It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine

It's Psychedelic Baby is an independent, music magazine. We are covering alternative, underground, non-commercial and non-mainstream artists in variety of shapes and genres. Exclusive interviews, reviews and articles. A place where musicians can express themselves. We serve an international readership.

Nik Turner interview about Hawkwind


Nik Turner is founding member of space rock pioneers Hawkwind. Turner plays saxophones, flute, sings and is a composer. While with Hawkwind, Turner was known for his experimental free jazz style. We spoke about the past and also about some of his latest projects.


Interview:

Hi Nik, it's a pleasure to talk with you regarding your music career. Tell me how did it all start for you in a music scene?

Hello Klemen, nice to meet you. Well talking about sax playing, I learnt to play clarinet to start with, then graduated to saxophone when I was about 17. I had lessons from a dude up the street, learnt a couple of Charlie Parker, Gerry Mulligan and other groovy sax players tunes, played on and off for a couple of years, then didn’t practise very much, then hardly ever played, a problem disturbing the neighbours. I worked in Holland in 1967 on a rock and roll circus, where I met Mick Slattery and Dave Brock, who had a band, The Famous Cure, which played in the Circus, and kept in touch with them when they went back to Britain. In 1968 I spent time in Berlin, hanging out in psychedelic clubs with Edgar Froese  from Tangerine Dream, and other current psychedelic musicians, and at the Bue Note Jazz Club with a lot of free jazz players, who convinced me you didn’t need to be technical to express yourself musically. So I had this vision of playing free jazz in a rock band. When I came back to Britain, and hooked up with Mick and Dave, they were getting a band together. By now I had a van, (I was living in it), and thought I could be the Road Manager.

You offered a van to freshly formed Hawkwind. What happened next?

I went to a rehearsal of the band, ‘Group X’, which Mick and Dave were putting together with Terry Ollis, the drummer, and John Harrison, (may he be blessed and rest in peace), the bass player, and mentioned that I had my saxophone in my van. The guys suggested I bring it in, and have a blow, and they were impressed enough to invite me to join the band, as well as be the Road Manager. Someone had heard about a gig going on down the road, in Notting Hill Gate at the All-Saints Hall, and we decided to try to gate-crash it, and play a song. We all got pretty wasted, climbed in the van with the equipment, drove to the venue, made our request, and were given 15 minutes to play our song. We played ‘Sunshine Special’, a song based on a John Coltrane riff, ‘Africa India’, (that was used on the Byrds’ song ‘8 Miles High’). It was very well received, the organizers of the ultimately offering us a record deal, air-play and work.

You played on some of the most legendary albums. What are some memories you can share with us while producing and recording that amazing LP's?

The First album, ‘Hawkwind Live’ was an awesome experience, going into one of the top studios in London, an enormous place,(I’d never been in any studio before), with Dick Taylor, the lead guitarist from the band ‘The Pretty Things’ producing us, recording the whole thing live, twice, and then tidying up the best bits to produce the album, with Dick playing lead guitar on it, truly amazing, all totally psychedelic. (I’d seen Dick playing in Berlin with the Prettys, with Edgar’s Tanges supporting them, Wow!!!) and finding myself singing a science-fictional song I made up at the time about flying saucers coming to take us all away, going into some sort of orgasmic climax, unnggghh!!!!


The second album, ‘Xin Search Of Space’, with Dave Anderson on bass, who I’d seen playing in Berlin with ‘Amon Duul’, again with Edgar, in ‘Kommune 1’, and met in the United Artists Record company, and invited to join the band, in an even bigger studio, and being thrust into the position of being the singer, on songs I had written, Master of the Universe, and Children of the Sun, as well as incidental weird sound effects, and now playing my sax through a wah/fuzz/volume/distortion/Doppler/echo+effects pedal and my flute similarly, creating a sound of total mad mayhem, the cover designed by my fantastic cutting-edge creative friend, Mr Barney Bubbles, at my invitation, based upon the Space-Ship that crashed on earth, and became 2-dimensional, it’s adventures being described in the log-book conceived by Barney, and the soon to be Hawkwind’s Space Poet, Mr. Robert Calvert, whom I also later invited to join the band. (He’d been a friend of mine in Margate where Ilived before joining the band, we used to get wasted together all the time).


The third album, Doremi Farsol Latido by now with Lemmy in the band, recorded at Rockfield Studio in Wales, with my throw-away song, Brainstorn on it, (suddenly I’m a singer/song-writer,writing seminal songs with strong social overtones), and getting serious, being voted foremost saxophonist in Britain, and no. 2 in the world.


