Mad River interview with Rick Bockner & Tom Manning

March 2, 2014

Mad River interview with Rick Bockner & Tom Manning

Mad River was one of the most seminal bands in San Francisco
scene during the late ’60s. The band was formed in Yellow Springs, Ohio and
soon moved to Frisco, where they met a lot of interesting musicians and beat
poets, including Richard Brautigan. They released two albums and sadly soon
disbanded when the ’70s came.
From roots in country/blues music to lysergic years in
Frisco back to country/folk by the time of their second album. Don’t be
surprised if I say, they might be for me one of the best bands I ever heard and
it’s a true honor to feature an interview with Rick Bockner and Tom Manning,
two members of the band. They shared with us the whole story: from their
college years in Yellow Springs to the hazy days of Frisco.
You were all Antioch College students in Yellow Springs.
What did you study there?
Rick: I thought I would go into psychology or psychiatry.  Antioch had a work/study program that placed
students in jobs for 3 months at a time. 
I worked in the NYU hospital in New York in the psych ward.  That made me question my choice and probably
saved me tons of money in tuition to med school!
Tom: Biology / marine science / straight pool.
Did you meet all other members in Antioch College? You began
as a campus blues band. What was your set list and what blues artists
influenced  you at the time?
Rick: Mad River Blues Band was the campus band at the time
and we did a lot of Paul Butterfield, Muddy Waters, and other emerging electric
blues that was coming out at the time. 
Mike Bloomfield opened up the genre when he did East/West.  That introduced the eastern scales into
popular music at the time and we worked with that as well (wind chimes in
particular).  Also some of the early
Jesse Colin Young stuff was being listened to, and a few other of the east
coast singer/songwriters.  We did some
soul tunes as well (Workin In A Coalmine). 
Our folk roots figured into the set list at times, and my interest in
ragtime guitar as well.
Tom: All members were Antioch students except Duke Dewy, who
was Yellow Springs high school.
Started out as a blues band and also covered some top 40
stuff until we started writing our own music. 
We loved all kinds of music…all of us had very broad tastes, from rock
to jazz to classical to folk.
Was there any other band in Antioch College at the time?
Rick: Not that I was aware of.
Tom: We were the main action on campus, but there was a jazz
band and some other players.
This was happening around 1965/1966, right?
Rick: I went to Antioch in June of 1966.  The band had just formed, but I did not
formally join until early 1967.
Tom: Mad River Blues Band formed in spring of 1966.  David and I started playing folk stuff
together in 1965, Duke was drumming for young rockers, Greg Druian (rhythm
guitar from spring of 1966 to spring of 1965), Lawrence played folk, but was
into many  other instruments as well.
Rick, who played ragtime guitar,  joined
the band in 1967 when we left for San Francisco.
Later you moved to Berkeley in 1967, but before you start
telling us a story about that, I would like to use this opportunity to promote
wonderful release by Shagrat Records which captures the unreleased recordings
of the band. Can you share a few words about this material?
Rick: The music on the recording that Shagrat released was
recorded as a demo before we headed to S.F. 
It was interesting for me to hear after all those years, as I could hear
the influences of some musical styles that were just emerging in the music of
