Uther Pendragon interview
Uther Pendragon are one of those long-lost bands we’ve all been waiting for to get discovered and it finally happened. Thanks to Guerssen Records, Uther Pendragon release will be available in January as a 3LP Purple/Gold Box-Set including an LP-sized 8-page insert and poster and also a standard 2CD jewelcase edition featuring a 24-page booklet.
Their story is very exciting and we are proud to be premièring their story and music. Make sure to check exclusive tracks from upcoming album released by above mentioned label.
Their story is very exciting and we are proud to be premièring their story and music. Make sure to check exclusive tracks from upcoming album released by above mentioned label.
They have been active from 1965 to late ’70s, but never managed to release a 45 or an LP, consequently slowly fading out of the local music scene. Your story has its roots in San Carlos, California, a city located midway between San Francisco and San Jose. Uther Pendragon origins from a small local rock’n’roll band Blue Fever, that you joined in 1965. What’s the story behind formation of Blue Fever?
Uther Pendragon: Bruce and his friend Doug Williams were the founding members of Blue Fever. Bruce recalls: “I was about 17 or so I think. I had taken guitar lessons and had a ‘Kay’ ‘f’ hole guitar with a clip-on pickup. My father bought me a Heathkit amp (It was a kit– I had to put it together) and I had to make a speaker cabinet. I took guitar lessons. Somehow I talked my Father into buying me a Fender Jaguar guitar. (Mark still has this guitar.) My friend Doug Williams had his parents buy him a Farfisa organ. We would practice in his garage. I remember learning the Stones tune (new at the time) ‘Get Off My Cloud’. I met Mark Lightcap in Spanish class at San Carlos High School and Doug Williams brought Martin Espinosa into the ‘band’ because we needed a bass player. Martin’s mother “Mrs. E” who became like a surrogate mother to all of us, let us practice in her family room where we learned more tunes like “Heart Full of Soul” by The Yardbirds. I remember it being a mind blowing experience when I first used my newly purchased Fuzz Box on the tune.
BLUE FEVER Bruce, Martin, George, Fayden, Mark.
In 1965 we called ourselves the ‘Blue Grass Fever’ because we liked blue grass music but also liked the blues. By the following year, we dropped the ‘Grass’ as we got more and more into popular music and the blues based rock that was prevalent at the time.”
What was the local scene in San Carlos back in the ’60s?
Uther Pendragon: San Carlos was a city approximately 30 miles south of San Francisco in the Bay Area. The ‘San Francisco Sound’ permeated the peninsula. We had local teenage hangouts like the ‘Cinnamon Tree’ where bands such as the ‘Knight Riders’ and ‘Cellar Door’ would play. We would go to listen to the music and hope to get ‘lucky with the local girls’ and score at least a dance or two. San Carlos was just off Hwy 101 which led to San Francisco and the Fillmore Auditorium. Legendary promoter Bill Graham was holding shows every weekend or so. The band members would drive up to The City and soak up the Psychedelic San Francisco sound. We heard bands like the Doors, the Byrds, Canned Heat, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Lee Michaels, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Led Zeppelin, and The Steve Miller Band to name just a few. Black lights would adorn the dance floor and hippies would be painting with fluorescent paint. There was a giant screen in back of the bands where the first light shows were projected. Marijuana smoke wafted through the air. Beautiful girls danced gracefully in front of giant PA speakers. One time we were there and a large area in the crowd opened up. Wondering what was happening we took a closer look and saw a couple in the middle making love. It truly was the age of Peace and Love. Inhibitions were low and most people were “high”.
BLUE FEVER IHM Teen Club Derek Fayden Bruce Doug.
BLUE FEVER IHM Teen Club Derek French.
BLUE FEVER IHM Teen Club Derek, Bruce, Doug.
BLUE FEVER IHM Teen Club Martin Derek.
BLUE FEVER IHM Teen Club Martin, Derek, Fayden, Bruce, Doug.
BLUE FEVER Mark, Martin, Derek, Fayden, Bruce, Doug.
BLUE FEVER Oroville, CA Doug, Mark.
BLUE FEVER Oroville, CA Mark, Martin, Derek.
