Gary James' Interview With Randy Holden Of
Sons Of Adam / Blue Cheer
His band Sons Of Adam opened for The Rolling Stones at the Long Beach Sports Arena. He joined Blue Cheer and appeared on the album "New! Improved! Blue Cheer!" and later went on the road with the group for a year. We are talking about Mr. Guitar Virtuoso, Randy Holden. Randy spoke with us about his time in Sons Of Adam, Blue Cheer and the West Coast music scene in the 1960s.
Q - Randy, let's start out by asking you about the present. Are you doing anything musical these days?
A - Oh, yeah. Sure.
Q - Are you performing? Recording?
A - I've been recording for the past several years. Right now I'm just mixing down, believe it or not, a new Surf song that I wrote because I performed 'live' at a Surf 101 convention. It was really cool. I played my old Surf songs that I haven't played for fifty years. Remembering them was a real trick, but it was a lot of fun. The audience was absolutely fabulous and I was inspired to write a new Surf song as a result. It's a great genre.
Q - Isn't it amazing that Surf music became as popular as it did considering all of the states that are not near an ocean.
A - Well, that's the main thing that held Surf music back when it initiated because it came out of California where people could surf. Everybody across the States couldn't do that. There was no sense of identity, no sense of relationship. I remember when Dick Dale was on tour in Baltimore in 1962 and he played a venue my band was playing at. It was interesting because I was really into guitar instrumentals in those days, so I was well attuned. I took to Surf music like a fish to water. It was just natural. And so I understood what he was doing. It was very cool. And he had the amplification that was really only used to play that kind of music in those days because Surf music had a certain power to it, which was the Fender Dual Showman. I had the only one on the East Coast. After the gig, his band was packing my amp in their tour bus. (laughs) They thought it was theirs because they didn't think anyone else had 'em.
Q - People will often describe a band such as Jefferson Airplane as Psychedelic Rock. The Sons Of Adam were tagged with that term as well. Is there such a term?
A - There was a term called Psychedelic Rock because when The Beatles came it pretty much wiped out Surf music. It never got to fully mature. So, Psychedelic music came along with the massive experimentation of L.S.D.
Q - Your group, The Sons Of Adam, weren't a Psychedelic Rock group, were they?
A - I don't know how you define a Psychedelic Rock group. Psychedelic just means breath. So, it can apply to anything.
Q - You had a group in Baltimore called Fender IV. You moved the group to Los Angeles. Why Los Angeles?
A - Have you ever heard of a band making it big from Baltimore?
Q - Can't say that I have. How did you know you could find work in L.A.? How did you know where to stay?
A - We didn't
Q - You just arrived cold?
A - Oh, yeah.
Q - Isn't that the great thing about being young?
A - (laughs) That really is.
Q - When you arrived in L.A., where did you stay? Did you have enough money to rent an apartment?
A - We had enough money to rent an apartment in Hollywood and that was all we had. From there on we starved for about three weeks. That was a pretty dismal time. We finally got a gig somewhere and started playing and picked up some drummer. I don't remember where exactly, but once we were heard, people became interested in wanting to book us because we were very good. So, we got to where we were working every night of the week, 365 days a year for a few years there before that chapter closed.
Q - Did you play all the clubs on the Sunset Strip? I'm talking the London Fog? The Whiskey? Gazzarri's?
A - We played Gazzarri's regularly for quite awhile. We played The Whiskey. I never heard of the London Fog.
Q - It was a place where The Doors started. 8119 Sunset Boulevard.
A - I don't remember it. The name never came up. Actually, I saw them once in some small venue. I was walking by, but I thought that was on Hollywood Boulevard. We knew them kind of casually. I remember hearing them when I walked by, whatever I was doing.
Q - Did you walk in to see The Doors?
A - I don't remember. I may have. It was before they made it, before they had their hit record.
Q - Which was "Light My Fire" in 1967. You might have seen them then in 1965 or 1966.
A - Probably 1965.
Q - How did you get this gig with Blue Cheer?