The fourth album, (a double), Space Ritual, the brain-child of Robert Calvert, of which the hit single Silver Machine, was a part, (though never used on the live album of the event), was recorded live on the road at Liverpool Stadium, and Brixton and Edmonton Sundowns, in London. Live performances featured the Fabulous Miss Stacia, 6’2” tall, Statuesque Goddess, with 42” bust, (every school-boys dream), dressed only in body paint, and the occasional tutu, Miss Renee, the American modern dancer/acrobat/contortionist and Mr Tony Crerar, the amazing mime artist, psychedelic lighting astronomicaly/astrologicallydesigned by Barney, Liquid Len and the Lensmen, choreographed by Barney, myself, and the dancers, (Robert was resting in hospital from a nervous breakdown) we took the audience/country/world, by storm. Gigs could be compared with those of the Grateful Dead at their height, for psychedelic substances of all forms, and mayhem and madness. The follow-up single of the band, Urban Guerilla, had the effect of bringing the band to the attention of the Bomb/Anti-Terrorist Police, and caused them to tear up my floorboards in my apartment, looking for guns and bombs, not a wise subject for a record.


The fifth album, Warrior on the Edge of Time, was inspired by the writings of Mr. Michael Moorcock, the science fiction/fantasy writer, who also featured on the album, reading some of his poetry, (he also came on the road with us and read various of his poems when Robert couldn’t make it, was indisposed) and Lemmy wrote songs, cool.


The sixth album, The Hall of the Mountain Grill, was notable for featuring Mr Simon House, the fabulous violinist, (later to play with David Bowie), and giving the band a different dynamic, changing the sound, nice!!


The seventh album, (the last Iworked on at that time), ‘Amazing Music and Astounding Sounds’, was very interesting for it’s democracy, (however short-lived), because of the involvement of everyone in the band in composing songs, so the flavours were all very different, and the whole direction changed. I liked it!!


How bout' touring. It was crazy, wasn't it?

Touring was indeed wild, it had always been very casual, and a lot of fun, and the band, (most of them were very accessible), so we maintained a very good relationship with the supporters, lots of droogs were flying around, (or was it the band flying around), high times, and bizarre ocurrencies, many hallucinations, (or was it real??), many confrontations with the police, road-blocks and raids and fun and games. Doing gigs in prisons, many benefits supporting worthwhile causes, getting badly electrocuted, working with Mr Michael Moorcock, truly psychedelic.. Touring U.S.A. was very exciting, having fancy-dress competitions at every gig on one tour, mask competitions on another, visiting Timothy Leary, the L.S.D. guru, in high security Vacaville Psychiatric Prison was an awesome experience, and doing a benefit for him, setting fire to myself on stage, being in a tornado in Nashville, wow!! Freaked me out.

Photograph by Charles Everest – copyright CameronLife.co.uk

What are you currently up to?

At the mo’ I have 2 new projects, PROJEKT9, a band playing the repertoire of all my bands, past present and future, (Hawkwind, Sphynx, Inner City Unit, Fantastic Allstars, Nik Turner Band, Galaktikos, Space Ritual, Hawklords), and Outriders of Apocalypse, based around Mayan Mythology, and the end of the 5th sun, music based on my ideas of what the Mayans danced to, and their rituals, included some info and links about it.

NIK TURNER’S OUTRIDERS OF APOCALYPSE

FEATURING THE HORNS OF QUETZALCOATL

(THE FULL MONTEZUMA)

Last night, I dreamt of Charles Mingus and Miles Davis jamming with collapsing neutron stars to summon the mythical Mayan feathered serpent…

Nik Turner’s Outriders of Apocalypse show takes its musical inspiration from South American culture dating from 10,000 BC to 2,012 AD and relates aspects of this culture to the typical themes and characters of world mythology.

Like Darth Vader orchestrated by Gil Evans, the Space Jazz Funk of the Outriders pulls together the music that has inspired Nik over the years, further shaped by his journeys to ancient sites in Mexico, Egypt, and the lands of the Celts. 

The Outriders brings together a core group of musicians drawn from bands that Nik has formed  over the years including Hawkwind, Inner City Unit and The Nik Turner Bands. This group is augmented by an array of performers bringing an eclectic mix of instrumentation to the music, including brass, strings and percussion. Dancers bring to life stories from across space and time.

One thing I really enjoy is your solo album from 1978 called Xitintoday. What can you say about it?