BLUE FEVER Oroville, California Mark, Martin.
BLUE FEVER Pepsi Battle of the Bands Doug Williams.
What material did you play?
Uther Pendragon: We have a “band book” that somehow survived. Quite a bit of the band’s history has been preserved in it. A 1967 song list included such covers as Midnight Hour, Let’s Spend the Night Together, Evil Hearted You, Lolly Pop Train, Kids Are All Right, I’m Mad, Heart Full of Soul, He Was a Friend of Mine, Mister You’re a Better Man Than I, I Need You, Time Won’t Let Me, Night Train, Hey Joe, It’ Won’t Be Wrong, Feel a Whole Lot Better, I’m On the Road Again, Didn’t Have to be so Nice, Connections, Summer Time, Here, There and Everywhere, Sitting By My Window, Grizzly Bear, and Ain’t No Use (an ad lib).
That song list also included several original compositions and original renditions such as Peter Pan Blow Up, Papa’s Not The Deal, Essence of a Dead Robin, Music Box, Kristina, Don’t Ever Leave Me and Hey Girl. We also completely rearranged 16 Tons (originally sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford). Our rocked out version of that song won us the Bay Area Battle of the Bands. (Stevie Nicks was one of the judges.) We played with Country Joe and the Fish on a huge flatbed trailer at the Burlingame Drive-in as a result of winning the battle.
BLUE FEVER Battle of Bands CSM Doug, Bruce.
CSM Fayden, Martin, Mark.
CSM Fayden, Martin, Mark.
You started working on your own material, which resulted in a beautiful songs like for instance “Music Box”…
Uther Pendragon: Actually, Music Box was written by Bruce Marelich before Blue Fever. Bruce says, “I wrote it in Doug Williams’ living room when we were just starting out. My mother died slowly of cancer a few years before and I think I was still feeling the loss. The guitar became my way of expressing that I guess.”
Bruce also wrote the tender love song, Kristina, and brought it to the group. We immediately fell in love with the song and added it to our play list.
At the urging of Craig Pederson (our manager) we started writing and composing more of our own material. He liked the original music we had and saw potential. Songs such as Magical Door, 10 Miles to Freedom, Side of the Dawn, and Signify Justice were a direct and immediate result of Craig’s encouragement.
BLUE FEVER Hillman Band House Bruce, George, Fayden, Mark, Martin.
BLUE FEVER Hillman Band House George Mark Fayden Bruce Martin.
BLUE FEVER Hillman Band House Martin, Fayden, Mark.
BLUE FEVER San Francisco Maritime Day Doug, Bruce, Fayden, Unknown, Mark, Martin.
Your name changed from Blue Fever to Timne and you also went to record some material in San Jose…
In October of 1967, we went to Action Records in San Jose for what we considered a ‘long shot’. We had to wait 2 hours before the small time producer Hank, showed up. We then spent 3 hours recording ‘Peter Pan Blow Up’ and ‘Essence of a Dead Robin’. (The title of the latter tune was changed to ‘Love Lock Temperature Drop’.) We received a ‘master’ dub record but our tunes were never released or promoted.
TIMNE Bruce, Doug, Craig, Martin, Mark, Fayden.
TIMNE Pepsi Battle of Bands Mark-George-Fayden.
TIMNE Pepsi Battle of Bands Martin, Mark.
You went to live together in a house, where you would work and breath music. What’s the story behind “communal” living and making music together?
Uther Pendragon: Mark reminisces, “We were as much a family as we were a band. We all had some sort of tragedy befall us in our past and I think we grew close out of a need to ‘belong to something special’ as well as our love of music. As Bruce mentioned above he lost his Mother to cancer, Martin lost his Father at an early age, and I came from a bitterly broken home. Our common goal, to become a world famous band, helped to unite us. We knew that in order to accomplish this we would have to get along and work as a team. We knew the band would have to become much more important than each individual. Personal goals became secondary to the lofty goals we had for our band. We also realized we would have to move in together to make this happen.”
