THE WILD ONES

Ron Morgan and I, Roger Liston, founded Denver's Wild Ones in 1963, while attending Lakewood High, and by later playing 6 nights a week at Sam’s on Lookout Mountain, we progressed quickly gaining a huge following.  By 1965 we had been picked by KBTR TV to open for their concerts.  Within 2 years, we had opened for 10 world famous acts, starting with Herman and the Hermits.  I play drums.   

We broke up later, in the spring of 1966 when our lead singer Mark Bretz took a job with The Astronauts.  Ron Morgan went on to work with Bob Yeazel in Superband, and then 3-Dog Night as their first guitarist, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band and many other groups, before passing in 1989. 


After the Herman's Hermits concert.

An article and photo appeared in the KBTR newspaper on August 30, 1965:



083065 Wild Ones article.jpg (190147 bytes)
(Click on the article to read it, then hit your back button to return.)

Two days later a full page ad was published in The Jefferson Herald for the upcoming show featuring Freddie Cannon, Charlie Rich, Dickey Lee, The Wild Ones and The Rising Sons.


The show was a big success with many articles and photos appearing in future issues.

The Rising Sons; I forgot we appeared with them at that show. They hired me for a month or two when they were called The Viscounts, who let me know just how bad The Wild Ones looked at the time.  They said, "Get the grease out of your hair, let it grow long and watch your crowds grow." 
  


Ron Morgan, Danny Johnson, Roger Liston, with the leg and arm of Paul (Dan) Clapper

Before and after shots of The Wild Ones

I opened their (The Viscounts) eyes to soul beats, that’s why they hired me, and I influenced the guy on drums, Kip Gilbert, maybe a bit too much.  When I met him, he had always been a guitarist, but quit guitar, forever, after he heard what could be played on drums and became a drummer.  I gladly taught him what I knew.  Sadly, he passed in about 1989 from brain cancer. 

The leader of the group was Bob Heckendorf, who operates a small fleet of airplanes, including a Vietnam era A6 ground-attack aircraft, a real monster of a plane.  He would likely have some info on his bands, The Rising Sons, (AKA The Rainy Daze) and The Viscounts, and maybe some war stories about our times in the same band.  The Rainy Daze had a big hit; "That Acapulco Gold".  It was in the top ten when they did an interview and said that the song was about weed.  This killed the airplay, and their future.  So much has changed since then. 

Below is a photo of a stewardess with Charlie Rich that I chose to include so you could see the poster for the event.

After this concert with Freddie Cannon, et al. is this:  The late Charlie Rich was so unknown in Denver at the time of the concert, that he was left behind in the Lakeside parking lot.  His first big hit, "Mohair Sam", was released only days before, so no one really knew who he was.  As I was driving out, I saw him standing in the parking lot, looking for a ride, after everyone had left.  I offered to drop him at the hotel where we later had a nice chat over several drinks.  He was one talented, humble, and great guy. 


Notice I was trying to sign using a cigarette… that is what Dan Johnson is laughing about. 

In November 1965, another big concert event would take place for The Wild Ones.  This was with Freddie and the Dreamers, The Beau Brummels and The McCoys.  It also included several other Colorado bands that pertain to this site.  Jerry Corbetta was with The Brambles, David Raines was with The Bluetones and Myron Pollock was with The Galaxies.

Unfortunately I don't have any articles or photos pertaining to this show.
...and here is an article remembering The Wild Ones as was published on June 13, 1966:

Even though I lived in Colorado, I was likely the first white guy to learn funk.  After studying James Brown’s recordings for a year, I snuck a tape recorder (in a baby carriage) into a Fort Collins movie theater to record the TAMI show’s soundtrack, which featured James Brown, the Stones, and 11 other GREAT acts.  This was the very first movie made of a rock concert.  It was a spectacular show with 15 or so name acts all appearing on the same stage.    

The oh-so-cool beats that Brown's drummer, Mel Parker, was playing had advanced incredibly in just the 2 years following Brown’s “Live at the Apollo” album, which I wore out learning it.  Over the next six months, I was able to learn those newer beats from the TAMI show, and to my great surprise, a year after that in Hawaii this guy comes up to me between songs and asks, "May I sit in with your band?"  It was my hero, James Brown’s drummer, Mel Parker!  I looked at him and said, "I KNOW who you ARE--and you are my IDOL!  You can HAVE my band!!” I handed my sticks to him and, at great length, told the audience who they were about to hear. 

 Of the seven James Brown songs we had in our repertoire, he was the recording drummer on five of them.  I pulled up a chair right next to my set and got a finishing-touches lesson from him, brother of legendary jazz musician Maceo Parker.  

Why was Mel in Hawaii?  He had been drafted, was on his way to ‘Nam, took some R&R in Honolulu, got lonely, went walking around and found the coolest music bar on Waikiki beach; the Merry Monarch, where we were playing.

After that gig I returned to college and soon taught the funk style to a guy who later became a great drum scholar, Charles Dowd.  He transcribed those funky beats into easy-to-read sheet music and later that year published the very first book ever to document funk; "A Funky Primer for Rock Drummers."  It was a best seller for the first 20 years, and incredibly, after 40 years, it is still selling, even though Chuck has passed away. That style is no longer called funk, as it has become the new standard of rock drumming—the way to rock today.  On its title page, Chuck dedicated it to me, his mother, and two drummers in the percussion hall of fame.  Thanks, Chuck.  

