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Dragonfly interview with Randy Russ

February 27, 2013

Dragonfly interview with Randy Russ

From The Legends to Dragonfly. Here is the
original story behind the band by Randy Russ, their guitarist. Sunbeam Records
recently reissued their LP.
Interview:
I’m glad we are having your with us,
Randy. You were a member of The Legend and Dragonfly. 
You were growing up in Texas. What was the
scene back then there? Did you visit or even play in the Vulcan Gas Company
along side with the rest of Texas psych crew?
Back in the 60’s, El Paso was way behind
the world as far as the music scene. El Paso only had 2 AM stations, and they
both were playing corny music. But late at night we could pick up Wolf Man Jack
and KOMA in Oklahoma for some good music. And we would go over to Juarez and
check out the music over there. The Lobby had Long John Hunter. Him and Elvis
were my first inspirations. I had never heard of the Vulcan Gas Company.
What would you say influenced you the
most?
That Sunday night that I first saw Elvis
was it for me. I wanted to play guitar. Didn’t care about signing, I just wanted
to play guitar. My dad had an F hole Melody guitar and showed me 5 chords. But
learning was hard for me as I’m dyslexic and have a learning disorder. And like
I said, I would go over to Juarez and watch Long John, go home and try to
remember the licks he was doing. I would even sneak out on a school night in my
parents car. Trying to play under my covers soft enough that my parents
wouldn’t hear me.
Were The Legends your first band or were
you involved with any other bands while you’d still been in Texas. How about
other members of The Legends?
A friend down the street from me Doug Neal,
started out playing piano told me to come with him to a rehearsal. The guitar
player who was kind of running the show, lent me this guitar that only had four
strings on it showed me some stuff and we did a battle of the bands. We were
called the Emeralds. The group that won, Bobby Fuller was playing drums. Later
on, Doug and I started up a group called The Instigators. We changed some
members and that was called The Infants of Soul. After that, the group broke
up.
I heard, there were three from Texas and
two from Colorado and you formed in Durango, Colorado. How did that happened?
I was working at a shoe store and got a
call from two guys from El Paso that had gone to Durango Co and joined up with
two guys from there. They wanted another guitar player and I jumped at it. We
practiced a couple of months and started playing in the area. That group was
called the Lords of London. That name was change the The Jimmerfield Legend,
which was shortened to The Legend.
The Legend recorded and released an LP
back in 1968 on Megaphone Records. What are some memories from recording it?

The Legend was playing all over Colorado,
breaking all kinds of attendance records and beer sales at clubs we played at.
We had heard that a record company was looking for a group to sign up. We
played a couple of more gigs, saved our money and headed out for LA. When we
got there, we found out that the record company was auditioning groups and
trying to steal different members to make up their own group. They wanted our
drummer, Barry, who turned them down. Gerry had been out in LA a couple years
previous and knew of these two guys that were managers, said he would give them
a call, but he warned us about them. They came over and heard us and said they
could do something with us. But they wanted us to sign a contract, which we did.
One of the managers, Tony Sepe, had a brother who owned a Chicago based
company. He talked him into backing a record company. Thus the birth of
Megaphone records. Stolen idea of the RCA dog logo listening to the megaphone.
We went into the studio and recorded a few songs. 
We had run out of money and
couldn’t play in LA because we weren’t in the union. Tony and Marty Brooks(the
other manager) would drop by our motel and give $10 to $12 a day to live on. We
were eating bologna sandwiches three times a day. A lot of times, we would buy
the bread and cigarettes and one of us would steal the bologna. Speaking of the
motel, one of those run down slime pitts on Sunset Strip, two of us would sleep
in the bed, some would sleep in our converted bread truck, and I would sleep in
the 396 Chevelle. We needed money, so we went back to Colorado to play some
gigs, make some money and eat. When we came back, Tony and Marty had hired some
studio musicians and Gene Page, a producer, and the basic tracks were done on
the Legend album. We had no idea that this was going to be done and when we
confronted them, they just laugh us off and said that this is the way it was
done.  We put on the vocals and different
guitar parts. It was put out as the Legend. One day at the studio, we wanted
Jack Duncan to come in and do some parts and he couldn’t be found. He was in
the hall way talking to this real cute chick. He introduced me to Sally Fields.
What a treat.
Did you play any concerts?
Like I said, we weren’t in the union and
couldn’t play in LA. Later on, Tony and Marty got in the Waco Texas union and
they got us a gig outside of LA, and we got fired for being too loud. But we
did come to El Paso and played a concert at the Coliseum. For that night, I
played through 3 Vox Super Beatles and a Fender Super Reverb. Most of our gigs
were at bars and clubs.
What happened, that you changed your
name from The Legend into Dragonfly? The lineup was still the same, right? And
why did you choose the name “Dragonfly”?

