Monday, December 10, 2012

Here's A Guy Who Knows A Thing Or Two About Playing In A Couple Of Garage Bands!!!

Rick Barr is in the enviable position of playing drums for the current editions of both The New Colony Six AND The Shadows Of Knight. As you know, BOTH of these bands wound up in The Top Five of our recent "All-Time Top 20 Favorite Garage Bands Poll".   

I couldn't help but wonder what it feels like to provide the backbeat for two of Chicagoland's most legendary bands ... and work with the original founders of these groups, Ray Graffia, Jr. (NC6) and Jimy Sohns (SoK).   

Hey, Kent!  

Your recent survey results on top garage bands gave me cause to stop and reminisce about playing in the New Colony Six and the Shadows of Knight. Your readers have placed both bands in the list of their all-time favorites. 

My experience with New Colony goes back to 1969. Pat McBride's production company, Sanctuary, was managing my band Trilogy, and so there was a lot of cross-traffic going on -- we played opening dates for Colony, and the Trilogy songwriters contributed to Colony releases. People And Me, Never Be Lonely, Someone, Sometime and I Don't Really Want to Go were penned by Bob Wilson and Skip Griparis of Trilogy. I got to know Pat and Ronnie Rice pretty well, playing demos for Skip and Ronnie at the time, which led, in January, 1971, to Trilogy being asked to record the band track to Colony's last really successful release," Roll On", in June of '71. We rehearsed it in Skip's home studio and laid it down at RCA Chicago, with Brian Christian engineering. It was a really fun session, and ended up with just about everyone in the studio -- including Brian -- singing on the chorus out.   

I joined the Colony in 1973, replacing Billy Herman, and traveled with them through '73 and '74, when we closed up shop. On the road, I often roomed with Gerry Van Kollenberg, the original guitarist for the band. A fine gentleman, and an intensely dedicated guitarist.  

Cut to 1988, and for me, many bands later, the Colony regrouped to play a sold-out show at Park West. The lineup included most of the original members including founder Ray Graffia, Ronnie Rice, Bruce Gordon and Bruce Mattey, with Billy Herman on drums. I was at the show and was just knocked out at how strong the band sounded, and the crowd was as well. Although it was cast as a one-time-only date, promoters asked for more, and they asked me to join once again -- I believe Billy Herman had other obligations.   

For a decade, we had plenty of work at all the local area festivals, often appearing with our contemporaries, the Cryan' Shames, the Shadows of Knight, the Ides of March and the Buckinghams. Huge fun because by then we were all survivors, and were all happy to see each other and catch up -- lots of camaraderie there.  

During that period, the summer, about '94 or '95, the Shadows' drummer (Bean Wang) broke his hand in an auto accident and Jimy Sohns called me to sub for the season. More great fun, getting to play Jimy's hits on the same stages the Colony was playing. The Shadows took a much harder-edged approach -- they were the loudest band I ever worked with. Jimy sings so loudly we always had to turn off the center-stage wedges to keep his voice from deafening us. I actually split the top rim of my snare drum during that season, something the folks at the Drum Pad in Palatine had never seen done before. The drum company asked to keep it as a curiosity when I replaced it. A few times both bands appeared together, allowing me the very rare opportunity to play both shows.    

From then ' til now the Colony lineup has been pretty stable, though, as everyone knows, we lost long-time member and pal Mark Eskine a couple of years back.  

With the recent re-discovery of Garage Rock, the Colony was asked two years ago to headline CaveStomp, known as the premier venue for the genre, an annual event staged at Warsaw in the Bronx. We were paired with the Strawberry Alarm Clock and a half-dozen other garage-type bands from regional markets in the U.S.and the U.K. We had to go back into rehearsal to reclaim a dozen songs from the first albums that Ray had written but we'd never played. It was very rewarding to see a packed house singing along with those older rarities -- they were true fans of the era, some as young as 18 - 19, some our age.  

In a recent development, for the last year and a half, I've been working again with Jimy Sohns in the Shadows of Knight, with virtually the same lineup as in the 90's, and in his other effort, Jimy Sohns's Rock N Roll Sideshow, which features a rotating lineup of guitarists from bands like the Rasberries, Gary Lewis and Peter Noone -- some very serious talent there! Jimy's still got it -- we still have to turn off the center wedges when he sings, and he's still a terrific frontman and showman. The stories he has to tell!! 

In all, over a career that's lasted longer than I'd like to say, I can honestly say that there is nothing better than being in groups like the Colony and the Shadows. Every person on stage is there because they just absolutely want to be there, playing those songs. And what songs! Since I was a little younger, every one of the songs we play, I listened to as a teenager, and these players were among the people I idolized. How often does it occur that you get to work with the people you looked up to, and play the songs that defined your formative years? For me, I work hard at being mindful of every note we play, and trying to really be in the moment every minute we're together. We all know it's a rare privilege.  

