The Purple-Assed-Baboon Blues Band briefly occupied a very small, unremarkable, and thus, almost completely forgettable niche in the Boulder (Colorawdough) music scene in the early 1970’s. The PABBB shared the stage with groups and individuals you may have actually heard of – John Fahey, Flash Cadillac, Tommy Bolin (then with “Energy”, and not with Zephyr (his previous band, nor James Gang later)), and could have opened for Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks.* We (yes, I was a member) also played (not necessarily “with” but either before or after or sometimes during) with several groups and individuals who, like the PABBB, have been relegated to the seemingly-almost-infinite back-tidewaters of anonymity.
Banned ? Naah h h h …
Whence originated the group name? A friend of mine, Tom Trask, in describing his frequent circumstances of alacrity, alarm, and, mostly, paranoia, would sometimes say that purple-assed baboons were the cause. That, he said, was a line from the book Naked Lunch (William Burroughs). Bill B, in his rambling narrative, thought he glimpsed the P-A B’s a time or three. Hmmm. I read N L a long time ago, and fortunately don’t remember more than 99% of it, including the P-A Bs. It was also Tom who would say that he was suffering from, had a diagnosable case of, “the blues” – the P-A B Blues. A real bad case of the blues. (More? on Tom T, laterrrr).**
The PABBB was … not so much ‘formed’ as coalesced sometime during 1970. Maybe the so-called formation occurred a year or two later, who cares? Picture (whether or not “if you will”) a bunch of counter-culture disaffected youths, poverty-stricken by design, sharing many similar inclinations (and, of course, dis-inclinations) hanging together. Seeing as how many counter-culture “heroes” were musicians, we aspired (and even if we weren’t exactly “aspiring”, perhaps it was sheer mimicry, which at the time we would have denied) and if not exactly earnest, went through the motions to, if not become, perhaps merely to emulate. That may be over-thinking it. Formation/coalescing of the PABBB did not involve much, if any, thinking. However, then, and was the case for much of my life, I and those with whom I associate, would rather entertain than be entertained. We’d rather “do” than be done to. (Granted, since retirement I’ve spent (and, yes, I know, will continue to spend) a lot of time being watched by “the tube.” So there’s less “doing” as I’ve aged, and more-and-seemingly-more “being subjected to”.) I digress …
The acknowledged leader and main-honcho was Cliff Athey (who often was known as Carngorn Cadaver) and the usual suspects, or cast of characters, were myself (known as The Rabid-Transient), Kevin Justice (just plain “Slum”), John Russell (“Huzz”), Erik Meyer (often known as “Dildo”), Shawn Perry (usually just “Shawn”), and Gary Adney (we never did come up with an alias which stuck). Now that I reflect on it (whatever “it” is, or was), Shawn was sometimes known as George Gorph (from Gorph Gorge, Georgia) and when Shawn was George G. I was Sherman O’Shaugnessy (Mr. Gorph’s side-kick). Like they say about “the hits” – in our case the aliases just kept on coming.
In-and-out of this collective rotated, or perhaps just oozed, the less-than-regular participants who(m) usually were anyone unfortunate enough to be hangin’ with the regulars. My brother (Ricardo Cabeza), John V Fleming, Roy A Johnson, Jeff Timms, Gary’s friend Woods, and even Richard (“Dick” in those daze) Olson. There were no girls nor women dumb nor crazy enough to have either considered nor been considered. Too bad. We deafeningly could have used the occasional tug of “reining in”.
Richard Olson, in retrospect, was probably a pseudo-pspiritual/ritual inspiration for the PABBB. Ever the mystic, an order-of-magnitude weirder than the next-weirdest of any of us, he was a painter and would often sign a completed work “D E O” – yes, Latin for “God” as he hadn’t become Richard yet, still a “Dick”, hence Dick E(dward, his middull name), Olson.***
I suppose you (or anyone) could imagine … the later ‘60’s and into the 70’s in a town like Boulder? The town was positively rampant with ‘counter-culture’ antics and such – and, in retrospect, may have always been and always will be. Anyhow, most everyone I knew then was frequently ‘under the influence’ and often, when under the influence, we’d try to be musicians. NOT being “under the influence” was a detriment, somehow. Yes, we thought we were so much better than we actually were due to “the influence.”
No, we were also NOT the standard 3 or so guitars with a trap-set drummer.
Saxophones, a trombone, conga drums, garage-door steel spring and sometimes other instruments were part of the repertoire. Especially kazoos. Kazoos were so endemic that one day, when driving us on an errand, Huzz patted his shirt pocket to check for something, realized he had no kazoo therein, looked briefly flummoxed, recovered, and proclaimed that this was “the kazoo-less adventure with the maniac at the wheel.” Kazoos cost only about 25¢ then and we endeavored to have a continual supply.
Oh-kay … what did we play? ‘Spontaneous situational’ is what I’d call whatever it was we were doing. Carngorn would try to get us “organized.” But usually everyone playing at once was mere chaos. “Usually”? Almost always. Discordant cacophony. ‘Organized’ meant that someone would do something really obvious, such as Huzz playing his saxophone upside down, which would indicate that we’d switch to the next song.
