"John Wizardo was killed when he fell into a vinyl extruder at the old Lewis Record plant near LAX, back in the 1980's. He was supposedly trying to clear a jam with a broom handle when he toppled in. His carcass supposedly got pressed into a run of McCartney boots. You can allegedly tell if you have one by the excessive surface noise when you play it......"
...or was he?
John Wizardo needs no introduction on these pages, but I'm writing one anyway! John is one of the legends of the old school bootleg scene. Ken Douglas and Dub Taylor of TMOQ started it all, and much of their story has been told, but John Wizardo was also a hugely important part of that Californian bootleg scene back in the seventies, especially as far as Pink Floyd are concerned, releasing a string of classic American bootlegs from 'Take Linda Surfin' through 'Miracle Muffler', 'The Midas Touch', 'The Screaming Abdab' & 'Libest Spacement Monitor'...... And over 100 other bootleg releases in total.
John Wizardo has avoided giving interviews to anyone since he began operating, around 45 years ago, and so it is a huge privilege for us to be granted an audience with the man himself. Before we start, credit must be given to our 'Floydboots On Facebook' member Colin Reever aka. James Floyd, who found a way for me to ask John for this interview.
The first part of the interview takes the form of a journal, which John has written for Floydboots, recounting his early days and his time as a bootlegger and makes for essential reading. Later on we deal with more specific, and more collector related questions...
OK John, first off, a huge 'Thank You' for agreeing to this interview, both from me, and everyone in the Floydboots and wider bootleg collecting community. The first question is an obvious one.... What changed your mind with regards to speaking about your past? I've been trying to track you down for years but you were firmly under the radar?
Back in 1990 when I left the bootleg world behind, things for me were in dire straights. I had been making CDs in Korea, very successfully and suddenly was shut down. Between the money printing faucet being turned off, unstable partners, and a serious opioid addiction, I was quickly running out of road. I was being investigated by the Treasury Department because I fucked up the way I was making direct deposits to SKC through The Korean Exchange, the FBI confiscated a huge shipment of Backtrack CDs in Philadelphia , and someone stole $6,000.00 from a Federal Express envelope that was sent to me from the Texas distributer. It was time, as Tom Waits would say, to catch the first bus out of town and make new friends. The only problem was, I was broke. Drug addiction leads to bad choices and I drove right off a financial cliff in spectacular fashion. I needed a life line to break out from the hell I was in. I called Ken Douglas. He met me for lunch and provided me the financial assistance to push the "ejection seat" button and get the hell out of Dodge. Just like that. I put the money to good use. No question he saved my life.When you find yourself in a situation where you literally have to disappear, vanish, clean-up and start anew, it's important to completely disassociate yourself from your former life. You just gotta leave it all behind. Everything. And then find something else to do. That's what I did. For the last 30 years I worked as an Audio and Video Director for a famous California arts organization. I just recently retired. I'm married to the greatest woman on earth and own a home in a Southern California beach community. Andrea (Vicki Vinyl) followed a similar successful path, married, raised a beautiful family and owns a home near mine. Lately my beautiful wife, Jeanne, and I have been stuck at home sitting in the garden contemplating the coming black death. Someone found an old YouTube channel I had and asked if I was John Wizardo. I gave the same fanciful answer I always gave when someone asked if I was Wizardo. I said that John Wizardo died in a bizarre accident at Lewis Records involving a step ladder, a broom handle and a vinyl extruder. But when I read your response, Steve, I started thinking maybe reminiscing with you about the old days might be more fun than worrying about our apparently imminent death. I liked your initial emails. I liked your website and of course I love the fact that you have an interest in Wizardo Records. If someone had told me at the time I made Take Linda Surfin that almost 50 years later there would still be interest, it would have been incomprehensible to me. I'd have seriously been concerned about the future. Which brings us to the present. Steve, I'll do my best to answer your questions and at the same time undoubtedly side track into stories that particularly stand out in my memory. If I start rambling like Grandpa Simpson don't hesitate to reign me in, or just tell me to shut up. Ha. Ha.
Let's go back to the beginning......
In the fall of 1969 I was a 13 year old freshman at Foothill Highschool in Tustin, Orange County, California. I met my future record partner, Larry Feign, in the Drama Club that met weekly after school. There was to be a student play that Autumn, 'The Mouse That Roared'. Larry and I were cast as Soldier #1 and Soldier #3. Basically non-speaking, walk on parts. Our drama teacher, Mrs. Pecararo, assured us that there was no such thing as a "small part". All the good parts went to the Juniors and Seniors, who, you know, were better actors because they weren't freshmen or sophomores. While attending mandatory marathon rehearsals for our not-small-parts, Larry and I had plenty of time to get to know one another and have some fun. I think it was our mutual hatred for the awful, horrible, racist, Highschool faculty and administration we had to endure eight hours a day, that cemented our relationship. That and the fact we both enjoyed using a sense of humor and drawing cartoons to combat the evils of the anti-educational public school system we found ourselves in.Orange County was the hotbed for right-wing, racist organizations in Southern California back then. You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting some sort of hate group. We had The John Birch Society, The American White Peoples Sociailist Party, The United Members of the Klu Klux Klan, and The Tustin News, all in our backyard. All of these groups had members sitting on the Tustin School Board, so its not hard to imagine the type of curriculum we were getting in the classroom. They hated everyone and everything but mostly they hated communists, hippies and modern music, which in their eyes were indistinguishable. And of course they hated blacks and mexicans. That goes without saying. Larry and I were suspended from classes multiple times for "looking like a hippie". Which meant we had to go home, get a haircut, and have our parents promise they would try to keep us from looking like communists in the future, before we could return to class. To Larry and I, our enemies were obvious, and just begging for a slap down. Since our "starring" roles in the school play failed to ignite the Beatlemania response we were hoping for from the girls in our school, we knew we had to up our game.
In the late 60's and early 70's so-called Underground Newspapers were springing up all over the country. They all strived to print alternative narratives to whatever the mainstream press was churning out. Larry and I figured we could do our own underground school newspaper and have some fun. We called it 'The Toilet Paper', and filled it with cartoons, satirical diatribes and articles which were all libelous, profane, or obscene in nature. The students loved it. Not so much the faculty and administration.
Another phenomenon in the USA at this time were "garage" bands. Every neighborhood had at least one... except Larry`s. So we decided to start the Billy Toff Band. The name solely chosen for its ability to allow us to print B. TOFF on the drum head and any publicity. The term "beat-off" was school boy slang for masturbation. Yeah. We rehearsed primarily in Larry's parents garage and basement. Larry's dad had an old Wollensak reel to reel tape recorder that we played around with, creating many of the recordings we later put on the Wizardo B.Toff Band album, as well as other bootlegs. The fact that we rehearsed in Larry's garage becomes important a few years later. But that involves The Runaways and I'll save that funny tale for later.
Tustin had two retail record outlets in 1971. One was Builders Emporium, a building and lumber store that for some reason sold records. The other was Wynns Music. Primarily a musical instrument store, it was Wynns Music that I walked into one rainy afternoon in early January. There was a box of records on the sales counter with a sign that said "New Beatle Record - $3.99". Now I was a huge Beatle fan since 1964 and I hadn't heard about any new Beatle record......
When I was 8 years old, living with my parents in the San Fernando Valley, I had an old tube radio in my bedroom. I used to listen to it at night as I was falling asleep. My parents had it tuned to KGIL, the "good music" station. One night I had a babysitter, a teenager from down the street. I still remember her name. When she put me to bed that night I asked her to please turn on my radio, which she did. As soon as it warmed up and she heard what was coming out of the speaker, she demanded to know why I was listening to such crap? She immediately turned the dial to KRLA and the song currently playing was Twist and Shout. The Beatles version. My life changed forever at that moment. I had never heard anything like it before. I became a Beatle fan for life.
......I picked up a copy of this "New Beatle Record" to look at. It's front cover said 'Get Back To Toronto' and had a peace sign with some sort of abstract picture on it. It's back cover was completely blank. Nowhere did it say a record company name, or even The Beatles name for that matter. I asked Danny, the salesman behind the counter, what the hell this record was? He said "Well son, that's a new Beatle record alright, but it wasn't made by The Beatles or by Capitol Records. It was made by... CRIMINALS. It's called a bootleg!" He had my attention. I purchased a copy and peddled my bike through the rain to Larry's house as fast as I could to show off my new treasure. It turned out to be another one of those life changing moments.
KYMS was the hip "underground" radio station in Orange County back in the early seventies. Larry and I listened to it almost exclusively. We volunteered for a free clinic auction that the station was hosting and got to meet the different radio personalities. We also had a Highschool chum, Davis, who spent a lot of time at the station doing odd jobs. (Davis was into graphic arts and designed the Take Linda Surfin wrap around cover for us). The real draw for Larry and myself to KYMS, was that they had bootlegs in their record library that we had never seen! At this point, Larry and I were neophytes when It came to bootlegs. All we knew was what we read in Rolling Stone, or what we learned at the radio station.
Still in Highschool, we were determined to get involved in this new genre of unathorized recordings. Bootlegs were hard to come by, and their "hip" factor was off the charts! We figured our fellow students would appreciate a constant, uninterrupted supply of the illicit music! All Larry and I needed to do was figure out a way to make this happen. This meant figuring out where to get quantities of boots at a wholesale price. Since bootleggers weren't listed in the Yellow Pages, we knew we were going to have to put on our detective caps.
Coincidentally, a new record store opened in Tustin. Bourbon Street Records was just minutes from Larry's house, giving us a new place to loiter after school, (We later immortalized Bourbon Street Records on the B.Toff Band album). The stores owner, Jimbo, told us that "a bootlegger called the store offering to sell me boots. Do you think I should carry them?". We of course emphatically said "yes", figuring we might somehow manage to meet the bootlegger ourselves. Jimbo said the bootlegger was going to call back at an undetermined time. From that moment on, for the next several days, Larry and I traded off standing around the front counter waiting to eavesdrop on a conversation between Jimbo and a real, live bootlegger. Our dogged persistence paid off. It was Larry who was at the counter when "Earl" finally called back to see if Jimbo wanted bootlegs. Larry over heard a phone number, and we were just 48 hours from becoming highschool bootleg entrepreneurs.
So, we had a phone number, but we weren't quite sure how to proceed. This "Earl" guy sold records to retail stores we understood, but would he sell records to a couple of highschool students? We didn't even have a retail license. Fortunately, Larry's mom owned a couple of small dress shops in Tustin. We figured we could tell "Earl" that we were buying boots to sell in the dress shops and we could meet him in the parking lot in front of one of the stores. Larry's mom would never even need to know about it. So that's exactly what we did. We arranged a meeting with "Earl" in the parking lot of The New Ingenue, Tustins finest store for young women.
We had a vague idea about what bootleg titles "Earl" sold, based on what we saw in Bourbon Street, but we didn't really know what to expect as we sat in the parking lot waiting for him to arrive. We were scheduled to meet at 7:00 pm but it was now 8:30 pm and no sign of "Earl". We were getting ready to give up and peddle our bikes home, when down at the far end of the parking lot came a loud, smoke belching, old heap of a wreck that was once a car. It was a 1950 Ford Club Coupe. Now back then, a 1950 Ford wasn't considered a cool classic. They were horrible eyesores that nobody wanted. At least this one was.
The "car" pulls up in front of us and chugs to a stop, backfires, diesels for a minute and with a final shudder, died. The raggiest hippie I'd ever seen gets out and asks "Are you Larry and Earl?" I replied "We're Larry and Jon. Aren't you Earl?" He says "Oh yeah. OK, did you guys want to buy some bootlegs?" We had met our first bootlegger. A Moment I'll never forget (We had to push his car to get it going again).
Now claiming his name was Ed, we started buying bootlegs twice a week from this hippie, to sell at school. Turns out that Ed didn't make bootlegs himself. He just wholesaled other bootleggers records. This was fine for awhile, but soon we wanted titles that Ed couldn't get. We had to make more contacts. Preferably with the people who were actually making the records. We started to make big plans that no longer included highschool.
At this point I was starting my Junior year of highschool. Larry, a year ahead of me, was starting his senior year. We realized we had transportation needs that our bicycles could no longer fulfill. What we needed was a car! And we knew just where to get one.......
Next door to white bread Tustin was the city of Santa Ana. Santa Ana had a rich white bread section, but it also had a more ethnic area with lots of motels and used car lots. We had a very small amount of money, so we headed for the poor side. At Murray's Motors on 4th Street we found a 1966 Simca Sedan. Now back in those days, Detroit Iron was the thing. Big North American cars ruled the road. No one wanted some horrid little foreign job on their car lot. It was embarrassing. I figured we might be able to get it cheap for just that reason. Simca was a French car of course, but in Orange County it just looked like something an immigrant or Communist would drive. It was perfect! I had no permit, no license, no way to register it and no insurance. I was 15 years old. Murray's Motors could in no way legally sell me that car. So of course they did. For $200.00.
The Simca was actually a great little car, especially considering the price. The body had a few dents, some molding was missing, but mechanically it was very sound. It was rear engined and air cooled. Very economical. The only thing it really needed was a better exhaust system, to make it sound bad-ass and give it a couple more horsepower. A friend had told me about a performance shop in Orange that could bolt on a header with a custom exhaust. It was called 'The Miracle Muffler'. And for $46.00, thats exactly what I had done. It was the most bad-ass Simca in Orange County. It was the only Simca in Orange County, probably California. Most importantly, however, Larry and I were now mobile.
Once we had the Simca, our bootleg business started to grow rapidly. Ed, or whatever his real name was, sadly told us his 1950 Clubman had finally died, which put him out of the bootleg business. He kindly gave Larry and I the phone number of his supplier, before saying goodbye. The number turned out to belong to Steve H, better known as Herbie Howard. Thankfully we had the Simca, because Steve wasn't gonna deliver bootlegs to Orange County. He was happy for us to drive north to see him, however.
Herbie Howard was one of the original Southern California bootleggers. He got in the business right after Rubber Dubber. I always figured he and Scott were friends, but their two businesses weren't ever connected. Herbie didn't use any specific label. He wanted his records to always look different from each other, so it wouldn't appear that the same person was making them. For this reason he isn't as well remembered as TMQ or Wizardo labels perhaps, but he was big in the beginning. Two of his most famous records were CSN&Y 'Wooden Nickel' and Led Zeppelin 'Live On Blueberry Hill'. He was also the first to have the Rolling Stones Live at Madison Square Garden 1972 tape released. Little Dub copied this disc to make the TMQ version, 'Welcome To New York'. I know, because I gave Herbie's disc to Little Dub to copy. Herbie didn't mind, because the lions share of Herbie's catalog was copied from Dub's catalog. That's how it was back then. There was enough of a market for everyone. No bootlegger claimed ownership of any of the source material being used. Since it didn't belong to any of us in the first place, it made no sense to get upset over someone else coping it. As you pointed out, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, anyway. This attitude resulted in many of the same titles being released by many different bootleggers. All at the same time.
I don't know where Herbie Howard lived, but Larry and I always met him at Tiny Naylors Restaurant in Hollywood. We'd give him an order over the phone, then head north for an hours drive from Tustin. Tiny Naylors was a "car-hop" style drive-in hamburger joint located on Sunset Blvd. There was a phone booth in the corner of the parking lot. That's where we'd meet. One day Herbie Howard was on the pay phone, while I waited for him sitting on the Simca hood. A gorgeous redhead was walking by. Herbie stopped his conversation, stuck his head out of the booth and hollered "Hey Baby, Herbie Howard has ten free minutes a day!". That was Herbie. He was sort of a swarthy Hollywood type, with lots of exposed chest hair and expensive haircuts. He was always very nice and almost immediately asked if we wanted a phone number for a friend of his that made Dittolino Discs. We said yes.
The phone number that Herbie Howard gave Larry and I was for a man who went by the name of H. A. Raikin. He had an apartment in one of those old North Hollywood boarding houses, now all gone. They were both relics from a bygone era, even back then. Incredibly, his flat was filled with bootlegs. Dittolino bootlegs.
Dealing with Harry Raikin was like stepping into the Twilight Zone. We'd call him up to place an order and get absolutely nowhere. He seemed to be deaf, perpetually confused and apparently hadn't yet mastered the complexity of the telephone. We always knew the conversation was over when he'd suddenly set down the receiver and wander off. We'd hear the television blaring in the background. This meant that we'd just drive up to his place and pull the order ourselves.
Here's where the Twilight Zone part comes in. Harry had an old Dumont B&W television. It had like a 6" round screen and was made in the early fifties. No matter the day of the week, or time of night, when we arrived at Harry's, he was watching 'Love American Style' on that TV. Now this was before VCR's or Cable or Satellite or any of that stuff. It just made no sense. The funny part was, several times while trying to get our order together, Harry would stop, and say "Quiet! This is the important part!", and stare intently at the little screen. Now, Love American Style was an insipid situation comedy. There was no "important part". There was no "good part". It was crazy. But this was how we got Dittolino Discs.
At some point in our business relationship Harry tore himself away from the Dumont long enough to fill us in on who he was, and how he got all those bootlegs. Turns out, his nephew was the guy who made the Catso, Figa, and Immaculate Conception record labels. These releases were noted for their fabricated black and white covers and high quality pressings. Since Harry and his nephew were Italian, the record labels were named after Italian swear words. Harry took great delight in explaining the definition of each one. Over and over again. Anyhow, Dittolino Discs was the current catalog that the nephew was manufacturing and Harry was the sole distributer. "Dittolino" means "little finger" and according to Harry, was much worse than giving someone the finger.
With two solid suppliers of bootlegs behind us, Larry and I were rapidily outgrowing our small base of highschool customers and were ready to expand the base of our operations. This meant wholesaling to Orange County record stores, and most importantly, retailing records on weekends at the Orange Drive-In Theatre Swap Meet. Having to attend highschool was just getting in our way at this point, but fate was about to take a hand.
The Toilet Paper had been a lot of fun to write and produce for several years, giving Larry and I a creative outlet to rage against our enemies. The school administrators and faculty were the primary targets of our "satire", but we also advertised our bootlegs for sale, naturally. The Toilet Paper was "printed" on a mimio-graph machine. These old fashioned printers were found in all High schools of the era. They were primarily known for embedding an awful odor in the printed material. We found this feature particularly charming, considering what we were printing. We also took pride in that all materials used in the production of The Toilet Paper, were pilfered from the school supply room. Including the printer itself.
At this point I was a Junior and Larry a senior, still at Foothill Highschool in Tustin. The principal of our school was unfortunately named William Frick. I say unfortunate because he happened to share his name with a famous Nazi war criminal, Wilhelm Frick. When Larry and I learned of this happy coincidence, it warranted a special edition of The Toilet Paper. Our headline screamed that Wilhelm Frick escaped the gallows at Nuremberg, and went on to become the principal of our Highschool. It did not go over well with Mr. Frick. A friend of ours who worked in the front office explained what happened next. "The principal read the paper, grabbed his chest and fell to the floor. An ambulance was called as he continued writhe and clutch the paper in his hand. He was still holding the crumpled up paper as they put him on the gurney and drove him off to the hospital." Luckily, it was just a mild "heart event", and Mr. Frick was back in school a week and a half later looking for vengeance.
Larry and I both got expelled. Larry was a senior and still had nine months of school remaining before he could graduate, so he enrolled in a "continuation school". Continuation Schools were set up for students who for various reasons could not attend regular school. You know, pregnant girls, immigrants, anyone deemed undesirable in Tustin. The good news was that you could work at your own pace at this type of school. This meant that Larry was able to finish off his senior year in two weeks! I still had a year and a half left before I could graduate, so I decided on a different course. I worked out a deal with Chapman University where I could attend classes as a Freshman and simultaneously have the credits count as my highschool senior year credits. This duel credit system got me out of a year and a half of highschool. It was brilliant. The real value in all this upheaval for Larry and I; we were now able to concentrate most of our energies on growing the bootleg business.
At some point you're probably asking yourself "Just where was the parental supervision during this time?". It's a fair question, as I was still living at home with my parents and still going to high school as far as they knew. The best answer I can give is that they seemed to hold a firm belief that parents shouldn't meddle in their children's affairs. Or even show an interest in them. I realize this is a rather unorthodox parental philosophy but I had no problem with it at the time as it gave me freedom most teenagers could only dream of. My dad was a brilliant aerospace engineer. My mom ran The Orange County United Nations Center. They kept busy with their own lives. I kept busy with mine.
I had a remarkable amount of independence since I was nine years old. That year, I decided I wanted to go to New York City. At the time, (1965) I was living with my parents in the southern state of Virgina. In a segregated community called Lake Barcroft. Everything was named after Confederate Generals and I was bored beyond belief. My cousin happened to be the famous choreographer Betty Walberg. Her resume and credits have filled books, but at this time she was working for NBC in New York, doing a brand new teen music show, Hullabaloo. Man, to nine year old me, she was the coolest. Hullabaloo had every top music act from the US and Europe. I figured Betty would have no problem getting me onto the set, where I would somehow make myself invaluable and end up with a cool job. Nine year old logic. I wondered how I could convince my parents to let me go. All I had to do was ask. 24 hours later I was on a bus, by myself, on my way to New York City with five dollars in my pocket and a Mad Magazine.
The bus broke down somewhere in Pennsylvania. We're sitting by the side of the road and the bus driver gives us a choice. We can either stay on the bus and wait for an undetermined time for it to be repaired; or we can can get on this other bus that's coming by shortly. It's also going to New York City. I figure, how big could NYC be? One bus must be as good as another. So I get on the other bus. Now it gets me to NYC alright, just not where my cousin is expecting to meet me.
I get off the bus thinking, hot damn, I'm alone in the Big Apple! The bus station was so big it took me forever to get out to the street. My plan was to tour the city on my own, then use my five bucks to take a cab to NBC and call my cousin. The first thing I see is a three card monte game going on at the corner. Right out of the movies! I scamper over to try and get a look at what's going on when suddenly a large paw grabs my shoulder. "Well now son, where might your parents be?" It was a cop, and he didn't like my answer "Back in Virgina, Sir". I was taken to the precinct house. My New York tour had been detoured.