We moved in together at our first “band house” in Belmont, just north of San Carlos. Mark and Martin continued to go to Junior College while living there. Our Manager, Craig Pederson, did most of the cooking usually making his infamous spaghetti-hash-goulash dish. It was cheap and it tasted really good. Our house became a magnet for “groupies”. It was not uncommon to have 15 to 20 people hanging out at any one time. However, we had two rules: #1 no girlfriends (or “old ladies” as we called them) could live permanently in the house. #2 no drugs in the house. (That doesn’t mean some of us didn’t partake outside the home.) We didn’t want to get busted and jeopardize our music career by having any illegal drugs found in the house.
We would often stay up most of the night either working on writing new songs or just hanging with our friends. Our manager Craig was also an amazing artist and he would often be working on an art project. One time he turned a small record player into a strobe light. We had fun with that for months. We were so excited when the Beatles White Album came out. We all sat around the living room listening and marveling at the incredible music they had made. Same thing happened when Iron Butterfly’s “In A Gadda Da Vida” came out. We would listen to it for hours.
Living together galvanized us as a band. Making the sacrifices one must make in order to have harmony in the household, helped us to maintain harmony in the band. There were no personality clashes, no ego mania and, no “it’s my way or the highway” sort of attitude. The music we made as a band reflected this. Songs were written and refined as a group. All ideas were welcomed and songs took on a life of their own. The results were songs that were much stronger than the original ideas for those songs. And we were better people as a result of living with our band family. We weren’t hippies living in a commune; we were a band living as a family.
Your lineup had a few changes. It would be nice if you can write down a timeline of band members and the band name changes, because Timne later became Kodiak, and for a short time, Hodological Mandala…
Uther Pendragon: Timeline of band name changes and members:
• 1965 – The Blue Grass Fever (Bruce, Doug Williams)
• 1966 – The Blue Fever (Bruce, Doug, Martin, Mark, Drummers: Tim ?, Joe Moroe)
• 1967 – Blue Fever (Bruce, Doug, Martin, Mark, Fayden Holmboe-front man Drummers: Derek French)
• 07/1967 – Timne (Bruce, Martin, Mark, Fayden, Drummer: Gary Harder)
• 06/1968 – The Hodological Mandala (Bruce, Martin, Mark, Drummer: Gary Harder)
• 09/1968 – The Mandala (Bruce, Martin, Mark, Drummer: Gary Harder)
• 09/1968 – Mandala (Bruce, Martin, Mark, Drummer: Gary Harder)
• 09/1969 – Kodiak (Bruce, Martin, Mark, Drummer: George Miller)
• 06/1970 Justus (Bruce, Martin, Mark, Drummer: Derek French
• 1971-1972 – Uther Pendragon (Bruce, Martin, Mark, Temporary sit-in drummers: Ken Basagio, Don Kolko, Steve Sanchez, Ridge Snyder, Gary Mora, Don Kolko)
• 09/1972 – Mike Beers joined Uther Pendragon as their permanent drummer.
Before 1965, we were cutting our ‘playing teeth’ on the popular folk music at the time (Peter Paul and Mary, Roger Williams, Kingston Trio, etc.) Hence the name ‘The Blue Grass Fever.’
Very quickly the British invasion and its re-vamping of traditional blues (Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, etc.) caught our ears and we started doing more blues/rock oriented music. We then decided to change our name to ‘The Blue Fever.’
After doing gigs where we were announced as ‘The Blue Fevers’ we decided to change the name once again to ‘Blue Fever’ to thwart any announcer’s attempt to relegate us to ‘fevers.’
The SF music scene in 1967 was slowly moving into the psychedelic realm with the advent of light shows, marijuana, LSD etc. and the music was starting to reflect that change, so we decided we needed to totally revamp our name. One of the classics from that era was ‘Time Has Come Today’ by the Chambers Brothers. The whole thing about time, existentialism etc. was to us, appealing. We didn’t want to use such a ‘pedestrian’ word as ‘time’ so we decided to add an ‘n’….Thus the band name was changed to ‘Timne.’
Craig Pedersen became our manager in 1968. He had some ideas about going even more toward the ethereal and suggested ‘The Hodological Mandala’. If you look it up, ‘Hodological’ is the study of the interconnections of brain cells and ‘Mandala’ is an image representing the Universe. We were not sure exactly what the two words combined meant but we thought it was pretty cool……except….we decided the name was too long so we shortened it to ‘Mandala’.
