Scott Richardson in a Zen archer drawing back an arrow and sending out a beacon call with words never spoken yet truly understood by the legion of SRC fans across the country.
Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, SRC (an acronym for the Scott Richard Case) was one of the most promising and exciting Michigan rock ‘n roll bands on the national circuit. Signed to Capitol Records around the same time that Bob Seger was also signed, SRC released three pivotal and groundbreaking albums on Capitol – SRC (featuring the hit Black Sheep), Milestones (featuring their unique take on Grieg’s In The Hall of the Mountain King, and their swan-song, Traveler’s Tale).
Along with Ted Nugent & the Amboy Dukes, The MC5, and The Stooges, SRC were solid fixtures on the Michigan club circuit, performing regularly at such venues as Daniel’s Den and Sherwood Forest.
With brothers Glen and Gary Quackenbush, who pioneered a fully colored and distinctive sound with feedback sustained guitar leads shimmering through a pair of large custom-made amplifiers, which reached through and punctuated the fluid colorations and expressive qualify of organist Glen’s Hammond B3 organ, fueled by a pair of Leslie speakers, this Ann Arbor based band dipped into Classical music as readily as they would pioneer psychedelic rock, similar to Procul Harem on steroids.
With a line-up that was rounded out by drummer E.G. Clawson and Robin Dale on bass & vocals, after Gary Quackenbush suffered a serious motorcycle accident shortly after the Milestones album was released, he was replaced on guitar by Ray Goodman.
Despite their considerable talent, the band never broke large enough to gain sustained notoriety beyond the Detroit/Ann Arbor market, although they were very well received in Holland, where reissues of their work has continued to this day.
Richardson has been busy in the ensuing years following his muse as a writer and poet. He has written about twenty screenplays including Hearts Afire starring Bob Dylan and wrote episodes of Rick Springfield’s television show, Human Target. He composed Jackie Wilson’s life story that was picked up by Warner Brothers but never produced. Richardson also published a novel, King of the Shadows, and worked on a feature-like documentary about Chuck Berry.
Scott Richardson is a renaissance man whose life is a paradox of opposites; performance versus the solitude. Scott’s favorite thing to do is the solid “seed” work of writing in a cocoon of quiet moments. As true SRC fans know, Scott’s introspective nature has led to some of the most enduring moments in our musical history.
On Saturday, July 30th, SRC will be performing at reunion show at White’s Bar that will include all original members with the exception of Clawson, who unfortunately is no longer with us. This unlikely reunion is not undertaken for money or celebrity; it is gift to Ishmael and all the Black Sheep everywhere
Review: How did the SRC Reunion come about?
SR: Actually a couple of factors. The first is if we had waited much longer to do this, it probably never would have happened because everybody’s getting up there. The second reason it’s happening is because there’s a whole lot of interest in the era that we came up in and the band itself. That particular time period is interesting to people all over the place. It has to do with being over forty years and the kind of way things are in the world right now - kind of hard and gritty and grim, and people are looking back with a sense of nostalgia at that time period of innocence, and also a tremendous amount of hopefulness, which is kind of what our band represents.
Review: That’s excellent. Okay, so that kind of explains the second question - why are you doing this after all this time.
SR: Yeah, if you look back at the music of that time period it was a pretty amazing moment in history where basically the underground movement got out in front of Pop culture. People like the Doors, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd, Sgt. Pepper, Dylan, The Band - and that’s what SRC were talking with, and we were doing something that really wasn’t just like regular three chord rock.
There was a psychedelic moment there in time where consciousness shifted. We were kind of like taking dictation from our experiences and putting them down, and we weren’t trying to do something blatantly commercial. We wanted to be rock stars like everybody, but we wanted to do it on our own terms, you know?
We really were naively sincere about wanting to change the world. We really believed that it was possible at that moment in time. Of course, we were wrong, but I think that everybody that was associated with it, including myself, took a lot of pride in the fact that we really were committed to the fact we had a real ideology about having a different kind of lifestyle, such as make love not war and the embrace of civil rights.