My initial disappointment at not being placed in a cell or a line-up was somewhat tempered by waiting in a chair, drinking a Coke, while watching a transvestite hooker get booked for prostitution. Entertainment any nine year old would enjoy. Eventually my cousin showed up and we were reunited. I did get to the NBC Hullabaloo set. I did meet Chad and Jeremy. I did learn how television shows were made. I did see live theatre. I did meet some beautiful dancers. I went to the top of the Empire State Building. I went to great museums. I had more fun than any nine year old should be allowed to have. No parents in sight.
When I eventually returned home to Virginia, I remember my parents being more surprised than anything else. Or maybe they were just disappointed. It didn't really matter to me, because, even at nine years old I was making big plans that didn't include them.
Larry and I had been dealing with Herbie Howard for a couple of months at this point and we also had Harry Raikin's Dittolino boots for wholesaling to various record stores in Orange County. We were starting to build up a pretty good business. We were also starting to retail boots at the Orange Drive-in Swap meet on weekends, but I'll go into that more later. It was around this time that Herbie Howard made us an interesting offer.
Herbie had a Beatles boot titled Shea: The Good Old Days. Apparently Herbie's pressing plant had accidently over-pressed his order for this record by five hundred discs. Herbie wasn't obligated to pay for the discs, as he hadn't asked for them. So rather than toss them into the grinder, the plant agreed to sell Herbie the extra discs at a discounted price. Herbie didn't have an immediate use for the records and offered them to Larry and I for fifty cents each, provided we took all five hundred. We jumped at the offer.
We were excited for a couple of reasons. First and most importantly, we would get to design a new cover for the record, as we would be receiving them in plain white jackets. It would be our first record cover to say Wizardo Records. Secondly, we knew that the recording had nothing to do with "Shea Stadium". It was really a recording of The Beatles evening concert at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964. We knew this because one of our DJ friends at KYMS properly identified it. Not only had he been at the actual concert itself, but he had been at a 1964 Capitol Records Christmas party where a test pressing of a proposed legit version was played. We were proud that we would be the first bootleggers to correctly identify such an important concert.
Both Larry and I were still living at home with our parents at this time, but we did most of our Wizardo business out of Larry's bedroom. This is where we were the night we designed the cover and insert for Live At The Hollywood Bowl. I cut out color head portraits of the lads from an old magazine, while Larry handled the rub-off lettering chores. We both sniffed the rubber cement and created the insert. We had a friend named Lance who came over to help us that night. He parked his Mustang in front of Larry's house and came up to join us in the bedroom. We worked on the cover, smoked a joint and generally had a good time for a couple of hours. Lance got up to leave but I suggested we smoke another joint. He goes "Nah, I've gotta go. My girlfriends waiting down in the car". That was pretty bold, even for back then.
I forget exactly where I met Lance. It might have been Record Paradise. I had a couple of memorable experiences with him. The first was meeting Mick Jagger. Somewhere around May of 1972, Lance and I were walking down Hollywood Blvd and ran into him in front of Hollywood Toys. He was just standing there. I remember thinking "If that's Mick Jagger, he sure is short".Lance says "Mick?" And Mick says "Eh, what's happening..." in a distant monotone voice. After what seemed like an eternity of silence, Lance says "What are you doing in Hollywood? Are The Stones recording?" Mick suddenly becomes a bit more friendly and says "Keith and me are doing the final mixing on the new double album." I ask "Wow. What's it called?" Mick says "It's called Eat Shit. It's a double album. We recorded it on the Mobile, in France". He didn't say the title like he was kidding. He sounded like he meant it. Weird huh? Two months later Exile On Main Street came out. It was a double album recorded in France.
My next Lance adventure happened in Canoga Park. I have no idea what Lance did for work, but he was no longer doing it because we had gone to the Social Security building to get Lance's unemployment check. Anyhow, we're standing in line when Lance notices who's standing two people in front of us. It's Maureen McCormick, Marsha from the Brady Bunch! The show had been off the air for at least a year. Maureen was definitely hot and looked like she was about eighteen. Lance says to me "Lets go ask her out. We'll just have some fun". I wasn't so sure, but there was no stopping Lance. So, we walk up to Maureen and Lance says "Hey Maureen, looking good. My friend and I are going to an acid party up in the Hollywood Hills. Wanna come with us? You can get naked with us and jump in the pool. It will be really awesome " Maureen gives Lance an amused look. She says "Well it sounds like fun, but I don't think my boyfriend would like it." Lance responds, "I can guarantee your boyfriend won't like it". Maureen raises her eyebrows, smiles, and walks away.
At some point in the 1960's, an Orange County preacher started using the Orange Drive-in as his church on Sunday mornings. Parishioners would drive in and park like they were going to watch a movie. Instead, they got Robert Schuller preaching from the roof of the snack bar. Schuller's flock soon out grew the drive in, but the concept of using the theatre property for something other than movies lived on. By the early 1970's, every Drive-in in California was hosting swap meets on Saturdays and Sundays. They started out as garage sale type events meant primarily for families to sell used items from the boot of their car. However, they quickly transformed into retail centers where "vendors" could set up a weekend business without a license or any other regulations to worry about. For bootleggers they were obviously the perfect retail outlet.
Larry and I recently had been given the address for Contra Band Music in Norfolk Virginia. With this addition of the CBM catalog of bootlegs, we now had approximately one hundred titles we could wholesale and retail. We decided to test the waters retailing at the Orange Drive-in, as geographicly it was closest to our parents homes. We purchased a canopy to shade the merchandise, loaded up the Simca with records, and headed off to the swap meet. We were ready for a big day selling bootlegs. The only thing was, it turns out we had competition.
It was Larry who made the discovery that someone else was selling bootlegs at "our" swap meet. He had taken a walk around the flea market and found "a guy with a whole table of Trade Mark of Quality bootlegs!". I had to go see for myself. Yup, Larry was right; a whole table of TMQ boots, many I'd never seen before. The one line of bootlegs Larry and I did not have access to at this point was TMQ, so I was determined to find out who this guy was. He tells me his name is Yuris. He's a stocky guy about my age, with a shaggy blonde haircut and the slightest hint of a Russian accent. I ask him where he's getting his records from, expecting him not to tell me. But instead he says, "From my friend Kenny".
He didn't say anything else, but Larry and I sure wondered who this "Kenny" was.
A few weekends went by and we continued to sell our bootlegs and Yuris continued to sell his. He didn't really compete with us because he was selling TMQ and we were selling other bootleg labels. One Saturday Yuris showed up in a beautiful red 'E-Type' Jaguar XKE. I asked Yuris, "Where the hell did you get that incredible car?". I'll never forget his answer. He says "Kenny traded bootlegs for two XKE's and I got this one. He got the candy apple blue one". I'm going out of my fucking mind. Trading bootlegs for two dream cars? Unbelievable. I told Yuris that I had to meet this mysterious "Kenny". He says "That reminds me, he wants to meet you. He's gonna come out here next Saturday". Larry and I didn't know if we should be excited or scared.
All swap meets held at drive-in theatres were pretty much laid out the same. The vendors would set up their stands along the fifty or so rows of parking spaces where the moviegoers would later park that night. The vendors would arrive very early in the morning to set up their sales booths. Once the venue opened for public shopping, only pedestrian traffic was allowed in the aisles. The space that Larry and I occupied at the Orange Drive-in Swap Meet was Row Eleven, Space Seven (or Row Seven, Space Eleven - I can't remember for sure).
I'll never forget our first meeting with Ken Douglas. Yuris had set it up for Ken to meet with us at the swap meet. It was about 11:00 am on a Saturday. Larry and I were busy trying to answer customer questions and sell bootlegs, when suddenly there was a huge commotion down at the end of our row. People were yelling and screaming and jumping out of the way of something. It turned out to be a big black Cadillac. Driving down the pedestrian aisle. Where cars were never allowed. Every now and then, the car would stop, the electric window would come down and money would be handed to a vender in exchange for something. Not only was someone driving down the aisle, they were shopping!
I thought I'd seen everything at the swap meet, but this outrageous behavior was so over-the-top we knew there could be only one person in that car. The mythical Ken Douglas.
When the Cadillac reached our booth it stopped. Inside the car was Kenny (in the passenger seat), and his record partner, Greg (in the drivers seat). Kenny lowers his window and looks at me suspiciously. He's wearing a green army jacket and aviator shades. He's got long hair and a beard. And a moustache. I could not have been more impressed. Our initial conversation was very short. He asked if I was Wizardo. I said yes, and I asked if I could buy TMQ records from him. He didn't really give me an answer. But he did give me his phone number. Then he and Greg continued driving through the swap meet, presumably shopping as they went. At that point in time, it was the coolest thing I'd seen in my life. I was truly blown away.
On our way home from the swap meet that day Larry and I stopped at the Thrifty Drug Store on Chapman Ave. We both got ice cream cones. I also bought a pair of aviator shades.
When Ken and Greg drove out to the Orange Drive-in Swap meet to see us that Saturday, they took notice of the CBM boots we had on display. Ken was particularly interested in The Rolling Stones 1972 Tour album David D had just issued. After the extraordinary success of LIVEr, from the previous Stones tour, Ken thought it might be worth copying, I figured. Since Ken had given Larry and I his phone number, I wasted no time in calling him. Ultimately, we wanted to start purchasing his Trade Mark of Quality records, and I thought I could secure a second meeting with Ken by offering him the new CBM Stones boot. Ken took the bait and agreed to meet with me the next day at a bar in Long Beach called 'The Elbow Room'.
I was very excited about meeting with Ken. The only challenge was my age. At 16, I wouldn't be officially allowed in bars for another five years. I explained this to Ken over the phone. He said "Well you look a lot older than 16 and besides, the bartender Dick is a friend of mine. You won't have any problem". It turns out "Dick" was one hell of a colorful character (like so many people in Kenny's life). You could fill a book with some of the hair raising adventures that Dick had, but I digress.
The Elbow Room was a typical small bar, or dive, in Long Beach. Bars like this aren't like pubs in your country. These bars are dreary places where people go to drown their sorrows, not have a good time. To me, it looked like the perfect place for outlaws to meet. I had been in few bars, but I had my trusty Wizardo photo I.D. card which clearly stated I was 21 years old. In those days, prior to computers and printers, coming up with an official looking phony photo I.D. was not easy. I was very proud of mine. Anyway, it wasn't needed, because as Ken stated, his buddy Dick was behind the bar.
When I walked into The Elbow Room, there was only one person sitting at the bar. Even with his back to me, I could tell it was Ken. I took a seat next to him. Ken looked at me and nodded. Ken was never one for exchanging pleasantries. Even on the phone he would never say "Hi, this is Ken", he would just start talking, assuming you were smart enough to realize it was him on the phone. Bartender Dick sauntered over and asked me what I'd have? With little experience drinking, I asked for the one drink I'd read The Beatles drank, Rum and Coke. I watched in horror as Dick took a large water glass and filled it almost to the top with Rum. It must have been at least 12 ounces. Dick then took the "gun" and shot one tiny squirt of Coke on top of the Rum. He then handed it to me. I looked at Ken. Ken put his hand up to the side of his mouth and said in a loud stage whisper "That means he likes you. Don't disrespect him by not drinking all of it". Yikes. Well, I was playing with the big boys now, so I gamely started drinking from what suddenly seemed like the largest glass of Rum in the world.
I don't remember too much after that, but Kenny did agree to sell me records at two different price points: $1.50 per disc, for records I'd retail at the swap meet. And $1.00 per disc, for records I'd wholesale to record stores. The "honor system" would be employed, whereby I'd promise not to retail any records bought at the lower, wholesale only, price point. These days, you could never have that type of business arrangement. Trust? Not in 2020. But back then, it was honor amongst thieves. Kenny also helpfully polished off three quarters of my Rum drink, when Dick wasn't looking. I was very grateful. He took the copy of the CBM Stones boot, but eventually decided the quality was too shitty to bother with duplicating. The next time I would meet with Ken, it would be at his house. And I'd finally be purchasing Trade Mark of Quality (soon to be known as Funny Pig) records directly from the source himself!
After that meeting, Dick drifted in and out of my life for the next decade or so. Dick was one of those guys who seemed ageless. He could have been any age between 30 and 70. He was a short, tough looking, wiry little guy who talked like he had spent time behind bars. Whenever I was around him he was very nice and a great friend, but you always had the feeling he was capable of becoming extremely vicious if a situation ever called for it.
Years after our first meeting, I had purchased a bright red Fiat 124 Spyder convertible and Dick really wanted to drive it. I forget what we were doing together that day, but we were driving towards Belmont Shore on Ocean Ave. There was a nice strip of beautiful palm tree lined roadway leading into town, that provided a great opportunity for Dick to take the wheel. What happened next is permanently burned into my brain.
Dick had only driven about half a mile when a Long Beach police car got behind us. About 30 seconds later the red lights came on. Dick slowly pulls over to the side of the road and stops. The cop pulls up behind us and gets out of his car. I have no idea what's gonna happen. I doubt Dick has a driver's license. Guys like him never do. The cop walks up to Dick's side of the car. Dick looks at the cop and says "What the fuck did you pull us over for, shit-head?" I had never heard anyone dare to call a cop "shit-head". It didn't seem like a good idea. I'm pretty sure the cop had never heard it either, because he looks at Dick and says through clenched teeth "You were speeding, asshole". Dick looks at the cop incredulously and says "Do you mean to tell me, that when I'm wanted for murder in six states, you stopped me for a fucking traffic ticket? You must be be the stupidest fucking pig on the planet". Well, now we're at gunpoint and being told to get out of the car and lay down on the ground. Within minutes there's another ten police cars on the scene with detectives running all over the place. Dick and I are in hand-cuffs. Dick seems to be in heaven. He's having a great time laughing and yelling vulgarities at the police. Since he didn't have a driver's license the cops couldn't figure out who he was. This really delighted Dick. He did a little dance to torment the cops even more.
Eventually they arrested Dick on some charge. I doubt it was murder. He was still howling with laughter when they drove him off to jail. Undoubtedly for the umpteenth time. That was Dick. He lived life on his own terms even when down by law. As for me? Luckily there were no drugs in the car and I had a valid license and registration. After a lengthy lecture about my choice of friends, I was released.
When I first met Kenny and his gorgeous wife Vesta, they were living in a charming house in the prestigious Belmont Shore neighborhood of Long Beach. I remember Kenny giving me directions over the phone: "When you turn left off of 7th Street it will look like your driving into an oil field... Keep driving, I don't live in a fucking oilfield". I used to visit Ken at least once a week to purchase records. I'd call him up, give him an order and drive over to his house to pick them up that night. In retrospect, I must have frequently overstayed my welcome. Vesta was far too gracious to ever say anything, but she must have hated the way I occupied all her husbands time. I loved talking to Kenny and would literally sit on his floor, sometimes for hours, asking him questions as he attempted to watch TV. We talked about everything, but mostly bootlegs. The amount of knowledge I gained was incredibly cool. Everything Kenny told me I tended to take to heart. As I've said before, his advice kept me out of trouble more times than I can count.
At some point in the mid-seventies Kenny decided he wanted to open a chain of record stores in southern California. Ken is an expedient type of guy and didn't want to waste time with concepts, drawings or plans. Instead, he sent his carpenter, Gabby, into the popular record store Licorice Pizza, with a tape measure and notebook. Gabby's orders were to measure everything from the front counter to the record bins, so everything could be reproduced exactly. It made for an instant record store, the bootlegger way. I thought it was fucking brilliant. Kenny opened a handful of these Licorice Pizza clones all over the place. Humorously, he gave them ersatz biblical sounding first names followed by McCain. There was Hezekial McCain's, Jeheramia McCains and others I can't think of at the moment. Kenny had fun with them for awhile, but running a chain of record stores is a lot of work. Plus, he had that jack-ass egotist Downey Dave "helping him" and I'm sure that got old fast. He eventually closed them all down except for the Belmont Shore location. But that's a story that I'll save for another time.
One night Kenny called me and said that a set of keys to one of his stores had been stolen. He wanted to know if I wanted to come hang out with him, as he was convinced the thief would be back sometime that night to attempt a burglary. I was happy to oblige, as that particular McCain's had a back room that Ken had filled with pinball machines. I love pinball. When I got there, I watched the store long enough for Ken to run home and retrieve his shot-gun. We closed the store, set the pinball machines on 'free play' and waited to see if anyone would show up. As much fun as pinball is, by four in the morning I was exhausted and figured any bad guys who were going to show up, would have already done so. I begged off and headed home. About 20 minutes after I left, someone did show up. Ken scared the shit out of him with the .20 gauge and recovered the keys. Kenny always prevailed.
Larry and I had been setting up our bootleg stand, on weekends, at the swap meet for about eight months when disaster struck. One Saturday I noticed a stocky middle aged guy looking at our records. He was wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses. He looks at me and asks "Are these all bootlegs?". Like a damned fool I answered "Yup". He pulls out a Sheriff's badge. Larry and I are formally introduced to Orange County Sheriff Deputy Dick Levin. Two uniformed Deputies suddenly appear out of nowhere. Deputy Levin tells Larry and me that he's gonna have to take our records as "evidence" and place us both under arrest. Holly shit! The uniformed Deputies get out their hand-cuffs...
Larry and I have never been particularly religious. We didn't go to church very often. We sold bootlegs on Sundays. Despite this, it seems some sort of Divine intervention occasionally provided us a safety net. At the swap meet, the booth next to ours was occupied by an old codger and his wife, who sold camping equipment. Larry and I never had any reason to talk to them. They were old and looked like they hated hippies. But now, suddenly, among the Deputies at our stand, this old cockroach is telling Deputy Levin to "Slow down! Take it easy! Put those braclets away! These are good County boys!". I can't figure out why this old dude is defending us. And I really can't figure out why the Deputies appeared to be listening to him. The uniformed guys put the cuffs away and Levin's attitude towards us instantly changed. He tells the old guy that he won't arrest us. Larry explains to Levin that the records we're selling are 'concert' recordings, not counterfeits. Levin says he's not sure if 'concert recordings' are legal or not and seems confused. He still wants to confiscate our inventory. The old man suggests the Deputies temporarily take our records, but give us the opportunity to get them back, if we can prove their legality. Deputy Levin agrees to this. Larry and I breath a huge sigh of relief. We might be losing our inventory, but at least we're not going to jail. We're grateful to the old man who sells camping equipment next to us.
As soon as Larry and I got home, we started plotting a strategy to get our records out of jail. We figured our best bet was to prove "concert bootlegs" were different from the counterfeit 8-Track tapes the Deputies usually confiscated out at the swap meet. I've mentioned that we sold CBM boots. One of David D's first releases was an album called 'British Blue Jam'. It featured the Lennon-Clapton-Richards 'Yer Blues' as I recall. The important part was on the cover. For some reason, David chose to print "All Royalties Paid by Contra Band Music - Norfolk Virgina". Among the records confiscated from us, was a box of British Blue Jam. In our nievity, we thought this 'legal' statement, printed on the cover, would be enough to prove our records innocence.
First thing Monday morning we called the Sheriff's Office and made an appointment with Deputy Dick Levin for the next day, to discuss getting our records back. The meeting went great. It seemed like he had already decided to give back our bootlegs before we got there. We explained what 'concert' records were and showed Dick the cover of British Blue Jam. He mumbled something about possibly sending off a telex to Norfolk inquiring about CBM, but we doubted he would really do it. At one point Dick leaves the office and closes the door, but Larry and I can hear him talking to someone outside. We hear a voice say "It sounds like they're just young capitalists. They probably have long hair because they sell records. Kids today won't buy records from guys with short hair". Levin comes back in the office and tells us we can have our records back. "But," he adds, "If I get any official word, or any complaints; I'm gonna have to take your records. And you won't get them back." We thank him, exit his office and head for the front door. As we're about to leave, a voice says "See you boys Saturday". We turn to the front desk and there stands Orange County Sheriff Deputy Dutch Bischoff. Turns out, Dutch and his wife sell camping equipment out at the Orange Drive-in Swap meet. While simultaneously working as an undercover officer. Right next to us. We became very good friends.
About two weeks after we got our records back from the Sheriff, I was driving down Chapman in the town of Orange. A Deputies car gets behind me. He follows me for about a mile, then turns on the red lights. At this time, I'm in my '71 Toyoto wagon. And the back is loaded with bootlegs. I'm thinking good old Levin must have changed his mind and ordered the records be confiscated. I pull over, the Deputy walks up, points to the records in the back, and asks "Are those all bootlegs?". I'm thinking "Here we go again ", but I answer honestly "Yes". He says "Well, let's get them out". I reluctantly get out and open the hatch. The Deputy immediately starts opening boxes and pawing through them, occasionally pulling out a record or two. It wasn't long till I realized the Deputy wasn't busting me, he was shopping. After awhile he picked out about half a dozen records (Floyd and Bowie mostly), and asked me how much he owed? I told him all the ones he picked were promotional copies, and therefore free. He grinned at me, took his boots, got back in his patrol car and split. I just stood there for awhile, trying to comprehend what just happened. Over the next few years I was frequently pulled over, or flagged down by Deputies looking to add to their bootleg collections. It was actually pretty cool. They always picked 'promotional' copies. They always grinned. We never got busted.
Larry and I started actively recording concerts sometime in late 1971. Prior to that, my very first live recording was a Harry Belafonte concert in Los Angeles. I used a typical (for the day), battery powered mono cassette recorder my parents had given me for Christmas. The results convinced me a higher quality tape recorder was needed. Our very limited research capabilities led us to Radio Shack. They sold a battery powered mono reel-to-reel machine that offered roughly 2x the frequency response and signal to noise ratio of my current cassette recorder. I believe it was an Allied recorder, re-badged as Radio Shack. The problem was it's size. It was huge. And heavy. It ran on six D-cell batteries. Sneaking it into a concert, along with a large omni-directional mic was going to be a challenge. Larry and I had confidence we could somehow solve this problem and purchased the recorder for $69.95, with an additional $16.00 for the microphone. This would become the primary recorder used for all the early bootlegs we made for ourselves, Little Dub, Kenny and others.
The new recorder made it's debut at a series of performances by Captain Beefheart at the Roxy, in L.A. The Captain was scheduled to do three shows over a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Larry and I intended to record them all. We drove the little Simca up to Hollywood loaded with batteries, blank tape and girlfriends. We surreptitiously got the recorder into the venue by suspending it between one of the girlfriends legs, covered by a long "Peasant Dress", that thankfully were in fashion at the time.
