Music.” It was the first and unless someone rode on my coat tails, the only book of its kind on the subject. In the future I’ll publish other interviews that I did for the book with other primary sources, like Tommy Coomes, Michael Blanton and Billy Ray Hearn, along with dozens of others. My blog and book are 2 places that you can get an accurate academic analysis of CCM. Here is part 2 of my interview with Chuck Girard, which began on December 10, 2014.

Chuck Girard #2

Bob Gersztyn: You know an interesting thing while I was looking through your online book, and you had that example that a lot people come up with about some missionary going into Africa, and his kids play some rock song that the natives say sounds like something that their witch doctor would use to conjure up evil spirits with. Did you by any chance see the Martin Scorsese PBS documentary on the Blues that came out?

Chuck Girard: No, I didn’t every actually get to see it but I knew that he had done it, I think I saw a little bit of the segment with the Taj Mahal on it, I saw a little bit of that one.

Gersztyn: Well this one thing that blew me away was when he had commercial blues artist Keb Mo, go to Africa, and they went to this remote village somewhere, and they played a Muddy Waters song for him. These guys listened to it, and they said hey he is one of us, and they start playing this same melody under native instruments, and they start singing, and it is unbelievable. They are singing the same melody, except his words are different, he is talking about a city in his existence where as our song we’re talking about going out, and hunting a lion, and how the harvest was, and stuff like this. They said these are our traditional folk songs. I thought wow that kind of blows the hole in the whole witch doctor thing.

Girard: I’ll have to check that out because that is very interesting, I would love to see that, that is the one with Keb’ Mo in it?

Chuck Girard #3

Gersztyn: Yeah I can’t remember what night it was.

Girard: That’s all on DVD now I think so you can probably rent it.

Gersztyn: Yeah, they went to Africa they were there for I think that whole episode, and they were looking for the roots of the Blues, and where it came from. It kind of showed the evolution of the whole thing, and something that was interesting at the same time Robert Darden who’s the senior editor of the Wittenburg Door, he wrote a book called People Get Ready which was on the history of black gospel music. He has a lot of this stuff in it. If you want to read a really good book that talks about how music, Rock music, I mean he is specifically talking about black gospel music, but you can see it coming into doo-wop, and all this stuff, and the melodies he’s talking about, how this came from these ancient folk songs from that period.

Girard: I believe that, I’m not a scholar of it but I believe that would be a very easy case to make, and I’m sure he does a great job of it.

Chuck Girard #4

Gersztyn: What are some of your current musical projects right now?

Girard: You know I’m getting older, and I’m not in the public eye anymore, and I’ve been doing my own thing since about 1980, and it’s been kind of difficult because it’s very expensive to make an album. Part of my latest transition in my life was that three years ago I moved to Nashville. I happen to be out on the West Coast right now but I live in Nashville now, and my son-in-law has a studio that I’m able to use free of charge, and then I have a very good overdub room in my house so the cost of albums has gone measurably down. I’m looking forward to in my later years here being able to be a little more prolific because back from 1980 on I’ve really only made about four albums so that’s only one every five years or something.

Gersztyn: So you came here to Salem, Oregon back, boy I can’t remember if it was the late ‘80’s or the early ‘90’s but I took my son to go see you, and you played at a church here. I talked to you briefly, no way you would possibly remember but I just thought I’d throw that in.

Chuck Girard #5

Girard: Well thanks, it’s always a thrill to hear those kind of stories. Back to current projects, I put an album out in 1996 called Voice of the Wind that was a live worship album, kind of pre-dating really the worship movement because even though it came out 1996 I had been working on it for ten years because it took so long to make it. So I’m currently developing volume two of that, in fact I actually brought all the basic recording equipment, the computer, and all the outboard gear that I needed here to LA. Actually last night recorded some people my daughter put together from her church for the congregational part of it because we needed to record, you can never really successfully record a group of people singing in a church because of the sound leakage, and all of that, so you have to go back in a re-record it later. So we did that last night and while I’m out here I’ll also put my friend Caleb Quaye who did all the guitar parts on my first worship project. I’m going to have a few days with him to do some guitar stuff out here. Caleb was with the Elton John band in the early days, and he teaches music out at Life Bible College now. So I’m going to be able to be a little more prolific here in my later years, and hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have this volume two of this very different, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Voice of the Wind album but it’s very down tempo, low key, an hour long piece that kind of pulls you into, as I’ve been told, into worship, and into prayer, and into praise. So a lot of people have been waiting for volume two for a long time. The concept of this album is to record it live, the basic song, and then embellish after the fact with adding guitars and bass and drums, and all that after you record the initial connection with the audience. I didn’t want to have bunch of musicians on stage with me because it would be distracting so the basic live recording is just me and a keyboard with a group of people, and then we embellish it after the fact. So that’s the next album that would come out. After that’s done, I’ll make my first studio album with live players since 1991. That will be the project that comes after the worship project and I am really excited about that because it will be my first album of kind of all original tunes done in the studio since 1991. So that’s the next two, and then I don’t know where I’m going to be going from there.

