Tag Archives: Woodstock Music and Art Fair

Drummer ND Smart

Drummer ND Smart

Norman D Smart, the peripatetic drummer from Dayton, Ohio was born on September 29, 1947.

He started along his musical path in the mid-1960s with a band called the Rich Kids who were later the Mark V.

He left them to join the Knights. The Knights became Thee Rubber Band.

Drummer ND Smart

The Remains

The Remains were four college students who had formed in Boston in 1964, achieved local success, re-located to New York, achieved further success as shown by an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and Hullabaloo.

That type of exposure led to an amazing opportunity. a request from Beatles management to be one of the opening groups on their 1966 American tour.

They readily accepted, but then drummer Chip Damiani, homesick for Boston, quit the band.

Drummer ND Smart

Serendipity 

ND Smart had left Ohio and moved to New York in 1966. There he  met Felix Pappalardi who had just heard that the Remains suddenly needed a drummer.

And so The Remains were back on tour with 17-year-old Smart as their drummer. They would open each concert, they serve as the backup band for Bobby Hebb and the Ronettes.

At one point, Smart lost his nerve before a flight out of Seattle for Los Angeles because the plane had experienced mechanical issues before take off. He and Ronettes singer Estelle Bennett and Rontettes manager Joey Delon took a commercial flight the next day in time to perform.

Here is an amateur live recording of the Ronettes from Maple Leaf Gardens on August 17, 1966. The Ronettes were Nedra Talley, Estelle Bennett, and Elaine Mayes. (Ronnie Bennett was absent for this 14-city tour.) Estelle on lead vocals on this song. Backed by The Remains (Barry Tashian on guitar, Vern Miller on bass guitar, Bill Briggs on keyboards, and N.D. Smart II on drums). Audience recording on a battery-operated, UHER 4000 REPORT-L reel-to-reel tape machine.

Despite the amazing exposure The Remains broke up later in 1966. Smart returned to Ohio for a bit and then left with old friend Jim Colegrove for Boston in early 1967.

Drummer ND Smart

Briefly Bo Grumpus

There they formed The Bait Shop and after a few months the band moved to New York. Again under aegis of Felix Pappalardi, the band now renamed Bo Grumpus began performing locally.

Drummer ND Smart

Kangaroo

Smart left Bo Grumpus and joined a Washington, DC band Kangaroo: Barbara Keith (vocals), Teddy Spelies (guitar, vocals), , John Hall (bass, keyboards, guitar, vocals), and Smart drums

At the same time he was also working with the group The Hello People. Here is a video of them performing “Anthem”, by Wrightson “Sonny” Tongue, on the “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour”. Aired February 23, 1969.

He then joined the band Mountain in 1969 and played on its first gigs including Woodstock before being replaced by Corky Laing in late 1969. He played with Mountain at Woodstock in August 1969. His drum break during his Woodstock performance of Long Red has been sampled many times by hip hop artists.

Drummer ND Smart

Felix Again

Drummer ND Smart

In early 1969, Smart did session work with Felix Pappalardi as drummer for Leslie West who was recording his first solo album. It would be called Mountain.  From that work, Smart briefly (of course) became part of West’s band who performed at Woodstock.

Drummer ND Smart

Great Speckled Bird

Drummer ND Smart
Great Speckled Bird, 1969
Left-Right: Amos Garrett, N.D. Smart, Ian Tyson, Sylvia Tyson, Buddy Cage, Ken Kalmusky

After Woodstock, Smart left Mountain to became a member of Ian and Sylvia’s country rock group Great Speckled Bird. Their first album was produced by Todd Rundgren. Smart would work with Rundgren throughout the 1970s.

Drummer ND Smart

Hungry Chuck

Amos Garrett, N.D. Smart, Jeff Gutcheon, Jim Colegrove, 1997

Smart,  friend Jim Colegrove and Jeff Gutcheon formed the group Hungry Chuck in 1971.  Amos Garrett was the guitarist. From the coolgroove siteIt was their intention to form a band that played an eclectic style of music blended from root forms of American Music: rhythm and blues, blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, folk, country and gospel. The LP, titled Hungry Chuck, was issued by Bearsville Records in 1972. The group recorded an as yet unissued LP for Bearsville that same year. After making those recordings the group went their separate ways.

 

Drummer ND Smart

More and More

Again from the coolgroove site:

N.D. returned to performing with The Hello People. In turn, they began performing with Todd Rundgren. N.D. made records with Todd, James Cotton, Bobby Charles, Jesse Winchester, The Woodstock Mountain Review and others during the 1970s. He became the drummer in Gram Parsons band, The Fallen Angels. He continued to perform with Todd Rundgren into the 1980s.

During the 1990s N.D. worked on new material with Jim Colegrove, Jeff Gutcheon and Amos Garrett on new Hungry Chuck tracks. Get The Deadly Ebola Virus here. These days N. D. still keeps up his music and performs from time-to-time with a trio.

