Provostian Moments Vol. III: The Textones

7 Apr

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.

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, starting with this post.

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.

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ever name your band after a city, or for that matter a drug. In 1976, I joined a band that was signed to ABC Dunhill. They had an album out, a lifetime supply of Lone Star beer, and I needed a road trip. They were from a small town near Houston called Navasota. Which was ironic, because their name was Navasota. It was as close to being in the Hells Angels as you can get. A Southern boogie band that could rock with the best of them, Navasota were a hugh regional draw. We played legendary rooms like the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin.              

Texas treats it’s musicians like royalty. Unlike the rest of the world, Texas parents would rather have their daughter marry a bass player then a doctor or lawyer (Waylon must be smiling).  Navasota had a hard and fast rule: women must be shared with the whole band. After a show in Austin, I met a charming young lady named Kathy Valentine. I was just enjoying hanging out with her, but my band had other ideas. Now, I do have some scruples. Sitting with her in a coffee shop, talking music all night, was alright with me. Navasota shipped me back to California the next day.                                                                                                                                                              
Three years later, I was playing with Kathy and her friend Carla Olson in The Textones out in Los Angeles. They had played together in an Austin band named The Violators, often considered the first late 70’s Texas punk band. Both had lived in England. Kathy had played with Girlschool, while Carla had worked with Nick Lowe.

LA was hopping again. Great indy labels sprang up: Dangerhouse, Slash, and later SST. The scene was a mix of music, art, and fashion. The better bands found their own unique niche: X, The Screamers, The Alley Cats, and The Weirdos were my favorites. I also liked pop groups like The Know and The Zippers.  My band The Textones were carpetbaggers, like our fellow Texans The Plugz. The notion of being an import weighs heavier in LA than in more sophisticated cities like New York.

As much as I hate to admit it, The Runaways had broken the novelty of being a female musician. Girls no longer felt compelled to overplay just to prove that they could hold their own with the boys. We befriended a lot of bands of various styles, and painted ourselves into a corner. We became The Official Opening Act of Los Angeles, opening for Teenage Jesus & The Jerks one night, and The Cowsills the next. Los Angelenos have always been Anglophiles, and our Southern drawl was no match to the British accents that were invading our town.

Ted Caroll of Chiswick records liked our “Texas beat”, and as The Violators had opened for The Damned in San Antonio, he signed us to a one off deal. An unreleased Tom Petty song on one side, and Kathy’s tune “Vacation” on the flip. This would be the last record ever recorded at Shelter studios. During playbacks we could hear loud popping sounds, which on closer inspection we discovered were just some hillbillies shooting at beer bottles on the roof. Those hillbillies were The Dwight Twilley Band, and it was the beginning of a long friendship.

Other LA bands signed with UK labels. The Go-Go’s went with Stiff, and Holly & The Italians signed with Oval and moved to London. We also cut a 7-inch for IRS that received the lowest score in the history of American Bandstand’s Rate A Record. This is because they had played the wrong side – a ballad about wife beating that the kids couldn’t dance to. But having a record out gave us the cache that we needed. We were no long playing at Chino Prison with The Plimsouls, we were opening tour dates for Gang Of Four and The Ramones, and were still able to play honkytonks in Austin with groups like The Big Boys, Joe King Carrasco, Double Trouble, and Doug Sahm.

When we appeared at a club called Zeros in Fort Worth, the taxidermist next door hadn’t payed his electric bill in over a week – the stench of rotting animals permeated the wall behind the stage. The cowboy that owned the club had no sense of smell due to cocaine abuse, and demanded that we play three sets to an empty house. Kathy Valentine quit The Textones the following night, only to join The Go-Go’s soon after.

Our drummer Markus Cuff and I stayed on with Carla as a trio. We no longer had Kathy’s insight or song catalog, however we were still well known enough to procure a 6-month weekend residency at The Whisky back in LA. Being the house band at the Whisky a Go Go had been a flossy gig at one time, first held by Johnny Rivers back in 1964. But our opening status put us more on the level of The Leaves.

Carla Olson had a vision of us being a country music crossover. No one liked this change, including our fans. After a disastrous gig with Echo & The Bunnymen, I left the group and joined Twilley alum Phil Seymour to promote his album on Boardwalk Records. Richard d’Andrea of The Know replaced me in the new Carla Olson and The Textones.

– Dave Provost

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