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The Billy Spears Band, 1975-1978 - page 2

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Free State Opera House
The Opera House/Free State Opera House/Red Dog/Liberty Hall
on Massachusetts Street, Lawrence, Kansas, in 1977

To review, the new band included:
I got an upright bass, an old Kay, so we could do bluegrass as well as electric music. 

Bob, Michael, Jim, and I travelled in the band bus to Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Festival in Beanblossom, Indiana in the Summer of 1975, accompanied by some good-time girls.  Boy, was that fun!  I'll never forget Bill Monroe's disapproving comments to us young hippies dancing at the side of the stage (our dancing was "ruining the waltz)."  And, of course, there was the music, played by giants of the genre (Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, Ralph Stanley, and many more), and the jamming around campfires well into the nights.
In addition to a trip to Michigan for the Odee Festival in the early Spring, (click here for some nice photos if you have a high-speed internet connection),  we played gigs in and around Lawrence and Kansas City.  Billy already had a good following, so we were well received.   At that time, our dances were attended by hordes of long-haired dudes in jeans and young women in knee-length skirts and heavy boots.   Everybody stomped to the fiddle tunes.

Here are song cuts from recordings made of the band May 13 and 14, 1975, at Madame Lovejoy's,  a club in Kansas City's River-Quay area.  Jim Bee came with us and sat in on harmonica, and Janet Jameson, from the old band, showed up to sit in for a song as well.  Bob played quite a bit of electric six-string guitar here.

Lowdown Ways - Marshall Tucker Band
Settin' the Woods on Fire - Fred Rose, Hank Williams
Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad - Tammy Wynette
Space Buggy - Asleep at the Wheel
I Dreamed of Highways - Hoyt Axton
Fiddle tune, name unknown
Mean Woman with the Green Eyes - Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys
Route 66 - more in the style of Chuck Berry than Nat Cole
Ride Me Down Easy - Billy Joe Shaver
My Window Faces the South - Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys
Hey, Good Lookin' - Hank Williams
Tried So Hard - Gene Clark
Mind Your Own Business - Hank Williams
Willin' - Lowell George
I Can't Stand Me - Merle Haggard and the Strangers
Six Pack to Go - Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys
Big Joe (fiddle tune)
Fiddle Tune, name unknown
I Can't Help It If I'm Still in Love with You - Janet Jameson sits in and sings this Hank Williams classic
Jailhouse Rock - Lieber & Stoller, Elvis Presley
Monkey Time - Carol delivers this Major Lance hit; not sure why we tried to do this tune!
Panama Red - Peter Rowan

The other recording I have with Mike Roark on drums is from a biker party south of Lawrence in June of 1975.  It's interesting in that Jim Stringer sits in with us.  Jim Bee joins us on harp, as well as one of the worst trombone players I've ever heard. 

A jazz tune which I've played lots of times but can't remember the name of.  Jim Stringer, Mike Roark and I do a beer-fueled but serviceable job on this, and if you can listen past the damned trombonist, it's good.
Leavin' Trunk - Jim Stringer sings this blues number, again marred greatly by Mr. Trombone
Silver Threads and Golden Needles
I Don't Want No Woman - the Bobby Bland classic
Six Days on the Road - Dave Dudley
You Can Have Her (I Don't Want Her) - I don't know why we didn't keep doing this tune - I like it.

Our first trip to Colorado.
In early 1975, we stayed fairly close to home. 
Early that year, however, we "went on tour," with stops in Hays, Kansas and Julesburg, Colorado, and on to Denver and the mountains. 
We were in the bus that Spears had bought from the Penetrations, the 1960 International HarvesterThe bus was hardly worthy of  being on the highway, much less making it up steep grades at high elevations.  Most of the time Bob or I drove the bus.

Michael almost buys the farm.
We had a week-long booking at the Timberline Inn in Evergreen, Colorado, about 20 miles west of Denver.  On our last night there - I think it was Saturday night - Jim, Bob and I found "alternative arrangements" and left the bar with companions.  That left Billy, Dwight, and Mike to go back to our lodging in Idaho Springs.

