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1975-1980; The End of the Revolution
and The Abridged History of The Archer Road Band
by Gary Gordon
The Dixie Desperadoes, March 1978
When the history of the Gainesville Music Scene during the mid to late 70s is written, the bands that will figure prominently are the ones that brought a sense of celebration, fun, artistic creativity and original songs to the scene: The Dixie Desperadoes, The Archer Road Band, The Jim Connor Band, and The Northeast Band were among those who were there.
Why is this true? Because, if the thread of Gainesville music was to survive and to survive as a grassroots expression of the territory, it was necessary to prove that bands playing original music could fight disco and grow artistically and survive commercially.
While Petty and John Cougar Mellancamp and Bob Seger et al fought disco around the country, The Archer Road Band, The Dixie Desperadoes, The Jim Connor Band, and The Northeast Band fought it locally.
Unfortunately, as a member of The Archer Road Band, which was working all the time, I can't tell you much about the other three bands. I can tell you about the times-- ancient though they may seem, and about The Archer Road Band.
Once upon a time...
The period of 1975-1980 was the final end of the cultural revolution that began with Elvis and James Dean and Ferlinghetti and Alan Ginsberg. What started as a rebellion against conformity and “organization man” and corporate mentality and Wally&Beaverism had culminated in an era where there was so much dope you would’ve thought it was legal. Eighteen-year-olds could drink legally. Sex was fun, plentiful, and fearless. And although the militarism of Disco music prefigured the Reagan Era and the “end of permissiveness” long sought by Nixon, in Gainesville there were enough musicians and enough of an audience for rock n roll, blues rock, folk rock, heavy rock, bluegrass, country and folk and jazz to keep those musicians working. And there was also an interest in original songs and musicians having fun-- two factors that made the success of the Archer Road Band possible.
To step back, or take you back for a moment, this was a time that not only predated cell phones and personal computers, it predated MTV, VH-1, and CNN. (In order to see your favorite band you had to go see them, or catch them for a brief set on the Mike Douglas Show, or the Tonight Show or whatever ABC and CBS were throwing up against The Tonight Show, unless your favorite band was The Beatles or The Who, or played at Woodstock, in which case you could wait and hope for those movies to come back and play a local theatre.) Albums still outsold cassettes. Eight-tracks still existed. VCRs, for all practical purposes, didn’t exist. The word “homeless” was not part of the vocabulary. Neither was AIDs. And for all practical purposes, neither was condoms. The absence of readily available nationally known acts for most people in most towns most of the time made local music that much more necessary and vital.
In 1975 there had only been one oil crisis (in ’73), the Vietnam War had only been over for 2 years, Senate and House committees were investigating the CIA, news had yet to become entertainment (which made the movie Network satiric and prescient, rather than the documentary it appears as when viewed today).
In 1975 there was no Blondie, Police, Talking Heads, Madonna. Rolling Stone magazine still featured rock n roll musicians on the cover most of the time. Bruce Springsteen was just starting to get national. Dire Straits were almost but not yet on the horizon. John Lennon was still alive and Ronald Reagan was just a bad B-movie actor turned fascist governor of California.
In Gainesville, most of the town was closed by 9pm and almost nothing was open past 2am. There were only two places to eat late at night: Jerry’s on north 13th (it’s not there anymore) and the Waffle House on south 13th. The Oaks Mall had not been built. Archer Road was a two-lane road west of 34th Street. Newberry Road was two lanes all the way to Newberrry. Television viewing was pretty much limited to three broadcast networks and one PBS channel. There was still a hippie-collective radio station (The Underground Pipeline). And Scene Magazine, the Gainesville Sun weekly entertainment mag, had just begun publication, edited by Dave Hunter.
If you were at home and awake after 2am, well, pretty quiet there too, unless you'd arranged some activity: there was nothing on TV after Tom Snyder, broadcast from 1am to 2am (it followed the 90-minute Tonight Show, with Johnny Carson).
I returned to Gainesville from Atlanta and Chicago in 1975 to discover a town different than the one I left. Quieter. It had grown somewhat, but the growth explosion had yet to occur. The cultural revolution (anti-establishment attitudes, alternative lifestyles, consumption of illegal substances, preferences for jeans, sandals and mellowness as opposed to pursuing a corporate suit career) was still alive, but the campus was not its center. The music scene also seemed to have no center. Later on I realized that a fundamental shift in the culture had already begun. The whereabouts of the music was a clue. In the 60s much of the scene had been at high schools and on and around the college campus, and at various farm fields where festivals could be held. A lot of the music was outdoors, like at the ROTC drill field and the Plaza of the Americas and Lake Alice field, with the idea being to assemble huge open air parties. Music was part of the attraction; so was dope. Alcohol was not really part of the equation. It was present, usually in the form of wine at open air events and beer at frat dances, but it was the drugs (marijuana in particular) and the effort to explore a world of no constraints that was integral to the event.
By the mid-70s that had started to change. Sure, there was still some outdoor music. And, as I mentioned earlier, dope was everywhere. But the music was starting to occur more and more at bars, and the basis of what determined the success or failure-- the quality-- of a band was liquor sales. Movies need to sell popcorn; bands needed to sell liquor. If your band didn’t sell liquor, you did not play live for money very often. And while there have always been bars, as the revolution began to end, more and more people went from the sunshine and clean air into the dark and smoke-filled rooms. A large crowd was no longer the goal, if they were passing a wine bottle and toking; a small crowd that got plastered was more desirable.
But I didn’t realize this then in any more than a simple observation that there was less outdoor music and if you wanted to hear a band, you had to go to a bar-- followed by the observation that if you wanted to get paid in a band, you had to work in bars.
And in Gainesville in 1975 there were some places for bands to play, but not many.
The Northeast Band, with Don David standing in the back, was a great band
that also represented the look and sound of many Gainesville bands in the mid-70s: great players, singers, jammers, and partners in music.
There was a new restaurant on north 6th called Bilbo & Gandolf’s that featured acoustic solos, duos and trios and now and then brought in folks from out of town. (Biff Rose was there for one night in 1978, then he was fired!) There was Mad Monks Inn, on 13th near 5th, also a restaurant, also with some live music at lunch and at night. An outfit called Big Daddy’s had two bars: The Lamplighter on Main & 10th, and the Alibi on west University near 34th. Lillian’s, downtown, had a regular piano duo. A steakhouse (The Beef & Bottle) on south 13th had a bar that sometimes had rock n roll (and sometimes had comedy: Steve Martin used to perform there when he toured the south). And a new restaurant in an older location, Crusty Seans, opened in ’76 on south Main and 16th , also featuring duos, trios and the like. Around ’77 another steak 'n fishhouse, The Sea Fox, also on south 13th, featured show bands wearing similar costumes and doing medleys.
Autumn, with Eddie Gwaltney (left) played Bilbo's and Mad Monks regularly
And there were a few out-of-town bars: Catch-22 on the Newberry Road, and a bar just outside of Archer. And a place called The Cellar Door, south on the way to Ocala. And Bluewater Bay, a restaurant in Melrose that featured solos and duos.