Later, while finishing college in Pasadena, another of my students invited me to sit in with his band and play a drum solo, so that band could compete with,  and MAYBE beat a scrappy neighborhood band, Van Halen, in a Battle of the Bands.  I said yes, and we chose a song to play in a Buddy Rich style with a drum solo starting in the last song of their set.  What Buddy liked to do is let the band build a song to a peak, and let the drummer take over, first ramping up, then down, then back up to a bigger crescendo, then, without stopping, and while beating the crap out of everything in sight, count the band back in and play through the last phrase of the song...Then the two bands, Van Halen, with Alex and Eddie, and Uncle Sam, with Roger Liston on drums played our best.  The judges had never heard a Buddy-style drum solo done with a rock band, and they fell off their chairs.  Yes, we beat them!!  And the crowd, mostly Van Halen fans, almost started a riot.  See pages 40-41, Van Halen Rising…  https://www.amazon.com/Van-Halen-Rising-Southern-California/dp/1770412638/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477971134&sr=8-1&keywords=van+halen+rising

 I later graduated from engineering school but now I am a "recovering” engineer.  I soon shifted into sales, and love selling techy things to engineers.  A few years later, after attending 30+ sales courses and taking the helpful stuff from each, while losing the manipulative crap, I developed several specialized sales courses, ones that later made HUGE changes in the fortunes of Intel, Adobe and Seagate. 

Here is the Intel story, in a nutshell.  In 1980, after Intel had spent a year and 20 million bucks completely blowing their launch, the first chip of the Pentium line, achieving a “failed” win rate of only 10%, I was hired to fix their sales team.  Three months later they were winning 70% of the time, and 3 months after that they were at 90%, winning the biggest chip order in history.  They were chosen to provide the chip in IBM's then-new PC, creating the Wintel PC dynasty.

I now live in Utah, the stimulus-free state.  It is very peaceful here—too peaceful—and I miss Colorado, terribly.  

 I would kill to play in a band again with horns, lots of horns.   Keep playing that Rock and Roll!

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MORE ABOUT THE WILD ONES:


Dan Johnson and Roger Liston

I mentioned to Roger that I had four songs recorded by The Wild Ones.  They are "That'll Be The Day", "Justine", "Kansas City", and "Can I Get a Witness".  This was his response:

Doesn't "Justine" rock?  Lead singer Mark Bretz had a 3-octave range and harmonized with Dan Clapper so well on this song.

I do have a copy of the four songs, but the world does not have songs from the Wild Ones V2.  Six months after we broke up I formed a new and more focused Wild Ones to play a 1966 summer gig in Hawaii.  After playing the whole summer without a night off, and playing from 8:30 to 3:00 for 77 straight nights, we were pretty tight (understatement?) and when we returned to Colorado, no band could compete with us. 

The first song, while horribly recorded, shows off the “chops” of each musician.  Recorded in the spring of '67 at the Honeybucket, we played “Can’t  Sit Down,” whenever we saw other bands come into the club, just to show them what they were competing with.  In this song, we rotate solos through the band, each guy getting two turns. That night, for the first time, I tried a new solo that really amped the band – listen to them actually howl at the end of my first solo -- shoving us into overdrive for the second round of solos.  This was recorded at Boulder’s late and great Honeybucket.

The next song "Born in Chicago/Hi Heel Sneakers" is a medley from a show we did with The Animals, in the Fall of '66.  Talk about rich kids, Denver’s Regis fraternity put on a private concert party just for their frat brothers, renting a theater in the Springs, and hiring Eric Burdon and the Animals.  My band opened for them.     

Singer and bassist is Mike Prewitt, guitar by Wayne Bond, organ by John Herron.  On “Cant Sit Down,” the organist is John Parker, who was a classically trained pianist who knew a dozen concertos by heart, and in Hawaii, would play them in a neighboring piano bar when we were on breaks. John was so good, we would have the club chant, “We want a fugue!, We want a fugue!!”  Once they got completely rowdy, he would cut loose with one, blowing down the house. 

The Honeybucket was such a fun place to play.  They served shelled peanuts with each pitcher and since I had no head on the front of my bass drum, everybody would throw the shells into my bass drum.  I loved it. 

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More on James Brown:

I saw his band first In 1964.  They were in Denver playing in the pro basketball coliseum (Denver Auditorium).  The stage was a bunch of side by side risers with a black curtain across the back side.  Since my bass player, Dan Johnson, (the dead-on look alike of Herman, of the Hermits), and I were the ONLY white people in the audience, we headed straight for behind the stage, where we were only 2-3 feet behind the drummers.  Their playing totally filled me with a BURNING desire to learn those new, wonderful, funky, and--to the white population--totally unknown beats, at the time. They were playing jazz beats, which were exclusively based on triplet figure shuffle beats, as eighth-note rock beats.  With the Wild Ones playing 6 nights a week, I had played every “white” rock beat known to man, and was about to go crazy from boredom.  What I heard that night opened the door to a huge and wonderful new set of musical skills and thrills. 

The next day I called every record store in Colorado looking to buy James Brown albums.  I bought every record in the state (both of them!) and began listening to them every day.  Soon, the beats sunk in enough to where I could play them without really thinking about them.

Mark Bretz loved James Brown but had never performed them with a drummer who could actually play the beats, mostly because the beats were still unknown to white drummers.  Many times we would play James' songs with long breaks that are filled with a funky drumming.  I cracked up Mark on several occasions with these beats.  He would kind of hunch over, laughing and smiling, because my beats “got to him.”  So fun.   

Drummers soon started visiting Ft. Collins’ Clancy’s where we were playing and trying to play the new funky beats with their bands.  At the 2016 mini-music fest I attended in Commerce City, Danny Lenz of the Pacesetters, another great band of the time, reminded me that his drummer, trying to play those beats, totally screwed his band up for at least a week every time after coming to hear them played.  Danny finally forbid his drummer from coming to any club we were playing.