Gary James' Interview With
Teegarden And Van Winkle Drummer
David Teegarden was once part of the duo Teegarden And Van Winkle. Their recording of "God, Love And Rock And Roll" went all the way to number 22 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart in 1970. David went on to work with Eric Clapton, Joe Walsh and Bob Seger. In 1981 he won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal for "Against The Wind" with Bob Seger And The Silver Bullet Band. David also appeared on the Bob Seger albums "Nine Tonight", "Stranger In Town" and "Fire Down Below".
Q - You have a digital studio you're running. Are we talking about a recording studio?
A - Oh, yes.
Q - It's in Beggs, Oklahoma?
A - Well, it's complicated. It's near Beggs, Oklahoma. It's Beggs mailing address and Muskogee, Oklahoma was the telephone. Anyway, back when I working with The Silver Bullet Band, recording and doing tours, I bought a farm 'cause every hippie thought they oughta have some land somewhere and I found this farm and it had some out buildings that looked just perfect for a recording studio. There was a house out there, a small house, and I put in a landing strip because I had gotten really heavily into classic airplanes. So I had the vision that someday I'd live out there and build the studio. Well, it didn't work out that way, but I ended up selling it to my son, my second oldest son. I just told him you gotta let me keep the studio. (laughs) But I've had the studio for a long time. I've owned the farm for over twenty-some years, close to thirty years. It's a full-fledged, world class recording studio. Probably the biggest down fall now that everybody hates is we're digital. Back in the first digital two track recorders, we used to do all our mix downs to that. Since we're full-fledged digital, I hate to admit it to our analog freaks, but we record to Pro Tools.
Q - Is the studio just for you or do you get local or national artists recording there?
A - Initially it was just for me. I had a writing partner, Mike Bruce, who was a guitar player locally from Tulsa. He's also played with the legendary Bobby Blue Bland and he played with Skip and I and Seger when Bob was joined up with us. But he lived close by, Mike Bruce did. We had previously had a little studio, a project studio just for us at the back of my house in Tulsa, but after moving the equipment out and building a studio out at the farm location I kept getting inquiries from people wanting to record there. So I just opened it up as a commercial studio. And we get mostly locals, but on occasion we've had some national acts through there. I guess probably the biggest national act, and I'll bite my lip later that I didn't mention someone, (laughs) some other people was J.J. Cale. He did his album, "To Tulsa And Back" a number of years ago. That was probably seven or more years after I had the studio. He was always telling me he was going to come there and record. Finally he did. I got co-production credit on that album. We just had a blast for two or three weeks while he came back here to do that album. Mostly his old cronies were involved in the years he lived and played in Tulsa.
Q - The Mike Bruce you're talking about is not the same guy who was in the Alice Cooper Band, is it?
A - No. It's not the same guy. It's funny because I introduced those two. When Seger joined up with Teegarden And Van Winkle, I think we called it something else. I forgot that we named it differently. For awhile whoever's gig it was called it Bob Seger With Teegarden And Van Winkle. If it was one of our gigs it was Teegarden And Van Winkle With Bob Seger. Bob was playing guitar and singing with us. After awhile he kind of got frustrated playing guitar on every song and being the singer. So I suggested to him that we hire Mike Bruce from Tulsa who had just gotten off the road with Bobby Blue Bland. I think our first gig was in Detroit. We opened for Jethro Tull. But maybe our next gig was up in Canada in the Toronto area with Alice Cooper. So, I've got a picture of me introducing... me and Alice Cooper and both Mike Bruces. (laughs)
Q - Very early in your career, you and Skip decided to move to Detroit. Why Detroit? Why not L.A.?
A - (laughs) Well, we hung out in L.A. for awhile. Skip and I grew up in Tulsa. We went to Detroit because I had moved out to L.A. and lived at Leon Russell's house. He had a studio in his house at the time. I worked in his studio kind of under the tutelage of J.J. Cale, who I had known from Tulsa previously. Skip was working with some groups that were doing not specifically Vegas, but they were playing Nevada. Some of those little casinos. I grew frustrated when I was out in L.A. because I was underage. I couldn't work any of the bars and I was used to working bars in Tulsa since I was 15.
Q - How'd you do that?
A - I wonder. I don't know. I have no idea. (laughs)
Q - The drinking age at that time in most states was 18, wasn't it?