A - We knew each other from playing the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco when I was with The Other Half. I was a really loud guitarist. I used to love big volume. Something about it was very moving, which at that time nobody was loud. The Sons OF Adam and The Other Half were very voluminous bands and so Blue Cheer hadn't formed yet, but they use to come to the gigs I played and listen to what I was doing. I used to do a solo thing where I plug in all the amps on stage. I think we had five Dual Showmans and put 'em all together and do a solo and the audience really liked it. It was a lot of fun. So, it was like a shoe-in for me in terms of volume level that I played. Very few bass players and drummers even understood what that was about. Well, not very few. There were none. (laughs) How's that? So, I just by accident joined up with them. Actually I'd gone to see Jeff Beck at the Shrine Auditorium and he was debuting his new band with Rod Stewart. That album, "Truth" was just released and Blue Cheer was on the bill and they were top bill above Jeff Beck, which I thought was kind of odd because Jeff Beck had far superior musicianship. The promoter, Sep, I wish I could remember his last name, he really liked them. He used to run gigs all the time at The Shrine. He was very good at it too. Nice guy. Somehow I got to meet him and he let me in that evening to see Jeff and I saw Blue Cheer. I was surprised because I forgot about them. I remembered that I really liked Paul's drumming because he was un-afraid to hit the drums and create great rhythms doing it. I was looking for a drummer. I was starting a new band at the time. And so after their set I asked Paul when he got off stage if he'd come and join my new band. He got together with Jerry, the manager, and arranged it so that we would get together and play in The Shrine the next afternoon and see how we meshed up. My bass player at the time was the bass player from The Sons Of Adam and for whatever strange reason, he was one of the best around at the time, he could not play with Paul. They were just not anywhere close to being on the same wave length and I was really shocked. I couldn't figure it out. After we played, Paul and Jerry came up to me and said, "Look, instead of Paul going with you, we want you to come join Blue Cheer." I went, "Oh, there's something I hadn't thought about." So, Mike, the bass player I had, said he had an offer from Steppenwolf and I thought well, okay, go ahead and take it 'cause I'll just go on with Blue Cheer. And that's how I joined up.
Q - And you were in Blue Cheer for how long?
A - Oh, it seemed like a year, but it was probably more like eight or nine months. It was just steady touring the whole time. So, that's probably why it seemed like a year.
Q - What year would that have been?
A - I think it was about '69. I think I saw 'em at The Shrine in June of '68 if I remember. So, I formally joined that week and then a few weeks later I was flown up to San Francisco. We had a few days to rehearse and then we went out on tour right away. First gig was in Eugene, Oregon at a basketball court and the acoustics were horrible. I couldn't stop the amps from squealing with all the cement walls.
Q - The time you were out on tour with Blue Cheer would have been the same time Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix were on the road. Did you ever cross paths with them?
A - We'd run into each other. I ran into Janis at the Avalon Ballroom. I ran into Jimi at the show he did. I was taken back and introduced to Jimi. But this was quite a bit after Blue Cheer because I was already doing my Lucifer gig which was the Population II thing. It metamorphisized into Population II into Lucifer just by happenstance as a lot of things do. It was interesting because we already had the new artwork for the new name of the band, ready to go out, but the album never got released until, I don't know when it was actually released, some years later. Whoever released it did it under the original artwork and title head.
Q - When you were meeting people like Hendrix, it was just like you meeting one of your peers? You weren't in awe of him?
A - No. When you're working and doing an act and you're all over the same places, it's inevitable that you just run into people and meet them. That's how it was. It wasn't like when I was a kid. I was in awe of The Ventures. I was star struck by Duane Eddy. If I could have met Duane Eddy it would've been "Wow!" (laughs) I went to see Duane Eddy at the Baltimore Memorial Stadium and I went to see him again at some theatre, I want to say the Apollo Theatre in downtown Baltimore, but that wasn't the name of it. There were three of us that went to see him. We were the only White guys in the crowd. Bo Diddley and Duane Eddy were on the same bill.
Q - Sons Of Adam opened for The Stones. What year was that and what was that like?