Tony and Marty had no idea what they were
doing. The Legend album had no distribution to speak of. They were skimming as
much money as they could out of the record label. They even had custom made
alligator brief cases made. Things like that made us angry. We weren’t getting
anything. Marty had heard us play at The Family Dog in Denver. Bob Cohen of the
Family Dog liked the band. Marty told Tony that we were good enough to do our
own recording. So we started the second album and things were getting worse
with the band and Tony and Marty, so in the middle of the album we told them we
weren’t going to record any more until they let us out of our contract. They
agreed. We finished the album. They found this acid freak that had done this
painting and they bought it from him and Tony saw the Dragonfly on the picture
and decided to call it that. Their plan was to find some musicians, have them
learn the songs and put them out on the road. But one day Tony and Marty went
to the office, and locks had been change and the company in Chicago had shut
down Megaphone Records. That’s why you don’t see our name anywhere on the
album.
The next LP was released in late 1968,
these time with much harder sound. What are some of the strongest memories from
producing and releasing this LP?

During the time the first album was done,
we were developing our sound. Trying different things on stage and we were
starting to gel. By the time we did Dragonfly, we were pretty comfortable with
each other. The difference between the two albums is the first we were
restricted by harsh comments and brow beating by Tony and Marty. By the second
album, we were confident and would not let them tell us how to play. Remember
the first album, The Legend was partly done by studio musicians. But let me
tell you, when I was in their doing my overdubs and I knew something was coming
off pretty good, I would feel so good. It would be a total rush.
What gear did you guys use?

Jimmerfield would use a Gibson 335 and 1956
Gold Top Les Paul, which I now own. He used a Blonde Fender  Bassman. I would use for rhythm a 1965 Fender
Telecaster through a 1965 Fender Super Reverb, which I still own. For leads, I
used a 1959 Les Paul SG through a Vox Super Beatle With 4 Altec Lansing. That
thing would scream. I used the internal effects and Maestro Fuzz. Jack the bass
player got the richest sound out of this Japanese bass. Don’t remember the
brand name.
What can you say about the cover artwork
and perhaps how many copies were made? Was there any airplay/distribution?

Like I said earlier, Tony and Marty conned
some acid freak out of his artwork and I heard that when he was in the office
to sign the release for his artwork, he didn’t talk, he made animal noises. As
far as how many many were pressed, they didn’t share that kind of matters with
us. They did what they wanted. I heard that 5000 copies were sent to Australia.
Casey Cassum played Enjoy Yourself in New York. There was really no push behind
it, they didn’t know how to and they had such a bad reputation, that the honest
people in business didn’t want to deal with Tony and Marty. Enjoy Yourself got
a little mention in music magazine called Cashbox.
Please comment each song from your LP.
A1         
Blue Monday
Blue Monday was fun song to do. Jack Duncan
and Barry Davis wrote this one day.
A2         
Enjoy Yourself     
Barry Davis, the drummer and myself wrote
that at the kitchen table drinking hot coffee. Kind of a summary of life’s
bummers and where an acid trip can take you. The opening drum part had to be
recorded in parts to get the high hat on one side and the snare on the other
and the bass in the middle. To me watching it, it looked hard as hell to do.
A3         
Hootchie Kootchie Man  
Is song that Duncan wanted to do. We used
to do it live and had some good times doing it. Richard had told me a section
of my lead was going to be backward, so I had to figure out how to start high
and end up in the low register to be in place for the regular forward section.
It’s hard to describe.
A4         
I Feel It   
Another song Duncan wrote. He just came to
the session and had the song. I don’t remember the particulars. You got to
remember, this was 44 years or so ago. And since then there’s been a lot of
brain cells destroyed. 
A5         
Trombodo          
Trombodo was done by our producer, Richard
Egizi, who Tony and Marty had to hire cause they were in way in over their
heads and far as record production. Richard did all on trombone, recorded at different
speeds. Richard is one those musical geniuses. He is really the one that kept
us going with that project. He was so full of ideas. At the session they asked
me how do you say trombone in Spanish, I didn’t know so I just said Trombodo.   
A6         
Portrait of Youth   
Gerry came in one day with an idea and we
all pitched in and came up it.
             
B1         
Crazy Woman  
Jack and I wrote that. I had some chord
structures and Jack had some words and some chord structures, so it just came
together.  
   
B2         
She Don’t Care               
Written and sung by Jimmerfield. He wanted
me to get as freaky as I could on the lead. When I listen to it now, it’s not
so freaky. I don’t know who the song is about, but he wanted everybody just to
freak on their instruments. The engineers had hard time getting the right delay
that we wanted on the voice part. Got hand it to them, they did a good job.
B3         
Time Has Slipped Away 
Another Duncan song. I really got into the
chord changes. And the lead is wild, man.
            