Sphynx Xitintoday was a very interesting album. I went to Egypt to spend Xmas with a buddy, on the day I was to go, he got deported for visa probs, but I went anyway, and had a fantastic time. Whilst there I recorded flute music inside the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid, for my own amusement, and on my return to Britain, I realised I had a contractural obligation, so I convinced Charisma Records to let me go into a studio with Steve Hillage, and a load of friends, and  basing it around my Egyptian flute recordings, create a science-fiction album, based on the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Pyramid Texts, about a dude that goes into a pyramid on Venus, meets the crew, (the Egyptian Gods), has all the right passwords and spells, passes through, and comes out of the Great Pyramid in Egypt, January 1977. Egypt was fascinating, visiting all the awesome places, Tutankhamun’s tomb and all the temples, huge everythings, playing my flute everywhere I went, on buses, in the street, in taxis, I got adopted by the Bedouins, they thought I was mad, and treated me so well. Then touring the album, playing all the free festivals, really wild stuff.


In 80's you experimented a lot with Inner City Unit. What would you say about the band…you mixed a lot of things together…

Inner City Unit was a very exciting band, coming after the chilled out Sphynx, It was high energy, satirical, political, intelligent, musical punk, exciting, awesome, completely mad, doing all the same things I ever did, confrontational political protests and benefits, objet trouve attitude, with a keen sense of humour, and clever lyrics and outrageous gigs, hanging severed body parts from the gantries, mock bomb scares, giving away thousands of pounds of forged money, having dead flower fights with the audiences, recording 5 albums, putting up my Pyramid Stage, and playing every year at Stonehenge Festival, and much, much more.


In 90's you recorded another very interesting album titled Sphynx with Helious Creed. How was it to record with him?

Helios is great, a great musician, very creative, a lot of fun, an awesome dude. I wasn’t there when they recorded the album, but we spent a lot of time together, did a 45 date tour all over the U.S.A. with the band Sleep,(heavy heavy), in sub-zero conditions sometimes, had a lot of fun, awesome stuff.

In the past years you had two projects, Space Ritual and Nik Turner Band…

Space Ritual is a cool band, all ex-members of Hawkwind, playing songs I wrote with Hawkwind, some Robert Calvert material, and my newer material, which we recorded on the Space Ritual ‘Otherworld’ album.

Nik Turner Band is cool jazz, latino jazz, and a lot of funk, music I grew up on, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Maceo Parker, music with a sense of class, like a guy gotta have, that knows how to treat a dame, and much more.

What would you say are some of the main influences on you as a musician?

A lot of Jazz, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Sun Ra, Jimi Hendrix, Roland Kirk, Charlie Mingus, Earl Bostic, Stockhausen, James Brown, and more.

Thanks for taking your time, Nik! Would you like to send a message to your fans and It's Psychedelic Baby readers?

Keep taking the tablets, (L.S.D.) and all the natural psychedelics, communicate with the Gods, help each other to get high in a positive way, help each other generally, raise your conciousness, don’t harm yourself or others, love one another, have funnnnnn!!?!
























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

Stone Dawn interview with George Manney

Stone Dawn live at Bar-X - NE Philly 1969.
Interview:

Thanks for getting in touch with me. I'm really happy we will write down history of your band, Stone Dawn. Before we do it, I want to ask you a few questions about your background. Where did you grew up and what are some of the memories from your childhood and teen years?

I was born in Philadelphia in 1951. My parents Madeline and Art were musicians and when we had parties, my mom's band members were always invited, so it was always live music, not a record player at the party for entertainment. 



My mom's bands played an integral part of my musical abilities as I learned by watching them jam at our house every weekend. American Bandstand played a major role in Rock & Roll in America, broadcasting out of Philadelphia five days a week across the nation with the latest sounds and believe you and me, I was hooked. The 60's laid out the blueprint for great music then and for later generations and it was the best of times going to concerts paying $3.50. to see The Beatles,  or $1.50 to see the Rolling Stones on Steel Pier,  The Supremes, Duke Ellington Orchestra, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Humble Pie, Faces, Zappa, etc.

Were you or other members of Stone Dawn in any bands? Any releases perhaps?

In the early 70's I played in a band with former American Dream vocalist, Nicky Indelicato called Bump. We also did a show during that period with Frank Stallone in the Tacony neighborhood of Philadelphia and it was a magical time and the bar was packed. In the mid 70's Nicky and I stated to play down on South Street in a band called Delirious and those times were just that! That went on for about a year and a half and fell apart. Later in 1979 Nicky and I got together with my former Stone Dawn band-mates, Robb  and Marty and put together the band Snipz. We cut a few tracks in the studio that have not been released but may see the light of day, we shall see. In the 80's I played with Kenn Kweder, Alan Mann Band, Robert Hazard ('Girls Just Want To Have Fun') and others. In 1986 I formed the Last Minute Jam Band, Philadelphia's most prestigious rock jam. This was a weekly residency that lasted ten years and I released two benefit CD's (1996 - 1998) and one Prism TV show special.

