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Afterglow interview

Afterglow were born out of The Medallions in Chico, California. They signed to a small MTA label and released an LP in 1967. Album features mostly psychedelic pop songs, with extremely psychedelic version of Susie's Gone. After so many years the band is active again and we had opportunity to talk with the members of the band and they shared their story with us.

We are really pleased to have you here. You are very active lately. What do you have in plan for the near future?  

Gene: First of all I would like to thank you for the opportunity to have this interview.  I’m Gene Resler, lead singer, guitar, and songwriter, for the group Afterglow.
We have a concert planned in Northern CA where we first got together in the 60s sometime in March or April.  We have a nice following in that area.  We are performing several times a month locally which is an area between Sacramento and San Francisco.  We are working on new songs for a third CD.

Ron: The documentary movie is out, the second CD is out, this has been our focus so far. We plan to do a third CD as a tribute to Tony and are looking for venues to do live performances. 

Larry: In addition to the original album, our new CD is out “Afterglow Unearthed” and our Telly Award winning documentary is airing on PBS all over the U.S.  We have done a few occasional performances, but are trying to connect with some larger concert opportunities.

How is it to be musically active again as Afterglow?  

Gene: I have always remained active in music since the 60’s.  After I left the band in the early 70’s due to getting married, I realized that music was too much of a part of my life to leave behind.  I started a duo act with my first wife and we were very popular in the Bay Area performing in a restaurant lounge in Tiburon, CA.  I worked in Lake Tahoe, Maui, HI, Santa Rosa, Napa, Vallejo, Fairfield, Vacaville, as a single, duo, trio, and four piece group throughout the years up to the present.

Ron: Fantastic! For me it always has been, and still is a haunting desire to play and perform. Doing this with my life long friends, no word can describe. The best I can say is “Fantastic”.

Larry: I love it.  I value every opportunity we have to play together again.  After getting back together, I realized that the main reward for me was just the fun of playing music together again and our friendship.

Our readers would love to read a few details about the Documentary and also about the new album...

Gene: The new album has eight songs that I had written in years past.  It was an opportunity to once again perform them with my old band mates and our keyboard player, Stefan Barboza who joined us in 2007 to play on our second CD, Afterglow Unearthed.  Stefan worked with me in the 80’s at a club that I owned in Vacaville, CA.  It was so great to once again work with Stefan on keyboards, Ron on bass, Roger vocal harmony, and Larry on drums & procession.  We re-recorded two songs from our first CD made in the 60’s which were “Mend This Heart of Mine” and “By My Side”, and of course we had to make a new version of “Susie’s Gone” with “Susie’s Back” which was our far out psychedelic song that probably no one will ever hear something like that again. Working on the video production took us 3 years to complete but I think it turned out to be a great story, honest and true to our feelings.

Let's go back. You formed back in 1964 and began playing as the The Medallions. Tell us the story of the pre Afterglow band.

Gene: I was asked if I wanted to play in a band due to the fact that I sang in church and the bass player at that time was from the same little town called Dorris, CA.  When I was asked to sing I had only just started picking up a guitar and learning to play chords.  Tony, who was a great guitar player was my mentor and I learned so much from him playing rhythm and Tony playing lead.  We played locally for dances and some high school and college dances and also renting out a hall and holding our own dances.  It was in the mid 60’s that we had the opportunity to open for the Turtles in Yreka, CA which made us feel like we really could go somewhere.  It was right after that we started the process of putting together our original music that ended up on our first album…yes I said album, not CD.  I still have 8 track tapes!

Ron: Roger and I formed a band in our hometown of Mt. Shasta, California when we were in high school. During our freshman year at College of the Siskiyou we met the “Medallions” who were looking for a bass and keyboard player. Roger switched from drums to keyboards and I switched from rhythm guitar to bass. We played in northern California, and southern Oregon at school proms, local hangouts, Armory dances and a slew of “Battle of the Bands. Finishing Junior College we all relocated to Chico State University and added the many college dances to our list including Fraternity and Sorority dances. We did this until the summer we spent in Fort Jones rehearsing our original songs for the upcoming Golden State Recording dates. During one recording session we went in the studio as the “Medallions” and came out as “Afterglow”.