A - That was 1964. It was their first gig in L.A. I remember we also ran into them on the street in Hollywood. We were both out shopping for clothes and Brian (Jones) wanted to know where a good place was to check out clothes. We told him one place we knew. I think there were a half dozen or more bands on that bill. We got into it because of Dick And Dee Dee. They needed a band to back 'em up, so we backed them up and got to play our own material. I remember The Stones just had a hit, "It's All Over Now", and I remember listening to the song on the radio and thinking it was really tinny and thin sounding. I didn't like it all. It was very rinky-dinky sounding on the record. But then when we played with them they used the same amps that we had. Gear has so much to do with what you sound like. We always had a really big, overwhelming sound. As a matter of fact, they had to use one of our amps because one of theirs blew up. Bill Wyman had a different set-up. He used two amps together. That was the first time I'd ever seen someone link two amps together. He had a Vox Super Beatle on each side of the stage and it just gave it a big, fat sound and they played "It's All Over Now" and I went, "Oh, so this is how it's supposed to sound like." (laughs) It was great.
Q - I'm envious of the fact that you got to meet Brian Jones. As I tell everyone, Brian Jones was and always will be The Rolling Stones.
A - Oh, absolutely. Brian was a really talented guy. He had a very powerful stage presence. Actually, the three of them (Brian, Keith and Mick) were in heavy competition on stage. And that's what made 'em really good. They were all doing their absolute best.
Q - Where did this name "Sons Of Adam" come from? Was your father's name Adam?
A - (laughs) Some people would say everybody's father is named Adam.
Q - Where did the name come from?
A - Kim Fowley. Do you know who he is?
Q - I do.
A - He was a real crazy guy. He was interesting, but he came to see us at Gazzarri's and he brought a bunch of people to see us that were all dressed up in Sherwood Forest costumes or whatever. Gazzarri's wouldn't let them in because they were sort of a Mafioso style. Somehow we met Kim when he was trying to get in and I guess we got him in and he said, "Your name Fender IV is really hokey. Really shit. You gotta change it. Here, I got one for you, Sons Of Adam. How'd you like that?" We said, "Hey, that's great! We'll take it!" (laughs)
Q - Did you really like that name though?
A - Yeah. I thought it was a really good name.
Q - How much success did the Sons Of Adam have?
A - Well, on stage we were a tremendous success. No band could follow us, but we just could not get hooked up with the right people in the record business. It was always a mystery to me because it was almost carved in stone that we should have been very big, but we couldn't get a decent contract. Our management was always ridiculous. We never had a good manager where they become one of you because their sole interest is you and succeeding at it. We always had the Hollywood type artists.
Q - At that particular time in America I don't believe there was an American equivalent to Brian Epstein.
A - No, there wasn't. Or Andrew Loog Oldham (Rolling Stones' manager). I often thought if we somehow would've been able to get to England we probably would've made it big. But we weren't able to do that. We just did not get that break you need. You need that proverbial hit record. If you got that, then you've got the gigs, you got the tours, you got the promotion. You got to do on a grand scale what you did and did better than anyone, if you could just get that record! (laughs) We just couldn't get it.
Q - Randy, how many groups wanted what you just described?
A - Most of 'em weren't worth it. The Doors made it. Somehow they connected up with a label that had faith in 'em and they got an advance and there was a commitment to 'em. The Byrds did it. Love did it to an extent. The Turtles. Dick Dale was even raked over by the record business. I don't know if he could have carried on further in those days because Surf music was knocked out. But in those days you got to remember record labels were only after that one song that they could make a hit out of. They didn't care about anything else. They didn't care what was on the B-side. They put garbage on a B-side just to put something there. We thought we were finally gonna do it when we recorded "Mister You're A Better Man Than I" that The Yardbirds did because we had a really good version of it. As the story went that I heard, the record company that we were with, and I think it was Decca, they had their office in New York and they had somebody else record it. I think it was Terry Knight, and so they decided to drop our's and go with them because of the political connections somehow. So, we got shelved on it. They never did have the one by Terry Knight take off. Terry Knight was one of the commercial Hollywood acts. There was a transition going on from the standard form that things did to a new kind of music and we were on the cutting edge of the new thing, but were just in the wrong place I think.
The views and opinions expressed by individuals interviewed for this web site are the sole responsibility of the individual making the comment and / or appearing in interviews and do not necessarily represent the opinions of anyone associated with the website ClassicBands.com.