Archive for August, 2009

A California Memory of Jimmy Loomis

August 26, 2009

Thanks to my childhood friend, Butch Fisher for this California memory. To properly appreciate Butch’s reactions in this tale, one needs to know that at the time of this story Butch, an artist – not a musician, had just met Jimmy and knew nothing of his considerable musical and studio background. To Butch, Jimmy was just a salesman.

Autumn, 1969 found Jimmy Loomis, Butch Fisher and their respective girlfriends sharing an apartment in Hollywood, CA. Jimmy was selling musical equipment at the original (and at that time, the only) Guitar Center, on Sunset Blvd and Gardner St.  One Tuesday morning, out of the blue, Jimmy announces to Butch, ” I’m going to go get a job as a record producer – do you wanna come with me?”  Butch, thinking Jimmy must be kidding, says with a grin, “Sure, why not?”.  Since their apartment was on Cheramoya Street, a mere three-block trek from the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright Capitol Record building at Hollywood  and Vine, Jimmy made that their first stop.  As Butch watched in amazement, Jimmy confidently walked right up and said, ” I want to speak to someone about producing records for your company”. Capitol took his name and phone number and he and Butch moved on. There were six or seven other record companies around the Hollywood and Vine area and Jimmy, with a still skeptical Butch in tow, hit them all.

Fast forward three days…………

Friday morning, Butch is first up making coffee when the phone rings. Butch answers, says, “Just a moment” and shakes Jimmy awake.  It’s Jules Bergman from Cadet records.  As Jimmy listens, Jules explains that Cadet, already established in the Country and Western market is expanding full force into the newer and lucrative rock genre.  Does Jimmy have production experience in the rock area?  Jimmy assures him that he does, proceeding to list his accomplishments as Butch gawked.

Monday morning found Jimmy on the outskirts of Watts at the corner of Normandy and Slauson, behind the audio board in the control room of Cadet Records about to produce his first session with Neil Merriweather.

Here’s Jimmy doing a home mix-down in July of 2002.

Spring Fever Stage Moment

August 24, 2009

Thanks to Jere Stermer for this seventies gig tale:

In 1972 I had been playing drums for Lee Shane and Spring Fever for
about 2 and a half weeks. During one of the sets at the Frigate Lounge in Glen Burnie I was singing my heart out on harmony vocals into an overhead boom mic, when I noticed my mic wire was not plugged into the PA amp. When the song was over I pointed it out to Lee and he smiled, then counted off the next song in which I didn’t happen to sing.

We played a few more songs and the set ended, but Lee still had not plugged my mic back in. Still on stage I said loud enough for all to hear, “Wait a minute, how long has that been unplugged?” thinking it had been more songs that night than I realized. Lee smiled and said, “about 2 weeks.” Everybody laughed. This is when I learned, in spite of successfully singing lead on some tunes, that I just plain couldn’t sing harmony and was throwing off the rest of the back up singing. The rest of the guys were relieved when Lee disconnected my delusional back up singing from the PA. They also had been looking forward to that special moment when I figured out I had been singing my sour notes off into oblivion. Thanks guys! Believe me I understood. I don’t have an ear for singing harmony. Ah well!


But, the prankster in me had to get back at Lee. When he sang Color My World and the flute solo came up, he would place his mic out on the edge of the stage, go down into the crowd and invite a pretty girl up on the dance floor to slow dance with him. When it was time to sing the next verse he would reach for the mic and sing while still holding his swooning dance partner in his arms. What a racket he had going. But this particular time I put my hi-hat foot down firmly on the mic cord so when he picked it up it wouldn’t budge. The song demanded he start singing so he tugged and tugged. Just as he yanked one last hard time to get it free I lifted my foot; the mic suddenly came free and smacked Lee hard, right in the side of the face. A very startled and embarrassed Lee Shane shot me a dirty look, and I just smiled. Gotcha!

Les is More

August 14, 2009

Les Paul checked out yesterday. It’s almost hard to believe. I was beginning to think he was some eternal being who was never really born and would never die … he just was. He was put here to make music possible, and he did just that. There was music before Les Paul, but it was Paul who dictated what music would essentially sound like for the better part of a century.

I’m 63 years old now and I remember hearing him and wife, Mary Ford, doing “The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise” when I was just a little kid, and “How High the Moon.” What a remarkable sound that was … it made you realize as a kid why God had given you ears, and it made you grateful for the gift.

Les Paul, NY Times Obit

Leo Fender created a great guitar, and a bass guitar that changed music too, but he was a “mechanic” who couldn’t play his creation … compared to Paul, who was a musician; a helluva guitar player. And Paul competed with his own legacy by also pioneering multi-track recording technique—first with a disk machine he invented himself, and later with a tape recorder given to him by Bing Crosby. If you want to get a quick snapshot of how broad was Les Paul’s influence on popular music, check out the great photo gallery at Rolling Stone magazine.

I heard on a radio report of his death yesterday that he really wanted to play jazz, and that’s what he was doing almost right up until his death. He was making serious money playing country in his early years, making $1,000/week, and he gave it up for a $5.00 jazz gig … because, you know, he was a musician and that’s what musicians do.

There’s plenty of information all over the internet if you want to dig deeper into the life and work of Les Paul. We just couldn’t let it pass here without a word, and a fond farewell to a man and musician to who we all owe at least a little something.

