Unreleased late 1960s live and studio sessions by Geronimo Black, a Los Angeles band which featured members of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention (Jimmy Carl Black, Bunk Gardner, Ray Collins and Denny Walley) and main songwriter Andy Cahan, part of Dr John’s band at the time.
Recorded a few years before their self-titled debut from 1972, these tracks form a loose exercise in spontaneity and sheer art which has been lost in the mists of time until now.
These previously unreleased live and studio sessions are a loose exercise in spontaneity, and sheer art, which has been lost in the mists of time. We are talking about Geronimo Black, a truly underrated band which had existed long before its self-titled debut album released officially by UNI Records in February 1972. Composer, arranger, keyboard player and founding member Andy Cahan, who was also part of Dr John’s band at the time, takes up the story: “We were always rehearsing and I was writing songs every day. We had a lot of gigs around Los Angeles and definitely were a working band. It was very exciting to have a real band that sounded great!”
Despite the fact that nearly all his players were part of the busy schedule of the evolving Frank Zappa’s band Mothers Of Invention, Cahan attests that “it was a real band with every intention of getting a record deal. Of course, since Jimmy Carl Black, Ray Collins and Bunk Gardner were from Zappa’s original band, that was a big selling point to record companies”.
Talking about the songs on our release, which preceded the first official album, Andy mentions that The Beatles were his main influence. Also, he namechecks other luminaries such as The Zombies, Kinks, Loving Spoonful, Hendrix, Cream, Dave Clark Five and The Beau Brummels.
The live output found on this release is part of their non-stop gigging system. It’s worth pointing out that around that time, they were playing gigs with The Eagles, Delaney & Bonnie, The Byrds, Eric Burdon, Joe Cocker, Ike & Tina Turner, The Standells, Canned Heat, Southwind, Taj Mahal, Little Feat and many others. Some songs herein included were recorded in a prison. Andy has nice remembrances of it: “Crazy Horse opened the show. We were the headliner. We were a big hit! A fantastic show I will never forget!”
Even doing very well on their live adventures, in terms of breaking through in sales, Geronimo Black never had the same lucky destiny of many of their Californian contemporaries. Andy remembers the details of why it went wrong: “We got our record deal with Uni Records at Christmas time. It turned out to be a tax write off for the company. There was no tour support or record promotion. As a matter of fact, our management team made $50,000.00 on the record deal, and each member of the band made $1,200.00. Also, we were told to sign up with an administration company for our publishing that never did anything to sell the songs and owned them for seven years. Also, we signed with an accountant that billed us for thousands of dollars on basically no income! We were ripped off big time!”
It is hard to believe that such an enormous sound, rich and texturized in its many details, met such a bitter destiny. Back to the present, some highlights of our compilation include ‘Topanga Canyon People’ and ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’ (both live recordings showing their total intensity and stoned freak-out atmosphere, recalling Zappa’s sound, which obviously they were part of). ‘Let Us Live’ is a superb song, with a bluesy-pop-twisted Southern rock vibe. Andy wrote it “because of the war in Vietnam and the civil rights problems we had in the south”, and its message still resonates today. An alternate version of ‘Siesta’ is another key song, and in some ways resembles ‘Flute Thing’, a classic instrumental by The Blues Project.
Now it is time to enjoy these recordings because they “reveal the raw passion and excitement we had on stage”, as Andy concludes. “We would always pack the house every gig we played, and these recordings are proof!” Let Them Live in your heart! Includes CD with 4 bonus tracks.