Recording three sets of Captain Beefheart meant sitting through three sets of the opening act; in this case, a then unkown comedian, Martin Mull. He was billed as Martin Mull and his Fabulous Furniture. The Roxy had a "two drink minimum" policy that was aggressively enforced. With our phony Wizardo I.D. cards, Larry and I were happy to comply with the rule. This created a couple of problems for Martin Mull. Namely, two drunk sixteen year olds in the front row. After sitting through a few of Martin's sets (which were identical), Larry and I had memorized all his gags, and took drunken delight in ruining them by yelling out the punch line before Martin could finish the joke. To his credit, Martin handled his two juvenile hecklers brilliantly, at one point walking downstage and patting Larry's head (with frizzy long hair). "Later, Sagebrush... Later", was all Martin said. Regardless, we ended up with hours of wonderful recordings. We put out a single album from the show. I think we called it 'What's All This Booga-Booga Music?', after a question yelled from the audience by a young black woman. It struck us as funny.
Larry and I would hang around the stage door after each Beefheart show. The Captain would always come out and greet his hardest core fans. After one of the Roxy shows, I told him he was brilliant. He responded "The only brilliant thing I ever did, was refuse to wear Levi's".
The same recorder was used for Little Dubs TMQ release, David Bowie Live at The Long Beach Arena and other bootlegs I'm having trouble remembering. However, it became increasingly obvious cassette quality was rapidly improving, and a move to stereo was advisable.
My sophomore year of highschool, I was introduced to Pink Floyd. My mom had a friend who's son had been attending Chapman University. He got caught smoking pot in his dorm room. As a result, he suddenly needed a temporary place to live, while a new permanent housing solution could be found. My mom offered him our upstairs guest room. She told me not to tell my grandmother. The student arrived bringing his record collection, which included the Pink Floyd album Atom Heart Mother. He, of course, also brought pot. He was happy to introduce me to both. I was blown away. By both the record and the weed.
I borrowed Atom Heart Mother and raced over to Larry's house with it. We immediately played it on the stereo up in his bedroom. Larry was completely mesmorized. We both had become Floyd fans for life.
As luck would have it, Pink Floyd was about to appear in concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Larry and I were very excited to record the performance. I felt we needed a stereo recording to adequately represent the band, so I borrowed a Concord reel-to-reel from a friends dad. It was about the same size as my Radio Shack, but half-track stereo. I also borrowed two sm-57 mics that had been adapted to work with it. For the day, it was a pretty cool set-up for recording shows. But it was enormous.
Since Larry and I would be attending the Pink Floyd Hollywood Bowl concert without our girlfriends (We could only get 2 tickets), we wouldn't be able to employ our usual trick for sneaking the recorder into the venue under a dress. I ended up sticking the recorder in a small backpack, then wearing a large jacket over the backpack. I looked like a hunch back, so I walked stooped over and with a limp. I added in a little drool from my mouth and all the security personnel avoided me like the plague. It was in terrible taste and only something a sixteen year old would do, but it was completely effective. I walked right in. They didn't even look at my ticket. We got a beautiful stereo recording of the show. I never released that recording myself, but gave it to Kenny who put it out on his Kornyfone label as 'Crackers'.
We didn't know it then, but in a couple of weeks Larry and I would be making Take Linda Surfin. As a matter of fact, we used the picture of the band from the Hollywood Bowl concert program, for the front cover of TLS. The El Monkee logo came from a bag of peanuts we bought in Golden Gate Park.
In our early bootleg years, Kenny quickly became our most significant contact and associate. It was through him that Larry and I were introduced to the industries most important West Coast figures, like Little Dub, Malcolm M and Michael G. Ken provided me extrodinarly good advice and immeasurable help for over two decades. Ken was also responsible for getting Larry and me into the bootleg manufacturing business.
Kenny told us he had a friend with a set of Pink Floyd stampers for sale. He told us they were "European" made, and would require conversion for use on American record presses. Ken said if we were intrested, he could give us a phone number. Larry and I took the phone number in the blink of an eye. We loved the idea of a Pink Floyd record being the first "official" Wizardo release; our earlier Beatles boot having been manufactured by Herbie Howard.
The phone number Kenny gave us turned out to be for Peter Tossoro, a tape collector who lived in Glendale. Peter told us he had the stampers, knew they were for a Pink Floyd concert double album, but admitted he had no idea as to the location, or even what songs were on the records. He also told us he had no Mothers or Masters, just the stampers. That meant that Larry and I would be buying a record we would know nothing about, until we actually pressed it! It also meant that if a stamper got destroyed there would be no way to replace it. These liabilities would undoubtedly have stopped most sensible people, but at sixteen and fearless, Larry and I immediately struck a deal over the phone, to purchase the stampers from Peter for $100.00. We needed to drive to Glendale the next day to get them, as Peter had joined a religious group (read cult) and was leaving for "indoctrination camp" as soon as he could sell his worldly possessions.
The next day turned out to be the hottest day of the year. I was scared the little air cooled Simca would over heat on the long trip to Glendale. Larry and I had no experience with record metal parts and didn't know what to expect. We had been told stampers were "fragile". To that end, we prepared the Simca by filling the back seat with shredded newspaper to cushion the stampers like they were nitro-glycerin for the drive home. (The stampers turned out to be very thick and heavy. You couldn't break 'em with a hammer. We had shredded a lot of newspaper for nothing.)
Peter turned out to be a very nice guy. He had a great tape collection. He played us a tape of The Beatles What's the New Mary Jane, a full year before I heard it anywhere else. I never found out how he came to be in possession of the Floyd stampers, or what happened to his tape collection. Or what happened to Peter, for that matter. He was off to a new "spiritual" life. This was to be the first and last time we had contact with Peter Tossoro, but his mysterious stampers would mark the birth of Wizardo Rekords.
After getting our hands on the stampers for TLS and MM, the first order of business was finding a pressing plant. In those pre-internet days, the library was your best friend. Except in Tustin. The Tustin library had "over 200 All American books, six periodicals and no communist propaganda" Yeah, Larry and I needed to go to the real library, the big Santa Ana Library, in the scary part of town. We knew this branch would have The Yellow Pages for nearby communist strongholds like Los Angeles and Hollywood. And sure enough, these big city phonebooks were full of ads for record plants. All we had to do was pick one, but which?
We had picked three pressing plants out of the phone books. The very first one we went to was Custom Fidelity on Santa Monica Blvd. in North Hollywood. I remember being really nervous when we walked through the front doors into an enormous foyer with a long intimidating front counter. There were huge windows at an extreme angle looking out to the street opposite the counter and I remember thinking "How do they clean these?". There was just one guy behind the big counter. He looked up at Larry and I and asked how he could help us. I swallowed hard and went into my rehearsed story about wanting to get our "garage band" record pressed. Before I could get half way through my explanation, the front doors suddenly flew open and the 'McCloud' actor Dennis Weaver literally stormed in. Talk about an entrance. He was wearing his full cowboy costume complete with ten gallon hat and ludicrous cowboy boots (bright red). He pushed in front of Larry and me, stomping on my toes in the process. He looks back at me and says "Excuse me sonny, I have important business here". Larry looked like he wanted to kill the son of a bitch. I was too flabbergasted to say anything. The guy behind the counter tries to explain to Mr. Weaver that he's working with us and he'll get help in just a moment. Dennis isn't having any of it. He demands to know, at the top of his lungs, in his fake cowboy accent, whether his album jackets have arrived and if they've been stuffed yet. Turns out Mr. Weaver considers himself a country singer and has made his very first album. At Custom Fidelity. Weaver turns around and faces me again, "I'm not just a movie star. I have my own record company!", he felt compelled to state. It was called Impressive Records. Ten minutes later, after Cowboy Dennis left, Larry and I finalized our own deal with Custom Fidelity and we had our own record company. It was called Wizardo Records. No phony cover story needed. No business license. No national television series. No adults. Just a set of stampers and a desire to join the most profitable and corrupt business in America. The music business! It welcomed us with open arms.
I remember coming home from Custom Fidelity that first time we went there to make records. I went into the kitchen to make a sandwich and my parents were in the family room watching, of all things, McCloud, on their 13" Sony. My mom made some remark about how much she liked Dennis Weaver. I briefly considered going over and telling her how I just met Dennis Weaver and that he's a douche. But then I'd have to tell her I was in Hollywood instead of school, that I was making records and that the insulting little foreign car mysteriously parked in front of their house belonged to me. It would have been much more than they wanted to know.
Once we obtained the mystery Pink Floyd stampers from Peter Tossoro we had to figure out the best way to proceed. Larry and I decided to press it as two single albums rather than one double album. This would maximize the profits and minimize the up front expenses. Since we didn't know the song titles or what year the show was recorded; we would have to wait until we heard a test pressing before designing the cover art. However, we did need a label design immediately. The hand drawn labels were born after smoking a joint in Larry's bedroom. We left blank spaces where the song titles should go, leaving it up to the listener to fill them in. But what about the title? We needed one of those as well.
As you know, I was a huge Jan and Dean record collector. By the early '70's the music industry had changed drastically from Jan and Dean's era. J&D records were no longer considered "hip". Instead, bands like Pink Floyd now sat on the bleeding edge of cool. I thought it would be fun to take a decidedly un-cool old Jan and Dean title and apply it to our undeniably cool new Pink Floyd bootleg. Thus making the old J&D title, Take Linda Surfin sound cool again. Association propaganda, or something like that. Ha. Ha. I thought it was funny. Remember, I was stoned. And a teenager in Tustin.
After we heard the initial pressing we were able to figure out what the songs were. We gave a list of the songs and a picture of the band from the Hollywood Bowl concert program to our highschool friend Davis Beyerlie. He was into graphics long before computers. He designed the wrap around cover we then had printed. I'm still proud of it.
The worst part of Take Linda Surfin was gluing the wrap around cover to the blank white jacket after we had inserted the disc. We used a spray glue made by Scotch that came in aerosol cans. It went everywhere. I remember having a "cover gluing party" in Larry's back yard that ended with our girlfriends being stuck together. I heard later that the glue also caused cancer. Larry's mom yelled at us because it had a horrendous stench.that filled her house, even though we were in the backyard. Ahh, those were the days.
The stampers we got from Peter were much thicker than American made stampers (and copper backed!) and would not work on most American presses. Those British stampers were amazing. They lasted ten times longer than their American counterparts. Because I only had the stampers, (no mothers, no master) the number of records that could be produced was absolutely limited to how long the stampers could go without breaking. American stampers are very thin, break very easily, and are good for maybe 1000 manual pressings before they need to be replaced. Those damn British stampers would not break. After I was finished with them, I gave them to Andrea, who continued to press them for years!
Larry and I weren't the only ones who recognized swap meets as a profitable marketplace for bootlegs. So did Kenny. The only Southern California swap meet larger than the Orange Drive-in Swap meet, was the La Mirada. The La Mirada Drive-in was a weekend retail business for Ken and Vesta, in the years prior to opening their own chain of record stores. They sold Funny Pig records at that swap meet for years. Every now and then they would take a weekend off. On some of those occasions, Ken would come visit Larry and I at the Orange Drive-in Swap meet to see what we were up to and offer advice.
One Saturday when Kenny surprised us with a visit, he taught me a lesson in salesmanship that was so phenomenal, I continued to use it, or variations of it, for my periods selling consumer electronics. After seven years dropping in and out of college to stymie criminal investigations, I changed my modus operandi. Beginning in the late seventies, I started selling consumer electronics when I found the need to temporarily exit the bootleg business. I earned more money in commissions than I did making bootlegs. But it lacked the fun and excitement of the bootlegs, so I never seriously considered it as a career. The lessons that Ken taught me were many, but his tutoring in 'sales' techniques made me money.
On this particular day, Kenny looked over the bootlegs we had on display and asked "Which record is your worst seller?". I answered "You know damn well which record is the worst seller. It's your Donovan record for 'The Junior Blind', The Reedy River". Ken was a secret Donovan fan. He made The Reedy River from a collection of media appearances carefully edited together into a really great bootleg. It was even copied by the deluxe Italian bootleg label, Joker. As great as the record was, it didn't sell. We hadn't sold one in at least six months. So Kenny says, "How often do you have a customer that looks at all your inventory, and asks 'Is this everything you have?'...". "Virtually every customer asks us that" I responded. "O.K., here's what you do", Kenny says. "Take the Donovan boots off display and hide them in the trunk of your car. The next time someone asks, 'Is this all you've got?', tell them 'yes', then pause for a moment before adding 'except for the rare Donovan bootleg'. Explain the record is so rare you have to keep it locked up. The customer will absolutely ask to see it. Get one out of your trunk and sell it to the guy. It will always work." I was dubious, but in less than five minutes I had a customer asking me if this was all the inventory we had. I looked at Ken. He just smiled.
Within the hour we sold all five copies of The Reedy River that I had placed in the car. It was fucking amazing. I didn't feel there was any fraud involved. The Reedy River was indeed a rare bootleg. The customers loved them, once they bought them.
Ken looked at me and said "Now go put Little Dub's Blood Sweat and Tears boots in the trunk". The technique was magic. It worked on everything.
Through our association with Ken, Larry and I were introduced to Little Dub. He was Ken's partner on Great White Wonder, LIVEr and the original Trade Mark of Quality label. Kenny was in the process of dissolving their partnership when we first met him. I've no idea what the financial terms were, but the end result was splitting the company into two separate TMQ labels.One label would be run by Ken, the other by Little Dub. Little Dub retained the labels original logo. It featured a 'wood-cut' style picture of a pig, encircled by the words Trade Mark of Quality. The 'pig's' picture was pilfered from Little Dub's cheque book. Bank of America offered a choice of pictures to decorate customer cheques at this time. The 'pig art' was just one of several choices. Kenny made a new logo for his TMQ label. He replaced the 'wood cut' pig, with the familiar Bill Stout cartoon pig, but kept the same Trade Mark of Quality name. Within the industry, Ken's new label was referred to as "Funny Pig", while Little Dub's label retained the original TMQ identification.
After the break-up of Ken and Little Dub's partnership, Little Dub's new partner became his dad, Big Dub. Big Dub had been a government Mail-man all his professional life. That is, until the day he went down to the basement and found his son counting out $30,000.00 in bootleg profits. Trade Mark of Quality instantly became a family business. The basement, (Little Dub's bedroom) was transformed into an office/one-stop and TMQ became a lot more organized. Larry and I would make weekly pilgrimages there to purchase records. We dealt with Big Dub for these transactions, always down in the basement. I really liked Big Dub. He appreciated Larry and my sense of humor. He always called me a "horses neck" because of my various shenanigans and pecadillos. He was also very generous, giving us early access to new releases, test pressings and even unreleased artwork! It was Big Dub who later introduced me to my future partner, Jimmy Madden. Big Dub played a large role in the bootleg industry during this time, but has remained virtually unrecognized by collectors. He really flew under the radar.
Ken and Little Dub have earned the title of Worlds Greatest Bootleggers. It was Little Dub who famously invested his share of profits from Great White Wonder in quality portable recording equipment for taping the 1969 US Rolling Stones tour. The resulting LIVEr album started it all. At least in the world of rock n roll bootlegging. Little Dub bought both a mono Nagra and mono Uher reel-to-reel. Both of these recorders were primarily made for and used by the motion picture industry. They turned at 7 1/2 ips and had great frequency response and signal to noise ratio, albeit single channel mono sound. They were very expensive, but arguably the best quality portable tape recorders you could get in 1969. Little Dub continued to record concerts with this equipment up through the mid-seventies. Of course having good equipment alone, doesn't always guarantee a quality recording.
In 1971 The Who were to give a concert at the Long Beach Arena. Kenny and Little Dub were determined to tape the show and make what would be the first Who bootleg. The Who were experiencing enormous popularity at the time due to heavy air play of the Who's Next album. Both Kenny and Little Dub thought that a decent recording of the concert might achieve the popularity of LIVEr, once bootlegged.
Kenny picks up the story (as best as I recall). "We packed up the tape recorder, shot-gun microphone and headed off for the Long Beach Arena. Trouble was, not only was this Little Dub's first Who concert, it was also his first time snorting cocaine. He completely freaked out and got totally paranoid." Kenny continued "Instead of holding the Mic up in the air, he hid it down by his feet so it wouldn't be seen".
The resulting recording left something to be desired, but it was released anyhow under the title Closer to Queen Mary. It sold well because of The Who's popularity, but alas, it was no LIVEr.
Larry and I kept a large inventory of bootlegs on hand for the weekend swap meet at the Orange Drive-in. Larry thought it would be cool if we could put that inventory to work for us during the five week days when we weren't at the flea market. As I've explained, Larry and I also wholesaled bootlegs to every independent record store in the county. This gave Larry an idea.
One of our favorite record stores, The Turning Point, was in Newport Beach. It was owned by a former U.C.I. physicist, John. In his early forties, John had burned out on physics, married a 19 year old blonde surfer girl, and bought a record store. It was the coolest record store in town. He had a big sign behind the front counter that read "DO NOT STEAL. IF YOU WANT SOMETHING BAD ENOUGH TO STEAL IT - ASK US AND WE WILL GIVE IT TO YOU". I asked John if the sign worked? He said "Yes". I asked him if anyone had ever asked for a free record? He said "Sure, but in the last year I've only given away 5 records. Most record stores lose that to shoplifting in a single day." It was the right psychology for hippie record buyers, for sure.
Larry and I worked out a deal with John, whereby we put our selection of bootlegs in The Turning Point on consignment, Monday through Friday. On Friday afternoon we'd pick up the inventory, collect money for the records sold, and take the remaining stock out to the swap meet. Monday morning we'd bring the inventory back to The Turning Point, and begin the process over again. It was a great relationship because everybody won. John was able to offer his customers a large bootleg selection, without having to lay out any front money; and Larry and I were selling records without having to do much work. I quickly fucked this good deal up, by letting my little head do the thinking for my big head. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be the last time this would happen.
Mira, John's new surfer-girl wife, was half his age, blonde and stunning. She was the living, breathing, California Girl described by The Beach Boys. She worked in the store with her husband and never wore more than the smallest bikini. Every time I went in The Turning Point it seemed like Mira was flirting with me. I figured she was the kind of girl that enjoyed flirting with everyone and didn't think much of it; until one day when she cornered me by the used records and said "You know, my husband John and I have an open marriage". Before I could think of how to respond, she added "I'd really like to ball you". 'Ball' was the hippie euphemism for sex, and for 16 year old me, that was all I needed to hear. Without considering any possible consequences I stammered something like "Yeah, that sounds good". I'm sure I thought I was being really cool. Mira gave me her phone number and I called her the next day.
Mira agreed to meet me at The Turning Point that night, after the store closed. I arrived in my noisy Simca and picked her up at the Newport location around 8:00 pm. Other than sex, I really hadn't planned anything, but figured I should probably at least take Mira out to dinner. I took her to a popular Mexican restaurant, El Torrito, in nearby Costa Mesa. It was at dinner that I realized I had nowhere to take Mira for sex. I couldn't take her to my house, because I still lived with my parents. We couldn't go to her house, because, well, her husband was there. Not to be detered, Mira suggested we go back to the record store; she had a set of keys, and we could fuck listening to music on the store sound system. This sounded great to me, so back to the store we went. Mira used her keys, and suddenly we were back inside The Turning Point.
Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon had just been released that week. I hadn't yet had a chance to hear the record, my only previous exposure being the live version Larry and I recorded at the Hollywood Bowl. Mira went behind the counter, simultaneously taking off her clothes and putting Dark Side of the Moon on the turntable. By the time Speak to Me was over, Mira had my clothes off and we were getting busy on the floor next to a Rolling Stone newspaper rack. At some point during the song Money, I saw the reflection of flashing red lights on the glass front counter. This was followed by a stern voice on a bull horn outside the store bellowing, "This is the Newport Beach Police Department..." In our excitement, Mira, had forgotten to turn off the stores silent alarm. She also forgot to re-lock the front door after we entered. Within a matter of seconds we were surrounded by Newports finest, with their guns drawn. Mira and me were just sitting there on the floor completely naked. I asked if we could get dressed and was told "No!". So we just sat there nude, with the cops staring at us (Mira didn't seem to mind too much), until John the store owner arrived.
Eventually the cops put their guns away and let us get dressed. John explained that Mira was his wife, blah, blah, blah. It turned out, of course, that John had no knowledge of his marriage being "open". I felt terrible. John was a nice guy and we had a great business arrangement with him. I could never look him in the eye after this, let alone do business with him. I had completely screwed up. Being a teenager was no excuse. I really should have known better.
Interestingly, I took the open copy of Dark Side of the Moon home with me that night. Can't imagine how I pulled that off. I spent the rest of the night listening to it with headphones at my parents house. Over and over again. To this day I can't hear Money without thinking about those cops pointing their guns at me and Mira.
Back in the Orange Drive-in Swap meet days I used to make a weekly pilgrimage up to Big Dub's house to buy TMQ records. The Taylors had a beautiful home located off Los Feliz Blvd, East of the 5 freeway in Glendale. I'm guessing it was built in the '20's. The Taylors also had a little dog that barked at everybody. There was a steep staircase that went from the kitchen down to the basement, which was now the official Trademark of Quality headquarters. (Kenny once admitted to me that he almost kicked "that gawd-damned yappy dog" down those steep stairs.) Anyway, the basement used to be Little Dub's bedroom, till he moved out to live with his girlfriend. I once remarked to Kenny how beautiful Little Dub's girlfriend was. Kenny answered "Yeah, well anyone can get a beautiful girlfriend if they go to the mid-west, like Little Dub did. Pretty girls all over the place" (The next college I chose was in Ohio).
Anyhow, the basement was where I'd meet weekly with Big Dub. He had it all repurposed to serve as a One-Stop, office, and shipping center. It was totally cool. I really liked Big Dub. He took TMQ to a whole new level. Aside from the basement headquarters, TMQ now included an off site warehouse that was enormous. It had a large semi-automatic poly machine and heat tunnel for shrink wrapping the records. I had never seen one like it. I figured it must have cost a fortune. Once, when there was a large order to get out, Andrea and I helped Big Dub pull it together. Andrea ran the big poly machine while I mostly goofed around, but we had a lot of fun. Nobody worked harder than Andrea and nobody was lazier than me. Big Dub wasn't shy about remarking so. Frequently.