MANDALA Mark, Bruce.
In 1969, the psychedelic era was on the way out so we opted for a more ‘catchy’ name…Justus. Shortly we discovered another band with that name so we searched for another name.
In November of 1969 we changed our name yet again; this time to ‘Kodiak’……We have no idea why.
1n 1970, Craig started to delve into the occult a bit and thought that the best way to break in to the music scene was to do something completely different. We originated the tune ‘Devil’s Due’ (a fairly dark occult poem put to our original music) and decided to name ourselves after a great legendary figure Uther Pendragon who was supposedly the uncle of Merlin. The whole thing seemed to fit our new ‘dark’ image. ‘Pendragon’ is roughly translated from the Welsh, ‘Chief Dragon.’
You probably had a ton of home-made recordings. What were you using at the time? What audio gear and what kind of equipment (guitar, amps…)?
Uther Pendragon: There was a lot of different music gear used during the 11 years we were together. Bruce already mentioned his original music equipment. Mark started off with a Kay electric guitar and amp that he purchased with his own hard earned money back in high school. That is what he used when he auditioned to be a member of The Blue Fever. Martin was playing a Silvertone bass guitar and amp during that audition. We did songs such as “House of the Rising Sun”, “Barbara Ann”, and “Louie Louie”. Later on the equipment became much more sophisticated. We used an assortment of Fender amps and speakers-Fender Bassman (tube) Fender Bassman (solid state), six 15” JBLs installed in one tall cabinet, Music Man amp. Martin also used a Custom Speaker Cabinet for bass guitar. Guitars included several Fenders, Gretch, and Les Paul second release, and Martin’s Rickenbacher bass and Gibson EBO hollow-body bass. We also built our own equipment, including PA speakers complete with commercial Altec horns, and gigantic bass cabinets that took four people to move. At one point we purchased two huge 30” ElectroVoice speakers for the bass, and installed them into two massive cube shaped cabinets designed by ElectroVoice. We built our own PA amps (800 Watts) and several types of music amps from Mosfet SCR’s as well as guitar line effects. We had a Hammond M organ and a tape echo unit that sounded really spacey. Tape recorders throughout our band’s existence included an Akai Adjustable Head recorder, Realistic 2-track recorder, Teac 4 track recorder, and a Sony 4-track tape recorder. We used the Sony tape recorder to record most of our original songs. We had a Shure mic mixer and an assortment of Shure mics, including several all-purpose, reliable SM57s.
BLUE FEVER First Tape Recorder Akai tube reel to reel.
UTHER PENDRAGON Bruce, Mark, Mike, Martin.
UP made PA speaker with ALTEC horn.
You also went to a professional studio to record your material. Then you tried to release it on several labels, but with no luck. What happened?
Uther Pendragon: Craig was going into the army (drafted) and we wanted to get a tape to some labels in Hollywood before he was inducted. We scraped together enough money to book a demo session at Pacific Recording Studio in San Mateo, just south of San Francisco. We recorded four songs; all four (Magical Door, 10 Miles to Freedom, Signify Justice, and Side of the Dawn) are on the San Francisco Earthquake LP. When we met with the engineer to do a final mix-down he played us a bass, percussion, and drum track that blew us away. We’d never heard anything like it. Turned out it was the start of Santana’s iconic Abraxas album.
When Craig and Martin shopped the tapes in Hollywood only a few of them would even listen. They said groups were a dime a dozen and that our songs were too long. Spending nights in a Laundromat to keep warm only exacerbated this disappointing trip. We realized that the only chance we had was to form our own record company and publish and release our own records. Unfortunately we broke up before we ever released a record.
What is it about the constant name changes? Is there any background to it?