other bands.  The Indian raga music that
Ravi Shankar and the Beatles had expressed was evident in Windchimes.  The extended solos were just beginning to get
more common.  The ragtime sound of
Jerry’s Tune foreshadowed the music that Country Joe and the Fish would later
release.  Also the lyrics that ranged
from protest and outrage to just plain ridiculous, made songs not just about
the trite and tried themes of the popular music of the previous era.  Mad River’s music was driven by the politics
of the Vietnam War and the protest movement that followed.  We also related to the poets who were using
new language to express their outrage at the way things were going.  This made us a bit different from some of the
SF bands who were more into open rambling psychedelic sounds.  We did some material like that, but it was
usually rooted in some kind of political darkness.  Kafka meets the 60’s.
We were not trying to please anyone but ourselves with our
choice of songs.  We mixed blues,
ragtime, psychedelic, and soul into our music to create something that
expressed the crossroads that our subculture was at in those days.  Very idealistic, also suspicious of
authority, and committed to the values of the new society we wished to
see.  In this earlier material I can hear
the seeds of what we would later become.
Tom: Side 1 was recorded in Dayton Ohio as a demo before we
left for California in 1967, and side 2 was recorded after the second album was
completed (after I had left the band to return to college).
Where did you find this recordings, that were released by
Shagrat Records? There’s an early version of “Wind Chimes” plus three
unreleased tunes including  very
interesting track titled “Timothy”. B side is from the later period
of your second album Paradise Bar & Grill.
Rick: These recordings were in Duke Dewey’s attic on
tape.  Lawrence had the Jersey Sloo
tapes.  We feared they would disintegrate
when played, so we only had one chance to digitize them for reproduction.  It worked out, thankfully.  The Windchimes track included the “Hare
Krishna” chant that we later dropped from later versions we recorded.  Timothy was an obscure tune that did not stay
in our repertoire for long, but always seemed to me to reflect some of the
newer English band sounds of the day (Yardbirds, Kinks, etc.).  I don’t know why Jersey Sloo did not make it
onto a later record, but the lyrics are obscure and dark, with a driving pulse,
and a great solo by David.  It just did
not make the cut for some reason.
Tom: Wind Chimes was recorded 3 times, once for the demo
which later became the Shagrat album, once for the EP which was released in
1967 on WEE Records, and once for the first album.  It was originally a much longer tune when
played live, but was cut down and edited for the WEE Records version.  Timothy was an early song before we went to
California, and was partially about Timothy Leary & LSD.
Mad River moved to Berkeley in 1967, got a band house where
you all lived and practice, and began playing gigs in Provo Park. The band did
a three song demo that year which got the attention of several major labels.
You eventually signed with Capitol Records and released the classic recording
“Mad River”, produced by Nick Venet (who also produced Bobby Darrin, Fred Neil,
Linda Ronstadt, and others).  The group
consisted of lead singer and bass player Lawrence Hammond, drummer Leroy ‘Duke’
Dewey, lead guitarist David Robinson and guitarists Tom Manning and Rick
Bockner. Why did you decided to move to Berkeley and what’s the story behind
finding a house where you could practice?

