Because there´s a new City Trash, I was looking at the old ones, because here the summer has started, although now it´s suddenly raining, because they are coming to town, well my town at least and because in this landlocked region called Drenthe there is no good group combining surf, hotrod and garagepunk. So here´s an interview done with The Untamed Youth after their great show in Valencia in 2009 for the City Trash #34 (And don´t forget the latest one, #36, with interviews with The Make-Outs, the Junohoos, Mickey, The Vicious Teens and many more)
An interview with Steve "Sammy" Rager from the Untamed Youth!!
(published in CT#34)
After 12 years we Europeans got finally another stab at experiencing the beer blast dance frenzy that is THE UNTAMED YOUTH. Without a doubt the highlight of last years concerts was their performance at the Funtastic Dracula Festival in Valencia Spain. Releasing a lot of albums and singles in the late 80s up to the late 90´s this is THE ultimate garagepunk, surf and hotrod group.
Thanks to modern days communication methods City Trash got in contact with Steve “Sammy” Rager, the organplayer for the Untamed Youth, and got to ask him some questions. By Gerben K.
# After several years of not playing together how did you end up playing at the Funtastic Dracula Carnival in Valencia?
The band gets the occasional offer but it's obviously rare when a show can be successfully put together. Deke has contacts in Europe from going over there pretty regularly with the Ecco-Fonics. I'm guessing that's how the offer to play Funtastic came about. Deke had been on tour in Europe and had played at the Freakland Festival, which is also in Spain. Through the years he has kept in touch with some of the same people who helped put together our European tour in 1996. When he got back home he emailed the offer to play at Funtastic to Mace and myself.
# How was meeting each other again? How long had it been since you got together and had seen one and other?
It's not like the three of us don't ever see each other. Deke's parents live here in Columbia, MO so I usually see him when he either plays a show here or comes to visit his parents for the occasional holiday or family birthday. Mace lives here in Columbia so I see him once in awhile. Occasionally we'll go see a local band together or go out for a drink. And don't forget, unless you don't know, Deke and Mace are step-brothers, so that gives them more reason to see each other when Deke comes to town. I think the last time I had seen Deke was when he played the Roots'n'Blues'n'BBQ festival here in town in Sept. '07. I think the last time time the three of us had hung out was around Christmas of '06. We met at a local bar and watched a local band consisting of a few friends of ours called the Bait Shop Boys. Other times when Deke has come to town but wasn't playing a show, the three of us would get together at my place and watch whatever cool rock videos I'd collected of late.
We just got together right before the holidays. Deke and Mace came over to my place. There was a lot of asking each other what happened to various people and bands from our past. Deke seems to know what everyone is doing. He asked us about mutual friends that still live in Columbia. Stuff like that.
Mace brought over his new upright bass. He had a few questions he knew Deke would know the answer to. Deke grabbed one of my acoustic guitars and they played a song or two together. Can't recall what though. For a few minutes it was just like the old days when the two of them would play together in front of Glen's Cafe in downtown Columbia.
Deke also strummed a few tunes while we were chatting. He always liked to make fun of my obsession with the Rolling Stones. He started picking "As Tears Go By" and shouted to me, "Take it, Mick!" Pretty funny. He's also great at ad-libbing, shall we say, off-color lyrics, to familiar songs. This time it was to "Claudette," the old Roy Orbison and Everly Brothers classic. I'll leave that to your imagination!
We looked at a few minutes of the Stooges reunion video. VH-1 had some show about metal bands that we looked at for a bit. We talked about potential senarios under which the Youth would play in 2009. But mainly, we tell stories and make fun of each other!
# No I didn´t know Mace and Deke were step-brothers. When you do get together, it´s just for a couple of beers, not playing some songs together?
It's kind of difficult to play without a drummer! Mace and I did sit in with Deke and Chris a couple of times when the Ecco-Fonics were in town. We'd do a handful of Youth songs at the end of Deke's set. But we haven't done that for a few years. We did that a couple of times leading up to our big Las Vegas Rockaround appearance in Sept. 2003. I think the last time was early 2004.
# For me the concert was great, terrific, words fail to give a good description, but I enjoyed it a lot. How was the concert for you?
Funtastic was a blast! Getting back onstage with Deke, Mace and Chris is basically an indescribable experience! There's a definite chemistry at work when the four of us are onstage together. It had been 5 years since we played the Las Vegas Rockaround!
