A Brief Raycap of my Career in aNuthouse, Nutshell.
A Short List
of some of the SPECIAL people and projects I worked with during my 38 Odd (and they WERE ODD!) years in the Music Bidness..
Sir Monty Rock III~
He was one of the most bizarre people I ever met.
The first time I laid eyes on him was when he appeared
on Johnny Carson, And Johnny and Ed McMahon, the man that personified the word ‘Guffaw’, introduced him and on comes this nattily dressed dude, Jacket, Bell Bottom pants, with hair down to his ass, and he performed an out-of-this world, as in ‘unearthly’,
version of ‘Tennessee Waltz’ then jumps up and starts dancing like a chicken, his gangly legs akimbo, chicken scratching, and his arms bent at the waist, flapping away with his head bobbing and pecking and his mane flailing away like a cloud of
angry gnats!....and he was SERIOUS!
His look was later upstaged by Tiny Tim, which gives you a visual image.
Bruce Bissell worked with Tim and he’s got stories!
Years later, Sir Monty is back, on one of our
labels...of course (sigh); God I Hate my life.
This time he’s in the persona of Disco Tex, And His Sex-o-lettes, which wasn’t only the NAME of the act but ALL of the lyrics to their hit song of the SAME
name. It was a BIG hit and should have served to alert us all to the fact that A.D.D. had set in on a large scale.
So, with this hit in hand, and hand in glove, Sir Monty and his freak show arrived to play The Cave here in Vancouver; you felt like a Voyeur just being around these people; So, Monty, your next gig is in Gomorrah?
...is American slang for ‘rent party’
where people played home-made or acoustic instruments in the kitchen for a small donation, to raise enuff money to STAY in the kitchen, this was in the 1920’s and largely among the colored populations.
About 30 years later, ‘Skiffle’ rose to prominence, largely in England, and largely again by Lonnie Donnegan. It was an alternative to Big Band Pop music of the time that could not be easily reproduced around a kitchen table, whereas Skiffle, a
blend of different elements, a Roots music and kind of contemporary of American Rock-a-Billy, could be easily played on an acoustic guitar, washboard, tea-chest Bass, harmonica and what have you.
Lonnie Donnegan, was the ‘King of Skiffle’ and recorded a string of hits (My Old Man’s a Dustman, Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavor On the
Bedpost Overnight?, and more) and who saw a resurgent interest in himself/Skiffle in the late 1970’s with his ‘Puttin’ On the Style’ LP that featured a backing galaxy of British Rockers as a tribute to his contribution
to their careers. It is a terrific record, a ‘Must Hear’ in my humble opinion.
Perhaps another analogy for skiffle in North America in years following might have been the mutual
career rise of Led Zeppelin and Creedence Clearwater Revival; both made great records but you couldn’t reproduce Zep around a kitchen table as you could CCR on a flat top guitar.
My friend & Bandmate Jerry Walliser and I used to haul around a guitar to parties and play, him on guitar and me on spoons and everyone would laugh and sing along. It was at
that point that we wrote perhaps our best song ‘Funky Junkie’ with its various vocal sound effects and humor that became quite popular within our circle, but sadly, we never recorded it, but it was our own and a hoot to boot, altho p’raps
more sniffle than skiffle.
Skiffle also gave rise to another Musician of some notes, John Lennon, who’s
first band The Quarrymen played skiffle and beat a path to other Music forms and who went on to a modicum of fame, so don’t say ‘Piffle’ to ‘Skiffle’!
Signed them too after their US deal went (further) South all because of my relationship w their Mgr John from Boston’s Bottom in Penticton, another success too. David Wills
and I are friends to this day.
Here we all are at Cypress Bowl in 1980. Myself
in the background, the Late Leigh Alden (with stiff neck) on the right, Our Masters Voice front & center, signing Stonebolt to RCA. I don’t think they did posed signing shots like this before Mr ShowBiz Pants showed
up (R2) but it was my idea to picture them at the ‘Top of the Rock Pile’ as it were. No Photo credit so maybe it was Jimmy Hoffa, at least we now know where he is.