Rick: We wished to be closer to the scene we knew was
emerging in the Bay area.  We left Ohio
in a Volkswagen bug, and a Saab car.  We
had no money and that forced us to live in close proximity to each other.  Although this was mainly a financial
decision, we also were all committed to devoting our time to practice and
living together in the MR house in Berkeley meant that we could practice
intensely.  The living room was the
dedicated band room and we shared the bedrooms. 
It was a wonderful time, although we were really scratching to get
by.  We even went to the racetrack to see
if we could walk the horses at 5 in the morning to make a few bucks before the
day started and we would practice for many hours a day.  The 3 song EP got our music to a few people
who helped us get signed.  At one point
we were flirting with 3 labels, including Vanguard Records who sent Sam
Charters to make us an offer.  I would have
loved to work with Sam, as I was very familiar with his work on early blues and
admired him.  But eventually Capitol won
out and we recorded with Nick Venet producing- 
not a good match for the band.  We
were very green in the studio and it took a lot of patience and persistence on
all our parts to get the recording finished. 
We were young and temperamental. 
Nick was from LA and to us seemed too slick and like a “company
man” (which he was).  He wanted us
to dress differently, but we refused.  He
did not really get the material.  I think
Capitol was hedging their bets on the SF music scene by signing us.  In retrospect, it was a mistake to sign with
them and I still get bitter thinking about it and the subsequent lack of
support or good development that Capitol gave us.
Tom: San Francisco was the place to be for a rock band in 1967
during the Summer of Love. We settled first in Berkeley because Duke’s sister
lived there and we liked being in the smaller University town. Duke’s full name
is Gregory Leroy Dewey, and we knew him as Greg during the Mad River years.  He became Duke after MR broke up and he
joined Country Joe and the Fish.
You were very unique, innovative and psychedelic + you had
politically minded lyrics. What can you tell us about song writing process in
Mad River?
Rick: Lawrence was our main songwriter, although the music
took shape as a band conglomeration. 
Lawrence would come with lyrics and a pretty good idea about the musical
structure and melody, then the band would “work” it into our own
arrangement.  We were a bit like the
Mothers of Invention in that everything was closely orchestrated, even the open
solos and improvised bits had a particular place.  Often the songs moved through moods within
the piece- going from a pastoral beginning and building to a crescendo and back
again.  We really had to pay attention to
the cues to get through the tunes, as they had almost a classical structure.
Having 3 guitars (until Tom left) in the band meant that we each had to cover a
portion of the range of the instrument. 
We each carried a part of the texture.
Later, more of us began to present songs for our set
lists.  Duke began to sing some leads, I
began to solo more or do duets with David. 
By the time we disbanded, we were all writing material for the
band.  I liked where it was going and
regretted it when we broke up. 
Underneath the veneer of 
psychedelia, we all had a good grounding in folk, bluegrass, ragtime,
and blues.  By the second album, we were
referring to that music more, and Lawrence’s songwriting was less predominant
than earlier.
Our political colours were amplified by our friendships with
some of the radical poets and thinkers of the times.  Richard Brautigan, The Diggers, Allen
Ginsberg, Lenore Kandell,  Peter Berg,
Carl Ogelsby-  all of them played a part
in forming our music.  It was  crucible of alternative culture and we
appreciated the new perspectives on old news that was evolving.  One of my favourite gigs was at University of
California in Santa Barbara.  We were the
music  part of an evening of poetry by
“Poets Against the War in Vietnam”. 
That pretty much placed us where we wished to be in the spectrum of
culture of the time.  We were less of a
dance band than an expression of a young, rebellious, state of mind.  Being from a liberal college, we also
appreciated the fusion of art and politics that was happening.
Tom: Lawrence wrote much of the music for MR, and he had
some classical training.
Like we mentioned above your debut came out in 1968 and
contains Merciful Monks, High All the Time, Amphetamine Gazelle, Eastern Light,
Wind Chimes, The War Goes On and Hush Julian. Would you like to share with us a
few comments about the songs and maybe what are some memories from producing
and recording your debut? What kind of gear did you guys use?

