Friday, February 13, 2015

Interview:--> Stanley Sheldon (Classic Rock Bassist)

"Who said it's my year?
Was it you there?
Can't go wrong."
~ Peter Frampton ~

As reliable as an IHOP at three in the morning...Stanley Sheldon has been clocking thunder on his fretless bass with equal dependability, providing safe-passage for some of rock music's finest for over 40 years.

I caught up with Stanley last week to talk about his days with Tommy Bolin, his past and present work with Peter Frampton, and many other surprises.

Stanley Sheldon Interview 01/27/2015
(L-R) Bob Mayo, Peter Frampton John Siomos and Stanley Sheldon

Casey Chambers:  Stanley, you have continued to enjoy a solid career in music for over 40 years.  When did you realize that you could make a living being a bass player?

Stanley Sheldon:  Well, that's a good question, 'cause I think a lot of young musicians struggle with that.  They'll set themselves a time limit and...'if I'm not successful by the time I'm 25 or 30, I'm giving it up.'  But I knew what I wanted to do when I was 16 years old.  Right out of high school, I knew I wasn't gonna spend time at college.  So I made the moves I needed to do and got myself to Colorado and y' those first early years...when I had committed myself to music, I was a little worried.  My parents certainly were.

I remember getting a letter from my little brother saying, 'Oh gosh Stan, I hope you can make it soon 'cause Mom and Dad are worried.'  And at that point, I was like 21 years old or so.  But I'm one of the fortunate ones.  'Cause when "Frampton Comes Alive" came out, we were all just...y'know...25 years old.  So I didn't have to worry much after that.  At least not about the initial success. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  Well let me ask...who were some of your favorite bass players growing up?

Stanley Sheldon:  I play a fretless bass.  And back then, I guess, my favorite bass players were the ones playing in bands I liked the most.  I'd seen Timothy B. Schmidt from Poco play a couple times and thought he was great.  Rick Danko, from The Band, was a huge influence because he played fretless bass.  When I saw that, I decided I was gonna give it a try.  I bought a Fretless Precision Bass in 1969 right before I left this area (Kansas) for Colorado.  And I play other basses as well, but the fretless bass is the one I used on "Frampton Comes Alive" and it's kind of my signature voice.  Bass players know that about me.

Casey Chambers:  Playing fretless bass at that time was unusual, wasn't it?

Stanley Sheldon:  There was just a handful of us.  As I mentioned, Rick Danko, from The Band was the first one we all saw.  Dee Murray, Elton John's bass player, was playing fretless.  They were out and about in 1970 with Elton's first huge success.

Out in Colorado there were two of us...myself and a guy named Kenny Passarelli.  Kenny went on to play with Joe Walsh.  We both played with Tommy Bolin.  That's how we met in Colorado.  And back then, I think that was about it.

Casey Chambers:  And you went on to make a record with Tommy...

Stanley Sheldon:  Well, it went way beyond just playing on one record.  Tommy and I were best friends.  He was my best friend.  I was his best friend.  Tommy and I had already been playing together for four years at that point.  We had a fusion band called Energy that was put together in Colorado in 1971.

Stanley Sheldon & Tommy Bolin (from Energy)
I don't know if you've heard any of the Energy archival stuff, but there's plenty of it, for good or ill.  Some of it's better quality than other stuff.  So if you're a fan of Tommy, you need to visit his archives.  That's some of his most spectacular playing.

Casey Chambers:  That was really early on.

Stanley Sheldon:  Yeah and we were playing this fusion music.  We didn't even really know what to call it.  Tommy was deep into Mahavishnu Orchestra, and John McLaughlin, and Miles'..."Bitches Brew" and all that stuff.  So he got us all into it.  That was our first introduction into that jazz fusion.  Thanks to Tommy.  We made our move to L.A. together right before he got the gig with Deep Purple and I passed the audition with Peter Frampton.

Casey Chambers:  Was Tommy Bolin's "Teaser" the first record you played on?

Stanley Sheldon:  The first real record I played on was "Frampton Comes Alive."  But they came out almost simultaneously.

Casey Chambers:  That's crazy.