We called them the Stone Noses (no reason), a work project that worked out; scored a #1 on 1040Rocks, didn’t happen anywhere else.
Never met them but was a BIG fan from the moment I laid eyes and ears on them.
I did do something of a favor for Keith late last year,
but haven’t heard anything back. He may not care or maybe it wasn’t such a favor either. The Keef goes on.
I’d seen them on TV but going to
a theatre and seeing them on the big screen in the T.A.M.I. show was a first for me; I’d never experienced a Rock & Roll riot before, but the SECOND they came on, the theatre ERUPTED, people were going crazy, REALLY crazy, they were tearing the theatre
apart. The Management stopped the film, put up the lights and threatened to call the Police if one more outburst happened, and it did and they didn’t, but THAT was NUTS!
They’ve been known to nick a lick if not an entire song, so I nicked Mick when we opened our Deli in Steveston; I wrote the slogan ‘It’s only Crock & Rolls, but you’ll LIKE it!’, and I did.
This is a pen & ink sketch I did of Mick a lifetime ago, one of many.
I came across something interesting while going
thru my vinyl LP collection and transferring them my CPU, the Donna Summers ‘Love to Love You Baby’ LP.
Interesting because, there was a time when
Disco was on what we issued 12” singles for DJs and Clubs to play to bump sales on the actual LP the same as we did with 7” singles at Radio except the 12” were limited so as not to Side 1 of the LP is her 16 minute+ erotic Paean to aural
sex opus (when I first heard this I really didn’t know where to look, it was like being in someone’s bedroom) and that’s the entire side, much, if not exactly what the 12” single would have been. Side 2 of the LP is 5 tracks; so, is
this a full LP or is it a 12” with 5 ‘B’ sides?
This was before people started to complain about ‘only one good song on an LP’
The Sunset Bombers~
When I arrived at RCA, they had taken
on distribution of Ariola America, a subsidiary of the European label owned by Bertelsmann AG one of the world’s biggest Media companies, and it was a very successful label over there.
By the fact that they were in the same time zone as us, in addition to being the RCA Promo rep I was the defacto Product Manager for Ariola in Canada as well and as such would
visit their LA office every couple of months along with our RCA office there.
The head of Ariola America
was Jay Lasker, formerly of ABC/Dunhill, and famous for his ritual of playing you a song then banging on his desk hard and loud enough to impact the Richter Scale, while declaring ‘it’s a F**king SMASH!’ in his finest
One act he presented to us was a pseudo Punk/Rock band called the Sunset Bombers, and
watching the video I commented the singer looked a little Cuckoo’s nest, he was beside himself telling us that whenever the band had a gig, they had to sign him out of a Mental Hospital, so the singer had ‘crazy’ working for him.
I worked with them when they played Vancouver’s then ‘IN’ club, the Body Shop (a converted..guess what) run by Bob Shure (who later ran the Rockin’
Newton Inn until it became SaveOn Food), and the place where all the big acts played including a fledgling BTO.
The night they played there, Bob Marley &
his moving Jamaican Carnival were staying in the hotel next door cooking their own food, using their own blend of Spices and Herbs; if the Colonel only knew!
In spite of a good launch, the Bombers bombed, but Ariola had some success, notably with Ami Stewarts ‘Knock on Wood’ and a few other Disco/Dance hits. In the US they also had Vancouver’s Prism! But they were never able to duplicate their
European successes; however, good things come to those that wait!
Jay Lasker went on to head Motown (before
succumbing to Cancer in 1989); GE bought the RCA company in 1983 then sold off the Music division as fast as it could, (I guess weird, creative people, unburdened by suit & tie and Corporate Kool-Aid didn’t ’suit’ them) to....wait
for it! Waaaaaaait! ARIOLA aka BMG in Germany, proving once and for all that the tail CAN wag the dog!
The material herein remains the property of Ray Ramsay and is not intended for Publication, Reproduction,
or Broadcast without the Authors permission. Yeah.