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The Memories

Hollywood memories

Eddie Thomas, who managed Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, had an interest in you, didn't he?

Wow! That goes back some, but, yeah, he liked my songs and financed the recording of five of them. Unfortunately, I was still not that well-developed as an artist and it showed in the recordings. I let Eddie down.


Didn't Martha Reeves offer to sing one of your songs?

No, she never offered to sing one. We had some drinks together in a club in Hollywood and we talked about her career and our mutual friendship with Dave Pesnell, who managed Steppenwolf, but I never saw her again after that. Her song "Heat Wave" still blows me away.


During the summer of 1967 when you had your hit record, The Who, Herman's Hermits, and The Blues Magoos performed in Flint and you were invited to The Who's drummer Keith Moon's 21st birthday party. Tell us what that was like.

Wild! Wild! Wild! Seriously, it was a lot of fun and everybody was well-behaved while I was there. I remember a whole group of very pretty girls all dressed up standing on one side of the room looking at Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon. The guys were talking among themselves. I noticed Peter Noone (lead singer of Herman's Hermits) standing by himself about 10 feet in front of all these girls, so I went up to him and asked about his success as a singer. He just smiled and asked me about my record.


You hear all the stories about girls and rock bands. Is it true that girls go crazy for guys who play guitar?

Not all women adore guitar players. I've met women who seemed to like me but when they found out I was a musician, they lost interest. But generally, yeah, it was awesome. I never had to ask a girl out. They would just always be there. Many of them were shockingly beautiful.


You see the same thing in sports. As a sportswriter I'd be around the star athletes and I'd meet their women. When I lived in Chicago and was a big Cubs fan, I would go to games late in the season when there were only a few games left, and no one would be in the stadium — except the girls; there were always beautiful women sitting close to the field watching the guys.


I understand you were one of the last people to see Gram Parsons (The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers) alive?

Yeah, that was sad. He was such a talented artist and he died so young. I had just moved to L.A. and I hooked up with his manager Eddie Tickner, who seemed to really like my music. He asked me to come to Gram's house one night while he was working on the album cover of his newest record. We hung out and looked at slides. Then a couple of days later I find out Gram died; someone took his body out into the desert and set it on fire.


You performed with The New Christy Minstrels at one point in your career.

I never performed in the group, but I performed with Susan Mitchell, one of their former vocalists. I became friends with Susan and another member of the group. Susan and I were in a duo called Sam & Bill for a year.


I've heard you talk about Steppenwolf, how you got to know them and spend time with them. Did you ever perform with the band?

Not in public. Privately in their home I did. I recorded "Night of the Wolf" with them in a world-class studio. I was friends with their manager, Dave Pesnell, and he introduced me to Nick St. Nicholas, who was the bass player and leader of the group. This was after John Kay left the band.


What were they like?

Hard-rocking, hard-drinking dudes, but great guys, and some very fabulous parties at Nick's house, and tons of beautiful girls. There was one girl I saw for a couple of years who I met at Nick's. When they rehearsed, they invited me to jam with them, which I did often. Goldie was such a kick, even though he didn't perform with them in public anymore at that time.


This was in 1979?

Yeah, they had just come off tour. Apparently John Kay brought legal action against them since he owned the Steppenwolf name so they had to disband. Nick was very disappointed, as was Dave.


You also recorded with John Mayall. He is famous for mentoring young guitar players like Eric Clapton with the John Mayall Blues Band.

God bless him, he just put out a new CD at 70 years old. My manager had John and his band over for barbecues quite frequently. I was getting ready to record the title song to the film Fall into Darkness, an independent feature in which I also had the lead role in as an actor. Aldo Ray was slated for the lead but he dropped out. We recorded the song at Culver City Studios and John played harmonica to back me up. He was always very supportive of my music. He told me there was a place in this business for me.


You sang with Kris Kristofferson too.

No, I worked with him in the film Semi-Tough. You'll never see me because I worked as an extra and stayed off camera so I could keep working and get paid. I think I worked something like 21 days on that movie. Kris was very kind to me. He gave me advice about my career and listened to my music. I also met Burt Reynolds, Jill Clayburgh, and Brian Dennehy, who all had featured roles in the film.

Tom Waits

We know that you used to be friendly with Tom Waits. Tell us a Tom Waits story.


I went through a period where I played Tom Waits records day and night and drove my girlfriend up the wall.

Again, my manager Hal Marshall and he were friends. My manager knew everyone. I went through a period where I played Tom Waits records day and night and drove my girlfriend up the wall.

He was very shy and quiet. I remember one day I told him I saw him on The Tonight Show when he got up in the middle of his song and walked out, leaving the audience stunned. Johnny Carson was shocked as was everyone else. Of course, this wasn't shown on TV-I saw the clip at the home of a producer who was interested in me as an actor. Tom was amazed that I knew what had happened. He explained to me that he sensed the sound was bad and that everything just felt wrong.

Jim Morrison

You also knew Jim Morrison of The Doors.

No, I never met him, but again, my manager was friends with him. He told me that Morrison used to sleep on his floor before he hit the big time. I did know The Door's producer Paul Rothchild, who listened to my tapes and told me I had something special and was interested in helping me.


So, what happened?

I can't remember exactly but he said something about my singing I didn't like and I more or less told him to jump off a cliff. Another colossal move of immaturity.

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