The Harmony Grits Band played at many of the outlying bars around Alachua County and the frontier
There was also Bobby’s Hideaway, just north of town, where I’d seen Nancy Luca in a band and Marty Jourard in a band a few years before. And there was Dubs, where Petty and others played before they left town, where the Bangles played on their tour in ’80 or ’81, where the bands Nancy was in played and the Dixie Desperadoes may have played; Dub's featured many out of town bands, including my friends in Rock Mountain, one of the best bands ever from Atlanta.
Friends from Atlanta:
Rock Mountain: John Tyler, Michael Robbins, Lou Simmons, Patty Albigese, Jim Callaway;
Not a Gainesville band, though they played at Dubs at few times; they inspired me to get back into it after a 6-year absence.
And there was Trader Toms, the topless bar on south 13th, where I had sat in with Road Turkey one time years before and listened to Marty tell stories of working in a topless bar.
And, maybe around ’76, there was the old Florida Theatre, downtown on University, one of the two theatres I’d gone to countless times when I was a kid, now converted into The Great Southern Music Hall, with a mainstage for concerts; The Backstage Bar, for dance bands, and The Wine Cellar, for acoustic music. But it was not there in ’75.
In May ’75, Bilbo & Gandolf’s had a Bob Dylan birthday party. They invited all the singer-songwriters in town to come during a Sunday afternoon and play. I was new in town at that point, and had only begun to write songs, but I went. I remember playing one of my songs, called “Home From The Wars” with the chorus line “What will become of us, when we’re home from the wars, will we recover, from the scars and the sores?” I thought it was good at the time, and fitting for Dylan’s birthday.
Another guy, who had two women fans with him, played a humor song called “Kayopectate Blues”. And I ran into a guy, David Slier, who I’d known in Atlanta. He, too, had just moved to Gainesville, and was instrumental, along with Leslie Bennis, in encouraging my guitar-playing and song-writing.
The UF was known for its wild Halloween party, a no-holds-barred event that took place on the Plaza of the Americas. It was on the Plaza that my high school band, Airemont Classic, had played for a Rockefeller rally in ’68, when he was running for president. We weren’t for Rocky; I don’t think any of the thousands of students who showed up were. It was theoretically good exposure, except that our band only knew about five songs and he was late so we played, and played, and played-one menacing guy held up a sign that read: If you play another song, I will kill you. Not a good memory. I remember feeling like I wanted to puke afterward, even when the organizer gave me our money.
In 1975 Commander Cody played the Halloween Ball, with several thousand people dressed in wild costumes. I had just returned to town, and I went; it was fun, and good to be home.
In early ’76 my friend Marc Gaynes, in Chicago, was working on the Fred Harris for President Campaign. So when a friend of Slier’s called me in the middle of February to work the Harris table on campus, at the Plaza of the Americas one afternoon, I said sure.
That was fate. The history of Gainesville music during this period and later on in the late 80s would have been very different if that had not happened. It's possible the history of Gainesville politics would've been much different, too. (And I know I’m making an egotistical statement here, and I would never make such a claim about the 50s or 60s or even early 70s, nor would I make such a claim about the 90s; but when you’re at what becomes the center, and your actions make a difference, best to acknowledge it and enjoy it, and remember it fondly without humility, because it doesn’t last.)
That day on the Plaza, two other people had made a critical decision. Dave Durham and Mike Ambrose, who were forming a duo, chose to sing in front of the library.
Dave played guitar with a confident, lyrical touch, and they sang harmonies well. I enjoyed their songs and after we folded up the Harris table, I walked over to tell these two that I enjoyed their music. That was another fateful decision, for which I thank my mom, who always encouraged us to compliment artists and performers we enjoyed.
The three of us got to talking, Dave said they were looking for a lead guitarist, I said I played some lead and Dave, in what I was to learn was his unshakable forthright manner, thrust his guitar at me and said, “Play something.”
I played and sang Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice”, which did not feature any lead work, and Dave invited me to rehearse with them that Saturday. I had been thinking of auditioning for the role of Jesus in the Hippodrome theatre production of The Ruling Class that Saturday, but in the last of this series of fateful decisions, I went to Dave’s house off Archer Road instead.
And it worked. At least, we thought it did. The two of them sang, Dave played rhythm, and I played lead like I had with Don Beth and Howard Platt in Chicago. (Those guys, along with Ken Lewis, had given me confidence, and I'd picked up enough along the way, much of it based on what Steve Soar showed me in high school and when we played together briefly in "The Band From Atlanta" in college, and much of it based on countless listenings to the Allman Brothers Live At The Fillmore and David Bromberg's first album.)
We played Simon & Garfunkel, Loggins & Messina and more.
Within a few weeks we talked about getting gigs.
My dad’s department at UF was sponsoring a conference, so he hired us as the music for a happy hour poolside party. (For those who think we unfairly hit the deep pockets of the university, our pay was $75, or $25 each.)
A week after that Ambrose disappeared. Later we learned he’d bolted for California.
So it was Dave and me. And we sat at Lums, on south 13th, talking about whether we should go on. And Dave said, without hesitation, of course we should. We were going to be the best band in Gainesville. And we made a deal. We’d play his originals, and I’d get to say whatever I wanted to say to the audience. Original music, original humor. Rhythm and lead guitars. Singer and back-up singer. He taught me harmony. I taught him about establishing rapport and joking with the audience. He taught me about songwriting and business. I taught him about comedy. And we taught each other how to work together.
We played at Crusty Sean’s: we had two sets of material, so we played one, then Dave did half a solo set, then I did half a solo set, then we did our second duo set, then we repeated our first set.
We worked on more material, including some of Dave’s originals.
We found a spot on campus, at the foot of the stairs in the Reitz Union, and we played there. We drew an audience. People sat on the stairs and stood all around, listening, watching. We played, we joked. It was so unreal that we could turn that area into a performance space-- but it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing, because it was so pure. No amps. No PA. No barrier between us and whoever chose to listen. And no campus cops or authorities of any kind ever told us to stop. And every time we played there, unannounced, we were better than before, and we drew more and more people.
And one day Dave played one of his songs for me: Kayopectate Blues. And I remembered him from the Dylan birthday party.
As they say, fate is pretty fuckin’ weird.
I wish I could remember how we got the gig at Joe’s Deli. It could've been Dave was eating there and just talked to Joe. Anyway, it became a regular deal, and soon we started collecting some folks, hanging out with us. We played at a bowling alley a few times. We got and lost a lunchtime gig at Mad Monks (then owned by John Schroepfer, who later became a County Commissioner and was a political enemy of mine when he was on the County Commission and I was on the City Commission-- Okay, I confess: despite the fact that Gainesville is a university town with an umpteen-thousand seat stadium, there’s really only about 15 people who live there.)
This place, outside of Gainesville on what was then a sleepy two-lane road to Newberry, was actually named after Joseph Heller's novel.
It's my favorite book. And it made no sense that a bar in that location, with the rowdy, beer-drinking, pool-playing, non-literary-type customers that frequented the place
should have this name. And therefore, it made perfect sense.
We did not succeed in getting a gig at Bilbo & Gandolf’s. We played at Catch-22 and that bar in Archer that I can’t remember. Sometime early on we’d chosen the name Archer Road, because Dave lived off Archer Road and because the only other name that was discussed was Dave’s idea: Pink On The Inside. Hmm. Female genitalia (a physical destination known to all on the planet) or a geographical site known to all in the territory?
