Monday, December 11, 2017

Max & The Penetraters

Max Range & The Penetrators released one 45 on their own "Trater" label in May of 1965. The band was based in Kerrville, TX and featured a young Ronnie Leatherman who would later play with the 13th Floor Elevators. 
The band was also later joined by one Carlton White, a young guitarist influenced by folk and bluegrass.
I recently located one of the two Morrison brothers who played in the band and conducted a short email interview with him. Below is the results...

From left to right in the back row:

Danny Klein - lead guitar
Max Range - vocals
Carlton White - guitar
Pat Morrison - rhythm 

From left to right in the front row:

Danny Klein - lead guitar
Ronnie Leatherman - bass guitar
Bob Morrison - drums

How did you start playing music and what got you interested?

My younger brother Bob and I moved to Kerrville around 1960. I played freshman football, was injured, and needed something to do. The real catalyst was a guy named Danny Klein that lived down the street from us.  Danny's uncle played steel guitar in a western band and taught Danny how to play. Bob, Danny, and I became good friends and started practicing. Bob and I had moved to a place out in the country so we had a good place to practice. Not many people around which was good as we were pretty bad at first. Danny taught me how to play rhythm guitar and Bob taught himself to play drums by listening to Ventures records. Ronnie Leatherman showed up saying he would learn to play bass and he did. Max didn't show up until the very end of the band.  

Did you play in any bands before the Penetrators?


When and how did the Penetrators band form? 

I guess it must have been 1961 or 1962 we learned to play well enough and had learned enough songs to actually perform. We played anywhere they would let us play and gradually improved. The four of us had wanted to create a band from the first time we played our instruments.

Where did the bands name come from?

We played a lot of instrumentals at first and Penetration by the Pyramids was one of the first songs we learned.  Only name  we could agree on.   

Who were the band members and what instruments did they play in the group?

My younger brother Bob Morrison played the drums, Danny Klein played lead guitar and sang a few songs. I played rhythm guitar and Ronnie Leatherman played bass and backed up Danny with some of the singing. Max was brought on just to record the record as I recall.

What were some of the regular venues the band would perform at?  Did the band play outside of Kerrville much?

One of our regular jobs was to play on weekends at a teen canteen called the Auld Youth Center... Played at quite a few birthday parties in Kerrville. Danny learned to play steel guitar from his uncle as well as some basic polkas so we were able to play at places other than rock venues.

Criders was a country and western hangout on the river past Ingram Texas and we played there several times.  Big dance floor and lots of beer. We would play some country and a few polkas and then slow songs they could dance to. We were a little nervous the first time we played there since we didn't usually play country and western for an adult audience but it went well.  

One of the best places we  played was at a girls camps located around Hunt Texas. A couple of times during the summer the girls camp would invite one of the boys camps in the area to a dance and we would provide the music.  We did that a couple of summers. We played a couple of German wedding receptions in Fredericksburg. Lots of country as well as polkas. There was always a lot of beer for the crowd so we were usually pretty popular.  

We played in a couple of "Battle of the Bands" in San Antonio that were sponsored by KTSA (the AM rock station in San Antonio). "Big Bearded Bruce Hathaway" would DJ the whole thing. Hathaway was and still is somewhat of a celebrity in San Antonio. We met Doug Sahm as well as Augie Pruneda. Doug Sahm went on to record "She's About a Mover" and had some national success. Pruneda was a member of Sahm's band I think.

How did you come to make that record you guys made?  

I think Max put us up to it. We paid and he sang. When it was finished it was not the Penetrators it was Max and the Penetrators. I think there were about 200 copies pressed. There was no formal distribution but we got some airplay with KTSA in San Antonio and the radio station in Kerrville.  

Did you guys have much of a connection to the guys from the 13th Floor Elevators? I know Ronnie Leatherman played with them later on.

I have read that Max Range was an early member of the Elevators and helped to start the band. I think he had a connection with one of the early members of the Elevators.  Stacie Sutherland was a classmate of mine and a good friend.  He was a good guy and very talented. Stacie liked drugs a LOT.  As he moved more and more into drugs we grew farther apart as the  Penetrators were more into beer and cigarettes. And yes Ronnie played with the Elevators.  I looked on You Tube for the Elevators and Stacie and Ronnie were right there in one of the videos.  That was the infamous interview when one of the band members was asked who the head guy was and he responded "We're all heads." Perfect. 

Were there any other local rock bands from Kerrville during that time that you recall?

No. There were several country and western bands in the area. Bob Schmerbeck had a dance band that he started and played piano for. 

How did the band break up?

The band broke up when we started to leave for college. I think that they played for a while after I left, but not for long. Bob and I went to college. Ronnie played bass for the Elevators and I think Danny joined his uncles band.