We basically decided via email what songs we would play and then practiced them on our own. I would play along to the cds, just to get my timing back on track. To keep from getting burned out, I'd go back to stuff I originally learned the organ to, such as Question Mark, Animals, Lyres, Pebbles and other garage compilations, etc. Then we had one rehearsal in Valencia and a soundcheck. And except for a couple of minor rough spots, it was amazing! I can't wait to play again! I just hope there isn't another long delay before it happens! I think all of us had a blast and definitely want to play again in the near future! We'll just have to see what kind of buzz came from the Funtastic show and see if we get any good offers.
# Yeah! Let´s hope it´s not another 12 years before you get back to Europe.
I don't think it will be that long! I can't give anything away at this time, and I don't want to jinx anything, but we have been entertaining a few offers already! The band really enjoyed playing together again so I if the time and offer is right, we'll play again.
# What do you remember of the tour in ´96? Where did you play, any places particular you enjoyed?
We played 14 shows in seven countries in two 1/2 weeks. We covered a lot of ground! I'll attach a copy of the itinerary for you! We headlined all but one of the shows, if I remember correctly. There were a lot of great shows and audiences. There was one show in Spain, I think it was in San Sebastian at Komplot, where we must have signed things for a good half hour after the show was over! It wasn't that big of a crowd, but they were really into the band!
At Vera in Groningen, Holland, the crowd was nuts for us! It was pretty overwhelming! I almost passed out after that show from a combination of it being hot onstage and from the energy of the audience! They wouldn't let us quit playing!
The show at El Sol in Madrid was another great one! Our biggest known to exist fan recently said that show was a "life-changing experience", musically speaking, that is. That's pretty flattering! It was an amazing show! An amateur video tape exists supposedly, but no one has been sucessful at convincing the camera operater to cough it up! If anyone reading this has the tape or knows who has it, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through our MySpace site: www.myspace.com/untamedyouth
A funny, but genius thing happened on the flight home from London to Chicago. A few minutes after taking our seats, Deke comes back to where Mace and I were sitting and said, "Ray Davies is sitting in First Class!" Mace and I immediately shot out of our seats. I grabbed my memo book and a pen and headed to the front of the plane. There sitting by himself, or at least sitting next to no one in particular, was indeed Ray Davies! I built up the courage to ask him for an autograph. He was about to begin the latest leg of his "20th Century Man" solo tour. So I took the chance to tell him I was aware of his tour but hadn't been able to see it yet. He asked Mace and myself what we were doing overseas. We told him our band had just finished a tour of Europe. He asked what band we were in and one of told him Untamed Youth. He said, "Oh, cool band!" Hard to say if he really knew who we were. Neither of us had any Youth cds at the time or I'm sure we would have given him one. When we landed at O'Hare airport, there was Ray and his guitar player hanging out in baggage claim, minding their own business. I didn't see anyone staring at him either. I remember wondering, how can anyone not know who this guy is?
# After the Vera show I bought the Untamed Whirl #6 which pretty much stated the Untamed Youth already had stopped, making the 1996 European tour also sort of a reunion tour. It had been some time a full length had appeared, so do you remember how this tour finally happened?
The band did it's first "reunion" show in Columbia in late April of 1995. That came about because Deke had been asked by Dave Crider of Estrus to get the band back together for the Garage Shock festival in May. Crider was releasing the "Live In Las Vegas" cd and wanted the Youth to reunite to promote the cd. Promoters for the Missouri Derby and Springfest heard about the Youth playing at Garage Shock and approached us to play in Columbia.
At Garage Shock, like most of the big festivals, various promoters attend to check out bands and such. That's how we met Cecilia Meneau from France (of the No Talents). At the time she was booking bands. She contacted Deke after the Garage Shock festival and that's how the European Tour came about in spring of '96.
# The tour seemed to have made a lot of impact, because after that the Untamed Youth were back releasing in the next 3 years, 2 LPs (Planet Mace & Youth Runs Wild both on Norton) and some 45s. How did that work, because you and Mace were living in Columbia, MO and Deke living in California, I don´t know where Joel was living at the time.
Considering how things have been the past ten years, it's hard to believe we got active again! But yeah, we did a lot of recording and played quite a few shows between '96-'98. Joel was living in Tacoma, WA. Basically, once we decided to record, Deke would send cassettes of his new songs and the covers he wanted to do. Mace would write a couple of songs also. Mace, Joel and I would learn the songs Deke had sent as best we could. Back in those days, pre-email, Deke would send me faxes at work. Sometimes the faxes would even be chords to one of the new songs!