Stanley Sheldon:  We recorded half of "Teaser" in L.A. at The Record Plant and we did the other half about a month later right at Christmas time at Electric Lady Studios in New York.  Now, this is interesting, Casey  because I told you those two records came out simultaneously...

Casey Chambers:  Right.

Stanley Sheldon:  Well, Tommy had booked Electric Lady Studios and Peter was already in there in Studio B mixing the live recordings that we had just done that summer, which was to become "Frampton Comes Alive."  So while Peter was putting that together, Tommy was in the other room at the exact same time finishing the last half of "Teaser."

So he met Peter and we were all kind of hanging out.  Getting high together.  I was going back and forth from Studio A to Studio B...cutting tracks with Tommy and then going back to Peter...who was doing most of the mixing.  I didn't have to do anything with him, really, except listen and go...'Oh yeah, shit, we sound great.' (laughs)  "Frampton Comes Alive" and "Teaser" were done at the exact same time.

Casey Chambers:  Those must have been exciting times.

Stanley Sheldon:  It was very exciting.  I was playing with some of the greatest stars on earth.  Especially Narada Michael Walden.  One of the most memorable sessions we did was when we cut "Marching Powder" and "People People."  The level of musicianship that was in that room.

"Marching Powder" - Tommy Bolin / "Teaser" (1975)

I was playing with some of my idols.  Some of the greatest players on earth.  David Sanborn. Michael Walden.  Jan Hammer.  Rafael Cruz.  Sammy Figueroa.  Brecker Brothers.   Michael Brecker.  This is the A-Team, man.  So I was proud to be there.  I wasn't sure I belonged, but they took me under their wing.

Casey Chambers:  It sounds like things really snowballed once you made the move to L.A.

Stanley Sheldon:  Yeah, Tommy and I had only been there about a month when we both got our auditions respectively with Frampton and Deep Purple.  So we said our goodbyes for awhile and we were always going to get back together.  But then Tommy OD and died.  And that's sad.

Casey Chambers:  For your Frampton audition, I read where you had to learn a shitload of songs in just two weeks.  That had to have been a ball-buster.

Stanley Sheldon:  Yeah, y'know, looking back it seemed like a daunting task.  I've had to learn more songs in less time since...but back then, I was really thankful to have that time.

Peter gave me three albums and two weeks.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  'Here's the records.  I don't envy you.'  I learned every song on the three records which was like 30 songs.  I wasn't a huge Frampton or Humble Pie fan at that point, so his stuff was all kind of new to me.  But what I did hear, I liked.  I had Tommy Bolin's endorsement.

Tommy was really happy I got that audition.  Happy in one sense and sad in another 'cause we were gonna have to part ways.  He encouraged me to get that job.  I learned the material really well and two weeks later when we met up in New York...I was still nervous as hell. (laughs)  But after playing one song, Peter said, 'welcome to the band.'

Casey Chambers:  And you guys...the band, I mean...must have had instant connection because everything clicks on "FCA".

Stanley Sheldon:  We really did.  Back at that point in time, we all used to ride in the same car.  Just the four of us.  Yeah, it was really cool.  It was before the stardom.  We were all down to earth just enjoying the fact that we were a great band.  We were young.  I mean shit, 25 years old.  The album's about to go to #1.  What could be better?

Casey Chambers:  Do you remember when you found out it had reached #1?

Stanley Sheldon:  I certainly do.  I remember it very well.  We were all on vacation in the Bahamas.  Peter had taken us all down to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.  And when we got back for the first wasn't the very first show...but when we got to Detroit, that's when the manager called up and said, 'Hey, it just went to # 1!.'  'Numero uno!', we told Peter.

We were in Detroit getting ready to play Cobo Hall.  It's a big arena and holds about 20,000.  And there was such a demand, they had to add two or three more nights at Cobo Hall.  The fans were just going crazy.  And that was really my first taste of screaming groupies.  It was such a shock.  I'll never forget it.

Casey Chambers:  You guys got to do "The Midnight Special."  What a kick ass show that was.