Uther Pendragon: Name changes seemed to reflect different eras during our almost 11 years as a band. We started as a band covering other people’s songs and went by the name The Blue Fever. When we became more serious and realized that we all had a burning desire to be “rock stars” we started writing our own material. As times changed so did our songs and for some reason so did our name. To actually pin down why the name changed so much is difficult to answer. It was almost like when the name changed it was a rebirth and rejuvenation of the band. Uther Pendragon was by far the name we identified with the most. As Craig says, “We were looking for Uther Pendragon all the time; it just took us a while to get there. We knew that if the name wasn’t memorable, it wasn’t what we wanted.” Uther Pendragon was who we were and who we set out to be. The four members of Uther Pendragon: Mike Beers, Martin Espinosa, Bruce Marelich, and Mark Lightcap are the band.
UTHER PENDRAGON Bruce Marelich LEAD GUITAR and VOCALS.
When ’70s arrived you truly embraced a communal life as a band. Provide some insight’s from daily life of Uther Pendragon?
Uther Pendragon: Prior to this time we had always rented our band house. When we all moved to Menlo Park (south of San Carlos) we purchased our home. It was a huge two story house that we painted farmhouse yellow with white trim. By this time we had abandoned our rule to not let our girlfriends live in the house with us. At one point we had Mike, Martin, Bruce, Mark, Craig and 4 or 5 women living in the house at the same time. To say it was crowded would be a gross understatement. Mark remembers sharing a small single bed with his then girlfriend (now his wife). Rolling over would often lead to a fall to the floor.
Mark and Martin were now attending San Jose State University during the school year and would spend the week in San Jose at an apartment. They would hitchhike back to the band house on Fridays. One time they were picked up by a drugged out guy who almost hit the underpass on the freeway. Fearing for their lives they told him that he could let them out at the next exit. It was late in the evening, a remote location, freezing cold and they didn’t get home until the middle of the night.
Meals were usually prepared by the girls and Craig. Martin and Mark helped to maintain the yard and were proud of the fact that our house looked as good as any on the block. Craig mounted a TV in the wall that he and Bruce put together from a Heathkit product. When we weren’t playing or writing music we would sit on Craig’s homemade furniture and watch such shows as Kung Fu and Baretta. Mike, Mark, and Craig often worked in Martin’s landscaping and construction business during the week days. This in addition to Bruce’s income from his job at a circuit board shop and the income from the band helped to support us.
Although there were a lot of ups and downs, somehow we managed to keep the peace and continue on with our “rock star” goals. We spent a lot of time writing songs. We would pair up or work on our own. Then we would introduce the songs at a practice and the band as a whole would mold the song into a finished product. Originally rehearsals were held in the house’s sound-proofed garage but later moved to a large warehouse that we rented in Palo Alto. We were in the process of building a state of the art recording studio there when the owner lost the property and we were forced to vacate. It was a sad day and ultimately led to the breakup of Uther Pendragon.
Were you playing in some clubs during this time? Was there any other local bands, that you liked or would you like to mention?
Uther Pendragon: We played in clubs all over the San Francisco Bay Area and as far south at Lompoc in Southern California. Here are a few of the places we played in no particular order: Fleet Week (San Francisco Marina), Keystone Berkley, The Long Branch (Oakland), The Kabuki Theater (San Francisco), The College of San Mateo, Canada College, Town & Country Lodge, Tony’s Pizza Parlor (San Jose), North Beach (Lake Tahoe), Sierra Nevada College (Lake Tahoe), Millbrae High School graduation party, Menlo Atherton (private high school), Veterans Hospital (Menlo Park), Veterans Hospital (Palo Alto), Coconut Grove (Santa Cruz), Homestead High School, Oakland Art Institute, Lompoc Flower Festival, Quincy Hall, and the list goes on and on.
Band Cards 1967-1976.
One of the most unusual gigs we played was at the Flower Festival in Lompoc, Southern California. We got up on stage, and shortly after we started playing a local wanna-be bike gang showed up and sat right in front. They proceeded to heckle us. When we finished our first set and took a break, the leader of the ‘wanna-be bad asses’ decided it would be funny to get up on stage and say something in the mic. Just as he was about to start talking, Craig our manager, turned the PA off. The goof ball “leader” was up there talking but no one could hear him. His own biker buddies all laughed their asses off. During the break, Craig told us to turn our amps up to 10 and that he didn’t want to see one person with-in 200 feet of the stage. We turned up and just started jamming. When we looked out at the audience a few minutes later, sure enough there wasn’t one person within 200 feet of the stage. There was probably a crowd of around 1,000 people there at the time. However, because we were playing so loud, people all over the city and up in the hills heard the music. By the time the cops came and asked us to shut it down, the crowd had swelled to well over 12,000 people, all grooving to the music. And the wanna-be biker gang was nowhere to be seen.
