Gary James' Interview With
Duane Hitchings






He's a home-town boy who has made good. Duane Hitchings is a legend in Syracuse, N.Y. and outside of Syracuse, N.Y. When he was just a teenager he was already doing the Dick Clark Tours with the likes of Del Shannon, Bobby Vinton, and Ricky Nelson. He recorded with Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Janis Joplin and Jeff Beck. He was the founding member of Cactus which included Carmine Appice and Tim Bogert. He played keyboards and guitar with Alice Cooper and keyboards for Rod Stewart. He's toured the world with Eric Carmen, Rick Derringer, Davy Johnston (Elton John) and Tom Peterson (Cheap Trick). He discovered and pre-produced rock band "Telsa" He co-wrote and played on four hits with Rod Stewart: "Do You Think I'm Sexy", "Young Turks", "Inflation", and "Crazy 'Bout Her". He's written and played on hits and hit albums with Heart, Eddie Money, Kim Carnes, Pat Benatar, Steve Perry and Alice Cooper. He received a Grammy for "Flashdance", a balled co-written with Kim Carnes and Craig Krampf. He wrote movie themes for such films as Rocky IV and Iron Eagle. He's visited England, China and Russia as Ambassador of the Arts in three separate trips representing the United States. These days he calls Nashville his home and writes songs for people like Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.

It's an honor to present an interview with a Rock 'n' Roll legend, make that a Syracuse, N.Y. rock 'n' roll legend - Mr. Duane Hitchings.

Q - It's always nice to talk to someone from Syracuse who went on to do bigger and better things. I don't believe most people in Syracuse know about all the talent that has come from their city.

A -Well, thank you.

Q - You are from the Valley section of Syracuse?

A - No. I'm from South Onondaga. I lived a mile south of South Onondaga, on a dairy farm. Great Grandpa Hitchings had Hitchings Apple Orchards. He used to have advertisements on the Arthur Godfrey Show. He was quite a guy. But each one of us in each generation went off in our own direction. My grandfather was Assistant Secretary of Agriculture. My dad had a construction company and did wonderful. I had wonderful parents. They're still alive. They've been married for 67 years. Well, like everybody who knows 'em says they're not good shots. (Laughs). No, they're the sweetest people. I'm very, very fortunate. The Lord really blessed me with wonderful parents and a sister. I went to Onondaga Central High School and Manlius Military Academy. My dad decided that when I was living my life as a musician; and he was President of the School Board; that I was gonna be another George Jones song, a country sad song, a guy with a pick-up truck getting his girlfriend pregnant in high school. So, he sent my butt to Manlius. I tell you, every young man should go through military training for two years even if it's only in high school or college. It really focuses. It's better than the draft because the draft is a little forceful. That's what they do in Israel. That's why their army is so awesome over there. I went to Manlius my junior and senior year. I was gonna go to West Point but I still loved my music and my music teacher helped me get a music scholarship to San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Q - That was expensive to go to Manlius Military Academy wasn't it?

A - Yeah, well I got a part music scholarship and my dad and mom worked their butts off to send me there. We don't come from a rich family. Great Grandpa Hitch was rich, but by the time that comes down through the family...Forget About It! (Laughs).

Q - What year did you graduate from Manlius?

A - 1962. Headquarters Company. I still talk to them. I talked to 'em just a little while ago. I couldn't make my reunion. The people that would've been my senior year in Onondaga Central just had a reunion, but because I was on the road, I couldn't make it. It was their 45th Anniversary, at Onondaga Central. I love those people a lot. That's why I love Tennessee so much. It's so country down here. It's just country people. That's the way it is in Central New York. So, I missed that one too, but eventually I'll get to it.

Q - What bands did you play in, in Syracuse and where did you play?