Gersztyn: Well that’s very interesting do you think you might have a Love Song reunion at any point?

Girard: That door is never closed; we actually did a reunion this summer. Calvary Chapel was refurbishing the big sanctuary during the month of April and May, and they set up circus tents again for six weeks, and I flew down. I was up in Canada on tour, and we got together, and we played one night in the tent, and it was web cast, and the whole thing, it was really a brilliant night, and it really came off just great. The guys really love to play together. Tommy Coomes and I have our own ministry direction going so we are less hungry for the opportunity to play. But Bob, and Jay, and those guys they play at the drop of a hat. There’s always talk about touring again, but here’s the problem, you have to get someone to promote it, and in the climate of the way things are today, and the expense involved in mounting a tour with five players it would have to be somebody that really had faith in the project, and was willing to put some money into it. So I don’t really know if we’d ever be able to put together a successful reunion tour because we couldn’t mount it, the financial side if it, we couldn’t do it ourselves, and I don’t know if we could find someone that would believe enough in the idea. At the end of the day they have to make money, and I don’t blame them for thinking that way because you can’t go out there with the idea that you’re going to lose money, and I just don’t know if there is anybody out there willing to take that kind of risk.

Gersztyn: With the Christian radio stations all over the country I would think that somehow there would probably be some way, but again somebody would have to take up and want to do it.

Chuck Girard #6

Girard: You’d be amazed at how little interest there is with Christian radio stations about anybody back from the ‘70’s. There is a whole new generation of young people out there that don’t even know what the Jesus Movement was much less who Love Song was.

Gersztyn: Sure, my daughter who’s just going to Bible College right now, she says to me Dad she says I’m finding out all of this stuff about how the hippie movement started the Jesus Movement she said you ought to write a book about that. She said I never even knew about all of that, and these people don’t have a clue about it, and the only reason I even know is because of you. I look at right now why I’m interviewing you about the interest in the 1960’s because of the forty year anniversary of the summer of love, and I would think that the same sort of thing would be going on within the people who want to make money in Christianity. I mean you have to look at it totally not from a spiritual point of view but from a monetary business point of view, well there’s a buck to be made because of the fact that there’s the anniversary of the Jesus Movement. Just like Woodstock, right now you’ve got a two year period between the summer of love, and Woodstock, and they are going to be going crazy for this whole two years with the 1960’s. Well at the end of that the Jesus Movement begins, and so you might just run into somebody, and drop something, and maybe they’ll get interested who knows.

Girard: Well it could happen, and if somebody did it right I think it could be successful. You know it takes some capital. I am actually working on writing my life story right now, and I kind of wish I had that ready right now but it’s quite a project to really just sit there, and remember everything and write it down. I was talking to Jay Truax the Love Song bass player about some chronology. We are e-mailing to figure out what happened when , did this happen first or did this, because so much of it is so mushed together because of the drugs and all of that, so I forget the chronology of it. When I felt like really led of the Lord to write this all down I thought “who cares about my life, and what do I have to write about?” I never even became really famous, but as I really write down the experiences that I had it is amazing. Even I’m interested, and I’m going “wow, this is great if I was reading this about somebody else I would be totally riveted”. I’m going up to Northern California in the next couple of months, and I’m going to have a lot of down time where I’m not going to be around my comfort zone, and hopefully I’m going to try to really just peck out some pages of this book, and get his thing finished because I think it is going to be a very interesting story. It is representative of just what you’re talking about, it is all about the Jesus Movement, and it will be in its own way a history book.

Gersztyn: Well you were right at the epicenter of it, and if anybody would have had something to say about it, it would definitely be you.

Girard: Well you know it is funny because my life, in a way, parallels the progression of rock music. When I became musically conscious rock music was in it’s infancy. So my whole life span kind of parallels the growth of rock and roll from doo-wop to what it is today. In a way my story is not just a history of the Jesus Movement it’s a history of music because I get into a lot of the stuff about starting out in the studios. Back in the days when I first recorded we would use three track machines. I was working in the same studios where Phil Spector cut the Ronettes and the Righteous Brothers, and a lot of the book is going to cover musical history too, so it is going to be interesting on a number of levels. I’m actually more excited about that almost than I am some of the musical projects, about getting it done at least.

