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Al Anderson, now and then

A Conversation with Al Anderson (continued)

PM: "No Good To Cry," I was getting back into that song the last couple days. [Al's very first single, with the seminal white soul group The Wildweeds--their Best Of is available through www.confidentialrecordings.com]

AA: So you knew about that?

PM: Oh, yeah. What an incredible song that was, I mean, for such a young band, the Wildweeds, to be cutting. It reminds me--I hope it's complimentary--of one of my favorite groups, The Young Rascals, also a soul-inspired East Coast band.

AA: The Wildweeds came out of an organ jazz trio, organ three-piece trio from when we all played in the north end of Hartford, in black clubs. That's where I came up. That's still the best--in a lot of ways, the best years of my life. Playing in front of a black audience, and they're going nuts over you. Doesn't get any better than that.

PM: I can only imagine.

AA: It was a real community of black people and white people, especially the musicians. There was never any--I mean, it was good camaraderie there. We all respected each other and loved each other like brothers. At least in the north end of Hartford. They had this club called the Rock-A-Bye that was the greatest. It was owned by a guy named Howard Hill who had a band called the Knight Riders. They had some records on Swan. They had a million seller on RCA called "I'm Looped." He had a lot of records. They all did. And so Howard had this club called the Rock-A-Bye. On Sunday afternoons from 5:00 to 9:00 was the jam session, and people just came in and hung out.

PM: Wow. What's become of the original Wildweeds, how far flung are the guys?

AA: Two died. One was a computer guy, he's retired now. The drummer is making his way. I don't know what he's doing in Hartford.

PM: And two died from...?

AA: Oh, one died from stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer.

PM: That's nasty.

AA: The other guy's heart went.

PM: Damn.

AA: Really young.

PM: That's a high mortality rate for a band.

AA: I know. Then another one shot himself. That was in another configuration of the band.

PM: It's amazing that the song "No Good to Cry" later turned up on an Allman Brothers anthology, right? Was it the band called Hourglass?

AA: I thought it was the Almond Joys that did it. I don't know. I'm not sure. Same thing as ZZ Top--

PM: Oh, really?

AA: The Moving Sidewalks. The Moving Sidewalks became ZZ Top, and they did it. I've talked to Billy [Gibbons] about it a couple of times.

PM: What an unbelievable song to have traveled to those--

AA: The Poppy Family, it was a single. And John Fred & His Playboy Band.

PM: And it never made you a frickin' dime, did it?

AA: I never got paid a dime. It made a lot.

PM: It made a lot. And there was nobody in the loop to chase down the money?

AA: There was a guy keeping the money.

PM: Oh.

AA: We never even got paid to make the record. In fact, we made it ourselves and signed it over to this guy named Doc Cavalier. He just died.

PM: Was Doc the one who kept the money?

AA: Yeah.

PM: Damn. And no one could ever--

AA: I had to keep a lawyer on him just to get $100 here and there.

PM: Really? And later in life when you could afford your own lawyer and keep him on retainer to chase him down, you could get 100 bucks now and then out of him just for the principal of the thing.

AA: Yeah.

PM: Nice business.

AA: Yeah, I know. [laughs] But you have to educate yourself.

PM: Right.

AA: I was too young to even think--I mean, I was 18 years old. I just wanted to have a record out. In the sixties when you're 18, you really didn't know anything about the record business. Now it's a little more--

PM: It's still hard to know, but it's out there somewhere.

AA: Oh, yeah, it's impossible to know.

PM: Yeah. By the time you can know something about it, it's too late.

AA: I hate the business of music.

PM: That's why the Hunter Thompson quote is so funny. ["The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."]

AA: It's great. It's absolutely so on the money. [laughs]

PM: It's the worst business on earth.

AA: No, it's like all the other businesses, it's just that this has do with a lot of heart. We're not selling spoons or inanimate objects, you got your soul into it.

PM: Yeah, because painters will tell you, "Oh, the art business, that's nice. You'd like that. That really sucks, too." You always hear people talk about like, "Oh, I'm all about the corner where art and commerce meet." Bullshit. There is no such address. They may collide, but they don't intersect. continue

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