Liquid Smoke interview Sonny Rose
1. Thank you for taking your time and effort to do an interview! I would like to ask you first about childhood and teen years. Where did you grow up and what were some of the influences?
I grew up in Brooklyn Ny and moved to Long Island when I was ten. My early influences were from my mother. She was a singer and listened to Dina Shore, Ella fitzgerald and others I can’t recall. It was easy to remember however the do=wop sound of the 50’s like Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Lloyd Price, Fats Domino..Etc.
2. Were you in any bands before forming Liquid Smoke? Any releases? I know you were called for some time Ornge and The Nyte. Can you explain please?
I can’t say I was in any group before entering my junior year of college. I had formed the NYTE which was Ben Ninman pianist and two other college musicians. The other guys I met after we had played some gigs were in Orange. It was apparent to me that we needed each other.
3. When and how did you formed Liquid Smoke? Why the name Liquid Smoke?
The name Liquid Smoke came from my crazy sense of humor. I was in a grade “C” sanitized slop shop gas station when I noticed in the grocery section [don’t ask] a spice row. One of them was called Liquid Smoke. That was all I needed to se. We were hearafter to be called LS… I formed Liwquis Smoke by merging the two bands who had become familiar with each other and whos reputations had been known to each. The Nyte was know for our cover of the Doors and Iron Butterfly as well as many R&B hits. We were after all in the south and to work we had to play dance tunes. Otis Redding [Hard to Handle] Sam and Dave, Eddie Floyd, Billy Stewart, The Tempataions…etc.
4. You released a couple of singles and in 1970 you released your album. I would like if you could share some of your strongest memories from producing and recording your LP?
I could go on for awhile about this. We recorded the album at Ulta-Sonic Studios in Hempstead NY. The same studio was pumping out The Vanilla Fudge, The Rascals, Iron Butterfly, etc. We used a Scully 8 track and edited the album using the old cut and paste[tape] method. We didn’t record too many takes as the band had most of the material down already. The Shelter of your Arms was an exception and we spent a few nights working the vocals out in the studio. What great reverb they had….
What gear did you use?
The Mics were Neuemann [sic] twin reverb amps, Kustom bass amps, and studio drum kits.
What can you say about the cover artwork?
Well that was outside the box. We were sent by Ashley Famous our agents to a photo studio for a pic. They who I don’t know can up with the Liquid Smoke swirls of colr you see. We liked it a lot and I still have two fresh albums in the closet.
How many copies were made on Avco Embassy and how did you come in contact with them?
I do not know how many were pressed. I do know that we met Hugo and Luigi who were Elvis Presley’s record exec’s. We were the first Rock band thay signed and their offices were on 6th ave in NYC across from Radio City Music Hall. They were the offical cigar smoking big boys. We were brought to them by Vinny Testa our record producer. We are still close friends som 40+ years later. Vinny now runs Testa Communications….look them up
5. The whole LP is dark and gloomy, much of this hard rock album is organ based. It’s really an amazing album! I would like if you could comment each song from you LP.
A1 I Who Have Nothing. My choice and the arrangement was a homage to the Vanilla Fudge who we knew and really liked. I had been singing the song for some time and it was at a club in NY when Vinny Testa heard our take on the tune and got to talking with up.
A2 Lookin’ for Tomorrow Vince Fersak wrote this and the vocal was an idea I had to do an octave split. We also took the middle of the song and turned into a shuffle blues jam to give Vince a chance to play. My ears still ring from his amp stack.
A3 Hard to Handle Again, my idea to do the Otis Readding song. I loved Otis’s vocals and it was in my wheelhouse. An interesting note. My brother who is a radio jock in NY interviewed the lead singer of the Black Crowes who told him his father used to play an album he had with that song on it. They decided to record it from…The Liquid Smoke cover!
A4 Reflection Vince again and this song was included as a guide to where we might had headed musically if we hastayed together.
A5 Warm Touch Vince and I wrote this with the lyrics by me. It’s about a college girl friend I had during the time in North Carolina while we were getting the group together.
B1 Shelter of Your Arms. This was Vinny Testa’s idea. He produced the album and wanted to do this song. Once Sammy Davis Jr.’s big tunes, Vinny thought enough of me as a vocalist to attempt the tune. We did this elaborate stereo reverb overdub in the studio that was frankly cutting edge at the time. It also sounds a bit like the Vanilla Fudge, another Long Island based band of that era. I still will perform the song if given the band and the time to rearrange it.
B2 Set Me Free, Vince Fersak Guitarist’s tune. I was never happy with my vocal, but we went ahead with it anyway. He’s written better. Nice guitar work though.
B3 It’s a Man’s World: We were banned from the airwaves with this one because…imagine this….I used the word DAMN. True story. I was one of the first singers to record s “curseword”. What a joke. I really like this arrangement and when we performed this live we spent about 15 minutes jammimng on the jazz swing part. Pretty ahead of time. It was my idea to break out in the swing. I dug it and it gave me a chance to get off stage and get some booze.[water]
B4 Let Me Down Easy
Perhaps the bands best tune and a precursor for where we would have gone had we stayed together. This tune is still viable and if allowed to get back in the studio one day I will re-record this one.
6. Did you play and concerts, festivals? Please share!
We opened for Three Dog Night, The Guess Who, Spirit, The Impressions and Supremes on Clay Cole’s TV show. Also Rare Earth and us collaborated on a concert or two. I was at a few festivals as a guest.
7. What happened after the LP was out and what were you doing in the late 70’s till now?
Flying in and out with Cactus, Rod Stewart and a few others. Nothing that rings a bell though. We were a really good musical band. Unfortunately like a lot of groups did not get the support we needed to grow. I went on my way and recorded lots more stuff. I have attached my latest demo. Raw vocal…still got the pipes though. Stay in touch
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2011
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