NOTE Booking Agent Sugar Lee (Beverly’s) contact info.
Another interesting story about gigging happened when we played at Keystone Berkeley. This club showcased such artists as Jerry Garcia in addition to a lot of local talent. When Uther Pendragon played there a girl in the audience who called herself Sugar Lee (real name was Beverly) took a liking to Mike. She came up to us after our set and told us she could get us a gig in Quincy, California. Sugar Lee was a big boned sexy black girl with huge ‘assets’. She invited Mike and Mark up to a party in the Oakland Hills at John Lee Hooker’s house. At the party she made plans with Mark to give her a ride up to Quincy so she could make the necessary arrangements. The next Monday, Mark picked her up at her home in Oakland and they drove up to Quincy. As they pulled into town she told him she needed to make a stop at the Sheriff’s Department to get the permit. She was gone about 20 minutes and when she returned she was all smiles. Mark asked her if she got the permit and she replied, “Yes, and I only had to give him a little ‘tittie’ this time.” As it turned out, the night of the gig the hall was packed to capacity and was a huge success. We never saw Sugar Lee after that, but she has stayed in our memories as one of the most interesting booking agents we ever met.
Mark Lightcap RHYTHM GUITAR and VOCALS.
Martin Espinosa BASS- and VOCALS.
Mike Beers DRUMMER and VOCALS.
There were three or four bands that made it big that we admired. Santana would be playing at one Rec Center and we would be playing at another. The Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham group called Fritz were unbelievable. Lindsay was the bass player and was fantastic. Martin lived next to Stevie Nicks when Mark and he were attending San Jose State University. Martin had met Stevie at College of San Mateo a few years earlier and they continued their friendship. Also, local groups like Cold Blood and The Knight Riders were great performers to watch and listen to. The Knight Riders were a take-off on William Penn and His Pals.
UTHER PENDRAGON Bruce, Mark, Mike, Martin.
UTHER PENDRAGON Mark, Bruce, Mike, Martin.
How much original material did you have? Did you play any covers too?
Uther Pendragon: We wrote a lot of songs during our time together. Craig estimates 88 original compositions penned by members of Uther Pendragon. The songs on the San Francisco Earthquake triple vinyl LP are just a few of them. We were fortunate to have recorded those, but there were many others that were never recorded or that the recording quality was just too poor to include on the album. As noted above, we also did many cover tunes during our time together.
Let’s talk about your influences. Since you were from California you must have been influenced by a lot of bands, considering everything was happening there. Would you like to tell us how did you saw the whole “hippie” scene?
Uther Pendragon: Our psychedelic music was definitely influenced by the great bands that played in the San Francisco Bay Area. But we were also influenced by the music from overseas. The Beatles, The Who, Cream, and all the bands that made up the ‘British Invasion’ had an impact on the music we wrote and played. Locally, a band called Moby Grape was one of our favorites. When we saw them live we were amazed by their talent and energy on stage. That was something we brought to the stage every time we played: Lots of energy, movement, dynamics, and passion.
We were amused by the ‘hippie scene’. But we weren’t hippies. We were musicians who had a very serious common goal. We were free spirited and driven, all at the same time. We went so far as to incorporate Uther Pendragon and issue shares to the members of the corporation. On the other end of the spectrum, we also took trips up to the San Francisco Airport to people watch (and it’s certain they watched us). We found out that if you got up on the railings that were moving in opposite directions on the moveable walkways, you would spin around in circles. We were all about having fun while we pursued our lofty goals. Sometimes we took trips up to San Francisco to fool around at Ghirardelli Square or Fisherman’s Wharf. We went up one time and walked up and down the Haight/Ashbury neighborhood. Everyone had long hair like ours; sandalwood incense wafted out of head shops, the smell of marijuana was in the air, and everyone was ultra friendly. Girls had flowers in their hair and guys wore bell bottom pants. At this point in time, the hippie scene was all about love.
