In 1975, a friend introduced me to a couple of guys named Art Wozniak and Gene Ryan. They had an acoustic duo called Stir Crazy.
They were in a folk-rock or country-rock kind of space. They did a lot of Loggins and Messina, Jackson Browne, the Eagles, America – stuff like that. Plus, they had almost two sets of original material – Art was a prolific songwriter.
They had good steady gigs all over the Santa Cruz area – at The Edgewater, at the Lompico Club, JJ's Pizza, The Steamship Company, The Crossroads, The Good Fruit Company, Schiavo's and so on. They usually worked at least a couple nights a week, minimum.
I recorded one of their shows at the Edgewater on the Esplanade in Capitola. Click the link on the picture of the Edgewater (at the right) for some free mp3's from that show.
I became their manager, and after about a year in the fall of 1976, I ended up taking them into the studio to produce a demo of two of their original songs – Cindy's Song, and I Am Free. In that demo, they just played by themselves – there were no backup musicians.
The place we went for the demo – Flux Recording Studio – was brand new in Santa Cruz, and was owned by a former Seattleite named Bruce Gladwin.
Bruce had spent about $350,000 to build his dream studio.
A music junkie's dream…
That all just whetted our appetites and in just a couple more months, we found ourselves back at Flux looking for studio musicians to play on electric versions of the same songs.
I foundered for several weeks, selecting my own musicians and working on versions that just didn't click, and then finally turned to Bruce Gladwin for help.
Bruce found us some really great musicians and under his expert guidance, I learned about the business of making multi-track recordings.
For the rhythm section, he got us a great LA studio musician, Steve Bennett to play bass. On drums, Bruce got us Richard Ball, a studio musician from Seattle.
We laid down the rhythm section on the two songs with a dub vocal track, and then went back and added more tracks. Alan Hand – formerly with Bonnie Raitt – played piano. We tried out several guitarists including Leo Collignon, before settling on John Anderson, who ended up playing both lead and acoustic guitars on the two pieces. We added a synthesizer on both tracks (I don't recall that player's name); we added more background vocals supplied by the Zentner Brothers (another local Santa Cruz band).
The whole thing took about three months – lots of false starts and wrong turns. But under Bruce's expert guidance, we finally got a product we could live with.
I took the end product and contracted for a company to make us 1,000 45 RPM records which I would try to sell – as well as use to promote the band. I also arranged for artwork, developing a logo for the band, and some posters to promote the records.
The experience we'd had in the studio, playing with a full band, had a profound effect on us, and we all knew Art and Gene could never again make it as an acoustic duo – it was just too limiting.
To top it off, Art was going nuts writing songs. He was on a phenomenal creative binge, turning out song after song after song. We had to have a full band. So we went looking.
John Anderson agreed to join Stir Crazy to play lead; we found a new drummer named Bill Snyder, who had previously played with bands in New Mexico.
Over the next several months, the band practiced daily, usually at Art's ex-wife – Annette's – place over near Seacliff Beach in Aptos, just south of Santa Cruz. To help the guys develop, I recorded the band on several occasions, on March 15, 17 and 18, 1977 – so they could hear what they really sounded like.
These recordings were made on a Sansui SD-5050 reel-to-reel tape deck, using a bunch of mics and a six-channel mic mixer. Vocals were tapped directly from a monitor outlet on the PA.
About a month later, I had lined up appearances on two radio stations – KKUP up in Cupertino, and on the infamous country KFAT – 94.5 on your FM dial (predecessor of the current KPIG), live from Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world.
We felt we needed a new clean tape of some songs, so we arranged to use the stage at the Good Fruit Company restaurant in Santa Cruz to record a new demo.
I recorded the new demo using the same setup as before, on April 18, 1977. The stage at the Good Fruit Company was a lot more spacious than Annette's garage, allowing for better separation – plus I was becoming more adept at making recordings. The quality of these cuts was much better than the previous tapes.
We did the radio shows a few days later and played the tape live on the air.
It was particularly cool at KFAT, where we went on the air with Buffalo Bob Cassidy. Bob played our songs, and we talked a bit, and talked up the band. It was really great. KFAT has to be the best radio station that ever existed (but that's another story… (You can now listen to KFAT on the web -- click here [they're streaming tapes of actual shows recorded in the late seventies and eighties]).