A - Oh, yeah. The first gig I ever played was in high school at Onondaga Central. I was a junior in high school. Bob Sanders played trumpet. Scottie, I forgot his last name; it was 4 of us, drums, guitar, trumpet and piano. My mother got a picture of the thing. I can't believe it. The first time I ever went onstage my mothers got a picture of it. That means a lot. We played for the school and we played for a couple of dances. And then some guy named Jeff Chappelle from Elmwood High School had a band called Jeff And the Notes. Now, these guys were 19, 20 and 21 years old. These were grown men. (Laughs). I was only 15 or 16. I played classical since I was 5. I could play with my knuckles. I played Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard and all that stuff. The first gig we ever had was playing for the Auburn Elks Club. The piano was stuck on the floor 'cause we couldn't get the piano up on the stage. It was too heavy. So I had to play on the floor. It was a stand-up piano. Jeff was perpendicular to the stage. Well, Jeff would do a Chuck Berry Duck Walk on the top of the piano out in the audience. Nicky Russo played guitar. His name keeps coming up in the Syracuse music business. And Brian Sanders on Rhythm Guitar and Jeff Chappelle lead singer. The defining moment was this cute girl with short black hair, really pretty. The rage was engineer boots back then with black leather jackets. This beautiful girl came up to me and says, 'How'd you like to sit on this?' and put out both her hands like I was supposed to sit on her hands. She said, 'You are just darling. You are just the cutest thing.' What went through my mind was, one - I'm having a ball. Number two - this girl is gorgeous and wants to party, let's make it polite. Number three - I'm getting paid for this crap? (Laughs). Number four - I found my career. (Laughs). And that's it, man. That was it.

Q - What happened to that girl?

A - I have no idea because she got into a knife fight with some other girl in the girls' bathroom. (Laughs). The police had to come in. I'll tell you, it's a good thing I didn't sit on her hands because this would not have been good. (Laughs).

Q - No telling where that knife would've ended up.

A - I know. I was trying to be chaste. And if you believe that, I've got some land in Florida. This was a very important night, probably one of the most important nights of my school life. Jeff took a girl home in Auburn. He dropped me off at the Auburn Diner. Before he left, he promised my mom and dad, and I was only 15 years old, that I'd be home at 11 o'clock. Well, heck we didn't stop the gig until 11, or 10:30, something like that. He dropped me off at the Auburn Diner. I'm sitting there alone. He said, 'I'm gonna take this girl home. I'll be right back'. He goes behind the barn to go parking with her and gets stuck in all the cow shit. The girl had 3 brothers who were at least 6' 3".

Q - Oh, boy.

A - And I mean farm boys. That wasn't the problem. The problem was the 6' 5" father who came out with a double-barrel shot gun. (Laughs). It was in the middle of the winter and the mud and everything else. Jeff somehow begged for his life...and got it, 'cause they'd just pulled around the barn and seen it. So he picks me up at 4 in the morning. I don't know what they'd done in between. I never asked. He got me home and dropped me off in front of my dad's and mom's house. He would not come into the house 'cause he's be in trouble once again. The car was all muddy. Jeff still remembers. The last time I talked to Jeff we had a laugh about it. I went inside any my parents were just about to call Mr. Coatie. He was the head State Trooper of Central New York. He was our neighbor. He was gonna call an All Points Bulletin on me. (Laughs). But, this was the defining moment. That one and this is the second one. I walked into my mothers and fathers and as sweet as they are, I stood up and you know when someone is sincere and they're really talking to you and you're speaking from the heart? It's not because of the girl either. Because I got up onstage and made people happy and they had a great time and I had something to do with that through music. I told my mother and father, 'I found what I want to do for the rest of my life'. I played piano since I was 5 and loved it. Sports - I couldn't catch a ball if you put a gun to my head. You got a football in my hand you couldn't take me down. I may run in the wrong direction but I was real good at holding onto it. But, that's about it. And you know my mom and dad just looked at me and said, 'o.k. son' and went back to bed. And, that was the beginning. My mom got up the next morning and said, 'the only thing we ask since we're Presbyterian is you don't dance on Sunday'. That Sunday I played North of Syracuse. It's where everybody gathered. We played some club and got another gig Sunday. I got $15, man. That was a lot of money in 1956, 1957. We played that gig. Not only were they dancing, but somebody had picked on a soldier and really was pretty rotten to the guy. In fact, terrible to him. I think he was a soldier. He knew how to defend himself. He gave him a shot to the neck and the guy died later. So, that was my second gig. Within 2 days I was accosted sexually and the second day somebody died on the gig. So, that's pretty much the beginning of my career. (Laughs).

Q - What kind of places were you playing in those days? That's some story.

