Bolder Damn interview with John Anderson
Bolder Damn formed in Fort Lauderdale (FL) in the late 1960s. Their album was released in 1971. Special thanks to Rich Haupt of Rockadelic Records who reissued their eponymous LP Mourning in 1990. Here’s a very special interview with lead vocalist John Anderson.
What bands were you a member of prior to the formation of Bolder Damn?
Well first of all, thank you Klemen for your magazine and for your kind words about Bolder Damn. It has been over 40 years since we recorded the Mourning LP and I am amazed and humbled that we have many more fans now than we had way back then. Since it has been so long ago please forgive me if I leave anything or anyone out.
“We really wanted to play was the kind of music that you had to be stoned to dance to.”
Bolder Damn was the result of several friends that would get together and just jam together whenever possible. We all loved hard rock and tried our best to make noise that sounded like our heroes of the time. In the late sixties we just loved to do covers for fun and never even thought about playing gigs at first. Eventually the first band formed and we called ourselves ‘Souls Image’. It was Glenn Eaton (Lead Guitar), Bob Eaton (Drummer) Dean Noel (Bass) and myself (Lead Vocals). We played our first gig at a skating rink in Pompano Beach Fla. covering stuff like “Purple Haze”, “Manic Depression”, “Fire” to more mellow songs like “Because” by The Dave Clark Five. Actually, I think that was the only mellow cover that we ever played and we repeated it in every set. After all, the ladies wanted slow songs and by god we had one. Reluctantly we did what we could to please the crowd, but what we really wanted to play was the kind of music that you had to be stoned to dance to. Hard Rock and Loud as Hell! We took that teen hangout over and were booked there most every weekend. During that time we met up with Mark Gaspard. That guy was the ticket. He had a Hammond B3 with two (Count em) TWO Leslies and an electric piano keyboard. He never missed a note and we were on our way. We started doing covers of The Doors (“When The Music’s Over”), (“The End”) and that sort of music that seemed to suit us very well with the B3 sound. We always liked to do the more difficult intricate covers. We even did “A Day in the Life” and it sounded pretty damn good. That original group stuck together for what seemed like forever. Practice was several times a week at Glenn and Bob Eaton’s house in Fort Lauderdale. They had a converted garage that we lined with foam rubber to muffle the sound, a window AC and a pool table in the middle. It was tight but enough room to practice. Many nights the cops would show up when the neighbors would complain. I remember Glenn bought a decibel meter to prove that we were in cool with the law but they harassed us anyway. We still had to shut down by 10 pm but we always hung out with all the devoted fans and friends that would come back after the cops left.
We liked Dean Noel allot but there was something missing. One night we auditioned Ron Reffit on an off night. Not sure how we found him. Dean somehow showed up for some reason. He knew right away that he had been replaced and bowed out with no hard feelings. Ron was a natural that fit in just right. That is when ‘Bolder Damn’ was formed. It was Glenn Eaton (lead guitar and vocals), Bob Eaton (Drums), Mark Gaspard (Keyboards), Ron Reffett (Bass guitar and vocals) and myself (Lead vocals and whatever else I could make noise with). I would have to say that other than “Souls Image” it was the first real band for all of us.
You already formed in 1967 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. What was the scene in your town?
I actually used to go to a club called ‘The Scene’ in Fort Lauderdale as well as some clubs in Miami where the big names would play. Iron Butterfly, Blue Cheer, Steppenwolf, Mike Pinera. Also there was ‘Code One’ in Fort Lauderdale that was more of a local hang out where less known bands and the better local groups played including ‘Souls Image’ and later on ‘Bolder Damn’. Another was ‘Coventry Carol’. Bolder Damn and Coventry Carol found ourselves playing the same gigs many times and we would hang out as friends quite often. Coventry Carol had the best equipment available. Marshals stacked two high. Frank (their drummer) had a huge set including a gong and double bass drums which was fairly new at the time. He was always chewing gum to the beat and they always threw a handful of gum to their audience.