Stanley Sheldon:  It was great because everybody was really performing live.  There was no lip syncing going on.  It was famous for that and the performances are so good.  I haven't got it yet, but there used to be a late night offer where you could buy "The Midnight Special"...the whole collection.

When we did the show, we got up early that morning to go tape at Universal Studio.  We were there a couple hours.  They ended up using the whole version of "Do You Feel..." and three or four other songs that we taped.  It was almost like doing a whole show.  Back in the day, they didn't care.  Now it's like...'Ok, play your song and get off.'  Like "Soul Train" or something.

"Do You Feel..." - Peter Frampton / "The Midnight Special"

Casey Chambers:  And those songs show up in movies all the time.  It must be a real trip watching a movie and suddenly hearing "Do You Feel Like We Do" start to crank.

Stanley Sheldon:  Well sure.  How can you go to a movie like "Dazed and Confused" and not notice you're on it? (laughs)  That's one example.  Yeah, it's cool.  Very cool.  I love when that happens.

Casey Chambers:  Okay, humor me one more minute and let me inquire just a bit more about this little piece of noise called..."Frampton Comes Alive."  Not just a great live album.  We're talking a...two-record, doobie-rollin', gatefold, thunderclap monsterhead.  What's it like to have created a rock-n-roll frame of reference for the 70's?

Stanley Sheldon:  Nobody's ever asked me that before. (laughs)  It was crazy.  It was like being The Beatles that year.  That's really a bit of an exaggeration 'cause nobody will be The Beatles.  But as far as who was making a stir that year, we were it.  All over the world.  That's when I got my first taste of glory...which can be a double edged sword, too.

Casey Chambers:  Indeed.  And, sooner or later, you guys had to go back in the studio with an elephant in the room trying to follow that one up.  You finished out the 70's with Frampton's..."I'm In You" (1977) and "Where I Should Be" (1979).  How difficult were those sessions?

Stanley Sheldon:  Oh...they were just kind of hazy.  We were all drug addled.  Not much very memorable from those two for me, y'know?  But listening back to them sometimes, which I rarely do, they turned out okay.  His biggest fans were really disappointed with the "I'm In You" record, 'cause they wanted a heavier rock thing.

Peter had been in the hard rock band...Humble Pie...and his fans loved him for that.  So when he came out with this kind of Stevie Wonderesque, softer kind of rock, his fans...they didn't dig it that much.  It shipped platinum.  Shipped a million units.  Shipped gold, as we say, just on the strength of "Frampton Comes Alive" 'cause everybody was anxious to see what the next record was gonna be.

It got panned critically, but it really is a pretty good record.  Mick Jagger is a guest on it.  Stevie Wonder is a guest on it.  Not one of his greatest records.  Peter would be the first one to agree with that, but it certainly is not a bad record.

Casey Chambers:  Not at all.  You mentioned Mick and Stevie dropping in for those sessions.  How'd it go working with them?

Stanley Sheldon:  That was a thrill.  That's been one of the highlights of my career.  Whenever you meet people of that stature in this business, you just feel...'hey, I can't believe I'm here sitting in the room.'  I've got a picture of it.  Jagger's playing and me and Peter are standing right next to him.
I mean they both are the teachers, man.  Especially Stevie Wonder.  He's the one that teaches all of us how to play thought music and he's such a genius.  It was a thrill.

Casey Chambers:  What song were they involved in?

Stanley Sheldon:  Mick Jagger was a guest vocalist on "Tried To Love."  And you can hear him singing in the chorus if you listen closely.  But he wouldn't allow his name to be put on the record.  Maybe he knew something we didn't. (laughs)  Stevie on the other hand is credited.

"Tried To Love" - Peter Frampton / "I'm In You" (1977)

Casey Chambers:  You snuck in a little bass work on Cheech and Chong's "Up In Smoke" soundtrack.  How did that go down?