A - We played bars.

Q - Do you remember names?

A - Most of it was in North Syracuse. I'm Italian by osmosis. A lot of my friends were Italian. But, I was a musician because Rome, Utica, Rochester - The Mangione Bros. In the Italian community in Syracuse...fantastic musicians. At that same time Dick Lawrence was a d.j. And that's another thing we did, Dick Lawrence stopped by the front of the high school with a Dick Clark comic book and asked me right in front of a girl I had a crush on, 'Can we go make a record? We're gonna make a record with Jan And the Radiants'. We went to Rochester. We took about 49 cuts 'cause there was one microphone. That was it. One track. We didn't know it 'til I went to college that the thing went to Number One. Called 'Heart And Soul'. There was another 'Heart And Soul' out that was a lot straighter. Ours went to Number One. I made $15 and the girl asked me to go steady with her. I'd mention her name but I don't want to embarrass her. I lasted 2 weeks (Laughs). Some other guy came along and stole her away from me. But man, I was hot there for 2 weeks!! There were 2 girls that were extremely pretty and she was one of the prettiest ones in school. So, that was the beginning of my recording career. It all happened in like 3 months. So, that's it and after that I went to college. I constantly played.

Q - You don't remember the names of the bars?

A - Man!! Nicky Russo could tell you. We played with Bobby Comstock And The Counts out of Binghamton. I did a Dick Clark Tour with Bobby Comstock And The Counts. Bobby and Jeff Chappelle were cousins. That's how I got a Dick Clark Tour. I just had a ball, man. I had an old piece of crap piano that I'd play and I'd bang the crap out of it. And, oh, my God somebody in Syracuse finally got a Fender bass, because when I played my first gig there wasn't even Fender bass guitars then.

Q - Do you have any idea who that might have been? I know because I interviewed him. Sam Amato (Sam And The Twisters).

A - Oh, my heavens, yeah! Oh, man I haven't heard that name forever. Oh yeah, they kicked ass!!

Q - "Sam And The Twisters" were one of the biggest groups in Syracuse in the early 1960's.

A - Oh, yeah. They were. Holy Catfish. I haven't heard that name in a long time.

Q - You were in a group with Mike Pinera called "Thee Image".

A -Yeah. Pinera and I got together after 'Cactus'. Way after my career started. We drove 'Cactus' right into the ground. That band was awful. It was an embarrassment. Carmine Appice and Tim Bogert; I was invited to join 'Cactus' and we wanted Michael Pinera desperately. Michael was from the 'Blues Image'. He wrote 'Ride Captain Ride' and he was in 'Iron Butterfly'. Michael and I ended up being dear friends. We were the second 'Cactus'. Carmine and Timmy went with Jeff Beck which was 'BBA'. And before that it was 'Cactus'. Before there was 'Cactus' we were trying to get Mike Pinera. He was in a band called 'Ramatam' which was pretty bad with Mitch Mitchell. They weren't very good, but, we wanted Michael, 'cause he was such a phenomenal player and a great guitar player and wrote hit records which Cactus needed badly. We moved to Miami and all we did is party. We went on tour to rest. That's how much partyin' was going on. (Laughs).

Q - You went to Syracuse University for how long?

A - Just for a year. I went to San Francisco Conservatory 'cause my mom and dad were gonna move to San Francisco. Well, they never did. So, I got a scholarship out there. I wrote a bunch of children's songs for piano. Classical. Then I went to Syracuse University. I had a piano trio called the Duane Hitchings Trio. We used to play at the Hackney House, downtown (Syracuse). I forget now where it was. It was just off Salina Street. That was the guys from Jeff And The Notes. Nicky Russo played drums. He played jazz drums. Brian Sanders who had played guitar with Jeff And The Notes got himself a Fender Bass and we had a jazz trio. We played the Club Dewitt, which has since been torn down and the Hackney House. That year I was going to Syracuse University. Then I was accepted to Philadelphia Conservatory Of Music. As a composer I wanted to study down there.

Q - What kind of a place was the Hackney House?