What was the scene in your town?

In the late 50's, Philly had tons of great jazz clubs and musicians, plus American Bandstand broke nationally in 1957, broadcasting five days a week, three hours a day, making the local dancers on the show such as Bunny Gibson, national stars as well as the local musicians and solo singers like Charlie Gracie, The Orlons, The Dovells, Dee Dee Sharp and more. It also was the scene of the hottest indie record label, Cameo - Parkway. Don't forget that Philly's Swan Records released The Beatles "She Loves You', and that single was mastered by Philly boy, Emel Corson at Reco Art studio, later to be know as Sigma Sound Studios with Joe Tarsia heading the place in late 1968 with a hit by locals, The Soul Survivors.
In the mid to late 60's, Philly had a really cool, underground music scene happening with the following bands; Nazz, American Dream, Elizabeth, Sweet Stavin Chain, Mandrake Memorial, Woody's Truck Stop, Edison Electric Band, Good News, Thunder & Roses, Valentine, Linda Cohen, Keith, Sweet Nothing and our band, Stone Dawn. In fact, our band was the first electric band to play the 2nd fret coffee house on Sansom Street in early 66.
The clubs changed to the new psych-pop sounds and clubs and coffee houses were abound with, Electric Factory, The Trauma, Artists Hut, 2nd Fret, 2nd of Autumn and others. Samson Street became the hippest street in town with mod clothing shops, shoe stores and record shops. In fact most of the bands would hang out at Rittenhouse Square during the day and jam. Later in the evening, we would go and check out one of the bands playing. It was a time of camaraderie among the bands that helped make the scene flourish. One summer concert series at JFK stadium included, The Who, Pink Floyd and others for only $1.00. Of importance was the Atlantic City Pop Festival held  before Woodstock with a better line-up, produced by Electric Factory of Philadelphia. 
Also the Philadelphia Folk Festival was happening in the 60's as is still going strong today in 2012.
As a teenager in Philadelphia with a cool scene happening, it was like a dream come true. We, Stone Dawn learned from all of the Philly bands but we did march to the sound of a different drum. Trying to explain our sound is difficult for me as our influences were varied to say the least.


 Stone Dawn 1968.
Stone Dawn - the basement tapes 1968.

How did you guys meet and got together to form the band?

My first band was actually a duo called The Rocking Beethoven's with my neighborhood buddy, Robb Snyder in late 1963. Robb played the accordion and I played snare and hi-hat. Our first gig was for an 8th grade graduation.  Both Robb and I were in 7th grade and we were playing for a class of older girls so that was really cool.
As the Rocking Beethoven's we gradually changed our sound as Robb picked up my mom's acoustic guitar and I placed a mic in the sound hole as to make it amplified. We started to play in the back alley in a garage called The Cave with the new kid on the block, Marty Ahearn. Marty knew all the words to the Beach Boys so we enlisted him to sing lead for a short time. Robb gave Marty a few pointers on guitar and lo and behold we were now a trio, two guitars and drums. Performing for the kids in our driveway started to take off as we set up a residency in Marty's garage aka The Cave & performed into the evening. Sometimes the local girls would bring along flashlights as we only had a single light bulb to perform with.
Unfortunately we have no surviving tapes of our 64-65 period.


Stone Dawn - 1970 Manney basement

So tell us the story about the band (where did you play, did you record anything, why did you choose the name Stone Dawn etc.)


Stone Dawn - 1970 Torresdale Ave. - Tacony

At one of our garage gigs at The Cave, a local girl, Penny Stubbs, got up and played guitar and sang a song with us and all of the other kids dug it. Next thing you know she is in the band. Now Robb moved from guitar to bass utilizing one of my mom's six stringed guitars but playing the lower strings to make up for a bass.


Stone Dawn - 1970 Manney back steps

Again as I mentioned, The Beatles influence lead us to start writing our own songs. Don't forget, we are only in our teens and still in high school. We got together three times a week at my parents basement to work out our new originals, recording the nights work on a mono Webcore tape deck that my mom owned to better our arrangements, etc. plus learn some of the new hit songs so we could get paying gigs. I would handle the bookings as I learned all of this from my mom.