Here is Dwight's chilling recollection of that night's events:

"I was actually about to drive the bus from The Timberline to Idaho Springs but Mike talked me into letting him drive. 
Spears..., Mike and I were the only ... bus people that night. 
As I was warming up the bus, I went back to the bunk to check on Billy, and Mike jumped into the driver's seat.  He drove, and soon laid it over on the right side.  Mike fell down the stairwell where his right arm was caught under the bus.  He was trapped, lying in a pool of gasoline. 
I turned off the headlights, kicked out the windshield, grabbed the jack and quickly tried to get the bus off his arm.  It was immediately apparent that it was a futile effort so I ran back to the bar.  It was a run I'll never forget.  It was a mile and a half (seemed a lot longer) at 7000 feet and very cold.  I was very afraid and extremely challenged trying to make the run.  (Adrenaline saved Mike's life that night.)
Fortunately, there were still people at the bar.  We called for help and drove back to the scene. 

I was very impressed how quickly the emergency equipment arrived.  They winched the bus off Mike, put him in the chopper and flew him to Denver. 
He had, by then, lost a lot of blood.  They said he nearly died from blood loss.  It was a night I'll never forget and hope to never experience again."

Michael survived, thank God, but he was done playing drums for a long time.  No one else was  hurt seriously.  My old Kay upright bass was crushed (not that that's in the same universe of seriousness - it's just part of the story).

We paid some jackleg a few hundred bucks to fix up the bus.  It was a little bent, so precut glass would have been impossible to find; the new windshields were cut from plexiglass!
Buddy to the rescue.
Drummerless, we considered our options.  None of us wanted to go back home to find and "train" a new drummer.   There weren't many drummers who could play properly the stuff we were doing.

I knew one guy who could come in and pick up his part quickly enough, and that was Bud Pettit. 

At the time, he had quit the show band he had been touring with after leaving the Lee Stover Trio and was living with a woman in North Dakota. 

Bud Pettit

I called him with my best sales pitch and he said okay. 
I think he came directly to Denver with his drums and his clothes.
This picture was taken later, after he'd been cowboy-ified.

Here are a few songs recorded live at the Off-the-Wall Hall, 737 New Hampshire in downtown Lawrence, in, I would guess, late 1975.

We sound happy - who wouldn't be, with such an enthusiastic crowd?

At the time, there was a music store in the front, called McKinney & Mason Music.  It was a good store; I got my upright bass there.  Jim Baggett - whom you can also see doing appraisals on the Antiques Roadshow - worked for the store, as did Dave Wendler.

The Off-the-Wall Hall is now The Bottleneck.

****  NEW 8/2009  ****

Recently, Noah Smith of the Twang Brothers - a band we hung out with in Kalamazoo - sent me some wonderful photos of a joint appearance we did with them at the Off-the-Wall Hall in 1976.  Junior Brown was in the band at that time.
Click here to see!
Big Wheels - a Merle Haggard number sung by Jim
Jailhouse Rock - I sing this request, forgetting the last verse; but did anyone notice?
The Kind of Love I Can't Forget - twin fiddles, with Carol also singing this Bob Wills/Tommy Duncan vehicle.
Rocky Top - Carol sings the Osborne Brothers bluegrass standard.
Lost Highway - Andy on this cautionary tale by Leon Payne.  I hadn't seen NOTHIN' yet...
Ragtime Annie - fiddle tune.
Sweet Nothings - I love this Brenda Lee song, sung by Carol with the guy's part done by me.  Nice rockabilly guitar by Bob.
unidentified ballad - sung by Carol.
Old Slewfoot - a Johnny Horton tune, I think.  Billy starts a different song, but it all comes together.
That Mothertrucker's Mine - a Carol Spears original, warning those "pretty little waitresses down on 59" to keep their hands off her man.
Maiden's Prayer - the Bob Wills classic, slowed down a bit for heavy breathing on the dance floor.
Choo Choo Ch'boogie - the Louis Jordan song which became a staple for us.
Truck Drivin' Man - another "always-play" song, sung by Jim.
Move It on Over - Carol sings this Hank Williams blues number.
Steel Guitar Rag  - Bob's rendition of Leon McAuliffe's smash hit.
San Antonio Rose - Billy sings, with Andy and Jim on harmonies.
Cattle in the Corn - this fiddle tune modulates from major to minor.
Nobody's Business But My Own - Carol and Andy  sing this Ernie Ford/Kay Starr duet, with Billy on the mandocaster doing a pretty good of channeling Jimmy Bryant's crazy guitar solo. This must have been our first performance of the song, because Andy has a little trouble with the words.
Space Buggy - a ridiculously fast rendition of the Asleep at the Wheel song, sung by Carol.
Billy in the Lowground - always one of Billy's best fiddle tunes.

Twin Fiddles

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Copyright 2006, 2013 by Andy Curry