What’s kind of interesting about it after all this time is that people are finally looking back on it. We might have been naïve and all that stuff but in the world we live in today it just seems it would be wonderful to recall that people at Woodstock could stand up, you know, a half-million people in a field and listen to Star Spangled Banner by Jimi Hendrix.
Review: SRC was one of the top bands in an era where there were a number of great bands in Michigan, whether it’s the Frost, MC5, The Stooges, Seger or the Amboy Dukes, you were at the top of the game.
SR: Thank you very much. Appreciate it. There are enough people that feel that way and it has caused us to revisit the issue. And of course, I’m really looking forward to playing with those guys again and I think the feeling is mutual. We’re just hoping that everybody is going to come and celebrate the fact that this could really happen. It’s going to be special, no matter what, because it just isn’t something that could happen every day.
Review: I saw SRC several times during those halcyon days of the sixties and early seventies. I thought you were great. What do you think made you so unique, so popular?
SR: I think it was like I mentioned earlier, at that particular time people wanted a bigger experience. The style of Gary’s guitar playing and the fact that we had a great rhythm section were also pivotal. The fact that those guys were really, really good rock musicians and the fact that we were doing something musically that was a little bit more complex than most other bands connected with people. We always managed to put on a pretty good show. We were known for being really, really good and competent, so that was a major help and that was one of the reasons why we got such an intense following, and basically it stayed with us over the years, really.
Review: I was talking to Al Limberg, who’s a highly regarded sound technician. He’s been providing sound for big and small events for years. He told me that you made your own equipment - amps, monitors, mixers, and all that, to help make the sound different. Is that true?
SR: It’s partially true, yeah. What we had going was we were one of the first groups to get a sponsorship with a major speaker company, and we were sponsored by Electro-Voice and what happened was we went to their factory.
Actually, we got sponsored by Electro-Voice and Crown Amplifiers and the Crown DC 300 back in those days was about the most powerful, with a 300 watt per channel amplifier, and so we went and got these experimental speakers and then we had a guy construct cabinets, horned cabinets, for the speakers and so basically we built our own stuff instead of having Marshall or Sunn, we had our Vulcan Sound. It’s real interesting that one of the co-founders of Microsoft Word, Alan, was a huge SRC fan and he named his company Vulcan after our amplifiers. Not too many people know that. They got it built into the Jimi Hendrix Museum in Seattle.
Review: The LPs most associated with your vast popularity are SRC and Milestones. Both are incredibly well crafted. Gary Quackenbush was a monster guitarist. Glen, his brother, was a gifted organist. The rhythm section was tight as a vise. Vocal harmonies were impeccable, and your lead vocals fit the music perfectly. Can you speak to SRC’s instrumental might? I think you’ve already done that a bit.
SR: Yeah, pretty much. I mean, those guys… that was the concept behind the first actual incarnation of the band, the Scott Richard Case. It was really the brainchild of Ann Arbor producer and manager, Jeep Holland, who came up with the concept of taking me on.
The band I was with, The Chosen Few, was breaking up, and he put me together with the Fugitives. It was his idea to put a lead singer with a great Detroit area club band, a college club band. They were really good musicians and Scott Richard Case became a really good live act, a very exciting band. When we went on into the psychedelic era and everything else, we just shortened it up to SRC and took a completely radical musical approach that, like I said, you were only hearing in Sgt. Pepper or Pink Floyd or something like that… Jimi Hendrix. You were really hearing music plus, another dimension. That’s what we were going for. We really tried to set a mood that was different than commercial music or just regular pop music which we all loved. We were trying to go deeper.
Review: The song Black Sheep and first LP were labeled psychedelic. Do you agree? How would you define psychedelic?
