Gary James' Interview With George Egosarian Of
They were originally known as Free Will, that is until the Fall of 1971 when they became Jukin' Bone. They recorded their first album for RCA Records in 1972 and a U.S. tour followed. In 1973 Jukin' Bone recorded their second album, "Way Down East". By the Fall of 1973, Jukin' Bone was no more. What happened to this Syracuse, New York group that held such great promise? Jukin' Bone member George Egosarian explains.
Q - Last week of course was the SAMMYS (Syracuse Area Music Awards). Jukin' Bone was inducted into the SAMMYS Hall Of Fame. You were not in town to help receive that award. How come you weren't there?
A - I really, really wanted to be there. I was very disappointed. There were things that were scheduled, critical business things prior that there was just no way out of. It was extremely disappointing. We all talked about it. We wanted all five members to be there. We've been talking back and forth incessantly since then. I really, really wanted to be there. It just didn't happen. If it was a couple of days later, but I just couldn't do it.
Q - When you're given that award, is it one award or five individual awards?
A - That's a good question. I have no idea. There's some stuff posted and it shows one award that says Jukin' Bone, but I don't really know.
Q - For whatever reason, I thought that Jukin' Bone had already been inducted into the SAMMY Hall Of Fame.
A - You would've thought. We made our mark. My understanding is only Mark (Doyle, Jukin' Bone guitarist) and Joe (Whiting, Jukin' Bone lead singer) had individual awards or awards regarding their work for their other groups. I guess it's the first for Jukin' Bone, which is a little strange considering allegedly we have made some kind of a considerable mark there. This group of guys who didn't live for awards of any kind. Awards are anathema, that's why I'm not a big fan of the Grammys and the other award shows. I could care less about that. For us, for that particular group, we were just really, really driven to be something special. We had five characters who had no business being together at times. So, it was just a very, very unique group.
Q - You were with the band when their name was Free Will?
A - Yeah. It really pissed me off, to tell you the truth, that we were forced to change the name. Free Will was not a terribly exciting name, but kind of philosophically it fit. I really liked it. I don't remember who came up with Free Will, probably Joe. I'm not sure. But Free Will, I liked the name. It had a following. Not only the band had a following, but other people felt the same way about the name itself, that there was some esoteric value to the name. Jukin' Bone was forced on us. Other guys in the band, especially Mark Doyle and Joe Whiting, can explain exactly what happened. I was in the midst of it in a hotel, somewhere in Texas when we got the word at night. I remember Joe coming in saying, "We gotta change the name or they won't release the album." Joe had a list of dozens of band names. They were trying to force us into being called Bulldog Drummond because they had a marketing scheme devised for some band that may have been called Bulldog Drummond in Britain, or something that didn't go forward. We said, "No way" to that. We manufactured Jukin' Bone. It was forced on us. I honestly, sorry Joe, Mark, and everybody, I never liked the name. But we got stuck with it.
Q - And then along comes Free.
A - Right. (laughs)
Q - They were popular.
A - Yeah, it was a good band. We had a really weird release also. Other than the albums being recorded very poorly, because anyone who saw us 'live' in those days knew we were a powerhouse on stage and the albums were grotesquely poor.
Q - I'm glad you brought that up early in the interview. I liked Jukin' Bone's song "Way Down East". Were you the rhythm player in that song?
A - I was the rhythm player and I wrote the song.
Q - You can't hear the rhythm guitar on that song. In fact, it sounds like it was recorded in a tunnel.
A - When they got to the missing part I think I had quit the band for the second time. I was the bass player in Free Will. I quit and came back as the rhythm player. I believe when they came to do the mix I may have quit and I think I was mixed way down on that second album. The way we often worked is, I would write either an entire song and submit it and Mark and Joe would kind of play with it, cultivate it the way they needed it, and in some cases it was very collaborative. "Way Down East" was very collaborative. I came up with the gist of the song and Joe wrote the lyrics and Mark refined it. I'm there, barely audio, (laughs) but I'm there.
Q - When I listen to the song, I hear someone say, "I wanna go" and someone else sings "I wanna be" Way Down East. Was that a mistake that was left in?
A - (laughs) You know, I've never heard it. I missed it. I never listened closely enough to catch that, but that happens a lot. That's not unusual in music.
Q - It gives the song a nice sound. It makes it more interesting that way.
A - Yeah, there's a lot of serendipitous things that happen when you're recording. A lot of Blues guys in the old days would make lyric errors all the time and it was kind of ingrained as a kind of a little part of Blues history that they would reverse certain words or mispronounce. So it was kind of an interesting little thing. Plus, our recordings are filled with errors with me. Essentially, I learned guitar on stage practically because I had been the group's bass player. I had been a bass player in high school, college. I always played guitar. I wrote on guitar, a little bit on piano, mostly on guitar, but I'd never played guitar on stage. So, Mark Doyle essentially taught me how to play electric guitar. I played acoustic guitar. There was a lot of rough stuff in the early days, especially on my part. It's good that I was mixed down. There's probably a bunch of places on the albums where I make mistakes.