Stanley Sheldon:  Oh, I was just finding the right people.  I was in with a good circle of musicians.  After I got to L.A. and was with Frampton, I got to go on the road with Warren Zevon.  "Excitable Boy"..."Werewolves of London".  At the time, the players within that band were some of L.A.'s top session players.  Like Waddy Wachtel.
(L-R) David Landau, Stanley Sheldon, Rick Marotta, 
Warren Zevon, Waddy Wachtel

Waddy is a famous session guitarist out there.  He plays with everybody.  Right now, he's Stevie Nicks' producer or musical director.  I met all these guys.  They were doing soundtracks 'cause they knew Lou Adler, who is one of the famous producers out there.  I just got hooked up to do that one movie.  It's not like I did a whole bunch of'em. (laughs)  It was cool being able to do that one though.

Casey Chambers:  Yeah, and that was their first movie too.

Stanley Sheldon:  It was their biggest movie as well.  I got the right one. (laughs)

Casey Chambers:  It's been many years since I've watched the movie..."Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." (1978)  But you were in that, right?

Stanley Sheldon:  Very briefly, yeah.  We're in the very beginning credits.  There was a progenitor Pepper band.   We're the parents of Peter and The Bee Gees. (laughs)  Circa World War I.  There's some quick still shots of us and even some film shots of that band as they tell the story of Sgt. Pepper.  And it's right in the beginning.  If you blink you'll miss it.  I'm actually playing a saxophone in that incarnation of the band.

Casey Chambers:  Jumping ahead to the '80s, you did some session work on Lou Gramm's first solo album..."Ready Or Not." (1987)

Stanley Sheldon:  Yeah, Lou and I were really good friends.  We lived in the same neighborhood up in New York City.  Our wives became friends first.  We both had infant sons.  So we started hanging out as family. And then when he left Foreigner to do his first solo project he invited me to play on a track or two.  So that was cool.  'Cause I always really loved his voice.  I think he's one of the greatest singers in rock.

Casey Chambers:  He's pretty strong.  What songs did you work on?

Stanley Sheldon:  The song I played on was the big radio release called, "Midnight Blue."  I was happy to be on that 'cause we did an MTV video.  You can see it on YouTube.  Pretty cool video.  It's got a gorgeous young girl in it.  It was really cool to do that one with Lou.  I'm only on one other besides that.  I'd love to reconnect with him.

"Midnight Blue"  -  Lou Gramm / "Ready or Not" (1987)

Casey Chambers:  In 2006, Peter Frampton released a killer instrumental album, "Fingerprints."  There's a song the two of you wrote together...

Stanley Sheldon:  That's correct, yeah.  "Ida y Vuelta (Out and Back)".  He won the Grammy for Best Instrumental Pop Album of the Year.  And we had just recently reconnected in 2005 after many years of not really communicating that much.

What brought us together was Bob Mayo (keyboards/guitar) and John Siomos (drums)....the other two fellas from our original "Frampton Comes Alive" band.  They had both passed away within two months of each other that year.  In January and February, as a matter of fact.  It was this time of year.

"Ida y Vuelta (Out and Back)" - Peter Frampton / "Fingerprints" (2006)

Casey Chambers:  I'm sorry to hear about your old bandmates.

Stanley Sheldon:  Yeah, it was pretty devastating for Peter and I...'cause that left us as the only two original members still alive.  That's when he invited me to come to his house and work on the new record with him...y'know...the instrumental album.

And after we did that, I had a feeling there was gonna come a day when he'd call me up and say, 'Hey, you wanna come back out with me?'  Since we are the only two survivors from the original band.  And he did that on the 35th Anniversary of "...Comes Alive" which was in 2011.  I've been with him ever since.

Casey Chambers:  What are some of your favorite Frampton songs you really get off playing in concert?

Stanley Sheldon:  Oh, that's a good question.  When we did the 35th anniversary a couple years ago, we were playing the record in its entirety for the fans.  We played three and a half hour shows that year, 'cause we did all the other stuff besides "Frampton Comes Alive."  And it was really cool.  I was revisiting so many of those songs.

I love the song that starts the record off..."Something's Happening".  That's one of my favorite ones.  "I Wanna Go To The Sun".  I love a lot of them.  My favorites are also the ones everybody else talks about, too.  We just introduced putting "I'm In You" back in the set last summer.