# How did you record the songs and how did you arrange the shows?
Deke would usually set up a show or two in the Los Angeles area, or even in Vegas, to help pay for our flight tickets. We knocked out Planet Mace in two, all-day sessions. We did the same for Youth Runs Wild! except Deke spent a few days on his own overdubbing vocals, instruments, guest vocals, etc.
When we got to the studio our primary goal was to get all the basic tracks down live, meaning guitar, drums and at least bass. I overdubbed quite a few of my organ parts, especially if I had a solo. Deke would lay down a "scratch" vocal as a guide to play along to. It would take most of the first day just to get good takes for the basic tracks. Talk about pressure! Sure we had a decent idea of how the songs went from the work tapes Deke had sent us, but playing them yourself is nothing like getting the timing down with a band! It was really high stress!
# On the Youth Runs Wild! Record there´s a song called Dance Sammy Dance. What´s the story behind this, whose idea was this, not yours I think?
The band had been playing Floyd Dakil Combo's "Dance Franny Dance" since the early '90s, when I wasn't in the band. I think we continued to occasionally play it around the times the reunions were going on. We were in the van driving to a show at the LaFayette Ballroom in Bloomington, IL in 1997. Deke was driving and I was riding shotgun. He just starts singing "Dance Franny Dance" but begins ad-libbing new lyrics, magically turning it into "Dance Sammy Dance". That's how it happened! And starting that night, and ever since, that song has been in the set list! And of course, the catch was, I had to perform this nutty dance during the guitar solo! By now, everyone knows about it and screams for it. So it's become as much a part of our set as the beer tricks!
# Any chance you now will start recording again some songs?
That's something that hasn't even been discussed. It takes a lot of advance planning. Most record labels expect a band to tour if they put up the money for the recording sessions and then release a cd. I don't know if any label would want to spend the money on a band that basically can't do any extensive touring. I'll bring that up though when Mace, Deke and I get together here in a few weeks. You aren't the first to ask that question, by the way.
# By the way was it your first time in Europe, or had you been here before?
The tour of '96 was my first time to Europe. When it was all over, I honestly didn't know if I'd ever get back there. In some ways I'd love to return and just do the tourist thing, but to hit all those towns we played would be very costly and time consuming. We only had 3 days off during that tour so we didn't get to see much. We had a day off in London, Paris and one other. But on those rare days off you really need to get some rest, so we didn't do all that much tourist stuff. I'd love to go back to London and see all the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, etc. related sites. Stuff like the Marquee Club and 100 Club, Apple Records offices, Konk Studios, Abbey Road Studios, things like that. I'd love to see all the Beatles sites in Liverpool also. But if I could, I'd love to go back to all of the places and towns we played just to see them again! I wish I had taken pictures of the outside of all of the clubs we played.
# Is there a big difference between a European audience and an American audience?
Yes! Well, it depends on where you are playing. The European audiences tend to be way less inhibited! In certain parts of the States, audiences seem to think it's uncool or something, to go nuts! There's always exceptions, of course, New York audiences were always very enthusiastic. But the best, loudest audiences in the states, are always at the festivals. I was blown away by the response at Garage Shock '95 in Bellingham, WA, for instance. And the Las Vegas Grind in '99 was great, as well! But yeah, the audiences in Europe are great! The shows I have the most vivid memory of from '96 were at Vera, in Groningen, Holland, and El Sol in Madrid, Spain. The audience in Koln, Germany at The Underground were quite enthusiastic also!
# You said that before the Funtastic the last time you played together was in 2003 in Las Vegas. What happened after that with Untamed Youth? Did you play in other bands since 2003 back home in MO?
We had played a warm-up show for the Rockaround at the Blue Note, here in Columbia. After the Rockaround we only played one more time before Funtastic. Mace and I joined Deke and Chris at Mojo's here in town, for a few Youth songs at the end of an Ecco-Fonics show. That was in Feb. 2004.
Mace and I don't play in local bands for various reasons. The main reason is inability to find musicians that are into the same stuff that we are. But even if we could find other like-minded musicians, they won't compare with Deke so it would always be inferior to Untamed Youth. I think if we ever do play in a local band again, it would be a quiet kind of outfit. Maybe a band with no drummer. I could play acoustic guitar. Mace has an upright bass. But finding the right musicians is very difficult. And somebody has to be the leader with the vision. And somebody would have to be able to sing lead, and that's not Mace or myself! That's for sure!