Despite my laziness, Big Dub knew I was intrested in starting my own label. One morning he mentioned to me that he had an acquaintance, an older guy, who had money to invest in a bootleg record business, was I intrested? Had it been anyone else I would have rejected the offer, but Big Dub was, you know, bootleg family. I trusted him and suggested he set up a meeting. In my wildest imagination I never could have dreamed up the crazy character to whom i was about to be introduced.
The "older guy", who quickly became my partner for the Wizardo Rekords label, turned out to be a former, sort-of, Hollywood icon, Jimmy Maddin. In his glory days, Jimmy had been a big deal saxaphone player. He even had his own TV show in Los Angeles, The Madman Maddin Hour, in 1957-58. He starred in the movie Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (It's on YouTube). He also made many records, which charted locally and nationally. After his sax days ended, he became Head of Music at American International Pictures. It was at this point he also managed several bands including The Seeds. By the time we caught up with each other, Jimmy owned two bars in Glendale, The Copa, The Trogen Room and a messy home in Silverlake. It was at this home that we first met. Jimmy was a short, gregarious type of guy, maybe 60. What was left of his hair looked like it was colored with black shoe polish. His shirt had mustard stains from the sandwich he was eating. I instantly liked him. We talked for a long time, but it boiled down to Jimmy having the cash to make as many titles as I could come up with. My dreams were about to come true.
Aside: Jimmy also had a long time mail order business thriving when we first met. Back in the sixties the only music periodical that was readily available in every community was Sixteen (16) Magazine, edited by Gloria Stavers. It was a teenybopper magazine for sure, but before Rolling Stone, it was all we had. In the back of virtually every issue was a half page advertisement selling movie star and rock star photos. The copy emblazoned at the top read "I'm Jerri, Jerri of Hollywood! Let me send you pictures of your favorite stars!". There was a picture of a twenty-something brunette female, supposedly Jerri and an order form for a catalog of photos. When I was kid I read those ads and wondered who this glamorous female conduit to the stars was? I found it profoundly sad, yet at the same time hysterical, that Jerri of Hollywood was, of course, Jimmy Maddin.
Back when Jimmy and I formed our partnership for Wizardo Records, he was already running several other businesses with varying degrees of success. I've mentioned he owned a couple of nite-clubs and mail order companies. One of his mail order schemes was called 'Movie Buys'. He took out ads in Hitmaker and other low budget music magazines selling short 8mm home movies of rock n roll performances (mostly liberated from old television broadcasts). Remember, this was prior to home video recorders becoming widely available. The quality was terrible, really bad, but he sold lots of 'em through the postal service.
Movie Buys used to get all it's negative and duplicate work done at Hollywood Cine Lab in Glendale. This little parlour of lawlessness was used by every porno movie company and shady producer in L.A. If it was illegal or immoral it was being duplicated at Hollywood Cine Labs. Their history went back to the 1930's when they made the prints for Reefer Madness and all the other so-called "Tent Movies" that ignored the Hayes code. In a way you could say Hollywood Cine Labs was the movie industry equivalent of Lewis Records in the music duplication business. Quality was never a prority at either place, but they were great for bootleggers who's quality wasn't always a priority either.
One day Jimmy took me along on a trip to Hollywood Cine Lab. We swerved around Glendale in his Buick Electra endlessly, it seemed. After making several stops to pick up and deliver liqueur to his bars we finally arrived at our destination. Once inside Jimmy got down to talking business with the guy behind the counter. While this was going on, I couldn't help but notice a seedy guy in the corner trying to get Jimmys attention. I asked Jimmy who the guy was? He told me the guy sells negatives for as yet unreleased feature films. After Jimmy finished at the counter he went over and talked to the guy. At some point Jimmy comes back over to me and says "his friend" has the neg and mag track for "a new blockbuster science fiction movie thats going to be released next summer". Jimmy asks if I think he should buy it? I said "What's it about?" Jimmy answered "A gigantic shark that eats a whole boat". I said "That sounds like the stupidest thing I ever heard of. Let's get out of here". We left Hollywood Cine Lab without the print of 'Jaws'.
When deciding on a matrix prefix to be used on all Wizardo Records, I went with WRMB. It stands for Wizardo Records Movie Buys.
I had a second dealing with Dennis Weaver, and his dreadful McCloud show, several years after our first delightful meeting. By this time Wizardo Records was going full steam. Larry had gone off to Goddard University in Vermont for a study break and I was running Wizardo with my new partner Jimmy. We had moved almost all of our metal parts to Rainbo in Santa Monica. We were actively pressing maybe thirty titles at this time. We were using the standard blue Wizardo labels on all the discs we we made at Rainbo.
One Monday night at 11:00 pm I got a frantic phone call from Jack at Rainbo. Jack says I've got to come down to the plant "right now" and remove all my property immediately. He wants me to take everything, metal parts, labels, jackets... Everything! He doesn't have time to explain. I just have to get down there - fast!
Back in those days, that type of phone call meant only one thing. An FBI raid was imminent. The record industry was so corrupt it wasn't unusual for a plant to get advance warning of an impending raid. That's why it was very rare to have bootlegs confiscated directly from pressing plants. The illicit product was never there when the Fed's arrived. Bootlegs? What Bootlegs?
Anyhow, I get in my car and head north to Santa Monica. Rainbo was about an hour drive from my apartment in Westminster which meant I'd be arriving round about Midnight. The entire time I'm trying to figure out what might have happened. There hadn't been any recent busts that I was aware of. Were the Fed's just looking for Wizardo records, I wondered? Or was it just going to be a fishing expedition. I was definitely worried.
So I arrive at Rainbo and go directly to the loading dock where I'm supposed to meet Jack. Surprisingly, the loading door is wide open and I can see a small crew of workers inside. I'm thinking "Shit, this is going to be bad". It looked like they were dismantling everything. I find Jack and expect him to tell me all about the upcoming raid and how he found out about it. Instead, he tells me quite a different story.
It turns out that Jack had made a deal with a television production company to rent out the Rainbo plant for an all day location shoot. The show they were filming? McCloud, because of course it was. Anyhow, the shoot was moved up a few days taking Jack by surprise. We had to move quickly.
The best part was the plot for the upcoming McCloud episode. Dennis Weaver was going after bootleggers who, like all bootleggers, were cold blooded killers. The last thing Jack wanted was for my real bootlegs to show up in background B-Roll. I thought it was hysterical, but of course agreed to remove my product. I carefully went around the plant gathering up all my stuff very relieved I wasn't having to do it in response to the FBI!
A few weeks later I was back at Rainbo and Jack had an interesting coda to the story. It was an all day shoot, and Jack spent his time wandering around watching the crew filming. At one point he noticed a camera set up outside the quality control room filming a record spinning on a turntable inside. Jack was horrified to see it was a blue label Wizardo record. It hadn't occurred to me to check the QC room when I cleared everything out. Whoops.
I admit I was torn between hoping the footage would actually be in the episode and hoping it wouldn't, at the same time. It would have been very cool to have a Wizardo record immortalized in a TV show, but that could have potentially catastrophic consequences. So it's a good thing it got left on the cutting room floor. I saw the episode when it first aired. I think I watched it with Andrea. It was, of course, awful. The whole series was awful. Dennis Weaver was awful. It was however, a great time for bootleggers, even if we aren't really cold blooded killers.
It occurs to me that there are many great stories concerning Wizardo's involvement with Rainbo Records. Like many pressing plants back in the era, Rainbo's day to day operations were run by a very strong woman, Bea. She also owned a couple of alternative lifestyle bars in the San Fernando Valley. We became good friends. Bea also made bootlegs with a silent partner, but that's a story for another day.
Kim Fowley was a fascinating guy. At over six feet tall, he considered himself too tall to be a rock star, but that never stopped him from trying. He went to the same highschool as Jan and Dean, at the same time, 1958. When the duo had their first hit, Jennie Lee, Kim felt that he too should be able to make a hit record. After all, if Jan and Dean could do it, he certainly could. (A large, healthy ego was always a big part of Kim's over sized personality). The funny thing is, Kim actually did make a hit record that was bigger than Jan and Dean's! Kim's group, The Hollywood Argyles, rocketed to number one that same year with the novelty song Alley Oop. However, while Jan and Dean were able to keep the hits coming, not so much for Kim Fowley.
Kim spent most of the sixties attempting to score another hit, with varying degrees of success, but by the mid seventies he had settled on dual roles of "producer" and "promoter" for other talent. Kim had always admired the all girl band, The Shangri-las in the '60's, and figured an updated, 1970's "punk" version could be just as popular. He recruited three young female musician's, rehearsed them in a Hollywood studio, and The Runaways were born. Kim promoted them as "School Girl Rock N Roll", and got them a deal with Mercury records. After some personell changes, the band became a foursome and started touring the world promoting their first single, Cherry Bomb. It was an extrodinary, fast ride to the top for the band and a return to the limelight for Kim Fowley.
The Runaways were scheduled to play The Starwood in Hollywood. I really wanted to make a boot of the show, so my buddy Mike and I got tickets. Mike was a Viet Nam veteran and extraordinary record collector. Among many other things, he was responsible for helping me build my Jan and Dean collection. He was extremely mild mannered and could remain calm in any situation. He was also very strong. In short, he was the perfect companion for bootlegging and his talents helped me out innumerable times. Specifically at several Runaway concerts.
The Runaways Starwood show was everything Mike and I hoped it would be. The sold-out venue packed the audience in like sardines. We were body to body in a standing room only crowd. A very difficult situation for recording, but Mike was able to "body block" and protect the recorder and Mic very effectively up until the end of the show when a riot erupted. In those days The Runaways concert finale involved a mini opus with lots of stage blood capsules. These overt theatrics whipped the audience into a frenzy and the place went wild. It seemed that bodies were flying everywhere. With insanity erupting all around me, I suddenly felt myself being lifted up off the floor. With one arm pushing people away, Mike used his other arm to lift me onto a table. I was safe, but the Mic got disconnected from the recorder. Because of this, the bootleg is missing the finale, but otherwise is a very exciting record capturing the enthusiasm of those early Runaway shows.
The success of the first Runaways bootleg meant that a follow up title was a given. The band's popularity had continued to grow, as had the size of the venues they were playing. By 1977 the band was scheduled to headline a show at the Santa Monica Civic Center, with Cheap Trick opening for them. Once again Mike and I got tickets. We taped both The Runaway's set and Cheap Trick's performance. Once again, The Runaways proved very popular on bootleg. In fact, after I was done, I gave the metal parts to Andrea, and she combined both for a double album version that also did very well with the fans.
Mike and I both really liked The Runaways and enjoyed their concerts. We didn't know anything about them personally, but that was about to change. We were completely unprepared for the suprise we got at the Runaways concert at Raincross Square in Riverside later that year. Sometimes, when the unexpected happens, it can make for an incredibly fun story.
Mike told me he had heard an interview with the Runaways on KROQ radio, where the band spoke favorably about the Wizardo bootleg record. They even joked about the artwork displayed on the insert. I had used a stylized picture of a "runaway" teenager, shooting up, that I appropriated from a Penthouse magazine. One band member joked that the picture looked like Joan Jett. I was thrilled that they seemed to endorse and even promote the Starwood recording.
Again, it was Mike who told me about an upcoming Runaways show at Raincross Square in Riverside. We decided to get tickets and produce a third live recording of the band for Wizardo. Mike had also heard that the band had gone through another personnel change, this time switching bass players. We decided to arrive at the venue early, just to hang out and look around. Mike’s Honda got us out to Riverside about 2 hours prior to curtain.
After we arrived, we were surprised to find the venue was a really nice theatre with around 2000 seats and great acoustics. While I was walking around figuring out the best position for recording (it was festival seating), Mike disappeared for a while. When he returned, he had two 'full access' back-stage passes that he had “found” somewhere. We immediately slapped them on, and headed backstage!
I was hungry, so we checked out craft services first. I recall it not being much of a spread, chips and soft drinks, that sort of thing. Before long, word spread that the band's arrival was imminent, so Mike and I made our way to the stage door to watch the group make their entrance (and maybe catch a glimpse of the new bass player). We positioned ourselves along the wall next to the door. Seconds later the door flew open and in walked Joan Jett followed by Sandy West. Next in line was Lita Ford, followed by a pretty blonde that we presumed was the new bass player. Each band member shuffled by us, eyes staring straight ahead, until the new girl stopped, looked at me, did a double take and said "Wow. Jon, what are you doing here?" I just freaked. I had no idea what was going on. I didn't know this girl and couldn't imagine how she knew me. I was carrying my tape recorder and mics so I was naturally paranoid. Luckily, Mike was great at running interference for me during times of trouble. This time he quickly positioned himself between me and the mystery girl. "So, do you know Jon?" I heard Mike ask in his 'friendly' voice, as I made a fast exit from the backstage area. I did not understand what just happened, but was confident Mike would get to the bottom of it, while I ran to the safety of the audience. I figured I would be harder to spot in a crowd.
When Mike finally caught up with me about a half hour later, he had a story to tell that was extraodinary. We went backstage again, only this time with an official invitation.
When Larry and I were still in Highschool, The B.Toff band went through many permeations. We had musicians and friends who would join us occasionally, but Larry and myself remained the only core members most of the time. At some point we had an upcoming "paid gig" that required formal rehearsals with a band. Larry`s parents generously allowed us to use their garage for this purpose. A guitarist named Dave Ginnett (or sonething like that), showed up and brought a drummer (name long forgotten). I remember they were older than Larry and I and looked like real rock n rollers. The drummer had an afro and a moustache! We started working on charts everyday after school. The new band members had no problem working with the material Larry and I had written and we had a lot of fun in the garage rehearsing our upcoming performance. Part of our schtick was inviting the public to bring their own instruments to play along with us from the audience. So, some of our set included extended jams for everyone to join in on. We once had a guy bring a tuba to the show. He sat in the front row.
Back in the sixties and seventies every street in every neighborhood in every town had a "garage band" with dreams of making it big. Now Larry's street, Woodlawn, in Tustin, had The B.Toff Band. Like all garage bands, we rehearsed at full volume. For hours. Proudly.
Larry had a younger sister, Wendy. Sometimes Wendy and some of her friends would watch us rehearse in the garage. We didn't pay much attention because they were, well... friends of Larry's little sister. I don't ever remember interacting with any of them. They were "too young to bother with", I'm sure we thought. Wendy went on to an acting career, at least for awhile. She starred in one of the "Porky's" movies, I think. One of her friends, Vicky, went on to an interesting career as well.
When Mike caught up with me that night at The Runaways concert at Raincross Square in Riverside, he told me that their new bass player was Vicky Tischler, a friend of Wendy Feign. "She used to watch you play in Larry's garage and remembers you" Mike told me. "But she also knows you're a bootlegger. The whole band knows you're here to record them but they're alright with that." Then Mike added "Vicky's new stage name is Vicki Blue and she wants you to come backstage". I thought it might be a set up. The story seemed pretty coincidental, to say the least. I had great faith in Mike and figured if he thought it was on the level, it was worth taking a chance. So we headed backstage for the second time that evening.
Yup, the story Mike had gotten was correct. While I didn't recognize her, Vicki certainly remembered me. She told about watching me perform with the B.Toff band in Larry's garage years before. It all seemed so surreal to me. It was hard to comprehend. She told me she was now living in Hollywood and gave me her phone number. Wow. This was definitely cool. Mike and I headed back to the audience to record the show.
The live recording from Raincross Square was going to be the third Runaways Wizardo release. It never happened for a bunch of reasons, but it did get mastered and an insert cover was designed for it. The title was going to be 'Stolen Property'. The story behind the unused cover artwork is kind of interesting.
Long before I met Vicky Blue, Jim Washburn dated The Runaways original bass player, Michelle Steele. She had quit the band early on, and joined The Bangles, a smart career choice, for sure. I forget the details, but Jim had given me an introduction and I ended up over at her apartment one night to talk about her days in The Runaways. Michelle got out a box of memorabilia and shared it's contents with me. One item immediately stuck out. It was a silver necklace with a giant sharks tooth. I asked Michelle what It's story was. She laughed and said "I stole that from Cherie Currie the day she joined the band. Which not coincidentally was the day I decided to quit the band". She showed me a rare promotional photograph that showed the original trio, now joined by Cherie. According to Michelle, The Runaways never performed or recorded with this line up. I guess they didnt get along. Kim Fowley said "Handling Cherie's ego was like letting a dog urinate on your face". So there's that. Michelle, knowing who I was, offered to let me use a photo of the shark tooth necklace for the cover of the upcoming Wizardo title 'Stolen Property'. I thought that was a great idea.
Too bad the record never came out. After Vicky Blue gave me her phone number backstage at The Runaways Riverside concert, I waited a few days before giving her a call. I remember going up to Hollywood to see her. She was living in Edward G. Robinson's old house on Gower Street. Tour buses would start pulling up in front of her home at 6:00 am to point this out. What a distraction. One Saturday night Vicky asked if I would take her to the Capitol Records Swap meet. This unsanctioned "collectors" meet was held every week in the Capitol Records parking lot. It started about 12:00 am and ran all night. It attracted hundreds of "record people" every week. It was the perfect place to find rare records and tons of bootlegs. I was happy to take Vicky, but it turned out to be a mistake.
Because it was Hollywood, all the rock n rollers at the Capitol meet instantly recognized Vicky when we arrived. And because they collected bootlegs, many of them recognized me. People were pointing and taking pictures. To make matters worse, Kurt Glemser was there that night, and I knew he'd blab about it. I wanted to keep things quiet. My concern was that the Mercury records legal department might have something to say about the company Vicky was keeping. The last thing I wanted was trouble for Vicky (or me!). I decided not to twist the tigers tail further and shelved 'Stolen Property' for eternity.
Despite the Raincross Square show getting the axe, several additional Runaways performances were recorded and considered for release. There was a particularly nice one from the legendary Golden Bear and another good one from the Barkley. It would be fun to figure out a way to get these finally released for the fans someday.
The Rolling Stones just announced a re-issue of their Goats Head Soup album, originally issued in 1973. It includes several "new" songs that were previously unreleased. One of these, Criss Cross, was a featured track on a rare Wizardo E.P. (on green vinyl!) back in 1977.
At this point in history, Squeaky Boy and I were living in Andrea's house in Woodbridge, Irvine (She had moved to a new home in Laguna Beach). It was an enormous home. We had virtually no furniture for it, so most rooms were empty. The living room had a television, a couple of lawn chairs and that was it. The house was in a very upscale neighborhood. The neighbors must have wondered who the "crazy hippies" were next door. We never spoke to them. While we might have lowered property values for those around us, we had lots of fun. Once, Squeaky Boy's older, silver haired uncle Blaine from Australia came to visit. To impress women we had Blaine pretend to be our English butler. The women we brought home weren't capable of distinguishing an Australian accent from a British accent, so they were always impressed. Blaine had fun too. He used to burst into my bedroom (when he knew my guests would be undressed) and holler "Excuse me Sir, the Commissioner is on the Red Phone!". Just like Alfred in the old Batman TV show. Eventually Blaine had to go back to Australia, but the time he spent with us was unforgettable.
One night Squeaky Boy and I were sitting in our lawn chairs watching TV, when a commercial appeared advertising a new full length Japanese anime movie opening in Orange County. We couldn't have cared less about the cartoon, but the music in the background of the advertisement blew us away. It was unmistakably The Rolling Stones. And it was a song we had never heard before. Then, at the end of the commercial there was a tag that said "Featuring a new song by The Rolling Stones". Wow. We immediately grabbed the newspaper to find a theatre where the movie was playing.
I don't remember the name of the movie. That didn't matter. All we cared about was the promised unreleased Stones song. I packed up the microphones with the trusty Uher tape recorder and we headed out to the theatre. Since I didn't know what part of the film featured the Stones song, I set up the mics to record the entire soundtrack from the audience. After about ninety minutes of mostly background techno music I figured it must have been a ruse, but suddenly there was that unmistakable sound of The Rolling Stones. Yup, an unreleased Stones song tossed into this crap Japanese cartoon for god knows what reason, but there it was! I got a great stereo recording because the theatre was almost empty. The credits at the end of the movie didn't give the song a title. All they read was "Rolling Stones Copyright 1972".
We rushed back home and listened to the recording about a hundred times. We decided to title it 'Save Me', as those were the words that were repeated most often. Squeaky Boy and I didn't have enough material for a full album so we mastered an extended play seven inch record with the aforementioned track and three others left over from different projects. I remember we rushed it out and had it pressed on green vinyl at Lewis in a matter of days. I think we only made 500 of them and they sold very quickly.
The song we called Save Me is featured under the "official title' Criss Cross on the new Goats Head Soup re-issue. Interestingly, the song appeared on an acetate someone gave me back in the eighties. It's title at that time was Criss Cross Man. The acetate allegedly came from a party where it was left behind by Jimmy Miller. No matter what the title, it's the exact same song in all of its incarnations. It even sounds like the same mix. Usually when the Stones release old outtakes, they add tracks and polish them up. This doesn't appear to be the case with Criss Cross. They seem to have just pulled it off the shelf and blown the dust off. Also, if the copyright date in the movie was correct, Criss Cross would be an Exile outtake, not Goats Head Soup. I like the title Criss Cross Man best, for what its worth. I've still got the old acetate somewhere, maybe.
Back in the '70's I occasionally sent boxes of records via counter-to-counter air freight to various East Coast destinations. This was a great way to very quickly get product to distant retailers. The problem was, this type of "shipping" was officially very expensive. Airlines would charge as much for a package as they would for a passenger. It was a system meant for big corporations that could justify the cost, I guess. Luckily, Kenny taught me a cool trick that significantly lowered that cost. For $10.00 - $20.00 you could bribe a Sky Cap. All you had to do was pull up to "The White Zone", (where passengers are dropped off with their luggage), get the boxes out of the trunk, and call a Sky Cap over. You show him the boxes and say "These boxes are going to JFK, counter to counter." Then you pull out a $10.00 Bill and say "Here's the ticket". The Sky Cap says "Yes sir", and shoves the "ticket" in his pocket. Five hours later your boxes could be picked up in New York. Pretty slick. Sometimes you'd get a wise guy Sky Cap that would say "Dat ticket ain't big 'nuff". Then you'd have to give him a twenty. Heh heh.