SR: Proving or trying to expose other layers of consciousness. You know, the feedback and the sort of metaphysical poetry, the lyrics and everything. We are different in a unique sound structure. In that sense I would definitely say it was psychedelic. We weren’t doing long one-chord jams like the Grateful Dead, another kind of thing that started in the same time period. We weren’t really doing that. Mainly we were still working with the sound structure. The only other thing I want to say about that is that I don’t endorse at all, I never would endorse drug use of any kind. I certainly did it back in those days, in my younger days. The thing is that when you listen to that music and you were tripping out, it took on another whole spectrum. We were trippin’ out and trying to edit and define that other spectrum in our songs. In that case, I would say yeah, it was definitely influenced by psychedelic experiences.
Review: So many people have read about Aldous Huxley taking a tab of acid on his deathbed, and I thought that was a great idea, except if it was a bad trip. I mean, what a way to go.
SR: Yeah, you’re right. That’s exactly what happened in that time period. Not only us, but also hundreds of thousands of people across the country and around the world. So it made a kind of secret society outside of the mainstream which had its own language, its own cultural reference points and everything else. If you were part of a trip or on a trip, it had to do with watching the Beatles go from “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah” to a day in the life, to representing something on an entirely different plane and using their fame and everything else to take their entire audience out there with them to this other place where they were asking big questions and doing their best to answer them. We, in our own way, were trying to do the same thing.
Review: Maybe I’m getting off base here but SRC music seems less psychedelic than Zenist, or is it the same thing, only from a different perspective? Chemical versus spiritual?
SR: It’s a really good question, okay, because basically that’s the point that’s so important to recognize and that’s what the band stood for. It was exactly half and half. It was a chemical inducement and a spiritual inspiration. I’ve never said that before. It’s never come out like that before, but it’s really the main point. If you really want to understand what we were trying to achieve, you know, we took the psychedelic into the altered state and then as a result of it, we tried to capture the spiritual experience that we were having that transcended the drug.
I really want to make sure that people understand that the things we did back in those days I would never recommend anybody try, but we were young and foolish and completely dedicated to making it outside of the commercial mainstream; something that we thought would have a chance to stand for a while.
In order to do that, you go way out on that limb. What we discovered in doing that was that we had a profound spiritual experience and that spiritual experience was not able to translate except in very rare instances to the mass audience but the culture itself. This is the thing I’m talking about, why this whole reunion is happening and why there’s so much interest in the whole country now. People are just incredibly hungering for something that’s not up-to-date.
What you’ve got now is, you know, a media circus where everybody knows going in what the drill is going to be, and it’s just a bunch of people trying to become famous, either on variable talent or not having any talent at all and not having it matter and having everybody kind of participating in the joke. I mean, that’s the way the political thing is, that’s the way the music is of today, and kind of TV series, the movie thing, where nothing lasts and the people in them don’t last or stand for anything.
You know, people want something more than that. That’s not really enough to sustain and nourish anybody’s spirit. People will go and they’ll do the club thing and everything else, but they want something more that’s not been given to them.
Review: I really like Milestones. That was one of my favorite albums of all time. It’s really successful musically. Great instrumentals such as In the Hall of the Mountain King, and stellar songs like Checkmate, Up All Night and the dream-like Angel Song, which is really cool. What’s your opinion of Milestones?
SR: Well, I think it’s one of the rare times where the sophomore album, the second album, rarely was as good as or in some ways surpassed the first one. Usually it’s the opposite of most experiences with most bands. If they have a decent first album, you know, they’ve got to come up with something better than we do. That album I really can’t explain. I don’t have any reason why it came together as well as it did, except for the fact that we got a lot of competence playing live and that went into putting the thing together.
Milestones was really the peak of the whole SRC thing. Steve was still in it for at least the first half of that whole thing, and then the original line-up and everything. We did have Al Wilmot on bass, and he was just so good on that record. Everything just came together for us. We didn’t stress or strain; it was there.
Review: What are your favorite SRC songs?
Checkmate, Black Sheep, Up All Night, Eye of the Storm, The Operator, Midnight Fever.
I like early songs like Who’s that Girl too, the song Steve and I wrote on the B side of I’m So Glad. We’re going to be doing that live.