A - Yeah, but even older than that. Somehow they were so starved for entertainment they kind of turned their heads. And I didn't drink. The bar owners were very protective, so to speak. (laughs) Of course, they never had any trouble while I was here. But at 18, I looked like I was 14. There was no way I could play. I was so frustrated that I moved back home after about nine months. I could play here all I wanted. I not long after I had come back, Skip got off the road and he moved back and we were working in Tulsa as a duo, no, we had a singer with us. A guy who sounded just like Otis Redding and he was a White guy. We were so steep into Rhythm And Blues at that time. Back then you'd install yourself into one of the clubs and you might be there for years. We'd been playing quite awhile at this one club. One night this guy came in and was kind of making a pest of himself. He kept going around to all the tables and kind of talking to people. He kept coming up to us in the breaks, saying "God, you guys are fantastic. I'm from Detroit. You guys need to go to Detroit. It's quite a music scene right now. They just wouldn't believe you, the sound you guys can make with just two guys." We asked what he was doing in Tulsa and he said he was on his way from Detroit to L.A. to help with Bobby Kennedy's primary and he had just stopped in Tulsa for the night. He just happened down the road and saw this club and just wanted to hear some 'live' music. He went to California and we traded phone numbers or I gave him my phone number. I guess it was about a week or so later he called me and of course his gig was over. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. So he was kind of bummed. He went back to Detroit and called me and said, "You guys have got to pack and head this way." It was all the convincing I could do to get Skip to make a move 'cause he had just gotten back. (laughs) He was settling back into his hometown. He seemed happy 'cause we were playing six nights a week, but the singer didn't want to make the trip. So it was just Skip and I. I finally talked him into it and we headed out to Detroit. The guy that was begging us to come on was a guy named Jim Kasley. He turned out to be our manager. He didn't know much about the music business, but he had a lot of enthusiasm and passion for making a dent in the music business. He had seemingly some pretty far out ideas about how to get it done. So we went to Detroit and we moved into his mom's house, (laughs) with him and his mom, and started working on trying to get something going, and met some friends of his. I don't think we played that much. We played some parties. One of those guys kind of fell in with us. He was a guy who was an accountant at Motown. He seemed to think he could really help us out. He became kind of our partner. Our manager at the time, Jim Kasley, cooked up a scheme for us to do a 'live' recording at that nightclub in Detroit called The Red Velvet or something. I forget the name of the club. So we had written enough compositions and hired a guy to bring professional tape recorders and some mics. He put out news releases to all the media, a couple of newspapers, TV stations, FM (radio) stations, offering free wine and beer. (laughs) So the place was packed. We recorded our album. It wasn't long after the recording that our friend from Motown knew where to get the record pressed. Back in those days you sent it to a pressing plant and you had to get the graphics done, the pictures, the front cover, back cover and such. You had to have the cover assembled where they'd slip the actual record into the packaging. It was quite a deal. We got that done and as soon as we released it, the guys at WBAX, one of the first FM stations in the country, 24 hour Rock stations, kind of album oriented Rock station, they put it on continuous rotation. It was about a week after it got put on continuous rotation that that we got a call from Atco Records, which was Atlantic, one of their labels. They wanted to buy the album from us and sign us up. They did. It was crazy because right after we signed with 'em and they were in the process of putting the Atco label on it, they had to press it, we got a call from the guy who signed us and he said, "Look, I'm leaving Atco to form a new record company and you guys can be the first artists on this label." "What? We don't want to leave Atco. It's the home of Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. My God! We're not gonna do it." Subsequently the guy left. Unbeknownst to us, the record company he started was all funded by the Warner Group and Atlantic Records. It turned out that nobody at Atlantic knew who we were after that guy left. So our manager had to go to New York, bang on the doors at Atlantic and remind them that they had us. We were their artist.
Q - After you got that record deal the fun really started, didn't it?
A - Well, it was kind of right then because you could see we were starting to build an audience and reputation, but it was also frustrating because we didn't feel like the record company was doing much to promote us, and rightfully so. They had no reason to. They didn't know who we were and we didn't know enough about what was going on at the company. We may have sold 10,000 of that first album. It was "An Evening At Home: Teegarden And Van Winkle". (laughs) We were continually pressing Atlantic Records to do something. We kind of made a decision. We would go into the studio. We needed to record our second album. So, we started working on another album and we kind of went over the limit. Back in those days the record company would pay your recording costs. They would take it out from your royalties when you made any royalties. We kind of run the bill up like a lot of groups would do back in the day. When our second album came out they didn't do much to promote it. Ahmet Ertegun actually came to Detroit to check us out. I think they wanted to see what they had signed. It's kind of ironic that the same night he came to see us at a club we were playing, a guy named Lee Michaels was in town performing. Ironically Lee Michaels came out to the club we were performing (in) and sat in with us. He had his drummer, Frosty, I don't remember his full name, but the result was Ahmet Ertegun dropped us and signed Lee Michaels. So we were left without a record company.