Q - Back to Free Will for a couple of questions. One of the group's gigs was at East High School Auditorium in Auburn, New York. Free Will was one of the first groups to do a concert there. That would mean that somebody thought you guys were more than just a dance band?
A - You know, I don't really know. Joe and Mark, especially Joe would know how these things developed. I don't really know. I know that we were starting to generate a lot of interest and we were drawing bigger and bigger crowds and I don't know if crowd size was part of it. I don't really know.
Q - Free Will used to play the Rec. dances at St. Matthews in East Syracuse.
A - Yeah. I started after that. They started getting popular about then, '66 I started hearing about them, late '66. I was playing in a band at Syracuse University called The King Bees, no, sorry, it was Hardwater at that point. We were a very popular campus band. I started hearing about Free Will.
Q - In 1969, Free Will traveled to Connecticut to record some demos. Why Connecticut?
A - I wasn't in on that session. That was the period where I left as the bass player and I went back to college in Boston. I was away for maybe eight months and they recorded that during that period. Connecticut. We were very popular for some weird reason. I don't know how that got started. In Newport, Rhode Island we started getting a huge following. We were kind of red hot there and I believe from Newport it kind of spread into Connecticut. I'm not really sure. I'm sorry. I was not in the band during that short period.
Q - Jukin' Bone landed a deal with RCA Records thanks to Concerts West? That was Jerry Weintraub's company.
A - Yeah. Jerry Weintraub's name is on at least the first album, on the back of it. We, at that point, were red hot property. We were just blowing everybody away every place we played. Again, Joe is a better person at this. He was kind of on the front lines with talking to management and business people. That wasn't my forte or interest. My interest was strictly creative. I really didn't like that aspect of things. The only thing I can recall is we started making a pretty big name around the eastern United States and I believe someone from that outfit, Concerts West, may have seen us and got blown away and said they could get us a record deal, although we were talking to other record labels. As a matter of fact, I had a contact with Apple Record, The Beatles' Apple Records. We actually, at one time, were in negotiations with Apple. Actually, a song I wrote went to George Harrison called "Cold, Cold Morning". We recorded it at one point. It's not on the albums. George Harrison responded positively to that song and through an associate, a friend of a friend, there was some consideration by Apple. There were other small labels that had an interest, but this character, I guess he was from Concerts West, had dome heavy connections and got us through to Wheels. He did a showcase with us at Wheels in New York City. A lot of heavy people were there like Ahmet Ertegun. So, I think RCA gave us the biggest deal financially. That's why RCA happened. Also, Lewis Merensten, who at the time I think was the producer of The Mamas And The Papas, maybe The Animals, The Rascals, a bunch of very well known people, came to see us at The Scene in Syracuse. All of a sudden he got onboard because he realized these guys are something else. They're the real thing on stage.
Q - Since you made contact with Apple Records, did you ever meet any of The Beatles?
A - No. I met their representative. I think he was their U.S. rep at one point, and I never met any of The Beatles.
Q - That's too bad.
A - To tell you the truth, the offer was very, very anemic from what I recall. I think Mercury Records and a couple of others were talking to us. They weren't good deals at all. RCA in those days was a powerhouse. They had a lot of money. They had Elvis.
Q - Right. But RCA wasn't known as being the record label for bands. They did a great job for Elvis, David Bowie and John Denver.
A - They were absolutely pathetic. I was involved at one point with other groups after my day with Jukin' Bone, primarily as a writer. My strength is that of a writer. That's my strength. Music is very secondary. I'm a weak musician and at times an okay writer. In that capacity I worked in New York, primarily with various groups and various other labels. My God! What a difference! There weren't any really great labels. There are very few labels that were seriously centered around the artists' interests, but the worst must have been RCA. (laughs) They were simply terrible! They were strictly business. There was no aesthetic value to that outfit. I couldn't see a thing.
Q - How well did Jukin' Bone' first album do?
A - Terrible. Abysmal. A complete mess in the studio. It was a joke. We were red hot at that point, prior to that for two years running. No matter where we played, no matter who we played with, whether it was The Kinks or John Mayall or Jefferson Airplane, whatever the show, whatever club gig we did, we were really, really quite good on stage. We get into the studio and it was a farce. It was very, very poorly organized. It was surprising. We were so thrilled that we were at Electric Lady (Studios). At that point in the time table of music, one of the two or three studios in the world where you would want to be is Electric Lady, and here we were. The sessions were bad, really bad. A mess.
Q - You toured behind that first album, "Whiskey Woman", all over the U.S.
A - Yeah.