As our original song list kept growing, we were also influenced by the new sounds from the underground. So I then hit the phones to start booking at the Trauma, Electric Factory, 2nd Fret and more. 
This led to a recording contract in 1969 with Groovey Grooves with one single. We did get some air play with the underground radio station WMMR. More gigs at the Electric Factory as co-founder Larry Magid took a liking to us. The single made some local noise but nothing outside of Philly.
Larry Magid of Electric Factory took to us, and we always helped him with benefit shows and last minute opening act. One that comes to mind was opening for catfish at the Electric factory. Our band did the opening set and as I was walking off stage, I was approached by the road manger of Catfish and he asked if I would sit in with the band until their drummer showed up as he was stuck in a traffic jam across town. I said sure, did part of the set playing more blues style numbers. After their show they asked me if I would be interested in join the band and I said no thanks, I have plenty of work to do with by band, Stone Dawn. That was a mistake to say the least. The band did the opening of a mall with the Grass Roots in 68 that was a thrill. Robb and myself also had the pleasure to play that day with Joe Jeffrey performing his hit, "My Pledge Of Love" as the Joe Jeffrey Group. All of this was done while we were still in high school mind you, so it really did blow our minds.
We then did some demos with Nick Jameson of the American Dream at their place at 3rd and Cherry. We went to New York and pounded on the doors to every record company but were eventually turned down. Our last try in Philly was at Cameo - Parkway, they also passed on us. Mind you, back then you could go to a record company and play them your two track tape in their office on a reel to reel tape deck.


Steel Pier flyer
Stone Dawn at the Electric factory archive 1969

Our last attempt at recording, we pooled our money and went to Impact Sound in NE Philly with engineer, Tony Schmidt. I took charge of the production and mixing, my first professional recording project.
During the late 60's I had a British pen pal and she gave me the contact info for Apple Records, The Beatles new company in London as they were looking for talent to sign to Apple Records. First I sent a letter to Paul McCartney with my bands bio and photos. Within two weeks I got a letter telling me to send our demo to Apple to the attention of one Peter Asher (formally of Peter & Grodon). I thought this was great since I got to meet The Beatles in 1964 in Atlantic City as they were leaving the Lafayette Hotel after their gig and later in 1966 when I saw them at JFK Stadium in Philly, this was a dream come true. After I received the letter, printed on the top in bold was their phone number. I got up the courage to call Apple Records and was blessed to talk to Paul & John on two occasions. 


Letter from Apple Records in regards to my band Stone Dawn.

Well we never did get a contract with Apple, the band broke up in late 1970 and I moved ahead as did the rest of the members of Stone Dawn.


Atlantic City Pop Festival 1969


So you released one single on Groovy Grooves records and I want you to tell me how did you get signed up and what are some of the strongest memories from producing and recording this single?


Back in the mid-late 60's, music was regional and bands were recording at small studios and their was an abundance of small record labels eager to release new rock bands... thus our one-off single with Groovey Grooves Records in 1969.



A fellow by the name of Bill Hoy a good friend of local DJ Giant Gene Arnold became our Press Agent, found this small record label, Groovey Grooves, they agreed to record a single with our band and release it regionally in 1969. 




We cut the tracks at Baker Sound then located in New Jersey.  Credited to Bill Hamilton Productions, then located at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. Bill and our manager agreed that our single should feature Penny on lead vocals. The band selected her two compositions, "Agent promise Blues" and "What You Think Is Right". We cut the drums, bass and rhythm guitar live. We then added lead vocals, then lead guitar and backing vocals. The mix was done quickly and we had a single ready for release. But, little did we know that our PR guy Bill and the band had to do most of the leg work to get the word out about our single. That was frustrating but also rewarding when I woke up one morning to go to school and on my radio was our single, "What You Think Is Right" blasting out from radio station WMMR! That was the best day of my high school years to say the least.


Contract for Stone Dawn single on Groovey Grooves in 1969.


Is there any unreleased stuff out there?


Yes, a live recording from the Electric Factory with Stone Dawn, the Nick Jameson sessions at 3rd and Cherry, the sessions from Impact Sound from 1970 and a reunion concert in 1972 recorded at the Tacony Baptist Church coffee house. Some of these tracks I am working on for a release later in 2012 as a recording history of Stone Dawn. Will keep you posted.

Stone Dawn - Electric Factory 1970.
On stage lower right is tape deck that they used to record part of their set & later pressed on vinyl.

Thanks for your time!  What occupies your life these days?

My recording band, Clutch Cargo ( www.ClutchCargoMusic.com ) with my wife, Su Tearrs, a wonderful vocalist and songwriter. We just released a benefit single, a cover of the McCartney hit, "Mull of Kintyre" featuring Philly's R&R pioneer, Charlie Gracie and other guests. Working on my documentary of the history of music of Philadelphia, "Philly Pop Music, The Lost Pioneers" ( www.PhillyPopMusic.com ). I also directed and produced two documentaries, "Pipes of Peace" the story of the worlds first jazz bagpipe player, Rufus Harley and the award winning doc, "Meet Me On South Street, The Story of JC Dobbs" Philly's premiere rock and roll bar. (www.MeetMeOnSouthStreetMovie.com ) .
Also working on a American Dream CD release of demos produced by Todd Rundgren plus a couple of tracks from the last recording session at Sigma Sound Studios from 1970 on the Philly Pop Music label. Stay tuned.



