the transmogrification of free will into jukin’ bone

IN 1970, local rock star and en­tre­pre­neur Joe Nar­done opened a teenage dance hall on the Public Square of down­town Wilkes-Barre, Penn­syl­vania. For­merly the Star­dust Ball­room, it was a second floor af­fair where cou­ples had prac­ticed ball­room dancing. It was just above the old Para­mount The­ater, then a first-run venue for new movies. Its trans­mo­gri­fi­ca­tion from old to new was per­fect for the time.

It was one of two such the­aters on the square—the other was the Comerford—until the Great Flood of ’72 ren­dered them use­less. Under Nar­done’s care, the Star­dust Ball­room be­came the Naked Grape, where cou­ples danced to the ‘new music’ doing every­thing from mod­i­fied ver­sions of the twist and the frug to to­tally un­in­hib­ited free-form dancing.

(You know, you put hands above head, close eyes, stay in one place and sway—your body going one way and your hands the other. Like at Wood­stock, not a Dead con­cert.)


JukinBone_poster

Since I am un­likely to ever find any poster or flyer for Free Will at the Naked Grape, I will make do with this flyer from No­vember 1971, where Free Will  an­nounced that they were for­merly Free Will and now Jukin’ Bone.

Joe went all out

Where Joe got the name for his club I have never known; he owned a small record store and fronted a local rock and roll band, so he was cer­tainly fa­miliar with Moby Grape. He might have been in­spired by that group’s silly moniker to use it for his club.

He had al­ready de­cided that “naked” was going to be part of the club’s name be­cause of the con­no­ta­tions, which could be rea­son­ably in­no­cent or not. Naked Moby didn’t quite cut it, so Naked Grape it was!

The Grape was done up with all the cur­rent Six­ties ac­cou­trements to look hip mod and a-go-go, al­though it was not a psy­che­delic ball­room. Hell, it wasn’t even pseudo-psychedelic: no posters plas­tered every­where and not a black-light in sight. Plus, it was far too clean-cut—in ap­pear­ance, in am­bi­ence, in clien­tele (in­cluding me).

Joe did bring a guy in from New York on a weekly basis who set up scaf­folding in the center of the ball­room with spe­cial lighting and weird equip­ment that would cast all kinds of er­satz psy­che­delic im­ages on the walls. This was, of course, very hip to we squares there on the square.

We didn’t dance but sat on our butts

The room held ap­prox­i­mately 500 people, al­though there were no seats. As we were groovy gal and guy wannabes, we didn’t dance to the groovy bands but sat our butts down on the hard wooden floor and ‘dug’ the music. One of the groups that made sev­eral ap­pear­ances there that went on to a larger, na­tional fame were the Elves fea­turing lead singer Ronnie Dio.

I re­member the Grape looking pretty far-out to a naïve, in­se­cure, sex­u­ally re­pressed 18-year old with no real ex­pe­ri­ence and still reeling from the re­cent re­al­iza­tion that girls found him “cute.” That was me, nat­u­rally. And my apologies—I di­gress into nos­talgia and nar­cis­sism.

In his first year, Joe brought a band in from Syra­cuse, New York, called Free Will. No one that I knew had ever heard of them, but they were a hot item as a re­gional touring band, playing small to medium-sized venues up and down the East Coast.

(And for those of you who don’t know, the term “East Coast” refers to as­pects of the cul­tures peo­ple’s foods tastes of parts of Mary­land, Delaware, Penn­syl­vania, New Jersey, New York, Con­necticut, Rhode Is­land, and Massachusetts—although the latter three states are also in­cluded with New Hamp­shire, Ver­mont, and Maine as “New Eng­land.”)

Now, 1970 was the year in which a host of bands across the country were en­thralling their re­gional au­di­ences by per­forming The Who’s TOMMY in its en­tirety. This was a clever de­vice: few people were ever going to see The Who in con­cert. Fewer still would ever see them per­form their rock opera in its en­tirety.

So, these es­sen­tially unknown—and mostly now long-forgotten—American bands per­forming one of the most fa­mous al­bums in the world by a British group made per­fect com­mer­cial and aes­thetic sense at the time. In fact, a group today that did the same show would prob­ably pack them in—the problem is that there are no longer enough small and medium-sized halls to pack.


Who_HappyJack

After col­lecting a stack of Who 45s, I fi­nally bought their second US long-player, which I found on sale for $1.99 in mid 1967. It was an in­stant party record for me, be­coming one of the most played al­bums that I owned. By the end of the decade, it was also one of the most readily found album in cut-out bins around the country. A bloody mar­velous album and one that you should own and play reg­u­larly!