Rick: When we got signed we received a signing bonus (the
only money we saw from Capitol) and went out and bought new gear and a
van.  Duke bought a set of new drums (2
bass drums, 2 toms, high hat, snare and cymbals).  I bought a new 335 ES Gibson guitar.  David bought a 345 stereo Gibson of similar
design to mine.  Tom got a Gibson 12
string.  I believe Lawrence continued to
play his Gibson bass.  I haven’t had a
shopping trip like that since.  I got a
Fender Super Reverb amp with a Sun speaker cab with 2-10″ Electrovoice
speakers in it.  David had a Twin Reverb
with 2 speaker cabs.  We were really
My memories of the sessions are a hodge podge of
details.  We recorded at Golden Gate
Sound and Leo de Gar Kulka was the engineer. 
Nick Venet produced us.  It was
not an easy session and we did not do enough rehearsal prior to going into the
studio, so it took a lot of time, which stressed us all.  I think it was 125 hours of studio time or
so.  Bear in mind that we were running a
tab with Capitol to be repaid from royalties that included studio fees,
engineer fees, producer fees, any extra musicians, etc.  By the end we were glad to be done with
it.  The really bad news came when we
heard the first copies.  They had sped up
the tape to make it fit on one side of an album, and that gave Lawrence’s voice
a banshee quality that really pissed us off. 
What a bummer!  We lost faith in
Capitol at that moment and resolved to find another producer for the second
album- someone we knew and respected.
Tom: MR had music influence by Eastern philosophy, anti-Viet
Nam war sentiments, the drug culture, and all the great music that was all
around us.
We played Gibson guitars (David-345ES, Rick-335ES, Tom-335ES
12 string, Lawrence-Rickenbaker bass. I do not know what Duke’s drum kit was.)
Did the debut get any airplay?
Rick: The debut was actually very well received.  Tom Donahue the head DJ at the main station
in SF took a shine to us and really helped us get a leg up in the local
scene.  Amphetamine Gazelle was our
“single” and everyone thought we were a bunch of hip, drug addled,
hippies.  Actually, our drug habits were
pretty tame compared to most of the groups we played with, and that song did
not represent us accurately.  We got some
national play, and the album went to 99 or something in the Billboard
Charts.  Mainly we used the album to get
gigs and we began to play the big halls for the first time.  We also toured to Vancouver, B.C. and played
the Retinal Circus.  Mostly we played
within the Bay area and California/Oregon area. 
There was plenty of work at the time and we were busy.  College stations, some alternative stations,
and Bay Area media were good to us.
Tom: Some, but not a lot.
You played most of the now legendary venues like The Avalon
Ballroom, The Fillmore, The Straight Theatre, and many of the large Golden Gate
Park gatherings of the Summer Of Love…
Rick: Yes, we did many shows in the Bay Area.  Bill Graham wasn’t too impressed with us, and
we had a very bad manager in the early days who pissed off everyone he met and
ripped off the band.  We also got paid
$10,000 to sign with the William Morris Agency to book us exclusively.  They got us one gig in a high school in
Fresno or somewhere and that was it! 
They just wanted the option on us in case we broke into the big time,
and the contract restricted our ability to hire anyone else to do the job for
us.  Another lesson in the music business
for MR!
Chet Helm was very good to us and hired us on numerous
occasions to play the Avalon.  I think we
played the Fillmore 2 or 3 times only. 
We shared practice space during the day at the Carousel Ballroom with
Big Brother, and we did several gigs there. 
For a complete (very) list of our gigs, check out the site
www.chickenonaunicycle.com and click on Mad River.
The park gigs were wonderful and always fun.  We played a lot of Digger functions and big
outdoor events, also regular performances in Provo Park in Berkeley.  We did the Renaissance Faire with the Doors
on Mt Tamalpais in Marin County.  Also a
crazy Digger spontaneous event on the Beach in Santa Barbara (or was it Santa
Cruz?) where people parked on the freeway to get there and it was chaos.  The police were trying to find someone in
charge without success (“You are in charge officer.  What do you want to see happen?”) and it
was a crazy night.
The Straight Theatre gigs we did were memorable.  Our first one there, Santana opened for
us.  It was one of their very first
gigs.  They were in high school, and we
all knew they would be big. We played a few gigs at the Greek Theatre in
Berkeley and on campus there.  Over the
years we got to play with or open for some great acts-Sonny Rollins, Buddy Guy,
the Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and Big Brother, Country Joe and the Fish,
Steve Miller, Mimi Farina, and tons more. It was a great way to spend my late
A favourite memory is from July 25, 1967 when Jimi Hendrix
was booked into the Fillmore and Purple Haze had just come out.  No one really knew who Hendrix was at that
point, and he played for free just outside our apartment window in the
Panhandle- a boulevard coming off of Golden Gate Park.  We saw this truck setting up and wondered who
this guy with the Sgt. Pepper coat and an afro was.  When he began to play, you could see people
coming out of the adjacent buildings to go to the park and listen to him.  I have a picture that appeared in Rolling
Stone magazine from an article titled “Greatest Moments in Rock and
Roll” which shows Jimi photographed from behind while he played on a flat
deck truck.  He had his legs apart in his
