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Blue Mountain Eagle interview

Blue Mountain Eagle in the bushes prior to hitting the road for the great Northwest (circa 1970)

Blue Mountain Eagle partly formed out of the New Buffalo Springfield, which included Dewey Martin, Bob Jones, Dave Price and Randy Fuller. They released only one LP back in the 1970 for Atco. In the following interview you will read a story by David Price (guitar, vocals), but in the near future also another member, Joey Newman will reply and share his part of the story. 

Interview:

I'm very happy you agreed to share the story of Blue Mountain Eagle, which was a short-lived American rock group that evolved out of New Buffalo Springfield around August 1969. Before we start talking about it I want to ask you about your childhood and teen years. Where did you grow up and what are some early influences?

I was born in West Texas, but grew up around San Antonio and Austin (with a couple of early side trips to Hawaii and New Orleans). I went to Alamo Heights High School where I started my first band, The Crowns, in 1960. My early musical influences among others were Little Richard, Jerry lee Lewis, Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry. Basically anybody who rocked.

What are some of the early bands you were involved with?

After high school, I turned to folk music for a while, playing folk and country blues as a solo act and with a friend of mine, Bill Holloway. The local music scene in San Antonio was where I met Mike Nesmith who later brought me out to LA. Eventually I moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas and fell in with John Andrews (guitar) and Bob Arthur (Bass) in the Chelsea. John, Bob and I along with Chris Ducey, Bobby Donahoe and Don Glut had a very short lived band called the Armadillo that Nesmith put together in 1968 in LA.
  
You were original members of The New Buffalo Springfield, formed in September 1968 by Dewey Martin, the drummer in the original Buffalo Springfield. I would really like if you could share the story of the New Buffalo?

late 1968. Left to right: Dave Price, Jim Price, Dewey Martin, Bob Appersonand Gary Rowles, Don Poncher

The Dewey Martin/Buffalo Springfield story is complex, but here’s the relatively short story. I first joined Dewey when Mike Nesmith called me up and said “Dewey’s putting a band together up at my place. You should come up.” That band was eventually comprised of Dewey, me, and four guys he had found playing in Las Vegas. They were Jim Price (later with Mad Dogs and Englishmen and the Rolling Stones on horns), Bob Apperson (Bass), Gary Rowles (son of jazz great Jimmy Rowles on guitar) and Don Poncher on drums. You should probably talk to Don about how they actually came to join up with Dewey. At any rate, that group played as the New Buffalo Springfield and occasionally as the Buffalo Springfield when Dewey’s manager thought he could get away with it. We toured a bit, but eventually everybody quit but me. Dewey and I then put together the next band with Randy Fuller on bass and Bob “B.J.” Jones on guitar. We toured as the New Buffalo Springfield and as Blue Buffalo and did some not very good recording at Sunset Sound in LA on time that Dewey managed to get Atlantic to pay for. Nothing came of the sessions and we prepared to hit the road again. Dewey’s manager, Mike Zalk, thought we could use another guitar player/singer/songwriter, and brought in Joey. That band toured the Northwest a bit, and on returning to LA after a particularly strained tour, fired Dewey, went out and found Don Poncher playing a club in the valley and formed Blue Mountain Eagle. Got all that? I told you it was complex.

New Buffalo Springfield, spring 1969.Clockwise from top: Dewey Martin,Bob “B J” Jones, Dave Price and Randy Fuller

David, The Chelsea is another band you were involved with before that. I'm currently working on a long detailed article about Texas psych scene and since this band was from there, I would love if you could tell us about it?

The Chelsea was formed in Austin by John “Toad” Andrews and Bob Arthur after they returned from a trip to England around 1963-64. My older brother was the rhythm guitar to Toad’s lead, but they wanted someone who would play louder. They replaced my brother with me on the promise that I would play louder and keep my brother’s blond piggyback Fender Bassman amp. I did both, and we played the local clubs and frat parties for a while. We were definitely not psychedelic, but at the same time we were playing Austin, Rocky and the 13th  Floor Elevators came into being, and I suppose the Austin psych scene was born. The Austin music scene in those days was not what it is today. There were few opportunities to play original music. The clubs were all top 40, and there weren’t many of them. The main ones were The Jade Room, The Continental Club and a dive we played at a lot called (appropriately) The Clown’s Den. In late 1965, Mike Nesmith called and asked if I wanted to come out to California. I said yes, and my Austin music career came to a close.  As far as I know, The Chelsea never recorded.

Toad and Arthur later joined me in LA around 1968, and we formed a band backed by Nesmith called the Armadillo. We played all of one gig, and Toad and Arthur left for San Francisco to join Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth. I ended up with Dewey.

So how exactly did all of you guys came together and what are some early memories from "jamming" together?

It’s a continuation of the Dewey Martin Saga, but as I said earlier, after we left Dewey, we went looking for Don Poncher, and that was the start of the band. The name came from a Newspaper in Central Oregon that B.J. remembered from our last tour with Dewey. I don’t recall any other great name suggestions being floated at the time, so as far as I can remember, we just went with it.

David Price, Randy Fuller, Bob Jones, Joey Newman and Don Poncher (1969)

As far as jamming, we mainly just went to work on the originals that each of us had been working on.