Everything went great for several more weeks. We started having live gigs with the whole band. The records came back and I started trying to sell them.
And then one night I was having a party at my house in Aptos. Gene Ryan started acting like an asshole so I threw him out. Several days later, the band fired me.
C'est la vie. Shit happens.
Within a month, I went to work for Bruce Gladwin, managing his studio band, Kid Rodeo…
Stir Crazy folded a few months later.
Below are the best of the cuts I salvaged from my tapes – which have sat in my closet for almost 30 years.
Strangely enough, the tapes were in pretty good condition. A little of the high-end was gone, but basically, the songs sound pretty damned good.
The one glaring omission is that I was unable to find the final master tape for the studio cuts of I Am Free and Cyndie's Song. I do still have the original 2-inch 16-track master. If I get rich, I figure to re-mix it.
I ripped WAV files from a Teac X-7RmkII tape deck onto my computer using Audacity – a really great freeware audio editing tool which you can find here. I used Audacity (and the LAME MP3 encoder) to output the 192 kb/s MP3 files.
Download the free MP3's and have a good listen. Stir Crazy really was a pretty good band, and Art Wozniak was a helluva good songwriter. It's too bad the band bit the dust so early in its career.
Here's the album that should have been...
|1. Cyndie's Song 1 (Wozniak) 4:32||11. The Circle 2 (Herbert) 3:00|
|2. California Revisited 2 (Peek) 3:13||12. Rock Medley 2 (Various) 7:57|
|3. Heartbeat 2 (Wozniak/ "The City," by Mark-Almond) 6:55||13. I Need You Here 1 (Wozniak) 3:14|
|4. Neon Woman 3 (Wozniak) 4:44||14. Nickles and Beer 3 (Wozniak) 3:21|
|5. Goodtime Music (Dance On Lady) 1 (Wozniak) 6:03||15. Mexico 1 (J.D. Souther) 3:18|
|6. Dream Machine 2 (Wozniak) 6:03||16. Dance, Dance, Dance 1 (Wozniak) 4:14|
|7. Company's Coming 3 (Wozniak) 3:104||17. Wasn't Born to Follow 2 (G. Goffin, C.King) 2:09|
|8. My Woman * 3 (Anderson) 3:36||18. I Am Free (early studio mix) 4 (Wozniak/Ryan) 4:05|
|9. Ode To Don Juan 3 (Wozniak) 4:58||19. Cyndie's Song 4 (Early studio mix) (Wozniak:) 4:31|
|10. Baby Ride the Wind 3 (Wozniak) 3:20||20. Ain't Nobody's Business 1 (T. Mahal) 2:55|
© 2005 Live Oak Music, ASCAP
* Lead vocals by John Anderson
Tracks information :
1 - Recorded live at Annette's, in Aptos, CA, on Friday, March 18, 1977. Art Wozniak, lead vocals and guitar; Gene Ryan, bass and vocals, John Anderson, lead guitar and vocals, Bill Snyder, drums.
2 - Recorded live at Annette's, in Aptos, CA, on Tuesday, March 15, 1977. Art Wozniak, lead vocals and guitar; Gene Ryan, bass and vocals, John Anderson, lead guitar and vocals, Bill Snyder, drums.
3 - Recorded live at the Good Fruit Company, in Santa Cruz, CA, on April 18, 1977. Art Wozniak, lead vocals and guitar; Gene Ryan, bass and vocals, John Anderson, lead guitar and vocals, Bill Snyder, drums.
4 - Recorded at Flux Recording Studio, in Harvey West Industrial Park, Santa Cruz, in the winter of 1976-77. Lead vocals and guitar by Art Wozniak; bass, Stephen Bennett; Drums, Richard Ball; lead and acoustic guitars, John Anderson; piano, Alan Hand; background vocals, Gene Ryan; additional vocals by the Zentner Brothers. Engineer: Bruce Gladwin.
Thanks to Debbra Leippe (Johnson) for some of the artwork.
All songs produced by Michael Pellegrini for Sky River Productions.
Note: If you want to stream the files, just click on a link. If you want to download a file, right-click on the link and select "Save Target As ." - although this functionality does depend on how your computer is configured. If the file doesn't play (stream) when you left-click on it, then right-click on the file name and select, "Open."