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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dragonfly interview with Randy Russ

From The Legends to Dragonfly. Here is the original story behind the band by Randy Russ, their guitarist. Sunbeam Records recently reissued their LP.

I'm glad we are having your with us, Randy. You were a member of The Legend and Dragonfly. You were growing up in Texas. What was the scene back then there? Did you visit or even play in the Vulcan Gas Company along side with the rest of Texas psych crew?
Back in the 60's, El Paso was way behind the world as far as the music scene. El Paso only had 2 AM stations, and they both were playing corny music. But late at night we could pick up Wolf Man Jack and KOMA in Oklahoma for some good music. And we would go over to Juarez and check out the music over there. The Lobby had Long John Hunter. Him and Elvis were my first inspirations. I had never heard of the Vulcan Gas Company.
What would you say influenced you the most?
That Sunday night that I first saw Elvis was it for me. I wanted to play guitar. Didn't care about signing, I just wanted to play guitar. My dad had an F hole Melody guitar and showed me 5 chords. But learning was hard for me as I'm dyslexic and have a learning disorder. And like I said, I would go over to Juarez and watch Long John, go home and try to remember the licks he was doing. I would even sneak out on a school night in my parents car. Trying to play under my covers soft enough that my parents wouldn't hear me.
Were The Legends your first band or were you involved with any other bands while you'd still been in Texas. How about other members of The Legends?
A friend down the street from me Doug Neal, started out playing piano told me to come with him to a rehearsal. The guitar player who was kind of running the show, lent me this guitar that only had four strings on it showed me some stuff and we did a battle of the bands. We were called the Emeralds. The group that won, Bobby Fuller was playing drums. Later on, Doug and I started up a group called The Instigators. We changed some members and that was called The Infants of Soul. After that, the group broke up.
I heard, there were three from Texas and two from Colorado and you formed in Durango, Colorado. How did that happened?
I was working at a shoe store and got a call from two guys from El Paso that had gone to Durango Co and joined up with two guys from there. They wanted another guitar player and I jumped at it. We practiced a couple of months and started playing in the area. That group was called the Lords of London. That name was change the The Jimmerfield Legend, which was shortened to The Legend.
The Legend recorded and released an LP back in 1968 on Megaphone Records. What are some memories from recording it?
The Legend was playing all over Colorado, breaking all kinds of attendance records and beer sales at clubs we played at. We had heard that a record company was looking for a group to sign up. We played a couple of more gigs, saved our money and headed out for LA. When we got there, we found out that the record company was auditioning groups and trying to steal different members to make up their own group. They wanted our drummer, Barry, who turned them down. Gerry had been out in LA a couple years previous and knew of these two guys that were managers, said he would give them a call, but he warned us about them. They came over and heard us and said they could do something with us. But they wanted us to sign a contract, which we did. One of the managers, Tony Sepe, had a brother who owned a Chicago based company. He talked him into backing a record company. Thus the birth of Megaphone records. Stolen idea of the RCA dog logo listening to the megaphone. We went into the studio and recorded a few songs. 
We had run out of money and couldn't play in LA because we weren't in the union. Tony and Marty Brooks(the other manager) would drop by our motel and give $10 to $12 a day to live on. We were eating bologna sandwiches three times a day. A lot of times, we would buy the bread and cigarettes and one of us would steal the bologna. Speaking of the motel, one of those run down slime pitts on Sunset Strip, two of us would sleep in the bed, some would sleep in our converted bread truck, and I would sleep in the 396 Chevelle. We needed money, so we went back to Colorado to play some gigs, make some money and eat. When we came back, Tony and Marty had hired some studio musicians and Gene Page, a producer, and the basic tracks were done on the Legend album. We had no idea that this was going to be done and when we confronted them, they just laugh us off and said that this is the way it was done.  We put on the vocals and different guitar parts. It was put out as the Legend. One day at the studio, we wanted Jack Duncan to come in and do some parts and he couldn't be found. He was in the hall way talking to this real cute chick. He introduced me to Sally Fields. What a treat.
Did you play any concerts?
Like I said, we weren't in the union and couldn't play in LA. Later on, Tony and Marty got in the Waco Texas union and they got us a gig outside of LA, and we got fired for being too loud. But we did come to El Paso and played a concert at the Coliseum. For that night, I played through 3 Vox Super Beatles and a Fender Super Reverb. Most of our gigs were at bars and clubs.
What happened, that you changed your name from The Legend into Dragonfly? The lineup was still the same, right? And why did you choose the name "Dragonfly"?
