|'Well I came into Canaan from the East Coast,|
When I came, I came along for the ride,
Yeah, we were coming into 'Frisco,
I believe it's so good to be alive...'
Terry Dolan, "Inlaws & Outlaws" demo, 1971
Berkeley, Calif. 5/1/79. A chill breeze attacks the bone-marrow as we vacate the tidily parked and comprehensively trashed Fairmont and stroll in the direction of the much-vaunted Keystone, a veritable hotbed of musical activity situated near what appears to be the top end of University Ave. Tonight we are promised an appearance by Terry And The Pirates, an unbelievably fluid agglomeration of musicians that has, at one time or another, played host to many of the Bay Area stalwarts and currently includes Greg Douglass and the ubiquitous John Cipollina on dual lead guitars. Thus the promise was indeed a rich one, further heightened by the fact that, in planning this hop to the West Coast, the possibility of tracking down the legendary hero of Quicksilver had never even been considered. That, I had figured, was way too great a pipedream!
Nevertheless, here was lead vocalist and frontman Terry Dolan performing a couple of songs to set the mood and then being joined by the Pirates for what was to be a thundering and well-paced set, duly acclaimed by a small but in-phase audience. Very little of the Pirates' already sizeable repertoire has reached these shores since, as yet, no record company has had foresight enough to offer them a deal and consequently individual song titles will carry insignificant weight in the context of a review. Suffice it to say that the band dish up a measured dose of high voltage rock and roll designed to get the place jumping and break out understains aplenty. Original songs (mostly, though not exclusively, from Dolan's pen) blend with such standards as "Mystery Train" and Jackie Wilson's "Higher And Higher" to form a varied and, on the night, well executed programme of entertainment. Because the line-up is so unstable (the band will later insist), performances will occasionally tend towards the untogether. Tonight, however, despite being without their usual rhythm section (David Hayes and drummer Jeff Meyers of Jesse Colin Young's band) and substituting them with Michael White on bass and original drummer Andy Kirby, neither of whom have had any time to rehearse, this band is kickin' ass! After such a display it seemed like the obvious course of action to pin 'em down in the dressing room and piece together the development of so extraordinary a band. And so, without further ado, here's the goods.
|The nucleus of the whole ensemble ist the almost painfully selfeffacing Mr. Dolan, a man who is all too ready to bypass his own achievements in order to lay credit at the door of his cohorts. It is staggering and, to my mind, extremely sad that a musician of his calibre can be so consistently ignored by the usually over-zealous vinyl magnates that present day American record companies have become. Although he is not particularly prolific in his songwriting, his output carries an undeniable stamp of quality . It is a tastament to his talent that so many musicians who have found success elsewhere continue to make time to play with Terry in the Pirates. He commands a fierce respect from both his band and his audience and yet the world knows little of him or his history. So, okay, Terry Dolan, tell us about yourself...|
'I grew up in Connecticut on the East Coast and came out here when I was 21, which was in 1965, and that's when things really happened here. I used to go and see the Grateful Dead at the Matix and the Jefferson Airplane and I used to watch John in Quicksilver at that time. In those days I was a folk singer and I played around North Beach a lot - just acoustic. I was learning, you know, because I'm not a musician. I was learning to be a folk singer, but I'm still not a musician - I don't read music and I don't know half of the names of the chords I use, but I know the sound. All the guys in the band are musicians but I don't consider myself one. They know what they're doing but I have to be... er... processed (laughs).'
Hmmm, that's all very well , but as far as I'm concerned Dolan need have no worries on that score. In my experience a great many lesser talents have claimed a whole lot more than that - claims that have been based on rapidly shifting sands and eventually been exposed as totally fraudulent. This man's efforts are based on the solid bedrock of experience gained playing smaller venues, folk clubs and the like, for a frightening length of time. He appeared a the Sky River Folk Festival up in Oregon, which was held the same week-end as 'daddy of 'em all', Woodstock, back East:
'It was only about 30,000 people and it was real nice, real mellow. I met Gram Parsons up there and he was playing with the Flying Burrito Brothers and that was on of their first gigs out of LA. Later I heard "Grievous Angel" and they never really pushed it because he died before it came out or something, but I loved it, man. I loved that album. It was a real downer but... We do a song off that album called "I Can't Dance" which was written by Tom T. Hall and I got that right off Gram Parsons and I thought, "Wow, let's Piratise that."'