Q - Jukin' Bone was primarily a support act for all these national acts at one time.
A - Yeah. An opening band for all of 'em. There were a lot of 'em. I don't even remember 'em all. We played some really big venues. Whether it was Three Dog Night or whoever. There were a couple of dozen major shows. But yeah, we were the opening act.
Q - You must've gotten tour support then.
A - Oh, it was marginal. It didn't last very long. It was very marginal.
Q - How did you guys get around?
A - We leased. If it was a distant location we would fly there. For example, we would fly from Syracuse to Texas I believe and then kind of spread out from there to various dates in cars and we leased a big box truck for the equipment. It was a pretty standard way to go without being a major group that flew everywhere. We flew only if it was long distance. Otherwise we drove.
Q - You probably didn't make any money of the gigs, did you?
A - I don't remember making any money off them. Again, Joe would probably have some facts. All I can recall is some menial funds for food, (laughs) and being put up at various hotels, motels. Money was an issue in that band once we signed because that's in a lot of ways why the band broke up. Management was very corrupt and they took all the money.
Q - You had a manager out of Skaneateles, New York, didn't you?
A - No. I believe he was from Texas and he leased a big farm outside of Skaneateles. He was funneling the funds to his own interests. He is one of the main reasons I left the band the second time. I thought he was corrupt. I wasn't in love with the direction of the band, but I really disliked this guy. The whole group seemed to be quite enamored by him. So, I left and they found out the hard way that the guy indeed was a substantial crook. That guy and his little entourage really had a lot to do with the group disintegrating. What I'm telling you can probably be greatly and specifically embellished by Joe. He was there at the end. I wasn't. And I believe this guy left in the middle of the night. Just disappeared. The group was left holding the proverbial bag.
Q - I interview Joe Whiting. I believe it would have been in the mid-1990s.
A - There was a time when it was uncomfortable for us to discuss the band. We had a bad break-up. For the longest time Joe didn't talk to Mark. I didn't talk to anybody. Nobody talked to anybody. It was just shredded and then patched up to a point where over the last few years we're on great terms.
Q - George, your contribution to Jukin' Bone was what?
A - You've got to remember, I was at times on the periphery of things. I considered myself kind of the creative force initially. When I came into the band I said, "Enough of the Pop covers! I do original music. Let's get a record deal. Stop the nonsense. Do you want to be somebody? Do you want to go somewhere? Let's do some big things!" So, I was that guy. I was the impetus of doing stuff. But from the perspective of musicality, Mark (Doyle) was such an exceptional person. I never came across anyone with the diverse strength that Mark has with Jazz, Blues, Rock and on multi-instruments. He expresses himself extremely well musically and he articulates music verbally extremely well. Now for us as a group there's a different emphasis on Jukin' Bone. We're more positive and open to discussing it. It was a closed door for many, many years. I think the SAMMYS thing had a lot to do with it. It forced us to kind of re-communicate. There were a lot of kudos thrown around. Everybody started getting bubbly. (laughs) We're really big fans of each other. Personally I would like nothing more than for this band to develop some music that we should have developed years back and never did. I would like nothing more than for us to have that opportunity. If it happens, that's fine. If not, we can live with that too. It's been a lot of years. It would be interesting because everyone is still really talented and very capable and no one has taken their finger off the pulse of things, musically speaking.
Q - Were you in Jukin' Bone when they opened for Three Dog Night in the Center Of Progress Building at the New York State Fair in 1972?
A - To tell you the truth, I remember being at a show at the State Fairgrounds. Honestly I don't even remember the other groups booked. So, maybe I was there. (laughs) I don't even remember. I remember playing at the Fairgrounds and we had good reviews. We did a really good show.
Q - Jukin' Bone drummer Tom Glaister left and was replaced by not one, but two drummers, Kevin Schwayk and Danny Coward. Why two drummers?
A - Oh, God. You really hit on something there. Tom obviously was a well respected drummer. Not only an intelligent musician, a very, very smart guy musically, but he was a powerhouse drummer. We auditioned drummers and nothing was working. I don't know who got the idea of two drummers. I was not a fan of two drummers, ever, but that was what we went with. Kevin was a nice guy, but I really liked Danny Coward. I thought we just got to go with him.
Q - He was good!
A - I really liked his group. Later when I left the band for the second time, for a short time I was the sound man for The Buddy Grealy Band. I really thought they had a fantastic band. They were a powerhouse. I really liked that band. For a Rock band, I thought they were a real powerhouse. So, we were pals for a long time. I believe they did one of my songs at one time. I was on stage with them. I did one of my songs with them at The Brookside. I actually sat in with them. They did one of my songs that night, but Danny was really young. I thought this kid's got it! He should be our drummer. So we did the second album with two drummers.
Q - I've heard that Danny Coward is now managing a restaurant.