# Well Mace ain´t no Deke, but he sure can sing tunes like `The Crusher´ and `They can´t call it beer´.
Yeah! Mace does a great job with those songs and "Mailbox Jamboree", etc. But you wouldn't expect him to be a lead vocalist in a band. He's great at shouting though!
# Yes, I just saw the Untamed Youth DVD´s and on there he´s doing some fine shouting on the Mace Theme Song: Mace King of Men. Why didn´t that appear on any of the records?
I have no idea! I can't recall why we only played it once either! But I thought it was funny enough to include as a bonus track on the "Show-A-Rama" dvds. Glad we had just happened to record that show!
# Deke is the leader with vision? How is working with him?
Easy for me, for the most part, since I don't demand the spotlight and lots of organ solos. I try to let Deke and Mace be the center of attention. They started the band, wrote and sing the songs, so they deserve the most recognition.
# He is a fulltime musician right?
Yes, Deke plays music for a living. But he also writes a column for Guitar Player magazine and has written liner notes for various box sets and compilation cds. He also has his own record label. So he keeps very busy.
# Are there bands around at the moment that you like?
You know, I try to listen to new bands and I occasionally check out new bands that come thru town, but I can't think of any that really stand out. Most of the indie rock bands are disappointing. A couple of years ago I went to Chicago to the Pitchfork Festival and none of those bands did anything for me. But I spend a bit of time listening to the XMU channel on Sirius-XM satellite radio. I try to keep somewhat up to date with new music, but usually end up tuning to Little Steven's Underground Garage.
# What kind of music are you listening to at home?
Since the Sirius and XM merger just took place a few weeks back, I have been listening to satellite radio the most, both at home and in my car. I check out Bob Dylan's "Theme Time Radio Hour" and Tom Petty's "Buried Treasure". But like I said, I spend the most time listening to Little Steven's Underground Garage.
I'm actually starting to spin a bit of vinyl of late. I got this new pre-amp and subwoofer that really improved the sound of my vinyl records. The other day I listened to the first Bangles album, "All Over the Place". I'd forgotten just how good that record is! I also recently dug out the Swingin' Neckbreakers first album and some Rhino Christmas compilations.
I watch a lot of music video stuff. I've been trading and collecting for years and years. Yesterday I was watching "All Dolled Up", the documentary on the New York Dolls. Some of the live footage in that is pretty amazing! Seeing a young, fresh-faced Johnny Thunders rocking out is definitely cool! What a shame though, what happened to that guy. I also just watched "New York Doll", the documentary on Arthur "Killer" Kane, the Dolls' bass player that hit rock bottom and became a mormon. It's great that he lived long enough to play in the Dolls reunion, his dream, but so sad that he died 22 days after that show.
# What kind of music video stuff are you collecting?
I primarily look for live performances, TV appearances and promotional films, usually stuff that has never come out commercially.
# What´s the most cherished possession?
Hard to say. Most of what I used to think was ultra rare has shown up on YouTube. I couldn't really say what my most cherished possession is. I'd have to spend a long time going thru my list to come up with something.
# How did you actually get in contact with this kind of music?
Probably from getting into the Lyres. I liked the surf stuff, too, but would mainly get into that after joining the Youth. But I can safetly say, seeing the Lyres at Trito's Uptown in Champaign, IL in 1985 was a life-changing experience. I wasn't even playing keyboards at the time. A few weeks after that show, word got to me that a VOX Jaguar organ signed by Jeff "Monoman" Conolly was for sale, there in Champaign. I had to have it! Once the organ was in my possession, I frantically started learning not only Lyres songs, but also stuff on the "Pebbles" compilations and other organ based bands like Question Mark and Paul Revere & the Raiders. I had taken piano lessons as a kid but gave it up. I then played saxophone in the grade school band for a while. But I really wanted to play like Mark Lindsay from Paul Revere and the Raiders, but those kind of lessons didn't seem to be available. For a very short time I took up drums, but they cost too much for a complete set and took too long to set up! So I quit that! Then I finally took up the guitar. I had avoided guitar for a long time, even though that's what I really wanted to play. But my older brother was already playing guitar and I just couldn't play the same instrument that he was playing. That is, until I couldn't stand it anymore! But after seeing the Lyres, I just fell in love with that '60s organ sound!
# You joined the Untamed Youth in ´88. They had already released the album Some kinda fun. How did you meet Mace and Deke and get to be part of the Untamed Youth? What where you doing at that time (study, work)?
I first came to Columbia to meet and jam with Deke, Mace and Clarke in Oct. 1988. The band had recorded "Some Kinda Fun" in June with Chris Fletcher on organ, but it didn't come out until January 1989. I was working a 4 day work week at a TV station in Peoria, IL. Once the the band asked me to join, which was right away, I started driving to Columbia on my 3 day weekends.