Garage Rock? Yes, indeed, more please ... and can never get enough. 

Thanks for all you do for music, Kent.
Rick Barr   

New Colony Six / Shadows Of Knight  


You got me early in the morning listening to New Colony Six now and no, never are they 'Garage' ... nothing like the Kingsmen or mid period of the Raiders. I mean Paul Revere & the Raiders were like a revolving door just like the Grassroots ... they even had a young Ry Cooder helping them out in the 'Kicks' period, a Garage styled track and yes 'Just Like Me' also. Mark Lindsay was a fucking incredible vocalist and still is ... his entry brought those incredible albums Collage and Indian Reservation and Freddy Weller on guitar kicks like a mule on heat. Cryan Shames were neither 'Garage' but more psychedelic barring their 'sugar' interlude, best left unsaid. Garage is blistering driving beat, almost punk vibe and pretty rough all round such as Sons Of Adam, The Seeds or Sonics, but no way New Colony Six, who were more gifted with exquisite, even paisley creations, even better their refined reformation as The Raymond John Michael Band. ? Mark & the Mysterians were 'Chicano Farfisa' rhythms, like Buddy Holly, who never played a day's rock n' roll in his life, upstaged all the time by The Bobby Fuller Four ... so how 'American Pie' can be attributed to him beats me. Cochran yes yes. I don't believe its just shades of grey but definitive genre. Anyhow, I love them all, each with its own dimension and the latter of that was immortalized by the glorious Flock. That's my blurb from the tip of Africa Cape Town.
Author / Radio Presenter Shiloh Noone   

Kent ...  
I can't buy Ray Graffia and the New Colony Six as a garage band. As you know, I was a road manager for the "6" 40 years ago and when you think of them recording at Chess and turning out such wonderful melodies they just don't fit the garage band mold. Ronnie Rice and Ray Graffia both had tremendous vocal capability. They actually could have flown with out the late Les Stewart and Pat McBride. I often thought Ray and Ronnie would eventually tag team and form their own group. No dice.
Really, is "I Will Always Think About You" so-called "garage band" material? Or "I Confess", a remarkable "first time effort", by the kids from St. Patrick High School.
Lets face it ... The Shames wanted to be the Colony ... and I always felt the The Buckinghams were a little jealous of the Colony's ability to harmonize.
By the way, if you're scoring at home I think my "princely" wage with the 6 topped off at about 70 bucks a week. But the memories carry no price. They were beyond memorable for 19 years old kid who wound up becoming a sportscaster.
Chet Coppock
Notre Dame Football - WLS 

Sorry, guys, but we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. Listen to The New Colony Six's earliest tracks like "Dawn Is Breaking" or "At The River's Edge" (perhaps the first rock suicide song ever recorded ... this one's even got a touch of the blues!) Check out their version of the Bo Diddley tune "Cadillac" ... or a couple of the ones we featured the other day on the website (like "I Confess" or "I Lie Awake"). These are precursors to punk if there ever were some. Yes, they toned down their act (and achieved their greatest pop success) when they played it straight with great ballad hits like "I Will Always Think About You", "Things I'd Like To Say" and "Can't You See Me Cry" ... but before all of that, these guys tore things up. (kk)

Great edition this week. Anything to do with Cameo Parkway always makes it for me. Question Mark and New Colony Six (distributed by C/P).

Hey, thanks for The Shadows Of Knight!!!  

Hi Kent ...
I haven't been in touch for a while but am still an avid reader of your pages. It's interesting to see your local take on tracks compared to what was happening in Australia at the same time. For instance, Them's Gloria was a huge hit here and Van Morrison's star still shines bright over us. I guess that's because our culture at the time was still so strongly linked to the U.K.
Can I just put my hand up and suggest that the Easybeats deserve to hold down a spot in your list. Their Friday on my Mind might be reasonably well known over there but it was only one of a large catalogue of garage styled hits here in Australia, that are pretty well unknown in the UK or the US, and in my opinion are the equal of anything else in that genre ... look up Sorry, or Wedding Ring on YouTube ... play it loud - and you'll see what I mean.
Regards and best wishes,
Murray Walding,
Unfortunately, by the time we started publishing the results of our poll, all of the votes had already been tabulated ... so we can't really go back now and cast votes for any other artists ... but, as I recall, The Easybeats weren't even nominated ... and that's a shame. You're right ... they were MUCH bigger in Australia than they were here in The States, where "Friday On My Mind" was their only Top 20 Hit. (Has anybody ever done a Whitburn-type book on the Australian charts? I figured this would have been right up Glenn Baker's alley! We've got them for the United States, Great Britain and Canada ... and I'd LOVE to add Australia to the mix.) Check out the YouTube clips and see what you think ... there was more to this group than just the one hit we heard here. (kk)   

