I read the letter you sent Gary
and appreciate the thoughts and comments on the music. Gary and I both
had asked Ed to refer any questions to us that we should be answering
ourselves. Iím especially eager for this because no one has ever written
to me personally for answers, facts, speculations, rationalizations, excuses,
sob-stories, rumors or outright lies on any damned thing Ė ever. Not that
Iíll add much except some memories that are as hazy as the rest of us
have, but most of the information about the monks seems to be originating
in Nevada and, hell, weíre scattered all over the continent. I used to
live in Texas and that had us pretty much covering the country except
for California and New York and none of us are that crazy. I did live
in Queens for a short while and San Francisco a few years but now Iím
in Minnesota which makes Minnesota sort of monk heavy. Still, I donít
get mail. Iím getting a little pouty about the whole thing, being the
primal, jungle-beat, raw, thumping drummer that I am, so Iím going to
take the list of questions you sent Gary, consider them as being addressed
to me and respond to each one with an answer, comment, fact, speculation,
rationalization, excuse, sob-story (already covered), rumor, and/or outright
lie. Itís how I get through life. I left out ranting and raving but thatís
hard to do in a letter if you donít have a lot of red and purple magic
markers. So . . .
What kind of guitar did you play?
Curiously enough, I started out with Gretsch which I believe Gary also
started with. In my case, the amplifiers (8 altogether) I used were made
by Slingerland and were different sizes of their classic thin, circular
design. Later on, since Gretsch couldnít stand up to the type of music
we were playing, I switched to ASBA, a French manufacturer who, oddly
enough, were famous in France for their fine line of drums, though I havenít
heard of them since. ASBA made a very good product.
Did you like the fuzz box?
Iíve always liked a good fuzzy box.
Do you have any of that equipment and do you still play?
No, and occasionally.
What lead guitar players were a big influence on you?
I started to listen to music seriously when I was around eleven or twelve
years old Ė that makes it about 1952. The very first major influence was
Gene Krupa, who, you might or might not know, was also a passable drummer.
Later on I pad a lot of attention to Cozy Cole, Louis Belson, Sonny Paine
(who was with Count Basie), and much later on, Ginger Baker and Charlie
Watts. Again, all these guitarists were, strangely enough, also drummers.
Eerie, isnít it?
How did GIís react to you and were you ever threatened by them?
The only incident I can recall happened in a club in Frankfurt when a
GI came back to our dressing room and carried on about the line about
Vietnam in Monk Time. He was very drunk and confused, though, and I canít
hold that against him since thatís pretty much how I got through the Army.
All in all, the GIís were mostly friendly and supportive.
Were there any live acts that influenced you?
When I was in high school, say 1957, I saw Fats Domino and his band at
a rock & roll show in Fort Worth. They impressed me, as did Bo Diddley
and later on, a few Dixieland and blues bands in Mississippi. As far as
the Tielman Brothers in Germany, they were technically excellent musicians
but were about as interesting to listen to as an elevator in a government
building. Muzak City. Most of the English bands touring Germany at that
time were very good. I heard some very good German bands (the German Bonds
come to mind), but on the whole they werenít as energetic and original
as the English bands.
Who drove and where did you sleep?
We took turns driving mostly. There were times when one or two of us had
a car we drove (in Larryís case it was a Harley Sportster). We usually
slept in hotels or rooms above the club we were playing then, after a
few days, maybe a warm, cozy bedroom if we were lucky. During the last
year, when we were on the road a lot, sleep was a wherever and whenever
affair. On one occasion, Dave mastered the art of driving and sleeping
at the same time. Very handy when youíre on the road.
Were drugs easy to get?
Very easy. I could buy speed legally at a drugstore or from the old lady
attendant in the club menís room. Along with alcohol, speed was my drug
of choice. I did try pot and hash a time or two but wasnít too thrilled.
Speed gave me the extra energy but I doubt it did a hell of a lot creatively
for the music. I never considered hard stuff.
Who came up with the monk image and why didnít you have a proper monk
tonsure on the back of the head?
The original concept was from our managers. We all had a hand in developing
and refining it. As for the tonsure, that came about, as I recall, when
we all went to a barber shop in Frankfurt to get our hair cut short. The
bald spot was a spur-of-the-moment thing. We told the barber we wanted
to look like monks and thatís where he put it.
Did you like Germany and itís people?
Germany is a beautiful country. Lots of forests and mountains. The German
food was very good, especially the bread, cheese and beer. The people
are a bit more complicated to describe. I met, and became friends with,
some very exceptional people (I married one). Collectively, the could
be like a herd of sheep or, in some instances, like a herd of very belligerent
and aggressive sheep, which is one of the reasons Mr. Hitler had such
a good time there. There is a saying there about not being "in ordenung"
or not in order. This roughly translates as, "Thatís not the way things
are done" or "Thatís not the proper way to behave." As the Monks, our
image literally shouted, "Fuck that!" which I suppose is one of the reasons
people either loved us or hated us. No middle ground, no compromises.
Politics I didnít identify a lot of what I thought as politics,
though I suppose it was. In the Army my politics were what the Army said
they were. After we started playing I read a lot. Things like Ayn Randís
"Atlas Shrugged" and Robert Rourkís "Uhuru" and ĎSomething of Value."
Even Vonnegutís "Cats Cradle." The main feelings I had about Vietnam at
the time were that it was a war, which was bad, and that I wasnít there,
which was good. I had a general gut feeling that things werenít quite
right. Like the words from For What Itís Worth, "Thereís something happening
here Ė what is ainít exactly clear." Even if things werenít exactly clear,
you had to say something.
On Rock & Roll Most rock musicians cite Southern blues as
the foundation itís all built on and thatís true. But it seems to me there
was an intermediate stage between down-home Mississippi blues and the
late Ď50s rock Ďní roll era. When I was 13 or 14 years old, say 1953,
I used to listen to a black (or Negro as it was called back then) radio
station in Fort Worth with the call letters KWBC. I suppose I was the
only white teenager in my town, Weatherford, who listened to it (or admitted
listening to it). Those were the pre-Elvis days of Patti Page, the Ames
Brothers and Perry Como sweetness and innocence that all white stations
were broadcasting. This was in the pre-tape, AM only days when all the
sublte nuances and fidelity of todayís radio station broadcasts were unknown.
The music I heard on WKBC didnít need nuances and faithful fidelity. The
music came directly from 45 rpm records with all the scratches and sometimes
skips, and it was better, rawer and more exciting music than I had even
heard before. It was during this time, as I think back upon things, that
I received my foundation. I heard a very early Ray Charles playing boogie
piano on "Mess Around," the Drifters when they were billed as Clyde McPhatter
and the Drifters, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, the Robins, who evolved
into the Coasters, Rusty Bryantís big band, Jimmy Reed, Little Walter,
Sonny Boy Williamson, the Premiers, Joe Furman, Ruth Brown, Etta James
and my favorite group, the Midnighters. The music was raw and hard, driving.
It was music about people, black, white, yellow, whatever, and you could
to it (unless you were head cheerleader or president of the senior class).
A lot of my rhythmic influence came from the vocal do-wop riffs the singing
groupd did behind the lead. Some of it sounded like some of the African
music I had heard in movies like "Trader Horn," or early Tarzan movies.
I wish I could find a source for late 40s and early 50s rhythm and blues.
It was also called "race music" by whites naturally. The name you put
on it doesnít matter. It was good. It was hot. It was rhythm and blues.
I appreciate the opportunity to ramble on but I think Iíll cut it here
with a statement that sort of sums up my feelings about the monks experience
from 1966 until now. Itís about fucking time.
copyrighted by the Monks