Willie Alexander interview
We did a short chat with Willie Alexander, member of garage legends, The Lost and many other bands including The Velvet Underground, The Boom Boom Band and many others. Check it out!
I’m really happy you agreed to the interview, Willie. How are you? You are from Philadelphia. You formed there The Lost and you released a couple of singles. What was the scene back then and how do you remember the days with The Lost? Where all did you play and where did you record that singles?
I was born in Philadelphia, PA. on January 13th ,1943. My father was a minister & his first church was there. I don’t remember Philadelphia. I remember Medfield, Massachusetts first then Gloucester, Mass. where we moved in 1950. My mother sang & played the violin & the piano. I think I got my love of music & any ability to sing from her side of the family. I had a sister Janice & brother Bob Alexander.
My first musical hero was Johnnie Ray. I started hearing Fats Domino & Little Richard on the radio in Gloucester on the national radio fan club. We moved to east providence, Rhode island in 1955 and rock & roll, r&b and jazz was all over the radio dial and it changed my life forever. My dad died in 1958 and we moved to the Boston area.
I am already banging away on the piano and drumming on suitcases then real drums and hanging out in coffee houses & jazz clubs in high school. My first gigs were playing drums.
The Lost formed at Goddard college in Plainfield Vermont in1964 . Ted Myers (vocals & guitar ), Hugh Magbie (vocals & guitar), Willie Alexander (vocals & percussion), Walter Powers (bass & vocals) and Tony Pfeiffer on drums. Tony and Hugh decided to stay in school and the rest of us moved to Boston. Eventually we found Lee Mason who Ted knew from NYC for our drummer and Kyle Garrahan from Providence , Rhode Island for our lead guitar. Barry Tashian of the Remains brought us to the Rat and we started gigging there. Where ever we could, in coffee houses and frat houses around town. Capitol records came to the rat and we got a deal. I knew things were going well when we were playing in NYC at the Nite Owl Cafe and some one wrote “I want to blow the Lost” on the men’s room wall. It was really exciting playing in clubs like the Cheetah and the Scene in NYC. When our first 45 started to make some noise we traveled to teen clubs in Albany, Buffalo and all over the northeast. We got told never to come back to the Holiday Inn in Buffalo. Touring with the Beach Boys was alot of fun because we were so different from them. Dennis Wilson was the only one who talked to us. Carl Wilson was kind of holding it all together. Our drummer played with the Beach Boys on the last show of the tour we did with them because Dennis was unable to. He knew the songs and did great. We also opened shows for Sonny & Cher and the Supremes. This was thrilling stuff. Playing our music and seeing kids dancing to it and getting excited. Our drummer, Lee Mason had lights inside his bass drum and when we would play 2120 South Michigan Ave ( the Stones instrumental ) and we would if the club allowed it turn off the lights on the stage and make crazy sounds and just have the crazy bass drum lights blinking and played crazy shit….it was a pre 1967 light show. This was great fun. We broke up after 3 years because of egos or drugs & booze problems, the usual. People still come up to me and talk about the Lost being a great band and I am very proud. We split up shortly after opening THE BOSTON TEA PARTY in 1967.
The Bagatelle and The Grass Menagerie are next bands you were involved with. How did that happened?
I returned to the drums for my 2nd band “THE GRASS MENAGERIE” in 1967. Lee Mason was drummer for the Lost & he formed the BAGATELE which I joined in 1968. We lived in New York City and played at places like the “ELECTRIC CIRCUS”.
Around 1971 you joined The Velvet Underground. How did it happened? How do you remember those days?
Later on Doug Yule (who played bass in “Grass MENAGERIE”) asked me to join the VELVET UNDERGROUND which had Walter Powers in it now (Walter was in THE LOST & Grass Menagerie). Ummmm, its 1971 and Doug wanted me to tour with the VU. I said: “ya but ya gotta change the name of the band cause LOU REED is gone but they never did.”
With the Velvet Underground, you toured England, Scotland and the Netherlands in support of then-current album Loaded. What are some of the memories?
We toured the mid West & Canada then a 2nd tour of England, Belgium and Holland. I was stoned on hash & drunk most of the time. I did get to sing 3 of my own songs, play drums when Moe sang “AFTER HOURS”. I am not on LOADED or SQUEEZE LP’s.
What happened next? I know that after leaving Velvet Underground you formed a band called The Boom Boom Band and you also had a solo carrier. Would you like to talk about that?
I did solo gigs on piano at “SANDY’S” in Beverly, Mass. Joined “THE RHYTHM ASSHOLES” then formed “RADIO HEARTS” and then “THE BOOM BOOM BAND”. All my rock & roll dreams came true at “THE RAT” in Boston.
After the Boom Booms I went to France with “THE CONFESSIONS” in 1982 for “NEW ROSE RECORDS”. I played in France in the 80s and 90s. Took the Boom Booms over in 2005 when we got back together.
What are you doing these days and what are some of your future plans?
I am playing music and recording in Gloucester, Massachusetts where my wife Annie & I live with our 2 cats. I stopped drinking in 1985. I play out with my “PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY ORCHESTRA” most of the time or with the “A-TRAIN ORCHESTRA”. My last album was “THE WORLD FAMOUS NON STOP SEAGULL OPERA MEETS THE FISHTONES AT THE STRAND”…..
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2012
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