Here is a link to his credits from All Music. The lead sentence to All Music’s biography sums it up:

N.D. Smart II is one of those names that keeps turning up, in album credits, the occasional songwriter’s line, or the lineups of lots of bands that attracted attention, especially in the 1960s

Drummer ND Smart
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Bassist Larry Graham

Bassist Larry Graham

Born ‎August 14, 1946

“I’m gonna add some bottom… so that the dancers just can’t hide!”

Screen grab of Graham from a 2012 concert, Bataclan, Paris

None of us had ever done anything even close to Woodstock. Then, all of a sudden, we had the attention of the world. If you were part of that, it just turned everything around.”

So said bassist Larry Graham in a 2014 interview with George Varga in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Beaumont, Texas

Larry Graham was born August 14, 1946 in Beaumont, Texas.  From an article in The Watchtower: I was born into a musical family…, my mother’s only son. She was a pianist with the church choir, and my father was a jazz guitarist. Soon afterward my family moved to Oakland, California, where I started tap dancing at the age of five. Two years later, I learned the piano under the guidance of my grandmother, who cared for me in those early years.

From the Varga interview:  “My biggest influence was actually my mother’s left hand. Because, before I went to bass, I was playing guitar. And when she would solo, I would play bass lines on my guitar. And when I would solo, she’d play bass lines on piano with her left hand. That’s the way she played anyway, before I started playing with her.  So when I started playing with her, I was influenced by her left-hand bass lines.”

Bassist Larry Graham

Sly

Bassist Larry Graham
Graham is in the back in yellow

His breakout success was with Sly and the Family Stone (1966 – 1972).

Albums with Sly and the Family Stone

  • 1967: A Whole New Thing
  • 1968: Dance to the Music
  • 1968: Life
  • 1969: Stand!
  • 1971: There’s a Riot Goin’ On
  • 1973: Fresh
Bassist Larry Graham

Bass Technique

From that same interview: “By slapping the strings and expertly plucking and popping them with his fingers, he transformed the electric bass, making it as prominent as a guitar and dramatically increasing its rhythmic intensity. By dong so, he laid the foundation for several subsequent generations of bassists, including everyone from Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten and San Diego’s Nathan East to Les Claypool of Primus, Level 42’s and Mr. Big’s Billy Sheehan.”

Bassist Larry Graham

Witness

In 1973, he met his future wife Tina. Tina’s mom was a Jehovah Witness and asked Tina to be present at her baptism in the Oakland Coliseum. Graham attended and says he’d never seen anything like the gathering before.

He and Tina began Bible study and visited various Jehovah Witness congregations while on tour. He and Tina were baptized at the district convention in Oakland in July 1975.

Graham would later introduce the religion to Prince. He became a Jehovah’s Witness later in life, and according to Graham, that helped shape Prince’s music as well as his lifestyle.

Graham said that Prince would knock on doors, talk with visitors at his studio-compound Paisley Park in suburban Minneapolis and even share his faith with small groups after a show,

“That brought him joy. That brought him real happiness,” Graham said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Graham Central Station

After Sly [from the QG Enterprise page]: [Graham]…went on to produce a Funk band called “Hot Chocolate”, which he eventually joined and renamed “Graham Central Station”. The original lineup included guitarist David “Dynamite” Vega, organist Robert “Butch” Sam, keyboardist Hershall “Happiness” Kennedy, vocalist/percussionist Patryce “Choc’let” Banks, and drummer Willie “Wild” Sparks. The group used the funk foundation that Graham had established with “Sly and the Family Stone” and sweetened it with various layers of soul, blues and other styles – a magical combination that scored the band a Grammy nomination in 1974 for Best New Artist. Graham Central Station released a string of seven albums throughout the 70’s. Their debut album, a self-titled effort released in 1974, proved highly successful, launching a minor pop hit with “Can You Handle It“. 

He reformed Graham Central Station in the early 1990s and performed with the band for several years. Graham and Graham Central Station performed internationally with a world tour in 2010 and the “Funk Around The World” international tour in 2011.

Graham Central Station albums

  • Graham Central Station (Warner Bros., 1974)
  • Release Yourself (Warner Bros., 1974)
  • Ain’t No ‘Bout-A-Doubt It (Warner Bros., 1975)
  • Mirror (Warner Bros., 1976)
  • Now Do U Wanta Dance (Warner Bros., 1977)
  • My Radio Sure Sounds Good to Me (Warner Bros., 1978)
  • Star Walk (Warner Bros., 1979)
  • Live in Japan (1992)
  • Live in London (1996)
  • Back by Popular Demand (1998)
  • The Best of Larry Graham and Graham Central Station, Vol. 1 (Warner Bros., 1996)
  • Raise Up (2012)
Bassist Larry Graham

Prince

In 1998, he recorded a solo album under the name Graham Central Station, GCS 2000. It was a collaboration between Larry Graham and Prince.

While Graham wrote all the songs, except one co-written by Prince, the album was co-arranged and co-produced by Prince, and most of the instruments and vocals were recorded by both Graham and Prince. Graham also played bass on tours with Prince from 1997 to 2000. He appeared in Prince’s 1998 VHS Beautiful Strange and 1999 DVD Rave Un2 the Year 2000.

When Prince died in 2016, Minnetonka, Minnesota’s Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall held a memorial service for him – “Brother Nelson” as his fellow congregants knew him – Sunday at the church where he worshiped.