Larry: The Medallions, formed in Siskiyou County with Tony Tecumseh, Gene Resler and myself.  Soon we met Ron George and Roger Swanson and decided to form the band together.  We went to College of the Siskiyous together, and played gigs all over northern California and southern Oregon.  After two years at College of Siskiyous we moved to the Chico area where we attended Chico State University and Yuba College.  The name was changed to “Afterglow” by the studio and producers as we were recording our original album in 1967.

Where was your residence and what do you remember from some if I may say so "basement" rehearsals?  

Gene: We still meet once a week in my basement at my home in Rio Vista, CA where we are continually working on fine tuning our original music and cover tunes.  When we recorded our first album we rehearsed for 3 months at Larry’s parent’s home.  They were the greatest people you could have ever met, allowing us to stay there free for 3 months, feeding us and allowing us time to get our songs together.  We will always have fond memories of that summer together.

Ron: I lived in Mt. Shasta with my parents during Junior College. My parents were very supportive of my desire to be in a band. Roger and I actually did rehearsed in my parent’s garage. When we hooked up with Larry, Gene and Tony my parents place was still the choice since Larry and Gene lived at the college and Tony living in Klamath Falls Oregon and Tony would drive down. Our rehearsals were not loud music; we toned down so we could work on the harmonies and the varied musical parts you hear on the album. So my parents moved the furniture around and we sat up in the living room.
In Chico, Roger, myself, and another roommate, Jan DeWitt, rented a house that had a big backyard with a workshop building in the back. We used this workshop for rehearsals. In fact some of our old photo’s where taken in that backyard, one with Gene leaning on that old workshop.

Larry: I lived with my parents in Fort Jones, California, until I graduated from High School in 1964 and went to College of the Siskiyous.  I really remember how much my parents and Ron George’s parents supported the band.  They completely opened their homes up to us anytime for rehearsals, made space by moving furniture, etc., whatever it seemed to take.  At the time I don’t think I totally appreciated what they provided for us.  Looking back and after many life’s experiences, I now am able to fully appreciate what they did for us and their unwavering support.

So you were based in Chico. What was the scene there? Any other bands you remember or shared bill with?  

Gene: Chico was a great party school so there was always work.  It was that time when Tony decided to stay in Klamath Falls, OR which was his home and where his family lived.  Roger decided he was ready to finish up his education and studies were more important than playing gigs.  As for Ron, Larry and myself we went on to add new band members and started working in a local club called the Sundown Club in Chico.  A booking agent saw us and offered to book us on the road, and that’s how I became a “Road Scholor”.

Ron: I remember the “Association” and the “Grateful Dead performing in Chico. No shared bills.

Larry: Our experience in Chico was late sixties and the bigger college scene and the music of the times.  We played many occasions all around the Chico area and created quite a following.  Prior to Chico we had played opening bills with the Turtles and Beau Brummels when they had their appearances in Siskiyou County.  In Chico we were able to see in concert some of the name bands of the time.  The most striking one for me was Janis Joplin, wow, blew me away!

How did the songwriting looked like and what was the inspiration behind it?  

Gene: Tony was able to put together some great melodies and I had the feeling for writing also.  I wrote more songs back in the 60’s and 70’s that we are just now recording today.  Tony’s style of writing was not a copy of anyone at the time, just completely original.  If you listen today you will her songs that may remind you of a certain 60’s band, however the songs themselves are still completely unique and original.  The song on our first album that I wrote was “Mend This Heart of Mine” which is about love.  Our first and second CD is all about love.  Someone once said that you should write songs about what you know and experienced in your lifetime.  I guess I have always been in love.

Ron: Tony and Gene wrote the music. Tony would bring a song down and have a basic idea on how he thought it should sound. He wanted it to be commercial and creative. He worked the song for a long time before he presented them to us. We would all listen and comment. We would play it and the song would develop as we put our own into it. It works the same today. Gene has 40 years worth of songs he has written and the arrangement and music evolves as each of us adds out parts and thoughts. I will add this; there are no egos in Afterglow. Hard to believe, but there has never been a disagreement or harsh words in the creative process, we truly work with one purpose.

Larry: Tony Tecumseh was our spiritual leader and mentor.  He wrote nine of the original songs on the first album.  He created the music and the lyrics and as a group we arranged each song.