Les Paul

Dennis Wilson’s Drum Sticks

August 12, 2009

In August of 1965, just before Danny and the Elegants started their 3-year run at Hollywood Park, our agent booked us as the starting band for the Beach Boys at Washington Collesium in DC.  We were all very excited, not knowing what to expect, so we got there early to check the place out.  When we arrived, a then star, Jimmy Jones (Handy Man; Good Timin’) was already there.  He and his backup group were scheduled to perforrm just before the Beach Boys.  Unfortunately, his group was stranded at an airport in California and couldn’t possibly make the gig.  He and the shows producers were having a heated discussion about that fact when we walked in.  When we identified ourselfs upon request, we were asked if we knew Jimmy’s songs. ” We know some of them”, we replied,” but since we’re here we ‘re willing to rehearse all day with Jimmy if needed”.  Well, they took us up on it and our place in the show was moved to right before the Beach Boys – first we would play as the Elegants and then as Jimmy Jones backup band.  In doing so we usurped the place of a group named the British Walkers, who were very popular around the DC area.  Anyhow, the British Walkers played first and then up we went, as Danny and the Elegants. It was unbelieveable!  Girls were screaming and throwing jelly beans at us on our way to the stage.

Once on the stage, we noticed that Dennis Wilson’s drums were already set up, and that Dennis had about 200 drum sticks on the top of his bass drum.  Our drummer Wally’s drums were set up right next to them, so close that he could reach out and touch them.  He could also reach out and touch Dennis’ drum sticks.  As we played, the girls screamed louder and louder.  We weren’t that good but the audience had come to a rock concert.  They would have screamed and applauded for anyone!  We had seen Beach Boy concerts before and knew why Dennis Wilson had so many drumsticks – he would throw them out into the crowd, who would go for them much like a baseball fan at a ball game goes for a ball hit into the stands!  Wally couldn’t resist it.  Before it was all over, he must have thrown 50 sticks or more out to the screaming crowd – all courtesy of Dennis Wilson!

After Jimmy was through, we all left the stage, walking between security guards who had their arms linked, to hold back the screamimg, lunging girls.  We were pelted with even more jelly beans than when we took the stage.  God – we were stars!!

We felt like real stars for about 24 hours.  The concert had happened on a Friday night.  On the very next night, that same agent that booked us with the Beach Boys, had us booked at the Taneytown, MD county fair, where we played on a rickety stage set up next to the ferris wheel, with a loud callopie going  OM-PA-PA, OM-PA-PA.  Lots of farmers in overalls staring at us like a spectator stares at animals in a zoo!

Riches to rags. huh?  We were, however,  inspired to learn a bunch of  Beach Boys songs, which is what got us the gig at Hollywood Park!

Dryed Ice and the Go Go Guys

August 2, 2009

Thanks to Jere Stermer for this tale which took place in the seventies at the Merritt House.

In the 70’s while I was playing drums full-time with Dryed Ice — Tony Montone, Carey Ziegler, me, and Frank Sortino — we were booked in the Merritt House for a couple of weeks and to our surprise we suddenly had to back up the then popular ‘go go guys’ one set per night each night for 3 or 4 nights.

We didn’t like it because they were cutting in to our picking-up-
chicks time. The nerve! We did it reluctantly. I found some Elvis
type sunglasses and wore them when the go go guys would do their
routine. I didn’t want anyone in the audience to think for one second
that my eyes took a glance in the direction of the go go dancers.
They moved around a lot on the stage and you had to keep your eyes
moving away from them so you didn’t accidentally catch a glimpse. But
it was down time for flirting with the chicks in the crowd while you

Dryed Ice a'go-go

The go go guys were good at what they did. They wore speedos or small
pants, but this one dancer was kind of prissy, unlike the others who
were OK. The prissy one was all ego and thought he was a super star.
He would come up on stage and sprinkle baby powder all around the
stage so he could do better footwork, I guess. It was part of his
act. The problem was – I had Fibes all chrome drums. It took me a
half an hour to dust all that baby powder off my drums after the
first night. So, the next night after finishing our regular set, and
before the dancers would come up, I would find the prissy one’s
bottle of baby powder and throw it away. Well, when he came up to do
his bit and couldn’t find his precious powder he performed angrily.
Later he threw a fit at the band and the club. Each night he bought a
new bottle, and each night I threw it away so he could no longer crop
dust my chrome drums again.

One of the nights with the go go guys, packed house, 90% women, they
got there early to get the best view of them, I arrived at the club a
little early. We didn’t wear any kind of matching outfits for that
particular gig, so when I went up to the stage with a small bag —
sticks, chewing gum, etc. — the girls at tables up near the stage
assumed I was one of the go go guys and started grabbing my butt and
pulling on my shirt, and told me what they would do with me when they
took me home with them later — all good offers. So I let them think I
was one of the go go guys. Then the rest of the band came up on
stage. Just then one of the girls in the crowd ripped my shirt open
so I left it that way when we started playing our regular set.
Between songs some girls yelled for the drummer to “take it off.”
Which I did striptease style, and threw it out to the girls. The club
owner came up and told me I had to put it back on because the law
then said no one, male or female, could show bare nipples. It was an
ongoing battle with the go go guys versus the strippers on the
‘Block’. The go go guys had to wear little round band-aids or very
cut down T-shirts.