What was the story you told me about having Leon Russell play for you?  

I was at the musician's union looking for a job.  He was walking in and he didn't look very happy, and to make things worse I said, "Leon, I rented the studio downstairs," I said it real fast so he couldn't say no, "and I hardly have any money so would you come down and show me just a couple of things?  Just give me 5 minutes of your time and I'll leave you alone."  I dogged him into going downstairs into one of the studios I rented and he played for about 15 or 20 minutes.  I think he took it out on the piano.  He was pissed off about something.  I didn't make it any better, like I said.  But he said, "All right.  I'll go down and play."  When he sat down he played that thing (demonstrates) and it looked like the piano keys were coming right out of the piano when he'd attack them and he'd hit 'em.  He'd play like a Rochmaninoff thing to warm up with.  Heavy stuff all this incredible stuff, and then he turns around and he's ready to play "Delta Lady" and that kind of stuff.  That would have been 1969 or 70.  

He was great at the time too.  

He was hot, very hot.  

Around the time of Mad Dogs & Englishmen.  

Well I saw that too.  I got to see them put the band together at A & M records where they rehearsed before they took it on the road.  It was like a big gymnasium type area and a stage and it was just kind of there for bringing people in and testing out stuff before they hit the road.  They did that for about three nights in a row.  I went to all three of them.  

Wow, that must have been great.  

It was tremendous.  Leon was only there one of the nights.  There was another piano player there, his understudy, that was there too.  He probably became famous too but I don't remember his name.  

How did it come about that you were able to go to that?  

Just knowing people.  I was a studio musician, you know.  I remember another incident; going in, I thought I was in the wrong door and Mama Cass was inside and I said this definitely is the wrong door.  And she says, "No it isn't.  Come on in cutie."  She chased me down the hall.  I said, "No, no."  There's this great big rubber ball coming at me (laughs).  It was scary (laughs).  I just went in the next door that came along.  It didn't matter who was in there.  That's when I auditioned for Gary Puckett and the Union Gap.  I played with him for about 6 months.  I just did stuff like that.  I did a session with Claudine Longet.  I walked in the room and it was Duane Allman and Jim Gordon in there and I'm going, "This is definitely the wrong room.  I'm not supposed to be here.  I'm doing a thing for Claudine Longet."  They said, "Yeah, this is it."  Well whatever we did, we did in one take.  That's what I really wanted to play, to be playing with these guys, but we just did it perfect and that was it.  We got paid and we were out the door and left.  

You said you played with Gary Puckett?  

Just stage, not any recordings.  He was just about to go into ABC television.  They were going to do a show with him back then.  That never happened.  

What are your thoughts of working with Frank Slay?  

He was good at making hits.  I remember Jon Floth and I going into Cory Hotel that used to be in Denver.  It was real famous and they tore it down ten years ago or so.  It was right on Broadway.  We went in with three songs to choose from.  One of them was "Incense and Peppermints", and the other one was "Crazy Bicycle", and the other one I don't remember at all, but we had first choice on them and we picked "Crazy Bicycle" (laughs), and Strawberry Alarm Clock got it ("Incense and Peppermints") and made a big hit. 

Click here, here, and here for clips of songs that Peter recorded while in L.A. 

 

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