Thank you Klemen for your interest in our band Stone Dawn and the scene from Philadelphia in the late 60's.
Cheers!














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

Dick Wagner interview


Interview:

Dick Wagner, renowned Detroit area guitarist/songwriter/band leader kindly took time from his hectic schedule to share his musical saga with readers of It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine. Many thanks to Dick for doing the interview immediately following a visit to the dentist on a 100 plus degree Arizona afternoon.

How are you doing today Dick?

Okay, how are you doing?

I think probably better than you since you just left the dentist's office.

Yeah, its about 112 degrees today.  Really hot.

You were born in Iowa, but moved to Michigan at a very young age.  What was the reason for the move?

It was a family move.  My father got a position in Michigan so we moved as a family. 

How old were you when you began playing guitar and what kind of guitar did you start out with?

I was 16 or 16 1/2 when I began playing and it was a Harmony guitar.  A Harmony acoustic guitar. 

Wow, that's really hard to imagine, Dick Wagner playing acoustic guitar.  How long was it before you were playing electric guitar and what type of guitar was it?

6 months.  It was a Harmony guitar also, a very nice guitar, soon followed by a Gibson 345.  I sold that Gibson about 20 years ago after having it for 30 years.  Wish I still had it. 

Who were your influences?

The Beatles, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, all the early rockers.  I'm an old guy you know.  I've been around the block several times.

What was the first song you ever wrote?

It was called "Lonely and Crying For You."

Do you still remember how to play it?

Sort of.  I could probably remember it if I tried.  I remember the chorus but not the verse.  That was about 50 years ago.  For a songwriter its kinda like asking someone what they had for breakfast 50 years ago.

Did you record the song?

No, never did record it.

What was the first band you were in?

The name of the band was The Invictas. It was composed of four seventeen year olds just learning to play guitar so you can kind of imagine what it sounded like.

Four guitars, it must've gotten kinda loud?

Yeah, a little loud and a little loose probably, you know.  The band evolved and after six or eight months we got a bass player and a drummer.

How long did The Invictas stay together?

We were together about six or eight months and then added a drummer and bass player.  All together we were probably together a couple of years.  The band evolved.

Eventuallly you ended up in The Bossmen with yourself on guitar, Warren Keith on pian, Lanny Roenicke on bass and Pete Woodman on drums.  What was the first song you guys recorded?

It was called "Take A Look My Friend."



Did it get any radio air play?

Yeah, in mid Michigan it got a lot of air play.

What label was that on?

The Soft label out of Nashville.



With the Bossmen you cut about a half dozen singles.

Yeah, six singles.

And you did all the songwriting for The Bossmen?

Pretty much. Warren Keith the piano player wrote "Its A Shame" and "Thanks To You" was written by our bass player.  I wrote all the rest of them.



How much touring did you do with The Bossmen?

Quite a bit.  We were very popular.  We were young but very popular so we were always on the road touring.

What sort of venues did you play?

High schools and a variety of small places.

After The Bossmen was The Frost your next band?

The Frost was the next band, yeah.

Tell me how The Frost came to be on the Vanguard label?

They had an agent in Detroit following us every week for 6 months until we signed with them. 

How did things work out on the Vanguard label which was owned by Lawrence Welk?



They didn't much know what to do with us.  Vanguard was a folk label.  Joan Baez, Buffy Saint-Marie and the like.  When it came to promotion they weren't quite ready for an act like The Frost.  We rocked and the label just wasn't designed to promote that sort of music so we were left to our own devices in a lot of situations.

What was your first release with The Frost?

The LP was called "Frost Music."  The single from it "Mystery Man" was a pretty big hit.



Any idea how many copies of "Frost Music" were sold?

We sold 50,000 albums the first two weeks.  All in all it sold about 100,000 units.  It was a definite hit.

What venues were you playing when The Frost came around?

Bigger venues like The Grande Ballroom in Detroit, occasionally places like Olympia or bigger arenas. A variety, but bigger than with The Bossmen.

The second album was recorded live.  How did it sell?

It was recorded over two nights at The Grande Ballroom.  It sold about 100,000 units like the first album.

What was the single from "Rock and Roll Music?"

It was the title track and it was an anthem. It was a big hit.



How much time did it take The Frost to cut an album in the studio?