Although he remained on the folk circuit for a good few years, somewhere deep within him the germ of an idea was beginning to grow. By 1971 it had blossomed and he cut a demo - "Inlaws & Outlaws" - using a band called Country Weather, which included Greg Douglass on guitar, as backing musicians and one Nicky Hopkins as producer. Hopkins, in fact, added his distincive piano playing to it and while it is not forceful as later versions of the same song it was sufficient to secure an album deal with Warner Brothers.
'I had an attorney at the time, Brain Rohan, who made all the deals for lots and lots of groups and he's a local San Francisco... er... landmark (laughs). Also Tom Donahue had a lot do to with me getting signed because he went down there and put in a good word and Brain went in there and cleaned up.'
'The deal was for Terry Dolan as opposed to Tery And The Pirates, then?'
'That's right. It wasn't me and the Pirates altough I used John, Greg and Lonnie (Turner) on it, but it was not Terry And The Pirates until that trip fell apart. Nicky Hopkins produced the first side and Pete Sears did the other. It was a pretty good album - I used the Pointer Sisters for backups and that's when I met Lonnie. I met Greg when he was playing with Country Weather and I met John through Nicky who not only produced the first side of the album but also the "Inlaws & Outlaws" demo that got us the deal. It was right after John's group Copperhead split up. After that we just started playing as the Pirates and that's how I became a rock'n'roller and it's just starting to feel comfortable for me now, after about five years or so.'
Warner Brothers, in their wisdom, decided not to go with the album and presumably it is still languishing in their vaults out of sight and out of mind. However, tapes of the "Inlaws" demo found their way into circulation and it became a local hit on the FM stations without ever being pressed up on vinyl. It is basically an uptempo documentary about Dolan's arrival from Connecticut into a free and easy mid-sixties San Fransciso and the consequences arising from the move:
Terry and John
|'Now all my good friends are gypsies,|
What else, what else could they be.
Now all my inlaws are outlaws,
We've got a brand new family tree.'
Dolan's always slightly out of breath vocals are neatly and efficiently underpinned by a pounding bass line and perspicacious interplay between piano and guitar. If this is anything to go by, Dolan made the transition from folk singer to rock and roller a hell of a lot more easily than he'd have us believe. Nowadays the demo 'only gets played once in a while, but it's a standard Bay Area thing and it has been played all over the country. My old lady used to be a music director and librarian at KMPX and then she went to CBS (FM) as music director there, so the tape went all over the country. Disc jockeys (who where given copies of the tape) are always getting fired - you know, " Oh, well, let's move to Denver," (laughs) so the song has been played all over on FM but it's just a tape.'
Their live appearances, too, earned them an enviable reputation around town. Greg Douglass remembers:
'Two days after we did our first gig at a club called the Old Waldorf there was a review in the San Francisco Chronicle that said we were the best new band to ever come out of San Francisco, and it blew me away because I thought we sucked! (laughs)'
The original line-up of the Pirates, which apparently overlapped the tail end of Copperhead's existence, consisted of Terry Dolan, John Cipollina, Greg Douglass, David Weber on drums and Hutch Hutchinson on bass (both from Copperhead). This, however, is where the story begins to get more than a little complicated. The original line-up lasted until January 1975 when drum duties were switched to Andy Kirby, bass became the province of David Hayes (formerly with Van Morrison) and a most unfortunate gentleman by the name of Sid Paige (a member of Dan Hicks' Hot Licks) had a go at joining in on violin. Poor old Sid never got beyond the first gig for the simple reason that a doubtless well, meaning roadie tripped over his lead and smashed the violin. Or so we're told! To make matters worse, before he'd got over the loss of his instrument the poor fellow got himself all wrapped around a road accident and broke both wrists. Some people, I guess, are just born unlucky.