Soon you were signed by a major label, ATCO. How did that happen?

You can ask the other guys for their recollections, but as I recall, the connection with Atlantic came mainly from the studio time we had pirated with Dewey. They were looking for some kind of return on their investment, and decided to give us a listen. Ahmet Ertigun came down to one of our rehearsals at Studio Instrument Rentals in Hollywood and was interested in seeing Joey and B.J. do the dueling guitar thing. Personally, I also think he was feeling pissed that he had lost out to Clive Davis on signing Santana, and we were his next signing opportunity. Sort of a rock and roll rebound situation. Anyway, we went up to see Ahmet at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and he signed us up. I recall him saying, “we’re going to make a lot of records together.”

David Price, Randy Fuller, Bob Jones, Joey Newman and Don Poncher (1969)

What are some of the strongest memories from producing and releasing your LP?

We recorded the album mostly live at Wally Heider’s in Hollywood. We lined the three guitar amps along one wall, Randy’s bass amp on the opposite wall, Don’s drums under a low shelf by the viewing glass, and with no baffles let it rip. I was playing a ’57 Telecaster through a rented Fender Super Reverb, but Joey and B.J. played through the Acoustic amps we used on the road.

Is there any concept behind the cover artwork?

As far as I know it was just something that looked trippy. The photo on the back cover was a much more realistic depiction of what we really looked like.


Besides the album, there was also two singles released, but I think only in Germany. Am I right?

The first single off the album was Trivial Sum. The second single was a one off recording of Marianne, written by Steve Stills (not his best work). Both singles were released in the U.S.

I believe if they would promote better you would become a major act. You opened for many bands from Jimi Hendrix to Pink Floyd. Any memories about that?

Thanks for the compliment. You never know what might have been. As far as playing with all those other artists, that was great most of the time. I remember the first big concert we did as Blue Mountain Eagle. It was at the HIC in Honolulu, Hawaii and we had been booked as The Buffalo Springfield by our manager (yeah, that same guy). We were opening for Canned Heat and Steppenwolf, and before the show this little white haired, bearded hippie dude came in and iidentified himself as the guy who would introduce us. We sat him down and explained that we were not The Buffalo Springfield, we were Blue Mountain Eagle. He said “cool” and went out and told the audience they were not going to hear Buffalo Springfield, but a really great new band called Blue Mountain Eagle. We didn’t know how that was going to go over, but by the second or third song in our set, the crowd was on their feet. I’ll always remember that one.

This can be a hard question, but I will write down all the songs from your LP and I would really appreciate if you could comment each one a bit?

I’ll let the other guys comment on their songs, but will say that I liked every one of them and feel privileged to have played with such good players.

A1          Love Is Here         
            
A2          Yellows' Dream    
           
A3          Feel Like a Bandit
I wrote this about my first ex-wife. She didn’t think it was a very good song. I never liked my vocal on the track, but the groove, Joey’s harmony part and the out where everyone sings are amazing.                           

A4          Troubles
B.J. wrote this with Augie Meyer’s wife Carol Brown. First thing you notice is B.J. could sing.                            

A5          Loveless Lives
I wish we had done more like this. I’m a sucker for heavy grooves and big guitars.                   

B1          No Regrets
I came up with the chords and Don came up with the words and sang the lead. His words and vocal turned an O.K. set of chords into a really good song. The out where he sings with B.J., and Joey’s falsetto operetta thing at the end are great.                      

B2          Winding Your String                      

B3          Sweet Mama
This is Randy being the primal force he was.                    

B4          Promise of Love          
                    
B5          Trivial Sum
This was written by Don’s friend Terry Furlong, and was the first single. It had a great groove and was great fun to play.

Do you have any crazy stories, that happened to the band?

My lips are sealed.

Blue Mountain Eagle, November 1969. Left to right: Bob Jones, Joey Newman, Randy Fuller, Don Poncher and Dave Price. Photo credit: Henry Diltz

What happened next?

We toured behind the album and worked on new material as we went. Joey in particular was writing some really strong material. We returned to LA and prepared to start on the next record, but our producer, Bill Halverson, and Atlantic said we had to record a single first. That was Marianne. We didn’t think a whole lot of the tune, it didn’t really fit with what we were doing, but we decided to make the best of it. By this time, we had replaced Randy with Dave Johnson on Bass, and he had worked with Dr. John, so he asked him to play on the track. We ended up cutting this kind of cool New Orleans kind of shuffle version of the song and sent it in. It was rejected and we were told to cut the song exactly as Steve Stills had recorded the demo. This we did, but without a whole lot of spirit behind it. We played a couple of gigs after that, but without label support for a second album, we just kind of faded away. 

Any regrets?


Time and money. We really weren’t together all that long, but I feel we had started to jell a bit into something interesting. There weren’t a lot of bands around at that time with our combination of big vocals and big guitars. Joey’s songs were progressive rock before progressive rock and our vocals were like the Eagles before the Eagles. A second album, more promotional dollars and a little more time would have been nice. All I know is when we got the opportunity to play for people, they really like us. But then again, you never know how things would have worked out had things been different. I’m just happy and proud to have had the experience. 



















Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2012
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2012

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