Groovy, Far Out and Monkee Business

Categories: Local Music
Hey, hey, it's Mike Nesmith--the Thomas Jefferson High School alum who was more than a mere Monkee.

What's that smell coming from today's offerings? Incense, most likely--something, anything, to mask the musk engulfing the late 1960s punk-pop-a-roll coming outta Big D waaaay back when. It's a crazy batch, this brew--the Monkee named Mike doing country when country wasn't cool, soft-rockers named England Dan and John Ford Coley before they went all mushy in the head, St. Mark's white boys with a bad case of the blues and other funky and far-out tunes from folks who've faded like fog from history books written in invisible ink. And, for good measure, one of the greatest rock songs of the 1960s by a guy who traveled a Roky road and found himself in Dallas in the 1970s with the last band to ever open for the Sex Pistols. --Robert Wilonsky

The Five Americans, "I See the Light": Five boys (duh) from Durant, Oklahoma, change name from The Mutineers, move to Dallas to find success, and danged if that wasn't just what happened in 1965, when Dale "Suzie-Q" Hawkins produced 'em for John Abdnor's Abnak Records and got 'em signed to Hanna-Barbera Records. Even landed in the Billboard Top 20 and, later, on Rhino's Nuggets box; they were no slouches, following up with hits "Western Union" and others that still get played whenever the Five Americans reunite, which happens more than you'd think.

Kenny & The Kasuals, "Journey to Tyme": This was damned near a monster hit--early psychedelic rock, the Big Freak-Out, just not strong enough to break outta town. And the cover of Impact: The Sound of Kenney and the Kasuals Live at the Studio Club, released in 1966 by a promoter named Mark Lee (who'd come to own the Hot Klub in the 1970s, Dallas' best punk hot spot), is a certified gas; why so scared, fellas? Still, that damned "y" just gets in the way of a good tyme; drugs, hunh.

Scotty McKay Quintet, "The Train Kept A-Rollin'": Maybe you'll find one or two folks around who still believe that Jimmy Page plays on this 1967 recording of the track made famous by either Johnny Burnette or Aerosmith, depending on yer age. But everyone else knows better--especially Bobby Rambo, who only sounded like a Yardbird with his head cut off. Dare you to find a better version of this standard that survived long enough to make it onto the punk-rock playlist courtesy, among others, Husker Du. By the way: Scotty's real name was the way less rock and roll Max Lipscomb.

The Novas, "William Junior": Important for, oh, three reasons...OK, one, really, and that'd be David Dennard. This band was around but three years, 1966 to 1968, but bassist Dennard went on to play with the likes of Christopher Cross and Gary Myrick before co-founding Dragon Street Records, which released the first Tripping Daisy disc. Dennard then set out to release every sound made in Dallas during the 1950s; he's the only guy left under 90 who even remembers the Sportatorium, much less the guys and gals who played the Big D Jamboree. And, get this, the Novas are actually reuniting June 16 at Club Dada; man, who says yesterday's history?

Mike Nesmith, "St. Matthew": Recorded in Nashville in 1968, just after the Monkees gave good Head, but unreleased till 1990--and then, credited to the Monkees, though it was only the Thomas Jefferson High School grad and his NashVegas session men laying the pipe to that phoney-baloney pop that made him famous. It was but a hint of what was to come--putting the pedal steel to the metal to prove he was nobody's chimp.

Southwest F.O.B., "Smell of Incense": Says in the liner notes of the 1998 reissue of the Freight on Board's '68 debut that the locals stole this from the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band's repertoire in '67. Guess the Cali kids played Louann's on Greenville Ave., the Texas boys thought it was swell but too friggin' long, and next thing ya know the band's in a Tyler studio trimming it down to Billboard Top 100 pop-single size. Then came a stint opening for Led Zeppelin--who woulda guessed Dan Seals and John Coley would wind up moaning, "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight." Irony: You gotta be more stoned to listen to that than to this.

Steve Miller Band, "Mercury Blues": Steve Miller grew up 'round White Rock Lake, went to St. Mark's, learned from T-Bone Walker--no wonder he wound up a little confused, playing black but sounding oh-so-white. That's why, when recording this standard in 1968, he needed pal and fellow Marksman Boz Scaggs, who sings here. Actually, he sings here--and if you claim to hate "Lido Shuffle," well, you is lying.

Roky Erickson and the Nervebreakers, "You're Gonna Miss Me": We leave the '60s with a thrilling glimpse of the '70s: On June 23, 1979, Dallas punk band the Nervebreakers were asked by the owners of local club the Palladium to open for and play with Roky Erickson, the acknowledged father of psychedelic rock--and, so ya know, a Dallas boy before he accrued his Austin infamy. Band says sure, but learns the songs from old tapes; never even meets Roky till the night of the show. So what happens? Magic, and no less. And 'Breaker Bob Childress documented the whole thing for a disc that came out in France 14 years back, on which Erickson sounds damned near as good as he did when this sucker stormed out in 1965. The band ain't bad, either.

Coming next: It's cheaper to keep her, and do I really have to find my copy of Bat Out of Hell?


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