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This copy of an interview I gave to Mike Stax of Ugly Things Magazine in January 2018 is probably my best attempt at a biography. All questions are from Mike Stax. Some less relevant questions have been removed to make the interview size fit this bio space. Also, the picture on the book was taken quite a while after I left the Lollipop Shoppe, which you'll realize as you read through.
1. Mike Stax “Where are you from, and what first inspired you to start playing guitar?”
I was born in Georgia, but my family moved to the Nashville area and then on to Fontana, California. It’s a city about 50 miles east of L.A. My dad was a country song writer and aspiring country music artist, but never achieved a hit. He had an early direct-to-disc suitcase recorder, and he would make vinyl record dubs in our living room. He started me in violin lessons and taught me guitar chords. I guess he thought I’d go into country music. I grew up listening to Hank Williams and Jimmy Rogers at home. I dropped the violin, when I decided rock and roll was it. My personal choices were The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Eddie Cochran, Sam Cooke and other greats of the late 1950s and early 1960s. I immediately wanted to switch from acoustic to electric guitar when I heard Dick Dale play Misirlou. My dad bought me my first electric and amp, but I still practiced on an acoustic. He would give me a funny look whenever I’d lay down a Dick Dale and the Del Tones riff on his Gibson Hummingbird.
3. How did the Weeds first come together?
Honestly, it was like a game of musical chairs. From what I understand, the Weeds evolved from a Vegas club band called the Lords, which featured Hans Grabner and some other great local performers including Fred Cole. Hans had a voice exactly like Arnold Schwarzenegger, if you can imagine Arnold singing. Here’s how I hooked up with the Weeds: I moved away from Fontana, and Bob Atkins took over as lead guitar in the US band. The US band played at the Teenbeat Club in Las Vegas, and I drove Tim Rockson to the gig, since he didn’t have a car then. When we got there, the Weeds were playing. At that time, the Weeds were mainly Hans Grabner on a Vox Continental keyboard, Fred Cole on a Hofner bass, Ray Manzoni (I hope I got that right) on drums and a guitar player. Hans did vocals and harmonica, and Fred also sang. This was after Fred’s “Deep Soul Cole” gig. Anyway, that night, the Weeds lead player walked out on the band. Tim Rockson convinced me to sit in with the Weeds to complete their set. I knew most of the cover songs they were doing. I accepted the lead guitar gig with them, and moved to Las Vegas. Shortly after that, we added Sonny Alderette on a solid-body Fender 12 String. Scott Devitte was at some rehearsals, but might not have performed with us. Hans blew out at least three speakers in Scott’s guitar amps that he loaned. I guess they weren’t designed for low keyboard notes. Later on, we lost Hans Grabner, Sonny Alderette and the Weeds drummer. Only Fred and I were left. We convinced Tim Rockson to join as the drummer, and he got Bob Atkins to sign up on rhythm guitar. Dennis Wynne became the new bass player. This is when Fred Cole stepped into a solo lead vocal role, and we cut It’s Your Time” on Teenbeat Records. We added Allen (Ron) Buzzell as rhythm guitar after that, which was about the time Dennis Wynne left the band. Bob Atkins then switched over to bass.
4. What was your repertoire in the beginning?
We combined the US band and Weeds songs lists which included the standard English-band hits of the day. It was a mix of Van Morrison -Gloria, Rolling Stones – Can’t Get No Satisfaction; some blues tunes -Milk Cow Blues, and the American dance classics of the time: Louie, Louie - Hey Joe by the Leaves, House of the Rising Sun, etc.
5. What kind of venues did you play?
Our main scene was dance halls. We were pretty much the house band at The Teenbeat Club, and we were regulars on the Teenbeat Club TV dance show. We played other teen centers and casino gigs in the minor rooms. Our hair was pretty long for Vegas in 1966. We weren’t the typical Las Vegas musical act, either. We got gigs from our TV appearances and travelled as far away as Arizona and Utah. We played a strange but beautiful outdoor venue in Utah called the Purple Haze. It was a natural stone acoustic bowl that faced the audience and dance floor. This was before Jimmy Hendrix had the hit song by that name. We also played Nellis Air Force base and other military complexes for their social events.