And somehow we got a gig on Monday nights for $15 and a sandwich each in a cinderblock restaurant called Joe’s Deli, owned by Frank Nappy, on south 13th, across the street from the restaurant I’d worked my first junior high job as a bus boy and in the early 70s had been a club called Granfalloon.
It was our first regular gig, in as unlikely a place as you might imagine. But people started coming to see us. The song selection was broad and unique. Dave was branching out from Paul Simon and Roger Miller into Merle Haggard and George Jones, I was singing some Dylan. Dave was writing songs that people started requesting. Frank Doherty, the Big Daddy’s general manager came in and said he liked us, but not yet for the Alibi. We got booked at the Orange & Brew on campus (big bucks: $300!).
Then Steve T. walked in. He was opening a bar near Mad Monks, on 13th, just south of 5th. Cockneys, and he needed a band. Nappy suggested us. Steve hesitated. A duo? No bass? No drums. Frank and Dave and I assured Steve that we could rock. So he hired us.
Cockneys became our first regular weekend gig.
Archer Road, August '76: Gary Gordon and Dave Durham, at Cockneys
(This is the photo in the Gainesville Sun Scene Magazine that accompanied the
article by John Snyder-- the first full page written on the band.
It's also the photo I always dreaded would be found and used by my political opposition
when I ran for City Commission six years later. It never surfaced.)
Cockneys was, in many ways, like that space at the foot of the stairs in the Union. By day, and even by night when there wasn’t a band, it was severely ordinary. Mostly long, maybe 40 feet wide, a nondescript bar, a huge window-- it had been a retail space. Carpet. Chairs, tables and the usual assortment of Beer lamp & light & sign decorations. But when we played there, it was a happening place. [There's a place there now, been there for years, called Inland Surf; if you go in you'll never imagine it was once an incredible live music place.]
Friday nights were generally wild. That’s when the bikers (not bicyclists) came in. Saturdays were quieter, that’s when the law students came in. We played wild on Fridays, me with my Telecaster; rocking out with Young Blood, Highway ’61, Workin’ Man’s Blues, Love The One You’re With, and some very unique, dynamic-ridden versions of Paul Simon songs. And there was Dave’s new rocker, Good Good Feelings. On Saturday nights we did more ballads. Loggins & Messina. And a ballad of Dave’s that would become one of our hits, Butterfly.
Cockneys was an adventure every time we played. One night the Bikers threw darts at our feet until we told them that if they hurt us we wouldn’t be able to play any of the “Road” songs they liked. Another time a Biker backed up to the side door and flushed his exhaust into the place. And there was the time a beautiful blonde named Kelly decided she wanted to rub my leg and stick her tongue in my ear every time we took a break-- very pleasurable, except that her boyfriend, Spider, didn’t like it.
All during this Dave and I were becoming a team, and we were becoming brothers. We had so many things worked out, on and off stage. When you're in a duo, you're exposed. There's no place to hide. So you have to really learn to listen. And to sense. Get a sense of where your partner's going. Listen to hear if something inventive is going on, if creativity is taking place. Since we didn't have confining, tight arrangements, we could improvise a bit, experiment a bit. Dave experimeted with vocals, I tried not to play the same leads every time. And we explored alot of dynamics. The communication became superb. And we became buddies, helping each other off stage when it became "the night of the drunks with opinions": If either of us spotted the other being hammered, cornered by some drunk, we’d interrupt with “time to tune up,” rescuing our partner from the never-ending incoherence of barflies.
The new Scene Magazine sent their reporter, John Snyder, to see what was up with us at this hole in the wall bar and he wrote a full page on us, with a wild photo, which brought even more people in. Frank Doherty, previously interested in having us at the Alibi, was now concerned that we were too wild. [I can't find the photo of us that ran with Snyder's article-- it's a photo where my hair is so wild, I was always sweating the political opposition would use it against me seven years later when I ran for City Commission. Instead they started an untrue rumor that I was alledging they were against Youth Soccer. Go figure.]
In the fall of '76 we added a bass player, Mark Brooks. He’d been in a lot of cover bands, could sing a little lead and much better harmony than me, and we became The Archer Road Band. During the last set, even without drums, we’d always have people dancing.
Friends of mine came thru from Atlanta and took me aside, telling me that it would never work: Dave and I were too different. They meant well, but they were wrong.
With Dave’s rugged handsomeness and Mark’s Scandinavian God height and long blond hair, we started to draw women. Which drew more men. Which drew more women. It’s exactly the cycle you want.
The Archer Road Band, Oct. '76: Dave Durham, Gordon (front), Mark Brooks
(We had wanted this to be a photo of us walking across Archer Road, you know, like Abbey Road?
The photographer was too chicken so we got this wonderfully inactive, unenergetic really dull shot instead.)
And we were getting more and more requests for one particular song of Dave’s: The Gainesville Musketeers.
This is a two-edged sword kind of song. A novelty hit about the town (“Suckin’ on their numbers, suckin’ on their beers, they always gotta suck on somethin’, they’re the Gainesville Musketeers”) that ultimately became so popular we’d have to play it once a set, four times a night.
In mid-October ’76, seven months after we played that poolside happy hour party that my dad set up for his conference, a musician in a band at the Alibi got sick and Frank called us, midweek, to fill in.
The Alibi (no longer there), was a classic neighborhood bar, a hideaway, that we succeeded in putting on the map as one of the major nightspots-- over a period of six months.
It was one of the two or three places (the Lamplighter being another) that hired bands for a whole week. A whole week! (I wanna hit that point: if your band plays just weekends, or just three nights a week, or just a set a night, like some of the "exposure/showcase" "gigs" that represent the music scene here in L.A., it will take you forever to get tight and learn how to work an audience. Petty and some of the other Gainesville folks who went on to "make it" have remarked that the frequency and variety of gigs they worked in Gainesville and on the road in the south was some of the best preparation for playing crowds and touring later on and put them way ahead of others who had never had that experience. Plus, there's another thing about playing 5 or 6 nights a week: if you have a bad set or a bad night, you can redeem yourself rightaway; professionalism, esteem, increasing ability-- those weeklong gigs are necessary, and we hungered for it, even though the pay per night was not equal to the pay per night of the two-night weekend gigs. And it gives you a base from which to build a reputation. Invaluable) At the Alibi it was Monday thru Saturday. A band that scored a gig there and kept it, returning periodically in two or three week blocks, could get tight, and achieve notoriety. It was a place from which a band, in Dave’s vision, could become the best band in town.
But it was not preordained.
When we started moving in our equipment on a Thursday afternoon, the afternoon regulars glared at us like we were from another planet. We looked like hippies. We looked like we were gonna be too loud. We looked like we’d never heard of country music and couldn’t play a lick even if we had.
One of the decisions Dave and I made early on was to never have a set list. We did not want to play at the crowd. We didn’t want to predetermine the night. We wanted to play with the crowd and for the crowd, and we wanted to keep it loose and spontaneous. So the arrangement, which worked the entire time we were together, was this: Dave would call the songs, figuring out what came next while I pattered with the audience. As time passed, Dave began to join the patter, and sometimes, through the patter, he would hint at what the next song was. Other times he’d just whisper it to me. The deal was I would never quarrel, never question. And it worked. He read the crowd and always knew exactly what to play next.
