MARK’S MUSICAL MUSINGS
EARLY EAST TEXAS ROCK GROUPS
by Mark Crampton
Both my folks were school teachers, so we moved around a lot when I was young, mostly in East Texas, but I did spend my Freshman and Sophomore High School years in southern California. Indeed, we moved there just in time for me to catch the “Summer of Love” in LA in ‘67. Those two years changed my music taste beyond belief! I got HEAVILY into rock – hard rock, acid rock, psychedelic rock. I’m talking Iron Butterfly, Hendrix, Doors, Mothers of Invention, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Blue Cheer, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, It’s a Beautiful Day, Arthur Brown, Cold Blood, King Crimson, Ten Years After, 13th Floor Elevators psychedelic rock! [NOTE: See past article about Arthur Brown and Cold Blood. Look for upcoming articles on Ten Years After, Blue Cheer, It’s a Beautiful Day and King Crimson. Please let my publisher know if any of these particularily interests you.] So when the family moved back to what seemed like (to me!) ‘Goat-Roper Paradise’ (Little Cypress-Mauriceville school district just north of Orange, Texas) in the late summer of ‘69, I quickly discovered that if I wanted hard rock music, well, there wasn’t much compared to California! I honestly don’t remember ANY local radio stations playing anything but bubblegum or ‘Top 40’ - I’m talking 1910 Fruitgum Company, Ohio Express, Archies, Cowsills, Brady Bunch (Oh yes, even the Brady Bunch released some singles!), Partridge Family, Jackson 5, Osmonds, Tommy James and the Shondells, Tommy Roe, Bobby Sherman here, folks! The Monkees were often played as bubblegum, too, but I will dispute that falsehood! How many of you will admit to knowing – let alone listening to – those groups? Anyway, real Hard/Psychedelic rock music over the radio mostly came from ‘pirate stations’ who BLASTED the airwaves illegally
MARCH 29 - APRIL 18, 2017
from Mexico, or listening to Chicago and New Orleans stations when they “skipped” through the atmosphere late oh so late at night! But, folks, what Hard/Psychedelic rock that was available then in East Texas was truly AWESOME beyond compare! For a start, only a few local clubs, like the Lighthouse in Nederland, the Cellers (there were 5 – 3 in Dallas, 1 each in Houston and Austin (the waitresses wore bikinis and often stripped on a runway by the band as they played!), the Love Street Light Circus Feel Good Machine (take your pick! – in the Sunset Coffee Building on Commerce at Main Street – Allen’s Landing – the building is empty now but still stands) in Houston, the Walrus in Dallas, the Vulcan Gas Company in Austin and the Circus in Bosier City, Louisiana catered to the live music Hard/ Psychedelic rock crowd in that era. Probably the two most well-known and accessible live music clubs of this era – to me, anyway - were not in Texas at all, but 5 miles east of Orange on IH 10 in Vinton, Louisiana: the Texas Pelican Club and the Circle Club. I cannot tell you how many nights I spent in these my last two years in High School, or the bands I heard there. [NOTE: At those Louisiana clubs, in those days, if you could reach up to the counter to pay your admission, you could get in!] [NOTE: I am researching a possible future article on these clubs – anyone interested? Let my publisher know! And if you have any firsthand memories or knowledge of these rock clubs back “in the day” please let me know!] So, here in alphabetical order, are some of the early East Texas Hard/Psychedelic rock bands I listened to: 1) The 13th Floor Elevators from Austin were formed by Tommy Hall (electric jug – yes, electric jug!), Stacy Sutherland (guitar) and Roky Erickson (vocals/guitar) in ’66
in Austin, and played primarily Austin and Houston clubs (and a couple of times in San Francisco) until they broke up in ‘69, but did all their recording in Houston. Recognized by many as the genuine, number 1 very first American ‘Psychedelic Rock’ band (most of the other such bands were British), Hall claims he actually coined this specific term for their music - stemming from the bands publically boasted custom of dropping LSD before playing every show. [Don’t ask ME how they could actually play concert sets tripping on acid!] Other groups did call their music ‘Psychedelic’, but not necessarily ‘Psychedelic Rock’. This is their first hit, You’re Gonna Miss Me from their ’66 debut album The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators https://youtu.be/gHK9vj0VE7w. This is one of the few live videos of the band in this time ever to surface – they are erroneously introduced as Roky and the 13th Floor Elevators on this video. This song was written by Roky as a tribute to Muddy Waters’ song of the same name, but is not a cover. Here are two of my favorite songs by the band: and Everybody Needs Somebody to Love from ’66 https://youtu.be/EJtRDIPw17E (a cover of Solomon Burke’s 1964 release – later covered by everybody else in the world!) and It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue from ’67 https://youtu.be/jGqEFQ5xmjU (a cover of Bod Dylan’s 1965 release.) The 13th Floor Elevators released seven singles and four original albums, with several later compilations and ‘revival’ albums. Janis Joplin from Port Arthur was a friend of Hall’s wife, and sometimes opened for and/or sang with the band when she was around, and Billy Gibbons often played with them in Houston sets in ‘68, as well. 2) American Blues from Dallas was formed in ’66, by brothers Rocky Hill (guitar) and Dusty Hill (bass) and Frank Beard (drums).
They played what Rocky called “psychedelic blues” (ala the 13th Floor Elevators), and were extremely popular in local clubs. American Blues were regulars at all three Dallas and the Houston Cellar locations, as well as the Houston Love Street Light Circus Feel Good Machine. Their first album American Blues is Here https://youtu.be/O70DaXxaWrs was released in’68, after which the band moved to Houston, where they released a second album American Blues ‘Do Their Thing’. Of course, American Blues is Here is in my CD Library! Not long after the move and second album, the band broke up. Rocky left to return to his traditional blues guitar roots (where, among things, he was known as an inspiration and mentor to Stevie Ray Vaughn), while Dusty and Frank looked for something more ‘rock’ – see more about that below! 3) Bloodrock began as The Naturals in Fort Worth in ‘63, and actually released one single in ’65. Their lineup changed then, as did their name, to Crowd + 1 until ’69, when they were very briefly called themselves Texas. The group’s newest producer changed their name for the last time, to Bloodrock, and they released their first, selftitled album in ’70. Their most successful album, Bloodrock 2 was released in ‘71, containing the group’s only hit, DOA, which probably is the CREEPIEST song ever to be played on the radio – I remember DJs at the SFA college radio station warning listeners before playing it! EXPLICIT WARNING: this is ABSOLUTELY the CREEPIEST, BLOODIEST, MOST disturbing music video probably EVER in the history of music videos! Watch it at your own peril – NOW I know you’ll ALL watch it! https://youtu.be/ bUkeu4Zj7pA Although this official video – made years after the song was originally released - is about a car crash, the song was