signature “going for it” stance, and you can see all of Mad River
sitting on the lawn in front of the truck. 
Only about 300 people were there. 
It was a great event to be at.  I
still tell my kids that Jimi Hendrix played in my front yard.
Tom: They were great gigs, and we played many small clubs,
like the Matrix, the Steppenwolf, the New Orleans House, high schools,
colleges, and many others too numerous to name.
In Berkeley you met famous Richard Brautigan. How did you
met him and what do you remember from hanging around with Richard?
Rick: Richard was our benefactor.  When we lived in Haight Ashbury and were
starving, he would show up with food, wine, and friends and we would talk
politics and poetry.  He was a big part
of the scene, especially after Trout Fishing in America came out and he was in
Time magazine.  We got to repay the
favour by paying for the printing of a free book he did call “Please Plant
This Book”- a collection of flower seeds in packets with poems on
them.  We printed 500 and gave them away
on the street.
Richard introduced us to the people around him and the
literary scene of the times.  He was a
prince of a man and enjoyed nothing more that having a glass of wine in a
visible cafe and checking out the people going by.  For us, he represented new culture and
success of the sort we could relate to.
I admired the work the Diggers did to feed and clothe the
young people flowing into San Francisco with no idea what was going on.  Things got a lot weirder for Richard later,
but I will always remember him from those earlier days on the scene, and I
appreciate all he did for us when we were in need of some recognition and some
food to go with it.
Tom: Richard was an amazing man, a fine writer, and as great
guy. Read his biography to learn more about him.  He was very sweet and humorous at times and
was tortured by his own demons much of the time as well.
What I find interesting is, that many other poets and
beatniks like Lenore Kandell, Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Bly, Allen Ginsberg and
others really liked your music. Did you hang out also with these guys? I bet
you have tons of great stories, but we would appreciate if you’d share one,
that you remember the most.
Rick: As I said, we were college kids and pretty well
educated, so the poet scene attracted us in a way that other bands did not
relate to.  Carl Ogelsby had been
teaching as the “writer in residence” at Antioch previously and
Lawrence struck up a friendship with him. 
He was interested in songwriting as well as politics, and we backed him
up on some demos of his tunes at one point. 
He later let us record Cherokee Queen, one of my favourite songs, on our
last album for Capitol (Paradise Bar and Grill).
I remember Richard bringing Peter Berg over to our apartment
on Fell St. in the Haight one evening. 
He was a great talker and pretty speedy as well.  We stayed up till dawn talking resistance,
social change, and anarchism.  It opened
my mind to new possibilities that I still envision today.  The Digger movement did not last long but
made a lasting impact on me.  They held a
“Death of Hippie” event to signal that the movement had become a
tourist attraction and it was time to change our costumes and move into the
mainstream of culture in a new way. 
After that they each went their own way and the group
“disbanded” as an identifiable organization (if it ever was an
organization).  By that time the Gray
Line Tour buses were cruising Haight Street, kids were getting into harder
drugs, the Hell’s Angels were becoming something more sinister that bouncers at
be-ins, and we all knew the scene was winding down.  But many of the people moved into other areas
of expression of the Hippie Ideals.  They
began to write for movies, the Whole Earth Catalogue signalled the beginning of
the back to the land movement and the idea of self-sufficiency,  Jerry Rubin and Abby Hoffman took up serious
political challenges to the political parties in power, Wavy Gravy started his
radical clowning, Paul Krassner edited the Realist- a very provocative
publication.  So the people involved in
the embryonic scene became cultural icons in their own right.
Tom: At that time Richard was the poet I most admired, more
for his prose than his poet. Confederate General From Bur Sur is still one of
my favourite all time books.
You played with all the psychedelic bands like The Grateful
Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, Electric Flag and
many, many others. Which did you like the best?
Rick: The bands we had the most contact and admiration for
were Janis and Big Brother, Country Joe and the Fish, The Youngbloods, Sons of
Champlin.  Nick Gravenites of Electric
Flag was very helpful to us and took us under his wing.  Also Jesse Colin Young and Jerry Corbett of
the Youngbloods gave us invaluable assistance preparing for our second album
that Jerry produced for us.  I did not
have one favourite group, but rather a handful of musicians that I admired.
Tom: I like the Electric Flag withy Michael Bloomfield best,
though they were not a San Francisco band. I have always thought that the best
San Francisco band musically was the Sons of Champlin.  Their lead singer Bill Champlin now sings
with the band Chicago.
Soon after the first LP was out Tom Manning left the band to
end his college and you became a four piece band now. You went to studio again
to record, what would be your last album titled: “Paradise Bar & Grill”.
What’s interesting about your second one is, that you left out all the
psychedelic tingles. Why is that and what’s the story about Richard Brautigan
reading “Love’s Not The Way To Treat A Friend” on your album?