1975 and 1976 seem to have been difficult years for the Pirates with key musicians darting off into extra-curricular ventures and leaving the rest of the crew sailing decidedly treacherous waters. Around the beginning of '75, Cipollina was playing with Link Wray as well as the Pirates and later in the year both David Hayes and Greg Douglass were to disappear for a while.
'John did a tour with Man, Greg joined Hot Tuna and played with a few other bands and so it was hard for me to get dates. Greg went to work with Steve Miller (Oct.'76) and then it more or less came back together again. It's been that way for five, going on six, years and that's basically where it's at with the Pirates.'
David Hayes went his way in the October of '75 to be replaced by none other than Lonnie Turner and the line-up was further augmented in January '76 by the addition of Nicky Hopkins on keyboards. To complicate matters further when John had finished his stint with Man, he promptly got involved with the Quicksilver reunion project which effectively wrote off the months of June and August for recording purposes and culminated in a concert at the Winterland Auditorium in December. Having seen all that lot off he was instrumental in forming a band called Raven which began operations in January 1976, and which (given a little bit of luck and a lot of patience) will be covered later in this piece.
1976 itself was no less chaotic for the Pirates with the departure of Hopkins in June, the recruitment of Jim McPherson in July, Cipollina's second bash with Man in August, Raven's demise in September, Greg's aforementioned departure for the Miller camp in October and lastly Greg pulling a band together in December which hit the boards under the label of Mistress. Somehow, in the midst of all that, the Pirates managed to hang together and even found the time for some actual performances, sporadic though they may have been. Dolan could have been excused for feeling somewhat disconsolate at the continual disappearance of his gang, but instead he characteristically shrugs it off, claiming that 'it gives me a break to sit back and write because I only write about three songs a year at the most - I'm not really prolific, so it takes the pressure off me.'
Greg Douglass spent the substantial part of 1977 with Mistress which included Dave Walker (vocals), Skip Olsen from the Quicksilver camp (bass), Chris Paulson (drums) and Greg himself on guitar. They later added David Brown from the Boz Scaggs Band on bass in place of Olsen and a guy called Charlie Williams on 12-string guitar and vocals and reached their peak around July and August, when they went into the studio, cut some demos and created a rift that led to Greg's eventual departure on the grounds that he refused to sign a promised management deal.
This was around September and Terry juged it to be an opportune time to reassemble the Pirates and gig. He gathered together what has turned out to be the most stable line-up yet by enlisting the services of Cipollina, Douglass and the Jesse Colin Young rhythm section of Jeff Myers on drums and David Hayes on bass - the first time that these two had played together in the Pirates. They made their 'debut' at a club in Half Moon Bay on a bill shared by yet another of John's spin-off bands, the jazz based Freelight, and later made it into the studio - probably Fantasy - where, with the assistance of the Rowans and a couple of members of Freelight in Jarret Washington (keyboards) and Pam Tillis (vocals), they cut some demos.
Come December, though, the usual difficulty arose when Hayes and Meyers were siphoned off for their regular touring duties with Jesse and 'Bones' Jones was seconded as replacement drummer while Lonnie Turner weighed in as temporary bass-man for the duration. Even after the tour was over and everything returned to normal for a few months, disaster was waiting just around the corner. It struck on the 4th March 1978 when, after a well-received gig at the Old Mill in Mill Valley, Greg managed to severely damage his right wrist in a 'danse-macabre' with a window-pane. The rest of the boys, plus Byron Allred from the Steve Miller Band, played a benefit for the hapless guitarist at the Old Waldorf in an effort to help him through some difficult months, during which the possibility of his never being able to play a guitar again loomed frighteningly large on the horizon. Fortunately he made a complete recovery and was able to resume duties both with the Pirates and the Steve Miller Band around July or August.