How did you get signed up and what was the deal?

Gene: We signed a publisher agreement with the producer of our first album.  We found out later he did that with all the bands he recorded and promised to find a record label to put our music out to the world.  Well some of that was true, but the part we found out years later that the songs we were told were just studio tapes that would be re-recorded later never happened and they went directly to vinyl without any re-mixing or touch up.  We were told by radio stations around the country that our songs were very good, however the quality of the production was not very good.  We felt very taken at that time because it was too late to do anything about it.

Ron: Mostly a mystery. Golden Gate Recording told us they would shop our “demo” and get us a contract and then we would have recording sessions to redo the songs and perfect them. This never happened. We got word that MTA records took our “demo” songs and produced the Afterglow Album. When Larry got a call from Leo, Larry drove down to San Francisco and picked up a box of albums. We were excited that the album was in our hands, but a little disappointed that the songs were never re-recorded. It was not what we expected. But we went with what we had and hoped for some promotion from MTA. Unfortunately this never took place either. So we went on our own promotion trips around northern California and Oregon. We got some play on the stations. We held the #1 spot in Redding CA for several weeks, but when listeners tried to order it from the local record stores, only a few orders were filled. We heard back that it just wan not available! (?). So in short, there was no deal.

Several years later we got a call from a person who worked with Leo at Golden Gate Recording, and he had a falling out with Leo. He told us Leo had told MTA that we had broken up and apparently MTA just stopped any promotion or production. We also heard that some money was exchanged after MTA pressed the album, but we could never verify this, so basically it is rumor and conjecture. Looking back there were obviously albums distributed as they have surfaced all over the world. This is the mystery, what really happened, it will probably remain a mystery and the answer is lost. 

Larry: We were referred to Leo Kulka and Golden State Recorder’s in San Francisco where we auditioned and did a demo.  At the time this studio was the conduit for most of the San Francisco area groups to the major labels.  Leo requested that we go back and prepare 20 original songs to be presented at a later date for a possible album.  We signed, what then was the basic recording deal, the studio would front the costs and we would receive, I believe it was 3% of 90% of net sales.  Leo then shopped us to all the labels and we ended up with MTA Records in New York who released our original album.  We were young, from the country and very naïve, and didn’t have a clue about the business side of the business.

While arriving to San Francisco in the summer of 1967 was it really so "magical"? If we look back all that summer of love thing, plenty of interesting people living together, amazing groups playing everyday... How did you see it through your own eyes?  

Gene: We were in a strange world to us because we were small town guys.  We were amazed at the whole scene, but felt excited to be living in the era that this was all happening.  We did not do drugs and so the whole scene was fascinating to watch, and be in such a beautiful city like San Francisco with so many talented bands.  It was an era of music that everyone had their own distinct sound and that is what gave it the variety of the 60’s music that still lives on today.

Ron: It was magical. We stayed overnight one time. The other times we came across the Bay Bridge, drove a few blocks to Harrison Street, unloaded our equipment, rushed through the recording, loaded up and drove back across the Bay Bridge for home. We spent the one night when we had the two-day photo shoot. We cruised SF, Broadway was in top form then, and for small town boys it was exciting. We were given the impression that when the album was out we would be back and spend some quality time there performing and taking in the scene. However, that never happened.  

Larry: Having been raised in the remote country, San Francisco was one of our first big city experiences.  We were in awe!  The fast pace, the traffic and the fact that we had to pay 50 cents for parking?  Was just amazing to us.  It was a great experience and a very exciting time for us.

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

Gene: I guess it was one evening in San Francisco at the Golden State Recording studio that my sister, who lived in SF, stopped in to watch us record.  She was so proud of me and the band that she started crying.   I felt that I had made it to big time when I realized how proud she was of me.  We were all proud to be a part of the business and being able to record our own music.

Ron: This was our first recording experience; we were strangers to the workings of a recording studio. We were told where to set up; they placed the microphones around and then told to start. The sound was completely different to what we were used to hearing and I never reached a comfort level in that studio. The playback sounded good, but it was hard to play with heart when the atmosphere is so mechanical. And what sticks with me the most is we heard errors and weak spots in the recording, and were told not to worry about them. They would be rectified when we did the final recording at some future date. As you know, that never happened. Guess what I notice when I hear it today? 