So that Thursday night Dave started out by calling the songs we did by Merle Haggard and George Jones and Johnny Cash and Roger Miller and the crowd (it was 9pm, but most of them had been there since 5pm or 6pm) loved us. By the time Dave called the Paul Simon and rock n roll and original material, we already had them. It’s cliché, but we were an instant hit. And that began a relationship with the Alibi crowd and Frank Doherty that lasted for two years.
Hastily scrawled lyrics to Tennessee Ernie Ford's Sixteen Tons--
requested by one of the Alibi regulars who helped with the lyrics.
(Our songlist included "Mama Tried", "Youngblood", "Long Time Gone", "Surfin' Safari", "The Boxer",
"Not Fade Away", "Little Red Riding Hood", "Feelin' Alright", some Loggins & Messina, Roger Miller,
"Why Don't We Get Drunk And Screw?", "Lucille", "Rocky Racoon", "Simple Twist Of Fate",
and at least one-third originals-- so "Sixteen Tons" fit right in.)
We’d play the Alibi for two or three weeks, then we’d play a weekend at Bluewater Bay, then the Canopy on University near 13th, then Cockneys, Catch-22, the Orange & Brew. When Steve Soar and later Marty Jourard visited from L.A. and I showed them our calendar, they said we worked more than they did.
“Bands in L.A. don’t play,” Steve said. “They make plans to rehearse, and then plans to record. Then someone doesn’t show up and they have to make new plans.”
Later, Stan Lynch, when he was with the Heartbreakers, told me everyone he knew outside of L.A., and especially in Gainesville, played more than the Heartbreakers did when they weren’t touring. “When we’re not touring, we really don’t exist,” he said.
In early ’76 we’d had to argue with people, trying to convince them we were good enough for them to hire. A year later there was only one place we really wanted to play and hadn’t gotten into: The Backstage Bar.
During this time The Dixie Desperadoes were the popular band, drawing large crowds at the Lamplighter and everywhere they played. They had great guitar work, great harmonies. But I can’t tell you a whole lot about them because I only saw them two or three times: we were always working when they were working.
The Jim Connor Band was also very popular. They played at the Backstage Bar and over in St. Augustine a lot. But again, I didn’t see them very often because we worked when they worked. But the thing that was inspiring about Jim, and helped him gather fine musicians, was this: he wrote originals, he played originals, he spoke originals, he ate and slept original songs. (Between Mike Zimmerman in Atlanta, Dave Durham and Jim Connor, I had some great teachers and role models, although I didn't really put it all together til after the Archer Road Band era.)
The cover of Jim's cassette, Born To Fish.
Lash Lane (not his real name) had a popular band, a fun group-- kind of a local Commander Cody; we were in shows with them a couple of times; benefit concerts. And there was a fantastic group, Flapjaw, with the wonderful songwriter Steve Peters. Saw them a couple of times. (He has a song, Fool For Love... wow! Years later I got to know him a bit when I ran the singer/songwriter nights at Napolitano's and he would come in.)
And I would hear about The Northeast Band, but our paths never really crossed-- I think I saw them once at an afternoon outdoor thing in Micanopy. I seem to remember Dave talking about what a great vocalist Don David was. (Fortunately, I worked with Don in the late 80s and realized Dave was absolutely right. And Don's written some fine songs, too.)
The Dixie Desperadoes, the Jim Connor Band, the Northeast Band, and Flapjaw and Archer Road Band all did play at a Muscular Dystrophy benefit fundraiser, but I think I was so busy seeing to our gear that I don’t remember seeing any of the others-- my loss.
Newspaper ad for the MD concert: an all-star gathering for a good cause
that opened the door for The Archer Road Band to play The Backstage Bar at the Great Southern Music Hall
Bob McPeek and Ric Kaestner moved to town and opened Hyde & Zeke’s Records, a used record business, and they had a duo/band. Saw them a few times. Ric has a beautiful voice and Bob does some fine guitar work-- later on Bob and I did alot of work together, and I worked for both of them at their store. (A few years later I saw them in their band Tranceform, do one of Bob's songs, "Pasta-Man Vibration"... "Sit down, shut up, eat what's on your plate.")
But we were busy, too busy to really get to see other bands. I saw the first year of Saturday Night Live, then nothing for quite awhile, as almost every Saturday night we were playing somewhere.
In March '77 we drove up to Atlanta to do some recording at Rock Mountain studios. My good friend Ira Luft managed Rock Mountain (I'd worked with him briefly in Atlanta at Emtrec Music Management before returning to Gainesville in '75) and had booked a gig for us at Rosa's Cantina to help us cover the costs of the trip and to possibly break into the Atlanta market. (Ira and I were unindicted co-conspirators from our days at Emory University where, at one point, Ira was the editor of the Literary Magazine: that year he decided to have the magazine be an album instead; Road Turkey [Steve Soar, Marty Jourard, Stan Lynch] is on the So It Goes album-- title taken from Vonnegut at my suggestion-- because Steve went to Emory for two quarters-- Steve and I played in a band there briefly that never did have a name but was known at the University of West Georgia, where we played a few outdoor gigs, as The Band From Atlanta.) We stayed at the Rock Mountain houses (the band owned two, next door to each other, in Doraville-- the same place the Atlanta Rhythm Section made famous), did some recording (what happened to those tapes?) and played the gig, which turned out to be something like a 7-hour gig, going til two or three in the morning. Later that night (or early in the morning, depending on how you read the clock) some real rock 'n roll started-- but that's another story.
There was something to the lifestyle, though, that leant itself to adventures.
Generally, I’d wake up around 11am, write during the afternoon (working on a novel), we’d show up at the gig around 8, a little earlier if there was a new song to work on; we’d play til one or 1:30pm, go eat at Jerry’s or go off with some lady, sleep over with her or get home around 4am, then wake up at 11am…
It was great!!
But there's more to rock 'n roll than sleeping late. Dave was restless to add to the sound. And he wasn’t entirely satisfied with Mark. Me? I was mellow. If I got to make political and cultural jokes and play enough lead and meet a few women, I was fine with Dave taking the musical leadership. But I was not keen on dividing the money more than 3 ways and not sure a 4th person would increase the income.
Dave was thinking female singer; not lead, but duet/back-up, so we went to hear Beloved, with Amos Filman (descended from the Beloved that existed in Gainesville in the 60s, with Amos). Nancy Luca was playing guitar with them at the time. I wasn’t sold on their female singer (Rhonda?), and she wasn’t really interested in switching bands.
We did change bass-players around spring ’77. It was, as I recall, fairly smooth. I think Mark was on the verge of graduating from UF, and it was a “this is best for everyone” kind of thing-- although I think Mark was disappointed.
Mark Brooks, circa 2001, playing the bass again after putting it down for many years;
He sent this to me when he stumbled across these essays on the web.
Damn, his hair's not long anymore, but he's still got hair, and he's still tall.
I was glad to hear he's still playing music.
Kenny Shore became our bass player. I still remember Dave and I sitting with him in the College Inn (where I’d seen my first Civil Rights demonstration years before, picketing to protest the then-segregated restaurant). Kenny played bass in a large band called Mystic Raven. I think it was a 9-piece group, or something like that. Blood, Sweat & Tears/Chicago rock/jazz-rock. But as he later told a reporter when we were interviewed for our third or fourth Scene Magazine article, “The Archer Road Band was the place to be. That was where the fun was.”