Rick: The psychedelic music scene was wonderful and
interesting for a time, but eventually we came back to our “roots”
,as it were.  I had been playing acoustic
guitar since age 7.  I had studied early
blues, ragtime guitar,  fiddle tunes (on
the guitar), and folk music prior to joining Mad River.  By the time we were doing Paradise Bar and
Grill, we were all writing tunes.  We
also played acoustically at the Freight and Salvage on occasion, and that
simpler and less chaotic music was where we moved to.  This trend pre-dates the Grateful Dead’s
American Beauty album, which marked a big shift to roots inspired music for a
lot of groups.  Mad River was always
innovative and trying to find new ways to say what we wanted to get out
there.  By 1968 or so, the drug scene was
becoming toxic for a lot of people, and friends were succumbing to early deaths
from that.  Psychedelic music was no
longer prophetic for us and we wanted to do music we could sustain.  So on the second album we moved to a more
diverse set of music.  There was still
the long solos on some songs and grooves that allowed for free playing, but the
appeal of a more natural sound and a core more people could relate to took us
in a different direction.  Including
Richard Brautigan’s piece was an example of this.  We wanted to return the favour he had given
us by putting a piece on the recording with him reading- a very radical concept
at the time.  Also my piece, Equinox,
went to an almost medieval and classical sound. 
I still love that album for the range and variety it contained.  I guess we lost a few fans who expected more
of the same, but we were always trying to cut new territory and that is where
it led us.  Turns out that Brautigan’s
poem is one of the only recordings he did, and the only one to music, so it was
an important piece for that alone.
Tom: Love’s Not The Way To Treat A Friend was recorded
during the sessions for the first album, as was They Brought Sadness. They were
not included on the first record. 
Richard had never read his poems to music before, and it was trip trying
to get him to read in time with the music.
All of us had folk and old rock roots, and after I left the
band naturally reverted back to the music we loved as younger players. The
psychedelic scene was slowly winding down, and many bands were going back to
older styles that they started with. 
Jerry Garcia was a folk guitar and banjo player before the Grateful Dead
got started, and so many, many of the other musicians that became famous at
that time were old folkies.
You also supported Richard Brautigan’s free book “Please
Plant This Book” that consisted of a folder with seed packages in it and poems
on each one. It was given away on the street in Sausalito and Berkeley. What’s
the story behind this?
Why did Mad River disbanded?
Rick: The Vietnam War, which was our inspiration musically,
began to dog the band.  We either had to
join the army, go back to school, or leave the country.  I had dual citizenship from my Canadian
parents, Duke had some physical limitations that kept him out of service, but
for David and Lawrence going back to university was the answer.  We were not all that harmonious at that
point.  It had been a very busy few
years, and we were all stressed and frayed from trying to live on nothing and
carry on.  Our musical success never
manifested into a good living for us and we were very disillusioned with the
music business by then.  Duke began
playing with the Fish, I began doing some studio work and teaching guitar, the
others went back to school.  We could not
sustain our music work in the current environment any longer, so the band broke
Tom: I wish I still had my copy.  I remember only that we help Richard hand it
out, and we gave to monetary support as well. 
The other guys might have more details.
I was already out of the band before the recording of the
second album, but we were not being supported by Capital.  They didn’t know how to sell us, so it became
a very unsatisfying relationship.  The
other guys would have more details.
Lawrence and David returned to university to continue their
educations, Duke went on to play with Jefferson Starship, Country Joe and the
Fish, and Dan Hicks and you moved to the mountains of British Columbia and
started working on your own music. Today you have a nice set of albums out.
Would you like to introduce your work to our readers?
Rick: I moved to the mountains of B.C. and lived in a small
cabin in the woods without electricity which I shared with MR’s roadie, Ely
Newman.  I began to write more tunes and
find my own voice musically and got more confident as a solo performer.  It was a complete shift from the Berkeley
scene and all that went with it.  I
played the festival circuit in B.C. a bit, but mostly I learned to write songs
and get the guitar to be an integral part of my compositions.  I built my main guitar in 1978 from a Martin
OM design.  I still play it almost daily.
In 1992 I recorded “Trouble With The Moon” , a
collection of my songs produced by Simon Kendall (of Doug and The Slugs).  We had a pretty decent budget for that one
and got a little carried away with arrangements that included bass clarinet,
fiddle, drums and bass, some b.g. vocals, etc. 
