Ward Kremer
Tundra Trax Studios & Reel Ting Records
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December, 2012
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8/30/2015 12:16:23 PM
Sometime after our reasonable success at maintaining regular employment between San Francisco and Sacramento, (steady gigs) we headed south to "The Land of Plastic and Smog" (description of LA by aforementioned go-go girls) in San Francisco.  My first impression of Hollywood was two-fold--look how small it is!  And secondly, the cars!   It was as if someone had posted a sign "Warning only flashy  colored, expensive T-birds, Vettes, Rocket 88's, Eldos', XKE's, rods, allowed beyond this point.  They must also be convertibles with top down"!  City ordinance! 

We were gigging in a club with a capacity of about 350, typical of 60's clubs with a dance floor about 15 x 30 feet in front of an "adequate" stage, big enough for a B3, Leslie, drum kit, about three guitar bass amps.  And--above and way too close a string of ten HOT incandescent spot lights.  Add a room full of smoke (cough) and you got it.  Ah the good ol' days!  So we set up, tune-up and play a few songs to get the feel of the room and about that time, the club owner comes up to the stage and says "Oh yeah, I didn't tell yz I booked Ike & Tina Turner along witchaz.  So--you'll share the stage wit-em.  OK?"  NOTE:  This was well before "Proud Mary" and their much deserved skyrocket to the big time fame.  But--we not only knew of them, we played several of their songs.  We had even recorded some of very similar songs that were minor hits in Europe, theirs "Poor Fool", ours "She's Mine".  Ironically She's Mine is in the record collectibles book!   We also did not know they had exactly one album out and had mostly worked the Chittlin Circuit. 

Not long after set-up/tune/play, these days known as sound check, this lanky black dude comes walkin' up to the stage, stands in front of my kit and says "Hey my drummer can't make it tonight, can you play for us"?  "Just fo tonight"!  I was even more dumbfounded.  We loved their music and knew it well.  I, of course, said "Yes, sure, I'd love to."  Lanky dude is of course, Ike Turner.  He says "Well you guys got time to listen to our S#%T".  We said "Sure, but we already know most of your songs".   Now comes BIG frown from Mr. Turner.  "Bull S#%T.  How the hell would you know our S#%T!?"  To wit me, my brother and the guitar player, all Jersey Boys, chant in unison "From NJR, Jaco's Rocket Ship Show--Here on the scene with the record machine, playin' ooh poop a doo an how do you do?"  I thought the man was gonna fall over backwards!  The next thing I see is the front door at the other end of the club open, silhouetting the FINEST pair of legs I've ever seen!  And an aura that would warm your soul...........Tina!  Ike turns around and says "Hey baby, you ain't gonna believe this, these boys know our S#%T!"  She just stares at us with a mild smile and looks over at six white boys with a rather subdued, hopefully positive, but deservedly questionable expression, Ike looks at us with a look that says "Well--y'all said you know our S#%T, play it"!   My brother smiles at me and says as quiet as possible "Treated me Right" (he wanted to make big surprise)!  Yours truly counts it off, 1, 2, 3, 4. Ba-da, ba-da, Boomp A Dadadada....You shoulda treated me right.  Dat da dat da da!  Horns a wailin'!  Ike and Tina about both fell over.  Tina stares at us with a look of wonder!   "How th????"  Ike says "These boys from Jersey, said they heard us on NJR.  Jaco must be playin' our S#%T!"  Tina says with her big brown beautiful eyes "What other ones do you know"?  We tell them that we have "one of your albums.  Ike and Tina Turner Live"!   They start laughin' loudly and say "We only got ONE album!" Meanwhile a bunch of really funky, cool lookin' Creole cats are filing in...the rest of their band.  Buncha horn players!  They'll need to set up on the dance floor in folding chairs.  So--the Turner orchestra does exactly that.  With Ike and Tina on the stage with us, the horns on the dance floor and we ROCK!  Wow!  What a joyful experience.  Everyone was ecstatic!  We'd never seen each other before, but we were really rippin'!   Anyone who wasn't playin' was dancin'!   Music truly is a universal language.  Of course, it helped that half our band and Ike and Tina, etc. all had gigged in and around Newark.  