So it was one day back in the '70's that found me at Orange County Airport, dropping off boxes destined for Marty in the Bronx. The airport had recently been given a new "second name", John Wayne, after Orange Counties most famous alcoholic, racist, tub of shit, actor. To celebrate this disaster, a giant life size statue of "The Duke", complete with ten gallon hat and six guns, was placed in the terminal building. After blatantly bribing the airport Sky Caps to ship my boxes, I decided to mosey inside and take a gander at the Hollywood rubbish the Rebuplican City Council had decided to deify.
When I got inside the terminal I was not disappointed. There, in the center of the room, was 'the statue', more stupid and goofy looking than you could possibly imagine. It was surrounded by velvet ropes suspended from brass poles. Standing about 20 feet from this monstrosity was a skinny security guard, eyeing me suspiciously. I walked up closer to the velvet ropes to get a better look at the statue. I cleared my throat, which 'Barney Fife' took as some sort of threat. "Hey boy, spitting on that statue is Federal Felony Vandalism. I could put you in prison for ten years." he bellowed at me. Now, it hadn't even occurred to me to spit on the statue. Until that moment. The guard and I locked eyes, like in one of those old Italian westerns. I made a "hacking" sound in my throat. "Don't you do it, boy" Deputy Fife hissed. I like a good dare, so I let loose with the biggest loogie I could cough up. I aimed for the Dukes head, but it caught him on the left shoulder. It was big and gross. The security guards eyes damned near popped out of his head. If he had a gun I'm sure he would of unloaded in my direction. He didn't, so all he could do was rush at me. He was an awkward little prick and I took off like greased lightning. I easily out ran him, lickity split. Back in those days the airport was just one long corridor. At the southern end was a staircase that went up to a bar. Since I had my phony Wizardo I.D. that said I was 21, I ran up those stairs to have a drink and wait for the heat to die down.
After I got my gin and tonic, I took a seat over by the windows that overlooked the airport parking lot. After about 15 minutes there was a great commotion down below. Four City of Irvine Police cars had arrived with lights and sirens wailing. And there was Barney Fife waiving his arms and gesturing wildly, obviously telling the officers about my heinous "Federal Felony Vandalism". I became a little concerned at this point. I figured the most they could really get me on would be 'malicious mischief ' or 'spitting in public' both misdemeanors that a good attorney could get dropped. Still, there were six cops searching for me at that moment...
So I sat up in the Orange County Airport bar for another couple gin and tonics, looking down into the parking lot. Eventually the police cars left, determining that I had slipped through their dragnet. The truth was, the security guard had correctly identified me as "a teenager". As such, the cops never bothered to search the bar. Or they were just too lazy to climb the stairs. Either way, my days of being a teenage Federal Felony Vandal came to an end that afternoon. I've refrained from spitting on John Wayne statues ever since. Even though he deserves it, richly.
Mike G. is another unsung hero from the vintage days of bootlegs. He originally arrived on the scene as a record partner with Malcolm. Mike was a tall guy, at least six feet, with a shock of bushy black hair that he wore at a conservative length (at least compared to Kenny and me). He was always clean shaven. Mike looked more like a conventional businessman than a bootlegger. He was a hell of a nice guy with a beautiful intelligent wife who, like Vesta (Kenny's wife), seemingly wanted no part of their husbands underground record business.
Mike eventually ended up as a business partner of Kenny and aside from bootlegs, was instrumental in running the Belmont Shore's McCain's Record store. In the early 80's Mike and I worked together on several successful store promotions there. We had a blast. Once the record store hosted a blind date night we arranged, that attracted half of Long Beach and a lot of press. Mike's conservitive good looks opened many doors that otherwise would have been difficult for me alone. But I'm getting ahead of myself. This story goes back to when Mike was making records with Malcolm.
All the west coast bootleggers were basically friends back in the day. We may not have trusted each other, but we always enjoyed each other's company. When Malcolm and Mike started making records together they wanted to do so quickly. As a result, Mike asked me if I wouldn't mind helping out by mastering some of their tapes and doing some of the inserts. As I mentioned, Mike was more of a business guy than a music guy, so his decisions on artists worth bootlegging was tempered by what was charting in Billboard, as opposed to what "niche" bootleg buyers might really want. To this end, I was tasked with mastering records that included John Denver and Jim Croce performances that I knew wouldn't sell well. They just weren't the type of artists that bootleg buyers were intrested in. Luckily, Mike and Malcolm had other, more popular, live tapes such as The Who and David Bowie. I dutifully mastered the lot and pasted together inserts for the covers. That is, until I got stuck on the Jim Croce insert. I couldnt find a picture of him. Anywhere. Remember, I'm lazy, so the easiest thing for me to do was to pick up the phone.
I called Jim Washburn. Jim had a girlfriend at the time who was a gifted rock photographer, Kim Upton. I figured between her and Jim's endless collection of oddities, they should be able to come up with a picture of Mr. Croce for me. I figured wrong. There just didn't seem to be Jim Croce pictures anywhere that I could quickly get my hands on. As I recall, Jim Washburn and I were both really stoned during this phone call, which might partially explain what happened next.
Me: "I'm fucked. I promised I'd have all these inserts done for Micheal tomorrow, but now I've gotta run around and find a picture of fucking Jim Croce!"
Jim: "You know... I'm just thinking... You know who kinda looks like Jim Croce? ...Carlos Santana!"
Me: "Jesus, are you suggesting...?"
Jim: "I've got a picture of Carlos Santana"
Me: "I'll be right over."
Long story short: The world's one and only Jim Croce bootleg has a picture of Carlos Santana on the inserted cover. I'm such an arse, everytime I get high, I still think it's funny.
Sometime in 1977 I started to get paranoid about Wizardo Records. Jimmy and I had a nice arrangement going. At heart he was a good guy, but he was from another era and made decisions that I often felt were questionable. He had recently been introduced to what he described as "two business contacts in the record business". He was convinced they were going to make him lots of money. They were going to buy tons of records, etc. Jimmy wanted me to meet with these strangers immediately. I told him it smelled like trouble and to never talk to these guys again. I was sure they were Fed's. Jimmy promised to stop all contact with them, whoever they were. Knowing Jimmy as I did, I figured there was a good chance he would continue to try to put a deal together, no matter what he told me. It seemed like a good opportunity for me to drop everything and head back to college to continue my trip through academia and hopefully thwart any legal action that might be taken against me.
This time my institute of choice was Evergreen University in beautiful Washington state. I went there to study acting and theatre officially, but actually just made the most of the academic environment and the close proximity to Seattle and Vancouver. I recorded a number of shows while going to school up there. Most notably Queen and Iggy Pop at the Paramount Northwest; both of which made it to vinyl at some point. The recordings were issued on Andrea's labels for reasons I'm about to describe.
One afternoon I got a call from a student friend of mine. He overheard that Evergreen campus security had been contacted by the F.B.I. seeking information on my status and current location. Oh fuck. Several frantic phone calls later revealed Jimmy had been busted by the F.B.I. two days previously. Jimmy's new pals of course turned out to be Feds, just as I had feared. Thanks to the heads up provided by my friend, I decided it was time to make an exit from Evergreen. I packed my bags, put "new" plates on the Camero and headed south to see if there was anything to salvage of Wizardo Records.
The first place I headed for was my parents house in Tustin. My parents were out of town but the housekeeper was there. She looked at me with one eye and sternly stated "You just missed the F.B.I. agent that was here looking for you. Good heavens, what have you been up to?" She handed me a business card and said "Here, he left this for you". The white card simply read: "Michael J. Howie - Special Agent". That's all it said. No F.B.I. or any other law enforcement identification. Hand written under the name was "Pls Call" with a 213 area code phone number.
I knew Micheal J. Howie was an F.B.I. agent. He identified himself as such to my parents housekeeper. I later found out I'd just missed him up in Washington at Evergreen University. I had a ditzy blonde girlfriend up there that Micheal had apparently gotten a hold of the day I left town. I'd of loved to have been a fly on the wall for that interview. My blonde girfriend was an acid casualty who couldn't stop talking about "seeing dead people, before they die", whatever that meant. I'm sure Micheal J. Howie got an earful about everything other than, of course, what he wanted to hear. My big question at this point was, should I pick up the phone and give him a call?
The record companies told the FBI that they were losing millions of dollars a year to bootleggers. The RIAA told the FBI that the music industry was losing billions of dollars a year to bootleggers. These "bootleggers" were obviously a well organized crime syndicate with secret factories across the country and a fleet of big-rig trucks to transport the illicit contraband to communist record stores nation wide. The "bootleggers" themselves must live in palatial mansions surrounded by beautiful Russian hookers. Of course they all have secret Swiss bank accounts. At least that's what the FBI were led to believe.
At some point in the mid-seventies the RIAA took out ad's in music trade papers offering to pay a $50,000.00 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of bootleggers. I remember Kenny's reaction to this threat vividly. It was one of the nights I was over at his house watching tv. We had been discussing the ads and how the RIAA had gone so far as to put up a billboard in Hollywood offering the reward; Kenny turned to me and said "If the reward reaches $100,000.00 let's turn each other in!"
The FBI is neither stupid nor ignorant. It didn't take them long to figure out that bootleggers weren't exactly the enormous criminal enterprise they had been made out to be by the record companies. None the less, a lot of money had been spent on the investigation of bootleggers and prosecutions always look good in the press, so... they went after the easiest targets: Andrea and Jimmy, both of whom were flying well over the radar.
As a result of Jimmy's bust, as I said, my parents housekeeper received a vist from Michael J. Howie, special investigator for the FBI. He left a card asking me to "please" call him. I stupidly did. Agent Howie invited me down to the Federal Building on Wilshire Blvd. in Westwood to discuss my association with Jimmy Maddin. I stupidly agreed to meet with him the next morning. My thinking was that they've got nothing on me in terms of physical evidence. Just being a known associate of someone is not a crime. I figured it would look worse not to talk to them. I was right, but also very lucky. Never talk to any branch of law enforcement without an attorney present. Guilty or innocent, always speak through an attorney when it comes to "official questioning".
The FBI has the top floors of the Federal Building, so you can only reach them in an elevator that has two armed guards. You feel like a criminal before you even reach their offices. When I did get to my destination, I walked through a metal detector and got patted down before being escorted to Special Agent Micheal J. Howie's office. I took a seat in front of his desk. Michael stood up and took off his jacket for the sole apparent reason of showing me he was wearing a .38 in a shoulder holster. "So kid, how much do you know about your pal, Jimmy Maddin?" was the first thing out of his mouth. Before I could answer, Howie continued with "You know, we searched his residence and uncovered a letter you sent him from Seattle". I thought, "So what", but kept my mouth shut. Howie wanted to know how much I knew about Jimmys counterfeit Dodger ticket racket. I had no idea what he was talking about. Howie said that Jimmy was under investigation for printing up phony Dodger tickets, wait for it, in 1965! Ten fucking years ago! I explained that although precocious at 10 years old, I had nothing to do with any ersatz tickets. Jesus. Next up, of course, was what do I know about bootlegs? At this point I realized I had made a mistake agreeing to meet this way. I told Micheal I had nothing to say, and that unless I was being held, I was going to leave. Howie said, "Ok kid, you can leave for now, but I promise you'll eventually tell me everything I want to know". Being kinda defiant by nature, I thought "fuck you" and split.
The next morning I got a phone call at exactly 8:00 am. It was Special Agent Howie, "Well kid, have you decided to talk to me?" Having just been awakened, I said something like "I haven't even had my coffee yet" and hung up on him. The next morning the exact same thing, "OK, Kid. It's time for you to talk to me". I hung up again, but thought "shit, what am I going to do about this"? It was time to call Kenny for some advice.
It has been said that the first edition of Kurt Glemsers 'Hot Wacks' book (which was split over two volumes) was based on your personal notes of your own collection, is that the case?
Kurt was the only person I ever dealt with that totally ripped me off. I had a 16mm print of Magical Mystery Tour that had been sent to CBS back in December of 1967. Jimmy had gotten it directly from someone at the network. It was still on a CBS reel. In those days there were no good prints available. Kurt just fucking took it. And yeah, he conned Andrea into giving him a very early copy of my data base. He just fucking took that too. Not that I’m bitter. Now I just hate all Canadians. But Kurt was such a dick, I didn’t pay much attention to him or his label.
A couple of years ago Andrea was cleaning out her house and discovered a binder full of my original typed bootleg data base pages. It's a copy of one of the two binders she handed over to Kurt. I had no idea she apparently copied them before giving them away. Anyway, it's just one binder. I guess she lost the other one. Andrea brought it with her to the show one night when I invited her. She asked me if I wanted the binder? I said "No", but she gave it to me anyhow. I took it home and if Jeanne can find it, I'll throw it in the box with the tapes for you. It gives a good idea of what Kurt was provided with as a basis for Hot Wacks.
When Kurt was preparing to publish one of his volumes of Hot Wacks, he actually had the audacity to ask me if "there were any additional entries I might have" that weren't listed in my two stolen binders Andrea had given him. I told him "Yes!", and provided him a list of ten totally fictitious titles. I forget all of them, but one was definitely Alice Cooper Live in Baltimore. He published the whole list. And I was hardly the only one feeding him bogus information. Collectors using Hot Wacks as a guide for collecting bootlegs are in for a lot of frustration. Yeah, I know I shouldn't have fucked with him, but I was pissed that he ripped me off my network print of Magical Mystery Tour that Jimmy had given me.
With that in mind, how did he come to get your plates to reissue 'Libest Spacement Monitor' on his K&S label? along with a load of TMOQ titles pressed from the 'original plates' ? Can't Imagine you were too happy about that?
The 'Lewis Records' plants real claim to fame started in 1969 when Kenny and Little Dub started pressing 'Great White Wonder' and later 'LIVEr Than You'll Ever Be' there. Not the first bootlegs ever made, (opera bootlegs had been made there for decades) but the first really famous rock ones! Kenny told me that he was paying 0.15 cents per pressing in those early days. Anyway, those records spawned the original TMQ label and The Funny Pig variant that Ken started after the split with Little Dub. FYI: Back in the day, original Trade Mark of Quality records were always referred to as TMQ, not "TMOQ". The preposition "of " is never capitalized. It was that knothead Canadian Kurt who started calling it TMOQ. When Kenny started making records without Little Dub, his label was called Funny Pig, because he chose to use Bill's "funny" drawing of the pig logo. Also, since there were two Dubs, Micheal and his dad, Micheal was always called "Little Dub" to distinguish between the two. I actually did more business with Big Dub than Little Dub. Big Dub was a wonderful guy who always referred to me as "a horses neck" because of my weird sense of humor. Shortly after the split, Ken pulled his metal parts from Lewis, and moved to a new more modern pressing plant. This left Little Dub at Lewis with all the original TMQ stampers.
Little Dub was a substantially gifted artist. He was a musician and I had one of his paintings hanging in my apartment for years. Very interesting guy. But like almost all bootleggers back in the day, Little Dub had many financial ups and downs. Kenny used to say that Little Dub and I had one thing in common; we both had trouble distinguishing cash flow from profit. Ken was right. Ken was always right. By 1975 several fortunes had passed through Little Dubs hands. (Remember, he was an artist first...) He did one last project, a two record Stones thing, and then left Lewis Records for good. He left all the original TMQ metal parts behind. He also left behind a very large debt. The debt was large enough to have Ted Lewis hire a private investigator in an attempt to track Little Dub down. After several weeks of investigation, the P.I. happily reported back to Ted that he had found Dub Taylor! Unfortunately for both of them, the Dub Taylor they tracked down was the old American actor Dub Taylor, who wasn't amused with the accusations being leveled against him.
So, with Lewis Records unable to collect the debt from a retired actor, and still unable to find the real Little Dub, Ted started to think of other ways to recoup his losses. He decided to basically make Little Dubs metal parts that he left behind 'House Property'. This meant that any customer who pressed records at Lewis and wanted to use Little Dubs stampers, could. By this time, all smart bootleggers had abandoned Lewis for better, safer plants. This left people like Kurt, with the new ability to press on Dub's old stampers . The records must sound terrible. All Lewis records sounded like shit, for reasons I'll go into later, but ones pressed on old stampers really sound bad.
How my Pink Floyd stampers ended up at Lewis is a real mystery. I never pressed that record at Lewis, I don't think. But I must of. If I had an order for it, and Rainbo was too busy, I must have taken it over to Lewis and forgotten to take the stampers when I left. So Kurt found them and pressed on them, I guess. He and his K&S records were considered a stain on the bootleg industry. He was never more than a "also ran", never discussed, never considered, and not a part of our group. He remains a small, unremarkable footnote in an otherwise fascinating history of Lewis records and bootlegs in general.
Which brings us neatly on to Lewis Records?
The Lewis Record Manufacturing Company was in Inglewood California. It was in a very bad neighborhood. The old two and a half story stucco building it occupied was turned into a pressing plant sometime in the early fifties. And nothing had changed in twenty years. Same old manual presses, same old dirt on the walls, same old employees. At the pinnacle of it's successes, Lewis was pressing over-runs for the Capitol Records subsidiary, Fantasy Records. I once found all of the Fantasy metal parts stashed in a dark, dusty corner of the plant, including stampers for the rare, withdrawn Joan Baez album.
There are a million great Lewis stories. You could write an entire book on the monkey business that went on there. On the roof of Lewis Records was a additional small building that had been built on top of the second story, completely separate from the rest of the structure. Originally used for storage, it had sat empty for years. One day Ted asked me if I thought it would be a good idea to rent it out to The Hells Angels, Southern California Chapter? I told him "Are you fucking crazy? DONT DO IT!" He of course did, and within 24 hours the little building was burned to the ground, leaving a giant hole in the roof where an Angel fell through, right on top of Ted, who was sleeping on the second floor at the time. Ted later told me " Thank God he didn't land on my Kentucky Fried Chicken". Ted loved his chicken. He once wandered downstairs into the plant, drunk, and invited me upstairs for chicken. I was scared to death, and made up some excuse not to. I later learned to appreciate him, and the way his plant played into the history of bootlegs, a bit more. It was an era that will never be repeated, that's for sure.
Ted Lewis always looked like he had just come off a three day bender. I don't think I ever saw him dressed in anything other than pajamas and a bathrobe. His face was always marked up with mysterious scratches and bruises like he had just fallen down a flight of stairs. Which he probably had, as I don't think sobriety was a big part of his life at this point. He was completely clueless and had many conversations with me about incomprehensible topics that tumbled about in his head. Every conversation always ended with Ted saying "Well, I've gotta go lie down now". He reminds me of the clueless guy who owned the Spawn Movie Ranch and let the Manson family move in. Both of them had no idea what was going down, and what role in history they were playing.
With Ted preoccupied with avoiding stairs and lying down frequently, it fell to Kaye Jones to actually run the Lewis Records business, and a crazy Chinese guy, named Munray, to run the plant. Both of them were right out of comic books, so made for a perfect fit at Lewis. Kaye was a chain smoking, barking dog of a short woman who always called me "honey". Of undetermined age, but most likely in her seventies, Kaye was always a hoot. She was in charge of everything; billing, all accounting and most importantly, credit. The general rule was NO CREDIT, but if Kaye liked you, the sky was the limit. At least up until Little Dub took a powder. At some point I briefly moved Wizardo Records to Hawaii with my then partner Squeaky Boy. We would fly back to California a couple times a month to make records, some still at Lewis. I forget the circumstances, but something came up and we needed more records than we had money for, so we needed credit at Lewis. Now, Kaye knew I was living in Hawaii and just coming back to make records and I knew I needed a quick way to get in her good graces. So... there just happened to be a little Mexican grocery down the street from Lewis. I popped in, bought a pineapple, took it into Kayes office and said "Look what we brought you from Hawaii!" She goes "Oh honey, you boys shouldn't have done that". My line of credit was secured.
The one thing that Lewis could do, that most pressing plants wouldn't, was make coloured vinyl records. When a pressing plant takes delivery of raw poly vinyl chloride, it comes in pellet form in enormous cement type sacks. In reputable plants, these vinyl pellets are put in a machine called an extruder, that melts the pellets into little biscuits. These hot biscuits are then put into the record press to make the record. Lewis was the only pressing plant that didn't have an extruder. They had a restaurant style heat lamp that would warm the raw pellets. The pressman would dip a Dixie cup into the pellets and pour the contents onto the stampers directly. Swear to god. This made for shitty records and prematurely worn stampers, but conversely allowed Lewis to utilize coloured vinyl. Any plant could press on coloured vinyl, but it took so long to clean out the extruder afterwords that it just wasn't worth the trouble and expense. With no extruder, there's nothing to clean out, ergo Lewis made coloured vinyl records. Lots of them.
FYI: While any pressing plant could press on colored vinyl, only Lewis could do "splatter" colour vinyl. This was because Lewis didn't have an extruder. Lewis would just pour a cup full of multi coloured pvc pellets directly on to the stampers, thus giving the "splatter" effect when pressed. When you put the same multi colour pellets into an extruder first, it melts them all together before going to the press. This biscuit also gives you a multi color record when pressed, but the colors "bleed" into each other, without the "splatter" effect. Virco used to make very pretty "blended" colour records. I made a number of records that way. Virco was a very modern plant that made fantastic sounding records. It was owned by a woman, Virgina (Virginia Company=Virco). I once dated the receptionist there. That's a story I'll save for later.
I had heard that during WW II, records were pressed on paper to save on materials used in the war effort. One day at Lewis I decided to press a record on a paper plate to see what would happen. I had Munray press my paper plate at the end of a run of Kiss bootlegs. I scampered off to play it back on the turntable in the test room. It worked! And all things considered, it even sounded pretty good.. This got me thinking. What other types of records could I make? I decided to attempt an edible record. I bought an entire box of Green Apple Jolly Rancher candies. I crushed the candies with a hammer and put the pieces under the heat lamp. I had Munray put a set of Dubs old Yellow Matter Custard stampers on a press, dumped in a Dixie cup of crushed candy and made a beautiful translucent green candy record! It played just fine, but you couldn't really eat it. It turns out that the press injects a small amount of machine oil into each pressing, thus ruining the edible idea. I considered trying to re-do the press lubrication system with vegetable oil, but it would have been a lot of work and I'm lazy. The thing is, Lewis records was the only pressing plant where you could get away with such behaviors. In its own way Lewis Records was pretty historic.
