Let me introduce myself, I'm Rod Prince...co-founder of Bubble Puppy. As the eldest, this task falls to me: to tell our story in full. I'll tell it as it came down, only truth, with no holds barred.
The Puppy was: Rod Prince-Lead Guitar and Vocals
Roy Cox-Bass and Vocals
Todd Potter-Lead Guitar and Vocals
David " Fuzzy " Fore-Drummer-Vocals
Now, shall we begin.....
Late winter, 1966, just north of Corpus Christi, Texas. I'm in Mathis, Texas at my parents house, lately back from L.A. trying to sort out my life. Cox calls from San Antonio wanting to make another stab at musical greatness.
We first met when the Bad Seeds split, and Cox was playing keyboards under an assumed name. We made the 'New Seeds', with my former Seedmate,drummer Bobby Donaho, and Steve Lohse on bass. Good stuff, but not magical-we split, Roy went back to S.A. and I put my guitar down for eight months.
Now, here's Roy calling me to come to S.A., nothing solid, only in his head, right? Ah, fool that I am, off to friends couches for months. However Cox, even then, was obsessed with his vision of a top gun rock band. Soon he presents me to Clayton Pulley, basher deluxe from Austin, Texas. We start to make music and it's got that magical thing! (to view Clayton, imagine the singer from the "Union Gap" remade in a 6'3" muscle version with a heart to match- a dear friend). Now, Clayton knew this little Potter guy- gymnast, sax player and guitar study, who Clayton thought equal to the dual- lead guitar band I'd envisioned for years. We went to Austin, Todd and I sat down together for a pick- Bingo! We meshed instantly-one more magical player!
I make it sound all fun and good times-but not at all. Truth to tell, only the strength of Roy's purpose held me. Long I brooded in whatever secret place I could find. The music was all, the high points were few, and that didn't pay the bills.
Danny Segovia joined us then, golden voice and deadly sax player-the original Puppy was born.
Many months we rehearsed mornings and afternoons at the "Pusi Kat" club in San Antonio, recording some four or five songs during that time period. Those tapes were lost for many years, but I've been lucky enough to find them again, soon to be remastered by ActualArtists for your pleasure.
Finally a major break- the mission: opening act for the Who. This would be our first live performance.....what a beginning. The Who came to town a day or so before the show. We had acquired a manager by this time and he encouraged the band to come and enjoy our rehearsal venue (a godsend to a touring act ). So, we found ourselves making music with the late Keith Moon, John Entwhistle and Pete Townsend,..while Roger Daltry looked on.
The show was an amazing success-our true and future drummer, David Fore, had come up from C.C. to see the show, and "Fuzz" wouldn't shit me, 'eh…?
Then, as all bands do,...we began to grow. And, in so doing we began to change. Clayton was gone, replaced by Craig Root. Danny was gone, not replaceable...then Craig was gone and replaced by David Fore..finally becoming the true Puppy drummer.
This nexus occurred in the move to Austin, Texas in the summer of 1967. We had acquired some financial backing by this time and were able to rent a place to live and practice. The house is gone now, only empty fields- where so much of the Puppy was born and grew. We began our year long practice discipline of 10 hours a day, 7 days a week there. We were also given the Vulcan Gas Company as a rehearsal venue. We had started to open for established acts such as Shiva's Head Band, New Atlantis, the Conqueroo, and the Johnny Winter Band with Uncle John Turner and Tommy Shannon.
Soon, the hard discipline began to show in our performances. A fluke of fate brought us to Houston, and a recording contract with the "International Artists" record label. "Ah, they've made it" you say. Sheepshit! For ten months we literally lived on black eyed peas and music. I.A. had only advanced us enough money for rent. We slept on old cast iron beds from my Greatgrandfather's house; we ate black eyed peas canned in mason jars by my Greatgrandmother. We had nothing else-our entire world was our music. That song cycle: songtitles such as Beginning, Elizabeth, Hurry Sundown, I've got to Reach You" showed a certain hungry edge, don't you think?