Chuck Girard #7

Gersztyn: Who are some of the other people that you would name as being important like yourself who came out of that period?

Girard: I’m not saying I’m important

Gersztyn: When I say important I mean you’re important because of the fact that you were at the epicenter of it. And I’m not saying it for an egotistical sort of reason, but the fact that well here’s an example, Mylan LeFever. I used to go to rock concerts, I’m from Detroit, Michigan originally, and when I was a hippie I would drop acid, and I’d go to the local rock venue called the East Town Theater, and I went to go see Traffic one time, and Mylan had a group. I knew nothing about them but in the middle of the rock concert I’m telling my wife who was my girlfriend then, “I feel like I’m in church,” and then I find out ten years later he was a back-slidden Christian.

Girard: Well I’ll tell you I guess the way to answer the question would be like. who’s book would I want to read. I think Barry McGuire could write a very interesting book. I think he’s been faithful for many years. In many ways he’s the patriarch of the whole movement because among my peers Barry is the oldest one of us. See here’s the deal.. age-wise I’m about ten years older than most of my peers, Randy Stonehill, Larry Norman.Larry is a little older but most of those guys are about ten years younger than I am. Then in my range there are a few people that are kind of in their sixties now but then it goes up to Barry who is in his seventies so he is really a father, and has had a very interesting life. Andrae Crouch would make an interesting book if it is not already out. Some of these guys might have already written a book for all I know. Those guys were pioneers.. they were like the first guys. When I got born again Larry’s album was out, Larry Norman, so he was really the first. Upon This Rock was already out, and Andrae was doing stuff. So for a little period of time there about all there was out there was Love Song, and Larry, and Andrae. Those people would have interesting stories. Larry lives right up there where you are I think right?

Gersztyn: Yeah, I even did some photography for Larry a few years ago.

Girard: So they are interesting people that had something to do with it, I think after it gets into the Michael W. Smiths, and the Steven Curtis Chapman’s it’s already kind of commercialized, and I don’t know that those stories would be as interesting to me as some of the earlier ones, it is just a handful you know.

Chuck Girard #8

Gersztyn: I was writing articles for an encyclopedia, and I needed to talk to Barry, and I did. I started to talk to him like I was with you about the early days, and when I brought up the subject of drugs he got very upset so I don’t think he would really want to talk about that early period.

Girard: I know him pretty well but he has some little places, and then he will change his mind too. I don’t know? I don’t get that, why he would get angry with that if it is part of your experience.

Girard: How long ago was this?

Gersztyn: I think it was 2004.

Girard: I don’t know him as well as others do but I know him pretty well but I didn’t know that side of him. I didn’t know that he had that kind of little eccentricity I guess you’d call it.

Gersztyn: I’m interested in the whole, because I came out of the hippie movement, and LSD. It’s like one night I just had a bad trip like you, and I said that’s it I’m done with this stuff, and I flushed it down the toilet. The next day I had a Bible, and I started reading my Bible. Within a few months after that I became a born again Christian. It’s like to say there wasn’t a connection between that would be absurd, so I’m interested, and I feel everybody who was involved in the drugs has that connection, because it’s an obvious connection.

Girard: Yes it’s part of your story, and I’m a little shocked that he’s like that.

Gersztyn: Well even Mike Macintosh I remember listening to his testimony about taking acid, and having a bag over his head, and somebody shooting a gun next to it. And Odin Fromm talking about how he was in the desert and had a hundred hits of the most powerful acid, and he saw a vision of Jesus, and everybody would talk about it. Anyway I think that I got plenty of information here, more than enough that I’ll need for the interview, and the only other thing is I’d like to get some photographs to go along with it, and the thing that is really frustrating is I photographed you in Love Song many times back in the ‘70’s, and I gave somebody all my slides. They were going to do something with them, and they never gave them back to me, and I can’t remember who it was, and these things would be irreplaceable. One set of them if you ever see them they had the name Laverne Campbell stamped on them because I did them for the pastor of my church.

Girard: I know Laverne, he’s dead now right?

Gersztyn: Yeah, he was my pastor, and in fact I photographed Love Song for him; I think you guys were going to the Philippines.

Girard: Yeah he had something to do with that.

Gersztyn: Yeah, and so I think he went with you even.

Girard: Yeah I think he did actually.

Gersztyn: And so I shot a roll of film of you guys, and gave him the slides, and I think I have two of the slides right now.

Girard: Alright, I’m glad we got to do this, and I’m sorry that it took so long.


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