At the service, Graham spoke about Prince and their shared faith. [RS article]

Bassist Larry Graham

Credits

All Music has a very long list of his credits. Among the names (in addition to Prince, Sly, and Graham Central are:  Betty Davis (the second ex-wife of jazz legend Miles Davis), George Tyson, the Oak Ridge Boys. Aretha Franklin, Stanley Clarke, George Benson, Stanley Jordan, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Mahalia Jackson, Frankie Lanine, Eddie Murphy, Santana, Chaka Khan, Luther Allison, Government Mule, Billy Preston, Shania Twain,  Kanye West, as well as many many others.

Bassist Larry Graham

Solo

Graham recorded five solo albums and had several solo hits on the R&B charts. His biggest hit was “One in a Million You”, a crossover hit, which reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1980.

Solo albums [all Warner Bros. releases]

  • 1980: One in a Million You
  • 1981: Just Be My Lady
  • 1982: Sooner or Later
  • 1983: Victory
  • 1985: Fired Up
Bassist Larry Graham

Hall of Fame

A 1993 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee as a member of Sly & The Family Stone

Bassist Larry Graham

Check out this live concert. Amazing energy!

Bassist Larry Graham
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Grease Bassist Alan Spenner

Grease Bassist Alan Spenner

May 7, 1948 –  August 11, 1991
Grease Bassist Alan Spenner
From Spenner’s Facebook tribute page https://www.facebook.com/Alan-Spenner-Tribute-Page-187632051408132/photos/?ref=page_internal&path=%2FAlan-Spenner-Tribute-Page-187632051408132%2Fphotos%2F
Grease Bassist Alan Spenner

Guitar Gift

Bruce Eders AllMusic.com biography of Alan Spenner begins this way: Alan Spenner was a bassist whose career across a 25-year period put him in the center of some of the most popular and critically acclaimed music acts and recordings to come out of England. 

Like many musicians whether having a very famous moment or period or not, Alan Spenner played with a lot of people, but first he had to be born.

That was done in Dalston in East London.  His dad gave a guitar to him to keep him out of trouble. Later Alan decided to play bass.

Grease Bassist Alan Spenner

Wynder K Frog

His first love was blues and his first main band was Wynder K Frog, a blues-jazz band that included future Grease drummer Bruce Rowland. The band released two albums before splitting up in 1969.

Grease Bassist Alan Spenner

Grease Band > Spooky Tooth

Grease Bassist Alan Spenner
Alan Spenner at Woodstock

His second band was the Grease Band. Chris Stainton had been the band’s bassist, but he switched to keyboard. They became Joe Cocker’s backup.

Joe Cocker and the Grease Band did not last long (personal and management issues). Alan and Grease guitarist Henry McCullough joined Spooky Tooth. The band released the Last Puff album while he was with them, but the Grease Band reformed (minus Cocker) and he left Spooky Tooth.

Grease Bassist Alan Spenner

Jesus Christ Superstar

The Grease Band’s first job was to be the main band for the studio recording of Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s and Tim Rice‘s Jesus Christ Superstar.

Despite the fame of other contemporary bassists such as John Entwistle, Jack Bruce, and Paul McCartney, Spenner was well respected and his performance on “What’s the Buzz”  inspired many young bassist.

Besides Cocker, Spenner played with many other well-known known rock musicians:  Alvin LeePaul Kossoff of FreeDonovan, and Ted Nugent.  Sometimes he was with other Grease members, other times not.

Grease Bassist Alan Spenner

Kokomo

While still doing such session work,  Spenner formed Kokomo, in 1975. Dave Thompson writes: Following in the footsteps of Gonzalez and the Average White Band, but frequently out-performing either of those acts, Kokomo has been described as the most authentic, and certainly the most traditional, funk band Britain produced during the 1970s. Whereas other acts of their ilk seemed more concerned with echoing the precision and musicianship of the best American performers, Kokomo were more concerned with the actual feel of the music, a distinction which was not lost on either critics or audiences.

Grease Bassist Alan Spenner

Even more

While still with Kokomo, Spenner continue to play with other musicians and bands such as Brian Ferry, Steve Winwood, Whitesnake, Fairport Convention, and Roxy Music.

He played on all the following Roxy Music albums:  Manifesto (1979), Flesh + Blood (1980),  Avalon, (1982),  The High Road (1983), and Heart Still Beating (1990).

When Roxy Music was inducted into the Rock and roll Hall of Fame in  2019, Bryan Ferry included Alan in his thanks.

Unfortunately, Alan had died of an heart attack in 1991 at the age of 43.  A 1993 Chicago Tribune article quoted Ferry, “He lived very hard, Alan, and he had problem asthma. He played right from the heart.”

According to the peoplepill siteSpenner typically played Fender Precision, Fender Precision Fretless and Wal electric basses through an Ampeg amplification system. His Wal bass was a 78 JG Series that, coupled with his playing style, provided a signature sound heard on many Roxy Music songs, such as “Same Old Scene” and “Avalon”.

Grease Bassist Alan Spenner
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