A - It was a steak house. It was a very nice place. We played there for about six months. Every now and then let's just say some very, very, very heavy famous people would come in of Italian background. Their bodyguards would come in first and then they would come in. Nicky Russo of course knew exactly who they were. Let me give you a hint, my grandfather was a really good friend of Vito Genovese, because my father was with the government. They just knew each other. But, this wasn't Mr. Genovese. This was other people.

Q - Give me a hint.

A - I can't remember his name, and it's just as well I don't. But the two bodyguards would come in, and one would go into the Men's Room and the other one would go into the Lady's Room. He loved 'Sincerely'. So, the minute he walked into that door one of the bodyguards would come over with three $50 bills and that was a lot of money. And they were crisp too. Or maybe they were just printed out. I don't know. (Laughs). We played 'Sincerely' for 20 minutes. We'd do Peter Nero things and stuff like that. Then I went to Philadelphia Conservatory Of Music. I played with a group down there and that's where I met the Buddy Miles Express.

Q -"Sincerely" was a hit for The McGuire Sisters. Phyllis McGuire used to go out with Sam Giancana. Sam Giancana used to come into the Hackney House then?

A - Oh, my God!! You just tripped my memory. I played with some jazz musicians. I was way over my head, reading charts, 'cause I just played by ear. I could read Chopin by charts. I played Three Rivers Inn for about 2 months. And she came in with him. Quite a few times. In fact we were backing up the McGuire Sisters. Sixteen piece band. I remember that specifically. Nicky took me up to introduce me to him. I could tell he was the Real Deal. We all had a crush on her (Phyllis McGuire). But, to attempt to even get near her would mean immediate death. (Laughs). I didn't want to end up floating in the Erie Canal.

Q - So, you remember Three Rivers Inn and owner Dom Bruno?

A - Yes. I haven't heard that name in a long time. Before I had the gig I went out there. I wanted to see Ray Charles because one of the first rock things I did when I was about 14 was 'What'd I Say', in the Wurlitzer piano I had. I went out to see Ray Charles but it wasn't Ray Charles that really knocked me in the ass. He knocked me in ass. He kicked my butt good. But, this young kid by the name of Billy Preston came out and that Ray had found, and got up and played B-3. This is before I went to military school. That is when I decided to play the Hammond B-3. He came out and killed me. He just killed everybody. Billy was bad to the bone, man. I know he just passed away. I got to see Billy Preston on one of his first tours with Ray Charles. It gives me goose bumps just to think about it now. Billy would do things like put his hands up on the B-3 and elevate himself and dance on the bass pedals and play 'em! (Laughs). I said I gotta play the B-3. Man, you brought back some memories for me.

Q - Did you ever play the Holiday Bowl on Erie Blvd?

A -Man!! Listen to this one!!! That's the first place I saw Jeff And The Notes. I had never heard guitars so loud in my life. They were big old 12" speakers with 15 watts. I went up to Jeff and said, 'I play piano. I want to play with your band'. I was scared. I was a little kid. I want to play, so they gave me an audition at his mother's house. His mother was a piano teacher, in the Valley. At the Holiday Bowl was Cliff Richard, and the guys that did the song 'Red River Valley and Jeff And The Notes'. The bass player knocked me out. He kicked my ass. They were the first English musicians I ever met. Oh, man you're bringing back some great memories.

Q - You're telling me Cliff Richard was at the Holiday Bowl?