Q - That's funny, I thought Lee Michaels was at A&M Records.
A - He was. At one time he was.
Q - Where'd he have that big hit record?
A - I think that might've been A&M. I may have this all wrong, but it seemed like it was owned by the Warner Group. It seemed like A&M was signed to Warner.
Q - A&M was an independent label.
A - Well, I know they were. Didn't they sell?
Q - Later on. Years later. Where did Skip's last name, Van Winkle come from?
A - That was given to him by manager Jim Casley. He was all upset about trying to figure out how to market us. Skip's name was Knape, kind of a French sounding name. He had a little extra heavy Okie accent to him, Skip did and I guess Jim Casley being from Detroit equated that and said, "Let's call him Van Winkle, like Rip Van Winkle." So that became our name, Teegarden And Van Winkle, which in my estimation was not a very good idea. (laughs) That's a lot to put on a marquee.
Q - It's also something you would remember, isn't it?
A - Well, that's true.
Q - Maybe it should've been Van Winkle, but then you would've been totally shut out.
A - T & V was what I always called it.
Q - Maybe that would've worked. I don't know.
A - I don't know either, but anyway, that's how it turned out.
Q - Did you write "God, Love And Rock And Roll"?
A - No. Skip and I wrote that song. He wrote the bulk of it.
Q - How did that song come about?
A - Actually it was through an inspiration of Leon Russell. After we'd lost our record deal with Atlantic, we were kind of scrambling around trying to figure out how we could get with another label, still playing our gigs and thinking it might be all over. We were young enough we didn't know any better. I kinda kept communications with Leon. I'd call him every couple of months to see what he was doing and he would hang up on me. He was telling me he had this band he was putting together. It was Joe Cocker. He had kind of fallen in with Denny Cordell who was a producer and they were forming an alliance and he was putting this tour together or they were, Mad Dogs And Englishmen. Their first gig was gonna be in Detroit. "C'mon down," he said. "We'll be staying at such and such Holiday Inn. We'll be in town such and such date." So, we went down there. A lot of friends of ours were in that band. A bunch of Tulsa people and Oklahoma people plus a couple of Brits. So, we were very, very inspired by that. They played two nights in Detroit. For some reason Leon got into that Black Gospel kind of stuff. So he had all the background singers singing in the style of that Black Gospel stuff which was very soulful.
Q - Very early on in his career Leon Russell played on Gary Lewis And The Playboys records.
A - Oh, yeah.
Q - I believe he kind of cringed about doing that. These songs have stood the test of time!
A - I know. He was fantastic! As well as the other players. That was all The Wrecking Crew. Those guys played on all The Beach Boys' stuff, Jan And Dean. Just countless, countless artists they backed up in sessions. But anyway, we were so impressed and blown away with Leon's deal he invited us on stage just to play tambourines and shakers. It was so fun to see 'em all. All our old buddies from Oklahoma via California and seein' 'em there in Detroit. So Skip started workin' on that song, "God, Love And Rock And Roll". He kind of ran it by me. He was afraid it sounded too much like the Curtis Mayfield song "Amen", which had won an Academy Award. I can't remember the movie. Being a drummer, all of a sudden I was an attorney. I said, "Yeah. It sounds just like it except it changes at the end of the phrase." Both melodically and lyrically it was different. It sounded pretty close melodically the way the Curtis Mayfield tune was, but it didn't finish out the phrase. It changed. But I said, "No. That's great." I kind of helped him edit some of the words, but he gave me half writers' credit on it. We recorded it and decided that was going to be the ticket for getting us on a new label. So we did record it as a single. We recorded two songs. It was quite a process. We did the basic tracks, the rhythm tracks at Jim Kasley's house. He had a cabin on a lake there in Michigan. We recorded the basic track there and took it into Detroit and transferred that over to a multi-track tape. We got some girls together to sing back-up. We got four White girls and four Black girls and then we got a horn section and we put them on it and then we sang the lead after all that was done. We scraped enough money to get some singles pressed up and we took 'em to some distributors, or our manager did, some local record distributors. He took it to one guy and he said, "This is a hit! I want this song! I want to buy it." That was a guy, Armen Boladian, and he called West Bend Records which was mainly Black artists, but he also had The Detroit Emeralds and Parliament / Funkadelic. He had just signed a national distribution deal with somebody. (laughs) I don't know who it was. They were goin' great guns. They had a hit record with Mungo Jerry, "In The Summertime".