We cut the first album in about a week.  The second album was live, over two nights.  The third album "Through The Eyes Of Love" took a little longer.  It took about two weeks to record.

The personnel of The Frost stayed the same all the way through.  Why was it that The Frost disbanded?

Everyone had their own agendas.  Keeping a band together is very hard.  You've got to have the same purpose.  All the guys in the band gotta have the same dream.  If they don't it doesn't work.  Its very difficult keeping bands together.  You try, you do your best, but sometimes it doesn't work.  We did pretty good.  The Frost was together like three years.



It sounds like the band did very well.  Was everybody in the band on the same page?

Not really.  Some of them wanted fishing time, you know.  I was all about the music. That created kind of a problem but we were together quite a while.

Afer The Frost broke up, tell me how your next band came about.

I moved to New York and started Ursa Major with Billy Joel and a drummer Rick Mangone. Billy left before we recorded anything and I got a bass player from The Amboy Dukes.  We toured with Alice Cooper and with Jeff Beck and we toured a bit on our own.  We recorded one album and then that band broke up.  The same thing.  Trying to keep a band together is nearly impossible.

Ursa Major recorded one LP, which today is recognized as a hard rock classic.

It is.



How long did you have to record that album and how did the sessions go?

Not too long.  A couple of weeks to write the songs and a couple of weeks to record it.

So you were the songwriter for Ursa Major?

I wrote all the songs.

What a shame that Ursa Major didn't last.

Yeah, that's the way it is.  Bands have a lot of potential, and then something happens and they break up.  Maybe its me, I don't know.  Maybe they don't like me.  Very possible. (Laughter)

By this point were you a Gibson man?

Yeah, I played the 345 all the time.

After Ursa Major I know you did some session work.  Could you tell us some of the people you played sessions for and some of the studios you played in.

You know, its hard for me to remember everything I did in the early 1970s.  I played at The Record Plant and Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady Studios.  My complete discography is available on my website:  wagnermusic.com.  There's just too much for me to remember.



Are there any sessions that really stick out in your mind?




We did the Lou Reed live album "Rock 'n' Roll Animal" and that's a classic.  Then I did "Welcome To My Nightmare" with Alice Cooper.  I spent a lot of years with Alice Cooper, like ten years or so.



The Lou Reed live album.  It sounded like you and Steve Hunter had played together forever.  Did it seem that way to you?

Oh yeah.  Playing wiht Steve was magic.  It really was.  And I'd like to do it again someday.

How many sessions did you and Steve do together?

There were a few.  But all of them were special.  It was a great guitar partnership too.

You had played on Lou Reed's album "Berlin" hadn't you?

That's correct. I didn't play that much on the album.  Steve did a lot more than I did.  Then we played on an Aerosmith album and I did the Kiss album.

Following the Lou Reed albums, you joined Alice Cooper.  How did that happen?

Lou Reed fired me.  He said he didn't like my sound anymore.  So when I left Lou Reed I brought the same band to Alice Cooper.

Can you tell our readers who the other members of that band were?

Steve Hunter and myself were on guitar, Prakash John on bass, Penti Glan on drums, and Ray Colcord on keyboards.  Steve and I were Americans, the others came from the Canadian band Mandala. Together we were definitely a great band.

What sort of relationship did you have with Alice Cooper?

We were cowriters and I was kinda band leader.  Alice was good to us. Very good to us.  (Note:  7 of 9 of Alice's top 10 hits were cowritten with Dick).

How long did you play with Alice?

Going on ten years, nine years or so.  A long time.  Long time.

Probably the best known song you cowrote with Alice was "Only Women Bleed."  How did you guys come up with that song?

The music I had written while in The Frost.  But the lyrics never were good enough so we never recorded it.  Then Alice and I sat down and wrote new lyrics and it came out "Only Women Bleed."  That was his idea, that title.



Any idea how many copies that single sold?

Close to a million. 

That was in 1976 as I recall, so we're talking about 35 or 36 years ago.

A long time ago.  Yeah.  I still get royalties.  Its also been recorded by another twenty five or twenty six artists.  Its a truly classic song.  Its recorded by lots of different people every year. 

So it sounds like a song that continues to pay not only tribute to you and Alice as great songwriters, but also in the form of royalty checks.

Oh yeah, its fun, you go to the mailbox open it up and get your royalty checks every couple of months.  Its good.  That song has kept me living for many years.

One thing I'm sure our readers want to know, how was it to tour with Alice Cooper?

It was always a party.  It was great.  I miss it.  I'd like to do it again.

Are you still in contact with Alice?

Oh yeah.  We're friends.  I talked to him not too long ago.

So is there any chance of you guys reuniting in the future?

Um, I would say yes.  There is a chance, yep.  I think we probably will.