One tale from Lewis Records which comes to mind is the 'Appy Records' story: At some point in the mid-seventies a ran into a peculiar little guy making an Elton John bootleg at Lewis Records. At this point in my life it was unusual running into someone I didn't know making a bootleg. But there he was, telling me all about his great Elton John record. Elton was at the height of his career and his bootlegs sold very well at this time. Someone making an Elton John boot wasn't unusual. But what was unusual about this bootleg, was that it contained all unreleased studio songs, not live recordings. I asked the guy where he got the material and he had some strange story about his dad being a music publisher. And that the tracks were publisher demos. It sounded like bullshit. He also claimed to know Little Dub, but upon further questioning I knew he really didn't. He was one weird dude.
Weirdo had a Toyoto pick-up truck parked in the Lewis loading dock. I helped him load about ten boxes of his Elton records into the truck while I talked to him. As I recall, the discs were pressed on blue vinyl with labels that read Appy Records. We finished loading the truck, but Weirdo can't get it to start. He just keeps cranking and cranking it, but the Toyoto won't go. He says it's the fuel pump. Weirdo asks me if I could give him a lift to his apartment in Hawthorne. Since it was on my way home, I didn't mind. I figured it would at least give me a chance to see where this new bootlegger lived.
Weirdo didn't say much as we headed south on the 405 freeway. When he directed me to exit onto Hawthorne, I asked if I could use his phone when we reached the apartment. Weirdo starts to stutter and stammer some excuse as to why I can't go up to his apartment. By the time we pull into his parking lot, he's still making excuses. I say "Look, I just gave you a ride home. I need to use your phone. What's the fucking problem?". He stammers some more, but finally agrees to let me use his phone. His apartment building is a high rise and he lives on the 14th floor. When we get to his apartment, Weirdo won't let me come in. He says I have to wait outside the door, while he brings the phone to me. He disappears inside. I'm really curious as to why he won't let me in. What the fuck is he hiding? Weirdo comes back, opens the door a crack and hands the phone to me. I want to know what's behind the door more than I want to make a phone call at this point. I give a wholesome shove on the apartment door, knocking Weirdo over, as I enter the room. Jesus Christ. What I encountered was a mind-blower.
There was no furniture. Not so much as a folding chair. Instead the flat was littered with fast food wrappers, wires, dismantled alarm clocks, metal pipes, and D-cell batteries. I pulled Weirdo off the floor and demanded to know what the fuck was going on? He tells me "It's not what you think". I don't know what he thought I was thinking, but it wasn't what he said next. "I'm a independent contractor for the Jewish Defense League. I'm building what we call 'a presuader', for a little bookstore in Westwood." As if this wasn't bad enough, Weirdos next words made the hair on my neck stand up: "...And I've got a whole bathtub full of nitro!". Jesus Christ. What do I do now?
I got my ass out of there fast. That's what I did. I stopped at The Jack In The Box hamburger stand around the corner from Weirdos apartment to figure out how to proceed. I knew Weirdo was dangerous. Even if he was bullshitting me about working for the JDL, (everything else he told me was a lie) what I saw in his apartment was horrifying. The fact that he bragged about having nitro glycerin in his bathtub, surrounded by innocent apartment dwellers, was enough to make me drop a dime. It takes a lot to get me to call the police, but Weirdo crossed that line easily. I walked over to the pay phone and made a call to the Hawthorne Police. I anonymously gave them the all facts as I knew them.
I never saw or heard about Weirdo after that. I also never heard about a bookstore in Westwood being bombed, or an apartment building in Hawthorne blowing up.
I'd love to know how the Appy Records story really ended.
If you think you were lazy with inserts, well, this Weirdo guy took some beating.
Wow, I can't believe there's a picture of it. Do you own It? As far as I know, the five hundred I loaded into Weirdo's truck were all that were ever made. Gotta be pretty rare.
No it's not mine... The power of Google. Yeah I guess it's rare, but what I learned from my time as a record dealer is that there's a huge difference between popularity and 'collectability'...
I certainly agree with your observation. Funny about Elton John. In the early seventies he was really popular with bootleg buyers in the States. Kenny sold tons of that Hammersmith Odeon Christmas broadcast. But by the mid-seventies, at the apex of his popularity (commercial sales wise), he was dead to bootleggers and their customers. I never made Elton John bootlegs, but Andrea and Kenny did, along with CBM and Marty on the East Coast. The same sort of thing happened with Rod Stewart too. Little Dub sold the shit out of the live Plynth boot. Then Rod Stewart died, sales wise. At least for bootleggers.
The bootleg market never had a lot to do with what was popular in Billboard. It always surprised me that Elvis boots sold so well. No one I knew listened to his music. No one my age liked him. But we sold lots of Elvis records to unknown fans somewhere (Jimmy liked Elvis, that's why the records got made). Under normal circumstances I wouldnt make a record unless I believed in its musical content. I just couldn't picture a bunch of fat old Southern redneck guys sitting around saying "Have you heard the latest Elvis bootleg? It was recorded at The Las Vegas Hilton!!!. Yee Haw! Now that's rock n roll!". I mean, really. I liked the stuff Elvis did at Sun Records, but after the army, he was just a mess musically. I remember when the Beatles met Elvis in 1964. John asked him why he no longer recorded rock n roll? Elvis didn't know what John was talking about. Elvis thought he WAS still recording rock n roll.
Can you tell us about some of the other plants you used back then, like Rainbo records?
Rainbo Records was located in Santa Monica, off the 10 freeway, among the endless industrial buildings that lay between the 5 freeway and the ocean. It wasn't far from the Santa Monica Civic Center (where I recorded many concerts that were later pressed at Rainbo). The plant occupied a large two story cinder block building that was probably built in the fifties. The record presses themselves were much newer, however, from the sixties, I think. While all manually operated, they made very good sounding records, usually.
The best part about going to Rainbo Records, back in the seventies, was their parking lot. Like all Southern California cities, Santa Monica had too many cars and not enough parking spaces. Rainbo solved this problem by having their parking lot on the roof of the plants building. You would drive up a really steep drive way, right on to the roof. There were no designated parking spaces, just an enormous flat roof. After parking you would walk to the north end of the lot where there was a small building with a door. You'd go through the door and down a steep flight of stairs, eventually ending up in the Rainbo lobby.
Even though there were no marked parking spaces on the roof of Rainbo, you couldn't exactly park anywhere you wanted. Back in the late sixties Glen Cambell had a TV show, 'The Glen Cambell Goodtime Hour'. I'm not sure when it went off the air, but for some reason every damn set piece from that show ended up on the roof of Rainbo Records. The roof was littered with not just the sets, but the backdrops and even the props. You had to weave around the Glen Cambell show just to park. It was very ethereal. Almost like a Disney ride. I took my 8mm camera and made a movie of Larry running around the sets up there on the roof. I wish I knew where it ended up.
I've mentioned before how corrupt the record industry was. Rainbo was no more, or no less, corrupt than anybody else. Which is to say they were completely corrupt. Everybody was. Here a couple of stories that exemplify Rainbo's place in bootleg (and piracy) history.
One of the biggest ways "legitimate" record companies ripped off their artists was through "promotional" and "cut-out" pressings. Artists are paid no royalties on promotional records that are sent to radio stations and reviewers. Likewise, artists werent paid royalties on overstock records that were "cut-out" and sold at discount to retailers. It didn't take long for record companies to realize they could manufacture cut-outs and promotional records, off the books, at independent pressing plants and make a huge profit. Here's how it worked: Let's say your a record company. You have a successful artist, say Cat Stevens. He has a successful album, say Tea For The Tillerman. After it sells 100k copies, you tell Cat Stevens it's finally stopped selling. You tell him it's time to label it a cut-out and dump the remaining inventory to free up space in the warehouse. But you lied. The record still sells. So you go to Rainbo and press up 100k more copies to wholesale as cut-outs. Without paying Cat Stevens, your record company makes just as much profit, tax free, off the books. You repeat the process until the record eventually stops selling, which in the case of Cat Stevens, was never. Rainbo stayed in business pressing cut-outs and promotional records almost exclusively for Capitol. I remember in the mid-seventies Capitol released a Beatles greatest hits double album called Rock 'N Roll. At the time, Rainbo had accidentally damaged some of my metal parts and wanted to reimburse me. Instead of cash, I was given two boxes of the new Beatles album, all covers appropriately stamped "Promotional - Not For Sale". I sold them. Just like Capitol did.
When Jimmy "Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow" Madden and I became bootleg partners, Jimmy wanted to use one pressing plant for all of our titles, and sort of centralize things. Jimmy knew about Rainbo Records from his days at American International, and asked me to set up meeting between Jack Brown, the President of Rainbo, and ourselves to discuss a potential business agreement. I was very apprehensive about this. I was aware various bootleggers had pressed at Rainbo, but these were mostly "one timers", who would press one title and move on. It was a different matter going in with thirty new titles and telling the President we wanted to set up a large scale bootleg operation with Rainbo Records. It seemed to me, we were going to get our asses thrown right out the door. But I arranged a meeting anyhow. Jimmy was holding the purse strings, so I was anxious to try and do as he suggested.
Jimmy was considerably older than me, with grey hair worn in a bad comb over. He cleaned up pretty well, even in one of his old wrinkled suits, which is what he was wearing that afternoon when we arrived at Rainbo for our meeting with Jack. We were shown into Jacks enormous upstairs office, which was still furnished with the same 1950's furniture it had since Rainbo first opened. Jack was a big man, sitting behind a huge wooden desk smoking a cigar. He motioned for us to sit down on over stuffed Naugahyde chairs placed in front of his desk. I was already terrified. I nervously launched into a spiel about how we were a small record company, currently with about thirty titles, looking for a pressing plant that could provide us with modern facilities and a good price point. I thought things were going pretty good with my presentation, Jack kept nodding his head affirmatively, as I spoke. Then all of a sudden, Jack interrupts me and demands to know, "Now just what type of records are these?". There was dead silence. I figured the game was up, but I looked over at Jimmy, who says calmly to Jack, "What the fuck do you want to ask that for?". Another long silence. I'm thinking Jack must be getting ready to call the police, but instead he bursts out laughing. Then Jimmy starts laughing. Then I start laughing. Jack starts waiving his cigar around wildly, still laughing loudly, as if to say "What was I thinking?" We all shook hands, still chuckling, and Wizardo was pressing records at Rainbo the very next day. We maintained a great business relationship for years.
As we know, you were a huge bootleg collector yourself back in the day. Did you just buy boots from bands you liked, or did you buy any boot you didn't have, regardless of the artist? Also, did different pressings of vinyl colour or labels make any difference to you... I mean, would you buy the same boot multiple times to get every version (like many collectors do these days) or was one copy of any different title enough? If Hot Wacks is anything to go by, you were maybe the worlds first hardcore boot collector, so your collecting habits would be interesting to hear about.....
Larry and I started collecting bootlegs practically the same day we got our hands on Get Back To Toronto. Within the week we heard our favorite underground FM radio station (KYMS) play LIVEr Than You'll Ever Be over the air. The DJ said it was "one of those bootleg records you can only buy behind supermarkets and in dark alleyways". We were both enthralled to say the least. Now, Larry and I knew you probably didn't get bootlegs behind the local Safeway, but other than that, we weren't really sure. Wynn's music store only had Get Back To Toronto. Obviously, the big department store record counters didn't have bootlegs; we'd have seen them. We figured, just maybe, we'd find them at the colorful headshops and small independent record stores that were popping up all over Orange County. Except in Tustin, where Larry and I lived. Long hair, music, records and all other communist activities were strictly outlawed in Tustin. When I was 12 years old a Tustin cop confiscate a copy of Catcher In The Rye from me. "Do your parents know your reading pornography?", he raged. Sigh. I digress.
Because Larry and I weren't old enough to drive, we had to pedal our bikes all over the county in search of the elusive bootleg records. I still remember how much fun it was. We had French 10-speeds and wore backpacks to put our treasures in, when we found them. We hit every psychedelic record store and headshop our legs could pedal to. Our excursions brought us copies of all the very first boots. LIVEr, Great White Wonder, Isle of Wight, we grabbed every one we could find. We were blown away and fascinated by these unauthorized releases. We had to have every one of them. It was an addiction that would last a lifetime for me.
My collection of bootlegs always centered on first editions. All artists. Because I was in the business, it was easy to get a hold of new releases directly from the sources making them. I didn't care about re-issues for the most part, or different colors of vinyl. Just the very first version issued. For European bootlegs I relied on two Dutch guys, Ricardo and Ferry. They provided me with lots of stuff I'd have otherwise had trouble getting. Andrea traveled to Europe sometimes and would always bring me back cool surprises. She once brought me an entire catalog of boots she got from some Italian bootlegger. I never previously knew they even existed! There's no question I held a "home field" advantage when it came to collecting bootlegs back then. I still gotta get 'em all.
Of all the unsung hereos in the early bootleg days, Malcolm M was one of my favorites. Malcolm was a friend of Kenny's, who met at Long Beach University when they were both students. Presumably, that relationship was what got Malcolm started in the bootleg biz. He made some of my favorite titles back then : Buffalo Springfield 'Roots', Jefferson Airplane 'Winterland', Grateful Dead 'Fillmore', and many others. He made most of his records at Rainbo because he thought Lewis pressings were shit. Malcolm stood over 6', with great sideburns and stylish mustache. His hair was sort of curlish, short in front, long in back, without a lot on top. To me, he was the pinnacle of early seventies hip.
All bootleggers thought they were cool, because we were, well... bootleggers and that was cool. But of all the bootleggers, Malcolm was the coolest. He had his very own cool dialect. He always spoke out of the side of his mouth, James Cagney style. But he did it so fluently, naturally and consistently I assumed it must be some inherited family trait. But then I met his mom and she talked normally. So it was just a Malcolmism. And a brilliant one. Malcolm was very interesting and I could listen to that voice for hours.
Malcolm had an apartment in Long Beach not far from Kenny and Vesta's house. I used to love going over to visit Malcolm because of all the reasons he was the coolest bootlegger, the biggest one was: He was the very first bootleg collector! His entire living room was filled with his bootleg collection. There were too many records for shelves or boxes, so he had them stacked on the floor in long rows. I had never seen anything like it. I loved pawing through them and finding incredible boots I'd never seen before. Malcolm was sooooo cool. One day I was busy going through a stack of his "new arrivals" in the corner, when he casually mentioned that he "had some money in an envelope that got stashed in one of those records awhile back. I haven't been able to find it. If you come across it, let me know." I thought he was kidding. About 20 minutes later I was looking at a Janis Joplin boot I'd never seen called 'Ballsy Blues'. When I picked it up an envelope fell out, spilling 70 hundred dollar bills on the floor. These days 7K isn't that much, but back then losing $7,000.00 in a record album in your living room just blew my mind. I thought that was really cool.
Malcolm, like most bootleggers, had a strong sense of adventure. It's basically a good trait to have, but the downside is, it can invite bad life choices if you're not careful. Like most bootleggers, myself included, Malcolm had his share of poor life decisions. His life was a rollercoaster. He'd be rich one week and a pauper the next. But he was always cool.
At one point Wizardo inserts all had a similar visual identity. Who was responsible for these?
That style of cover artwork was done by Jack and Joan, two Hollywood hangers-on that seemed to know everybody. Joan was a witch and Jack was a gypsy cab driver (unlicensed) who used to drive Charlie Manson on pot deliveries. They were married on the old Cecil B. Demille soundstage. I met them through another old Hollywood guy, Jimmy Madden who was a silent partner on Wizardo for many years. Back in the fifties he was a famous sax player with his own TV Show. In the sixties he was head of music at American International. Then he was a niteclub owner. He somehow knew Big Dub and expressed an interest in making bootlegs. Big Dubs son, Little Dub, didn't want to have anything to do with him, so he rang me up and asked if I was looking for a financial backer. The rest as they say is history. After the first dozen or so Wizardo releases Jimmy and i both got tired of Jack and Joan's weirdness and changed our phone numbers and insert artwork.
When it came to making inserts, all bootleggers were incredibly lazy, but I was the laziest. Often times, for one reason or another, inserts had to be composed very quickly. Like, “Shit, I’ve got to ship those Zep boots tomorrow and I forgot to get an insert printed”. As a result of this, I had a briefcase filled with graph paper, rubber cement, pen knife, rub off lettering and pictures I had torn out of magazines, all to put inserts together literally while standing at the printers. Along with the pictures, I’d also tear out graphics and text from magazines so I could recycle them into inserts as well. An example of this would be the Patti Smith boot Turn It Up. I took the text “Turn It Up” from a Maxell advert in National Lampoon magazine. A lot of Wizardo bootleg inserts feature graphics from Nat Lamp, which I guess is insight into my reading tastes at the time.
Back in Highschool, I had a wonderful blonde girlfriend named SueBee (because she was sweet as honey). She and three of her friends had an accapella group, The Doobie Sisters. Interestingly, they chose that name several years before I heard of the slightly more famous Doobie Brothers. The sisters were ahead of their time. They often sang with the B.Toff Band, but that shouldn't be held against them. Another member of The Doobie Sisters was Marcey Blaustein. She was also my next door neighbor when I was living with my parents in Tustin.
Marcey was a year younger than me, but like SueBee, she was very smart and very hip. She also had an enormous purse that was perfect for sneaking tape recorders into concerts! We went to a lot of concerts together. I remember her sneaking a 8mm sound movie camera (and like 20 rolls of film) into Alice Cooper at The Inglewood Forum in 1973, for me. I was determined to make the first 'bootleg movie'. It actually turned out pretty cool, but proved too expensive to duplicate and distribute. And besides, Alice made his own concert film that year.
At some point in 1976 Marcey and I went up to the Roxy in Hollywood to record Patti Smith and John Cale in concert. It was the first time I'd seen Patti Smith. She was really intense and did a great show. I put the performance out on a boot called Turn It Up. For reasons erased by the sands of time, over the next few months, Marcey became really good friends with Patti Smith.
Apparently Patti Smith had an interest in bootlegs. Especially Patti Smith bootlegs. I guess Marcey told Patti that she knew "a real live bootlegger", because Marcey calls me one afternoon and says "Patti wants to meet you and talk about bootlegs. Can you come down to the San Diego concert tonight? She'll meet with you in the dressing room after the show". I didn't really want to drive all the way down to San Diego, but I packed up my tape recorder and headed south. A ticket was waiting for me at the box office.
The show was wild. Patti was visibly angry at her drummer through the entire set. I don't know what the problem was, but she was obviously pissed at him. At one point in her performance she sang the Lou Reed song about Hank Williams, 'Pale Blue Eyes'. On this night she changed the lyric to "sometimes I feel teenage perversity" presumably a nod to knowing I was in the house. Unfortunately, the bootleg she referenced was David B's, not mine. Ahhh well... I never told David about it. I didn't want to give him the satisfaction.
Marcey meets me after the show and takes me backstage to Patti Smith's dressing room. Marcey introduces me as John Wizardo, bootlegger. Patti, still furious at something, bellows "Well I don't think it's very cool coming in here and talking about bootlegs while my manager Jane is here!" I look around the very small room. There's no one else in the room other than Marcey and me. There is no Jane. I don't know what the fuck Patti is talking about. I notice an old Fender Duo-Sonic leaning up against the wall next to where Patti is sitting. I sort of sneer "Nice guitar, want to sell it to me?" She stares at me for a second, then gives a brief smile like she understands I'm just fucking with her. She says "Yeah, that's Lenny's. I don't think he wants to sell it". At least she smiled. Patti was scheduled to appear at the Roxy the next night for what was billed as "a night of poetry". I asked her if she was going to appear solo, or if she'd have her band with her? She says "I take my band with me everywhere I go", then pauses and forcefully adds "Except the fucking drummer. He won't be there". Yikes, I can't imagine how that worked out.
As for my beautiful highschool sweetheart, SueBee? I heard she married the bass player from the British rock band, 10cc. I can't imagine how that worked out, either.
You spoke very warmly to me about Ken Douglas. Please tell us about him and your friendship with him?
The truth about Kenny is that he's the most extraordinarily generous man you'll ever meet. He is indescribably honest and sincere. Although he'll deny it to his dying breath, he was the antithesis of a "criminal". At a very impressionable time in my life (I was only 15 when we met) his example kept me on a straight-enough course and out of serious trouble. A hundred times over. And that's just the beginning. Make no mistake, Kenny was the greatest bootlegger of all time. Historically more important than even Little Dub or Scott. He was brilliant and the greatest true friend I had in that era. He literally saved my ass more times than I can count. It's impossible to say enough good things. His story REALLY needs to be told, but not by him, he's way too modest and would leave out or forget his greatest accomplishments.
You told me you had an anecdote about the TMOQ 'Circus Days' album?
Sometime around 1977-78 I ran into Little Dub one night at the Capitol Records Swap Meet. He gave me a copy of 'Circus Days', his latest boot. I went home and listened to it with headphones and heard some weird electronic type sounds layered in the background. I suddenly remembered the last time I had been in Little Dubs studio (in his dads back yard), he had a Moog synthesizer to play around with. I figured he must have added some underscoring of his own to go along with the Pink Floyd music. Could he really have done that? It was at least a year before I saw Little Dub again. When I did, I asked him about my suspicion concerning 'Circus Day's. He laughed and said, "To this day no one has asked me about that except you. You must be the only one who ever actually listened to that record." So yeah, that's what he did!
Sticking with TMOQ for a moment... In my interview with William Stout for Floydboots he alludes to someone (known in the interview as 'Mr ?') who was one of the TMOQ partners and went on to form a major record label. Putting two and two together I had Richard Foos (founder of Rhino Records) in the frame, but apparently it wasn't him?
Richard Foos was a friend of mine. He used to come out to the Orange Drive in every week end to look for used records. He did this for over a year to build up inventory for the record store he planned on opening in Westwood, Rhino. He stored them in his parents garage. I sold him a ton of bootlegs but he never made any. To the best of my knowledge he never had anything to do with Little Dub. Interesting side note: The first official Rhino Record was "The Savage Young Winos". It was a recording of a Rhino employees band. They got the idea directly from Larry and my B.Toff Band album, which was being sold at Rhino at the time. Rhino of course went on to make a very successful legitimate label, largely without Richard. The last I saw of him was in upstate New York, where he had opened another record store called, Rhino. That was twenty years ago.
Bill Stout did some work for Rhino when they released their copies of the Zappa bootlegs. As I recall, he designed their label logos as well. But none of this had anything to do with Little Dub as far as I know.