In love with Who?

My problem was that I was more or less a ‘long-time’ Who fan—at least by Amer­ican stan­dards. A few years be­fore, I had picked up some of their early sin­gles from a small shop on Public Square that sold used jukebox 45s for a nickel apiece (six for a quarter). I picked up I Can’t Ex­plain, Anyway Anyhow Any­where, My Gen­er­a­tion, and Sub­sti­tute and was amazed that such great, elec­tri­fying records had not made the US charts!

I don’t re­call having heard the first four sin­gles above on the local radio, WARM (“the Mighty 590”). The Who were an im­por­tant band with big hits in England—including seven Top 10 smashes be­fore breaking the US Top 10 with I Can See For Miles in 1967. Un­for­tu­nately, they had little vis­i­bility in the US until TOMMY in 1969 (and much of that came a year later after there being making a BIG im­pres­sion with movie-goers in the Wood­stock movie). Those singles—used though they were—blew my young mind then and still blow my aging mind today.

My first Who al­bums were HAPPY JACK—re­leased in the rest of the world as A QUICK ONEthe title that Pete Townsend had as­signed it—and THE WHO SELL OUT. I picked up mono copies in a cut-out bin for 99¢ in 1968 and played them for years. The stereo ver­sion of HAPPY JACK is­sued by Decca in the US was fake stereo, so the mono was the prefer­able ver­sion.

I read ei­ther a re­view of the album or an in­ter­view with Townsend—I be­lieve that it was Rolling Stone—in which it was noted that Jan and Dean and es­pe­cially the Beach Boys had a big in­flu­ence on the album. I cer­tainly didn’t hear it on my copy.

Years later, a friend of mine, Todd van Sit­tert, took it upon him­self to find every single track recorded for this album in real stereo. He found them all—the ten tracks from the UK ver­sion of the album, the sin­gles, the five tracks from the READY STEADY WHO EP, and some outtakes—and burned a CD for me of the re­sults. The stereo mixes were rev­e­la­tory!

Beach Boys-like har­monies were all over the album, standing out in the stereo mix. In 1967, Decca had buried them in the mono mix! These har­monies added a whole new feel to the album making it for me an even better album than it al­ways had been! So, enough with the Who di­gres­sion and back to Free Will …


JukinBone_Header

This is the orig­inal 1970 black & white pub­licity photo for Free Will  that I cropped and used for the header of this page. Can you get any more ’70s? Mark Doyle is first from the left and Joe Whiting is third. Shortly after this was taken, the group signed with RCA as a boogie band and changed their name to Jukin’ Bone (a name change for which everyone in­volved should have been coun­seled first).

The loveliest girl in the Valley

Back to 1970 and the Naked Grape: I am sit­ting on the floor with my date, Elaine Havard, the loveliest girls in Wyoming Valley. (I had re­cently broken up with one of the Val­ley’s other beauty queens, Jaygee, but she and I had sort of grown up into young adult­hood to­gether and were both just dis­cov­ering the ins-and-outs of dating un­fa­miliar and often more “ex­pe­ri­enced” people.)

So I’m won­dering, Why is this de­votchka who every guy lusts after here with me? I wanna know! Oh, right, I forgot—after years of being the local ugly duck­ling, now I’m “cute.” What­ever the reason she’s with me, I am smitten.

This is our first time seeing Free Will who, as noted above, we had never heard of be­fore. Not that I was ter­ribly con­cerned about the band; I just wanted to be near Elaine.

Of course, I was still a nerd, and I wore red plaid pants, which all but stu­pe­fied Elaine, who was rel­a­tively ‘hip,’ all things con­sid­ered.

When I picked her up—in my par­ents’ car, natch—and she saw the pants for the first time, she said, “You’re straight, aren’t you?” And here straight meant I was not a dope-smoker; I had never been high, let alone stoned. So, being a truth-teller, I said, “Yep.”

(This was some­what dam­aging, es­pe­cially since her re­cently broken-up-with ex-boyfriend looked and acted like John Lennon—and Beat­le­john most cer­tainly did not wear pants that looked like they be­longed on a Scot­tish golf course.)


Kinks_Arthur

I have all ready blath­ered on about the fine­ness of this album in “now that you’ve found your shangri-la (the best british album of 1969)” so you will have to click on over to that ar­ticle to read more.