From New Look Magazine, from their feature on Gainesville's Musicians.
Durham, Gordon (back), Kenny Shore;
photo by Don Meyers.
And although there were times when Dave got furious with Kenny for missing a note, it worked really well most of the time. (Sometimes, as we know, boys and girls, drugs and alcohol alter perceptions. Now, don't try this at home, but imagine a band with different people in different altered states: sometimes a disagreement can occur as to where exactly the beat is, or what exactly the rehearsed version last agreed upon is. Just remember, when this happens, violence should not be the first response. Keep in mind the story Jerry Garcia once told about how he was so pissed at Phil Lesh for fucking things up he threw him down the stairs only to discover later, when he listened to the tapes, that Lesh hadn't fucked up anything.) Plus, Kenny also had a great sense of humor, and so the patter took on an additional angle, developing into what I called the “put the man in the corner” style of comedy. We began to set each other up, trap each other, bait each other, all improvised in front of audiences that were coming for the music and the patter, and they dug it. As long as the music was there. And it was.
Kenny could sing harmony well. His humor and attitude were great. And he brought some Mystic Raven fans along to us.
One of his first gigs was a Battle of the Bands at the Great Southern. We added a drummer for that gig, and it was okay but not great. The drummer was shaky and we didn’t win. I think Beloved did.
The unfortunate thing for us about that performance was that it was also an audition for the Backstage Bar, which was becoming the prestige bar gig. We failed.
But we continued our reign at the Alibi, and by then we’d added The White Lion in St. Augustine (starting there Halloween, ’77) and a few other weekend two-nighters here and there.
White Lion poster featuring three Gainesville acts:
Nancy Cook, the Jim Connor Band, and The Archer Road Band.
It was a great gig.
The Alibi gigs were the most fun. We were so popular they knocked out the back wall, eliminated the store room and added seats and tables. It was at the Alibi that we really created ourselves, found out who we were. It was where we discovered that our different backgrounds really did mesh and that we had created a sound like no one else, playing a variety of material our way. It was where we discovered that people weren't just coming in because they were out for the evening or because there was live music; they were coming in to see us, because of who we were and what we did with the songs and between the songs, and they loved it that every night was different.
We could do the cover country songs straight and tender, like Merle Haggard's "Silver Wings", or tear them up, as we did with what became a 15-minute comic version of Kenny Rogers' "Lucille". We could really spotlight Dave's vocals on his ballads, like Butterfly, or jam out on cover and original rockers-- two audience favorites were our version of the Dead's version of Not Fade Away into Goin' Down The Road, and our version of Stephen Stills' Love The One You're With, with our added Allman Brothers-type lead breaks and the boom-lacka-lacka chant from Sly & The Family Stone. Dave's songs "Very Odd" and "Good Good Feelings" and my song "Hitchin'" were also pretty popular. And, in that pre-AIDS era, my song "The Clap" had some moments, especially with the melodramatic harmonies Dave worked out for him and Kenny to sing. And there was the time we had the whole place going nuts trying to guess a TV theme song we were humming: Da da da da da dahhh, da da da da da da da dahhh. (Hey, I'm not just gonna give you the answer.) And there were the times we'd announce parties after the gig, at addresses we just made up. Hmm. Not only did we create ourselves musically, we created ourselves visually: I always wore a Stetson and a red vest. Dave often wore a straw/Panama-type hat. One time when I didn't wear the vest and Stetson, people asked what was wrong.
But it's not like it was all wonderful all the time. Sure, people bought us more drinks than it was safe to drink in a night, but we also started to experience what it felt like to deal with some folks who felt that had proprietorship-- the people who'd been fans early on and were now put out a bit that they numbered as part of the many instead of part of the few. We learned a little about the life of celebrity, but in this case it was notoriety without wealth, and very easy access. We learned a bit what it was like to try to work thru a gripe by putting the energy into the music. I remember Carol was startled to learn that musicians weren't evolved and could be as petty as everyone else, despite the lyrics they wrote and the beautiful harmonies they sang. Sometimes I got annoyed with Dave's attitude toward the audience-- when he was frustrated with a perceived lack of musical growth or something else that had nothing to do with the gig at hand he would start to take it out on the audience, declaring to me during the breaks they were unappreciative. These moods were subtle-- the audience never knew-- and, frankly, all of us who have worked in bars are guilty of these thoughts; the trick is not to let someone in the audience know what you really think of them, or to realize you might be about to penalize an audience for something that happened on a previous night or something imagined. (One night a heckler got on my nerves-- there were many times we encouraged hecklers and made it part of the show, having learned that if you call upon a heckler for a heckle every few minutes they usually get tired of the attention and the demands and shut up-- this night, this heckler in the front got to me and I retaliated with something on mic forgetting most people behind the heckler hadn't even heard what he said. All they heard was me wailing on him. Not a great memory.)
Sometimes Dave got annoyed with me for a comment I'd made or the fact that sometimes I just took the talking a few beats too long or failed to set up the song as well as I could have and had in the past. And sometimes we'd both just piss and moan about people wanting to hear fucking Jimmy Buffett all the time. And there were the times we had to play when one or more of us were sick. And there was the constant feeling that whatever came, it was never enough: packed? I want lines out the door!! Fortunately all that stuff was pretty rare and we rarely let on to an audience if anything was bothering us (although I did have the habit of answering people truthfully with details about exactly how things were going until Carol told me "All they want to hear is that things are great"), and unlike some bands I played with in the late 80s, most of the time we really had alot of fun during the gig and with the last set and didn't gripe about the hour or the number of hours in the evening. (I still get wigged out when I hear musicians gripe about gig conditions, as if it's ever gonna be any different, as if playing music and getting paid for it isn't a damn sight better than couchsitting with the remote control and not getting paid.)
Mostly it was great. While some performers dread going up without a script, we thrived on it. Imagine, getting to create a new, spontaneous show every night, never knowing who might walk in and what that might mean. Monica Leadon would sit in with us on vocals now and then. So would a woman named Trinita who had an amazing Patsy Cline-type voice. But we were a show band, not a jam band, so having guests in was rare. And, really, the people who came in were demanding us.
Looking back, it's hard to imagine an economy and a culture where so many people would come out so many weeknights and enjoy live entertainment. This was not a fancy place in the center of the happening stuff in town, this was not the place where drugs in the bathroom was the real story; the drinks were nothing more than drinks; true, the waitresses were alluring, but there was more than that going on. Alot of the people who came in might've been thought of as Gainesville hippies (even though most of them weren't, or hadn't been in years); alot of them were students, or faculty, or working people. Part of the fun was appealing to all of them. My favorite was appealing to the smart ones who got the clever humor and the understated but brilliant musicianship, and appealing to the women. I mean, Ike Turner, Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry didn't invent rock n' roll for the heck of it.
Dave did the artwork and produced a series of these, one for each gig we played; this is the first to include include Kenny.
Sometime during this period we played at the Harvest Festival Bob and Ric (Hyde & Zeke) put together, but my only memory of that is it was hot, muggy, lots of mosquitos, and at one point during our set I lost my balance and stepped all the way down on my volume pedal, destroying the mix.