Then, December '68...Hot Smoke was released. I.A., fat and dumb,...had a HIT on their hands. Consider the song scope- Hot Smoke was No. 1 across the globe for two months. This is no joke, I was there, I saw the numbers. Name a country, any country-No. 1, 8 weeks! Why not number one in America? True tales are best.
Now, consider I.A. Their only other chart maker was "You're Gonna Miss Me" by the 13th Floor Elevators. The only true music-industry person in the ranks was our beloved producer, Ray B. Rush. With the notable exception of Nobel Ginther, the entire organization was made up of no-talent lawyers, thugs, and the spawn of the shallow end of the gene pool…clueless all.
Comes a time…the band was in the studio rehearsing new tracks. Now, from that room, one can see who comes and goes, if the main door is open- it was. We see three persons-black on black, slick hair, the eyes of snakes. They pass the studio room, mount the stairs to the president's office. We consider, then play some more. Directly, back they come, grim as death, climb in their limo and burn away. Maybe ten minutes later, a very shaken pres., stumbles down stairs, croaks for water. Seems these three reptilians were the reps. for our "other government", and the pres. didn't want to pay their "mordido" for New York and Los Angeles air play. Remember, this was early 1969 and these things were very real. They let him live, but Hot Smoke was allowed no air play in New York or L.A. Hence, in the U.S.A., Hot Smoke only reached number 13 on the charts…shit, not too bad, without the two major U.S. markets. Stay with me, it only get's worse.
Once again, consider I.A., Of course, they have their own booking agency, management company, publishing company. When the moment came the throw the Puppy on the road, what do they do? No. 1 across the globe and they fly us into Chicago O'hare, room us at the Holiday Inn, and book a world-class act in every 200 seat bar within driving distance of the hotel. Todd had to collect the gate dollars; in truth he was our road manager as well as band mate, a very sad state for us. We hungered for the rest of the planet. The fans who had made us no. 1 for months should not have been denied just to feed the ego of the incompetents who refused to relinquish the career management of the Puppy. Black hatred.... and the start of our crash course in reality ( as it is, in the music biz).
We had never lost our commitment to our music, and having, at the least, another LP's worth of material already recorded at I. A., we began to focus more and more on our live performance skills. Now, a monster hit from a new band, by nature, throws the band into the opening- act role for any upper echelon, artistically comparable headliner. Now, you know we didn't blow the Who off of the stage, but that was long ago by this time. Into the fire we went, our long years of hard work enabled us. Against all odds, show after show, we, the opening act would command standing ovations and multiple encores, the things usually saved for the headliner.
It was much like pro sports-if we were all healthy and undamaged, the game went to us. But if our discipline, organization, or simple health faltered-the game shifted to the headliner's court. Acts of God? Well, maybe-I recall vividly our first six week venture to Chicago's O'hare Holiday Inn. My luck ran out. I had contracted some form of intestinal flu virus-couldn't even keep pepto bismol down. Oh, we did the shows, but I only remember flashes. Bob Seger's sound check at some high school gym, many shows in piecemeal. How can this fly? Rod is too sick to walk, much less be playing and singing. Eventual recovery, but only when we returned to Texas. Six weeks of delirium, but suddenly FatRodney wasn't fat. Cool, but costly. But, I wander- during these times the Beatles' Apple Records made an offer to lease the "Hot Smoke" single, through the efforts of Carl Becker, manager of the Bad Seeds. Still makes me wonder how a baggage tech. at the C.C. airport could have amassed such clout.........Of course you know the answer to their offer. Correct! I.A. won't release control, even to Apple. Poor fools, Poor US. The millions they could have made by simply recognizing that they had NO experience, much less ideas, of how to exploit a world wide number one hit maker.
It began to get rather ugly. Our producer Ray Rush, being who he was, took our side. Like magic Ray was gone replaced by Fred Carrol-WHO?? Now, you may have observed in my ramblings that Ray Rush was very much the fifth member. Awesome production skills, adept at pulling the true song from one's brain. The lost of Ray was the final blow-there was nothing left at I.A. musically, and the Puppy WAS music.