Thanks to Pat Morrison and John Thomason! 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Little Bits

This post is the first of hopefully many posts on bands from Louisiana. Got a few great entries on the way, so keep checking! 
The Little Bits released one of my favorite pre-teenaged proto punk records from the 1960's on their own Tiger Eye records label. Featuring two brothers and being from the tiny town of Jennings gives them even more cool points!
I was recently in touch with original band member Kim Roy.
Below is an interview we conducted over email regarding those early days in his first band.

The band members were:

Marty Bonin - Keyboards, Vocals
Keith Roy - Drums, Vocals
Kim Roy - Guitar
Tommy Biessenberger - Keyboards

How did you get started playing music?

My father, J. D. Roy was an aspiring recording artist who encouraged my brother and I to play music. 

How and when did The Little Bits come together as a band?

In 1967.  My dad gathered me, my brother Keith and Marty Bonin, the younger brother of an older local band member called Luv Creek, and had a few local musicians teach us songs to play. 

Who were the members and what instruments did they handle? What ages were you at the time?

Kim Roy (9) - guitar 
Keith Roy (12) - vocals & drums 
Marty Bonin (10) - vocals & keys 
Tommy Biessenberger (12) - keys joined approx late 1968

All members from Jennings? What was it like being in a rock band in such a tiny town at that time?
Yes all from Jennings
It was cool to have an income at that age. We drew a lot of attention because we were 4 boys with long blonde hair.  We gigged most weekends at community center dances, festivals, etc. Once at a fraternity party. 

What was your father's role in the band and did he have his own musical history?

He was the band manager/driver/producer/songwriter/booking agent. 
He recorded a few records at Muscle Shoals studio. 

What were some of the bands regular venues to perform at?

The Shadowbox  and The 4th of July Festival - Lake Arthur, LA
Oakdale Drive Inn Theater - Oakdale, LA
Others I only remember the towns, not venues. Elton, Lake Charles, Lacassine, Lafayette

How did the "Girl Give Me Love" 45 come about and what do you recall about recording it?

We recorded it in our home studio, Velvet Ear Productions, which was also used by other recording artists from various towns.  I have little memory of recording it, at 9 years old i would have preferred being outside playing with my friends. Donald Hanks of Luv Creek played lead guitar on Side B, Spoofin 

Who wrote the songs on the record?

J.D. Roy
JD Roy, the brothers' dad strumming his guitar

How was the record received locally? Did it get any airplay or sell well?

I don't remember but we did have a local radio station KJEF that probably played it.

           When and why did the group split up?
We grew up and changed the name to Featherstone and stayed together for a couple of years with that name and fast forward to the 70s my brother and I formed a band called Kingdom. We moved to Houston in 1975 and played locally and toured around the United States for 10 years. I left the band to form a Christian rock band called Wisdom who scored a record deal in California and also toured around the United States for about 5 years. After realizing we could not make a real living playing music we went our separate ways, got real jobs and started families. Kingdom reunited a few years ago with 2 original members and recorded a cd and a video. The video can be seen on youtube. Kingdom Silent Witness.

Many thanks to Kim & Erin Roy for taking the time to answer my questions and sending over some of the photographs I have included....

Thursday, August 31, 2017


A few months back, I got in touch with singer/songwriter David Waldon who was the brainchild behind an excellent hard rock band from East Texas called Kanaan. The project only released one 45 rpm record on their own Kana label, of which the blistering "Leave It" was recently featured on volume 4 of a compilation series called Brown Acid. Below is an email interview conducted with David in August of 2017.

1. How and when did you get started playing music?

I saw the Beatles land in America on our old black and white t.v. set. That's the day I knew what I wanted to do. But I was the youngest of four and mom and dad didn't have the money to help me for another couple of years...So it wasn't until around 1966 that I got my first guitar...We DID have a family piano so all of us had to learn to play....My sister played the piano for me and my two older brothers who sang...We had a good little family gospel group....

2. Did you play in any bands before making the Kanaan record?

Mom, dad and myself moved to La Marque, Texas in 1967...Dad got a job at Johnson space center as a welder...There is where I was in my very first band....So yes, I played in 3 or 4 teen groups before Kanaan that tortured the public while we tried to learn to play....

3. Was Kanaan a working live band or more of a studio project?

Kanaan never played a gig....I had learned to play drums by this time and was actually playing in the bass players band in Marshall, Texas and the surrounding area....By February of 1968 we had moved back to east Texas...DaingerfieldTx.....

4. What were some musical influences/inspirations on you at the time?

I was a huge Beatles fan....But by the end of the summer of '67 I was into Jimi Hendrix, The Spencer Davis Group, The Buckinghams, Sly and The Family Stone, The Who and pretty much any group with a rebellious attitude and amps loud enough to bother the deaf!

5. What can you tell me about the writing of the two songs on the Kanaan 45?

I was pretty sappy over a girl and wrote Something Inside for her....If I could do it all over again, that song wouldn't have made it on to the record....I worked hard to save enough money to cut a 45....Didn't do it believing anything would come of it....I just wanted to do a record....I had a few other songs written, but nothing that I wanted to use......I almost put a 1, 4, 5 blues song on the flip side, but about 2 days before the session, I wrote Leave It and decided to use it....