Review: Traveler’s Tale is really a great LP. Do you consider it to be one of your finest moments? You added orchestration and had a new guitarist, the exquisite Ray Goodman who also performed with Mitch Ryder and Dick Wagner. Was this the primary difference or was the band changing. I mean I know there are several questions here, but what’s your opinion of Traveler’s Tale?
SR: Well, first of all Ray Goodman and Dick Wagner are two of my favorite guitar players of all time. One of the reasons I agreed to do this reunion was because of the fact that Ray was going to be involved and that I was going to present an opportunity for Gary and Steve Lyman and Ray to work together for the first time, all three of them, and that’s one of the main things that induced me to do it because I love Gary’s original style.
Steve Lyman always contributed tons of stuff to the first three albums and probably didn’t get the credit for it that he deserved and was such a great player and singer. Ray Goodman is just fantastic, and so I wanted people to have a chance to see, you know kind of combine what we were trying to do with Traveler’s Tale, which really didn’t get the recognition of the first two albums. That’s what I’m kind of hoping to have. Like a guy made a comment the other day that he can’t wait to see the kind of what he called the Moby Grape version of SRC, and then he laughed because Moby Grape has had three guitar players and so did Buffalo Springfield.
Steven Lyman still manages a pretty fine rhythm, and reaching the plane. The album was kind of self-produced, and there was something balanced that really came out cool, like the string stuff and everything and some things that didn’t succeed so well. We didn’t take the amount of time that we should’ve with it, so that’s that. Then the other missing SRC album is The Lost Masters, which came out a few years ago
Review: Do you have ties to mid-Michigan?
SR: We had relatives that lived there, and we went up to Higgin’s Lake every summer, so the whole area up there is just like a Cedars of Lebanon for some people. I just love it up there. I love that part of Michigan. I’m so looking forward to returning to Saginaw. I spent a lot of time in Saginaw when I was a kid.
Review: SRC was really popular beyond Michigan. I thought I heard that you did an airplay in Europe and so on. Did you ever get paid. Did you have sales statements and resultant royalties?
SR: Yeah, but not to the level that we should have, unfortunately. We were just pretty much like everybody else in that era with a plantation system and everybody getting ripped off. The best thing that we did was invest in our own home studio situation. We were making a lot of money playing live, and we sort of piled it back into the band.
Review: Was there a sense of community in the Michigan Rock era? When I’ve talked to the members of the Rationals, Bob Seger, The Frost, MC5 seem to suggest a brotherhood of musicians. Did you feel that in Detroit/Ann Arbor?
SR: Absolutely. We just loved Bob and the Rationals and Stooges and MC5 and everybody. We all played on the same stages. We were real close. We were really great friends, and everybody used to come out to our place and hang out. You know that was one thing that was unique about that team level. Wish it would’ve lasted.
We had a 19-room Victorian farmhouse divided up into apartments on five acres of land bordering on 500 acres, and we had a Quonset hut studio and a swimming pool and five-car garage, and we used to have parties with like 300 to 500 people up there. Some of the most famous rock and roll parties of that era took place out at our farm.
We recorded an entire jam album with Procul Harum who were staying with us for a week, and I don’t know what happened to those tapes. Traffic came out and stayed with us, and we recorded with them, too. I don’t know if those things are ever going to surface or not.
Review: Do you hope to keep SRC going further than this?
SR: We’ll see what happens. I mean we don’t have any false expectations like trying to become rock stars again in our 60s. You know we’re basically doing this for the people who care about the group and to be reunited and everything. However if everything works out really good and everything, I’m sure everybody would love to get together, you know, and play a few times a year at least. It would be great. It’d be fantastic if we could do that, and possibly also in other cities and other states. It would be wonderful.
Review: Do you have any last comments, Scott?
SR: Nothing, except that I’m very much looking forward to playing your club and seeing people up there and we’re really grateful that the response to doing this has been so wonderful. I’m particularly grateful to Ray Goodman for all the work he’s done, getting the band back together and stuff. I really, really appreciate it, and I’m looking forward to seeing you all.