At the time, I could hardly even play! But they were pretty desperate to keep the band going. I was at least the third organ player they'd had in two years. Doug Walker was the organ player when the band formed in the fall of 1986.
How I came to meet the Youth is sort of a long story. One of my friends in Peoria knew Deke from having met at record shows. When Deke told him he was looking for an organ player for the Youth, this friend told Deke about me, but basically told him there was NO WAY I'd quit my television job and move to Missouri!
This friend of mine in Peoria had co-written a feature in KICKS magazine with me, so I had a Billy Miller/Miriam Linna connection already. In the summer of 1988, I went to New York City with another Peoria friend and stayed with Billy and Miriam. At some point Billy asked me if I knew Deke or had heard of the Untamed Youth. He laid out their predicament, first album coming out soon but with no one currently playing organ. He suggested I write to Deke and see if maybe we could play together sometime. So I did. But this letter was rather innocently suggesting I drive to Columbia some weekend and play with them.
I got a letter back from Deke rather quickly asking me to join the band! It's funny now, but he had never heard me play a note! And like I said, at the time, I could hardly play! He sends me a tape of the "Some Kinda Fun" album and a few other things to learn. I took a few organ lessons first, so I could actually sort of play that lead in "Some Kinda Fun", among other parts. In mid-October I made my first trip to Columbia.
The first practice was great! Deke, Mace and Clarke all wanted me to join. I continued to drive back and forth on weekends from Peoria to Columbia until the spring of 1989. But before I would commit to moving to Columbia I had to be sure I could handle the touring grind. In Feb. of '89 we set out on a short tour of the east coast that included playing at Billy and Miriam's wedding reception in Brooklyn.
The other shows on that first tour included stops we would return to numerous times in the next two years: the Funhouse in Bethlehem, PA, the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, NJ, Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ and The Rat in Boston, MA, legendary home of the Remains, DMZ and the Lyres.
Shortly after surviving that first tour, I put in my two weeks notice at my television job, said goodbye to Peoria and moved to Columbia, MO. It was mid-April 1989.
# How long was the drive actually from Peoria to Columbia?
It's about 5 hours. I still go back there a few times a year to see family and old friends.
# What article for Kicks did you co-write?
I co-wrote a feature on the Rockin' R's with a friend of mine. They were a 50's rockabilly band, from Peoria specializing in cool instrumentals. Their main hits were "The Beat" and "Crazy Baby" and at one point performed on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand".
# Are you like Deke also a big record collector?
I'd say so, yes. When I first discovered some of the bands written about in KICKS and bands the Lyres and Cramps covered, I was seeking out stuff all the time! Deke's collection focuses way more on obscure 7" singles than mine does. All these guys who have lots of rare 7" singles like Deke, Jeff Conolly, Billy Miller, Todd Abramson, Tim Warren, have a unique talent and eye for weird, off-beat stuff. I've never had that ability, patience or nose to sniff that stuff out. My collection focuses more on compilation albums, box sets, lots of LPs and cds.
# The Untamed Youth can write a good song, but I always wondered where some of the covers came from like for instance The Apparitions `She´s so satisfying´, Debbie Lori Kaye´s `Iron cross´and The Motions `Land beyond the moon´. Who picks the songs?
The Springfield Missouri band, The Royal Nonesuch, had been playing "She's So Satisfying" before the Youth did, or possibly around the same time. I think Deke got it from the Apparitions original version. Deke always picked the songs. Everything was his vision, from the covers we played to the clothes we wore to the gimmicks we staged at our local shows. But Billy Miller guided Deke towards surf, hot rod, instrumentals and frat rock so that we wouldn't just be another garage band playing "Pebbles" covers.
# Are there particular songs you love playing with the Untamed Youth?
I like all of them really, especially the ones we've sort of settled on since the Las Vegas Grind show in '99.
# Any songs you might want to add to the set list?
I'm hoping we rotate a few in the next time we play. It's just finding the time to rehearse songs we haven't played in awhile. I'd maybe add "Land Beyond the Moon," "Alright", "Sea and Shore". Maybe bring back "What'll Ya Have" or "They Can't Call It Beer." I always liked playing "Mailbox Jamboree" also. I always liked "Two Wheel Show Stopper," but we've never played that live. "I'm More Punk Than You!" is a good rocker. "Supercharged Steamroller" is a fun one, if only Deke could remember the talking bit in the middle!