A - No, maybe not. It was a skating rink in North Syracuse. They used it as a rock venue. I know because people started skating afterwards and were skating before. I went out there and my mouth dropped open. I remember Jeff And The Notes. They held their own against these big, so called recording star groups. They were good. They had the Chuck Berry thing down. Oh, there was one other thing when I was in high school. I did the Dick Clark Tour. I went with Bobby Comstock And The Counts 'cause Jeff called me and they needed a piano player. We were the band and I was the piano player for Bobby Vinton, The Crystals; Dee Dee would come with her big fat butt and put it on my Wurlitzer, sit on it and shake it back and forth. We played nothing but skating rinks all across Canada, all the way to Vancouver. (Also on the tour): The Rivingtons and Del Shannon, who was one of the sweetest cats I ever met. He got a brand new fire engine red Cadillac. He just got married and went on some ice and totally ruined the thing. I couldn't understand why there were no hotels on the itinerary except two. We're out for seven days. I said 'Bobby', and Bobby was into hypnotism. I was a kid and again these guys were 19, 20 years old. So, I got on the tour and all these big people I see on TV. Far out, man. All these skating rinks would be covered with wood, so people would freeze to death standing on the ice. On the first night out I was tired, and said 'Aren't we gonna sleep'? We were all in a stretch Plymouth station wagon. The drums everything. Of course we didn't bring many clothes. We smelled like mules when we got back. But, they brought out this big bag of little white pills. I said, 'What the hell is that? Do people get headaches here'? Bobby Comstock said no, man. 'You just take one of these. It's kind of a waker-upper'. Well, they were white crosses. And then he had another bag of black widows they called them. I took two of these things and I was awake for two days. Then when I finally fell asleep because Bobby Comstock; I laugh about it now 'cause I haven't had any drugs, cigarettes or drinks for 18 years. Unlike most people, I didn't go to rehab. I was a part-time partier. So, I remember going to sleep finally and Bobby Comstock hypnotized me while I was sleeping. He did that for a lot of people, especially horn players. The last gig, the sucker me, Bobby said when he (Bobby Vinton) gets in the middle of just breaking down the piano and he's talking to the audience and I'm just doing the chords to 'Blue Velvet' and I'm playing the little piano part, Bobby Comstock says to me in hypnotism, when I say chicken I want you to take your fists and start pounding your piano as loud as you can. Bobby (Vinton) had a girlfriend waiting for him. Maybe it was his wife. I don't know who it was. She was very, very beautiful, with at least a $20,000 mink in those days, and diamonds all over the place. Of course she was only 18, 19, 21 years old. Who knows? He was bending down giving her a flower and Bobby (Comstock) comes over and says chicken. Gary, I swear I don't know what got into me. I just started pounding the crap out of the keyboards. Now, this was the last song. The drummer fell off the drums he was laughing so hard. The rest of the musicians were dying. They were on the floor. Vinton turns around in just horror. And then he got madder than hell and said, 'You're fired! Bobby Comstock yelled out to him, this is the last number'. (Laughs) So, that was my experience with Mr. Vinton and Mr. Comstock.

Q - Did you know The Beatles? The Stones? And The Who?

A -I knew Ronnie Wood real well because of Rod (Stewart), not really well. I just knew Ronnie. I have never met the rest of The Stones. The Beatles I met twice. When I was in the Buddy Miles Express I was playing with Michael Pinera in Thee Image, slash Cactus. We were just becoming Thee Image. Two gentlemen were looking for a keyboard player that played keyboard bass and keyboards. Kind of a gentle thing, not a Rock band. I could, 'cause I played B-3 organ. I played left-hand bass. I had Bob Mook who's from Binghamton, New York, the creator of the synthesizer. Bob used to come to my college and I knew him before that. My mom and dad would drive me down to Binghamton and he made me a keyboard bass that to this day I keep and treasure. He's definitely one of my heroes. So, I played keyboard bass with these huge Sunn amplifiers. I mean, it was loud. Then, I'd play right-hand organ and a piano with my right hand. So, we were three piece. I was sick and tired of going through bass players. One guy would either be on heroin, somebody's' having trouble with his wife, another guy would be an alcoholic. I mean I just got sick and tired of it. So, we hired my left hand, and I played pretty darn good bass with my left-hand, plus I played right-hand Fender bass anyway. I look over to my side and unfortunately it was one of the very, very, very few nights that I drank or would in any way be inebriated while on the stage. Party afterwards? Yeah, to some degree. You can't help it. It's just party city, especially during those times. But, I'd had a little too much and I was playing. We were playing with Bachman Turner Overdrive. We were on tour with them. Two people came to see me to consider me. I wasn't playing all that good and was making mistakes and blew one of the biggest opportunities I ever had. I looked to my left as we're coming offstage and they were clapping thankfully so maybe I didn't play as bad as I thought it was, but it was Bob Dylan and George Harrison. They came to see me 'cause they were thinking of hiring me 'cause they'd heard of me. I just went, oh, no. I knew I didn't play as good as I could. Had I played as good as I could, I could've been playing with who knows? So, that was a shock. And the other time when I was with Timmy and Carmine at Electric Ladyland in New York recording the Cactus album 'Hot and Sweaty'. Jimmy McCarty who's my best friend with Buddy Miles Express when I played there two years prior, were working on a ballad which is on that album. I was playing this grand piano and I was around Hendrix a whole lot. He produced the Buddy Miles Express when I was in it. I would jam with Jimi (Hendrix) and knew Jimi. He was the kindest, sweetest gentleman I've ever met. I'm sitting there at the piano at Electric Ladyland. Jim McCarty bends over to me and says, 'Don't look and don't try to be too obvious, but, I want you to look behind me'. And so I looked behind me and there's Yoko Ono sitting on the floor and John Lennon. They had been sitting there for 10 minutes. And I stopped playing and they said that's a beautiful song. I was stunned. I mean The Beatles to me...you might as well have Chopin walk through the door, 'cause I was classical too. I said, 'Well, thank-you'. Jimmy said, 'Thanks very much, man'. I said, 'Man, we didn't mean to interrupt. We're gonna go'. I always try to keep things on the light side. I said, 'Now, listen. If you want to help us finish this, song or do a vocal, feel free'. And I winked at them because everybody wanted 'em to do stuff. They said no. He said but we will hear your album. We hear 'Cactus' is a great group. Yoko waved. They said, 'God Bless and they left'. We couldn't play anymore. I mean, we just couldn't play anymore. We just sat there and went 'I can't believe who we just met'. So, that's my deal with The Bealtes and The Stones.