They covered a lot of Zeppelin and had a great stage look. They sounded impressive. That band split up around the same time we did. Their drummer Frankie Banali (Frank) later joined Quiet Riot out in California and went on to fame and fortune. Next time you see a video of Quiet Riot watch Frankie chew to the music. Bobby traveled with them for a while and shared many stories of the shoulder rubbing that went on as far as even meeting and hanging with Ringo Starr.
“We had the multitude worked up and we really felt like rock stars for once. What a rush!”
Weekends would find Bolder Damn playing at Grynolds Park near Miami or some other outdoor local event (usually for free) but opening for some big names like Blue Cheer, The Amboy Dukes, Foghat, and others. We once opened for Alice Cooper in front of several thousand screaming Cooper fans with “Eighteen”. Not sure what Alice thought about that but we closed with a rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner” with Glenn playing with his teeth. We had the multitude worked up and we really felt like rock stars for once. What a rush! That gig changed our perspective about what we were doing. The next day our local newspaper printed an article about the show in the entertainment section that knocked us down for doing nothing but cover music. The reporter wondered why such a talented, tight, great sounding band (not sure if he worded it exactly that way) didn’t play anything original in their show. Well that devastated us. We went from rock stars to five guys wondering why we existed. The crowd loved us but the critics gave us a thumbs down for lack of originality. Sure, we already had some of our own material, but we didn’t play even one of our originals at that gig!
Can you elaborate the formation of Bolder Damn?
How we all actually met is hard to explain. It was like, someone told someone that this guy was a guitar player and his brother was a good drummer and this guy plays bass and I know a guy that likes to sing. At some point we all got together at Glenn and Bob’s converted garage just to jam. We sounded pretty good together so we decided to jam again a few days later. It just sort of evolved from there and it turned into practice sessions to perfect a few sets. Zappa’s (Joe’s Garage) is not far from what actually happened other than there was no (Fender twang). Glenn always preferred the big sound of a Gibson SG Standard and he could make it wail! God he was good!
Bolder Damn was a name we came up with around the time Ron joined the band. I think Bobby and Glenn came up with it at first. It was a name that flowed. We changed the spelling to give it special meaning for us and to distance ourselves from the tourist attraction. We became Bolder!—Damn! It just seemed to fit much better than Souls Image and it had a ring to it. We were going to Kick Ass! Bolder Damn was formed.
Tell us about the early shows.
We had played many shows and many private gigs before the LP. I think the first big show for us was opening for Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes. That show was in Boca Raton Fla. at the community center. Ted’s (Bullet) was Journey back then. We later found out that he was only paid $500 dollars for that show. We got $200 and we were virtually unknown other than locally. The roadies pissed us off claiming that we couldn’t use the same stage as the Dukes because we weren’t union. We had to set up a make shift stage with fold out tables and plywood. We did our show on it but it totally sucked to have to perform on a shitty stage like that! We were invited to the party after the show so we forgave them. A lot of good weed was passed around that evening; don’t ask me how I know that. Ted didn’t partake but the rest of the band and crew had plenty of herbs etc. to share.
Although we opened for many well-known bands that passed through the area, we always loved to play for our screaming fans locally (especially in Margate Fla). They were true fans and we loved them as much as they loved us! They pegged the meter every time we played for them.
Where did you record your album?
The LP was recorded in 1971 at Hyperbolic Studios, in Oakland Park Florida. Mark Gaspard had left to pursue another music lifestyle not long before the LP and I believe that if he had been with us on the LP we would have gotten us a contract on a big label. Mark was more into classical music and later taught music theory along with Rick Lober from the Amboy Dukes. Strange how these things materialize! The last time I talked with Mark shortly after the first re-release of the LP on Rockadelic, he told me that he wished he had been in the studio with us.