7. How did the first single “It’s Your Time” come about?
My first venture into song writing was “It’s Your Time” which I co-wrote with Dennis Wynne. The Weeds won a battle of the bands at the Teenbeat Club, and the prize was to cut a single at the club on their recording gear and on their label. Dennis and I were elected to write an original song, which we finished in a couple hours. I believe it was recorded on a two-track 1/4” tape machine and done live on the stage.
8. According to legend, the band fled to Canada to avoid the draft and eventually wound up in Portland. Could you detail how much of this is true and what actually happened?
That is partly true, but there were other factors involved. In 1966, Las Vegas was mostly a rough, tough cowboy town, and we had several incidents with the hard-guy locals who despised long hair on men. The local police also began to bear down on us with excessive tickets, searches and disrespect. So, we couldn’t see much future in continuing in Vegas. We actually were on our way moving to San Francisco, but when we got there, we didn’t think we fit in so well, at that time. We were all packed, so we continued on to Portland, Oregon which was a good-sized city and much friendlier than Las Vegas. We were quickly taken in by Whitey Davis, the owner of the Folksinger Coffee House. He became our manager and soon opened the Crystal Ballroom as a main venue in Portland. This was a fabulous place, and we did many shows there with top bands of the time. The hall had a ball-bearing suspended dance floor. It must have been constructed during the swing era. The floor would sway up and down when people danced which amazed and dazed the psychedelic crowds that went there. Yes, and Portland was much closer to the Canadian border.
9. Could you describe the scene in Portland at the time? What other bands did you play with and socialize with?
At that time, Portland was about 6 months to a year behind L.A. and Las Vegas. The main radio hits didn’t arrive on the stations there until they had been proven in the L.A. and San Francisco markets. That put the Weeds on the cutting edge of the pop scene there. Portland was a wonderful but odd mix of Jug Band music, folk, rock and blues. Everything was way more laid back and closer in hipness to San Francisco than Las Vegas.
We played with pretty much everyone there. We did a short tour with Drake Levin and The Golden Hind. He was a former member of Paul Revere and the Raiders. On the way home from one out- of-towner, we were following Drake’s equipment truck. All of a sudden it ran off the road into the ditch. We pulled up behind and asked the roadie if he was ok and what happened. He said, “Didn’t you see that giant carrot in the middle of the road?” We tried to guess what he on or smoking. There were a couple of coffee house gigs we shared with The PH Factor Jug Band. The first time I saw them, I thought they were a little freaky, but very cool. They had hair longer than ours, and no one was trying to beat them up. You had to love ‘em when they got their thing going with the washboard and jug. It was such magnificent home-grown music! We crossed paths with the Tweedy Brothers a few times. The Wailers were there, and they inherited part of the Paul Revere and the Raiders following. They had a strong local hit which I think was called: I Do Love You So. We opened for a lot of the top bands of the day at the Crystal Ballroom, Pythian Ballroom and other Oregon venues. Some of the bands were: The Sopwith Camel, Buffalo Springfield, and Country Joe and the Fish
10. How did your sound change during this period (early 1967?)
We were playing in San Francisco and L.A. during 1967. The drive back and forth from Portland was a trial. I would say we were strongly affected by other bands there, and it changed our style and sound. We did a set at the Cheetah in Santa Monica. We played a guest set at the Matrix club in the Marina area. We were on the bill with, Big Brother with Janis Joplin and Momma Mae Thornton at California Hall in S.F. I’m sure Fred studied Mama Mae and Janis’s vocal intensity then. We put in a few weeks at The Ark in Sausalito where Bob Mosely of Moby Grape would often sit in on bass with us. That introduced some new drive at the foundation level. There was an exhibition there one night of the first model of the Moog synthesizer. It was between our sets. At that time, it was an odd array of individual components and about a couple hundred feet of hook-up wire – a sea of black linguini! All of these events had an influence on our choice of chords, melodies, riffs and rhythm.
11. I assume you started playing more original material, how did the songwriting come together?
We began to play longer songs and experiment more as writers. We jammed more and somewhat broke away from top-40 cover hits. Fred began to write songs, and he and I wrote several together. Ron Buzzell wrote with Fred, also. We knew we would need original material to get signed with a label. We tried out new songs on the crowd and tried to judge how they reacted. We trashed a lot of weak songs, but salvaged the better parts that were put into others.
