Devil’s Kitchen interview with Robbie Stokes

March 26, 2012

Devil’s Kitchen interview with Robbie Stokes

in Golden Gate Park 1969 with “tribe” flag

Well, it seems we’ve been “discovered” in a stack of old tapes left behind by Bill Graham.  Wolfgang’s Vault had for several years been offering about 5 or 6 posters from late 60’s era concerts in San Francisco that we had performed at (a handful of the actual 100’s of gigs we did).  Then, in September 2006, they featured a cut from the band on their website and then added a full live recording of one of our concert performances at the old Family Dog Ballroom (Magic at the Edge of the Western World) on the Great Highway.  It has 11 songs that were recorded on March 22nd 1970.
What bands were you in before you joined “Devil’s Kitchen”?
I was in regional high school rock bands ‘The Satellites’, ‘The Counts’ and ‘The Viscounts’.
When did you meet the other members of Devil’s Kitchen to form the band?
 Om circa 1967
 back row: ?, Bob, Robbie, Carl Rozycki (Roadie), Brett; front row: Steve (seated), Bucky Harmon
We met in late 1967 or 1968.  We were all students at SIU-Carbondale, the college here, a state university with about 23,000 students, I’d say, at that time.  I was actually just finishing high school at University High School of Pulliam Hall.  We called it ‘Om’ for a short while and it morphed into ‘Devil’s Kitchen’, named after a lake near here.
 Robbie and Brett – OM 1967
Did you think that there would be an interest in psychedelic music until the present day, with new bands playing psychedelia?
I am pleasantly surprised in many ways that the level of interest in this period of music/psychedelic rock is as strong as it is.  Our singer, Webmaster and prime historian Brett Champlin has done much to reinvigorate all this.  Wolfgang’s Vault started it all back up.  It’s pretty cool!   When I toured Europe in 2009 with Chicago Mike Beck, I noted the great interest in American psychedelic rock, especially in Holland.  My friends ‘Skinny Jim and the Number 9 Blacktops’ tour Europe a lot; they do one of my compositions, ‘Little Obie and the Creepers’.  My friends ‘Heat Tape’ are on tour in EU now, actually, and the bassist in my current band (‘The Venturis’) is also in the ‘The Stace England Band’ and THEY, too, tour EU.
Who are some of your influences and some of your favorite albums?
My influences are wide, and range from Chet Atkins, all of the American blues greats, plus George Harrison, Pete Townsend, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix (who I met in San Francisco), and all the great San Francisco guitarists of the 60’s, most of whom I also met, jammed or worked with.  Rubber Soul/Revolver, Who’s Next, Disraeli Gears, all 4 classic Hendrix records, you name it…it all factors in!
What bands did Devil’s Kitchen open for, during the 1960’s?
Devil’s Kitchen opened for Creedence Clearwater Revival at our first pro gig in SF.  We also opened for Big Brother and the Holding Co., Jefferson Airplane, Taj Mahal, Savoy Brown, Humble Pie, the Allman Bros., the Grateful Dead and others.
Any rememberances of the time that you wish to share?
As a professional sound technician, my early exposure to sound system legends like John Meyer, Lee Brinkman, Dan Healy and Owsley (‘Bear’) have helped me keep my standards of audio reproduction very high to this day.  I recall that those guys used to be at our shows, either working them or hanging out. One time I went to a press party for a Creedence (CCR) tour at Fantasy Records in Berkeley; rhythm guitarist Tom Fogarty had recently left the band.  I had the cheek to ask John Fogarty if I could join up!  He
made a joke about it and basically ignored me, but it’s still a cool memory! I also jammed with John Mayall one night at the Avalon Ballroom, Mick Taylor let me play through his Fender amps.  I have hundreds of stories like this, actually.  I got to back up blues greats Big Mama Thornton and Lightnin’ Hopkins, I’ll never forget that.  I also played with Norman Greenbaum, the ‘Spirit in the Sky’ man.
What other bands were you with after Devil’s, during the 70’s and 80’s?
In 1970 DK broke up and I formed a band called ‘Coal Kitchen’ with some friends.  I should have stayed with them, but the California pull was too great (my first wife didn’t care for Illinois too much.)  Coal Kitchen eventually signed with Epic Records and toured.  I did jam with them regularly, though, into about 1980.  I was also in ‘Vision’, the ‘Buster Boy Band’, ‘4 on the Floor’, ‘Big Larry and the Lady Killers’, ‘Dr. Bombay’, and others.
Was Devil’s Kitchen involved with any political causes during the 60’s?
DK did play at a civil rights rally once in Carbondale, at which famed civil rights figure (and comedian) Dick Gregory spoke.  For the most part, we didn’t get really involved.  We broke up quite awhile before that all really started.
What are up to nowdays? Whom do you perform with?

Our band ‘4 on the Floor’ still does the odd corporate or private gig.  Our new thing is the aforementioned ‘The Venturis’ (like the Italian physicist, pronounced ven-ture-ees).  We play the classic rock hits from roughly 1963 through 1973, arguably the most fertile period in rock.  I still give it my all, of course we have a great sound system, and we have a lot of fun.  I’d love to tour Europe with the Venturis, we’d go over great I’m sure!  recently we’ve done sound for LMFAO, the Supersuckers, the Schwag with Melvin Seals of JGB and Mark Karan of Ratdog, and Travis Tritt…we do SOUND a lot!
You are welcome!
Robbie Stokes
Robco Audio
Interview made by John Wisniewski / 2012
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/ 2012
One Comment
  1. Anonymous

    There was no band on earth as cool as OM at the Hippodrome in Murphysboro next to Carbondale on a Friday night. Robbie was the king of improvised impulsive radical psychedelic rock. I'm still friends with people here in San Francisco who remember his unique style and place his music in the pantheon of hallowed psychedelia and I've never heard any guitar player come close to Robbie playing solo in Giant City in the middle of the day one weekend. I never saw him that day, just heard his blistering licks as they floated over the canyon outside of Carbondale. Robbie is God.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *