Thursday, August 13, 2015

'Burque Garage: Original Artyfacts from Albuquerque's First Rock Era 1964-69

I'm gonna tell you a story, I'm gonna tell you about my town

Had it not been for “We're Pretty Quick” a certifiable monster 60s garage punk classic. The Chob could have easily slipped into oblivion. Written by bass player Keith Bradshaw and lead guitarist Quinton Miller, “We're Pretty Quick wasn't a chartbuster, it didn't resonate with the teeny boppers at the time of its release. It didn't go national and rocket The Chob to fame, no major labels clamoring for a bit of the action, no inquiries from Brian Epstein. What is arguably one of the best songs to come out of New Mexico in the mid-sixties failed to rise above the regional level. Yet today, “We're Pretty Quick” is one of two songs (the other being “I Wanna Come Back, From the World of LSD” by The Fe Fi Four Plus 2) that garage punk fanatics worldwide identify with Albuquerque. (“No Silver Bird” is a distant third) If you're from Albuquerque and you've never heard this song, then shame on you. The Chob burned fast and flamed out young, leaving only a pair of tuff singles, “We're pretty quick” / “Ain't gonna eat out my heart anymore” Lavette LA 5016 and “Why Am I Alone?”/ “I'm Not Your Steppin' Stone” (QQ 724)

The QQ single was credited to the Choab. At times the band's name was spelled using an umlaut, The Chōb, which if you ask me, we can't have enough of in rock & roll. Love me some umlauts, tildes and in-line diacritics. Lead vocalist Dick Hanson , effortlessly spits out throw away lines like “You got love, the affectionate lie” "Now put your love in a bag and swing it around your head” and “I see by the clock that it's time on the wall” in his best Dick Dodd (Standells) meets Joey Levine (Ohio Express) snarl. Lead guitarist Quinton Miller snakes along like a lounge lizard, dropping riffs like a bar tab. Robbie Crnich- keys, Dave Elledge on drums and Keith Bradshaw, the bass player, poke along with cool detachment. It's all too perfect, as a matter of fact. 

The garage rock revival band The Fuzztones, posted song lyrics on their website and they are whack,
especially those that frontman Rudi Protrudi obviously made up “wrap your legs around my head, baby, we're all set” and “get on your knees, baby, that's my pick” That shit wouldn't fly in the mid-sixties... even with the advent of flower power and free love just around the corner. In Rudi's defense, the lyrics are almost as hard to decipher as The Kingsmen's version of “Louie, Louie” when a drunken Jack Ely, slurred and mumbled his way into the annals of rock & roll history. We're pretty quick to catch on, but I still don't know what swinging a bag 'round your head has to do with anything.

Compilation appearances have so far included: We're Pretty Quick on Mayhem & Psychosis, Vol. 1 (LP), Mayhem & Psychosis, Vol. 1 (CD), The Chosen Few, Vol. 1 (LP), Chosen Few Vol's 1 & 2 (CD), Songs We Taught The Fuzztones (Dble LP & Dble CD) and Teenage Shutdown, Vol. 4 (LP & CD); We're Pretty Quick and Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore on New Mexico Punk From The Sixties (LP) Sixties Archive Vol. 4 (CD); and Why Am I Alone? on Punk Classics, Vol. 1 (7" EP), Punk Classics (CD) and Teenage Shutdown, Vol. 3 (LP & CD). Excruciating cover versions flood in from around the world: Sonic Litter, The Fuzztones, Thee Garagekid, The Smoggers, The Kosher Pickles, The Preytells The Veed, Punkanation, Jon and the Vons, The Untold Fables, Those Bloody Snakes, The Madd. Wretched slugs, don't any of you. Have the guts to play for blood?

If you thought that Española rock & roll didn't exist before Electricoolade/Frankie Medina/The Dirty Hearts... guess again. The Morfomen also known as the Movin Morfomen were repping España long before Frankie was but a glimmer in his daddy's eyes. Behind the multi-talented Dave Rarick, The Morfomen have long since earned garage band cult status among vinyl collectors and garage aficionados around the world. Besides Rarick, the band consisted of Danny Gavurnik, Eddie Valdez, Anthony Martinez and Rudy Maestas. The Morfomen recorded on Lance, Nel-Ric, Goldust, Delta, scoring a handful of regional hits including their version of “Try It” (originally recorded by the Ohio Express, but made famous by The Standells) which they called “We Tried, Try It” produced by R.C. Nelson, engineered by John Wagner on the Nel- Ric label. Dave Rarick who was also a DJ on KABG Big Oldies 98.5, reminisced on that era “We played Rolling Stone songs and everything and they were good to dance to. But most of the Santa Fe groups were known for the romantic ballads. “The End of the Highway” (by The Defiants w/Dave Salazar, another popular Española band) was like that, Maybe that's part of the Spanish influence. We Liked romantic stuff”

The Morticians... not to be confused with the group by the same name from River Rouge, Mi. led by the Girrbach Bros. who's family owned a funeral home or the Morticians from New Jersey that recorded for Roulette Records in 1966. These precocious rockers hailed from Manzano Hs. (Zack Head lead vocals, Stan Hirsch guitar, Pat Massera guitar, Keith Elliot lead guitar Pete Loomis bass Tom Dodge drums John Huckmalla keys,bass) One of the Abq. papers did a write up: “The name of the group is only one part of what seems like a consistent motif of death. The Morticians record on the Mortician label, but they publish sheet music for the Headstone Music Co. and tool around in their very own hearse” Marketing 101: make them stand up and take notice.

The Morticians got their first big break when they landed a gig at the Teen Beat Club in Las Vegas, Nv. pretty heady stuff for a high school band. Eventually they would go on to play on the same bill as Paul Revere & The Raiders, Buffalo Springfield, The Turtles. In the mid 60s the draft and how to avoid it was an overriding concern for young men coming of age. The Mortician's original lead guitarist, Keith Elliot was drafted. The band would soon be in need of a replacement. An advert was posted and Stan Hirsch (along with a lobby full of prospects) showed up for an audition. Hirsch played a surf tune and much to his surprise, got the job. “The Morticians was a well oiled machine before I was hired” Hirsch recalled.

Even a finely tuned machine can be brought to a grinding stop. Hirsch writes: “In a sense our careers had been cut short. If there had been no draft and no war going on, we the band were going to move to LA swim in a bigger pond. We had real good momentum built, and were being looked at by some major players in the business” The Morticians weren't the first local band stymied by the draft, nor would they be the last. Zack Head moved to Los Angeles, played bass with several bands... dropped out moved to Napa Co. After college, Stan joined Zack in Napa and formed a band that was derailed, not by the draft, but by artistic differences.

The Gleicher brothers (Don, Rick, Michael) toiled around Albuquerque in a number of “minor” bands. (Monkey Men, Piggy Bank, Nomads, Celler Dwellers, Plain Jane, Continentals) That's not to say they weren't as talented as other local bands.... they just didn't achieve the same level of success or recognition. The Monkey Men recorded a great version of Bobby Troup's “Route 66” on QQ Records. It's a unique take that seems to blend elements from every version of Route 66 ever recorded into one glorious jaunt down that mother road.

"Mojo" b/w "Route 66" was recorded and released by Jerry Wilson in Albuquerque and charted high on Albuquerque's leading AM rock station, KQEO. Members of the Monkeymen included Vic Gabriele- lead vocals Wes Snipes keys-vocals George Orona - Guitar Don Gleicher- Guitar,vocals Wes Smythe- guitar, keys Terry Bradley- drums Fred Smythe- bass and Noel Rozelle, who recalls “I was also one of the 1st members of the Monkeymen. I filled in When we went to TorC New Mexico on one of our 1st gigs. I had a 58 Merc that we painted our logo (the Monkey with the Top Hat) on the doors.”

The Striders got their start in 1966 when Carl Silva, drummer for Lindy and the Lavells left that group to start his own in 1966. Considering they were once signed to a major label, information about The Striders is surprisingly scant. Other than Carl Silva and Bob Barron (The Pallbearers) I have no idea who was in the band during its Duke City period. The Striders put out a single on John Wagner's Delta Records, “Give Me a Break” but again no clue as to the b-side. This was followed by a single on Lindy Blaskey's LaVett Records "Sorrow" b/w "Say You Love Me" On the strength of that single, Blaskey was able to get the Striders signed by Columbia Records.

Produced by Lindy Blaskey "Sorrow" b/w "Say You Love Me" was re-released as Columbia 4-43738. Lindy' Music Scene, Blaskey's column from Lance Newletter, April 1967, reported the following: Columbia recording artists, The Striders, have arrived in Hollywood to work on their next release. Rumors are that it will be “Do it Now” b/w “When You Walk In The Room” The group decided to make Hollywood their home in order to be closer to the music business. Columbia plans to send them on an extensive promotional tour when the record is released. In the meantime, they'll be playing well-known clubs in the Los Angeles area and appearing on the locally produced TV shows.”

In Hollywood, Carl Silva, Bob Barron & Vic Gabriele were joined by keyboardist Arnold Bodmer, who had moved to Laurel Canyon from his native Switzerland to try his hand in music. Despite Lindy's optimistic report, The Striders were drilling a dry well, they packed it in and returned to Albuquerque with Arnold Bodmer in tow (he made New Mexico his permanent home) Back home again, Carl, Bob Barron and Arnold added Danny Burnett, David Butterfield and Robert Mora to form Heart, a band that merged blue eyed soul with hard rock to create a funk of their own. Working with John Wagner. Heart would go on to release three highly acclaimed but obscure albums. Heart (Look Records,1969) Have a Heart (King, 1970) and Heart (1972) by which time the group was down to Carl Silva and Bob Barron.

The Cellar Dwellers released one single on Lance Records, a cover of the Young Rascal's “Love is a Beautiful Thing” b/w “Working Man” The Dwellers consisted of Michael Gleicher- lead guitar Frank Cotinola- drums Steve Serencha- organ Pete Springer- the bass player. The Piggy Bank,( Vic Gabriele, George Orona, Don Gleicher, Wes Smythe and Benji Martinez) recorded at least one single on Lavette Records “Thoughts of You”/”Play With Fire” (a Stones cover) Lance Monthly newsletter declared “There is a strong indication that the flip side will be the one that will go” And go it did, straight into the bin of obscurity. If you happen to find a copy, please post and save it from “hot single” purgatory.

David Butterfield (Heart) first kicked it with a local teen cover band fronted by the Farfel Brothers, Doug and Tim. the eternal nothings (always in lowercase and italics) are notable for the presence of Steve (Miller) D'Coda on lead guitar and Barry, a 13 year old drummer that was so good, girls threw money at him when he soloed. Their slogan was way too cool as well “we play eternally, but not for nothing” Butterfield was “the tambourine bashing lead singer” who quit the band, moved to San Francisco and barely made it back alive, declaring “ The so- called “Summer of Love” was anything but” He sold his PA and Shure microphones to the Feebeez, Albuquerque's only all girl band (they released one single on the Stange label “Walk Away” written by S. Westcott, b-side unknown)

Let me hit on a few bands that hardly ever receive any mention at all. Before original music was all the rage on the local scene, cover bands ruled (as they would again during the 1980s) one of the best was The Pallbearers. Originally known as The Agent, they started out as teens playing frat parties and high school dances. The rhythm section of Bob Barron- bass (Striders, Heart) David Goodnow-drums, front man, vocalist Jerry Beardsworth and lead guitarist Jim Callahan. The Coffin Bangers and Weed had signed with Lance Records just as Dick Stewart transitioned to Spanish music, no recordings were ever made. Love's Special Delivery (named after Thee Midnighters' hit song) was a racially mixed band that recorded one single for Lance Records and that's all I know about them. The Bounty Hunters were popular,(they opened for Cream on Oct. 5th. in '68) but I found scant mention of them and no band roster or recording info.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention John Wagner. Practically every band that recorded for Lance Records, Lavette Records, Red Feather or John's own label, Delta Records passed through the doors of John Wagner's state of the art studio in the 1960s. Wagner arrived in Albuquerque in the early 60s after a short stint at Norm Petty Studios as a frustrated musician looking to work on the other side of the glass. He's released a handful of singles and at least two albums since, including “Shades of Brown” an album of James Brown cover songs. Credited to The John Wagner Coalition “Shades of Brown” was recorded at his studio in 1976 and released for national distribution by Motown's Rare Earth subsidiary. The John Wagner Coalition was a who's who of Albuquerque musicians: Ralph Gonzales, Mike Weatherly, Steve “Miller” D'Coda, Rich Oppenheim, Mike Maddux, Janis Russell, Richard Davies, Robert Seely, David Nunez, Jose Jimenez, Chuck Klingbeil, Roger Jannotta.

*this is the A.P. report of the accident that took Wayne Galio's life, as printed in The Roswell Daily Record the day after. This should clear up some of the misinformation that surrounds the tragic event. 
Student Dies As Auto Hits Parked Car By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS March 10th 1969
A car carrying four Eastern New Mexico University students from Albuquerque slammed into a car parked on Interstate 40 west of Santa Rosa Sunday night killing Wayne David Galio. 20, Albuquerque State Police said the parked car belonged to a Las Vegas Nev. man, identified only as Adams, who was sleeping in the back seat. Hospital officials in Santa Rosa said Adams wasn’t seriously hurt. Police identified the driver of the car carrying Galio as George Bryan. Albuquerque, who received a broken right shoulder. the other passengers were identified as John Morris, 19, Albuquerque, and Tiborcito Felix Barreras, 19, Albuquerque. Barreras wasn’t hurt seriously. Morris received facial cuts and possible internal injuries. All three youths were being transferred to Presbyterian Hospital, Albuquerque. State Police report that Adams’ car was parked on a paved shoulder of the freeway about 15 miles west of Santa Rosa. The four youths were on their way back to school at Portales.

"New hit label! New hit song! New hit group! Lance Records presents the Fantastic Kreeg!" screamed a full-page ad in the Nov. 1966 issue of The Lance Monthly newsletter. Originally known as the Goldenaires (which sounds like a bird dog to me) The Kreeg were borne of the Prophets in 1966. Their lineup consisted of the brothers Sturtcman, Bob & Russ, Hap Blackstock (replaced by Ray Trujillo) and Larry Inks. Given the fact that umpteen different bands were calling themselves the Prophets across the U.S., a decision was made to change the name. Bob Sturtcman proposed The Blitzkrieg, which with memories of WW2 still fresh on the minds of many vets in Albuquerque, simply wouldn't do. The Krieg was kicked around as an alternative before they settled on the Kreeg.

The Kreeg went down a musical path that strayed much closer to melodic garage than any of their Duke City contemporaries. To their credit, they wore it well. The Lance newsletter hype was followed up with a single on Lance Records “How Can I” b/w Impressin” Search “The Kreeg” on YouTube and a pageful of videos featuring those two songs pop up. It damn near rivals the search results for The Fe Fi Four Plus 2's “I Wanna Come Back” and far exceeds those for Hooterville Trolley's “No Silver Bird” Nothing more from The Kreeg was forthcoming on Lance and by 1968 they transitioned to Mother Sturtcman's Jams and Jellies and The Kreeg was kaput.

Jams & Jellies released one single for Lance that year, a top notch version of the Yardbirds “For Your Love” which is often credited to The Kreeg by mistake. The rest of the story is all too familiar... the draft, avoiding the draft, college etc. Back home in Taos, the Sturtcman brothers put together a band during the early 70s called Albatross. Bob Sturtcman became an architect and lives in Ranchos de Taos. Russ Sturtcman passed away in 2014. In 1995, Bob Sturtcman & Dick Stewart compiled all The Kreeg's (Jams & Jellies too) known recordings into one handy long player titled “Impressin” which is probably still available online through the Collectables label.

I Got me a complication and it's an only child

Albuquerque's pioneering “psychedelic” band, The Fe Fi Four Plus 2 grew out of The Playmates, a nondescript local band playing Top 40 sounds and requests. The Playmates never recorded and as a dance band, probably never intended to. Vic Roybal, Ernie Gonzales, Mike Layden, Eddie Roybal and Joe Abeyta were all high school buddies just tool-in around, until one day when fame, if not fortune caught up to them. It all started with Joe Abeyta leaving the band to train as a cleric. In need of a rhythm guitarist the Playmates added Danny Houlihan, a superb singer and songwriter with guitar skills that were rudimentary at best. This necessitated the addition of experienced guitarist Eddie (James) Garcia and expanding the band to six members.

The reworked lineup called for a new band name. During a brain storming session, Danny Houlihan jokingly suggested “Fe Fi Fo Fum” as in Jack & The Bean Stalk. It was shot down as too out there and corny. But as the session went on, they tweaked it down to “Fe Fi Four” and then when someone pointed out that there were six of them... it became Fe Fi Four Plus 2... a psyche classic if I ever heard one. The next step in the evolution of the band came when Lance Records house producer Tommy Bee left his calling card on the band's van (emblazoned with the band's name, phone number and their catchy slogan “For A Great Boss Band”) They gave Bee a call and he agreed to handle the band and set up a recording session for them at Norm Petty Studios in Clovis.

Danny Houlihan had written a hypothetical song about a bad acid trip "I Wanna Come Back (From The World of LSD)" and while the Fe Fi Four +2 would become synonymous with acid rock and the band described their music as psychedelic, they were a clean cut bunch. Vic Roybal explained: “We were always asked by flower children whether we were experienced ala Jimi Hendrix. As far as I know, none of us took acid although it was plentiful at the time.” Much has been written about “I Wanna Come Back” being one of the first examples of psychedelic music, but the band was simply looking for a new and original sound to record. Vic Roybal added “After the release of the 45-rpm [on Lance Records], the song was characterized as "anti drug." I don't think that was the intent however. The song was simply about someone trying to come back from a bad trip on acid.”

Fe Fi Four Plus 2 recorded two tracks at Norm Petty Studios with Tommy Bee producing and Norm Petty engineering the tracks. Vic Roybal recalls the session: “Norman Petty was very nice to all of us. At the time, we were all very impressionable. When we walked into his studio offices, I remembered being overwhelmed by all the gold records on the wall of Buddy Holly and the Fireballs. In the recording studio, he was very knowledgeable and freely made suggestions. All in all [it was] a great experience.” The session would result in the single "I Wanna Come Back (From the World of LSD)" / "Double Crossin' Girl" (Lance 101A/102B) “Double Crossin' Girl (co-written by Tommy Bee) had previously been recorded as a demo by The Sheltons, their label mates at Lance Records.

"I Wanna Come Back (From the World of LSD)” hailed since as “an absolute mindblower, 60s acid punk at one of it's finest moments” was an immediate regional hit, but the b-side “Double Crossin' Girl” garnered just as much attention. The first batch of promo copies were labeled as "I Wanna Come Back (From the World of LSD)” before record distributors began requesting that (From the World of LSD) be removed, which it was on the subsequent copies. The single did well enough to raise interest across the Atlantic. The Lance Newsletter announced in April of 1967 that the single would be leased to Stigwood Yaskiel International, a division of Brian Epstein Enterprises. The agreement called for a European release on Polydor Records bearing the credit “A Lance Records Production U.S.A.” and “produced by Tommy Bee”

The article went on to state that several major label were bidding on the single for a U.S. And Canadian release. “I Wanna Come Back, is presently experiencing above average sales and radio exposure in the Southwestern states.” The newsletter then adds that the band members “are all college students at Highlands University in Las Vegas and St. Michael's College in Santa Fe” Sir Peter Knight of Stigwood intoned in a distinct British accent “I Wanna Come Back will receive the full benefit of our promotion facilities and I think this record will be a great help for our future business transaction.” Copies of I Wanna Come Back with a Polydor imprint have never materialized, so we have to conclude that the Brian Epstein thing fell through and the major labels clamoring for a piece of the action were simply a figment of someone's vivid imagination.

Within a few months, Tommy Bee and Lance Music Enterprises were at each other's throats. The Fe Fi Four Plus 2 and their red hot single became collateral damage. The Fe Fi Four Plus 2 quickly found themselves at the center of an escalating legal dispute. It's a legal matter, baby. They did eventually release another single “Mr. Sweet Stuff/ “Pick Up Your Head” recorded at John Wagner's studio in Albuquerque and released on Odex, one of Reginald Hines' many dodgy recording labels. Was the band in the dark as legal action raged around them? Vic Roybal states: “Tommy Bee was handling who and where the single was released. I don't know of anything which precluded Lance Records from releasing the single.” Vic Roybal is now an attorney.... so, he had to be saying that with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

More Popular Than Baby Jesus

Though often hailed as the first Native American rock band signed to a national label, Lincoln St. Exit at its inception was a multiracial band. The lineup at the time they recorded "Paper Place" / "Who's Been Driving My Little Yellow Taxi Cab" in 1967 on Lance Records included Paul Chapman-keys, Sigi Chavez- guitar, Frank Viramontes- 12 string electric guitar, Mike Martinez- lead guitar, Lee Herrera- drums and Mac Suazo- bass. At one time or another, Larry Leyba (Hooterville Trolley) John Burnett and Steve Hubner were also band members. Back then Lincoln Street Exit was hardly considered a Native American band, quite to the contrary Lincoln St. Exit was aligned with 'Burque's Eastside music scene. (i.e. white)

Albuquerque was divided up into East & West in those days. White folks lived in the Heights. Hispanics, Native Americans, African Americans in the Valley or the West Mesa with the Rio Grande more or less serving as the demarcation line. Musical influences ran along the same lines, Eastside: Beatles, Stones, Yardbirds.... Westside: James Brown, James Brown, James Brown. “the long-hair hippies and the afro blacks they all get together across the tracks” Lincoln St. Exit's next single was The Bummer b/w Sunny Sunday Dream on Ecco in 1968. Produced by Tommy Bee. It was followed by a three song ep on the Psych Out label, Sunny Sunday Dream/ Half a Man/ Whatever Happened to Baby Jesus...

The Psych Out ep is interesting because it shows Lincoln St. Exit transitioning from a garage psyche style to a blues based heavy psychedelic sound. Sunny Sunday Dream is the same version that came out on the Ecco single, Half a Man is straight up garage punk. Whatever Happened to Baby Jesus is a blues rock epic that clocks in at over six minutes. According to Mike Martinez it's a true story about an Albuquerque narcotics agent named Baby Jesus. It's obviously the work of Lincoln St. Exit's classic lineup... Mike Martinez, Mac Suazo, Lee Herrera & R.C. Garris. and would be right at home on the Drive It album, Martinez admits that Baby Jesus was left off the album because “we didn't want to offend anyone” Years later, Rudi Protrudi and the Fuzztones covered "Baby Jesus" and though they tried, failed to offend no one at all. 

Mainstream Records was founded in 1964 by Bob Shad, and released primarily jazz & blues reissues up until 1967 when Shad signed Big Brother & The Holding Company w/ new singer, Janis Joplin and The Amboy Dukes and their gonzo guitarist Ted Nugent. Both turned moderately successful sales, motivating Shad to dip his toes a little further into the murky waters of rock & roll. Lincoln St. Exit an unknown band from Albuquerque was signed in 1969. A few months later, the band and their manager made the pilgrimage to Norm Petty Studios in Clovis, N.M. With Tommy Bee and Norm Petty in the booth, they recorded their first album “Drive It” Norm Petty sat in with the band on Mellotron ( an electronic keyboard instrument in which each key controls the playback of a single pre-recorded musical sound)

Somehow the thought of Norman Petty jamming in studio with Lincoln St. Exit on Dirty Mother Blues blows my mind every bit as much as Norm playing the Mellotron on Hooterville Trolley's “No Silver Bird”, which he also did. A single was issued on the Mainstream label in late '69, the rather curious pairing of “Soulful Drifter b/w “Time Has Come, Gonna Die” The album was released in early 1970 and while it garnered some airplay on stations experimenting with album rock formats, overall sales were poor and both the single and the album flopped. Mainstream had no interest in financing another album. A new direction was needed, a name change was in order.... newly christened Exit, they started incorporating Native American motifs and rhythms into their act.

I have a theory that Lindy Blaskey who had just ditched Albuquerque for good to accept an A&R job with Motown in Los Angeles (the label was in the early process of moving its operation from Detroit to L.A.) had a hand in Exit/Xit, getting signed by Motown. It makes as much sense as the single bullet theory to me. Blaskey lands at Motown, starts pumping the Duke City pipeline for talent, signs Heart (by this time down to a duo, Carl Silva & Bob Barron) which leads to the release of “Heart” on the Motown subsidiary label, Natural Resources. Next, Lindy lands Tommy & the fellas a sweet deal with Motown's rock label Rare Earth Records. Lindy then does his old amigo John Wagner a solid by signing The John Wagner Coalition to Rare Earth, Wagner promptly took full advantage of the opportunity to release an album of James Brown covers... Hit Me!

A common online myth has it that Lincoln St. Exit's Mainstream single “Soulful Drifter” somehow received enough airplay in the Great Lakes region that Motown founder, Barry Gordy heard it playing on his car stereo, mumbled “whatdafuckisdatshit” and drove straight to the radio station to find the name of the band. Truth is Barry was already basking in the warm California sun and the single didn't “catch the ear of anyone at Motown” Exit was signed by Motown because Tommy Bee had solid connections in the music biz and friends in high places. Timing played a big part too, Motown while still a force was seeing decreasing returns, the move to Los Angeles had stretched their resources. In order to recoup, Motown had to increase its catalog.

Rock music was making money, Hitsville U.S.A. wanted in on some of the action. A major newspaper once wrote "These guys are to the Indians like the Beatles were to the White folks." Don't ask which major newspaper said it... I've seen that same quote repeated online countless times (including on Tommy Bee's SOAR website) and nobody has a clue as to its origins. They just keep on repeating it. Lots of misinformation floats around online concerning Lincoln St. Exit/Exit/XIT. YouTube geeks keep referring to the band as New Mexico Sioux, that one is funny... very few Lakota in New Mexico. If Xit was the “Indian” Beatles then wouldn't that make Tommy Bee, the “Indian” George Martin, Brian Epstein.... or at worst the “Indian” Yoko Ono?

XIT being at the forefront of a new movement, needed something to tie their new name in with the “Back to our roots” chants and war cries that characterized their new sound. Thus some hokum about how XIT was an acronym for “crossing of Indian tribes” was made up. It's all horseshit, they went with XIT because it's just a cool fucking name for a band and made for a great band logo. Motown had good money invested in XIT, so to safeguard their investment, Barry Gordy sent veteran Motown studio hand Mike Valvano to Albuquerque, with orders to ride herd and keep them pointed in the right direction. Valvano handed them just enough rope and the results, though flawed gave rise to a new rock music genre. “American Indian Rock”

“Plight of the Redman” came out in 1972 and the Native American community ate it up. Produced by Valvano and Russ Terrana, Tommy Bee's primary contribution seems to be that of “musical and historical consultant” The music is a heady brew of tribal drums, guitars, bells and whistles, garnished with string arrangements and strident Billy Jack sociopolitical jingoism. The only single pulled from the album “I Am Happy About You (Nihaa Shil Hozho) clocks in at over seven minutes, necessitating some heavy handed editing on the radio version. The music, as we would expect from XIT is superb and ultimately that's what makes “Plight of the Redman” listenable to non-Native Americans. It's the beat, that people want to hear.... not Mac Suazo diatribes over a hey-ya-hey-ya-hey chorus.