My cousin recently met Van Morrison aboard a cruise ship. She told him that one of her all-time favorite songs was "Brown-Eyed Girl." Van told her that as a young boy he had a female dog that had one blue eye and one brown eye, and that he wrote Brown-Eyed Girl for that dog. I had heard that story behind the song before, but this is the first time I had heard of Van telling the story himself.
Roger Kirkpatrick
Abilene, Texas
I tried to contact Van for our Favorite Garage Bands Series ... I figured it had been awhile since anybody asked him to say a few words about Them and thought he might actually get a kick out of talking about it again ... but unfortunately never heard back. He's still recording new music ... in fact, he just recently the very cleverly titled CD "Born To Sing: No Plan B" was released. Morrison's music has stood the test of time ... I've become a big fan over the years ... but repeated radio airplay has ruined some of these songs for me. Funny, but I can listen to "Brown-Eyed Girl", a song I used to LOVE, within the context of say Van's Greatest Hits Album ... or in a film like "Sleeping With The Enemy" ... but turn it off EVERY TIME it comes on the radio because they have just played it to death. What a shame ... 'cause it's a really great song! (kk)   

Speaking of Them, Iggy Pop wrote this brief review of their first album for that book we keep talking about, "101 Essential Rock Albums" ...   

I bought my first record in 1960; I was 13. I had $1 of my own money and I bought “Red River Rock,” an album by Johnny and The Hurricanes, at the Woolworth's in the first mall opened in southern Michigan.
I found out about music and groups from my friend in junior high school, Jim McLaughlin. He had a guitar and amp, because his dad was a ham radio nut. He played me his Ray Charles records, and Elvis, too. We formed a duo for the school talent show; I called it the Megaton 2. We played “What I’d Say,” and “Let There Be Drums,” which was a record I owned by Sandy Nelson. Later Jim and I started The Iguanas.
The radio in Detroit wasn't that great, but nowhere near as bad as it is now. You could hear the Beatles, Stones, Ronettes, Wailers, Booker T, early Motown, Jackie Wilson, the Kinks, and other good stuff on CKLW, the Detroit AM station, but you had to be patient and listen to lots of shit like Peter and Gordon, Freddie and the Dreamers, Lesley Gore, Frankie Avalon, etc., to hear what you liked. When I later got a job at a record store, it really opened up my knowledge of music. The other people who worked there were experts in classical music, avant-garde, R&B and blues as well as rock, and I took it all in. The store was loosely organized, so when I wanted to hear a record, I just opened it up and played it right there.
I probably first heard “Gloria” by Them. When I bought the album it was the American version of “The Angry Young Them,” the same album, but with a hideous ugly orange cover, and it just said “Them.” Now I have a vinyl copy of the original. It still blows my mind. I would listen over and over and over to “Mystic Eyes,” and “One Two Brown Eyes.” Those two cuts really influenced my ideas of what The Stooges could be.
At about that time I was listening to all the good English groups plus Bob Dylan plus anything that came from San Francisco plus Love, plus tons of garage rock. Them was by far the most experimental, but also had a kind of doomed quality that I liked, because I could see that these guys weren't cute, didn't know how to dress and did not have a commercial touch except for the one hit, “Gloria.” “Gloria” at the time was completely inescapable all over the U of M (University of Michigan) campus and at any club, anywhere with live music. Every band covered it, including my own. I think the liner notes were really pathetic. What a great example of a repressed, apologetic, neurotic show-biz bullshitter. I never saw Them, but I saw Van play once at the Troubadour in LA. It was around the time of “Moondance.” He was very stern, and the group members all looked ill. He was so cool, the best thing he did was pick up a chair with one hand and wave it over his head while he screamed. I saw him do the same thing on TV on “American Bandstand.” I guess it was his one stage move. I've always wondered where he got it. The way Van's voice ripped through the mic. and the simple arrangements and spirit of experiment was a huge deal for me. I still listen to the record in the early mornings and when I want to get worked up.
Iggy Pop     

While the band would probably consider Them-selves as more of a British Blues Band than a Garage Band (which is interesting enough as it is, since they were actually Irish!!!), YOU guys felt they deserved a spot on our list of Top 20 Favorites.  As such, you voted them into the  Runners Up #31 spot.  This classic track may lean more toward the band's self-image than our own.  (kk)