Three Dog Night -
You headed west after this?
Yeah, I headed west in 1980; spent about six months with my own original material band there, and then I got a call from Jack White, who was a longtime friend, (and) was drumming with this Australian singer and soap-opera actor. He said, "Why don't you come on down and audition for this guy?" I said, "Naaaahhh, I'm in my own band. These guys are pretty good. We're writing our own material and I'm kinda liking where it's going." Jack said, "Well, just come on down and jam with me." Well, the one thing I've always done is jam and hang out with other musicians ... So I went, and I was playing with these guys - Jack, and this bass player named Richard Grossman - and this soap-opera guy, and it went really well.
Then what happened?
So, I go back to my room I'd rented in a friend's house, and I get this phone call, and it's this guy, and he's inviting me to join his band. I'm thinking, "Well, I still don't know, but I'll come down and play some more," because it was fun. And so I hung up the phone, and (my friend's wife) was a huge soap-opera buff. She said, "Who was that?" And I said, "Ah, it was this guy - I guess he's on some soap opera - and he's asked me to come and play in his band. He's on General Hospital. She said, "THAT was DR. NOAH DRAKE? And I thought she was gonna faint, right there. I went, "Hmmmm ... I guess I'd better check this guy out (laughs)." So, Jack talked me into it. So, I wound up playing with Rick Springfield.
Well, you know he had a hit long before that, with "Speak To The Sky."
Yeah, he had a hit sometime in the 70s ...
Well, '72 was when he had "Speak To The Sky."
Oh, it was! He had a much earlier record, I knew that. And he had come to California and he'd gotten himself a manager, and he'd written a whole batch of new songs, and there was a great deal of interest in him from RCA, who had signed him and recorded these tunes. And, two of those tunes were "Jessie's Girl" and "I've Done Everything For You."
And that's what busted everything open.
Yeah, that busted everything wide open. Next thing I knew, I was playing dates in front of screaming women, all over the country. Actually, I went on some promotion dates with him, 'cause his manager said he needed someone to go with him, so I went. One of these dates was in Chicago, and one was in Detroit. So, I go with him and made these public appearances, and just hangin' out, and we went to this one - I think it was a mall outside of Chicago - and there was a huge throng of girls. Huge.
And Rick's up there, and he's waving, and he's answering questions and he's signing autographs and stuff, and I'm watching these people move closer and closer to the stage. And then they began weaving, from the left to the right, like a field of wheat, and (laughs) when I saw that, I pulled this (RCA rep) aside and said, "Hey, Bob, I think this is gonna bust loose, any second now." And, we grabbed Rick, and started running, basically, for our lives (laughs). I don't know why I was running, but you know ... (laughs)
Well, you didn't want to get trampled by this stampede of budding estrogen or whatever.
In fact, after one show ... (laughs) Jack White and I, it was pretty funny. We were running out from the building ... to our bus, and all these girls at the end of the show, had come around to the side of the building, figuring this was the spot where he's gonna go. And we weren't smart enough to make "fast exits" in the early days, as this song ("Jessie's Girl") was vaulting up the charts. After a while we learned to do, "Thank you; good night," and run right out of the building. But, to begin with, it was get your clothes, dry off with a towel, and all this stuff, and wander out. Well, this was one of those.
We get outside, and all these girls are waiting for Rick, and they're just screaming. And so, Jack White, the drummer, and I, and actually Rich Grossman - who you may know, who played bass for Three Dog Night for quite some time ...
Yes; we've met. Nice guy.
So, we're running, and as we're running, girls are running past us. So, I look at Jack, and Jack looks at me, and we just started laughing. "What are we running for (laughs)?" It was just one of those ... the look on his face was priceless. As they're dashing madly past us, oblivious, grabbing at Rick's scarf around his neck and nearly choking him to death. But, that was a fun time; I enjoyed that.
You could do what you wanted, right? Those girls weren't paying attention to you.
Onstage, they were. But, still, it was Rick, all the way. But, there were some, because you were in his proximity, you know, you were in the spotlight, so to speak. Some of Rick's "magic dust" might rub off on you or they could use you to get to Rick, you know. So, there was some of that, but not much.
And, I think he was actually a much better musician than he ever got credit for.
Yes, he is. And he's especially a better songwriter than he's gotten credit for. But, he is a decent player; a very decent player. And, he was a good guy, too.
How long did you stay with Rick?
Maybe a little over a year.
And, after that?