Larry: This was our first studio experience.  We hadn’t even seen the inside of a studio before.  On the positive side, I was really moved by how our songs sounded played back on the big studio speakers and the fact that we had come this far, was quite a rewarding time.  On the negative side, were where surprised  how fast they wanted to move the sessions along and very frustrated by them not wanting to take many additional takes so we could correct mistakes we had made.  Our vision and doing it right was very important to us.

What gear did you guys use?

Gene: Tony always played his beautiful Epiphone guitar, and I believe at the time I also had a solid body Epiphone, and Ron had a Vox bass guitar.  The sound was basically built around the keyboard which gave us the Afterglow sound along with our harmonies.   Larry still has his original drums that he played in our first session.  Some things keep getting better with age, and I would like to believe that about ourselves.

Ron: I used a hollow body violin shaped Vox bass guitar. A Sunn bass amp with 15” speakers.

Larry: My drum kit was Slingerland, I still have it today and use it in our performances.  Most of our amps were Fender and a Farfisa organ.  Most of the guitars and bass were Fender and Tony finally bought an Epiphone guitar.

What can you say about the cover artwork?  

Gene: We thought we should have had a real photo of the band since we took so many to do a cover shot.  As it turned out, little did we know, that it had a lot to do with the success of the album.  60’s album art is a very big thing today and ours happens to fit right in there.

Ron: We can say a lot about the artwork. But let me start with my final thought. The cover artwork is a piece of art, it is bright, catches your eye, and no doubt contributed to the albums popularity, as it has become a collectors’ item. It also gave us a branding logo, which we are using today. I would love to talk to the artist who created it.
Our initial reaction was “What’s this”? After spending 2 days in a photo shoot, posing this way, and that way, and seeing the type of covers that were on the shelves, we were expecting something else. We were disappointed. But it was ground breaking and before it’s time.

Larry: At the time, and after several days of photos shoots, we had this vision of the standard album cover with our photos and some bio information on the back, so when we picked up our initial copies of the album with this caricature of us on the front and little or no information about us on the back, we were totally shocked and disappointed.  I guess, from an artistic view, what did we know, since this album cover have come to be one of the best recognized for the time.

How many copies were released and how did the distribution looked like?  

Gene: We never knew anything about our first album.  We were given NO numbers as to the number of copies released or where they were distributed.   We know that whenever we would play somewhere, they could never get the album in the record store.  That proved to work against us from the very start.  To this day we have never seen one statement with any numbers to find out how well our album sold.

Ron: Good question, we asked the same question 40 years ago, and we are asking that question today of Sundazed regarding the CD and the Vinyl. We were never told this information. We received one box of albums through Golden State Recording. When the northern California radio stations were playing the album, the local record stores tried to fill the orders. A few albums would be sent, but many orders were left unfilled. So it was “spotty” at best. We soon learned that “Riding Home Again” could not hold the #1 spot long without the distribution support and getting the album into the hands of the people who listen to the radio.

Larry: We were never informed about those details.  We knew it was a national release, didn’t know numbers.  Over time it appeared that is was the standard distribution of the time and the album was available in the stores.  However, it didn’t seem there was much effort put toward promotion, it like they just released it without much push behind it.  We are now finding out that it appears the album received a wide acceptance and even had a presence in Europe and Asia.

In the documentary you mentioned the album is in fact a demo. You wanted to polish it if it would sell better?  

Gene: We can’t go back in time to change what has happened when they released the studio tapes.  We can only move forward and re-record the songs as we put a few on the CD’s that we produce in the future.

Ron: This was our deal with Golden State Recording and Leo Kulka. We paid for the first four songs to be recorded and put on a demo disk. Leo would then shop it around, get a major record label interested, and get some upfront money to re-record those 4 songs and the remaining album. What happened here is still a mystery to us. We were invited back to record the remaining songs at Golden State Recording, but we were on their dime and to our knowledge they were still demos. We were rushed in and out, so there were mistakes and things we wanted to do over, but got the promise that the songs will be done over.

Larry: As mentioned earlier, we were a little surprised at how fast they wanted to move the recording sessions along with very few re-takes, that is why, in our mind is was more of demo than a fine polished end product.