Decline and fall of the British Empire

Free Will came on stage and im­me­di­ately launched into Vic­toria, the opening track to the Kinks’ album ARTHUR, OR THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE. For me this was fabgear in­deed, as that album was one of my fa­vorite al­bums from the pre­vious year, 1969. De­spite a year that saw the re­lease of such al­bums as:

Bea­tles’ ABBEY ROAD
Rolling Stones’ LET IT BLEED
THE BAND
Frank Zap­pa’s HOT RATS
LED ZEPPELIN
II
Cap­tain Beef­heart’s TROUT MASK REPLICA
Young­bloods’ ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN
Jef­ferson Air­plane’s VOLUNTEERS
Sly & The Family Stone’s STAND!

And so many, many other fine fine su­perfine al­bums, it was ARTHUR (and FROM ELVIS IN MEMPHIS) that res­onated with me. Forty-odd years later and nothing has changed my mind or heart about that amazing Kinks album!

Pub­lisher Jann Wenner was so im­pressed with the album that he had his staff write not one but two back-to-back re­views for Rolling Stone. Mike Da­ly’s glowing re­view in­cluded him claiming ARTHUR to be “the Kinks’ finest hour.” Greil Marcus’ re­view was even more pos­i­tive: he named it the “best British album of 1969.”

While the album reached #50 on the all but for­gotten Record World charts, it stalled out at an anemic #105 on Bill­board’s LP chart. As sad as that sounds, that was the group’s highest po­si­tion reached on that survey since 1965! Alas (and un­be­liev­ably), ARTHUR failed to even make the best-selling LP charts in Britain.

The first single from the album, Shangri-La, also failed to reach any chart in the US, de­spite its ab­solute mag­nif­i­cence. The second single, Vic­toria, pe­tered out after reaching a lowly #62 on Bill­board, al­though it did not even make the Cash Box Top 100 survey!

To il­lus­trate the straits that the Kinks were in in 1969, at #62 Vic­toria was their highest placing of a single on the Bill­board Hot 100 since Sunny Af­ter­noon reached #14 in 1966! This mild im­pres­sion caused Pye to re­lease it as the third single from the album in the UK (Drivin’ and Shangri-La had pre­ceded it) and it reached the Top 30, a big im­prove­ment over those prior sin­gles.

Great Grommet! I have di­gressed again—back to Free Will and the Naked Grape and Elaine.


JukinBone_WhiskeyLP

Jukin’ Bones’ first album, WHISKEY WOMAN (LSP-4621), was is­sued on RCA’s crappy ‘dy­naflex’ vinyl, which was so flex­ible that you could roll them into a tube. That wasn’t why they were crappy: they were crappy be­cause that’s the way so many of them played. I bought the first album with en­thu­siasm, as I was a fan of Free Will and was ex­pecting more of same. I was dis­ap­pointed. This is not a hard record to find: NM copies can be found in the $10-15 range.

Yes, sir! No, sir!

I was pleased as all get out that this band had opened with Vic­toria but Elaine was clue­less. She en­joyed the performance—Free Will were an ex­cel­lent band and ac­cu­rately cap­tured the sound and sheer joy of most of the music—but she didn’t know the song or its sig­nif­i­cance to Kinks fans like my­self.

Then the lead singer an­nounced that they would be per­forming the en­tirety of ARTHUR, their fa­vorite album of last year! They rolled right into the ca­reening drunk­en­ness of Yes Sir No Sir and ended up playing all twelve of the al­bum’s tracks. As these songs added up to al­most fifty min­utes worth of music, by ex­tending the in­stru­mental parts and re­peating some cho­ruses, Free Will was able to pro­vide well over an hour’s worth of ARTHUR!

I am un­aware of any other band of the time playing ARTHUR like so many played TOMMYI may have wit­nessed some­thing fairly unique. Cer­tainly the Kinks weren’t playing their whole new album in their stage per­for­mances at the time.

A little known fact about that night with Free Will at the Naked Grape: I was the only person in the au­di­ence wearing an of­fi­cial “God Save the Kinks” button! I had re­ceived this button as part of a boxed set also ti­tled “God Save the Kinks” and one of the Warner/Reprise Loss Leader spe­cials.

I be­lieve that I had to send all of $2 to Bur­bank, Cal­i­fornia, for the box with the button and an album, a bag of grass from the vil­lage green, a union jack, a post­card, and some other stuff. I wore the button with panache wher­ever I went!


Jukin’ Bone - Whiskey Woman (1972 US)

Meeting Free Will

The next day, I was hanging out with my friend Jackie Freeman, who told me she had a BIG sur­prise for me. But first, she got me reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeal stoned—something I ac­tu­ally never en­joyed. Oh, I loved get­ting high, but I hated get­ting stoned. I would me­ander away from con­sen­sual reality—which is good to do every now and then—I just didn’t go any­where mean­ingful or en­light­ening.