14. How did you first meet Lord Tim Hudson? Talk about his personality a bit.
We began to have a fall out with Whitey Davis, our manager in Portland. I guess we thought he wasn’t getting us a record deal quick enough. We met Lord Tim while playing in Hollywood. He showed an interest, and he was influential due to his position as a top radio jockey. He moved fast, and he knew all the right people. Communication was his specialty. We were happy with him until he changed our name.
16. How did things change for the band after Lord Tim took over management? Did you relocate to LA?
We relocated to a small house north of Hollywood Blvd. on Argyle. The venues we played moved up a notch. We played The Whiskey, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and several after-hours shows at the Hullaballoo. That was until we set off a Viet Nam era smoke bomb at the end of one of our sets there. A military surplus store sold it to us, and we thought it was smoke only. We had no idea it was true military grade with exploding packets like a Roman candle. We weren’t invited back. We practiced in the Troubadour in the daytime. We upgraded to a larger house up off Wonderland Blvd., above the Strip. We started riding in Limos to performances. I don’t think we realized those expenses were coming out of our performance pay, which we had to repay with our signing bonuses, royalties and mechanicals. We also had a few unfortunate events. Our equipment truck broke down and we left it locked on the roadside until the next morning. When we came back to get it the next day, all of our equipment was stolen. I mean EVERYTHING! Of course, that added to our payback balance. We weren’t selling a lot of records then, so we fell into a financial hole. I really can’t blame Lord Tim. We were young and financially naïve. I was the oldest at 20 years. I think Bob and Ron were still seventeen.
18. Who was Danielle Mauroy, the producer, and how was she to work with?
She was already a well-established music producer in France… and the wife of Lord Tim. She was very easy to work with. For that day and time, she was extremely independent and capable as a producer, while one of the few women in the music industry on that level. She was there the whole time when we did the RCA sessions in studio B. Otherwise, we didn’t see her much. She delegated a lot of the work to the engineers, and then she would stop in to approve or make suggestions. Of course, she attended the mixing sessions. I don’t think I saw her at all in our early Rise Studio sessions in North Hollywood.
19. Was the single “You Must Be a Witch” recorded before the album or were all the songs recorded at the same sessions?
You Must Be a Witch was recorded at Western Sound Recorders on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. It was the last session of the album, and was recorded after our equipment was stolen. We used only Vox amps for that session. The studio had those on hand, which gave us a different sound than our old Fender amps we had lost. The Vox’s were all Super Beatle models, which were solid state with built in single note E-tuners on the amp head and tremolo, reverb and distortion on probably the largest foot pedal of the day.
20. What do you remember about the album sessions? Any specific anecdotes?
The Rise Studio sessions were mono or two-track and mostly live with Fred’s double tracked vocal overdubbed. It must have been second-generation transfer, but I’m not sure. The RCA studio B sessions were the most elaborate and probably the most costly. Danielle Mauroy brought in studio musicians Carl Fortina on accordion and John the Greek on piano/organ for Baby Don’t Go. There was some Telecaster rhythm work that someone said was Ted Green, another L.A. studio musician. Studio A was for orchestral work, and was too large for what we were doing. RCA Recording Studios had the best selection of microphones and accessory gear, anything you could want at the time. They had a huge array of Telefunken and Neumann condenser mikes and every RCA ribbon mike you could imagine.
23. Let’s talk about some of the individual songs on the album… “Underground Railroad” is one the standouts, real intense. How did that song come together?
Yea, we felt like fugitives after leaving Las Vegas and then traveling up and down the West Coast. It was an expression of feeling like slaves caught up in a bad legal system. That drove the intensity. The song was about 2-1/2 minutes long, but when we played San Francisco, the crowds liked to dance longer, get in a groove and let the spirit flow. That’s why we stretched it out. Whenever we played a three-set night, we didn’t want to repeat any songs, so we jammed on it.
24. Tell me about the inspiration for “It’s Only a Reflection.”
I wrote this soon after we got to Portland which was rainy except for a couple short months in the summer. The song has a blue tone that expresses leaving something, leaving friends and missing them, or maybe being left and getting over it, while wondering how the other person is feeling. It covers the emotion of achieving something, and then being unfulfilled by the success. It all goes back to what one did yesterday, which reflects forward.
26. “Don’t Close the Door on Me” is one of my favorites. What can you tell me about that song? You get a killer fuzztone sound on that song – what did you use?