I still like the album for the songs, some of which I still perform, but
we could have done it cheaper and more simply.
In 1998, I got Fret Lizard recorded.  This CD was themed around my primary musical
inspirations and duets with some of my favourite collaborators (Woody Mann,
John Reischman, Ken Hamm, Simon Kendall) and includes a mix of early blues, Rev.
Gary Davis tunes, some finger style arrangements of fiddle tunes, some celtic
guitar tunes I put together, and four or five of my own tunes.  It really catches me at a good time in my
playing career and was fun to record.  I
still like that CD a lot.
I recorded an album with the wonderful musician and
harmonica player Keith Bennett in 2000, called Think For Yourself.  We toured a bit in Europe together and did
that recording in his small studio in Vancouver.  It is a collection of mostly blues from the
1920’s up to Duke Ellington.  We had no
budget and got the separation we needed sonically by using old office dividers
with a foamy mattress over them to make a deader sound!
I did an instrumental album with Plinio Cutait, a wonderful
Brazilian pianist.  We share a common
interest and practice in Reiki, a Japanese healing art.  This CD was primarily for the Reiki
community.  I call it “bathtub
music” as it is relaxing and soothing. 
It is unlike my other recordings to date.
In 2011 I recorded “Regeneration” with my youngest
daughter Amy, who is blessed with a truly wonderful voice.  This CD is a mix of my original tunes, some
instrumentals on guitar, a Gary Davis song sung by Amy, her version of the Sam
Cooke classic “Change is Going To Come”,  and a couple of early blues.  I love this one and I was lucky to get Amy in
the studio on her way to Mexico to capture her voice on these recordings.
All of these recordings are available as CDs from Harby Dar
Music, Box 224, Whaletown, B.C., or through my website  www.rickbockner.com
I have slowed down a bit the last few years.  Doing music for a living in Canada is sort of
like driving to the Moon- big country not a lot of venues.  The shift to digital music has gutted both
the venues for acoustic music, and the willingness of people to pay for
independent music.  It has been a great
ride, and I cannot evaluate the contributions Mad River or myself have made to
the world in general, but it was always my goal to be as good a musician as I
was capable of and to follow my Muse. Mostly, I am grateful to have been a part
of such a great band (we are all still close friends and get together every few
years), and to have had the space to hone my skills on guitar at such a young
Tom: Lawrence continued to play, while going to UC Berkeley,
and had a band called Lawrence Hammond and The Whiplash Band, which has 2
albums out, the first on Tacoma Records and the second on Shagrat (called
Presumed Lost because the master was missing for many years).  David continued his education, supporting
himself by painting houses and doing construction.  He became a general building contractor and
has run his own businesses for many years. I finished my degree in
biology/ecology at UC Berkeley and began teaching marine science onboard a ship
on San Francisco Bay (8 years).  I ran an
office of a wild animal trapping firm in Denver (12 years), taught cognitive
therapy (4 years), and taught high school biology, earth science, and music in
a school for special education kids (8 years). 
I am now retired.
Are you still in contact with the band members of Mad River?
Rick: Yes, regularly. 
We gather when we can for reunions every couple of years, and keep in
touch through emails.  They are my
brothers and we shared the best times of our youth together, so the bond is
Tom: We get together every few years for a reunion…the
last one was last February 2013 in Tucson Arizona.  We are in contact with each other regularly.
What are some of your future plans?
Rick: Stay happy, healthy, enjoy my family, friends, and
community.  Make music at every
opportunity, and continue to teach and explore my own music that evolves from
my life.  I would like to record an
instrumental album of contemporary guitar in the near future.  I am building a music room onto my house so I
can teach more and put on small house concerts for visiting friends.  I would like to get across the idea that I
learned from my parents, that music is something anyone can make at some level,
and that the joy of making your own music can free you from the death grip of
the commercial music industry.  So the
revolution is still happening within me.
Tom: I am enjoying retirement, working on my house, playing
lots of music (12 string guitar) and traveling whenever I can.  I have been married for 28 years.
I would like to thank you for taking your time. Would you
like to send a message to your fans and to readers of It’s Psychedelic Baby
Tom: I am always happy to hear that our music is still loved
and enjoyed by people all over the world, and since we all still play (usually
not together, but what the heck) you might see one or more of us in your neck
of the woods some day!
Special thanks to both Rick and Tom and also to Nigel Cross at Shagrat Records.
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2014
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2014
  1. Anonymous