I was just gone, y’­know man!

(If you don’t know the dif­fer­ence be­tween high and stoned, then you ei­ther have never been ei­ther or you are decades younger than me and have only had ac­cess to modern in­dica, which tends to blur the two. A good Mex­ican sativa in the early ’70s—which we called Aca­pulco Gold, even if it wasn’t from sunny funny Acapulco—allowed one to get gen­uinely high but still func­tion so­cially.

Aca­pulco Gold is a sativa-dominant indica/sativa hy­brid of cannabis. Aca­pulco Gold has strong sativa cere­bral ef­fects, of­fering a long lasting high that bal­ances up­beat ef­fects with body-relaxing, stress re­ducing calm­ness.” (Wikipedia)

Hell, you could even visit your par­ents, re­main high, have a won­derful time, and they wouldn’t even no­tice! Those were the days …)

So, I am stoned to the prover­bial gills, lying around on the floor of Jack­ie’s house, looking at an art book, and the door­bell rings. Jackie looks over at me, gives me a smile with more than a twinkle in her eyes, and says, “This is the sur­prise.” She opened the door and in walked all five mem­bers of Free Will!

The guys were great and I re­call having a pleasant af­ter­noon talking music and records with them. Need­less to say, we talked about ARTHURNow, I wish I could tell you more, but I re­ally don’t re­member much more than that…


JukinBone_WayDownLP

Jukin’ Bones’ second album WAY DOWN EAST (LSP-4786) was also is­sued on ‘dy­naflex’ vinyl. I did not buy the second album, al­though I heard it through friends who did. In hind­sight, the music on both al­bums varied and I find some of it quite good forty years later; see the YouTube video for Mojo Con­queroo below). This is a bit harder to find than the first album: NM copies can be found in the $10-20 range.

Jukin’ Bone and whiskey women

In 1971, Free Will signed with RCA Victor, who im­me­di­ately changed their ad­mit­tedly less-than-inspired name of Free Will to the career-killing Jukin’ Bone. The ex­cel­lent pop/rock group be­came a blues-based, hard-rock band. They recorded two al­bums of the less-than-stellar quality, WHISKEY WOMEN and WAY DOWN EAST, both re­leased in 1972. Both had tacky, bor­der­line taste­less cover art. Nei­ther sold well and the group was dropped and that was the end of Jukin’ Bone and un­for­tu­nately, Free Will.

De­spite dismal sales and a near record ap­pear­ance in cut-out bins around the country, two small com­pa­nies saw fit to reissue both LPs on com­pact disc: Flawed Gems got the rights to WHISKEY WOMEN (2010), while O-Music got WAY DOWN EAST (2011).

Since I want to be fair (and I un­der­stand that memory is not the best way to dis­cuss a forty-year-old record) I checked YouTube to see if there was any Jukin’ Bone. I found a dozen tracks from the two LPs and lis­tened to them. Hey—they’re not as bad as I re­member! Def­i­nitely not my cup of tea, but I can see anyone into white, blues-based boogie bands dig­ging these guys.

I se­lected a handful of tracks and linked them for your plea­sure: Whiskey Woman from the first album and the ex­cel­lent Mojo Con­queroo from the second with its vaguely Dy­lanish vocal. In­ter­est­ingly, sev­eral of these album tracks have a T. Rex-like rhythmic sway to them that is not un­ap­pealing.

Give them a listen!


Jukin’ Bone-Mojo Conqueroo.wmv

Ridgewood roots and things

For more back­ground and his­tory of Joe and Mark, refer to the His­tory of Syra­cuse Music site for an ar­ticle ti­tled “Ridge­wood Roots Of The Dean Brothers’ Joe Whiting, Mark Doyole, Free Will, and Jukin’ Bone” (March 26, 2012) by Ron Wray, John D’An­gelo, and Pete Shedd.

Fi­nally, to end this tale, I will take us back to that eventful night in 1970 with me and the beau­teous Elaine. Aside from my bloody red pants—which I ac­knowl­edge were atro­cious but in hind­sight were prob­ably an un­con­scious aware­ness of the Scotts blood in my veins, some­thing un­known to the Umphreds at the time—I had even worse news for her: I was still a virgin! For­tu­nately, that state of being (being in­ex­pe­ri­enced with sex and drugs) would not last much longer

So, de­spite Free Will’s un­par­al­leled reading of ARTHUR that night at the Naked Grape, the lovely Elaine re­mained only mod­er­ately im­pressed. She turned to me and said, “They should try TOMMY next time …”



 

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