Oh yeah!  I need to add I had "the near death flu", but was damned if I was gonna tell Ike Turner "Well, I'll try but I'm really not feelin' that good."  So!  I'd play our show, then lean back against the wall while the bands changed moanin' to my brother "Clay, get me another Southern Comfort"  This stuff was 100 proof in those days.  50% alcohol, 50% sugar!   You could light it with a match!  Rocket fuel!  Reminescing at a holiday family dinner my brother told me years later, "That he was really pissed 'cause I laid back during our shows so I could kick Ike's band in the ass!"  I had this 1948 WFL 22" kick drum with a calf skin rolled tympani head and a wooden ball beater on the pedal.  Motown rules!  My right ankle top was black and blue!  Not from the beater hittin' it, just from playin' 1/8 notes and dotted stuff for 5 1/2 hours straight!  I'd sleep most of the day just to stay alive and by the way, "Just fo tonight" turned into two weeks!   End of first night, both Ike and Tina said they were grateful and amazed and "hoped we'd take that the right way"!  Needless to say, we did!   I LOVED playin' with Ike and he seemed to feel the same way.  He'd turn around and look at me and aim his guitar at me and grin with a "funky frown" every now and then when we had the whole club airborne!  No matter how flu ridden I was, I had that little big man philosophy "Today is a good day to die"!  The gospel truth--I'd rather had fallen backwards off the drum stool than dragged in that band! 

Tina--Tina was the most electrifying performer I'd ever seen at that point!  She was absolutely mercurial.  She could go from the look of a poised African princess to the funkiest screamin', stompin' gospel singer you ever saw in a par-sec!  She never stopped movin' even when she was standin' still!  Both Ike and Tina and the whole band and our band were as one on that gig.  It's the reason all musicos and entertainers put up with the crap the public never sees/knows about show biz.  Bob Seger nailed it with his song "Turn the Page". 

Synergy!  The gift of the spirit of music is conveyed through the players to elevate an audience--make your brothers and your sisters move to the vibrations and forget their earthly problems for awhile.  True performers know this, that they are blessed with a higher vibration and able to receive it, communicate it with each other and transmute it to an audience.  A mere flesh and blood, three dimensional human could not accomplish this on their own!  There's no business like show business!

EPILOGUE:  At the aforementioned family dinner my brother reminded me of this whole scene and believe it or not I had forgotten about it!  How could I forget this amazing experience?!  I must have been using every brain cell I had just to keep on truckin'!   "NJR was slang for "the black station WNJR New Jersey Radio".  in Newark, New Jersey, where else!   They played a lot of Chitlin songs, "Trickle Trickle", "Ooh Poop A Doo", "Peanut Butter", "Young Blood", etc.  They also played a lot of R&B and jazz.  We first heard Ramsey Lewis there and hangin' with them in Chicago we told 'em "They're playin' your S#%T on NJR".....But that's another story!!!