# Do you know how Untamed Youth ended up releasing the debut on Norton?
Deke had become friends with Billy Miller at some point. I think he sent Miller some tapes of the Youth. I believe Billy, Miriam and Todd Abramson came thru Columbia and watched the Youth practice, or something like that. Billy booked a small tour of the east coast, liked what he saw and heard, and signed them for 3 albums. He also advised Deke on what direction the band should go in. He suggested they combine surf, hot rod instrumentals and frat tunes with the garage stuff the band was playing at the time.
# You played on the More Gone Gassers and Sophisticated International Playboys albums on Norton. The story is that lawsuits were threatened because of the sleeve of the last record. I always thought this was kind of a joke or is it true?
Even though some of what you read in the Untamed Whirls is a bit exaggerated to get the most laughs, the story about the threatened lawsuit is true! In fact, the letter from Rev. Billy Graham's lawyers threatening to sue Norton Records was printed in Untamed Whirl #6! Deke has the original album of the Singing Palermo's that we swiped the artwork from for our Sophisticated International Playboys cover proudly on display in his living room. The album was immediately taken off the market and hasn't been sold anywhere since. Billy Miller joked in the liner notes for "Untamed Melodies" that it was withdrawn after selling 36 copies. Now that, I believe, is a joke. It was probably more like 50 copies! Ha!
# By the way what can you tell me about the Sophisticated International Playboys Club? Does it still exist? Did a lot of people join?
Deke originally started it. Members got all of the "Untamed Whirl" fan magazines, an 8x10 signed glossy photo, a 7" single, a membership card and a t-shirt. None of us has any of the kits left so it's safe to say the club doesn't exist anymore. The last time Deke checked the Norton website, they still had a couple of the fan club kits, so you may wanna check there. Deke joked, or maybe he was serious, that the club has something like 34 members. Ha!
# Did you play a lot of shows with the Untamed Youth between ´88-´90?
Let me refer to a few notes here. At last count, around 90. Which isn't all that many really. But you have to keep in mind, the kind of music we played, surf/hot rod/instrumental/garage/frat, wasn't all that hip in those days. It wasn't exactly easy to get gigs. Deke booked most of the midwest shows. Billy Miller (Norton Records) and Todd Abramson (Telstar Records and booking agent for Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ) booked most of the east coast shows. I think Deke booked most of the west coast shows also.
My first ever onstage appearance with the Youth was at a little place in Fulton, MO called Mike and Laura's on Nov. 11, 1988. Deke, Mace and Clarke were actually booked as Deke Rivers and the Lucky Strikes that night. That was their side rockabilly band. I joined them for a set of Youth stuff at some point in the evening. We basically paid our rent with money we earned playing shows. We all lived together in the same house. Yikes! Don't ask for stories about living with Deke, Mace and Clarke! I wouldn't know where to begin!
And speaking of side bands, Deke, Mace and I started a cool "oldies" band with Joel Trueblood while Clarke was still in the Youth. We called the band, The Marksmen. We tried to keep the band as secret as possible so our Columbia fans would never see us play! We were kind of embarrassed that we had to stoop to this level just to pay the rent! Of course, we'd tell our absolute best friends so they could come out. But we'd never play any of the same clubs where the Youth would play. We had a booking agent who'd get us gigs primarily out of town. It was fun. We only played really cool songs. We'd get requests for the usual redneck anthems like "Old Time Rock'n'Roll" and just say, "Sorry. We don't know that one!" Ha! We'd do songs by Paul Revere & the Raiders, Monkees, Dave Clark 5, Flamin' Groovies, a few Stones, Kinks and Beatles, Elvis, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis, Beach Boys, Question Mark, a few surf instrumentals. Stuff like that. Don't ask me for any audio or video tapes! As far as I know, none exist!
# You know I have to ask, give us at least one typical story bout the going-on´s in the Untamed Youth Mansion?
For the most part it's best to leave this to the readers' imagination. I'll just say those days were the equivalent to the dormitory life I never had in college! Sometimes as many as 5 or 6 people living in a house that would comfortably hold 2! We even set up a bedroom in the cold, unfinished basement for a friend.
When I moved in, my bedroom was basically what should have been the dining room. All of my records, video tapes and stereo equipment had to go into Mace's room. He had by far the biggest room of any of us! The front room was divided into two rooms by a piece of plywood. We basically made a two bedroom house into a 5 bedroom house, counting the one in the basement. My parents could not believe I subjected myself to such a low-brow existence!
