"Hemphill To Hollywood"


Fort Worth, Texas was and still is a great place to live. It's middle America at it's best. My best friend Bob Barnes and I were in middle school together in Wedgewood, a suburb just ten miles south of downtown. I know because one night after our parents were asleep we rode our bikes all the way down Hemphill Street to the Cellar. The Cellar was a beatnik bar which eventually turned rock and roll. We stood on the stairs going down to the Cellar and listened to the music flowing out for as long as we could. Finally some guy ran us off and we talked about how we were going to play there some night all the way back home. Eventually we did, along with ZZ Top, Jimmy Vaughn, Edgar Winter and a host of other great musicians. You worked all night, one-hour on and one-hour off with another band, till the sun came up.

In 1964 the music business was hot. The Beatles, Stones and a host of English bands invaded America and boosted  record sales exploded. Rock music was on television and radio. Concerts and almost anything to do with rock and roll became automatically cool. Before that we played a couple of Chuck Berry songs and a little Fats Domino. Our band, "The Elite", was working like crazy to learn all these "new" songs being written by these guys from Britain. We finally got the unusual chord patterns down good enough to play at the "Teen A Go Go" where we had a standing gig every Friday night. The owner eventually became our manager and I'll tell you more about him later if, your still interested. We became our home towns closest thing to the Beatles even though T-Bone Burnet kept reminding me that I was playing the wrong chords to some of the songs. I'm sure almost every city had their own Mop Heads during those days.

Recording:

Our first recording sessions were the most fun. We worked with a couple of local Indie labels which we were introduced to by a  local deejay named Mark Stevens, "Marky Baby". He was a great guy and proved to be a good friend and adviser. Mark was the "M.C." at most of the best concerts that came through town. Since his station was number one in the rock and roll ratings, they sponsored the best shows. If he couldn't get us on as the opening act he would at least meet us at the stage door to let us in back stage.
 

Concerts:

"Marky Baby" came through big time. From 1965 to 1969 we opened for bands like: The Doors, The Beach Boys, The Yardbirds, Ike and Tina Turner, The Byrds, The Zombies, The Animals, Paul Revere and the Raiders and Three Dog Night and The Loving Spoonful. - Rock and Roll was good.
 

The Road:

In 1968, I was in my third or fourth band. The name of the band was "Courtship". I never did understand that name. It just didn't sound like a real rock band name to me. But it grew on me and I guess a lot of other people too, because we developed a pretty good following. In 1968 we hit the road. Our manager, you know,  the teen club owner turned into a MAJOR night club and restraunt owner. He owned the hottest club in town and had a few good friends. One was a booking agent who was booking acts across the country. Bingo! We were all young and single and there was nothing or anybody we couldn't say see 'ya too. We played in Denver, Vail, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Portland and ended up at Arthur's Club in L. A., which at the time was owned by Syble Sheppard. At that time Paul Revere and the Raiders had a show called "Happening 69". We went on and played in the 'battle of the bands'. We won our first record deal with Capitol Records. While in L A. that time I recorded in the Capitol Studios. Buck Owens was in the studio next door. He's a great guy, very friendly and at the time he was riding a pretty good wave of success. We met the President of Capitol Records, Sal Ianucci, had our picture made with him for Billboard Magazine. About six months later we along with about half the bands on their roster were cut from the label. Go figure...
 

Motown:

We continued to travel and play the club tour. In 1971 our manager was able to get us a deal with Motown Records West (MoWest). Motown was wanting to branch out and open offices on the west coast. I think we, along with Rare Earth, were the only two white bands to be placed on the label. We learned almost every song in the Jobett catalog and added a rock feel to it. It was a great learning experience and the songs all have something to offer. Whether it's a guitar riff or a drum track which just rides along in perfect sync with the bass. There was plenty to learn from Motown and I think it helped us sync-up, not only in the studio but live as well. While on the west coast in 1971, I  recorded in the Motown Studios, which had  the best bass sound I've ever heard, A & M Studios, where Joni Mitchell was in the next room and Epic Studios, where The Doors recorded all their great songs. We released a single, "If All Men Were Truley Brothers" that did pretty good in some markets, but it never broke the Top 100. It's a tough business and you have to take pleasure in it where and when you can. I made my $100 a day per diem, and $50.00 an hour while in the studio. So, don't be sad, be glad lad.
 

Capitol Again:

In 1972 a band called Blood Rock had a seven album roll on Capitol which started with a tour with Grand Funk Railroad and a Top 10 single called "D.O.A." . Blood Rock eventually broke up. I knew their lead guitar player Lee Pickens, in fact we went to the same high school. I was living next door to a good friend and drummer Charlie Bassham. Lee decided to form another band with Charlie and knowing my band had gone in five different directions Charlie said, hey Eddie can sing! We spent two months rehearsing and writing new material on the 10th floor of an office building downtown. Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk came down to visit, listen, jam and eat Mexican food. Rum and Coke was the drink of the year. We went back to the Capitol studios, which I didn't like, but I had no choice. The equipment was old and it didn't have any ambiance. But, we had a good engineer in Peter Granet and the album was final mixed at Walley Heider Recording Studios. We opened at the Whisky on Sunset. Members of Fleetwood Mac, Christine McVie and Mick Fleetwood, were there. They were friends Lee met while playing in London. Grand Funk was there. Two guys were there taking my picture and hassling me to play in their club in the Valley. They wouldn't leave me alone. They were Italian, New York, fast talking, in your face type guys and they nearly drove me crazy. I kept telling them, "I'll be glad to play out there, just talk to my manager over there on the couch with that Grand Funk guy." The next day Lee told me it was Al Picino and Dustin Hoffman incognito, he said they told him not to tell me because they were practicing in character for an upcoming movie. Forget about it...

The Lee Pickins Group toured the Southeast to support the album. We played Ft. Smith, Akansas, Atlanta, Georgia, Biloxi, Mississippi and New Orleans. New Orleans was great. We played an outdoor concert with the Charley Daniels Band, Nitzinger and the Spinners. It was a sea of people and everyone had a great time. But, we were all completely drained by the time we got back home. We were doing everything we needed or were expected to do, but Capitol wasn't behind us in distribution or promotion. The Lee Pickens Group folded because some of the members didn't want to play the club circuit.

I rejoined my former band "Texas". We played all the rock clubs in the Dallas-Ft.Worth Metroplex area. One of the clubs was Spencers Corner. When we started at Spencers they charged $1.00 to get in and 10 cents a beer. A year later Spencer Taylor, the owner, had people lined up around the corner to get in and paid us more than any club had ever thought of paying a local band. Spencer opened clubs all over town. He eventually opened Billy Bob's, the biggest honky tonk in the world and was instrumental in the development of the West End in Dallas, Texas. Texas (the band) had met a booking agent in Chicago. He booked us in the clubs in and around the Chicago area. We spent about 3 months playing clubs in the Chicago area. Our agent (Bernie) was at the club one night having a great time. He had just gotten his motorcycle out of the shop and rode it to the club. He seemed to be alright when we last saw him. But on his way home he ran his motorcycle into the rear of a car making a left turn and was killed. That's how quick it can happen. Please don't drink and drive.

I'll be writing more soon! Check back in soon to see more up to date info. Thanks, Ed.

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