SUMMER AT THE CIVIC
Dave Kelsey, owner of “The College Inn,” a restaurant near SMCC started producing weekly “Summer at the Civic” dance/concerts at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium . The InRhodes quickly became not only the house band, but a major draw for the audiences. That popularity sort of backfired on Kelsey one evening (September 7th) in 1966 when he’d booked the Yardbirds, who at the time featured Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck playing dueling lead guitars! The Yardbirds mounted the stage with a row of double-stack of amps (first time seen in Southern California) and turned up so loud that after a few songs the crowd literally began chanting "InRhodes, InRhodes, InRhodes" to the point where the Yardbirds left the stage. We went back on stage and finished the night (albeit at a much lower volume level!)
Summer at the Civic was great for us – almost weekly shows with whoever the hottest touring bands coming through LA were. I can’t remember all of them, but here’s a sample:
The Hondells (“Little Honda”)
The Leaves (“Hey Joe”)
Them (featuring Van Morrison - “Gloria,” “Baby Please Don’t Go”)
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band (“Diddy Wah Diddy”)
Peanut Butter Conspiracy (“It’s a Happening Thing”)
Hour Glass (the predecessor of the Allman Brothers Band featuring Gregg and Duane Allman!), and of course,
The Yardbirds (“For Your Love,” “Heart Full of Soul”), among many others.
Wally’s management created a very positive dynamic tension between our wanting to be like whatever the flavor of the month band was and his vision of the uniqueness of what we brought to the stage. So we blended typically really well done covers of top 40 songs (Beatles, Byrds, Stones, Doors, etc.) with our original material. The material, mostly co-written by Jim Bunnell and Wally or Odom and Bunnell, was also influenced by our ability to mix so many different instruments live on stage. Typically our lineup was Faulkner on bass, Odom on rhythm guitar, Lane on lead guitar, Bunnell lead vocals, DeFore on drums and me on organ. But we also did songs with either Mike or me (or both) playing sax – “Tenors Go Ahead On” was a great dueling tenors piece – I also played baritone to Mike’s tenor or alto on different songs). We also had Odom and/or Lane on trumpet, Bunnell occasionally on trombone. We usually did at least one instrumental that was all brass except for Howard on guitar and Dave on drums. It was a constant change-up that audiences really seemed to enjoy. It was like hearing the Stones, the Beatles and Chicago on one stage. Of course this was before anybody had heard of Chicago or Blood, Sweat and Tears and the only brass you ever saw on stage was backing R&B bands like Ike and Tina Turner.
The Byrd’s influence on us was largely through Gene Clark (primary lyricist of the Byrds) who dated Howard Lane’s sister. Howard exerted a lot of influence on us to cover Byrd’s material. (Howard’s mastery of the electric 12 string guitar allowed us to do very high quality covers.) The result with audiences was really positive – pretty much anybody could cover the Stones, but few could do Byrd’s tunes well.
Interestingly, vocally the InRhodes were even stronger than instrumentally. Everybody in the band sang although the principle leads were Bunnell and Odom. The vast majority of what we did were three or four part harmony (Jim, Jim and me or the 3 Jim’s plus Howard). Howard sang a number of songs by the Byrds, Mike, Dave and I sang specialty tunes (Dave’s was “My Baby Does the Hanky Panky,” Mike did “Little Red Riding Hood” and I did “Yellow Submarine”). One of the things we did different than most bands (besides the extra instruments) was that because of the vocal quality, rather than plugging microphones into our guitar amps as everyone did, we used a separate vocal sound system. Got lots of weird looks from other bands, but it sounded great - much better than most bands, especially with all the harmonies.