Q - Do you recall listening to the Syracuse radio stations of the day WNDR, WOLF?

A -WNDR. Oh, my lord, yes. When I was 13, 14, it would take me four hours to do the dishes. We lived on a farm house. There was a little cupola and there was a radio there. A little cheap Motorola radio. I would turn on Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. I'd just sit there and listen and listen and listen and listen. I grew some tomatoes and bought myself a Silvertone guitar with a sparkle on it and an amp for $99 from Sears. I'd sit there and practice with a razor blade 'cause I couldn't afford a pick or get down to Sears off Salina Street, to get a pick. So, for about two weeks there I had to use a razor blade. (Laughs).

Q -Did you ever meet or know Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin?

A - I never met Morrison. I was going to be the keyboard player for Janis Joplin. I did two rehearsals with her at a topless bar in San Francisco. It was arranged by Michael Bloomfield and a young rock guitar player by the name of Carlos Santana. Harvey Brooks was playing bass. We all auditioned at a topless bar during the day two days straight. She chickened out and went back to the band again. Janis had gone through a lot of stuff at that time. And unfortunately she died six months later. But, she was an open heart. She was a wonderful woman. She was just really confused. But man, when that woman sang...I mean, Aretha Franklin...you gotta hear those people 'live'. There are some artists you gotta hear 'live'. I played for Etta James for two months in an all Black club. I was the only white guy there. She made my B-3 organ; her voice made the wood vibrate. You can't get that on a record brother. You can't even get that on a CD.

Q - Alice Cooper...