Peter shied away from playing that one for years. (laughs)  He was so upset with his pretty boy image on the record and the way the critics panned it.  He just didn't want anything to do with it.  But it sounds great.  We've got a great arrangement of "I'm In You" now.

Casey Chambers:  If you were to recommend one album...any album...for me to listen to today, what would it be?

Stanley Sheldon:  My favorite record right now is the new D'Angelo album ("Black Messiah").  He has a fretless bass player...Pino Palladino...and he's my favorite bass player.  This is the first D'Angelo record in 12 years, so his fans have been waiting.  The record lives up to the wait.  And it's incredible for a bass player especially.

D'Angelo is a latter-day Marvin Gaye in my mind.  A huge star.  Among musicians, he's infamous for his recordings.  This is only his third album and Pino Palladino plays bass on all three of 'em.  And Pino goes out on the road with The Who too. as well.  He's a much sought after player.  Everybody wants Pino.  Check it out.

Casey Chambers:  Excellent.  And you're going to be hitting the road with Frampton pretty soon, as well.

Stanley Sheldon:  Yeah, we're getting ready to go out on the road again this summer.  They're already booking the shows.  We're gonna be doing a double co-headline with Cheap Trick. It's awesome, at my age, to have this artistic and financial security.  I'm really fortunate.

Casey Chambers:  Dig that!  Sounds like a killer show.  Stan, thanks for hanging out and I appreciate your time.

Stanley Sheldon:  Sure.  Thanks Casey.

Stanley Sheldon Website

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Interview:--> Terry Kirkman (The Association)

"...Not only learned to think, but to care. 
Not only learned to think, but to dare."
~ The Association ~ 

With one of the most bad-ass songs about the herb that no one was quite sure about, yet everyone the anti-war homage that was both beautiful and pointed...The Association.

From gentle psych pop spinneries that tease the the lush vocal and instrumental arrangements that melt the heart...The Association.

The Association were all of these and none of these.

Lead by co-founder Terry Kirkman, it was never an "either/or" about the music.  No pigeonhole here.  It was simply "all" about the music.  And having at least 3 of the most radio-played songs in history...I'd say The Association were on to something.


Casey Chambers:  In the summer of '67, The Association had the opportunity to perform at the iconic Monterey Pop Festival.  How cool was that?

Terry Kirkman:  It was a really mixed bag.  There was the good news and the bad news.  We were the opening act and we were kind of the soundcheck and lighting check for the whole festival.  It was a very mixed bag for a lot of artists there.

Casey Chambers:  Did you know going in that you were going to be the first group to hit the stage?

Terry Kirkman:  I believe so.  We weren't thinking about it too much 'cause we were doing concerts all the time and we came straight out of the studio to do that gig.  We didn't really think much about it at all.  It wasn't a big deal.  I don't think any of the acts per se, thought of it as anything except a good idea.

It was going to be the first pop/rock/folk festival in the country and it was thrown by The Mamas and The Papas who were very popular at the time and so we all said...'let's go do it.'  And then it turned out to be this whole other thing.  You had people playing rhythm and blues, people playing Indian rock music and some acts...just incredibly stupefying way-wonderful acts...that no one had ever seen before.

The Montery Pop Festival (1967)

Casey Chambers:  You guys also did a lot of television and among the shows...performed a number of times on the short-lived, but long-remembered..."Smothers Brothers Show."

Terry Kirkman:  Variety shows were the mainstay of television.  We did 50 of them.  The Smothers Brothers were personal friends and it was fun being a part of that because they weren't the regular, everyday Ed Sullivan kind of variety show.  They would make political statements.  And the show was fun to do.

Casey Chambers:  Occasionally, you trip in some play with your...penny whistle, I'm guessing...and it gives a song an unusual twist.  The instrument has a really unique sound and one I don't often hear.

Terry Kirkman:  It's a recorder, actually.  A very old baroque instrument.  And no, you don't hear it much because it's not very popular.  Maybe if you were in folk music or if you were in Austria.  It's just a common, relatively inexpensive instrument that children in grammar school are taught to toot.

And there were all sorts of instruments in the '60s being used for the first time.  It was would reach into your bag of things and try to make it work.  And that's what I did.  We were making music and I tooted it and we used it and that was it.  I just played it.