6/21/2015 11:51:51 AM
I recently had the good fortune to do a Podcast with a very talented interviewer, Justin Flagel.  A fellow music historian who was most interested in pioneer rock n' roll.  We talked for hours!  This will the first of several podcasts.  We will keep you posted as to broadcast date and what stations it will air on!   This is rock n' roll history.  I feel honored to be a part of it and also privileged to share this wonderful experience with the next generation that I see all around me!  As Danny and the Juniors said "Rock n' roll is here to stay"!  This first podcast covers the crude recording techniques and experimenting in the late 50's through recording pop hits on the newly devised hi-tech 4-track  in New York City, major studios, early 60's.  
6/21/2015 11:38:55 AM
Sometime in the mid 60's, I found myself on the West Coast in a band named "The Band of Gold"!  We were an East coast group and as different from most West Coast bands as night and day.  Aside from the fledgling psychedelic acid band movement around San Francisco, most West Coast bands were "surfin' bands".  Typically three guitars and drums.  Their stage, outfitting was pretty much "Beach Boys" style-short sleeve shirts, white or khaki shirts or baggies.  Mostly short hair and looked like Beatles ready for the Marine Corp or guys just out of boot camp!  The East Coast agents took full advantage of this difference and exported East Coast "R&B" bands, such as ours with great success.  The difference of demographics between then and now would be hard to comprehend today.  We mostly looked like we came from another country-or perhaps another planet.  We all wore mohair or shark skin tailored suits, patent leather shoes or "Beatle boots" with coordinated shirts and neckties, razor cut doos, even suspenders!  I guess we looked more like the cast of Goodfellas than R&B musicians.  The look and the music made us very much in demand though.  A typical East Coast band had a B3 Hammond organ, guitar, bass and two or three horns-trumpet and sax.  Most bass and guitar players in these bands could play enough notes on the trumpet, 'bone to constitute a section on some numbers.   This with the B3 player kicking pedals for bass.  The MUSIC was a universal language and "soul music" was coming on strong all over the USA East and West.  So while the West Coast bands were emulating the Beach Boys, Dick Dale, Duane Eddy, we were doing stone R&B....James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Ray Charles, Ike & Tina, Righteous Bros.  This kind of music had caught on big time all across the USA, but there weren't many bands on the West Coast who were proficient at it yet, or equipped to play it.   One must remember that the demographics and media were much more colloquial.  They were nowhere near as universally homogenized as they are today.  So many sections of the country had their own preferences to popular music.  The South of course loved country, some Memphis blues.  The East and Midwest loved rock n' roll and rhythm and blues and the West Coast had its' own surfin' music.   But for some reason, the country grabbed onto the East Coast R&B, what seemed like overnight.   As a result, there were a few East Coast bands like ours touring up and down the West Coast.  We worked LA to Seattle and were never short of a good paying gig.   Typically 1.4-2 K--for a 5 or 6 piece band.  You could buy an Olds Cutlass convert for that at that time!  Our band consisted of my brother Clay who was an excellent front man, B3/guitar player and sax, trumpet, both Easterners who were able to play all the parts of the original records.  We were joined by myself and a guitar player who left an East Coast band in the Midwest to hook-up with the aforementioned.  He had just done a stint with Hollywood Argyles.  We actually added a West Coast guy who played excellent trumpet, ala Miles Davis style.  My brother had arranged a starter gig for us in San Francisco in North Beach, an area full of clubs.  We worked eight hours a night in this place.  Terribly long, but a good way to tighten up in a hurry.  I should add here that San Francisco was in the middle of its' much sensationalized topless craze.  There was even a topless shoeshine and get this, a gay bar had a topless topless!   Our club had an amateur topless contest.  The winner of which got to go Hollywood for a screen test.  The whole thing of course, was a hoax.  The club owner had some girls who were "plants" in the audience.  He and a few other club owners rotated the girls so the frequent customers wouldn't catch on!  The bit was announced as a screen test.  Do we have any volunteers?  Of course, the selected plants would raise their hands, be invited to the stage, get interviewed, where ya from, etc.  We had every conceivable type of female contestant, young college girls earning extra pay, waitress types, some typical in stature, some "extremely endowed".  I  remember a French woman who didn't speak a word of English and had the biggest jugs I've ever seen!  On the opposite end of the scale there was a very cute, "girl next door type" complete with ponytail, who was as flat chested as any ten year old boy.  She used to win all the time!  America's traditional support for the "underdog"?  So out they'd come, dancing in their slips and stockings and heels.  Slips?  Remember this is the 60's!  Amazingly many nonplant gals would get miffed at their male counterparts, dates and while the men were oggling the topless wonders on stage, they'd look around and find their date up there on stage with the rest of them.  This happened all the time.  There's no business like show business!  We, however, working the eight hours, pretty much nonstop were just plain burnt out.  I remember my guitar player buddy leanin' over and sayin' "Man I never thought a boob could look so uninviting!"  So that's how we got our start on the Coast!  Outside of the club I loved San Francisco.  The smell of the pine block brakes on the trollies, the distinct bell clang each trolly route told and my apartment, at the foot of Coit Tower overlooking the Bay, $175.00 a month!  As a point of interest in our section of North Beach, regular folks donned every day casual clothes, except for the newly emerging "hippie cult".  On the other hand, if you went downtown to Market Street, you'd see most all the women in suits, hats and gloves.  Also, you could just jump on a trolly and when turnaround time came, the passengers would jump off and help turn the trolly around.  I mention "hippies".  I'd seen plenty of "beatniks" in New York City in the Village, but this was really different.   One night the California guy in our band decided it was time.  He said "come with me" "I'll show you what's really going on here"!   He took me to a place where the smoke billowing out of the door would all but knock you down.  Inside packed like sardines were people with flowers around their heads, patterns in their clothes, the back of the stage had amoeba-like patterns, constantly changing.  MIster Hip--"Boy from New York City", was mesmerized.  I'd never seen anything like it!  The first band and first song I heard was Jefferson Airplane with Gracie Slick singin' "White Rabbit"!   Talk about timing!  I also saw Big Brother and Janis, The Grateful Dead, along with Albert Collins?, Zappa in an elevator on Market Street.  One of my immediate thought was "What the heck do they need us for"?  The adventure continues........next time "Accidentally Ike & Tina"!  
3/15/2015 12:48:18 PM
Hi Again folks, We had Mister Peabody set the wayback machine from the Summer of Love to the New Millennium!  Just posted are some new pics!  Notice how little we've aged!  LOL!
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