A - That's what I've heard. I don't think he's playing. I've been out of touch for many years. I've been out of touch with everybody. I took a tangent from everything. I don't know how it ever happened, if it was through family or friends, but I took a trip to the Caribbean and fell in love with it and ended up starting a business in the Caribbean. I just left everything. In 1982 I moved to the Virgin Islands. For many, many years, until the group did their reunion 'til I somehow met up with Mark in 1993 in Cambridge. I don't even remember how that happened.
Q - Maybe he was in the studio somewhere?
A - Actually I was recording in Boston. I did a demo for Columbia Records. I was doing almost entirely Reggae at the time. I was recording with the rhythm section of Tavares. Then other people came in. Tom Glaister came in to play drums. Andy Mendelsohn, who I worked with at one time, came in and played keyboards. I think he was running the studio. So, I think because Mark had been living there and doing recording with Andy's brother Richard, I think it came about because both of us were actually working in Boston, not even realizing that we were both working in Boston! And that's how it came about.
Q - You now have this travel business of yours.
A - I've never stopped writing. I've always written. I can't stop it. That's kind of the inner me. I'm one of these people that still to this day gets song ideas in the middle of the night and I have t get up and record it. Since the age of fifteen I've been writing. I have tons of stuff. My son thinks they're great! (laughs) My wife passed away a few years ago and she was a big fan. She couldn't understand, "How is it that your group is not world famous?" She was a big fan of the band. She thought how is it that my songs aren't famous? It's just something that I've never been terribly aggressive about promoting myself. I just write. It's something I do. I was very fortunate that Mark Doyle and I met up in the early days on campus at Syracuse University. Mark was a vessel for me to have songs heard. Before that I was just playing with dinky little campus bands that weren't going anywhere. I wrote a lot of material. It was really Free Will that enabled me to have a venue for the songs.
Q - Was Mark Doyle attending Syracuse University?
A - No. He was going to school in Auburn, but he was a visitor on campus. There as a little, tiny Blues club on Erie Blvd. called Captain Mac's Clam Shack and I was the bass player in a band there called Hard Water on a regular basis, on weekends I think. I was a very adventurous bass player in my day. Mark used to come and watch us and he wanted me to join Free Will after seeing me play. I think he came several times. In my day I guess I was considered an interesting musician for bass, not as a guitarist.
Q - It was rumored that after Janis Joplin's concert at the Syracuse War Memorial in 1969, she went to Captain Mac's and sat in with the band. Do you know anything about that?
A - I wasn't there for that. It could be true. We were kind of the house band for awhile and so Canned Heat came in and played with us. A friend of mine who I had met earlier, Frank Zappa, a couple of his guys came in. People like that, when they played the War Memorial they would come in to Captain Mac's and hang out and sometimes sit in.
Q - How did they know to come to that club?
A - Well, in the case of Frank Zappa, I was a friend of Frank's. He was much older than me but for some weird reason we kind of hit it off in New York when I was making the rounds trying to sell my tunes and ran into Frank Zappa. He wasn't very well known then. We kind of hung out together for awhile. When he was at the War Memorial I was there at the concert. Frank didn't want to go, so some of his band members went.
Q - Jukin' Bone broke up 1973.
A - Right.
Q - I realize there were tensions in the group at that time. But couldn't the group have taken some time off and regrouped?
A - I don't know. It's a good question. It was a very nasty break-up all the way around. As I said, it was shattered and tattered, or as The Rolling Stones' song goes, "Strictly Shattered." It was bad. No one talked to each other for a long time. It was years for me until our reunion in 1993. We didn't speak. So, I don't know. We had our first rehearsal in 1993 in Joe Whiting's garage in Skaneateles. Here we are, haven't played together in a million years. We set up in the rehearsal room. One, two, three four, bang! We took off as if we had been rehearsing, recording and playing every day. It was weird. It was unbelievable. From the moment we turned those amps on, tuned up, and Tom kicks in gear, it was unbelievable! You have to remember, guys that haven't played together for twenty years at that point. From the beat from the first song, the sound was amazing! It was very, very strange. I can remember trying to hide my wide smile. The sound that was happening in that room was incredible. My point is, I thought at that point maybe we would do something together, but unfortunately at that point Joe had his own group that was gigging a lot and Mark was doing a lot of work and it just didn't quite happen. So, eventually we played The Dinosaur. So they released a CD from The Dinosaur. Then we did two shows. One was with Spencer Davis in Syracuse and the other was wit Steppenwolf. I think the Steppenwolf became a 'live' CD, but otherwise we never came together to create what I'd hoped for and that's the missing CD of our lives that we should have created in the '70s, that we had the capability to create, but didn't have the circumstance to really do what we could do musically instead of those two marginally pathetic albums that were released. That's why I'm telling you that my wish is that this camaraderie that's happening as we speak leads to something. That's just my wish.
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