What besides music influenced you? What was the writing and arranging process within the band?
Uther Pendragon: The turbulent times in which we lived influenced a lot of the original music that was pouring out of us. Our music reflected the turmoil going on in the world at the time: The Vietnam War, the threat of nuclear attack from Russia, The Berlin Wall, The Cuban Missile Crisis. It also reflected a new way of thinking: preaching peace and love, flower children, and positive change. Songs were being born daily. Martin, Bruce and Mark were writing like never before. And then Mike joined the band in 1972 as the drummer. He brought a powerful voice to the group along with his serious drummer chops. And to our surprise, Mike was an amazing songwriter in his own right. The next thing we knew he was bringing original song ideas to the band such as the powerful crowd favorite, “Troubles”. As mentioned above, song ideas were brought to the group and then reshaped by the band with the end result being a hybrid of the original. It was song arranging and writing by consensus. That could only be accomplished by leaving our egos at the door. Most songs took several months to fully form. Craig’s favorite is “Spanish Fly” which started out as a warm-up riff by Bruce Marelich. We would jam to it at the start of each rehearsal. Bruce loved the flamenco sound and eventually moved the music from a Classical beginning to a Rock ending using the kinds of transitions used by more symphonic bands. It got so good we just started to play it publicly. It was always well received.
Bruce, Mike, Martin.
Mark, Mike, Bruce, Martin.
Mike and Martin.
Would you share your insight on the Guerssen release tracks?
Uther Pendragon: First we need thank Alex Carretero of Guerssen for his expertise and diligence in seeing the Uther Pendragon Triple Vinyl LP San Francisco Earthquake through to its completion. From the very first time we were contacted and told he liked our music all the way to the release of the project, Alex and Guerssen have been a class act and a pleasure to work with. They went the extra mile to make sure we were giving them accurate data with which to work, they selected and mastered the old musical recordings, they got Mike Stax of Ugly Things Magazine to write the liner notes, (Mike did a great job deciphering and consolidating 5 different recollections of how things went down way back then), and they put together a very professional product complete with photos and posters. But of all the things Alex did and said, the one that meant the most is when he wrote to us and said, “I can’t believe you guys never got a record deal!”
Is it possible to get more detailed description of “Sabbat”?
Uther Pendragon: “Sabbat” is a hard rock opera written by Uther Pendragon’s manager Craig R. Pedersen. Started in 1969 with a song titled “Devils Due”, it was initially finished in 2006.
Originally, “Sabbat” was an Idea about more exotic staging for many of the songs on this album. Devils Due, Ten Miles to Freedom, Magical Door, Realm of Seven Planes, Man of Means, among others, would all have been used. The story was intended to be a staged horror story, a Rock Opera. Craig was influenced by Iron Butterfly, Jesus Christ Superstar, Tommy, Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake and Palmer, ELO, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Yardbirds, Electric Prunes, and Cream. The original story was medieval at a Stonehenge setting. Craig is currently in the process of redoing it to be more Goth in a San Francisco look and hippie period. He also has a Rock Musical called “Psychedelia” to go with the music on this album. http://studioxproductions.homestead.com/Psychedelia.html
CRAIG PEDERSON artwork.
How did they found you? You kind of completely disappeared…
Uther Pendragon: We owe Guerssen’s discovery of Uther Pendragon to our manager Craig Pederson. Craig put together a fantastic website http://pendragon.homestead.com/ showcasing our music and highlighting our times together. It features Uther Pendragon’s music, old photos of the band, names of people who hung around with us, tells stories about our experiences, and lists many of the places we played. We may have disappeared to the general public, but we never forgot each other. Even though we weren’t in direct contact and were busy raising families, Uther Pendragon was always in the back of our minds. We never forgot the Uther Pendragon Family.
Craig reviews how he crafted the website:
“I had started the Uther Pendragon web site in the early nineties, then started to make videos for music Bruce downloaded from the tapes we had made years ago. Over the next few years, I made videos of every song. Then I made those videos into a documentary of the band which is still on my adobe channel. I also wrote articles at websites that covered the music of that era. Someone from Guerssen discovered my channel through one of these other sources and apparently watched the documentary. Alex tried to contact me several times but my Hotmail account was not operating during that period. Alex then got through to Mark Lightcap who let him know we were interested in his offer. We never expected the incredible way they have packaged this record for us. Uther Pendragon never gave up! I think Guerssen is just as proud of this record as we are as the band.”