In the summer of '77 we played what was called The First Annual Sunflower Music-Fest. If memory serves, it was also the last, and there were all kinds of problems getting paid. But it did give me a chance to hear some other Gainesville music: Lash Lane & The Roadhouse Rangers, Barry Sides & Sean Flynn, Palmetto Bluff, Please (with Waldo and Billy Fritzius on bass-- I'd play with him years later in one of the versions of The Blue Monday Band), the Last Chance Band (with Chuck Holden and drummer Jimmy Milsap-- also part of the Blue Monday jams 10 years later), and Gold Rush (with singer Susan Cameron and drummer Larry Thompson-- both Blue Monday regulars, and Tom Holtz, longtime Gainesville guitarist who played in my Another Gary Gordon Band at the Greenpeace Benefit twelve years later in '89.)
An ad for the Sunflower Music Fest benefit: together for just over a year and we got top billing
In the early fall of ’77 we played a Muscular Dystrophy fundraiser at the Great Southern and we blew the roof off the place. Steve Kramig, one of the managers (who later became a police detective and had to question me about a case when I was on the City Commission), raced down the aisle when we finished and said, “Who are you guys?”
We said, “We’re the Archer Road Band and everybody knows us and we’ve been trying to get a gig here.”
And he said, “I’ve never seen you, you’re great!”
And we said, “You saw us at the battle of the bands a few months ago.”
And he said, “Well you guys didn’t show me anything then. Let’s go book some dates.”
In 18 months we had gone from $30/night on Mondays in a cinderblock sandwich shop to the prestige club in town, the whole time not having a drummer and always having a songlist that featured at least 1/3 original songs.
The Archer Road Band never did get into Bilbo & Gandolf’s; if memory serves Eddie Gwaltney band Autumn played there a lot. (Gwaltney and I later wrote children’s musicals for the Fable Factory, collaborating on Rapunzel, but that’s another story.)
And we never tried to play the Lamplighter because we just weren’t a large club rock band. During this time I remember a lead player named Waldo arrived and started playing in a band called Please. And a duo, Phil and Harvey, arrived, calling themselves Palmetto Bluff and playing a lot of Dead. Subsequently I heard there was a band named Lightnin’ Harpo, with Gainesville Sun cartoonist Rudy Young on guitar and vocals, drummer Larry Thompson and bassist Scott Hampton, but I didn’t know that band then. And after Archer Road Band got popular, some folks told us we’d ripped off the name from a band called The Archer Bank Band, named after the bank in Archer. Similar name, but we’d never heard of ‘em so it’s just a case of cosmic doo-dah.
Among the folks who came to hear us regularly at the Alibi was Larry Lipham, owner/manager of Lipham’s Music Store. This was the same Lipham’s where Steve Soar and I had bought our bandmaster amps and quite a bit of our equipment, when it was located in the Gaiensville Shopping Center on Main in the 60s-- although it was now located in the shopping center on 34th and University, a stones throw from the Alibi. Lipham’s in the late 60s and early 70s was where the Allman Brothers got a lot of their equipment-- you’ll see that mentioned on the back of the album cover for Live At Filmore, if you want to check.
John Briggs worked at Lipham’s, and he’d come in to the Alibi with Larry and soon became fans or friends.
As the Alibi started really happening, other musicians would come in, and I got into the habit of acknowledging them. “Ladies and gentlemen, in our audience tonight, Bob McPeek and Ric Kaestner, owners of Hyde & Zeke Records.” And if I was aware of a gig they had coming up, I’d announce that, too.
Sometime in June ’77 I met Charlie Scales and Robert Thompson. Both became lifelong friends. I met them through Carol, who started coming into the Alibi to hear us and who later became my wife. (Ex, for several years now.) I was attracted to her for several reasons, including the fact that she’d worked on the defense team for the Gainesville 8, a group of Vietnam veterans busted by the government in ’72 for opposing the war.
One night I saw Briggs give Carol a big hug and I said, “Hey, that’s my girlfriend.” And he replied, “That’s my lawyer.” I hadn’t realized til then that he’d been one of the Gainesville 8. (In a rare moment of justice, the Gainesville 8 were acquitted and Attorney General John Mitchell went to jail-- you might've read about it.)
By fall ’77 both Dave and I were restless. We talked about moving to Vegas or L.A., but I’d just started living with Carol and wasn’t keen on moving. We had to find something that would keep the band interesting.
We decided we’d do an album. No one had really done an album before, at least to my knowledge. It’s not like now, with computers and burning CDs. You had to go to a studio. You had to shell out, minimum, around three thousand dollars to get 1,000 albums recorded, pressed and packaged. Flow, descendant of Ginger Bread (with Don Felder), had done an album in New York, after they left Gainesville. And we’d heard another band had done one, but no one seemed to remember the band.
We had two bona fide local hits, Gainesville Musketeers and Butterfly, and my song Hitchin’ was kind of popular. And we had started doing Frankie Laine’s Rawhide (before the Blues Brothers), which never failed to whip up the crowd.
Larry Lipham introduced us to Tom Herrin, a vice president in charge of loans at the Gainesville State Bank. Tom was a fan, having heard us many times at the Alibi, and having seen the crowds we drew. But none of us had anything, really, to qualify for the loan. Except I had a ’67 Mercedes. Tom gave us the loan with the Mercedes as collateral.
The bank book for the loan.
During Thanksgiving week in 1977 we recorded our album, In The Land Of Odd. Dave suggested that I should have half the songs, but I passed on that. We were only playing four, and only two had really gotten any response. It was his songs that really got the most response. He drew the cover. I wrote the liner notes. Kenny had one song on the album. We recruited a drummer (Bruce O'Dowd) and had him play with us at the Backstage Bar to rehearse for the recording. And we recruited a sax player (Chuck Duggins) for a couple of songs, and a fiddle player (Ed Partridge) for a couple of songs. Rawhide was the only non-original on the album.
Around the same time I started devoting my efforts to trying to create a local TV show for us. Kind of like, what if the Monkees had a sketch comedy show that was also a talk show. Meanwhile, Dan Diamond, one of the managers at the Great Southern, was working at getting us some road gigs. Charles Steadham with Blade Agency was looking at us, also for road gigs. And Frank Doherty was exploring what other Big Daddy’s in the state might want to hire us.
Boy, it sounds like a lot was happening.
In reality, even though we were one of the top bands at the height of our popularity, December ’77 thru early March ’78 was one of the worst periods I can remember in all my on & off & on years of playing in bands.
Steadham spent most of his time with us telling us that the secret to success was appearance: lighting and costumes, and kept talking about a tailor in Tampa who could outfit for a grand apiece. Right. Doherty, by mistake, left us out of the Alibi rotation for around 8 weeks. The road gigs Dan sent us on were awful. We got fired from one in Saint Simons, Georgia after the first or second night because we didn't have a drummer and Dan had promised the club manager we did. (It was a horrible gig anyway, the kind where the most vocal drunk at the bar thinks the funniest thing in the world is to make hemmorhoid jokes about Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire".) We got fired from the steakhouse gig in Jacksonville that Blade got for us after the first night-- we skipped on the motel bill. (They told him they didn't like our appearance, despite the fact that we wore vests that were all blue.) We played a couple of nights at some Big Daddys somewhere-Orlando? But it was clear it was not right. And we played a club on Singer Island in south Florida but we were all so sick that we couldn’t make it through the week. (There was a period when people would come up to me and say they'd played some songs for their friends in their living room and they'd ask me what it was like to play music for a living. I'd tell them the next time they were sick, spitting yellow flemgobs, invite some folks they didn't know to their living room and play for them for four hours. Okay, sometimes I'm an asshole, but that's the way it felt during that period.)