Casey Chambers:  And your songs continue to resonate with each new generation...

Terry Kirkman:  It's flattering to be involved with a piece of music that becomes popular.  "Never My Love"...which we didn't write, the Addrisi Brothers wrote that one, is the second most airplayed song in BMI's history.  "Cherish" is the 21st most airplayed song.  And "Windy" is about the 60 or 61st most airplayed song.  It's fun to do.  You stick it out there and other people like it and they play it and sing it.  It's nice to hear other people do things with a song other than how you originally intended it.  That's always fun.

Casey Chambers:  The radio classic..."Cherish"...was one of your songs.  Do you remember when you wrote that one?  Do moments like that stay with you?

Terry Kirkman:  Yeah, when you know that you've pulled something together that is different.  "Cherish" came in one fell swoop.   I actually channeled it.  Or I was channeled.  I really don't know what the source was.  I've never understood the process nor do I think I will ever understand the process.

And there are any number of songwriters out there, poets and writer's writers, and artists of all kinds who will tell you that they've sat down to do something and the next thing you know, it's done.  And you don't really know where it came from.

So between 11:00 pm and 11:37 pm on that particular night, which I know because I got home at exactly 11:00 pm and the news had just started, my wife said, 'Do you wanna watch the news?'  And I said, 'No, I think I'm gonna try to write this song.'  And then when I finished it, I was just barely into Johnny Carson's monologue at 11:37.  So in that period of time, that song got written.

And you don't sit down and work on it for weeks or months.  I mean, we obviously worked on the song for months to make it sound the way it did.  But the actual writing of the song just came in one fell swoop.

Casey Chambers:  That's very cool.  A short amount of time for being such a contributing factor for steamy backseat windows, wasn't it?  And the song seems to pop up a lot in films and TV shows.

Terry Kirkman:  Yes it does.  It's fun.  Surprising.  It's not always a compliment.  "Cherish" has been used as a gag for being a kind of conservative, old fashioned song in an otherwise hip movie.  It's just an accidental piece of culture.  It's a frame of reference for a lot of people.

The song's been written about a lot.  It's referred to in novels, screenplays.  It was once the whole theme of a sitcom called "Wings".  The whole lyric was also printed out in Xaviera Hollander's memoir..."The Happy Hooker" as a song that she and a guy made love to.  Didn't have anything to do with me.  I just sat down in a little apartment in Hollywood one night and wrote a song.

Casey Chambers:  On the other extreme, you offered up..."Requiem For The Masses"...which served as a pointed anti-war statement.  The arrangement was unique.

Terry Kirkman:  The idea of having the little snippets of "Requiem Mass" was originally thought of for a whole different piece of music.  A Bob Dylan song called "Who Killed Davey Moore?"  And it was a song about the death of the champion boxer Davey Moore in the '50s and '60s.  And his song was saying  'Who killed Davey Moore? Why'd he die?  What's the reason for?'  And then, like a Greek chorus, there'd be a response with the lyric,
                           'Not I' said the referee                
                           'Not I' said the fan.
                           'Not I' said the journalist.
                           'Not I' said the other fighter.
'Cause it was about death and about something sensationalized and exploited.  Like a gladiator and like football is today.  I thought it would be really cool to put the "Requiem Mass" between that.

But I didn't belong to a group that could sing it.  And I couldn't find a group who would do it.  So it didn't go any place and I saved it.  I rediscovered it when I was writing a poem about soldiers in Vietnam.  And I thought, 'Oh, this could be a song and I could use the "Mass" thing.  And the United States Government stepped on that song.  They also stepped on "Along Comes Mary".  There was pressure put on the record companies and on disc jockeys not to play the song.

It's All Good...but cue 9:00 mark for intro/performance of "Requiem For The Masses".  (...listen as Nixon reaches for the phone to pull the plug on The Smothers Brothers Show.)

Casey Chambers:  I read somewhere that when The Association performed at Disneyland, the Orange County Police were warning you not to play..."Along Comes Mary".