We lived on 69 cent frozen pizzas! There was a huge Youth fan working at the local Little Ceasar's who used to give us free pizza whenever he was working. We called it "Rock Star Pizza". That part of it was pretty genius!
I'd say the most memorable day had to be when the Cramps and the Flat Duo Jets came over to the Youth house. We had played with them the night before at the Blue Note. Talk about a great show! Lux even video taped our show from the side of the stage with his then new video camera. That's another tape I've never seen, though I thought at the time that I was going to trade Lux for a copy. I remember we had to lobby rather hard to get on that bill! It's rare that the Cramps allow a third band on one of their bills. Needless to say, we were really excited when word got back that the Cramps were allowing us to play with them. We had heard they were fans of ours, probably from Dave Stuckey, who was friends with them.
This was April of 1990. It was Lux, Ivy, Nick Knox and Candy Del Mar. "Stay Sick" was their album at the time. All four Cramps came over to our place! Deke showed them his "Hideous Vomit Creatures from Planet X-9" film and they seemed to enjoy it. I remember giving Candy an Untamed Youth t-shirt. She actually remembered me from when we originally met at a Youth show at the Gaslight in Los Angeles the year before! I have to admit I was impressed!
I also recall watching their soundcheck with Youth friend, Rabid Rick Carter, and then going to a nearby store called the Nostalgia Shop with the band. I later got all four of them to sign a copy of the gig flyer. It was a pretty cool moment in Youth history.
# Any great stories you remember from being on the road?
I think the best road stories are documented in Untamed Whirl #6 and at our official website, www.juvalamu.com/youth The best one was probably when our '68 Oldsmobile Hearse broke down smack dab in the middle of a very bad part of Newark, New Jersey. I'll never forget! It was June 13, 1990. There was a show that night at the Funhouse in Bethlehem, PA. A member of the opening band, the Creatures, drove all the way to Jersey to take us to the show. But obviously, somebody had to stay with the Hearse. So guess what instrument was voted least important that night? You guessed it, keyboard!
I was pretty much petrified! I closed the curtains of our broken down touring vehicle, hoping no one would dare mess with a Hearse! I took a knockout pill and eventually passed out holding a tire iron (or so legend has it) across my chest! Luckily, the next people I saw were Deke and a friend at about 4 o'clock the next morning.
I'd say another major hi-light for me in particular was playing the Double Door in Chicago on the opening night of our tour with Southern Culture on the Skids in May '98. The previous September. the Rolling Stones played a secret show on that very stage! To this day, especially after playing there and seeing a video of the Stones' show, I still can't figure out how they squeezed 13 musicians onto that tiny stage! It wasn't exactly a spacious stage for just the 4 members of the Youth!
# What were the highlights during that period? On the DVD´s you can see TV-show performances.
We did two shows of "It's Happening" .The "It's Happening" shows were both taped the same day in a studio in Carlsbad, CA. Ron Silva was our drummer for the west coast shows at that time, so he's in both programs. We were interviewed by the hosts, Domenic Priorie and Audrey Moorehead and played about 4 songs per show. We had to change the words of "Pabst Blue Ribbon" to "Yee Haw"! That was weird! Since Pabst is a brand of beer, we couldn't use that title.
The set built for the "It's Happening" show was these huge longboards with nothing holding them up! When we launched into "I'm Going Away" the longboards started collapsing like dominos onto our equipment! I had to jump out of the way to keep one of them from landing on me! That clip aired on "Entertainment Tonight" the next year in a segment about weird things that happen on cable access TV shows! That turned out to be our biggest exposure! Before that it had to be when NBC TV aired a bit of "Santa's Gonna Shut 'Em Down" during the credits of the holiday airing of "Friday Night Videos." That was pretty cool!
Art Fein had a cable access show called "Little Art's Texas Barbeque". He recorded our show at the Anti-Club in Hollywood. He split that show into two broadcasts and added some interviews. One show also included a couple of other bands on the bill. Ron Silva was our drummer for that taping also.
