Provostian Moments Vol. I: Remembrance Of Gigs Past

30 Mar

What did DAVIE ALLAN & THE ARROWS, THE DWIGHT TWILLEY BAND and THE DREAM SYNDICATE and all have in common? Bassist Dave Provost, that’s who. Who has played in musical aggregations with the likes of AL GREEN, SKY SAXON, and KATHY VALENTINE? Dave Provost has. And who’s gonna take the reins of this blog for the next dozen or so serialised posts? That’s right, Dave Provost is.

Dave is a kind of rock n roll Zelig, somehow popping up at all the crucial turns and twists in LA rock history during the past 4+ decades. Over the years his formidable musical & rhythmic chops got him seats next to some seriously world-class musicians, while his gregarious, outgoing nature had all the rest inviting him to their after-gig parties. And now, he’s now spilling the beans about it all.

This is really, really good news to those of us who appreciate just where this man’s walked and rocked in his lifetime. So please: do take a seat at the feet of Mr Dave Provost for a spell, and follow him in his search for lost rock n roll time.

_____________________________________________________

proclaiming "I'm four your older than rock n roll" never works as a pick-up line

he San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles was quite the destination in the early 1950s. Small ranch style houses, orange trees, movie stuntmen, and well stocked bomb shelters, all built by cold war paranoids. My parents moved there from Nashville in 1949.  My father had played piano with the Big Bands, and had written some hits. Session work was plentiful for my dad as Hollywood opened top flight recording studios.

A lot of great musicians would rehearse in our living room: Barney Kessel, Howard Roberts, Johnny Ray, Dorsey Burnette, and Art Pepper. There were songwriters Wayne Shanklin, Johnny Mercer, Cindy Walker, and comedians Milton Berle and Mort Saul. After I expressed interest in learning the guitar, my dad set me up with Carol Kaye, who loved to teach.  I would spend all of the money that I made from my paper route on records, lots of records. The first record I bought was “Raindrops” by Dee Clark, others were “Hippy Hippy Shake” by Chan Romero, and “Work With Me Annie” by Hank Ballard. We spoke rockabilly in our family, and we worshiped Phil Spector.

In the Valley every house had a garage, and after Hard Day’s Night every garage had a band. I was not a Beatles fan; I went for The Kinks, Yardbirds, and The Walker Bros. I would have played music even if The Beatles had never existed, but I’d be doing it in a different world.

(NOTE: I’m sick of the typical romanticism spewed by middle aged men about being in 60s bands. So let me set the record straight. The barometer of how good you were was not how many times the police asked you to keep it down. You didn’t run the whole band through one Vox amp. You couldn’t have been as big as The Turtles. You didn’t quit music to pursue a higher education, they sent your sorry ass to Vietnam. Your girlfriend never loved you, or your band. And the only reason that you have these glorious memories is that your folks owned a station wagon. Thanks, I needed that . . .)

My first gig was in the parking lot of a supermarket grand opening. We were doing great until the Oscar Meyer Wiener Mobile pulled up, and all the kids ran over to greet a “real” star: Little Oscar, the foul mouthed dwarf who drove the vehicle.  On the weekends, we played at a club called The Image in Van Nuys. We then moved to Gazzarri’s on the Strip. I had been going to clubs for years, however I was a babe in the woods when it came to the Strip. It was so far beyond anything depicted on film.

The Whisky A Go Go became the center of my universe. Most of the 60s clubs were all ages, but within days of the riot on Sunset, The Whisky changed it’s policy to 21 and over, and exclusively booked Motown acts.  What had been the primo venue for bands like The Byrds, Love, and The Doors was now driving the scene up north to San Francisco.

Overnight, garage punk bands starting switching to soul music, and added horn sections. Farfisas were replaced by Hammond organs. It was an easy transition for me to make. I had been recording radio jingles out at Gold Star Studios. My ability to read music made me a shoe in for the soul players to exploit for cheap labor; I had to learn “steps” that we would dance, as we read the sheet music that was placed on the floor. I was now playing with older black gentlemen who carried snakeskin sax cases and knives in their Italian shoes.  Al Green did a stint in that band. There were plenty of soul clubs and Key Parties to play. During that time Booker T & The MGs became my biggest influence, and still are today.
But after almost being grazed by a bullet while playing at the downtown RnB club called The Apartment, I decided it was easier to play with guys who picked on me in Jr High School.

——

In the early 70s, everyone wanted to be The Rolling Stones. I started a band that we unfortunately named TWANG, with lead singer David Leon, who later played the role of John Lennon in Broadway’s Beatlemania, and bassist Richard Grossman, later with Rick Springfield (circa “Jessie’s Girl”). The Sunset Strip was no longer a hot spot, it was now inhabited by tourists. The teen clubs were gone. The Whisky was now a major label showcase. So, we played the only game in town: Gazzarri’s.

Gazzarri’s was completely different now. Three stages with alternating sets. Pacific Ocean (w/ Edward James Olmos) and The Bantams were always on the bill, and sometimes Tony & The Tigers featuring Hunt and Tony Sales. Mammoth, who later became Van Halen, replaced us when we were fired for playing a ballad. Sparks became the brightest light to emerge from LA during this dark, dark period.

The so called Singer Songwriter epidemic reared it’s ugly head. Need I say more? I loved the Bleeker/McDougal Folk singers like Tim Hardin, Fred Neil, Dave Van Ronk, and Brits like Fairport and Pentangle. I also loved The Jefferson Airplane. But this new crop was painful. So I left Rock behind and joined the LA production of Jaques Brel Is Alive And Well.

– Dave Provost

 

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3 Responses to “Provostian Moments Vol. I: Remembrance Of Gigs Past”

  1. Mark March 30, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    This is gonna be great!

  2. Laurie August 13, 2016 at 12:27 am #

    aha I recognize this pic.

  3. Laurie August 13, 2016 at 12:31 am #

    I have another one of that series, guitar behind your head/harmonica. Email me and I will get it to you. It’s double exposure, but pretty epic nonetheless

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