Tony and Marty had no idea what they were doing. The Legend album had no distribution to speak of. They were skimming as much money as they could out of the record label. They even had custom made alligator brief cases made. Things like that made us angry. We weren't getting anything. Marty had heard us play at The Family Dog in Denver. Bob Cohen of the Family Dog liked the band. Marty told Tony that we were good enough to do our own recording. So we started the second album and things were getting worse with the band and Tony and Marty, so in the middle of the album we told them we weren't going to record any more until they let us out of our contract. They agreed. We finished the album. They found this acid freak that had done this painting and they bought it from him and Tony saw the Dragonfly on the picture and decided to call it that. Their plan was to find some musicians, have them learn the songs and put them out on the road. But one day Tony and Marty went to the office, and locks had been change and the company in Chicago had shut down Megaphone Records. That's why you don't see our name anywhere on the album.
The next LP was released in late 1968, these time with much harder sound. What are some of the strongest memories from producing and releasing this LP?
During the time the first album was done, we were developing our sound. Trying different things on stage and we were starting to gel. By the time we did Dragonfly, we were pretty comfortable with each other. The difference between the two albums is the first we were restricted by harsh comments and brow beating by Tony and Marty. By the second album, we were confident and would not let them tell us how to play. Remember the first album, The Legend was partly done by studio musicians. But let me tell you, when I was in their doing my overdubs and I knew something was coming off pretty good, I would feel so good. It would be a total rush.
What gear did you guys use?
Jimmerfield would use a Gibson 335 and 1956 Gold Top Les Paul, which I now own. He used a Blonde Fender  Bassman. I would use for rhythm a 1965 Fender Telecaster through a 1965 Fender Super Reverb, which I still own. For leads, I used a 1959 Les Paul SG through a Vox Super Beatle With 4 Altec Lansing. That thing would scream. I used the internal effects and Maestro Fuzz. Jack the bass player got the richest sound out of this Japanese bass. Don't remember the brand name.
What can you say about the cover artwork and perhaps how many copies were made? Was there any airplay/distribution?
Like I said earlier, Tony and Marty conned some acid freak out of his artwork and I heard that when he was in the office to sign the release for his artwork, he didn't talk, he made animal noises. As far as how many many were pressed, they didn't share that kind of matters with us. They did what they wanted. I heard that 5000 copies were sent to Australia. Casey Cassum played Enjoy Yourself in New York. There was really no push behind it, they didn't know how to and they had such a bad reputation, that the honest people in business didn't want to deal with Tony and Marty. Enjoy Yourself got a little mention in music magazine called Cashbox.
Please comment each song from your LP.
A1          Blue Monday
Blue Monday was fun song to do. Jack Duncan and Barry Davis wrote this one day.
A2          Enjoy Yourself     
Barry Davis, the drummer and myself wrote that at the kitchen table drinking hot coffee. Kind of a summary of life's bummers and where an acid trip can take you. The opening drum part had to be recorded in parts to get the high hat on one side and the snare on the other and the bass in the middle. To me watching it, it looked hard as hell to do.
A3          Hootchie Kootchie Man  
Is song that Duncan wanted to do. We used to do it live and had some good times doing it. Richard had told me a section of my lead was going to be backward, so I had to figure out how to start high and end up in the low register to be in place for the regular forward section. It's hard to describe.
A4          I Feel It   
Another song Duncan wrote. He just came to the session and had the song. I don't remember the particulars. You got to remember, this was 44 years or so ago. And since then there's been a lot of brain cells destroyed. 
A5          Trombodo          
Trombodo was done by our producer, Richard Egizi, who Tony and Marty had to hire cause they were in way in over their heads and far as record production. Richard did all on trombone, recorded at different speeds. Richard is one those musical geniuses. He is really the one that kept us going with that project. He was so full of ideas. At the session they asked me how do you say trombone in Spanish, I didn't know so I just said Trombodo.   
A6          Portrait of Youth   
Gerry came in one day with an idea and we all pitched in and came up it.
B1          Crazy Woman  
Jack and I wrote that. I had some chord structures and Jack had some words and some chord structures, so it just came together.  
B2          She Don't Care               
Written and sung by Jimmerfield. He wanted me to get as freaky as I could on the lead. When I listen to it now, it's not so freaky. I don't know who the song is about, but he wanted everybody just to freak on their instruments. The engineers had hard time getting the right delay that we wanted on the voice part. Got hand it to them, they did a good job.
B3          Time Has Slipped Away 
