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Provostian Moments Vol. XIII: The Sloths

19 May

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.


The Sloths at Pandora’s Box, 1966

he mile, and a half stretch of West Hollywood known as the Sunset Strip has been romanticized in books, and films for over seventy years. The ritzy 1940s nightclubs that were controlled by mobsters Micky Cohen and Johnny Stompanato provided the backdrop for movie star trysts, tabloid murders, and show biz failure. In the mid 1960s these same clubs came alive with teenage empowerment. There was no age limit, just a well enforced curfew. Thousands of shaggy haired hipsters lined the Strip every night of the week. The sound was deafening. Not just from the rock bands at the Go Go clubs, but from the ocean of cars and motorcycles that cruised the Strip looking for kicks.

The Sloths were just one of the many teenage bands playing at Strip hotspots like the Sea Witch, the Hullabaloo, the Stratford, and the Trip. They were from Beverly Hills High School and had a sizable local following. Their lone 45, “Makin’ Love” was getting some radio airplay, and the Sloths were in the top cut to play the fictitious band the Monkees on the new TV show. The boys procured opening slots for the Doors, Love, the Seeds, and the Animals.

After a change of lead singers, the Sloths took on a new moniker, and were now known as the May Wines. Frank Zappa became their mentor, and would occasionally sit in on guitar. As the May Wines the group played at Pandora’s Box on the night of the famous riot on the Sunset Strip, and opened for Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd at the Cheetah.

In 1968, the May Wines called it quits. Lead guitarist Jeff Briskin went off to college, bassist Mike Rummens joined the Yellow Payges, Singer Tommy McLoughlin moved to Paris and joined Marcel Marceau’s mime troupe, guitarist Don Silverman went on to join Doug Yule’s Velvet Underground, and the early Sloths singer Hank Daniels sadly joined the Choir Invisible.

Four decades later in the fall of 2011, Mike Stax of Ugly Things Magazine got the Sloths back together for an interview. The men were not aware of the cult mystique that had been generated by the inclusion of their song “Makin’ Love” on a Back From the Grave compilation, or that Chicago’s stellar garage punk band the Gories had recorded it. The Sloths were also oblivious to the fact that original copies of their 45 with the photo sleeves, that they had made on a high school mimeograph machine, were now fetching over six thousand dollars each.

One of the fellows had an empty garage, so it made perfect sense to put it to good use.

I had been playing guitar in Portland’s Punk Rock Collective just before moving back to Los Angeles, and I was excited about playing 60s punk in the newly reunited Sloths. I was surprised by how much they still looked like a band. They still sounded like the 16 year old kids that I’d heard years earlier, but they were concerned about being older, and how they might be received by the young audience they sought. I reminded them about how much we looked up to the somewhat older blues legends back in the 60s, and by using the newly back-in-action Sonics as a template, it was full speed ahead for the Sloths.

When Mike Stax reissued the “Makin’ Love” 45 on his UT label, the calls from garage punk show promoters started pouring in. Some things had changed over the years. The Sloths quickly learned about mosh pits, and stage monitors. We befriended a lot of younger bands, and our friends the Shag Rats recommended a drummer Jose Rendon who worked out swimmingly. The new Freakbeat scene is largely based in East LA, the part of town that introduced the world to the Premiers, Cannibal & the Headhunters, and Thee Midniters.

The Sunset Strip is currently not the happening place that it once was, but it’s mythology and spirit lives on in the hearts of the young scenesters who would sell their souls to be standing outside of Pandora’s Box on a summer night in 1966.

– Dave Provost