A - One night Jimmy McCarty and I came in to the Scene (New York nightclub owned by Steve Paul), and it was before we went to the Haymarket which was an English bar and pub. We went over to the Haymarket for dinner and to the Scene early 'cause we heard there was this guy who almost got beat up in Texas because he got up with lipstick and a tutu and called all the cowboys down in Dallas / Ft. Worth a bunch of faggots. Well, that didn't go over so well and his manager had him intentionally do that so he would get in the news. He got in the New York Times. His name was Alice Cooper. So, he was going to audition that night. Then, the Columbia Glee Club was going to audition that night. We said Columbia Glee Club? What the hell are they doing down here? In those days it was esoteric. Everybody listened to everything. If it was good, it was good. If it was bad, they didn't play again, that's all. It was that simple. (Laughs). Jimmy and I are sitting there and behind my back, I remember this very vividly was Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. They were sitting in front of a candle having some Baileys and having some dinner. This guy walked in, a huge guy. He had his t-shirt rolled up with a tattoo and everything else. There was a bunch of punks, a bunch of wanna be Mafia guys that would hang there all the time. Jimmy McCarty sat there and said "This is it. They're gonna come in and start shootin' the place", 'cause they had violin cases. We thought they were violent. We were trippin' the day before. I don't know what we were doing. But, we made up this whole thing. They took instruments out. They were pre-med and pre-law students from Columbia University. They were the Columbia Popular Music Glee Club. They changed their name three weeks prior to that to Sha Na Na. That was their debut. And so we saw the New York debut of Alice Cooper and Sha Na Na, in one night. So that was the kind of place it was. I went on to play with Alice Cooper for two years. He came in and all he had was a door that didn't have any glass in it and a rubber chicken. I swear to you. They got all their instruments trashed down in Ft. Worth two days before. The manager intentionally did that. He timed in so that it came out in the new Rolling Stone that some guy named Alice Cooper had got up there with lipstick and a tutu. Well, that's it. Warner (Bros. Records) signed 'em, 'cause they got themselves a million dollars worth of publicity. That man is Shep Gordon. He went on to manage Blondie and Luther Vandross. At the time when I met Shep he smelled like a donkey. He was the roadie and soundman. He went up to the President of Warner Bros. Mo Ostin, and said, 'I can manage this group'. He had bare feet and for some reason Mo let him do it. He's now Chairman of the Board of Beverly Hills Bank. A brilliant businessman. He's worth about, well, I won't quote any numbers. He's been Chairman of the Beverly Hills Bank for twenty-five years. He's one of the kindest business people I've ever met. He's a real nice man.

Q -Why'd you leave Alice Cooper?

A - I kind of left the band because my writing career was really starting to take over. Coop to this day still bitches about it. 'You're the only guy who ever quit me'. And of course he was extremely supportive. By that time I'd had 'Do You Think I'm Sexy' and 'Young Turks' out with Rod Stewart, and had something out with Heart and Pat Benatar. It kind of looked like my life was going to writing, and I wanted to spend time doing it.

Q - You wrote this song for Rod Stewart "Do You Think I'm Sexy", correct?

A - Co-wrote it.

Q - Your name doesn't appear on the record but appears on the sheet music?

A - (Laughs). Yeah.

Q - Why doesn't it appear of the record?