Nowadays, with the line-up reasonably stable and only the occasional absence of Hayes and Meyers to overcome, Dolan looks back at the myriad personnel changes in a healthily humourous manner:
'Me and my wife made a list one night of all the guys who've played in the band and everyone is successful except me (laughs), but I consider myself to be successful to be able to play with Greg and John after all these years and it has still got the same energy. It may be loose from time to time but it always has energy, it always feels good and that is the criterion.'
As to the future of the band, Dolan seems to alternate between a resigned acceptance of ongoing obscurity (due to the reluctance of record companies to offer non-established artists a deal) and a confident knowledge that one day all his efforts will bear fruit. He continues to stockpile songs, estimating that the Pirates have somewhere in the region of forty songs - admittedly not all originals - at their disposal, and waits for the chance to commit them to vinyl.
'The material is up for grabs - I don't limit it to all my shit, we do other folks' stuff. "Ain't Living Long" isn't ours, "Higher And Higher" isn't ours, nor "Mystery Train", you know? The rest will be mine or Greg's or combinations, whatever is good. We always have one new song per gig - one way or another someone's always got a new song.
I've recorded a lot, you know, people have put up the money. We've done seven songs at Fantasy on 16-track, four more on 24-track that we did a year and a half ago and I've got a couple of eight-track tapes...'
'And still no offers of a record deal? ...'
'...No, I don't forsee any right now. I'm always open for any kind of an entertaining offer. The Pirates would love to do it. I've got a backlog of about ten songs that need to be recorded and I've got eight or nine already recorded that just need to be mixed. But we've been here five years without a record deal and we're still sounding good and these guys are still playing with me... I consider that a miracle in itself. All I can say is that I'll kep trying and if some company makes a big mistake and blows it and signs me (laughs), I'll give them an outrageous album. I know we could do some really good stuff, man. We just need a really good producer to hear us and go for it and we'll get a deal. But I don't know... I don't have the answer. It's been a hard ride, but a good one. I'd do anything for a good sized break... shit, even a medium sized one, you know? (laughs) I'm really lucky, though. I really like my band and I just consider myself real lucky to be still in there... punchin'. I consider the Pirates a real under-rated band, too...'
I reckon there's a good sized bunch of San Franciscans who will be only too pleased to back up that last statement, too!
|At this point in the proceedings Terry slipped away to prepare himself for the second set of the evening, affording us the opportunity to talk with some of the other musicians about their various 'sidetrips'. first up was Greg Douglass, a Pirate from the beginning, whose main money-spinner at the moment is his involvement with the Steve Miller Band.
'We're all in this (The Pirates) for the same reason and that is to have a good time - that was the original idea. Back in ... what, I guess it was '73, John was in Copperhead, I was in a band and Terry was just a folk singer - as a matter of fact I had to show him how to turn on an amplifier (laughs) - and it started off as just a fun thing to do because everybody was bored. It has kept going for about five years because everybody is continuing to have a good time. If we stopped having a good time then that would be the end of it. Who wants to be serious?
Everybody's got their serious gig - I work with Steve Miller and that's like working in an office, it's like nine to five. You go there and you're absolutely straight, you've got a boss, you do what you're told, you get paid and that's it. I've learned a lot from the man but it's not as much fun as this band because with Terry And The Pirates you never know what's going to happen. For one thing the personnel is always changing which makes it really interesting.'
The giant step that took Greg into Miller's rock and roll 'school' came almost out of the blue:-
'I wrote "Jungle Love" and he wanted one more song for "Book Of Dreams" - he had everything else finished. Lonnie (Turner) was one of the bass players in the Pirates and he had some words that he'd written for DaveMason years ago and nobody had ever come up with a riff that would fit and I'd come up with a riff years ago that nobody could write words to, so we put the two together and it worked. We took it to Miller and it was just silly enough that he dug it. I wrote the song in a real bizarre tuning because I was into open tunings and all this bizareness and Miller tried to play it and it was just impossible, so he called me in to play and we got along real well. He brought me to LA to play on a promotional film for Europe and that was it. After we'd done the film he said, "Would you like to be in the band?"'
One of Greg's other celebrated sojourns away from the Pirates took hin into the company of Hot Tuna, an association that promised much but eventually collapsed without ever taking flight. Why?