The lyrical content of “Plight of the Redman” falls somewhere between sophomoric and hackneyed. A paint by numbers recap of the white man coming to America from the native's perspective. The music is its saving grace. “War Cry” a statement about identity and empowerment, shows what “Plight of the Redman” could have been if Motown's overriding need to distill XIT's music into hippie friendly radio fodder hadn't taken the piss out of it. Hey-ya-Hey-ya-Hey. In line with their new traditional identities, the band members tweaked their names, Mike Martinez became A. Michael Martin, Mac Suazo- Jomac Suazo, Lee Herrera- Leeja Herrera while R.C. Garris Jr. must have been absent that day. Tommy Bee was way ahead of that game, having changed his name from Tom Benegas years prior.

Strip away the cloak of the conquistador, but not so much that you have to petition the courts to make it legal. “Silent Warrior” didn't steer far from the established pattern, a rock steady cadence adorned with strings, horns, woodwind instruments and strident vocals. “Silent Warrior” was released in 1974, to enthusiastically positive reviews. The sole single released from the album, “Reservation of Education” reached to #5 in France and made the charts in other European countries as well. Album sales in Europe grew beyond expectations while in the U.S. “Silent Warrior” was bound for the cut-out bins. No way the album didn't at least break even, but no matter, it would be the last XIT album released by Motown.

That's a drag. , they were on the right track, one more album and they may have figured it out. The three songs that credit Mac Suazo as co-writter are the strongest on the album. The sizzling hit single “Reservation of Education” the rousing anthem “We Live” and the surging anti war paean “Young Warrior” Predictably, the rest of the album sinks under the weight of Mike Valvano & Tommy Bee attempting to rehash the “concept” formula from“Plight of the Redman” with diminishing returns. Valvano & Bee did manage to squeeze out one decent tune, “Cement Prairie” a song that combines an innocuous instrumental bed with a message of urban despair and longing that damn near pulls free of all the crass commercialism that marked XIT's tenure at Motown.

XIT released one more album in the 70s, “Relocation” (1977) by which time, all the notoriety and expectations from the old days were long gone. As a result “Relocation” gives off a funky vibe, it's a relaxed, natural effort, largely free of sociopolitical bantering. Mac Suazo, Tom Bee, Mitch Taylor and William Bluehouse Johnson share the songwriting credits. “Relocation introduced some beloved fan favorites “Nothing Could Be Finer Than A 49er “Riding Song” and “Relocation” to the band's set list. After a long hiatus, three more albums would follow, Entrance (1994) Drums Across the Atlantic (1995) and Without Reservation (2002) Entrance, is a compilation of Lincoln St. Exit recordings from the post-Lance Records period up to the “Drive It” Norm Petty sessions.

Pick up Your Head- The Fe Fi Four Plus 2
Who's Been Driving My Little Yellow Taxi Cab- Lincoln St. Exit
Papa Oom Mow Mow- Lindy Blaskey & The Lavells
No Correspondence- The Beckett Quintet
I Want To Love You- King Richard & The Knights
How Can I- The Kreeg
What I'm Going Through- The Morfomen
Say You Love Me- The Striders
We're Pretty Quick- The Chob
She's With Him- The Torques
Walk Away- The Feebeez
In Her Own Little World- Trademarques
My Angel- Viscount V
Baby Darlin'- The Morticians
When You Were Mine- The Morfomen
Sea and Sand- The Berrys
Working Man- CellarDwellers
Half a Man- Lincoln St. Exit
For Your Love- Mother Sturctman's Jams and Jellies
I Wanna Come Back (From the World of LSD) The Fe Fi Four Plus 2
No Silver Bird- The Creation
No Silver Bird- The Hooterville Trolley