Zappa was quite outspoken about his dislike of bootlegs wasn't he?
Zappa was a fascist in the music industry. Frank hated bootlegs. He once threw a copy of Little Dubs '200 Motels' boot at me, in Record Paradise. He was holding it and cursing, when I (intentionally) loudly exclaimed it was my favorite Zappa album. He screamed "I had nothing to do with it!", and sailed it across the store at me. Ollie, the store owner didn't recognize Zappa and just thought he was a stupid hippie causing trouble. She threatened to call the police if he didn't leave the store. This really enraged Zappa, who now screams "Warner Bros. will never sell you another record and you'll end up losing your store!". Ollie now assumes Zappa is a "crazy" hippie, and starts dialing the Hollywood Police Department. Zappa can't believe what's happening, slaps his forehead with his hand, tells me to "fuck off", and stomps out of the store. I tried explaining to Ollie who Frank Zappa was, but she goes "I don't care. I don't allow crazy hippies on LSD in my store". Ollie and her husband, as I recall, were good friends of Little Dub.
A funny epilogue: Two days after my encounter with Zappa, Joni Mitchell was giving a concert at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion in Los Angeles. Larry had gotten tickets for himself and his girlfriend, but the tickets sold out before I could get mine. So, B.Toff band lead guitarist Randy Rigby and I decided to take his Dodge Dart up to the concert anyhow, to see if we could get "scalper" tickets. It turned out lots of other people had the same idea. Everybody was looking for tickets. Nobody had any for sale. We were just about to turn around and drive back to Orange County, when I saw Frank Zappa and Howard Kaylan walk into the theatre. I suggested to Randy that we hangout just a little longer, to see if any other celebrities showed up. I had barely gotten the words out of my mouth when we spotted Cass Elliot and Jody McCrea heading for the box office. I'm still not sure what compelled me, but I just walked up to them and blurted out "Hey Mama Cass, have you got any extra tickets?" To my utter amazement, Jody reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out two tickets. "Here ya go" was all he said. Randy and I sat in the 2nd row, right next to Jose Feliciano. We waved to Larry, who was up in the balcony, ha, ha. But the best part was who was sitting directly in front of me. Yup, Frank. He kept turning around to look at me, trying to figure out where he knew me from. He finally says "Do I know you?", I desperately wanted to say "Yeah, I'm the guy who watched you get thrown out of Record Paradise", but instead I just said "No". Randy and I laughed all the way home.
Did you recognise any faces or places from the BBC bootleg short from 1971?
I've never seen that particular BBC film. The record store manager is a dead ringer for me back then. If it had shown on US television, all my friends would have been convinced I was managing a record store in London with a fake British accent. Too weird. Ha Ha. I've got no recollection of any of those people, but I was in London around that time. I traded bootlegs in shops all over town, so it's certainly possible I dealt with some of them on a very brief basis.
Have you seen the Neil Young anti-bootleg rant that keeps getting removed from You Tube?
I saw the "Neil Young Attempts to Steal Bootlegs" film back in the seventies. It was a real piece of work. It made him look like a jerk. He acts like he's above the law and can steal albums at will. That's probably why he continually tries to get it off YouTube. At that time there were no federal criminal laws that outlawed bootlegs in the United States. What Idiot Neil talks about are civil laws, i.e. theoretically he could sue the record store for selling a product with his name and likeness, if he could prove financial damages. But that does not give him the right to boldly confiscate a stores inventory. That's theft, plain and simple. The store manager should have called the police and had Neil and his moronic film crew arrested. That's what I would have done. I love Neil Young's music. But you have to seperate the artist from the man. He knows he wasted his money on a foolish project that made him look bad. Maybe he should have gotten upset about Canadian record stores, where he might have understood the laws better. Or better yet, maybe he just should have kept his fucking mouth shut and let his record company handle the legal stuff. "Wooden Nickel... Never heard of it."
He's just announced his own Zappa style 'Beat The Boots' series of old bootleg releases
I love his music, but Neil's theories about sticking it to bootleggers are nonsense. Yeah, his "new master's", ripped from fifty year old bootleg vinyl will sound so much better than the originals. Sure. These new releases will be perfect for listening to on Neil's Pono Walkman. It's pretty strange that he still hates those old records. Scott really did a number on him. Rubber Dubber lives on in 2020, thanks to Neil. Ha Ha.
Any other celebrity bootleg haters you know of?
I have a friend, Mike F, who made a Ted Nugent bootleg back in the day, on Little Bird records. Ted was making an appearance at a local Licorice Pizza record store to sign autographs. Mike proudly took a copy of his bootleg to the store for Ted to sign. Teddy Boy snapped the record in half and shouted irrationally "I'd like to take this record and shove it up the ass, sideways, of who ever made it!". Nugent then promptly got up and left the record store angrily. This PR autograph session was over. There were still dozens of disappointed fans waiting to get Ted's autograph.
Ted of course went on to sink his career with ridiculous Nazi politics and a fetish for sticking his tongue up Trumps ass. He drove himself off a cliff in a pique of ego and insanity. I like to think Mike's bootleg played a small role in Ted's unraveling.
Just as a funny aside. The Licorice Pizza record store chain was owned by a guy named Jim Greenwood. Jim opened his first store with the help of profits made from a Leon Russell bootleg called "Sessions". It had a black fabricated cover and was pressed at Rainbow. Hard to believe now, but this boot was very popular in it's day.
Can you remember when TLS was pressed for the first time, apparently it was earlier than was previously thought?
I'm positive I was in London in 1973. I remember The Rolling Stones had just released Goats Head Soup and were starting a UK tour at this time. I had a box of original TLS with me, and traded them all over London. This would mean that Larry and I first made TLS prior to 1974. My recollections put it's first manufacturing in late 1972 or early 1973. American actor Dennis Weaver was making his own record at Custom Fidelity then, that might help me pinpoint the date a little closer.
Was the first pressing of TLS on black or colour vinyl?
All the original pressings of TLS were black vinyl with the hand drawn labels. Same with Miracle Muffler. They both were originally pressed at Custom Fidelity in Santa Monica Blvd. Custom Fidelity would only do colored vinyl on huge orders and even then would add a $250.00 surcharge for cleaning the extruder. We opted for black. Our orders were small. We had told the plant the record was our garage band. I remember the guy quizzically asking us “So let’s see if I got this straight - You’ve got a garage band. You made a tape of your band. You, for some reason, took the tape to Europe and had metal parts made. You then brought just the stampers back to the US? And you want us to adapt them and press them? Is that what you’re asking me?” I figured we were about to get tossed out. But before we could say anything, he said “Sure, we can do that. How many do you want?”. When we left the stampers with him that day they were in plain Manila sleeves with only the matrix numbers written on them. When we eventually got them back, someone had scrawled on the sleeves “Pink Floyd Bootleg” It obviously didn’t matter to them. They pressed it over and over again. We were starting to learn how corrupt the entire record business was. Turned out, making records was easy. Nobody was asking questions, and the future looked bright indeed.
Can you explain why Miracle Muffler is so hard to find, by comparison to a first press Take Linda Surfin? And why didn't it get pressed on colour vinyl?
I guess it was mostly a timing issue. In the short period between TLS and MM, Larry and I had built up our record store distribution from San Diego in the south to San Francisco in the north with Santa Barbara in the middle. Supply and demand meant most MM's never left the state (in their original pressing). We sold tons in the bay area alone. I have great memories of those days. So many record stores. So many hippies. So many Pink Floyd fans. With TLS we didn't have the wholesale connections yet, so most copies got traded or sold to other bootleg distributers who in turn sold them all over the place. Also, I took 75 copies of TLS to England with me in 1973. I traded them all over London. I was out of MM's at the time, or I would have taken those as well.
John, I need to pin you down on this, because I will be asked! Why didn't Miracle Muffler get re-pressed on colour vinyl like TLS did?
I'm kind of surprised no colour vinyl copies of MM have surfaced. It was pressed on coloured vinyl at Lewis at various times.
Wow. Are you sure John? Not one copy has ever surfaced anywhere!
Sure, I could be wrong.
It has always been assumed that the pressing plates used for 'Take Linda Surfin' & 'Miracle Muffler' were previously used to press the 'Embrwo' bootleg, but apparently that wasn't the case?
When I first took the stampers for TLS to Custom Fidelity, they were definitely in their original European state. They had never been pressed in the US. Custom Fidelity had to modify the stampers to conform with American presses. European stampers had a raised ridge after the run off area. This rim had to be removed before the stampers could be used over here. The most logical explanation would be, whoever brought the metal parts to the US, brought two sets of stampers (They would be identical coming from the same mother). This makes sense, as you would probably want a back up pair. One set got used somewhere. Doubtful it was Lewis, because Munray wouldn't have had a clue how to modify them. A good assumption would be Rainbo, as they could have easily handled it and were a known destination for bootleggers. The other set of stampers ended up with me, via Peter Tossoro, the guy who joined the cult.
I can’t say 100% for sure, but I’m thinking 'Embrwo' was pressed at Rainbo. Those same labels were used by the guy who made the Crosby & Nash 'Very Stoney Evening' and a bunch of other records, all at Rainbo. I’ve got a great story about him and his personal connections to Rainbo and it’s management, but as Rainbo still exists, I don’t think I should tell it until I determine it’s safe. It’s a doozy.
Do you have a name for this guy?
As I said, Rainbo's day to day operations were overseen by a woman named Bea. She ran the whole show. She was the one that scheduled the presses and handled all the accounts. She also owned a couple of alternative lifestyle (read dyke) bars, in the San Fernando Valley. She was a short, middle age, stocky woman that looked like she would be at home driving an 18-wheeler. She also made bootlegs at her plant with a younger male partner I never met.
Back in the early bootleg days, there was one label that was always a bit of a mystery to me. Their product was almost always a double album that featured a printed die-cut, wrap-around, folded jacket, that opened up to reveal a record tucked into each pocket. They looked very cool, but I had no idea who was making them. Crosby-Nash Very Stoney Evening was a good example. Others included Led Zeppelin Going to California and CSNY Live In San Francisco. I got my supply through Herbie Howard, but he had nothing to do with making them. The label and whoever was responsible seemed to vanish as fast as it had appeared.
While I was still making Wizardo Records at Rainbo, Bea approached me about purchasing metal parts and left over inventory from "a previous venture" she had been involved in. I asked her what sort of stuff she was talking about? She said one word: "Bootlegs". A couple of days later I went over to her house to see what she had. Holy crap - It was the entire catalog from the mystery bootlegger. Mothers, stampers, artwork and lots of unsold records. Even unreleased stuff. For example there was a George Harrison in San Francisco double album that still hasn't seen the light of day. I asked her where she got all of this? She told me she had a "younger male business partner" that had gone on to do something else, leaving her with the assets. She wouldn't go into any further detail.
At this point in time I was scaling back Wizardo and planning another educational sabbatical. So other than wanting to add some of these titles to my personal collection, I had no reason to purchase this awesome find from Bea. But I knew someone who did. I called Andrea. Andrea made a deal with Bea within 24 hours for the whole lot. As a "finders fee", Andrea gave me one of each of the original titles for my collection. There were a couple of Pink Floyd titles included, but they were just the BBC broadcasts in nice fold-over covers, as I recall.
Andrea ended up with everything. She got busted around this time, so I don't believe any of the titles were resurrected as planned.
Funny bit: David B talked to the "mystery bootlegger" on the phone. Back when he was "managing" one of Kenny's McCain's record stores, David got an unsolicited call from a bootlegger wanting to sell McCain's bootlegs. After questioning the man on the phone, David determined he was indeed the guy making the mystery bootlegs. David asked him if he could get Kornyfone records? The bootlegger replied "No, Kornyfone records suck. You should avoid them". David hung up and told me the guy was an asshole.
Thinking some more about those mystery double albums, like Very Stoney Evening, as I recall, a lot of them were on coloured vinyl. Remember, Rainbo could press on coloured vinyl; they just didn't do it very often because of the time consuming cleaning process. That translated to a higher unit cost that most customers weren't willing to pay. But some did. When Rainbo did make coloured records they were beautiful. One way to tell a Lewis coloured vinyl from a Rainbo coloured vinyl was translucency. Rainbo coloured vinyl was clear transparent when held to the light. Lewis coloured vinyl always looked cloudy.
Considering her position at Rainbo, my assumption is Bea wouldn't bother to charge herself an extruder cleaning fee, if she bothered to charge herself anything at all. It's certainly possible it was all done off the books. That would have made for quite a profit margin.
As you know, the labels on these records often featured the large "1" and "2", the same style as many of the TMQ boots of the day. Another label variant contained the first use of the slogan "All Rights Reserved - All Wrongs Reversed".
The boot in the pic above has been sold on the net claiming that the insert was an 'In House' Wizardo insert hand drawn by you, and given to friends. Is this true? Or is it a fake? There's a big market in fake 'Rare' inserts. So there's been some debate over this one...
I'd completely forgotten about that. It was drawn by my bootleg partner Larry Feign (Larry Wizardo) who later went on to become a very famous cartoonist in Asia. Google him. Remember I told you those stampers just kept going? Well, we ran out of those wrap around covers long before we ran out of records, so we ran off some cheesy inserts. But not very many. It was probably for a small order that just went to one distributor. Then we gave the stampers to Andrea and she undoubtedly made different inserts as well. Those stampers just kept going. I'd love to know where the final total ended up. We were pissed off at Bill (William Stout) for some long forgotten reason and Larry decided to do a silly satire figuring it would be forgotten five minutes later. Which it by all rights should have been. God bless collectors who preserve weird shit.
And what about this one, which has 'Omayyad' seemingly printed on the insert below the Wizardo logo. Genuine or fake?
Fake. It's not an original Wizardo insert.
Any memories from the making of the Screaming Abdab?
As you recall, after the release of Dark Side of the Moon, it was a long time until a new legitimate Floyd album was released. It wasn't until 1974 that the band started performing new material. I remember Larry recieved a really terrible audience recording from Europe of the new stuff. It was so bad, all you could really tell was that they weren't playing Dark Side. Interest in the band was so high at that time... everybody wanted to hear the band do something new. So we put it out anyhow, even though the sound quality sucked, and we called it The Screaming Abdab.
Where did the title 'Libest Spacement Monitor' come from?
My memory is a bit faded here, Libest Spacement Monitor was probably something I saw that sounded cool and tore out of a magazine or newspaper or Sears catalog. The same with the cool radar antennas pictures. I have no idea what it means. I realize this might be a bit disappointing but I just remembered I had a girlfriend at the time who took a lot of acid and loved Floyd. It’s possible she named it. Wish I could remember her name...
I've been racking my brain trying to come up with an answer to the Spacement Monitors mystery. I have a vague memory that might be part of the answer. Around the time it was released, everybody was speculating what might be on a new legit Floyd album and what the title might be. I kind of, have a half memory of a conversation with Larry where he told me he heard from someone at Capital what the new Floyd record might be called. It's possible he heard Libest Spacement Monitor as one of the possibilities. I'm gonna try and contact Larry and see what he remembers.
There was a rare European boot called 'Pictures Of Pink Floyd' - released in 1971 - which had a long improvisation on side one which they (the bootleggers) called 'Libest Spacement Monitor' so I'm thinking you probably owned that boot?
Wow. It’s gotta somehow be connected it would seem. It’s strange that I’ve got no real memory of the Euro boot or my own boot. It’s certainly possible I had the Euro one but you’d think if I was going to copy the title, I’d copy the whole record, or given it to someone like David B.... to copy, so I probably didn’t have it. It’s also possible Jimmy got an order for “a Pink Floyd boot called Liebest Spacement Monitor” and in typical Jimmy fashion decided one Pink Floyd boot was the same as another, printed up some inserts and stuck them on whatever Pink Floyd overstock we had lying around. That probably didn’t really happen, but Jimmy was not someone you wanted in the shipping department. I liked my idea of it coming from the acid head girlfriend. Words like that would burble out of her mouth in response to questions like “What time is it?” Any chance the Euro boot came out after mine? It really is a mystery to me.
It's just too much of a coincidence, it surely must have come from the 'Pictures Of PF' boot, and filtered to you somewhere down the line. Not the kind of phrase that comes easily to mind. and it doesn't mean anything, there is no such thing as a Libest Spacement Monitor. Also, the 'Pink Floyd' graphic on the insert was taken from the 'Screaming Abdab' insert, so 'Libest Spacement Monitor' must have been released circa. 1975
Yeah, and it’s definitely my moms old typewriter which means I banged out the insert and did the silly paste job as well. Sometimes dealers/distributors would come across interesting recordings and pass them on to me for future records. It’s possible someone sent me the tape and said “ when you make this, call it... “ I just wish I could remember for you. It was probably made at either Lewis or Rainbo. If it crackles and pops, it’s Lewis. If there’s no surface noise it’s Rainbo.
Any background on the Midas Touch release?
The Midas Touch was part of the initial batch of Wizardo Records. I had gotten an order for a large quantity of Little Dub's Omayyad Floyd boot from a distributer in San Francisco. It was more profitable to make my own version, than be a middle-man, so that's what I did. I changed it up a little and maybe added an extra song. The record has a "Mad Jack" insert design. The originals were printed on that "orange-brown" paper stock that Joan the Witch claimed had "magical properties". Jack and Joan, while definitely creative, always seemed to be one step away from being completely unstable and crazy. I was concerned Jimmy and I might end up as a blood sacrifice on Joan's alter.
Do you still have many Pink Floyd boots in your own collection?
I still maintain an enormous collection of Floyd boots which I will never part with.
OK, back to the label in general. It is well known that of all the boot labels Wizardo's catalogue of releases was the most esoteric, including much lesser known, and less commercially viable bands like the Bonzo's and Gentle Giant. This would suggest that Wizardo releases in particular expressed your love of music, and weren't all profit driven, like maybe some other labels were?
Back in the vinyl days it was never about making tons of money. It was about having fun with an industry that was profoundly corrupt from top to bottom. I don't know what it was like in England, but in the good old USA the biggest record pirates were the major labels. Everyone from the CEO to the guy who sweeps out the warehouse was ripping off the artists. My records were pressed in the same plants that did "over runs" for all the majors. "Over runs" were pressings that were done off the books, alleged to be for "promotional" use where no royalties had to be paid. Of course they sold all of them. The big labels made billions in unpublished profit doing this and other tactics that always screwed the artist. Ive got stories about all these shenanigans that will leave you in stiches. Richard Thompson once told me he would have made more money on Wizardo records than Capital Records. It was a great time for sure. Later, when I started to make CDs in Korea, the money was there but the fun wasnt. It was a messed up time for sure and that's why I prefer to concentrate on just the vinyl days with my reminiscing.
I loved promoting lesser known artists I liked via bootlegs. The artists (for the most part) liked it as well. I think they thought of them as having a hip factor. Jan and Dean, Captain Beefheart, Curved Air, Little Richard and many others have stated as much to me. Dean was so excited about finding the Jan and Dean bootleg in a Long Beach record store, he started making his own! The Rolling Stones seemed to like boots as well.
Back around 1977, Squeaky Boy and I briefly collected bootlegs for Bill Wyman's personal collection. As I recall, Bill wanted all bootlegs, not just The Rolling Stones, so that's what we gave him.... It all started as a result of Squeaky Boy trading Stones tapes with Bobby Keys. Bobby played sax on The Stones 1973 European tour and was collecting audience recordings from all the dates he played. I thought it was cool he specifically wanted "audience recordings". Bobby wanted to hear crowd reactions that weren't evident on the official recordings he had access to. Squeaky Boy was a huge Stones collector and tape trader, so we had lots of recordings from the 1973 Tour, but most were horrible sound quality. It didn't matter, Bobby wanted them all.
We arranged to meet Bobby at AIR Soundstage in Hollywood. He was in rehearsal for an upcoming Leo Sayer tour so we met during the lunch break. He turned out to be the nicest guy. We had brought about ten cassettes containing the 1973 Stones shows he wanted. The first thing he did was reach in his pocket to pull out his wallet. "How much do I owe you?", he said with a big grin. He was so grateful when we said he didn't owe us anything. He asked if we wanted to hang and watch the rehearsal, but Squeaky Boy and I weren't Leo Sayer fans, so we politely declined and split.
Bobby apparently talked to Bill Wyman about us, because shortly after our meeting at AIR, Squeaky Boy was contacted by someone, (I don't think it was Bill himself) who inquired about getting bootlegs for Bill's collection. We ended up taking stacks of boots up to a publicists office in Santa Monica on several different occasions. We gave the bootlegs to a receptionist who was always very cordial and told us how much Bill liked the records, but wouldn't offer up much other information. Eventually we grew tired of driving up to Santa Monica just to see a secretary, so we stopped collecting for Bill. As I recall, Squeaky Boy did eventually get a thank you note from Bill.
You're right about labels telling artists they were being ripped off by bootleggers. The labels told the FBI the same story. The artists were being ripped off, but bootlegs were only a small drop in the bucket. The real thievery was committed by the labels themselves via "cut-outs" and "promotional" pressings. As I've stated before, the "legitimate" record industry was corrupt from it's tonsils to it's toenails. Everybody made money, but the artists were at the end of the line, getting a very small piece of the over all pie. Smart recording artists knew bootlegs were never a threat to their livelihood, and saw them as additional publicity for their hardest core fans. Just ask Mick or Keith.
Of all the albums in the Wizardo catalogue, the Jan & Dean bootleg stands out as being a bit different musically, and from an earlier era than the others (excluding Elvis). Were they an early favourite of yours?
In my eyes, Jan and Dean were California's greatest rock n roll duo. They went to University highschool together and played football on the varsity team. They also wrote and recorded their own do-wop style songs in Jan's garage. They would take the garage recorded vocal tracks to a small record company, Dore, owned by a then unkown Herb Alpert. He would add a backing track to the vocals and somehow hit records were born. Jan and Dean had their first hit this way in 1958, with Baby Talk. They were still in Highschool.
One difference between Jan and Dean and everyone else involved in the recording industry was their extraordinary high intelligence. They both had IQ's that were off the charts. Jan's supposedly was north of 160! Jan had total control of all recording sessions and self produced every record by the time they landed on the Liberty label in the early '60's. This was pretty much unheard of for any artist, let alone one Jan's age. He produced hit after hit for Liberty from 1963 to 1966.....Now comes the part your gonna like...