It was a limited pressing due to our financial situation at the time and 200 LP’s is correct. We recorded and pressed that LP in only one day’s session and many of the lyrics were written during the session. We distributed the LP’s mainly to our local fans and some of them were given away. We tried to promote it ourselves but the only real interest was from Kay Stevens (a well-known singer/actress) who lived in Margate Fla. At the time who heard about us. Unfortunately, nothing ever came of it. I believe that if the draft and college hadn’t split us up, and if Mark had been in the studio, we would have gone much further. How much further is anyone’s guess?
What’s the story behind Mourning album?
After we were shot down in the local papers following the Alice Cooper gig, we played a week or two later at the local community center. Our fans gave us a cake to thank us for being their favorite local band. It turned into a surprise party for us. They begged us to record the original music that we had been playing for them. Back then, the only one that had any money was Bob Colosimo our manager. He believed in us and we cut a deal with him. He would pay for the recording and pressing up front and we would pay him back from the next few gigs that we played. We got together with some friends that owned a studio in Oakland Park Florida and came up with a way to get the LP recorded and pressed within our budget. The generic praying hands on the cover seemed to fit the LP well, and we chose it. Ironically, two of the back cover photos were later a part of Bobby and Glenn’s future. Bobby was photographed standing defiantly next to a Pompano Beach police car. Glenn had his cover taken while climbing into a plane. Bob later became a detective on the Pompano Beach police force and Glenn made a career of air traffic control. I still like to climb into graveyards from time to time LOL and Ron, – well the last time I saw him he was hanging out the window of my van shooting a bird at Bobby who had just tried to pull us over (lights and sirens wailing) on I-95 while on our way to a space shuttle launch. Needless to say, we were both wasted. Bob laughed and went on his way. No telling what the witnesses thought?
What kind of gear did you guys use?
Glenn’s pride and joy was his Gibson SG Standard. His amp was an (Acoustic) 270 head and a 271 cabinet with a huge Blue horn right in the middle. Awesome amp with a fantastic reverb sound that is clearly heard in the middle of “Dead Meat” (shortly after my execution)! Glenn also used a Cry Baby WAWA with Fuzz. Ron played a Fender Precision Bass and an Acoustic Amp (Acoustic 361 beast) that pumped out loud and ballsy enough to make your body shake. Ron used a pick sometimes but fingers most often. Bobby had Ludwig’s with twin bass drums with pillows stuffed inside and he knew how to use them! He loved to ring the bell on his Zildjians. I’ll never forget the night when he got so pissed off at me for messing up a line. He threw a stick at me and landed it square on my ass and it hurt like hell! Bobby had asthma and many nights he would collapse on his set at the end of the gig. He would always hold out to the finish somehow. I started out with a Kustom K-100 amp and a pair of Rolled and Pleated Cabinets with 8- 12″ Speaks. I later added a Peavey PA-6a board and twin columns. It did the trick at smaller gigs, but we used the house PA at larger venues or whatever the Main band had set up. That’s the way it works even now at the bigger shows.
You wrote some really interesting lyrics like: “You can kill a man, but can you kill the idea?” and so forth…
I can’t really say how the lyrics came out or why. Glenn would lay down some chords and I would start trying to make lyrics fit. Soon Glenn, Bobby and I were coming up with the lyrics until we had something that we liked. Bobby and I wrote most of “Dead Meat”. I don’t think Ron ever wrote any lyrics, but he certainly came up with his own bass riffs. He was a smooth, precise, bouncy kind of artist. Always smiling when he played. Glenn wrote and sang the lead on “Monday Mourning” and I believe the lyrics had allot to do with his life in general. All in all, the lyrics just came about and wrote themselves. We merely put them on paper. They all had meanings, but in a random sort of way. I don’t think that any writer can explain exact meanings of their lyrics.
What can you say about the title and the cover artwork?
The title Mourning was the mood of the era. Personally I had just lost my 21 year old brother who was in the Marines. He never made it to Vietnam, but it happened shortly before the LP. From Ohio (Kent State) to Vietnam people were dying because of the war. Mourning fit the era as well as our feelings. After all, we were just young hippy types with long hair. The praying hands fit the Mourning title.
