In March of 1976 I moved back to my hometown after spending nine years exploring the wonderful world of radio broadcasting, the music business (such as it was in Arkansas in the 70's), and in general deciding what path to choose for my life. I got a little assistance from an incident in which I was accidentally shot by a security guard at a fraternity party in Tulsa, but that's another story. In any event, I decided to move back home, lick my wounds, and see if I could start my own recording studio business.
By fall of that same year I came to the realization that employment for a man with my particular experience would not be forthcoming any time soon, so I looked at alternative means of income. After placing some feelers out I got a call from a fellow by the name of Jimmy Torres, a TexMex club player who frequented the local bar scene. He was in need of a drummer and at that point in time I was eager to accept just about anything that came my way, so I accepted his invitation to meet and rehearse with his band. I was directed to a trailer park located about 20 miles away in Yellville. I showed up at the appointed time and place with my kit and was greeted at the door by a rather tall longhaired fellow, wearing no shirt and sporting a giant mouthful of spaghetti. Mumbling through the meatballs, I was invited in and sat at the couch while he finished his dinner. In the next ten minutes I learned that he was the bass player and the pleasant young lady serving his dinner was the keyboard player as well as his girlfriend. Thus was my first meeting with Tony Adams and Mary Dhein. Little did I realize then how monumental this meeting would be and how much it would affect my life for the next two years.
There was little room in the living/dining room of their trailer, so I only set up a basic kit with a single ride cymbal and placed the kit between a small bass amp and an electric piano. At the same time I got set up Jimmy walked in toting an ancient Fender amp and a guitar in a crumpled case. I don't even remember a PA or microphone. Jimmy ran us through about three songs. I remember one being "Proud Mary" and there were a couple of country standards. And that was it. Jimmy said I would do fine and unplugged his guitar. I thought to myself: "THIS is rehearsal ?". He said he had a Friday and Saturday gig for us that weekend at a club on the Missouri state line (at that time northern Arkansas counties were "dry").
I was feeling quite apprehensive as I arrived at JDs Supper Club that Friday evening. Tony and Mary were already set up and Jimmy walked in ten minutes before the start of the gig. He kicked it off with some non-descript song and the three of us just jumped in and followed him. This was to be the S.O.P. for the evening. Jimmy would start out a song strumming his guitar and we would jump in when we felt the beat. Sometimes he would turn around and call out a song title if we needed to all start it together. If I didn't know the title I'd just wait 4 bars until I recognized the song or found the beat and WHOOSH! - off we'd go. After the first set I settled in to the gig and started enjoying myself. The night passed fast.
The next evening I arrived much more relaxed because by now I knew these three had played a lot together and were used to the loose arrangements. They were all good players and instinctively fell into a pattern within the first eight bars of any song Jimmy threw out there. Soon, we were all wisecracking between songs and even laughing out loud as anyone failed to "follow the leader". It was like a game of "stump the player". The audience had a good time, the club owner was pleased, and we were all four that much richer in earnings as well as friendship. We played several more weekend gigs with The Jimmy Torres Band in August and September before things ground to a halt. I think Jimmy left town on one of his periodic treks across the country. This left the remaining three of us pondering our future. We really enjoyed playing together but had to find a replacement guitarist. At about that same time I was considering striking up a partnership in my recording studio idea with a friend by the name of Mark Cheney who also happened to be an excellent guitarist. We had one rehearsal with Mark and all decided we could make some money playing around the area so we renamed ourselves "Goldrush" and began to get bookings at private parties and a few club gigs in the area.
We needed a demo cassette so I set up my TEAC 3340 4-track and Model Two mixer in the basement of my mom's house (now the home of Cedar Crest Studio) and we recorded enough songs in a couple of days to edit together an impressive demo. And those sessions (along with Tony & Mary's encouragement) was enough to convince Mark to join up with me and start our recording business together.
The only building in Mountain Home that we could afford was a small green pillbox-looking building sitting out in the middle of a red clay field, just on the (then) outskirts of town. It was $50 a month, which was a lot to two guys with no steady jobs. Plus, we had to fix up the "studio" with NO budget. My half of the partnership consisted of my recording gear, mics and instruments. Mark talked his dad into allowing him to cash in a savings bond and he purchased the remainder of the gear we needed to call ourselves a recording studio. We had NO extra money left over to fix up the dump we had just forked over our first month's rent for.
With a little gig money from "Goldrush" we bought several 4x8' sheets of white Styrofoam. Mark measured and cut the foam while Tony and Mary volunteered to clean up the grounds, sweep out the bird's nest's and wash the walls. I busied myself with building a patch bay, microphone panel and installing and connecting the recording gear. In about two weeks we were up and working. It was as crude as it gets, but it got the job done.
Standing inside you felt like you were in the middle of a white bread box. The windows were very small and my mom had curtains made for them. The walls and ceiling were all white. The ceiling tiles were the best from what we could salvage and we replaced about ten that were completely ruined. The floor was the original carpet. We had cleaned it as much as we could. We were open for business. We didn't have to hurry as we eventually found out that no one was in a particular rush to come record. Luckily the band continued on and we all chipped in to meet the rent and electric bills over the next six months.
In those six months Goldrush recorded a lot. We got together on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and recorded cover tunes for our maturing demo tape. As I recall, at the time Tony and Mary were working on the assembly line at Baxter Healthcare (then called Travenol Industries) so we met after their shift and played in the studio until they had to drive back to Yellville. I know it was tough for them but we were all having so much fun playing together it seemed all worth it. Meanwhile, the band was getting more and more gigs locally and starting to book some out of town private parties. Also, we had a great demo tape and began to collaborate on writing some of our own material.