Terry Kirkman:  Yes, for the same reason that the United States government stepped on the song.  It was the sheriff's department.  And they didn't want anybody in their hallowed little religious setting, Disneyland, to be singing a song promoting marijuana.  Then later, they turned around and apologized to us because that very morning The Los Angeles Times published a story that the nuns of Marymount College had named "Along Comes Mary" the song of the year.

Casey Chambers:  What about the psychy "Six Man Band".  I always thought of that one as an underrated gem.

Terry Kirkman:  It's how I felt about the music business.  The original lyric was...(laughing)...the original lyric to that song was a lot more insulting to the music business.  That was how I felt about the life that we lived.

Casey Chambers:  In 1969, The Association contributed a few songs to a movie soundtrack, "Goodbye Columbus".  You wrote a song for it called..."So Kind To Me (Brenda's Theme)".

Terry Kirkman:  I was just writing a song for the movie about the movie.  They wanted a long song that would go over a long sequence.  There were no big Hollywood bells and whistles with that experience at all.  It was just simply being asked to do something and we all sat down and put our separate and collective heads together and pounded out some music for the film.

The director and producers didn't take us a bit seriously.  When we asked what the movie was about, the producer said 'It's about money and fucking, OK?  And you write songs for it'.  'OK, so what's it about?'  'It's about money and fucking, OK?'  'OK.'

Casey Chambers:  Later on, you branched out into television production.  Was that something you were always interested in doing?

Terry Kirkman:  Making art and producing things is something I've always been interested in.  I didn't set out to be a musician.  I didn't set out to be a television guy.  I really wanted to be a journalist.  So instead of writing for newspapers which would pay absolutely no money, I set out to do other things.  And as far as writing television, I was a game show writer.  I wrote advertising copy.  I wrote TV trailers.  I just got money as a writer.  Filling in spaces, writing words, managing words.  Coming up with ideas for people.

Casey Chambers:  In the early '60s, you were playing beatnik coffeehouses with Frank Zappa.

Terry Kirkman:  We were in college together.  And we played local coffeehouses in the late beat movement when, at least in Southern California, all sorts of small towns and the big cities had coffeehouses.  And they had never existed before.  It was a brand new concept.  And people would go play folk music.

Sometimes people would call us up and ask if we'd play at their place at night.  They really didn't have any idea what they wanted.  And they'd tell us maybe,  'how about blues?  How about ethnic folk music?'  All they wanted was some music. (laughing)

We would literally learn stuff that very day and go play it that very night.  And it might be the only time you ever played that music.  It was just walking around being rent-a-guys for a new kind of entertainment that nobody understood what it was they were supposed to be doing...but wanted to do.  It was just...'I want to have a coffeehouse.'

Casey Chambers:  I'd like to know a little bit more about how The Association began.

Terry Kirkman:  We were members of a large folk group called The Men.  And we came out of The Troubadour in West Hollywood that was arguably one of the most powerful music clubs in the country or maybe even the world at that time.  And we were the first group in the nation to be called folk-rock.  Not the first group to be famous for folk-rock, but the first to use the phrase.  We didn't give it to ourselves, somebody else gave it to us.

And we couldn't make any money because the folk music thing was really over as far as being a marketable form of entertainment.  And there were a whole lot of us.  There were 11 guys in The Men.  And we broke up one afternoon.  I was the leader and I said I really want to not be held responsible for us being really good but not making it and having to referee the arguments and the debates, so I'm leaving.  And five other guys walked out with me.

The six of us went to my apartment to figure out what we were going to do.  And as we're sitting there, either Brian (Cole) or his old partner Bob Page mentioned that there were six of us...two bassists, two baritones, two tenors and we ourselves could just go on and be a group.

We were sitting around drinking some wine and we got to laughing about what we would call ourselves.  There was this show business joke that they actually made a documentary film about...on this horrible, horrible obscene story invention that entertainers for decades used as a format to gross each other out.  And the punchline to the joke is what do you call yourselves and then people who do these horrible, horrible gross profane things on stage say, 'We call ourselves The Aristocrats.'  That's the joke.  You'd have to hear the whole joke to understand what I'm talking about.