B4         
To Be Free        
One more Duncan song and don’t remember the
details of this even after listening to it again.
B5         
Darlin’               
 Jimmerfield
only had this one little section and we had smoked a little, so we did it. And
then the laughter came.
B6         
Miles Away
Duncan was trying to get this thing
together at last minute. We were stumped, and it just started coming together.
The line ” Purple flag half mast on a Tuesday” was just a filler line
that I liked and he left it. Richard did bring in some singers to help us with
the background on the album, cause the parts Richard was hearing would have
taken us forever to do. There’s 9th’s and 13th’s or some crap like that in
there somewhere. I would never been able to do that.
Where all did the Dragonfly play and
with who?
Like I said earlier, Dragonfly wasn’t a
real band. It was a concept of our managers. The Legend played in Ft. Collins
Co. with Question Mark and the Mysterians and at the Family Dog with The Soul
Survivors and The Box Tops at one gig. And we played a lot with a group,
American Standard with Tommy Bolin as the guitar player at The Family Dog. We
only did one concert in El Paso and the rest were clubs and bars. The Family
Dog was a huge building that probably could get 3 thousand people in.
Did hallucinogens have any impact on
the sound?
In 1968, I think, the Legend along with
about 10 other people did acid for the first time in the middle of this green
pasture surrounded with pine trees. There was even pond with beavers and man
what a trip. Jack, Barry and myself only did acid around 10 or 12 times. Gerry
and Ernie, I think, did it more. Gerry would go on about this thing that we
could get up on stage and all of us would play anything and because we were
really gelling, it would all come together. I really didn’t understand that
idea and kind of freaked me out. Jack and Barry and I would look at each other
not knowing what the hell he was talking about. One night, coming down from an
acid trip, I came to the realization that if I kept on playing and practicing I
could be as good as anyone. I had an inferiority complex.. So you might say the
acid helped my confidence. But we by any means, weren’t doing it like some of
our musician friends.
What happened next and what were you
doing through all these years?
After
the Legend broke up, I went back to El Paso and did some different things here
and there. I formed a group with my old friend from that first group, Doug
Neal. That group was called Gorilla. We warmed up Steve Miller one time and
then ZZ Top. Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill came down to our dressing room and
Billy and I jammed. He played my ’56 Gold Top and I played his famous Tobacco
Sunburst Les Paul. They were real nice guys and treated us with respect. They
didn’t have to to do that. That’s always stuck in my head. Then in “72
Jack, Barry and I got back together with Andre, a drummer from El Paso and Jack
W., a guitar player from El Paso. We called that group Bubba Jo. We wagon
wheeled from Denver and played all over the mid west and southwest. We played
all the A rooms in Denver. Once again, went to LA and did an album, all
originals that we came up with at rehearsals. But we couldn’t get any of the labels
to jump on it. So I came back to El Paso. In’75, I think, I got a call from
Jimmy Carl Black. The former drummer for The Mothers of Invention. He was
raised in Anthony Texas. We got a group together with Big Sonny Farlow, the
revolving member of the Sir Douglas Quintet. We did all cover with just a few
originals. We formed our own record company and put out and album on the Con
Safo label and it was called Big Sonny and the Loboys In Heat. We had this idea
of our faces on the dogs playing poker. Everything was done here in EP except
the pressing of the records. Artwork, recording, everything. Time went by and I
tried a few other things, but in 1999, I put together a group with my daughter
Michelle singing lead, my wife, Linda doing harmonies, Dave the bass and Frank
on Drums. We were called Russ T. Nails. We did a little demo and the TV show
Rock Star heard it and invited Michelle to come to Austin and try out. It was
the year INXS was looking for a singer, but I think they were looking for a
male and she didn’t make it. I am so proud my wife and daughter’s talent. Their
harmonies are better than most. Now I’m playing with this group called Twisted
Hams. We have a website. Haven’t done a lot of gigs. All original, except for a
few covers. I play a’78 Hamer through a Fender Blues Jr. and use only two
effects. Chorus and Wha-wha. I still have my ’65 Fender Reverb and my ’56 Les
and use them on special gigs.
Thank you very much. Would you like to
send a message to It’s Psychedelic Baby readers?

To everybody reading Psychedelic Baby
Magazine, hope all of you enjoy the stories of the up and downs for the bands
and musicians.When we were doing Dragonfly, sometimes I felt so out of my
element and the sometimes I would be on top of the world. But I’m extremely
glad I got to be part of it. When I get around my old musician friends, we just
laugh and laugh about some of the stuff that happened to us. I have stories of
guns stuck in my face,  mexican unrest in
Kearny, Nebraska and the cops had to escort us to our motel after we played,
and on and on. And the music goes on. Peace brother.
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2013
© Copyright
http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2013
2 Comments
  1. Heavypsychmanblog

    Thanx Klem good interview

  2. Anonymous

    I got to here the Legend back in the sixties. I was a ypung and impressionable teenager, but I really loved these guys. Their live performances were really out there because they were very creative and not doing what everybody else was doing at the time, which was playing covers. I aquired their albums and saw the really big difference between the two. Dragonfly is deffinately one of the heaviest psychedelic albums of all time. If you like psychedelic type music, you need to aquire this one. Please thank Randy for sharing his experiences with us. Very enlightening.

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