So many didn’t understand the war, so many kids were killed and lamed, America was in Mourning, we were Mourning. That is how I felt but I can only speak for myself. It was a tough time to be alive especially if you were about to be drafted. You too could become “Dead Meat”!
How did the songwriting process look like?
I don’t think the band was together long enough for the song writing to progress to its full potential. Our first songs were about our girlfriends, current state of mind etc. Later the lyrics reflected the crap that was going on around us. War, politics and all of the current bull shit that surrounds us even today! We were all concerned about the draft. “War Pigs” were rampant!!
We were inspired by many bands and artists including Black Sabbath, Grand Funk, Deep Purple, Jim Morrison, Alice Cooper, Hendrix, Zeppelin and just about all of the groups that were doing hard rock at the time. I could go on and on but you get the picture.
Would you share your insight on the albums’ tracks?
Sure Klemen. I’ll give it my best.
“B.R.T.C.D.” was code for Britched. Britched meant (Fucked) as in-I got britched last night by my girlfriend, or- I’d like to Britch her, get britched or, – you get the idea. It was never used in anger however. I’m not sure who coined that one, but I think it was Bobby and it was used often among the five of us as well as other close friends. Grand Funk had “T.N.U.C.” and we had “B.R.T.C.D.” Maybe Mark Farner will someday reveal what “T.N.U.C.” means on that awesome tune! I have Googled both “TNUC” and “BRTCD” and can’t find a thing for either. Not even on WIKI.
“Got That Feeling”
This is a song I wrote one night when Glenn started playing some random chords during a break at practice. It’s just something about man’s inhumanity to man. Rooted in the shadow of the war of the age and the sorrow of it all. More great lead guitar from Glenn. Probably the best part of this tune is Glenn’s lead break! We performed that one long before we pressed the LP.
“Monday Mourning” should have been a single. The lyrics and music were written by Glenn. I know he had some family challenges growing up but it is not for me to speculate on the meaning of this one. I have always loved this one and, all in all I think it is the one tune on the LP that should have been a bullet single.
“Rock On” originated once again during a break at practice when Glenn started playing some random chords. Soon Bobby and Ron joined in. I started making up lyrics to fit the tune. Nothing special about this one, just a fun rockin tune with a great lead guitar break.
“Find a Way”
Once again I think this one had allot to do with the war that was going on. It has the best harmonies with all but Bobby singing. Ron is heard towards the end singing (“what you going to do, yeah”). He had a voice for sure! Ron never had the chance to show his full potential with vocals.
You don’t suppose this one had any war roots do you? LOL! The lyrics tell the story and the sound effects give it realism. I remember recording the sound effects with the guys from an LP I had onto the 24 track. I was thinking we would get sued for copyright infringement. Actually the sound effects were free to anyone that wanted to use them if they bought the LP. One of my favorites for sure on this number was Glenn’s lead break. It was one of a kind! Great fuzz work by Glenn. The man was and still is an awesome musician!
“Dead Meat”! Bobby and I wrote this one together. Bobby is no longer with us, therefore he can’t tell about his input and I had some shall we say, lyric enhancements at that time. You will need to figure this one out by yourselves. It does have meaning but you may want to drop something to explain it. I will leave that up to you. Just be sure to crank it up as loud as you can before distortion takes over. Better yet, crank it beyond that point and piss off the neighbors! That’s the best way to listen to “Dead Meat”! That’s the way I like it, loud with a good buzz going on!
“Blood dripping down from his hands.”
You had quite a ‘theatrical’ shows. In fact kind of outrageous stage shows that included beheading and caskets.