This can be a bit tough question, but I would appreciate if you could comment each song from the LP.

A1          Riding Home Again  
Gene: I love this song because I can just see all of us riding through the beautiful countryside and forests in the mountain territory that we lived in.  We were so lucky to have the opportunity to live in such a beautiful part of CA.         
Ron: Tony drove a lot to get to our gigs and practice. I imagine he wrote this on one of his many trips back home to Klamath Falls OR. We thought this would be the song that defined the album.
Larry: One of my favorites and written by Tony based on some of his personal experiences.

A2          Morning   
Gene: This was a song of the times, with the uncertainty of the future of our world with wars like Viet Nam threatening all of us.
Ron: I feel this is our true rock song.
Larry: An interesting tune that was tough to come up with an appropriate drum/percussion sound for.       

A3          Dream Away   
Gene: Very dreamy song, and I love the intro.  I love the harmonies that we put in all of the songs.
Ron: Tony taught me the opening bass part, and it repeats to provide a break through out the song. I still sweat bullets each time I play it.    
Larry: I think this is my favorite of all the tunes, it just seems to touch me.   

A4         Susie's Gone  
Gene: Weird is all that comes to mind.  It was so weird however that it drew the most attention of all the songs on the  album.   
Ron: The one song we didn’t write. Was written by a California Highway Patrolman based in Chico, CA. Byron Boots was also a Jazz Musician and wrote several songs for us to record. He said this was the next direction for rock music. Our friends didn’t like it but the world did. We tried to find him when we heard about the 1995 release but could not get personal info from CA State, and were generally told he probably passed away years ago. Would love to talk to him or his family so his ultimate success could be celebrated. As a tribute to him, Larry and Stefan worked on “Susie’s Back” and is recorded on our second CD.  Susie may make it on the 3rd CD also.          
Larry: Way out there.  This was written by Byron Boots, who was a highway patrolman and jazz musician.  He had become a great fan of ours in Chico and when he found out we were going to record an album he wanted us to present one of his tunes.  Out of friendship we thought we would include it, although it definitely wasn’t our style.  When we played in the studio the one producer went crazy over it and in retrospect it is one of the tunes that has created a lot of the interest over the past years.  On our new CD we have the sequel song, “Suzies Back”, that we wrote.  We have not been able to find Byron or much about him.                  
A5          It's a Wonder 
Gene: This has a real nice feel to it, kind of like the Buckingham’s song “Kind of a Drag”.  I enjoy listening to all of these songs today. 
Ron: The harmony has it’s own signature.
Larry: A good song.      

A6          Afternoon   
Gene: This has the greatest into, with a chord that Tony plays on the guitar that makes it sound like a grandfather clock and it is a very moody type of song.  Another great original by Tony.     
Ron: Love the opening cord, it was to replicate the sound of Big Ben denoting the tower bells ringing in this afternoon.             
Larry: Enjoyed the lyrics.           
B1          Meadowland of Love       
Gene: The harmony and vocals are very strong.  We overdubbed the vocal tract and even one of the producers of the album sand a part in the song.       
Ron: This is a happy song. It exudes optimism. Plus we got an extra voice on the recording when one of the producers jumped up and put in his la la la’s. For me this was probably the most enjoyable song to record in the studio.            
Larry: Great song for our vocals.             

B2          Love       
Gene: This was thought to be one of the hit tunes on the album with commercial value.  It had all the elements to be a top 40 hit if there was just some promotion behind it.
Ron: Another song like Riding Home, thought this would be the second song that defined us.    
Larry: I think this was one of our strongest songs.        

B3          Chasing Rainbows     
Gene: This was something in Tony’s vision which was really creative.      
Ron: Never heard a song to match this one.       
Larry: Kind of left me in wonderment of what it was.              
B4          Mend This Heart of Mine      
Gene: I wrote this song about a relationship that went bad…it seems I had many of those through college and on the road with music.        
Ron: Gene’s song, we recorded this one on our second CD also, with a organ intro that changed it up a bit.
Larry: Good strong song that Gene Resler wrote.

B5          By My Side   
Gene: This is a signature song of Afterglow.  It has the kind of harmony that we all love to do and the melody is really nice.  This is one of my favorite songs on the CD.
Ron: I think of it as our signature song, I always think of Tony when we perform it. The last time was last Friday.
Larry: Another one of my favorites.

