Gary James' Interview With Burton Stahl Of
The Music Explosion
They were a Rock band from Mansfield, Ohio, best known for their Top 10 hit "Little Bit O' Soul" in 1967. Bassist Burton Stahl spoke with us about the history of the group and what life was like for a musician in the 1960s.
Q - Burton, I take it there still is a Music Explosion that performs today?
A - Yes, there is. We've been performing shows like fairs and festivals, the oldies shows, things like that. So yeah, we're still together. The only two originals are Rick Nesta (guitarist) and myself.
Q - How many gigs a year do you perform?
A - Oh, maybe twenty-five. We don't want to do too far away from our home base. We go about four states in that area, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, plus Ohio.
Q - How can the Music Explosion perform when your lead singer is no longer with us?
A - Well, that was Jamie. Being that we found someone that's got some good pipes, just about like Jamie's. Not the quality Jamie had, but still, he belts it out there, especially "Little Bit O' Soul".
Q - Before "Little Bit O' Soul" hit the charts, were you guys doing the traditional club circuit?
A - Before we went to New York to do our original five recordings, we were called The Chosen Few. We played a lot of gigs under that name. Then we went to New York and changed our name to The Music Explosion. I guess we had a song called "Little Black Egg" that was out in late '66, early '67. It was regional around Ohio. I think it got bubbling under 100 anyhow. That being our first release on the Atlantic label. Some of the places in Ohio, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland were playing it and we were getting like a lot of bigger band things, proms and things like that. We didn't do too many clubs back then because we were all under age for the first ones we wanted to get into.
Q - So how were you discovered?
A - Well, we did a lot of practicing. A local guy here in Mansfield had connections in New York and he came over to hear us. He would come in to different shows we would put on. This was as The Chosen Few. Then he picked us up. He basically just heard us and we picked up Jamie as a lead singer. The other lead singer we had was drafted. We knew Jamie could do the job 'cause he was like Mick Jagger onstage. He really put on a show. He was fantastic. When Andy Apperson heard us, he called his guys up in New York and we were up there in about six months.
Q - Were you playing original music in with the covers you were doing?
A - We did. We wrote about four or five songs. When we went to New York to audition for our management up there, we played one of 'em and we recorded that. We did a little bit of writing, but at that time we did a lot of covers, mostly Stones and Byrds.
Q - What kind of a place was Mansfield, Ohio in the early '60s for a Rock group?
A - There were some really cool nightclubs. Most of our friends were older, like maybe five to ten years older, that were musicians. There were groups like Betty Duke and W. Lord And The Dukes, like little tries and things. We'd go in and we heard some great music. Some of these guys just stayed in their basement all week and came out on weekends and played. We kind of had a growing experience 'til we could get old enough to play in these clubs. Then after we did that, the circle was complete.
Q - Nobody in the group wrote "Little Bit O' Soul", did they?
A - No. That was written by Carter and Lewis who wrote "A Kind Of A Hush". They've done a lot of different songs.
Q - So how is it that you got to record that song?
A - Well, our management group in New York City, Super K Productions. Jeff and Jerry, they got a copy of an acetate that John Carter had done to farm out the song. It was originally done by, I think The Little Darlings, over in England. Then a couple of other groups got a chance to do it. When we went into the studio they gave us the five songs we came up there with and "A Little Bit O' Soul". We learned it like overnight. It wasn't that difficult of a song. We wanted to put that vamp in there, that da, da, da, da, every time. It was a little bit different than some of the other groups that had attempted it, but we worked on it. So basically it went through our management and they gave it to us and we went into the studio and did it.
Q - How did life change for you when that record charted?
A - Well, I was 19 years old and a couple of the guys were 18, so we were just kind of like numb to the whole thing. The excitement of going out and playing in 20,000 seat arenas and outdoor shows with some of our idols, like The Easybeats. We met so many people and hung out with some of the most famous people...Clapton...people like that, at some of these after-hours bars in New York. Not bars, but speak-easys. Yeah, it changed from being a nobody in Mansfield, Ohio to giving us a special day and the keys to the city. We pretty much made it to the top by the time I was 20 years old.
Q - Were you guys in high school or college when that song hit?
A - Rick, Tudor and myself were in Columbus Business University and one year we were at Ohio State. Jamie just graduated from high school. Bobby was from New York and he was a year or so older than us. He wasn't doing anything. He was just playing music.
Q - You mentioned you performed with The Easybeats and you met Eric Clapton. Who else did you perform with onstage?
A - Percy Sledge, J.J. Jackson, The Happenings, Left Banke, Johnny Rivers, Neil Diamond. When we were on tour with The Easybeats it was the Gene Pitney tour. Gene's back-up group was Ronnie Dio And The Prophets.
Q - It sounds like maybe you did Dick Clark's Caravan Of Stars tour.
A - We did American Bandstand. We played with Paul Revere And The Raiders, The Buckinghams. There were just a lot of great bands that we learned stuff from.
Q - Did The Music Explosion stop at one point, then re-form years later?
A - Well, first of all, our lead guitar player was drafted. After he left, we got a keyboard player to take over that spot. The magic was starting to fall apart. I left the band. Actually, Bobby, our drummer stayed with 'em and they became Crazy Elephant and through attrition they broke up. Rick Nesta and myself revived the band in the late '80s and have been doing it off and on ever since. We have our core group that we play with and put the show on.