# With what bands did you share the stage?
There's been quite a few cool bands that we've played with thru the years. We played with Screamin' Jay Hawkins in both Columbia and in St. Louis. Same goes for Cordell Jackson, both in Columbia and St. Louis. We played a few shows out west with the Mummies and Phantom Surfers. Before I was in the band, they opened for the Lyres here in Columbia, in Hoboken, NJ and in Boston, MA. We did a two week tour with Southern Culture on the Skids. We played with Ben Vaughn, Young Fresh Fellows, Swingin' Neckbreakers, A-Bones, the Gories. Who could forget the time we opened for the Flat Duo Jets and the Cramps here in Columbia? Then we played a Dictators reunion show in NY with 3/4 of the Smithereens, calling themselves Green Thoughts. We also opened for Link Wray at First Avenue during the tour with Southern Culture on the Skids. During the encore Deke and Rick Miller joined Link onstage. Deke played bass while Link and Rick traded licks! It's was a pretty cool moment, for sure! I took pictures from the side of the stage. A couple of them turned out really well! We also played with Alex Chilton at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ. He even joined in during our soundcheck for "Monkey See, Monkey Do". He played sort of an incoherent guitar solo, if I recall correctly!
# And what is this story about playing at a bowling party from Phil Spector?
We didn't play at the bowling party, but initially thought we were going to. Art Fein was a friend of ours and big buds with Phil Spector. In fact, Art was in charge of the invitations for these legendary bowling parties that Spector would occasionally throw. It was at the Montrose bowling alley in California. A cast of thousands was there: Syd Griffin, Dave Alvin, James Intveld, Dave Stuckey, Ron Silva, Domenic Priorie. I wrote in the notes I took that I played pinball with Dave Alvin! I honestly don't recall that, but it must have happened!
Everything was free, the bowling, cheeseburgers, onion rings, booze. I thought Spector wasn't going to show up. But he finally did, and with his gun-carrying bodyguards! He just hung out in a booth with a long-haired hippie in a Los Angeles Lakers jersey. Legend has it the guy was the former lead singer of Vanilla Fudge!
When we were getting ready to leave Deke summoned the courage to approach Phil and get his autograph. Once Deke did it, I had to! I approached him with some sort of half page flyer with the name of the bowling alley on it and had him sign the blank back side. In the notes I took for that amazing moment, I quote Phil as saying to me, "Why do people ask for these things?" As if he isn't/wasn't a big deal. This was Sunday night, Sept. 10, 1989.
# In ´91 Deke and Mace move to California, taking the Untamed Youth there. Why didn´t you join them?
Deke and Mace knew the band was never going to make it being based out of Columbia, MO. Deke was making some contacts in California to form a rockabilly/hillbilly band with Dave Stuckey, later to become the Dave and Deke Combo. Deke got Dave Stuckey to agree to play drums in the Youth as part of the bargain. Mace and Deke were going to CA whether I went or not. It wasn't really a group decision.
I tried to make a few contacts in California, trying to score a job in television like I had in Peoria. Nothing was materializing. I wasn't going to move to California without a regular job and just play in the Youth. It cost too much to live out there on what the band would make. I was working full-time in Columbia and decided to stay. I honestly didn't think a surf band was going to become rock stars no matter where it was based from. On November 3, 1990 at the High Pointe in St. Louis, I played what I thought at the time would be my last ever show with the Youth.
Deke and Mace loaded up their van and headed to sunny California the first week of 1991. I stayed behind living in the old Youth house for another 7 years or so. It was definitely a joyous, but very strange moment, when the band reunited for the first time in April '95, returning to the very same rehearsal space in the basement of the old Youth house. That house just went up for sale, by the way! I thought about buying it at one time, but the place needed too much work. I ended up buying a house across the street from it! This way, I can always keep my eye on it! Ah, the memories!
# What did you actually think when the movie Pulp Fiction appeared in´94 and all of a sudden there was a lot more interest in surf? Must have come as a surprise.
Indeed! After all these years of being looked upon as uncool or just not hip, all of a sudden it was cool to play surf music. I'm pretty sure that's part of the reason Dave Crider decided to release "Live in Las Vegas" and wanted the band to play at Garage Shock '95. But when we played in Columbia at Springfest, there still wasn't a big crowd while we were playing. But the place filled up when it was time for Coolio to play!
# Haha I guess in the end not much changed. Any final comments, any advise for the kids out there that might want to start a garage hotrod surf band?
I'd say go for it! However, I'd advise any band interested in playing similar music to the Youth to proceed only if they are doing it for fun. If they have an interest in really becoming a star, like a real rock star, forget it. But I will say, the Youth have been able to see and do a lot of things that most bands can only dream of. For that, we are quite fortunate and very lucky. Every now and then, like when playing a big festival, or being able to say we played at places like CBGB and The Rat, to name but two, and in some of the worlds coolest cities, like London, Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam, Vancouver, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas, etc., it feels pretty good!
Thanks Steve for filling us in on everything about the Untamed Youth!