'Boy, this could get real ugly! All of a sudden things got real strange, Jorma and I got along famously, we wrote a bunch of tunes together and everything was fine, but it was a strange organisation. There was a lot of peronal weirdness which I don't even want to talk about in print. Jorma said, "Play what you want to," and then the reviews started coming in, you know, "Young kid - hot new guitarist," and then Jorma's wife started telling him things like, "It was about time you got a lead guitarist in the band," which he didn't need to hear and I didn't want him to hear. Everything was working real well and then things started to get real strange personally, and that was the end of it. Actually, I think Hot Tuna were better as a trio because Jack plays a lot of bass and it was hard to groove and most of the time my job was to cop a groove. I was hired as a second guitarist and I was given holes to play lead in and that was encouraged by the whole band. When I tried to play rhythm it was real tough, especially when Jorma was playing rhythm too, because you had a lead bass player and a lead guitar player and somebody else trying to play rhythm and it just did not work. I've got some tapes of just Jorma and I playing guitar and it's incredible...
So then I formed a band with John called Raven which involved about a year of rehearsals and about three gigs. We made some demos at His Master's Wheels which Boz Scaggs had just bought. It just didn't work. It was a matter of personnel and it's about that time that I sank into Miller and the rest is history. I love working with Miller, it's like going to college - a whole rock and roll education. The man has learned so much in ten years.
I wrote a song called "Maelstrom" which is an acoustic tune that may or may not be on the next album. I've got four other songs and I'm sure that there's one or two of them will be used. We're gonna start recording in about two weeks (around the middle of January) as a matter of fact. It's been a long time between albums because we wanted it to be really good and now we've got the material and everything's just right.
It's gonna be a lot more gutlevel and he's cut down the band. David Denny, the other guitarist, is not in the band anymore. Lonnie is out, too, and we haven't replaced him - there'll be a new bass player for the next album although Lonnie might do some of the sessions, we don't know. That's up to Gary (Mallaber), the drummer, because he's gotta find somebody that he can play with or else the groove just won't be there. But we want to get a more direct sound. Steve and I found last summer that just the two of us could cop something that was much better than when we had three guitars which just cluttered things up. David's a fine guitarist but it just wasn't working.'
'I'd heard that Miller was pretty hard to work with...'
'He doesn't know when to say he's wrong sometimes, but you have to learn to deal with that and just sort of change the direction and it works. He's hard to work with if you're an egomaniac but actually I think he's a great cat. We've gotten along real well. I hurt my hand last year and there was a very strong possibility that I would never play guitar again. He was the first one at the hospital and he told me not to worry about a thing - he cancelled the whole tour and said not to worry about anything financially. If he was an asshole, the first thing he would have done was found another guitar player and gone and done it. He's a real good cat. I can see why people say that, because he's a perfectionist and anytime anybody is a perfectionist they're gonna step on somebody's toes. It has been so long between albums because he could have come out with some horseshit but he didn't want to do that.'
For the Miller devotees amongst us, that is great news indeed, and if Greg maintains his current form throughout the sessions it should be an album well worth investigating.
|Last but by no means least we come to the turn of John Cipollina, axeman extraordinaire of more bands than most people have had hot dinners and possessor of one of the most distinctive styles of playing within the confines of rock music. John proved to have a remarkable memory for names, reeling off the make-up of his various bands with astounding facility. What is more, he shows no sign of curbing his nomadic movements from band to band and back again, explaining that, at the present time, he is working with no less than four bands at the same time.
'I'm playing with the Pirates which is several bands! We're using a rhythm section that we haven't used before. The drummer (Andy Kirby) used to be in the Pirates about three years ago and since then he's been a lead singer. He played drums with me in a band I had called Raven. That was kind of... my concept of a big band. It was a seven piece band - two keyboards, two drummers, a bass and two lead guitars. David Weber from Copperhead and Andy Kirby were the drummers and Andy did some of the singing. Nicky Hopkins and Hutch Hutchinson were on keyboards - Nicky on piano and Hutch on synthesiser and stand up organ, Skip Olsen on bass who was from Quicksilver, and Greg Douglasss and myself on guitars.