In the liner notes written by Mike Stax of Ugly Things you mentioned, that you didn’t do drugs at all. Is that true? We’re always interested in discussing what kind of impact have psychedelic drugs on music…
Uther Pendragon: A clarification is needed here. We didn’t allow drugs to be stored in our band houses because we were too visible to the local authorities and had too much to lose if busted. And we didn’t allow drugs to be used during our rehearsals and performances. That didn’t mean some of the members didn’t experiment with drugs outside our home. Regardless, the psychedelic music we were exposed to by many of the great bands that we saw perform had more of an influence on our music than did drugs.
Mark, Bruce, Steve Curtis-electronics tech. (fill in for drummer), Martin.
Have you been involved in any musical endeavours following the dissolution of the band?
Uther Pendragon: UP drummer Mike Beers went on to play many years in a cover band, The Hit Men. They were very popular and played a lot of gigs in the SF Bay Area. He also did most of the lead singing when they performed. Bruce and Mark play in the Northern California band, Bad Daddy. https://www.reverbnation.com/baddaddyrock They are currently in the studio putting the finishing touches on their latest album. It will have 13 cuts with everything from songs that rock your socks off to a couple tender ballads. They are anticipating a release date some time in 2016. Martin moved to Florida to pursue lucrative business opportunities for his construction business. He has recently moved back to Northern California amongst the redwood trees. Craig is living in Arizona and continues to work on his art projects. He remains as enthusiastic about Uther Pendragon as he did when we all lived together in the same house. About once a year friends, families, and band members all get back together at the Uther Pendragon Reunion. The band plays the songs we wrote many years ago, everyone feasts on good food, and we all reminisce about the times we spent together over 40 years ago. It’s more than a band reunion, it’s a family reunion.
How do you feel about the fact that after all this struggle to get a record company your material is finally released and it will gain even greater audience worldwide?
Uther Pendragon: There are so many adjectives that describe the way we feel. Some that come to mind are: validated, vindicated, ecstatic, incredulous, amazed, blown away, euphoric, fulfilled, excited, thrilled, it’s about time, and on and on and on . . . . . .
Craig writes, “we have all been waiting with our stomach in our throat because it is so much a fairy tale story. It’s almost too hard to believe. We now officially exist, our work has been acknowledged. It’s a dream come true.”
Thank you for taking your time. Would you like to share a message to our readers?
Uther Pendragon: After Uther Pendragon broke up Mark went to a person in San Francisco who could tell the future by reading auras. Mark recalls, “I was devastated by Uther Pendragon’s break-up and still wasn’t willing to give up on the dream. I was encouraged by a co-worker at a new day- job, to go up and speak with this person she knew in the City (SF) who could see the future. I was living in San Carlos at the time. When I arrived at his spacious apartment he asked me to sit down. I did so and he proceeded to read my aura and predict my future. He did this by standing in back of me with his eyes closed while I looked at him in a mirror. He spoke about the visions he saw of my future. While he was speaking he had a cassette recorder recording every word. I still have that cassette. During the reading he said that he could see me in the middle of many acres of incredibly beautiful land and he could see rock walls. When he was done with the reading he asked me if I had any questions. I told him, yes, that he hadn’t answered the one question I was there for, ‘Will Uther Pendragon ever make it’? He replied, ‘yes they will, but it won’t be for many years.’ I now live in Chico, California, about 200 miles northeast of San Francisco. I live in the middle of 32 of the most beautiful acres one could imagine. There are many rock walls here. They were built by the Chinese years ago. I’m still writing and playing music with my Uther Pendragon band mate and one of my best friends, Bruce Marelich. And Uther Pendragon is about to realize a dream we all shared over 40 years ago. Do dreams come true? You bet your ass they do!”
UTHER PENDRAGON Mark (front), Bruce, Martin, Mike.
Interview by Klemen Breznikar/2015
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