Judging by the track record I don't see how it could be anything but a win-win situation.

No I agree with you totally.  I agree with you.

What was the reason for leaving Alice's band?

I was gonna go solo.  I made a solo album.  I was gonna give that a shot.  I didnt really get into it the way I should have but I was always doing sessions and writing songs for other people so I was busy all the time.  At some point I decided I was gonna go on my own again.

And how did that turn out?

Well here I am.  I'm still here, touring and recording and doing all kinds of stuff so it worked out okay.  It wasn't as lucrative as staying with Alice Cooper but it was okay.

How many solo albums have you recorded?

I don't know.  Just a couple I guess, two or three.




Have the sales been on that?

Pretty good. I mean record sales are down in the whole industry right now.  But I do alright.  I do pretty well.

It sounds like you're gearing up for a big tour coming up.

Yeah, I'm leaving here in a few days to go up to Detroit to start a midwest tour.  Till August.  It'll be from the end of June until August.

Where's the first date gonna be?

Its gonna be on June 28th in a little town outside of Detroit.

So you're headed back to where things really really got geared up for you in Detroit.

Oh yeah.  I've got a lot of fans there, so its a good place to play.

Who is playing with you in your band at this point?

I've got a bunch of Detroit players.  I've put together a band of Detroit musicians.  Skeeto Valdez on drums, Grant West on bass, Ray Goodman on guitar, Dennis Burr on guitar, and me on guitar, and Mark Nilan on keyboards, and my son, Robert, is gonna sing lead for us.

I was wondering about that.  When I saw the lineup, I thought either you'd brought the old actor Robert Wagner out of retiremet or..

No, no, its my son.  He's fantastic, a real talent.

That's gotta make you proud having your son as part of your band.

Oh its fantastic.  I love it.  And he loves doing it too.  Its gonna be fantastic.

How long have you two been working together?

Well, I've been working with my son all his life.  I've helped him produce his albums and worked with his bands and helped him out.  So now he's helping dad out. Its a great thing.

How many albums has your son put out at this point?

I think three.  He's planning on doing another one this year.  He's very busy.

Are his albums available from Amazon.com and the usual outlets?

I think so.  I reallly don't know what he's got going right now.  I'm just so swamped here I can't keep up with it all.

I hear you've got a new book in the works here?

My book's gonna be out in two weeks as far as I know.  We're waiting on the first shipment.

What would the title of that book be?

It's called "Not Only Women Bleed." 

Is it an autobiography?

More or less, yeah.  It's an autobiography of my life and my career.

How long did it take you to write it?

I worked on it for like three years. It should be available in two to three weeks.  You'll be able to buy it on Amazon.com and at all of my gigs and you'll be able to buy it on my website (wagnermusic.com).  And there will be a special website just for the book.  Its gonna be great.



Just to wrap it up, looking back on your long, long career can you name a couple of moments that were really extra special to you.  Which bands did you especially enjoy playing with.

That's a tough question.  I did that Aerosmith album and I did a Kiss album.  I enjoyed those things a lot.  I enjoy playing so it doesn't matter what.  Playing sessions or whatever.  You could say everybody I guess.

How can people keep up with all things Dick Wagner?

On Facebook, Dick Wagner, Maestro of Rock, on My Space at myspace.com/dickwagnermusic, and at my official website, wagnermusic.com.

Just as a closing comment, has there ever been an "Oh my God, I can't belive this is happening to me" moment that stands out?

Too many of them, too many times that were too special, it would be hard for me to pinpoint that.

Dick, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview.  I know the readers at Its Psychedelic Baby Magazine will join me in thanking you.

It was my pleasure.  It was great talking to you.

Thank you so much for your time Dick.  Have a wonderful evening, a wonderful tour, and hope to talk to you again someday.

Thank you.  Thank you buddy.
















An abbreviated discography of Dick Wagner's earliest and best known recordings follows:
"The Complete Bossmen," a cd release which includes the 6 singles, 12 tracks released by Dick's first band between 1964 and 1967 and was released by Wagner Music Group in 1995 with 3 bonus tracks of early recordings by The Frost, then the 3 albums by The Frost, "Frost Music" 1969, "Rock and Roll Music" 1969 and "Through The Eyes of Love" 1970, all released on the Vanguard label and relissued in 1993, 1994, and 1995 respectively  on cd by Vanguard Records Germany, and the self-titled "Ursa Major" first released in 1972 by RCA records and reissued on cd in 2000 by Collectables Records.  Dick's complete discography can be found on his official website, wagnermusic.com.

Photos © Don Richard

Interview made by Kevin Rathert / 2012
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/ 2012