Within a year, about mid-1977, we had some very strong original material that we believed in and that I thought had a chance of getting the attention of a major record label. Tony and Mary had some retired friends who lived near them and followed the adventures of Goldrush. They heard some of our recordings and inquired if we might be looking for investors. Finally we had a meeting at the studio and discussed the band's goals. Since I was at that time doing a lot of writing on the guitar, many of our originals had two separate and distinctive guitar styles. I was worried that the band might not be able to reproduce our material live on stage and voiced my fears at that meeting. To our surprise and astonishment we learned our future benefactor had a son-in-law who lived in Minnesota and was looking for a way to relocate with their daughter to the Ozarks…. And he was a guitarist! Careful not to get too carried away with the moment - I wanted to know how good he was - I asked if he might have something we could listen to. A couple of days later we received a cassette tape with several songs he had played on. Our luck was holding out, as he was an accomplished player. I then talked with him on the phone and learned he also had a TEAC 4-track recorder. On a hunch I sent back a reel with stereo mixes on two of the tracks of some of our original material and asked him to dub some guitar on it. What he sent back in a week astonished me! His style was right in line with our musical direction. Not only that but it was a definite improvement on my own limited guitar skills. He had taken the time to not only learn my parts, but had improved on them! It was as if Providence had placed him right in our laps. A month later Rob Styer and his wife moved to Arkansas and Goldrush became a five-piece rock and roll band.
We spent two weeks recording that album and ran out of money in such a hurry that we had little time for mixing it. The studio took pity on us and gave us half a day to do reference mixes to take with us. I immediately began to send cassette tapes of those mixes to all the major record companies and many of the new independent labels that were just starting up in the late 70's. In the meantime, to keep our chops up, we continued to rehearse our newly recorded material. On a cold December day I was contacted by the manager of the Jimmy Castor Bunch in New York, who had received one of my cassettes and expressed a desire to sign us. He and an associate came to Mountain Home and attended a concert we put on ourselves just for the "audition". Our audience consisted of family and friends. I even arranged to have the concert videotaped to have something to send to other interested parties. Two hours before the concert we had no word of our special guests, who were to have flown to Springfield and then rented a car to drive the remaining 125 miles down to Mountain Home. An hour before the show and still no word. By fifteen minutes before show time I had become a nervous wreck. All our friends and families were patiently sitting out there - waiting for us to take the stage. The camera crew was standing around. The PA crew was ready. The band was pumped. No "guests". Should we start the gig without them? And why? THEY were the whole reason we had set all this up. What would be the point? We HAD to keep everyone waiting.
At thirty minutes PAST the starting time of the concert I was literally pulling my hair out - a sweating heap of nerves - ready for the funny farm. A few people started to get up and leave. I walked outside to get some air - hoping that perhaps someone would run me down in the street and end all this… and it almost happened! Right at that moment I heard the screech of tires and a sedan came around the corner of the town square and did a parallel park in about five seconds flat! Two guys in heavy pea jackets got out of the car, one sporting an arm in a cast and handing a joint to the other one with his free hand! Remember folks . . . this is downtown Mountain Home, Arkansas in the 70's. This HAD to be the Big Guys from New York City! We quickly ushered them in amongst our family and friends (after nervously asking them to finish their roach outside) and started the concert. Somehow I put it all behind me and we slammed out the album with due process. They seemed pleased with our performance and departed for New York the next morning. A month later I flew to New York to negotiate a contract for personal management but returned empty-handed. I was already feeling uneasy about these guys and after my trip up there I was convinced they were part of the organized crime scene in the music business. At the very least I knew I did not want them representing the band. They were also insisting on maintaining "creative control" which meant if we signed with them we'd have to do their bidding with our own original material. I came home and gave the bad news to the band and our investors.
To keep the band busy during those slack times and to keep them from getting depressed each time I received another rejection letter from a major label, I scouted for nearby concert promoters who could use a good opening act for their concerts. We even expanded the band format to include a second drummer. On several of our songs I played guitar, which meant for some tunes we had three guitar players and for other tunes we either had two drummers or a percussion player. We were a very strong act. Sometimes a bit too strong! We had an occasion in 1979 to open for John Mayall in Oklahoma. The first night, in OKC, we were so strong that Mayall had a hard time controlling the audience with his laid back blues music after we had them all worked up into a frenzy with our straight out rock and roll set. The next night when we opened for him at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa, Mayall had changed his set to start out with higher energy tunes. We also opened for The Guess Who in Ft. Smith at the Municipal Auditorium. We had more gear than the Guess Who, including a 40" and 30" gong behind our drum kits. Mark had a large Peavey stack while Rob preferred a small amp and miked it through the PA. Mary at that time had a Hammond and a Poly MOOG. Our drummers during those times were Dave Swegan and Mike Bauss.
In June of 1979, after over two years of waiting and frustrations, Goldrush imploded. I had received enough rejection slips by that time to wallpaper the studio, and it was clear that without proper personal management or representation by a music attorney located in a major center of music activity we would get no further than being merely a "regional act." It was a very undignified ending to one of the very best bands I have ever played in, as well as feeling like I had let down some of my best and closest friends. I know in my heart that - short of relocating in LA or NY - I could not have done any more to promote the band or get the attention of the music industry. I still believe that if we had been in the right place at the right time or had been "discovered" by the right person or agency, we would still be a major force in the rock music industry today. And as sad as this story ends, it is the rule rather than the exception describing so many other great bands who will have never had the chance to prove themselves and to bring new and viable music to the masses.
The songs which were to be included on that first album project are some of my best tunes. Each member of the band successfully placed their own personal musical signatures on every song. I feel these songs would still be timely today. So be watching and listening out there…. Goldrush may "live again!"
Clowning Around in The Studio - Take 2