6.  What do you recall about the recording of those two songs?

We recorded the songs in Tyler at Robin Hood Brians studio....Robin had engineered the first 3 ZZTop albums...I didn't know that at the time....I wanted to use a fuzz pedal on the instrumental of Something Inside, but Robin talked me out of it....He had me record two guitar leads tuned slightly off from each other in a futile attempt to get a 12 string sound...What we wound up with was a recording that made all who heard it look for the nearest cliff to hurl themselves off of!!.....Then we started on Leave It....Robin really liked this song....At the end of the session he advised me to use Leave It as side A....It DID sound better than the other song, so that's what I did...

7. Who were the musicians on those recordings and what did they play?

On Something Inside, I was on guitar and vocals,...On drums was Garry Bryant....On bass was Doug Fagg....Yep, that was his name!! And on piano was Leon Hass.......We did Leave It as a trio because I couldn't get the guys together but once or twice to learn Leave It, and there just wasn't a keyboard part for it...

8. Did you have much more original material at the time? Any unreleased recordings from this period?

I only had about 15 songs written by this time....I wanted to do heavier stuff and most of the things I'd written were really kind of bubble gum pop....There's no other unreleased recordings from that period....Rehearsal tapes, yes, but anything you'd want folks to hear, no....

9. How did the record do locally? Did you have it available for sale anywhere? Any radio airplay for it?

I had to do the leg work to promote the record...There were a few stores around east Texas that agreed to sell it.....In Marshall Texas, it was pick hit of the week on one station and hit of the week on another...It was played on the radio in Mt. Pleasant Texas, Daingerfield Texas and even on a station in Dallas....It was on several juke boxes in the area....I had a thousand copies made....Sold all but about 50 of them....They've since been sold though...

10. Did you play in any bands after Kanaan?

I'm not sure I could count how many bands I've played in over the years....But that's what I did for a living through out my youth....Traveled the country in several bands.....I even played in two different groups that toured with one of the working versions of The Drifters....I actually became a Drifter at one point too.....As far as I know, I'm the only white guy that ever became "a Drifter".....They made me wear an Afro Freedom wig!  They didn't want people to know I was white so they wanted to pass me off as a mixed race member of the group!.....We got the star treatment everywhere we went...That was an exciting time.....But I got tired of the music after several months of one nighters across the country...Plus I missed actually playing...I played congas and drums in the two groups that backed The Drifters, but when I became a Drifter, I only sang and danced....So I wanted to play again and got off the road from the Drifters one week and the next week accepted a job as the drummer in another group touring the country...
Like any musician that's made a living on the road, the stories are endless...In the 80's I went to California with a group that had a developmental deal with Columbia Records, but it fell through...But I stayed in California and wound up meeting and playing with some really interesting people....I played with former members of Blue Cheer, Big Brother and The Holding Company, Buddy Miles, Norman Greenbaum and even a drummer for the Pointer Sisters....Before we left for California Lita Ford even did a session with us in Dallas......

I had an engineer who recorded the live Peter Frampton album and the Aloha special for Elvis interested in me in California....But he got sick and has since died....So like so many other players, I came close but went home empty handed so to speak....In '93 I signed a management contract with Bohdi Entertainment Group in Los Angeles...They wanted to promote me as a country singer....I hated every second of it but thought what the heck...I've tried everything else....A producer named Micky Buckins who worked at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals Alabama became interested in me....I flew out and recorded 4 songs of his choosing at Muscle Shoals.....I had done a cable t.v. show in L.A. and several newspaper interviews prior to flying out....They seemed to like everything but my age....In my early 30's I was already too old....So that didn't go anywhere either....But it was a pretty cool thing to record in that studio....Standing on the spot where Wilson Pickett recorded "Funky Funky Broadway" was a real kick for me.....
In '06 I got a call from a guy in Pennsylvania who had found my record at a record show in Baltimore...Wanted to buy copies if I had them....Last year a guy in California had come across it and wanted to put it on a compilation album in L.A.....They did....It's the lead off track on an album called "Brown Acid, The Fourth Trip"......Then I heard from a guy in London England, another guy in Paris France, someone in Japan, a guy in Russia of all places and another guy in Athens Greece!
I have no idea how any of them heard this record or why they wanted it....But this silly little 45 has made it's way around the world pretty much....I have a few copies left that I'm hangin' on to.....And like any musician that's toured the country, the stories go on and on.....From having supper with Buddy Miles in Jackson, Miss. to gettin' drunk with King Crimson in Ft. Wayne Indiana.....It was a grueling ride at times but I have some pretty good memories to hang on to as I head into my twilight years....I'll leave it at that....

Thank you so much for your time David Waldon! Photos and interview courtesy of David.