What happened after the LP was out? Did any of you stay on the music path?  

Gene: As I said earlier, I was the only band member that stayed in music by performing and writing through the years.   I recorded a single when I was playing music in Santa Rosa, CA in the 70’s.  It was getting local air play and I thought things might be going my way.  I had a setback in 1980 when I went to sleep driving and hit a Redwood tree with my pickup truck that almost ended my life.  It set me back a few months but I was able to recover and continue to play.  That single will appear on another CD in the future.

Ron: While we were finishing up college and waiting for something to happen with the album, we got a long standing gig at a local restaurant, bar in Chico. We played a few nights a week and then the crowd started coming every night. This was the start of our lounge days. Business was good and the bar owner was happy. Roger opted to finish his last semester without the distraction of playing every night, and the routine did not appeal to Tony, so they left us and Larry, Gene, and I added a B3 Hammond organ player, and a male, and female lead singers to take the front. Gene covered the lead guitar and we played the popular cover tunes of the day. We did this for 4 continuous years and made a good living at it. The Original Afterglow songs were put on the shelf, and we hoped one day we could dust them off. However the economy tanked in 73 (oil embargo), and Disco with DJ”s were taking the work, so we figured this was our final curtain call. It hurt to give it up but we buried our desire and hopes, and went on to live “normal” lives. Never got closure, that is why none of us ever talked about it to the new friends we made and family that came after. All the new friends and family had a hard time understanding that we had this previous life when the album resurfaced and our story came out. I had one close friend say to me after watching our movie, that now she understands who I am, obviously though I never talked about it, I still carried it with me, it was a piece of me that was missing all those 40 years.

Larry: After we realized the album was going to do much and after we graduated from college, Tony and Roger decided to leave the band.  Gene, Ron and myself added a keyboard and lady front singer and transformed the band into a club group and played clubs all over California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii.  After several year of this we finally called it quits.  Ron and I didn’t play again until the group got back together a few years ago.  Gene continued to play and sing throughout.

Tony Tecumseh sadly passed away. Do you wish to share your memories of him?  

Gene: As I said, Tony was my mentor in music.  He never said much but when he did, it was always something worth listening to.  I used to ride with him to some of our gigs and we had some great times together.  If you listen to him on the video, you will see that he was a very deep in thought, extremely talented as a writer and guitarist, and very kind in spirit.  I will always miss Tony and my only regrets is that we lived too far away to see each other during the past 30 yrs.

Ron: Tony was complex, his thinking analytical, creative, and at times whimsical. We were fortunate to have heard him really play the guitar. The Afterglow recording barley touches his talent, he could stand on the stage with the best that we have today. Tony was a light that was beginning to get brighter and was willing to share this light. But the recording industry that we were touched by obviously had other motives that drove them and they totally missed it. Instead the door was closed and eventually the light faded and then it went out.  I feel cheated because of the music that could have been, the music we could have in our collections today, songs that may be our favorites today. If you had met Tony, you would know what I mean.

Larry: As best we can tell, he was several years older than we were,  He fondly called us the “kids” and was always playing jokes on us.  I think he would sometimes try to drive us crazy by showing up at the gigs at the very last moment, but he always delivered.  He could come across as a pretty hard customer, but, bottomline, was a softy inside.  He was definitely our spiritual leader and mentor and was definitely ahead of his time in his song creations.  I feel very fortunate that I was able to more deeply connect with him in the last couple of  years before his passing and I was at least gratified that he did see that his works were well accepted world wide now.

Thank you very much for taking your time. Would you like to send a message to It's Psychedelic Baby readers? 

Gene: My message to all the readers is to always keep the things you love in front of you at all times and never leave them behind.  Be sure to be thankful for the things you have and not begrudge what you don’t have.  Life is very short with one day being 21 and recording your first music and then turn around and you’re 66.  Life is all what you make of it, so keep smiling and working for your dreams.

Larry: I am so grateful for the long standing fans that we keep coming across and very appreciative for all the followers of our story and music.  Hope we get to meet many of you in future concerts!  Thank you.

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2013
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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Love this, thank you!!