I cut an album with Tim Bogert, from Vanilla Fudge. I think that thing was called Slow Dancing In The Back Seat. Or that was one of the tunes on it, for sure. That was like an "all-star" album. That was Timmy and I, and Tim brought in Eddie Van Halen to do a solo on one cut, and (Carmine Appice) played on one cut. Mark Stein and I and Timmy sang the backgrounds on three or four of these tunes, Brian Auger played a bit. A lot of good people on that one. So, I did that, and then I got a call from Rich Grossman, who, it turns out, was now in Three Dog Night.
He had joined the 'Dogs by then.
Right. I was back here in Detroit, visiting a girlfriend, and Rich calls and says, "They need a guitar player, part time, you don't even have to audition. Come on out, let's go." So, I came back out to California, which is where I was living at the time, went to a rehearsal hall, and started playing with Three Dog Night.
So, Michael was the original teacher ...
And I still have a tape, of Michael Allsup, showing me exactly how to play this material. And I keep threatening to put it on the internet (laughter). 'Cause he's now closely guarding how he does this (laughs). I've grown to really love that guy.
So, you won't blackmail him.
So, I'm still having some fun with this tape I still have. But I haven't released it. Someday, maybe, if he ticks me off, I'll let it go to the highest bidder.
So did you play it exactly the way he showed you?
I played it exactly the way he showed me, for quite a while, and then took it from there and stretched it a bit. Except for the solos; I did my own thing with those.
But eventually, Michael had to drop out, and you became the full time guy.
Yes. Actually, when he was able to come back onboard full time, then I was done for awhile. Then, there was a changeover in players ... And they were out, beginning a tour, and Chuck (Negron) went down. So, basically, they were out there, Chuck became ill, they were stuck, they had a whole new band, and Cory thought of calling me. So, they called me, and I came out, at least temporarily, to replace an ailing Chuck Negron, and stayed on for three years, singing the third part and playing lead guitar. I left to go work with Tiffany.
The teenaged mall rat.
That's right (laughs).
She had a band?
Yes. A rather good one, actually.
So, then you got called back.
Yeah. It's an amazing thing (laughs). So, I got a call again, so I guess it was mid-'95, I think.
What did they say this time; "Oh, by the way, can you play bass?"
That came a couple of weeks into it.
Had you played bass before?
No. I had never played bass before. I wrote songs, played guitar, and played keyboards enough to write songs on. But I would not call myself a keyboard player.
This sounds like the Noel Redding situation (NOTE: Redding, a guitarist, was handed a bass to work in the Jimi Hendrix Experience -- T.W.).
Pretty much. Noel Redding; Ron Wood. Ron Wood was an excellent bass player with the Jeff Beck Group, when he was really a guitar player all along.
Well, (Paul) McCartney had been a guitar player.
McCartney had been a guitar player; that's true, too.
So, were you a little concerned about this?
I was very concerned about it (laughter). Actually, Mike and I were both playing guitar for a while, which was fun, and then they asked me. But I rented a bass and went down into my basement and started messing around with this stuff, because I had never sung this stuff and played bass at the same time. Now (they're) asking me to two things at once, one of which I've never done before, to sing high harmony and play a completely different instrument. And it's function was very different, which was a whole new experience for me.
How long was it before you thought you were getting the feel of it?
I think I only had a couple of weeks, and some of this stuff was very challenging. Some of Joe (Schermie)'s original bass parts were very interesting, and "interesting" isn't a good enough word. They're unique, in the same way that Floyd is unique and Mike is unique and Jimmy is unique ... he had almost a Latin, Mexican kind of approach in his playing, which is foreign to me, being an R&B boy.
And a lot of it was done to compliment Floyd.
Yes, that's a great way of putting it, to compliment Floyd. But, actually, some of the time, it was Floyd following Joe.
So how are you, with your R&B background, and Pat with his jazz/big-band background, going to duplicate this, or, if not duplicate it, then take it to your own place while keeping it recognizable?
Well, you duplicate what's important, what really is essential to the song. And the rest, at least my own approach was, these guys were already playing together and had a certain personality established as this particular unit. So now, the thing is to try to fit in with this particular unit, as opposed to being a real purist and playing every single note done by the original guy.
It's almost like a basketball team. You still have the "all-stars" onboard, the money players on board, but you've brought in the players around them to really make it a great team. And so the team adjusts, somewhat, to the styles of the other two players.
You already have the center and the point guard ...
So now you have another forward to come in.
Yeah. You bring in that complimentary outside shot, or you bring in that defenseman, you bring in that missing piece, and then you adjust your play to include the skills of that person.
Did you and Pat spend a lot of time working those things out?