Another Duncan song. I really got into the chord changes. And the lead is wild, man.
B4          To Be Free        
One more Duncan song and don't remember the details of this even after listening to it again.
B5          Darlin'               
 Jimmerfield only had this one little section and we had smoked a little, so we did it. And then the laughter came.
B6          Miles Away
Duncan was trying to get this thing together at last minute. We were stumped, and it just started coming together. The line " Purple flag half mast on a Tuesday" was just a filler line that I liked and he left it. Richard did bring in some singers to help us with the background on the album, cause the parts Richard was hearing would have taken us forever to do. There's 9th's and 13th's or some crap like that in there somewhere. I would never been able to do that.
Where all did the Dragonfly play and with who?
Like I said earlier, Dragonfly wasn't a real band. It was a concept of our managers. The Legend played in Ft. Collins Co. with Question Mark and the Mysterians and at the Family Dog with The Soul Survivors and The Box Tops at one gig. And we played a lot with a group, American Standard with Tommy Bolin as the guitar player at The Family Dog. We only did one concert in El Paso and the rest were clubs and bars. The Family Dog was a huge building that probably could get 3 thousand people in.
Did hallucinogens have any impact on the sound?
In 1968, I think, the Legend along with about 10 other people did acid for the first time in the middle of this green pasture surrounded with pine trees. There was even pond with beavers and man what a trip. Jack, Barry and myself only did acid around 10 or 12 times. Gerry and Ernie, I think, did it more. Gerry would go on about this thing that we could get up on stage and all of us would play anything and because we were really gelling, it would all come together. I really didn't understand that idea and kind of freaked me out. Jack and Barry and I would look at each other not knowing what the hell he was talking about. One night, coming down from an acid trip, I came to the realization that if I kept on playing and practicing I could be as good as anyone. I had an inferiority complex.. So you might say the acid helped my confidence. But we by any means, weren't doing it like some of our musician friends.
What happened next and what were you doing through all these years?
After the Legend broke up, I went back to El Paso and did some different things here and there. I formed a group with my old friend from that first group, Doug Neal. That group was called Gorilla. We warmed up Steve Miller one time and then ZZ Top. Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill came down to our dressing room and Billy and I jammed. He played my '56 Gold Top and I played his famous Tobacco Sunburst Les Paul. They were real nice guys and treated us with respect. They didn't have to to do that. That's always stuck in my head. Then in "72 Jack, Barry and I got back together with Andre, a drummer from El Paso and Jack W., a guitar player from El Paso. We called that group Bubba Jo. We wagon wheeled from Denver and played all over the mid west and southwest. We played all the A rooms in Denver. Once again, went to LA and did an album, all originals that we came up with at rehearsals. But we couldn't get any of the labels to jump on it. So I came back to El Paso. In'75, I think, I got a call from Jimmy Carl Black. The former drummer for The Mothers of Invention. He was raised in Anthony Texas. We got a group together with Big Sonny Farlow, the revolving member of the Sir Douglas Quintet. We did all cover with just a few originals. We formed our own record company and put out and album on the Con Safo label and it was called Big Sonny and the Loboys In Heat. We had this idea of our faces on the dogs playing poker. Everything was done here in EP except the pressing of the records. Artwork, recording, everything. Time went by and I tried a few other things, but in 1999, I put together a group with my daughter Michelle singing lead, my wife, Linda doing harmonies, Dave the bass and Frank on Drums. We were called Russ T. Nails. We did a little demo and the TV show Rock Star heard it and invited Michelle to come to Austin and try out. It was the year INXS was looking for a singer, but I think they were looking for a male and she didn't make it. I am so proud my wife and daughter's talent. Their harmonies are better than most. Now I'm playing with this group called Twisted Hams. We have a website. Haven't done a lot of gigs. All original, except for a few covers. I play a'78 Hamer through a Fender Blues Jr. and use only two effects. Chorus and Wha-wha. I still have my '65 Fender Reverb and my '56 Les and use them on special gigs.
Thank you very much. Would you like to send a message to It's Psychedelic Baby readers?
To everybody reading Psychedelic Baby Magazine, hope all of you enjoy the stories of the up and downs for the bands and musicians.When we were doing Dragonfly, sometimes I felt so out of my element and the sometimes I would be on top of the world. But I'm extremely glad I got to be part of it. When I get around my old musician friends, we just laugh and laugh about some of the stuff that happened to us. I have stories of guns stuck in my face,  mexican unrest in Kearny, Nebraska and the cops had to escort us to our motel after we played, and on and on. And the music goes on. Peace brother.
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2013
© Copyright