And then I've been doing some recording with Novato Frank and that's a real funky act. He's a mechanic and kind of a crazy Hell's Angel type who has a Shel Silverstein type voice. In that band we're using Jim McPherson, the keyboardist from Copperhead and it's got piano, drums, bass , two guitars and two singers. We'll just do a few gigs with that group and then... I've been playing with Rocky Sullivan. The last line-up was Rocky, myself, Nicky Hopkins, Joey Covington on drums and two chick singers. Then I'm playing with 'Bones', this drummer friend of mine. He and I started a band with Link Wray a couple of years ago and then Link went to New York to do some producing. He produced Robert Gordon and ended up playing in the band - that's how I got playing with Rocky; I started doing sessions with him and now I'm doing gigs. So, anyway, we were doing a gig with Link Wray and Link went back and now I'm playing with 'Bones' again and it's called 'Bones' Jones- that's the name of the drummer. 'Bones' is on drums, Byron Sutton on bass, Steve Love on guitar, Buddy Cage on pedal steel, myself on steel and guitar... er ... did I forget anybody? I do sessions, too, which takes up the rest of the time.'
'What about Freelight?'
'That's a jazz band. The singer got pregnant - her father was Mel Tillis, the country singer, you know "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town", "Detroit City", etc. The guy's got 110 gold albums... I never heard of him either... (laughs). He stutters (laughs). You'd know every song that he wrote but you'd never know the guy. Anyway, she played with her dad, Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker etc. I had a good keyboardist in that band, too - an Indian named Jarret Washington. The guy's about six foot three and he was weighing close to 400 pounds though I hear he's lost a lot of weight. He also played with Rocky and the Pirates, too. The singer's name was Pam Tillis - dynamite singer! Tim Timmermans was on drums, my brother (Mario) was on bass - he also plays with Rocky Sullivan - in fact we've done a lot of things together recently. He also represented the United States this year at the Tokyo Jazz Festival with Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, Brian Auger and Ronnie Montrose. My brother is about eleven inches taller than me (laughs) and he's a pretty astute musician. He's a real good bass player, one of the best around. Don't tell him I said that (laughs). My little sister can play circles around me and my brother and my mother can play circles round me, my brother and my sister...!!
The group with 'Bones', though, is a lot of fun. We just did one gig and that was just a kind of excuse to get out of the house. I'm supposed to start recording with those guys this month. As soon as the Dead get back we are supposed to go down to Front Street and the Dead will be engineering it.
The conversation was interrupted at this point by the arrival of someone who launched into a discourse with John about his recent activities in the field of trading dead animals. Suitably aghast expressions on the collective face of DARK STAR evoked confimation of the fact that John does indeed collect stuffed animals and, even more surprisingly, trades these trophies. As he proudly told us:
'I've got a pelican, I've got a moose head, a peacock and a wild boar's head - which is like an extinct animal.' (Hardly surprising, I suppose, if their heads are nailed up on walls all over the place!)
The rising tide of hilarity brought about by John's revelations was ably reinforced by Terry Dolan who asserted that, years ago, they met Andy Kirby and 'He was in a gorilla suit playing blues on the sidewalk in Fisherman's Wharf. John was immediately attracted to the gorilla suit; he has this affinity for stuffed animals and this one was stuffed with a human, so... you know...'
Well, make of that what you can, but there's one thing for sure - this band not only posseses talent aplenty in a musical sense but also have a finely-tuned and extremely refreshing sense of humor. The parting shot should, I feel, go to Terry Dolan who raced across the room in a last-ditch attempt to reach the tape recorder before we switched it off. With tongue firmly in cheek and a beaming smile he came up with:
'I really wanna stick up a liquor store but until I get enough nerve I'm gonna play rock and roll...'
I personally hope that he never finds the nerve because I believe that the day he stops playing rock and roll the world , and San Francisco in particular, will somehow seem a poorer place to be.
Cliff Ash, Dark Star Magazine
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