A - Carmine Appice called me one afternoon. I was 3 months late in my rent. $20 in my wallet. I had auditioned for Rod Stewart and didn't get it. I played double-fisted handed Jerry Lee Lewis which is Southern Boogie-woogie piano. He wasn't necessarily looking for that. He was really looking for a piano player. David Foster was his piano player. Carmine calls me up. This was after 'Cactus'. He says, 'Hey, Duane. You gotta help me write something.' The English guys can't write a disco (song). This is when 'Saturday Night Fever' and John Travolta freakin' ruled. All of the rock 'n' roll guys, The Stones, Foreigner, AC/DC are all sitting there going 'We're screwed. It's over with'. (Laughs). This is disco. Rod being as brilliant as he is, had it in his head, and I didn't figure out 'til later to make fun of disco, but still have a great sounding track. None of the English guys had a clue. But, Carmine being from Brooklyn and the drummer...I was the only other American. Carmine comes over and says I'm twenty minutes late to Rod's house. We've got to write a disco song for him. I said, 'Carmine, thanks a lot for giving me lots of time'. He said, 'we gotta do it. I know we can do it'. So, we wrote 'Sexy' in 20 minutes. The music and some of the lead lines. I turned some of Carmine's music around. We wrote it with a drum box and a Fender piano. I had a little lead line in there. He took it up to Rod's and walked in and for the first two months, he quotes Rod as saying 'I'm going to let the lads write the songs before I start getting in all these high-priced, high falutin writers. He didn't pay them that well, but, he allowed them to co-write. The band at the time co-wrote 'Hot Legs'. They'll be making money for the rest of their lives on that song. So, that was his bonus. So, nobody is supposed to bring anything in. Carmine walks in the living room and says, 'Hey, man Hitchings and I put together this synthesized (song) and it's freakin' great'! The English guys said, 'That's not the deal here. Nobody's supposed to write outside. Hitchings an outside writer'. Carmine backed up real quick and saved the song. I know Rod and he wouldn't have done the song. Rod would just have looked for something else. Carmine changed the story immediately and said, 'Well, I mean he played piano'. So, Carmine didn't lie. O.k....you sure? Yeah. I come in and they wanted to hear me play piano again. They were still undecided. Rod came up to me with a piece of paper and split it in half and said, 'I want you. I've heard this in my head after hearing your song a couple days ago. I want you to write this down. You write music, right Duane? Your classically trained'? Yes. He said, 'I want you to write this down', and I still didn't have my name on it and he started to hum, 'Da, da, da, ,da, da, dada dada dada da'. Now, let me see you write it. So I wrote it down. He said, 'Now play it for me'. Rod's very business. He can be very abrupt, like Donald Trump. That's why he's a good businessman. A little rough, but a businessman. He wrote it down. Then he said, o.k. write it down again. I said o.k...on another piece of paper. O.k. you're gonna give me this piece and you're gonna take this piece. It was one piece of paper. I'm sorry. He split it in two. He said,' I'm gonna lose this thing 'cause I'll probably go out and get drunk tonight. Do not lose this (my piece of paper)'. We're gonna practice Monday and we're gonna go over this song. We put 'Sexy' together. At that time Carmine had already said I had nothing to do with it. Carmine called the next day and said, 'Rod it's gonna be a big hit'. I'm going back three days now. The bad news is you're not gonna get credit for it. I said, 'What are you talking about? This guy will probably make millions'. He said it's o.k. we'll share it. So, I said I'm gonna call my attorney. So, I had Carmine in my attorney's office Monday, the next morning at 9 o'clock. So, we're dear friends. You already know what I'm going to say. In order to keep business and friends together, you go to an attorney. You do business correctly, because money screws up families, friendships and everything else. So, we split it. Now, a year later I write 'Young Turks , by myself this time, with Rod. I gave half my royalties to Carmine as a thank-you. That's a lot of money. A lot of records. When we finished, Rod and I were left at the bar. We'd always go next to The Record Plant which was in L.A. Rod said to me, 'I know your music and I want you to tell me the truth. Did you write Sexy'? I said, 'Rod', and my first check was $79,000. This man has made me a lot of money. This guy started my career. There's no way I can lie to him. I said 'I'll tell you the truth. Yes, I did write Sexy'. He never asked me. I said, 'I said, 'I'm going against the promise I had with Carmine'. He said, 'What agreement with Carmine'? I said, 'Well, anybody outside The lads can't write for the first month or two'. He said, 'yeah, the lads. You're part of the lads. You're writing for me'. He said, 'I never said any such thing. I'm English. You know what the English think of Hitler'? I said, 'Well, you have to hate him pretty much'. He said, 'Damn right, but I'd take a hit from him. (Laughs). I almost fell off the bar stool. So, I don't know who is right about this. Maybe it's just misunderstanding 'cause I know Carm has never lied to me. Rod has never lied to me. I think it was just a big misunderstanding. I did not have my name on 'Sexy' for 10 years until I sold my publishing and believe me with the check they gave me, half of it was for 'Sexy'. And, 'Don't Look Any Further. They were my two biggest hits, and 'Young Turks', 'Infatuation''. So, sometimes you'll see my name on it. Sometimes you won't. That was a long answer, but it was the only way I could answer it because it's quite involved.

Q - When was the last time you were in Syracuse?

A - Too long and my mom and dad remind me of that. I'm going to come up in the next month or two.

Q - Why are you living in Nashville instead of Los Angeles?

A - Los Angeles is bankrupt. The music is no good. It sucks. It's terrible. It's a joke. It's quasi. When Marilyn Manson is the best musical statement...I was with the original Marilyn Manson, it was Alice Cooper. It's a joke. It's over with. Good-bye. Popular music is folk music. It's music for folks. I might be a half ass big shot in L.A. but I ain't shit here, but that's o.k. I can still do a Peter Frampton album and write for him. It's because it's gentile here. It's friendly. People don't try to kill themselves on the freeway. The traffic is nice. They have beautiful farms. It doesn't rain all the time, like it does in Seattle. Nancy (from 'Heart') and her husband have a beautiful horse farm. This has really become the Music Center of the world, even over London. It's the Renaissance town of music. I love Syracuse, and I love the Central New York attitude. It's Country and that's exactly what it is down here. So, I came home so to speak.


© Gary James. All rights reserved.


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