Heavypsychmanblog said...

Thanx Klem good interview

Anonymous said...

I got to here the Legend back in the sixties. I was a ypung and impressionable teenager, but I really loved these guys. Their live performances were really out there because they were very creative and not doing what everybody else was doing at the time, which was playing covers. I aquired their albums and saw the really big difference between the two. Dragonfly is deffinately one of the heaviest psychedelic albums of all time. If you like psychedelic type music, you need to aquire this one. Please thank Randy for sharing his experiences with us. Very enlightening.

4.0 out of 5 stars Blues Harp standout, March 2, 2013
This review is from: Takin' It Back (MP3 Music)

The CD is a nice contribution to the music scene. The harmonica work on Saturday and Hate to See You Leavin' is really,really good. Would like to hear more of it.



5.0 out of 5 stars Yes!, February 20, 2013
This review is from: Takin' It Back (Audio CD)

This band will have you laughi', cryin, and swaying to a pocket grove. Highly recommended for an elatious time, Enjoy!

5.0 out of 5 stars WOW! Great to know that there's still good original music out there!, September 24, 2012
This review is from: Takin' It Back (MP3 Music)
Takin' It BackWhat do you get when you put together high school teachers who teach environmental science, chemistry, physics, and astronomy? You get Twisted Hams!! From an explosive beginning with "Text Me" to the ethereal melody of "Ojito Adentro" and topping it off with a down-to-earth bluesy statement of "Hate To See You Leavin", this collection of originality has a lot to offer...YES, there's the rest of the CD...simply amazing!! "Monkey Breath" and "Takin' It Back" have great intros and don't disappoint to the end. "Beadeux" is funny and playful and reminds me of our little Dolly; not to mention that for a couple of minutes veers off into some funky-psychedelic instrumental jam. Paul's guitar solo on "Damn Charles" is clean and sophisticated! In "BBQ", I can feel Nicole's vocals ripping at my soul and the longing behind her voice; the guitar work is also pretty good on this track. "Something Silly" is short but very sweet with Paul and Nicole combining vocals. "Saturday" is lazy and laid back, and you can hear Nicole loosen up on the flute. Ron's drumming is very consistent throughout and he manages to throw in a few surprises, like in "Beadeux"...his work on "Text Me" is a personal favorite! NEED I SAY MORE?? BUY IT!
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