The shows were allot of fun. There was only one show that we performed and that was “Dead Meat”. It started with plenty of fog from dry ice. Lots and lots of dry ice in water. The song began in a dark gloomy way. All of us dressed in dark clothing. When it came to the part where the crowd started chasing me (consisting of crew etc) I was taken to the main stage floor where I was severely beaten, stomped on and stabbed repeatedly. Bob was doing a drum solo at that point so that Glenn and Ron were able to help murder me! At that time Glenn proceeded to cut out my heart which was an actual cow heart that we acquired. I’ll never tell where or how! He then held it up high, blood dripping down from his hands. Next I was picked up and carried to a hangman’s noose. I was hung by the neck and swung out over the audience. Next the Crew / Mourners would cut me down and carry me to a coffin which was standing up against a piller, where I continued singing the curse from inside with the door propped open!
The first time we performed this, the hanging harness slipped up too high around my crotch and I was nearly rendered impotent. The show went on however and I have a limp to this day. Everybody thought it was really great acting the way I shook and twitched and screamed from the Gallows Pole.
What happened after the album was released?
The only distribution was to our local fans and family back then. There are no originals left that have not been sold or given away. Thanks to Rich Haupt of Rockadelic Records it came alive again and now it seems to be immortal. No one is making a fortune from our original pressing however it has been pirated more than once and there have been several authorized releases on CD and LP on several labels in strictly limited numbers. Today you can find them everywhere on the internet. Long live Bolder Damn!!
Did you record anything else?
I personally recorded some covers that we did on a four track reel to reel including an awesome Iron Butterfly “Theme”. Where they ended up I don’t know. I wish we had cell phones when we were doing our shows. Unfortunately there are few photos and no videos that I am aware of.
How did you see the counterculture?
That is a great question that I don’t really know how to answer. There were straight people that were cool and there were some stoners that were total assholes. Sometimes it was hard to determine who the counterculture actually was. I preferred to hang with people that had a level head but liked to get a buzz from time to time. Did that help? Probably not!
What happened next? Are you in contact with any other member of the band?
We disbanded for several reasons. First and foremost was the loss of Mark Gaspard a phenomenal keyboard player. Next was a combination of all of us going on to other things like collage, marriage and of course the military? I was married and had two children, Glenn and Bobby still lived at home and were wanting to finish higher education and pursue careers. We were all successful in our own ways after disbanding. I continued to singing with any group I could hook up with. Bobby continued to play as well as often as possible. Bolder Damn was the best, although I had lots of fun with several later bands.
Bob as I said is no longer with us, but I think about him often. I have been in touch with Glenn on occasion and Ron hasn’t been seen or heard from in years.
Are you still musically active these days?
These days the only musical activity I participate in is cranking up my awesome system and blowing out the neighborhood! Actually I live in a place where I can crank it up and not bother anyone. My listening these days is dedicated to Big Head Todd, Collective Soul, Zappa of course, Beck, my good friend Frederico Wolman of (Dragonauta) and El Festival de los Viajes, and many other greats. I strum my six string from time to time but I have put my mic away except when I occasionally storm the stage if a friends group is playing. I still hang with musicians that play regularly.
Thank you very much for taking your time. Would you like to share anything else? Perhaps a message to It’s Psychedelic Baby readers and to Bolder Damn fans across the globe?
It was a trip indeed to be a member of Bolder Damn! We had some gigs that I will never forget, some I would like to forget, some I can’t remember and some I can’t talk about. Glenn was a fantastic guitarist that could have gone to the top. Bobby was a great drummer and I will miss him always. Ron was a great bassist that could have gone to the top just like Glenn and Bobby. I thank Rich Haupt for his part in bringing Bolder Damn into the physicadellic scene once again. All I would like to say to anyone that likes to play music is this. If you love it, put your heart into it. Practice hard and regular with your fellow band mates. Play cover music but always compose your own (original) material. Cover shit will never get you anywhere but a sleazy night club. No offence to the sleazy nightclubs of the world. I have frequented many and still do on occasion. Above all, Rock On To The Music!!
– Klemen Breznikar