No, we didn't. Me being a guitar player switching to bass, I decided, wisely for me, to just follow him. That way, if anything goes wrong, it's Pat's fault (laughter).
I'm sure that Michael and Jimmy and Cory and Danny were supportive as well, while you were doing that, because that can't be an easy thing to walk into.
They were really supportive. Yeah, very much so.
When did you feel you were starting to get it?
It was around the end of the first year. But as far as being able to play and really knowing what I was doing, probably a year and a half, two years into it, when I got a really good bass and a regular rig that I liked all the time and a tone that everybody was comfortable with.
And that's another thing about going to another instruments. There are so many different types, different woods, different weights, single-coils or humbuckers, different neck shapes ...
I went for the one that was free (laughter).
(Laughs) Which turned out to be ...
It's a Lakland; it's excellent.
Made in Chicago.
Made in Chicago. Dan, the owner of the company, and I had dinner together with another good friend of mine. And Bob Glaub and Jerry Scheff ...
The latter who worked with Elvis.
Who worked with Elvis, right. And whose son is the bass player/singer with Chicago.
Jason, right. We were all sitting in a restaurant on Ventura Boulevard, and Dan gave me a wonderful bass.
And that's the one you're still using.
That's the one I'm still using.
And Joe Osborn plays those now, and Carol Kaye, and so many of those legendary session players.
What kind of rig do you use onstage now?
Onstage, I'm using a (Gallien-Kreuger) 800-RB head and a Hartke 410 cabinet. And I go direct out of the actual back of the head, not a direct box. I want to hear what the audience is hearing, supposedly. So I go out the back of the head for that.
And, once upon a time, you would never see bass cabinets with ten-inch speakers.
Once upon a time. Well, Ampeg, when they first brought out that monster 810 cabinet, that changed everybody's minds.
Someone out there wisely measured how long it took for a 15 (inch) or an 18 (inch) to move forward, then back, then forward and back again, until it gets to a static state. Being so much smaller, the tens travel forward and back at a faster rate of speed, they reduce the boominess.
Well, it's a little brighter sound.
It's a little brighter sound, 'cause I really like the aluminum (speaker) cones. I like a cross between a really low string and a grand piano, with a little bit of the low-end punch of a kick drum. So, I guess my bass sound would be closer to a John Entwistle than a Joe Schermie.
And he always got that punchy, nasally sound, it didn't really matter what he was playing, whether it was a Rickenbacker or a Fender or a Gibson or whatever it was. He always got it.
Yeah. Sometimes it's in your fingers and in your style. In fact, on guitar, it's always in your fingers and your style.
Well, Pat told me the story of Jimmy, I think it was, saying he heard a lady saying that Pat was "the original drummer's son."
(Laughter) Oh (laughter)!
What kind of initial response did you get?
I get people saying, "Are you original?" And I say, "Yes, I am. I am original. Just not with these guys" (laughs).
We have heard about the upcoming DVD/live CD project. Would you like to see this band do an album of entirely new material?
Yes, I would like to see that. I would very like to see that happen, and I know of at least one other person who is thinking along those lines, maybe more.
What are your ultimate goals?
Over the years, I've written a number of songs, and I've had a number of projects out. I'm planning on doing some more. There are, I think, three CDs out by Air Condo, which was a mishmash of rockers, jazzers and prog-rockers, so you can hear everything from a sweet, jazzy ballad to (laughs) a King Crimson-esque prog-rock to a Steely Dan-type thing to out and out funk.
I'm going to put something out myself, and soon. I've been writing since '68, '69, and I have another new batch of tunes that are on the way. so, I would like to take all the best stuff I've ever done and put it on one CD, and put it out there and see what happens.
In the meantime, you're working with a great live band.
Yes, an excellent live band. And you know, when it's really best is when 90 percent of it is the same as it was the night before, and the night before that, and then the other ten percent is based on how you're feeling and where it carries you that night.
And sometimes, before you even know it, it has just grabbed you and taken you somewhere. You don't even know it happens, but you're "in the pocket" and off you go.
Sometimes you don't even know you did it until after it's over, before you actually come down and realize it. But, I thrive on that.
That's when being on the road is fun.
Right. Absolutely (laughs). I wish I could remember if it was Duke Ellington or Count Basie who said, "You don't pay me for the two hours I'm on stage. You pay me for the other 22." That's really the essence of it.
Websites: Three Dog Night - http://www.threedognight.com
Air Condo - http://angelfire.com/mi2/aircondo/
Special thanks to Madonna Nuckolls of the Three Dog Night newsletter for her support and assistance.