The lyrics were mainly Fred’s, and for sure the title was his. I mostly wrote the music. I always thought it was about avoiding isolation and exclusion. The Fuzz Tone was a Maestro, a Gibson product. The 1.5 volt battery holder broke, and I could only find a double battery holder (3 volts) out on the road. What the heck, I put it in fully loaded and was surprised it didn’t burn the thing out! It changed the sound to a slightly longer, edgier sustain. It was stolen or lost at the Hullaballoo Club while we were moving our equipment off its famous rotating stage. I heard a thump, and then, boom! It was gone. Maybe it fell through a crack in the floor? It might be under the stage, and part of some pack-rat nest.
27. Do you have any personal favorites on the album? Are you happy with how the record turned out?
I liked “Baby Don’t Go,” which was one of Fred’s favorites also. It’s hard to say why, and I didn’t necessarily think it should have been the single. It was fun to play, and it just resonated. The accordion, the breaks and Tim’s drumming; it was just magical for me. The album wasn’t completely perfect, but we were still developing as writers and musicians. I’m very happy overall, except for the name change to the Lollipop Shoppe.
28. What happened after the “You Must Be a Witch” single and the Just Colour album came out? Was there any radio airplay or other signs that the band might be breaking through commercially?
There was scattered air play. But oddly, I personally didn’t hear any of the songs play on the air.
30. I believe you left the band for a while and weren’t involved with the Angels From Hell movie. What were the circumstances of your leaving?
I was a couple years older than the other band members, so the military draft hit me sooner. I was against the war and saw no point in it whatsoever. Hell no. I wouldn’t go. I had taken some extreme measures to avoid the draft, which were affecting my behavior in a way that was unacceptable… for both the military and the band. It probably wasn’t the best way to deal with it, but that’s what it took to get out of the draft. I also lost my contract with Uni Records. It just unrolled that way.
34. Could you give me a brief summary of your musical activities after that?
In 1971, I began lead singing. I started a Trio with Darwin Davis and Borden on Bass in Portland. Around 1974, I was lead singer in a new band with Tim Rockson on drums which was The Hoodoo Blues Band in Portland. I got involved in family and business, so I didn’t do much until the 1980s, when I became a musician and worship leader at churches. I released a Gospel album in 1989, titled “I Need the Savior” by Ed Bowen & Freedom. I wrote all the songs and did the lead vocals. I consider that album my best recording since The Weeds. David LaFlamme (It’s a Beautiful Day) played a fine violin part on “Jesus, I Will Follow You.” The album’s title cut has an astounding guitar solo by Mark Cruz, and some very nice drum work by Jimmy Alioto. Felix Ramos played some cool sax. Terry Spears did the production. The final mix was done by Miles Christianson, the drummer for Iron Butterfly.
35. What are you doing these days? Still playing?
I run a small publishing company. I still play guitar and sing, but mostly acoustic. It’s only occasionally that I play out, and then solo as a singer/songwriter. Yes, I still write songs. It’s in my blood.
36. Any last words you’d like to say about Fred Cole now that he’s departed from this world?
The world sure lost some “Deep Soul.” But, Fred Cole lives on in every song he wrote, in the hearts of everyone who saw or heard him perform, and in every recording he made. Fred never gave up. He never gave in. He’s still rocking’ it somewhere, right now.
37. What do you remember about the Weeds backing Charlie White Eagle on a single (Get Off Of My Cloud/Red Roses for a Blue Lady)?
Yea, I remember that. Charlie was a novelty act at the Teenbeat Club. He would come up as a guest performer during our sets. We were his back up. His performances were received as a bit of a caricature by the teens No one was fully sure whether or not Charlie intended that, or if he was truly genuine. That’s what made his performances so wonderful and funny. Everyone loved him, and we agreed to record behind his vocals for no charge. We recorded on stage in the Teenbeat Club during closed hours, and it was a live recording. I hope Mick Jagger can forgive us!
38. Can you tell me anything about the publicity stunt of pushing a bed down the middle of the street?
We almost got arrested for that. It was Lord Tim’s Idea, and he had us there if front of the Whisky at sunrise. We didn’t expect any traffic. The photographer was taking a picture of us rolling the bed down Sunset Blvd., in Hollywood. A highway patrolman came out of nowhere and pulled the bed over to the side of the road, just like a car! He made us move the bed up on the sidewalk in front of the Whiskey, and then he gave Lord Tim a traffic ticket. Someone at the scene made a video, and it was on the evening TV news. We didn’t think it was funny until later.