In 1964 Jan Berry and Dean Torrence were on top of the world. They hosted The T.A.M.I. show that year, had 3 top ten records, and were signed to MGM to appear in a movie, Ride The Wild Surf. They were also signed to star in their own picture, Easy Come Easy Go. Then a series of events occurred that tragically changed Jan and Dean's career path forever.
Frank Sinatra Jr. was kidnapped after a performance in Nevada. His dad, Frankie Sr. got a ransom note demanding lots of cash. Frank pays the ransom and Frank Jr. Is released unharmed. Frank Sr. then calls in every law enforcement agency in the country to find the kidnappers. It takes the F.B.I. just three days to locate the ransom money. It was discovered inside Dean Torrence's shower. Say what? Yup, two of Dean's best friends are arrested for kidnapping Frank Sinatra Jr, and Dean's left to explain how the ransom money ended up in his shower. Originally, Dean and his friends try to explain away the kidnapping as a "publicity" stunt that Frank Jr. was in on. But soon Dean is allowed to change his testimony. He now claims his two friends really did kidnap little Frankie, but without Dean's prior knowledge. Dean's friends get convicted, and sentenced to like 80 years in prison. Somehow, Dean doesn't even get charged and goes free. Everyone seems satisfied with this outcome, except Frank Sinatra. In fact, the whole Sinatra family wanted Dean's blood.
The first blowback happened within several day's. Jan's house in Bel Air was not so mysteriously burned to the ground. Frank's goons had stupidly mistaken Jan for Dean. Then MGM cancelled their appearance in Ride The Wild Surf. Jan and Dean didn't mind as they were scheduled to start filming their own movie. But on the first day of shooting Easy Come Easy Go at a railroad yard, a mysterious runaway box car crashed into the flat car Jan and Dean were filming on. Dean saw it coming and jumped to safety in time, but Jan and a bunch of technicians were so seriously injured MGM completely canceled the movie. Big surprise. 'Ol Frankie had a long reach.
A year later Jan and Dean were still doing well on the charts despite Sinatra doing everything he could to thwart them. Frank did get their television show cancelled. Now the big problem was the Draft Board. They wanted Jan. He obviously didn't want to go to Vietnam but there wasn't much he could do. The Draft Board told Jan "We drafted Elvis, and he was a hell of a lot more famous than you!". Jan, pissed off, left the office and drove his Corvette up towards Sunset Blvd. In front of Gene Barry's house, Jan plowed his Corvette into the back of a Gardner's truck. It was Barry's kid who ran out and peeled the windshield of Jan's head. He said Jan had a hole in the top of his head the size of a softball.
Jan was still alive, but he suffered massive brain damage. He had to learn to walk and talk all over again. His long, long recovery and return to the recording studio is an amazing tale of triumph. But obviously, it was never going to be the same.
The Wizardo Jan and Dean bootleg I made, comprised of rare recordings I'd collected over the years. Collectors seemed to really like it. But the guy who really liked it, was Dean himself. He told me it inspired him to make his own Jan and Dean bootleg.
There's a lot more to my interactions with Jan and Dean over the years. If there's any interest in hearing these tales, it would undoubtedly be limited to whatever small group of Jan and Dean fans that might still exist.
Was there any significance in changing the WRMB prefix from the 300 series to the 400 series and finally 500?
Your gonna love this. Back in the day, partying was a big part of the bootlegger lifestyle. These parties were fuelled by the usual intoxicating suspects, which meant 'mornings after' were quite often foggy. It wasn't unusual for me to wake up with cob-webs in my head, while still needing to get bootleg work done. This would lead to situations where I needed to assign matrix numbers to new records, but couldn't remember what the last number I used was. "Gee, was the last record WRMB 328 or 329?" So, when this happened, I advanced the series by 100 to avoid accidently re-using a number previously assigned. Life's good when you answer only to yourself and concepts like 'continuity' and 'branding' never get in the way of making records.
Back in the Seventies, what, if any, methods did you use to stay under the radar?
Kenny used to say the only way to keep from getting caught was to always fly under the radar. "They can't bust what they can't see" he used to say. I wisely took everything Kenny said to heart. It was Kenny who suggested that, when things got "hot", I disappear "off to college for a while". This simple but effective subterfuge always shut down investigations of me, be it state or federal. It also allowed me to have quite a trip through academia. Thanks to the bootlegs, and a generous grandmother, I was able to attend a dozen different institutions of higher education. The list of universities where I attended classes include Chapman, Antioch, Evergreen, and UCLA. I also attended "experimental " colleges like the tremendous Sherwood Oaks up in Hollywood. This was actually the best aspect of my bootleg career in those days. Not only did I avoid potential prosecution, this way, but I couldn't help but get some sort of an education. I played the "I'm off to college" card throughout the 1970's, whenever legal circumstances called for it. I could then return to bootlegging once peace and quiet resumed and the heat was off.
As a result of my unique position, I had my choice of colleges to pick from. But which one should I pick first? I bought a paperback book, The Rolling Stone Guide to Colleges and Universites. It said "Antioch College is so hip, they sell propholactics in the student bookstore." I needed no further information. I applied immediately. Antioch turned out to be an ultra liberal, liberal arts college in Ohio, of all places. It was about 20 miles east of Dayton, in a little town called Yellow Springs. It was founded back before the Civil War, and most of the buildings had pre-victorian towers. It was undeniably cool looking.
The admission process for Antioch was pretty typical of what all universities required in the day. You needed to send the admissions office your transcripts from highschool, or in my case Chapman College, as I spent my senior highschool year there. You also needed a letter of recommendation. I had Deputy Sheriff, Dutch Bischoff, write one for me on Orange County Sheriff Department letterhead. I had no idea what the admissions department would think of this, but it appealed to my sense of humor. You also had to pass a personal interview with a former student.
The former student my interview was arranged with lived in downtown Orange, about 15 minutes from my parents house. When I arrived, I was amused to see he lived next door to a head-shop, Orange Sunshine, where Larry and I sold bootlegs. I didn't know what to expect when I knocked on his door. The hippie that answered, did not disappoint. His hair was longer than mine and so was his beard. I was suitably impressed.
I don't remember everything he asked me, but several things stick in my mind. He had a copy of the application I had sent the Antioch admissions office. It noted that Larry and I had done volunteer work for the Orange County Free Clinic. He asked me if this was true? When I answered affirmatively, he asked "Can you give me directions there?". He also asked me if I did any drugs? I answered "No", and he responded "Well, you still have a couple of months to learn". Yeah, I had picked the right school.
Despite saying I didn't do drugs and having a recommendation from the Orange County Sheriff's department, I was accepted at Antioch immediately and started classes in the fall. I was bootlegging again by Christmas.
My intermittent college years pretty much correspond with the first half of my bootleg career. This would be the period between 1972 through 1977, or what I consider, the Wizardo Records era. During this time most of my bootlegs were issued under the Wizardo name. It was at this time that I was dropping in and out of college as a deterrent to law enforcement activities. (I used a different ruse for the second half of my bootleg career.) Most of my correspondence with you is concerned solely with this period of 1972-1977. I was between 16 and 21 years old at this time. As you know, I continued to make bootlegs for another twelve years after this, but they were no longer produced under the Wizardo brand. I had officially become an adult and bootlegging was no longer as much fun. That's not to say I didn't have some great moments, but it's definitely a story for another time. As is the story of what I did for thirty years after I bugged out from the bootleg world. Too many stories; so for now I'll try to stick to 1972-1977.
When I was 10 years old I watched a TV series called 'Hank'. It was about a guy who couldn't afford college, but didn't let that stop him from getting a higher education. He pretended to be a student at a community college and "dropped-in" to whatever classes he was interested in. Then he'd "drop-out" and re-start the process again in a new class. He ended up getting the education he wanted, on his own terms. Even though I was ten, this seemed like an interesting educational model to base my own trip through academia on. I guess that's pretty much what I did. Except it wasn't free. I loved going to college. I loved the academic environment. I only attended classes pertaining to what I wanted to study at the moment. But an actual degree from a university was never one of my goals. I was too lazy to comply with all the rigamaroll needed to obtain a diploma. Besides, I was interested in going to law school, eventually, and I didn't need a degree for that. Just a high LSAT score, and a good letter of recommendation.
How did the photo of you and Vicky Vinyl come about?
The picture of Vicky and me was taken at a photo shoot around 1994 after we ended our bootleg careers, for a project Jim Washburn was working on about Orange County bootleggers. The bootlegs in front of me are not necessarily ones I made. I think the only one I brought to the shoot was the (Rolling Stones) 'Nancy' cover. I loved Nancy and used her cartoon image frequently on my boots. The rest of them were already on the set when I got there. They probably were from Jim's collection. We were supposed to hide our faces behind the records, but we both kept peeking around them 'cause, you know, it was fun.
Do you recognise this bootleg sales flyer from 1980 as being the work of Vicky Vinyl? The name on it was Andrea Enthal?
Nope. I’ve never seen it. It would be difficult to believe Andrea had anything to do with it. Weird Hollywood address never associated with her. It does look like 'The Toilet Paper', though. Which means it was printed on a mimeograph machine. Every school and small business had them back in the day. Beggars Banquet wholesaled records to several small dealers in S. California. It’s a possibility that this is where the boots were originally sourced.
You mentioned that you stocked and sold records from Contraband Music. Not too much is known about that label. Did you have any contact with its founder Dave D?
David D****** made CBM bootlegs. He was originally from Norfolk, then moved to Denver. His specialty was Beatles boots. I provided him tapes for many of his non-Beatle products including Pink Floyd. He was a real nice guy. David also made King Kong records and Instant Analysis records. He used East Coast pressing plants that made really shitty sounding records at first, but eventually turned out much better discs. Once Kenny was having trouble at his pressing plant and had David's East Coast plant make a bunch of records for him. They were shipped out to LA on a train and all arrived too warped to sell. Kenny stuck to the West Coast after that.
There was a school of thought that the early eighties releases on the 'Trade Mark Of Quantity' label were the result of an alliance between you, Vicky Vinyl & Ken Douglas. Is that so?
I’ve got no recollection of that, though it sounds like something Andrea and I might have done. Pretty sure not, though. Kenny, Andrea and I certainly worked on various projects together officially and unofficially. The thing is, even though we were friends, when it came to business, trust was always an issue. Everybody copied everybody’s records. Everybody knew what everybody else was doing. Interpersonal relationships also caused havoc. I don’t think Kenny’s ever forgiven me for giving birth to Vicky Vinyl, but at the time she was just a highly intelligent, highly motivated girlfriend who steam rolled right over us. Turns out, when I took her into pressing plants (undoubtedly to impress her) she was paying attention. Within a year she was grossing more than any of us. Of course she ultimately paid a price for “flying over the radar” instead of under it, like the rest of us.
Can we talk about some non Floyd Wizardo albums that have raised a few questions amongs collectors? Starting with this one, a Rolling Stones boot with a 'SODD' insert (containing a short story about 'The Beard') but clearly a Wizardo pressing?
The Stones with the SODD insert was a “satire” made, as a joke, by me. “The Beard” was supposedly Kenny. I think there were only 350 copies made of this record. They all went to one guy in North Carolina. The big giveaway should be that Singer Double Discs obviously were two disc sets, while my Stones knock off was a single album.
Kenny had put out several phony Wizardo records and I was just having fun paying him back. Or maybe I made the SODD satire first and Kenny got back at me with the phony Wizardos. I don’t remember for sure, but it was all done in fun. I remember I used a particularly poor quality audience tape intentionally. But like I said, it was basically a vanity project for one customer. I never expected anyone would dig one up 45 years later.
David B.... (The Kornyfone guy) put those SODD records together for Ken. I thought David was full of himself, so I knew the cover would piss him off royally. That made it even more fun.
So was David B.... 'Dr Telly Phone' ?
Yeah, David loved silly names. He drove a yellow Volkswagen. I’ve never liked German cars.
So I'm guessing he was the guy behind all the cryptic Kornyfone subtitles, as Ken Douglas told me it wasn't him?
Yeah, David thought he was brilliant with those silly Kornyfone titles. He spent a lot of time complementing himself. He lived with his parents in Downey, hence his street name, Downey Dave (and a couple of other less nice ones).
There used to be a pinball machine in the back of Andrea's Beggars Banquet record store. I think it was called `Gator' originally, but Rick, Jim, and I re-christened it 'Escape From Downey'. Now the silver ball represented David's yellow Volkswagen trying to leave his dreadful little town. By keeping the ball in play, you prevented David from leaving Downey, thus keeping America safe. Silly, immature, and oh so much fun.
Andrea and David tried living together at her Woodbridge house for a while. Occasionally I would stop by to see Andrea on business. I noticed Dave never seemed to be around at these times. I asked Andrea why? She told me that David was at home, just hiding in the bathroom, until I left. I immediately started going over to Andrea's frequently. I'd open a beer, sit down and watch TV and make myself comfortable for hours. Andrea had gotten sick of David at this point and didn't mind me torturing him in this fashion. I think my record for keeping him in the bathroom was four and half hours. Immature, of course, but funny. I still laugh when I think about it.
Andrea had purchased a real nice Sony portable cassette machine to give David on his birthday, so he could start recording concerts like me. At this time Pink Floyd were about to give a concert at Anaheim Stadium and I had two tickets. I was going to record the concert, but my Uher CR 134 had an issue, so I couldn't use it. I convinced Andrea to un-wrap David's new Sony. We took it to the concert and got a beautiful recording. When we put it out, I think I put on the cover somewhere, "Thanks for not giving the recorder to you-know-who". I spent way too much time fucking with David B. He was such an easy target. I have no idea what happened to him, but I'm sure he's gone through life continuing to impress himself.
Wow! So you you recorded 'California Stockyard' also. Was the first pressing on the Dragonfly label? and who's release was it, yours, Andreas or a joint effort?
The Dragonfly label sounds about right. As I recall, my only participation in the project was recording the Floyd show and mastering it on the Teac 7300 half-track. It was considered Andrea's record. I dont remember how, or even if, I got any compensation. Andrea and I were always close, long after we officially broke up, so I might have just done it to fuck with her cuckold, Downey Dave.
The original title that I wanted to use for California Stockyard was 'David's Album: A Bakers Dozen'. An inside joke, based on the fact that I used the Sony tape deck that Andrea had gotten David for his birthday. When I was done with it, I crammed it back in the box with all the paperwork and foam packing screwed up, so David would know it had been used prior to him receiving it. Yup, I'm going to hell. Andrea wasn't about to use my suggestion. She came up with the Stockyard title as a result.
Like all of my live recordings, I still have the original cassettes somewhere. I recorded dozens and dozens of concerts over the years; all over the country. Many of course, ended up on boots. Either my own or my friends. Yes, I even provided tapes for Downey Dave to use on Ken's Kornyfone label. So, I guess I must have liked him a little bit. He was, after all, a record partner of Kenny's, so I respected that. If you got David alone, and could get him to stop talking about himself, he could be fun to be around for a limited time. Maybe. He knew a lot about popular music of the day and he was record collector too, I think. There were all kinds of peculiar personalities you had to deal with back then, Downey Dave was a great example.
You certainly did seem to enjoy torturing this guy?
Torturing Dr. Telly Fone did seem to occupy a lot of my time. What is it about a cuckold that screams "torture me"? Everything, that's what! It was sooooo much fun. I got the whole gang to join in. I was unbearably cruel. Even though I wasn't with Andrea anymore, I didn't want David with her, so I was a complete jerk. The truth is, if you could get around his ego, David could be a fun person to be around. Despite what I've written about him, I liked him. Deep down, (way deep down) he was a big guy with a heart in the right place and a great sense of humor. We loved the same music and both believed in the magic of bootlegs. Kenny obviously liked him. I provided David with lots of tapes for Kornyfone and he in turn did many favors for me. One of the earliest McDonald's Hamburger stands was in Downey, David's home town. I remember going there with him once and having a great time, then going to Wenzels to look for rare records. We should have been best friends, but it just didn't work out that way. Maybe we'll be good friends in another life.
Do you recognise this? It was claimed to be a prototype cover for 'California Stockyard'.
It is not anything that Andrea or I did.
This Beatles boot seems unusual because despite having a Jack & Joan insert, it wasn't given a WRMB 300 series cataloge number?
The Beatles boot is a real curriousity. Jimmy was in the process of making it at Lewis on his own, when we first met. That's why the originals have the Fan Buys labels instead of Wizardo, on one or both discs. I don't remember where he sourced the content, but it had to be copied from other boots. I didn't like it, so it only got pressed once, to my knowledge.
It's found on both black and colour vinyl, so was it usual to press black and another colour on the same run at Lewis?
No, colored vinyl would not normally be used along side black vinyl. Unless two presses were being used simultaneously (and that would not have happened at Lewis). I have a vague memory of eventually having Kay tell Jimmy the stampers were broken, knowing he wouldn't bother having a new set made.
Jimmy was always "forgetting" to tell me about pressings he did for his own accounts that I had no control over. It all worked out in the end, because I wouldn't always burden Jimmy with the details of my work, either. That's how the B.Toff band album got made. I slipped it into the production schedule as just another WRMB title. Jimmy actually got orders for it from his own accounts. He just assumed it was another band he had never heard of (which with the exception of The Beatles, was every band). He never bothered to look at the cover, I guess. Why would he? We had an unusual, but happy working relationship that unfortunately has resulted in a inability to come up with accurate pressing totals.
Ever seen this boot before? On Vicky Vinyls Dragonfly labels, with a TMOQ title, and your El Monkee Wizardo logo?
I've never seen that boot before. Pretty cool that they ripped off the El Monkee logo. The monkey picture has appeared on more bootlegs than peanut bags at this point. I wonder who originally drew It? It would be cool if the original artist came across it on a bootleg somewhere. What would she or he think? Good thing Neil Young didn't draw it.The original El Monkee peanut bag was white with two color printing. The monkeys head was blue and his tongue was red. The only change I made was "screening" the tongue so it would look better when printed single color. I still think it's a brilliant graphic. I should have stuck it on more records.
What labels were you responsible for apart from Wizardo? Like 'Death Records', 'Boss' and 'Odd' for example?
The answer: Too many to remember. I’ll come up with a list of the ones I do remember, but there were a lot of them. I don’t think there was an active bootlegger that I DIDN’T provide with source material. I mastered a ton of titles for everbody and partnered with many others on “one shot deals”.
One of my favorite anonymous labels was one I did with Andrea called SLA records. They were made for just one Japanese account: Japan All Round Music. They published a huge magazine with pictures of all of our boots. They also published a Beatles book called Footprints In The Sand, that talks about John Wizardo like I was some sort of mythical American outlaw. Pretty funny. That was a long time ago.
I’d forgotten about Death Records. Yeah, that was me. There really were a lot of labels. The whole point was to confuse investigators and it worked. It never dawned on me that collecting in the future would also be confusing. The whole point was not to take credit for the releases, so nothing could be traced back to me. It seems funny after all this time to suddenly be talking about them. I worked hard for the last thirty years to make sure I never talked about them. I wonder if it would ever be possible to figure out how many titles I Actually made? I didn’t keep written records. The record plants didn’t keep records. Everything was done to stay invisible. We did a good job at that, but kinda fucked any accurate historical accounting of our illicit efforts. Be wary of anyone who claims to have “factual knowledge” of bootleg sales date from back in the day. Such data does not exist. Not for me. Not for Kenny. Not for Little Dub. We can make an educated guess, but too many years have passed for much hope of accuracy.
Have you read Clinton Heylin's book 'Great White Wonders'?
I knew about the book, but never read it. Jim Washburn told me not to read it as it got everything wrong and would just piss me off. I took his advice. Jim said it was sourced mostly through interviews with Lou Cohan, a school teacher who made a couple of bootlegs at Lewis. Lou was a very nice guy, fun to be around, great Highschool teacher, and completely naive. He was kind of a Walter Mitty type and seemed to have fun mixing facts with fantasy. I can only imagine how he would portray his role in the bootleg industry. I'm sure he was a titan.
Did you have contact with any European distributors? A Floydboots member is writing a book on the Dutch bootleg scene and he'd like to know if you shipped to Holland and who was distributing your stuff there?
We were in contact with many Dutch and English bootleggers. I knew the guys behind the “ World White” label. “Little money records for little money people” I think was their slogan. Two of the biggest in Holland at that time were Ricardo, known as “Dutch Choclate” and Ferry. A big six foot something black dude (Dutch Choclate) and his rather small white partner (Ferry), who unfortunately carried a satchel that to most Americans looked like a woman’s purse.I remember walking into a convenience store in LA with him once at 2:00 am for cigarettes. There were these big biker types inside that took one look at Ferry and started to snicker. “Hey little girl, what’s your name?” one of them asked. I was scared to death that if he answered “Ferry” , the bikers would hear “fairy” and really start trouble. I clasped my hand over Ferry’s mouth and shouted “His name is Bob, and he’s visiting from France!!”. The bikers stood silent for a moment, then one of them said. “Oh, that explains it”. And they went back to thumbing through the dirty magazines. When we were outside Ferry asked me why I had said he was from France? I explained that Bikers struggle with geography and would have possibly never heard of Holland. Besides, all Americans think of France as a totally peculiar country where everyone eats cheese and watches Jerry Lewis movies. Anyway, I felt we definitely dodged a bullet. The only thing that really stands out in my memory about Dutch Choclate, other than that he was a real nice guy, was that he mixed cocaine with tobacco. Yuck. He said everybody in Europe did it. To me it just ruined the cigarette and the cocaine. Cocaine was everywhere back then. It ruined more parties... I traveled to London in 1973 and took a couple of boxes of bootlegs with me specifically to trade for Euro Boots to add to my collection. I met plenty of people then, but I’m gonna have to struggle to remember who was making what. A few years later the BPI created the phony David Bowie bootleg In an attempt to catch Euro bootleggers. It made making new friends a little more difficult. Of course they only embarrassed themselves, spent a lot of money and failed to catch me or any other bootleggers. Great times indeed.
".....But then again, all Wizardo bootlegs pressed at Lewis had excessive surface noise, so who knows? I've always suffered from a shady past and a bad memory... It was many life times ago, anyway."
Interview Conducted By Steve Anderson March to August 2020Personal Photographs Copyright © Jon Tschirgi 2020 & Ken Douglas 2020