Our album came out in early March and we got radio play rightaway on three local stations. We even did a live performance outside of WGVL-- it’s one of the few photos I have of the band.
The Archer Road Band, live, in front of WGVL, March '78: Gary, Dave, Kenny
The letter from WGVL GM Irv Uram, saying we're great, as promo letters are supposed to do.
We shot the TV show just before the album came out and it aired one night when we were out of town on a gig. We saw it in the screening room at WCJB, but I was too broke to buy a copy of the tape ($35) but knew I could afford it the following week after our gig. The following week they’d “lost” the tape. I don’t know. I never got a copy, which is too bad because it’s the only live footage of the band I know of.
(The show featured us doing Butterfly, Very Odd, and our unique arrangement of Love The One You’re With, with an Allman Brothers-type harmony guitar lick and the Sly Stone boom-lacka-lacka chant thrown into the mix. We did a parody sketch of a Wild Animal show, with Kenny as the bear rug that comes alive; Dave and I worked endlessly memorizing my version of Who’s On First? which focused on Central American politics-- Who’s In Panama?, and we did a last minute phony commercial for a pizza place called Too Hot Pizza where we writhed in pain at the heat of the pizza in our hands.)
Sometime in March the drought seemed to end and we were flush with local gigs again, selling the album every time we played. We paid back the bank loan by the end of the summer.
Sometime in the spring of ’78 Dave ventured into adding another player again. He wanted a keyboardist so he brought a keyboardist in while we were playing at the Alibi, and the keyboardist brought a sax-player with him. The keyboardist was adequate, but the sax-player was great.
Within weeks, Bruce Shepard joined the Archer Road Band; first it was kind of part-time, then full time.
Although I was reluctant at first to add an additional player-I thought we’d become a really well-oiled act, Bruce was a fantastic addition. In no time he was riffing off my leads, we were riffing off each other, and the band leapt again in quality.
Kenny, Dave, Gary, Bruce Shepard, summer '78, outside the Alibi
There’s no telling what our future might have been if I hadn’t experienced the personal tragedy of my dad’s death in September ’78. We might’ve become more of a successful regional band, traveling in wider circles; we might’ve moved to another base-Atlanta, or Nashville or Vegas or L.A.
In mid-October I told Dave that I needed to quit the band. I felt that it wasn’t an important enough thing for me to do with my life; that it had taken me away from my writing, that it wasn't meaningful enough. I was distraught about the decision, feeling like I was letting him down, but Carol had said if Dave and Kenny were really my friends, they'd understand. And they did. We sat in Dave's trailer behind his house talking about the history of the band. We talked about how we’d sat at Lums so many times, talking about what the band could be, and how, in some respects, we’d exceeded our expectations.
I told him I’d stay with the band for as long as it took to find a new lead player. We took a two-week gig at a new bar, called the Florida Bar, owned by an asshole crook named Pat Fekany-although we didn’t know he was an asshole crook when we took the gig. We played for two weeks and he stiffed us for $1,500. Wrote bad checks. We tried to sue, but-well, he was suit-proof. A Vietnam vet friend of mine offered to break his legs but I couldn’t rationalize it, so I said no. A failure of imagination on my part, I guess. (If it was the Hollywood version, the period of my departure would've been one long party. Oh well.)
Dave called Kenny Bernstein, the race-car driver who owned the Chelsea Street Pub chain, and they made a deal for Archer Road Band to go on the road in Louisiana and Texas in late November. At my suggestion, Dave and Kenny recruited Charlie Scales to take my place-a great guitarist, as I mentioned in Part II. I played my last gig with the original Archer Road Band on November 17, at a small out-of-town restaurant-bar in Branford. Within a week they were off to Texas with a dictated set-list in hand.
When you put yourself at the center of something, and then leave that something, you tend to see what’s left as a ghost town with tumbleweeds.
But there were really three things happening on the local music scene in the late 70s: there were a growing number of gigs for solo singer/songwriters, doing covers and originals. Jane Yii, Charlie Hyde, Nancy Cook, Barry Sides, Jan Schim and others worked often at the Wine Cellar, the College Inn, the Blackbird, Bluewater Bay, the Sandpiper south of town, the Copper Monkey (where the Florida Bar had been), and other places. After a hiatus, I became part of that gang, playing first at Alan’s Cubana. And I started putting together benefit concerts & music fundraisers for Catfish Alliance, the anti-nuclear group I’d become involved with-where I’d found some meaning.
A poster for an all-star concert, my first as producer/entertainer, and the first in a long line of fundraisers for Catfish Alliance at which Gainesville musicians gave their support. (Note the date: three weeks before the accident at Three-Mile Island. This fundraiser was successful-- the next one was incredible!)
There were a growing number of places with DJs and no live music-part of the disco and post-disco era.
And there was a new wave of bands that began to emerge in ’79 and ’80, influenced by the Sex Pistols and Clash and Talking Heads, they would play parties in small rooms, not caring to play in commercial venues.
Part of a page from Destroy Magazine listing local and area bands & descriptions, circa 1981
The bars that featured live music continued for awhile, then dwindled. I don’t know when the Lamplighter finally closed. I returned to gig solo at the Alibi under its new manager-- a guy named Tony, who kept a gun on his desk. It was a pale membrane of what it had been. (Around that time-- 1978, a comedy night started at Main Street [later Reality Kitchen’s 2nd location], and I got up on stage for the first time without a guitar to try my hand at stand-up. That’s where I first met Greg Jones, who later starred in some of my plays and was a regular on my comedy radio show-but that’s another story, too.)
Now and then the Archer Road Band would return and play the Chelsea Street Pub in the then new Oaks Mall. I’d go hear the guys, and sat in once or twice. They had added a drummer (Dave Jeter?) and become a very tight cover band, allowed to do only a few of Dave’s originals.
But by 1980 I felt like the bottom had fallen out of playing live music. I got lucky: Bob and Ric offered me the job as manager of Hyde & Zeke Records, working on staff with J.D. Foster, who had been in David Russell’s band, and Jim Connor’s band, and would later work with Dave in L.A., and tour with Dwight Yoakam.
I continued the anti-nuke activity, which lead to playing at countless rallies, benefits, fundraisers, spaghetti dinners (along with Jane Yii), and ultimately lead me away from playing and into City Hall.
Gordon, playing at a Catfish Alliance Spaghetti dinner fundraiser at the Friends Meeting House, spring 1980.
Sometime in 1980 or so the Archer Road Band split up; Dave headed for L.A. Within a year or so Chaz was working with me at Hyde & Zeke Records. Now and then I’d get a gig that paid enough so I could hire Kenny and Chaz or Chaz and Bruce or Kenny and Bruce, but I was mostly out of it, my attention devoted more and more to local politics-my contact with the music scene was one of continuing a friendship with some of the folks-- especially the ones who came in the store, and meeting some of the younger musicians who shopped there and put up flyers there: Riff, Roach Motel, Mutley Chix, The Invasion.
By late 1981 I’d shaved the beard, cut the hair and hung up the guitar and was in pursuit of a seat on the Gainesville City Commission.