In the spring of 1970 we moved back to Austin. As I've said, our live performances had brought us to a comfortable level financially. We'd work two shows a week, give 'em a performance! 90 minute set, $2,500 per, good money back then. We had a cool home on Spicewood Springs, with waterfalls and serenity, hills to walk, new music to birth.
In desperation, I.A had agreed to let professionals handle our bookings- (year late, lifetime short ). And they worked their customary William Morris Agency magic. Point being, as Roy has said, " If you was anybody and came to play in Texas, you play'd with the Puppy"! Our idea of warming a crowd was to burn'em with our long perfected “Who's the Headliner Now?"show! Easy for us then..., we could be home that night. When I have the right audience, I never fail to let the Puppy send ANYBODY slinking to the dressing room in shame., heh. But, believe it. Our fans were and are the most loyal of all the music lovers of the late '60's and early '70's. God love 'em, they could be brutal at times. I truly didn't understand the depth of passion these folk felt toward the Puppy. We were their band, with our global Hot Smokin' Sassafras and our anti-record company attitude.
One sentence pertains- why go to California?
Why would we leave an established mid-west touring gig- large halls, steady bookings; good money situation? Several good reasons in truth.
1. The dreadful I.A. people and their demands-
2. The vain hope of legal assistance from the AFM in L.A.-
3. Steppenwolf's Nick St. Nicholas, who believed in us- completely
4. Last, and most relevant...we were still young and dumb- -
The first good reason-In the preceding months, we had returned to the I.A. studios, hoping to reclaim some part of our previous magic without Ray Rush. Our second single, "Thinking About Thinking "and " Days of our Time" were the last sessions with Ray for us. So, with grave apprehension, we began. In moments we realized how far we had come musically. That last session yielded "What Do You See", arguably the tastiest single of the lot.
However, the company had changed hands in the past year. Worse and worse. At least the previous president had seen his mistakes, and how to avoid them. The new guy was completely clueless-not even a lawyer? In short, "What Do You See" had no chance of success, with no one to promote the record. That was it for us. We never returned to I. A., and the fumble of "What Do You See' only made us more resolved to find someone else to record and manage the band.
The second good reason-As one might expect, our animosity and contempt for I.A., has begun to create a turmoil of legal maneuverings. We sued, they countered sued, we sued again, they countered sued again- a situation the former I.A. directors would have never allowed to grow. And it grew. And it grew ugly. Now, the California legal system is very different from Texas. Also, much more entertainment- industry friendly. Our hope was to secure some sort of legal support from the musician's union. Now, that's Local One- Hollywood, baby! Our brothers would find a way for us in the growing darkness.
The third good reason-Nick St. Nicholas, Steppenwolf's bass player. Now, the Wolf and the Puppy were both William Morris acts, and we'd shared many, many shows. And, as I've said,...if we were on, the show was ours. Nick saw this and asked us to spin the wheel of fate. Walk away from a comfortable, ever growing lifestyle as a two show a week live act. Move to L.A., and get the "major record label deal". The Wolf's label at the time was ABC-Dunhill, and Nick was more than confident of our quick signing. He was prepared to keep us alive for as long as it took. A true believer, that one. A very powerful enticement it was.
The fourth good reason-an explanation:
Consider if you will- we were at the peak of our prowess. The years of brutal rehearsals, and the live shows we'd performed every week had made us the deadliest of acts to follow. We played the East, the Mid-west, South.... what's L.A. but one more place yet to be enlightened by our fine tuned and brilliant act? Looking back, it seems strange, even still, that we'd forgotten, or didn't consider that little incident at the I.A. studio. The black suited reptilians, and the result of their visit. New York and L.A .-remember?
Ah, you see it now! I didn't until many years later, much too late to change the fate that awaited us in L.A.......... ((