    Great interview and remembrances. I learned a lot about Mad River as well as the San Francisco scene that surrounded it. Keep up the good work!

  2. Anonymous

    Thanks for the article about Mad River. Not only were they intelligent individuals pushing the boundries of the music of the 60s, they were and are all good people. And they are all like family, still in touch and enjoying each other and their spouses, kids, varied living styles and locations, and life accomplishments. Listen to their albums for very strange and far out poetic lyrics, some of the best lead guitar and drumming ever recorded in the '60s, and moods ranging from Vietnam outrage to lullabys.

  3. Chris Till

    Great interview! I enjoyed that thoroughly. Mad River was a fine band. I wonder if any of the Mad River guys concretely remember playing the Aquarian Family Festival around San Jose in May 1969? It was a little-documented pre-Woodstock music festival. Supposedly, they played there, but I've asked several of the MR guys who don't specifically recall playing it. From still photos that Greg Dewey had in a chest, I did the scans (actually just digital photos) of many of the images reproduced in this interview. I know, who cares, but (!) on the back of the washed out image of Greg relaxing alone in the Fell Street apartment was an (unsent) typewritten letter to his dad (an Antioch College instructor, if not professor). Though undated, the letter seems to be written soon before the release of their eponymous debut album. In the letter, Greg writes about some possible titles to the album, specifically "Jesus Crow" and "Crow" ("I think, and we will probably all agree, that the album will be called simply 'CROW' and that is all."). Greg also wrote drolly about his "counterfeiting" "arrest" for possession of a Digger dollar. Again, great interview. How about an interview with MR's Dr. Hammond?

  4. lanzarishi

    Thank you for an excellent interview. I have followed Mad River since the first album came out many years ago and finally since the digital age, we've been able to to learn so much more about them and see so much more in print. The obvious question never asked though is "Why not a reunion?" We know everyone is in their late 60s or whatever but a mini tour or some new EPs would be so welcomed. Everyone is still around right? Why not?

  5. Stephen

    Just came across this. Neighbor Rick gave me my first - and only - guitar lessons back in StL in the 60s. Happy to say my guitar journey continues. Wonderful interview!

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