In 1984 the Archer Road Band regrouped for one night at Reality Kitchen, a club owned by the artist Jim Evangelist, on the corner of Main and 1st. I was in my second year on the City Commission and itching to play again. When I told my campaign manager and adviser Doug MacGregor that I’d set up the gig, he almost had a heart attack. We had worked so hard to bury that aspect of my past in order to achieve political credibility.
It wasn’t exactly the Archer Road Band, because Dave was in L.A. It was me and Kenny and Bruce and Chaz-- I guess I’d taken Dave’s role as lead singer and rhythm guitarist and Chaz was the 1st lead player. On drums was a guy I like to call Melvin Bunk.
We played one night, and that was it… until August ’86, when, after leaving City Hall and taking the summer off, I put the band back together, this time with drummer Billy Bowker, and the Archer Road Band rode again at the Alibi, and the place that had become the center of Gainesville music: Richenbachers.
The Archer Road Band Reunion, 1984, without Dave; with Bruce Shepard, Charlie Scales, Melvin Bunk, Kenny Shore, and Gordon
As I mentioned earlier in this piece, I know the Jim Connor Band played regularly-- I just don’t know enough to talk about their gigs because they always worked and we always worked.
The same is true for the Northeast Band. Mike Boulware, in Bill DeYoung’s piece, praises that band as the best band in the late 70s in Gainesville, and talks about a night when they blew all the other bands off the stage. Mike is a great musician, a longtime musician, so I don’t argue with him. I don’t know if he ever saw us, or was ever a fan. As I said earlier, I only saw the Northeast Band once, as I recall, at a festival in Micanopy, and I thought they were good. I worked with Don David years later in The Band That Never Was and he was part of the Urban Folk Series I produced at the Thomas Center in ’87 and ‘88-- given Mike’s description and rave revue, I wish I’d heard them more. I think I just missed that one.
I wound up on stage a few times with Mike, too, in pick-up bands, jams, and at benefit concerts. He is a seriously fine guitar-player who now has a music store that carries an array of guitars and rigs including some vintage equipment formerly owned by the Allman Brothers and other renown folks from that era. (Mike did me a solid favor when I was in town for a show in the summer of ’97 and my guitar was stolen-he loaned me a guitar for the gig. He is what we used to call in Gainesville, “good people”. Not too much of that around L.A.)
There was some fine music in Gainesville in the early 80s, but I was out of it from '82-'86, doing politics.
I know Chaz and Kenny and Bruce worked with a variety of people. I think some of that culminated in Skatterbrainz, with Jane Yii, which I think formed around ’86. They were a hot band (and when they sang "Free Nelson Mandela," you knew it was gonna happen).
The Rhythm & Blues Revue, a Blues Brothers-inspired band, debuted around ’84. Robbie and Janet Rucker, Cathy DeWitt, Michael Cripe, Greg Webb, Dave Ottenberg and the rest put on a fine show, dominated the scene for awhile, lasted for many years, and still might exist. (Chaz Scales and Bruce Shepard launched a similar R&B Band without the Blues Brothers shtick, C.O. Jones with vocalist Dewey Martin-- the band's life was cut short when Dewey was killed in a car crash in 1986.)
I began this part of the essay saying that '75-'80 was the end of the revolution. I felt it at the time and I still believe it now. The things that were fine and fun in the '80s were the exception, rather than the rule. I can't prove that, especially to the folks who were born in '75 or later. All I can say, in what probably sounds like sentimental hippie hogwash, is that there was a spirit prior to the 80s that evaporated; there was a hope that just flat out left. The music in Gainesville was part of that spirit, an expression of that hope, not any more or any less special than it was in towns throughout the country.
The 80s brought the commercial dominance of industrial rock, music without melody; it brought sheer hostility and violence and in some cases hatred and bigotry in lyrics, it brought a narrowing of the broadcast spectrum under the guise of diversity, it brought excessive materialism to the industry and the culture, it brought the centralization of decision-making and wealth within the music industry, it brought the increasing crackdown on casual drug use-- sure, there were bluenoses and greedyass motherfuckers who tried those licks all along, but they really put it together beginning in 1980, and the ultimate irony was that so many people who'd enjoyed the cultural freedoms of the 70s actually voted for Reagan. the difference between the end of the 70s and the beginning of the 80s is like the George Carlin routine about baseball & football. Pre-1980 was baseball. It's like Carter putting solar panels on the White House and Reagan ripping them off. It's like Loggins & Messina vs. Milli Vanilli. And so on.
I mix the politics in with the music history because many of us, though not all, were aware that we were players in a larger drama. Really, you can't be a songwriter or musician without knowing the past and in many cases the history and market forces that shaped the past and contributed to the present. And you can't imagine a band and a future and aspire to have a band that plays original music without being aware that you're part of something-- something at times that has been condemned and outlawed, something that always has to push against the status quo. Put another way, no one says they want to put together an original band to do covers of bland music. I was aware, from my brief time working with Ira in Atlanta, of how hard it was for original bands to get work in the commercial market. Hell, it was downright revolutionary to even try. I don't know if Dave thought of it the same way, and we certainly never did see eye to eye on most politics, as he was always a complex person, admiring the Beatles and Paul Simon (who embraced many "leftist" causes) and a host of country stars who generally were labelled "right wing" (although Merle always did say Okie From Muskogee was a joke and Johnny Cash-- if you listen to his lyrics, well he's more like Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan than he is like the "super-patriots")-- but I do know from our long talks at Lums that he knew we were talking about putting together something that did not already exist in Gainesville, something unique and special, and that there was room for that original thing in 1976, when, in certain ways, Gainesville was still a frontier. If we had tried it in the 80s, when NONE of the radio stations that played our album existed or programmed anything local, when it was-- well, the copy Blue Brothers band (who were very good) got most of the work.
Not to get too heavy... There was music in Gainesville in the 80s, and some pretty damn good music, and there was a fun community that I was glad to return to in the late 80s. I think the difference is that the music community in the 70s was part of a large current in Gainesville and elsewhere, and by the end of the 80s it was once again a small stream for those seeking refuge, a small tree for those seeking shelter from the storm. But if there is any single thing that can bring back the spirit and bring back the hope, it is the music. And I hear it whenever I hear Jane Yii or Don David or so many others sing, whenever I hear Bruce Shepard or Charlie Scales or Nancy Luca or so many others play
Lums is no longer there. Joe’s Deli is no longer there. Cockneys is no longer there. The Alibi is no longer there. The Lamplighter is no longer there. The Backstage Bar is no longer there. The Wine Cellar is no longer there.
And Richenbachers, the subject of Part IV, is no longer there.
Gordon, anti-nuke activist, Crystal River #3 demonstration, June '79.
As the bands and musicians played on, my involvement in anti-nuke activism lead to a period of community politics that lead to City Hall. With the exception of a one-night Archer Road Band reunion in 1984 and a Democrat Party party where I played an anti-Reagan song I wrote during a committee meeting ("Have You Been Trickled On?"), I did not play guitar from 1982 to 1986.
Great Gainesville Bands & Musicians, Part IV: The Richenbacher's Years
For previous parts of the story...
Great Gainesville Bands & Musicians, Part I
Great Gainesville Bands & Musicians, Part II
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