So somebody said, 'why don't we call ourselves The Aristocrats.'  And we were very, very interested in the source of words.  Somebody said, 'I wonder what aristocrat really means.  I wonder where it comes from.'  So my fiance Judith had just won a huge 40 pound dictionary on a game show and she said, 'I'll look it up.'  And while she was looking up the word "aristocrat", she found another word.  And said, 'Here's a word that would be good for you guys..."association"...and its definition is 'a group of people gathered together for a common cause.'  And there it was.  Within two hours, we had formed a group and named ourselves.  And that's the story.

It was on that very same couch that I received "Cherish" in 37 minutes.  And "Enter The Young" in the very kitchen in that place while opening a can of cream-style corn.  A lot of stuff happened in that apartment.

Casey Chambers:  What are some of your favorite albums?

Terry Kirkman:  You'd have to break it down for me into categories. I hold with the general contention about "Pet Sounds", "Saturday Night Fever", and "Sgt. Pepper's" and any of a bunch of Joni Mitchell albums.  Many of The Commodores albums.  Many of The Eagles albums.  They are so well and thoroughly finished works.  And that's what appeals to me, is when there's no dead air in a body of work.  When there's no throwaway words.  There's nothing hurried.  It's been worked and honed.

All of the albums that I'm talking about, maybe with the exception of "Saturday Night Fever", all of them were given a great, great, great, huge amount of time to be worked on.  Months and months sometimes working on a single tune.

We never had that.  We recorded all of our albums in 40 days at the most.  Just slammed 'em  through.  And I regret that very much.  But the albums that I really like from pop...from the pop period...are those kinds of albums that were actually making a new music that we hadn't ever heard before.

Casey Chambers:  That's some really good stuff!  Terry, I want to thank you for sharing...

Terry Kirkman:  Well, let me tell you about my family very personally, okay?  Since you're writing from Kansas.  My parents were both musicians.  My father, although I never saw him play, grew up in Hays, Kansas.  And he played in dance bands, played soprano sax and he sang songs.  I have a photograph of his band.  An outdoor photograph where they're all in costume.  There used to be a thing, particularly in Hays, of Russian immigrants.  And there was a distinction between white Russian and black Russian.  I never understood that, but in the photograph you see that these men are wearing Russian kind of fur hats on top of their heads and they are in blackface like a minstrel outfit.  I never got to ask my father what that was all about, but my dad played saxophone and sang.

My mother grew up all over Kansas because her father was a Methodist minister that changed churches about every two years and built churches all over Missouri and Kansas and Oklahoma.  He ended up being the head pastor of Kansas Wesleyan University.  My mother was a music major and played church organ, pipe organ, and piano.  But because she was the minister's daughter...not just a minister but the head pastor of Kansas Wesleyan...they had an image to live up to in the community.  She couldn't let it be known that she was the piano player and organ player for the silent movies at the local movie house.

She was also the pinball champion of Salina, Kansas.  Or Hays.  Hays, I think.  They went to Hays High School.  My mother was a monster musician.  Just stunningly gifted.  And ended up being a piano teacher and a church organist and sometimes she would play for three different denominations on any given weekend.

We moved to California when I was only about two or three so my relationship with Kansas is very, very thin.  When The Association was on the road, probably around 1970 or '71, we actually got booked to play a concert at Kansas Wesleyan in Salina.  There I was standing on a stage that my grandfather had spoken from and given prayers on.  A stage that my mother had both played the pipe organ and piano concerts.

When I told the people in the Kansas Wesleyan audience that I was born here and that my grandfather and my mother had performed here, there was not one single sound of response from the audience.  It was like...'why are you telling us this?'  It was one of the strangest experiences I've ever had.  I was all excited because I was born there.  And no one cared.  So that's my Kansas story.

Casey Chambers:  Wow!  The crowd went flatline.  That is strange.  They must've been eating the brown acid.  I'm really sorry I never got the chance to see you guys perform.  Thanks for all the music you've given us and thanks very much for hanging out with me.

Terry Kirkman:  Thank you.  Take care, Casey.


Good stuff.

Casey Chambers