Q - How did your life change when you had a hit record? Did you tour behind it?
A - We did tour, but it was a nightmare because we didn't have enough money to do an album. We couldn't make any money record sales wise unless you had a album. Your single was like the introduction to your album. You couldn't make any money on a single alone, but we were making money 'cause we were getting bookings like crazy. It was a constant battle to go into the studio and record, have an album. It was crazy. In fact, I put my foot down and said, "We can't take on any more gigs 'til we get this album finished." Kasley said, "Okay, the next gig that comes in, you gotta take the call and tell 'em we can't take it." And the next call was from Dick Clark. He wanted us to be on The Dick Clark Show. "I'm sorry, we can't do it."
Q - His TV show or his bus tour?
A - His TV show.
Q - Maybe it would've been worth it.
A - It would've been, I'm sure. If nothing else, thirty, forty years later you can say you'd been on The Dick Clark Show and you'd be on video tape.
Q - That would've given you a lot of bragging rights.
A - Exactly. Anyway, we finally did finish the album and I don't think it did that well. You never get proper accounting from the record company.
Q - I hear that all the time.
A - Yeah. I just loved the guy who owned the company. I know he spent a lot of money on us for studio time. Six, seven years later I wanted to make a trip up to Detroit to see "Punch" Andrews, Seger's manager. I loved him. He was always a pretty straight-forward guy. He always seemed to look out for everybody, although some of the guys didn't think so, I did. I called Armen Boladian's office and told 'em I wanted to come up and say hi and visit him. Boy, they did everything they could... they didn't want to see me. I think they were afraid I was gonna put a lawsuit on 'em or serve him papers. Finally, two years ago they started sending me royalties on "God, Love And Rock And Roll", but it'd be just ridiculous, like 5 cents. A whole check for 5 cents. I'm just laughing about it. I think the biggest royalty they finally sent was maybe two or three months ago was $4. But I had somebody tell me, "You need to cash those checks." I didn't even deposit 'em, just so they can see you're on top of 'em.
Q - You toured with Bob Seger and recorded with Bob Seger?
A - Sure.
Q - I think I read an interview with Bob Seger where he said he splits the gig money evenly with is whole band, but not the songwriting revenue. Were you on that deal with him or was that before your time?
A - I was. The circumstances when I joined The Silver Bullet Band were not a good time because their regular drummer, Charlie Martin, had suffered an accident, auto-pedestrian accident. They were on a break from the Night Moves tour and doing rehearsals over in Ann Arbor and one night after a rehearsal Charlie was headed back to Detroit on the freeway and his car ran out of gas. He got out and walked up to cross the road to the service station and got hit by a car, paralyzed from the waist down. He was lucky he lived. He was certainly out for the rest of the tour. After we, Skip and I, split from Bob, he was kind of pleading with me to stay with him. I said, "I can't do it. Skip and I have a commitment with the record company, but I'll get you some guys from Tulsa." And there were two guys from Tulsa who had the same set-up as we did. An organ player who played bass pedals, and a drummer. And they went out and played with him for a year or so 'til they got fed up with pulling a trailer. Bob had a Ford station wagon. (laughs) That was before Bob was big. But he was working a lot. Anyway, they finally quit and came back home and lucked into a deal with Carl Radle, the bass player from Tulsa who got on with Eric Clapton. He got those guys on with Eric. Anyway, during this time Seger was having this meteoric rise with "Night Moves" and then in the middle of that Night Moves tour when they had taken a break and the drummer got hit by a car, they called Jamie (Eric Clapton's drummer, Jamie Oldaker) and asked him to fill in for a while 'cause they had a lot of dates scheduled. Turned out Jamie was on a break with Eric. So he went with him for a couple of weeks. About the last gig he played with 'em was Tulsa and Bob called me at that time and said, "Would you mind, would you consider coming on with The Silver Bullet Band?" I said, "Well, sure." I had to do an audition. They auditioned a bunch of drummers, but I kind of knew all those guys from my previous experiences in Detroit. At that time I had moved back to Tulsa. So, they started me just on a salary and it really wasn't very much, but it was a lot more than I was making in Tulsa playing six nights a week. He didn't share the money with me 'til I think we did the next tour or I don't know which one it was now. (laughs) But they gave me a raise. I was making pretty good money, but I wasn't cut in on the proceeds of the house 'til the Against The Wind tour. Boy, then I made a ton of money. He just split it among the original guys.
Q - What a great gig that must've been!
A - Holy shit! Every time I walked on stage it was $10,000. That'd be lot of money right now. I'd be happy with that. (laughs)