Once we organized an opening act to our otherwise opening act. “Jay & The American.” (Yes, this was a spoof on a real band playing nation-wide in those daze – Jay & The Americans). I, being Jay, was Jay, Shawn (resplendent in hard-hat with red/white/&blue flag shirt) was “the American,” and John Fleming was ‘nobody’ – as his job was just to blow up balloons. I played the balloon – letting the escaping air make squeaking sounds into the microphone. John would hand me the next inflated balloon and go to work on providing the next. Shawn accompanied by scraping a spoon across a garage-door steel-spring (like playing a “guiro”). While I was focusing the escaping-balloon-air squeaking into the mike, Shawn provided percussion and croaked statements usually with the words “Atlantic City.”
What few pseudo-organized songs (or “pieces”) we tried to play were mostly … um, ‘composed’ may not be an accurate word, but come-up-with by Carngorn. (I’ve got the) “Charlie Manson Hippie-Murder Fear” was a favorite. Dark, yes. And “Down in the West Texas Panhandle my Oil-Well Dried Up” which did have a semblance of rhythm – actual melodies as such were practically non-existent when we were playing. And we knew most the words to all the Frank Zappa / Mothers of Invention songs. THAT gave us a lot more ammunition, so to speak, when doing a show.
And … we weren’t always the PABBB. We’d change our name! Herb Coffee & the TV Trio was an occasional moniker. Pharleigh Phitt & the Crystal-City Combo. Carngorn came up with “Horse Hangie” spur-of-the-moment when it was obvious at Tulagi’s open-mike night they didn’t want to endure the PABBB again. Carngorn said the name occurred to him while defecating just prior. And “next up … Horse Hangie”!
In actuality, as I so far have emphasized, during those daze we rarely were (real musicians) but we didn’t care and enjoyed trying to play music anyway. We all believed we were beholden to The Mothers of Invention. Most (all?) their early albums seemed to be mostly cacophony, occasionally coalescing into something structured, then cacophony, then … And I believe I remember/speak for all of us when I say that we thought there was a (remote) chance we too, would become as (in)famous as the Mothers …
John Fahey was at the time, very-well-known – for his extended guitar-solos, taking a melody and playing with it (so to speak) in interesting intricate fashions. My friends and I owned some of his albums. Anyhow, after the PABBB played before Mr. F came on, the rest of my ‘mates left shortly thereafter. I, alone among the PABBB, stayed to listen to his entire performance. At his intermission, he went off-stage, mostly to avoid the more-avid fans who would certainly try his patience. I happened to be in the same area, and I think we both decided to go out on the balcony at the same time for some “fresh air.” Cold, fresh air. It was the middle of winter, and the temp could have been well below freezing. We talked a while, rambled on, mostly. The semblance of conversation changed to outright free-associating about nothing and everything when we discovered that the door was locked from the inside, and no other way in nor down. So, we continued our rambling ”free-association” … until the Tulagi’s staff, looking for Mr. Fahey to play his second set, opened the porch door on a hunch, since they had looked everywhere else, and we stumbled in from out of the cold. It took about 15 minutes while playing before his fingers thawed out enough to exhibit his usual seamless flowing instrumentals.
*Chuck Morris, manager/operator/head honcho of Tulagi’s (music club on The Hill) called the day of DH&THL’s show at his club to ask if we could, on such short notice, show up and be the opening-act. I was the only one of us in town that day. And, sadly, declined. Frequently since then I thought that, if given such a chance again, I would have said “Yes!” and gone out to round up whoever I could coerce to be the band. Didn’t matter if they could actually play an instrument or not — none of us really could (at that time) anyway. See “Jay & The American”.
**Tom Trask. I knew him from middle- and high-school, and we both ended up in Boulder as University students. I dropped out, as did he. I was ‘exploring’, experimenting? experiencing the world of psychedelia – greatly hastening my departure from the world of academia. Tom was experiencing that realm more so than I, in fact, he was so heavily into it that he served as a warning sign to the rest of us. “Don’t go there.” He became a heroin addict, hence the “frequent circumstances of alacrity, alarm, and paranoia” – involving, I suppose, the part which purple-posteriored baboons would play in his life.
***Look up (‘google’) “Richard Olson artist New Mexico” – use same search terms on Facebook. He has definitely “made it” with his art, whereas the PABBB regulars, well… didn’t, and haven’t. Gary A. and I have tried, and continue to try to be viable musicians – however Erik “Bamboo Coyote” Meyer definitely has “made it” as a musician. ‘google’ Tropical Coyotes, Ft. Collins, CO.
I loved your memory!
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well, fellow-ess sixty-tenner, when we reflect back, and …
mull over “the past”, I feel that I should try to “capture”/chronicle some of it. at least you’re (not only disciplined but prolific) doing a good job keeping up with “the present.”
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Sometimes I think I should do more ‘memory’ sort of things, but I never seem to get around to it. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
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Not many people can boast of opening for Fahey.
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hopefully it’s obvious I wasn’t XXXactkee “boasting”. When Tulagi’s had someone/something not exactly cookie-cutter nor ingrained/mainstream, the Tulagi manager would call us!
besides, now-a-daze, who’s heard of JF? he was over-shadowed by his student, Leo Kottke, who, i’d imagine, is a bit more known … but Fahey was unique!
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I stumbled upon you blog by accident.
I Google Cliff Athey (Carngorn Cadaver, Isotope Feely)
He was a old flame when I lived in Boulder. I often wondered what became of him. I was a PABBB groupie in my younger years.
Great memories of Boulder.
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i/we have lost touch with Mr. Athey, many years ago. I think the last time we encountered, he was “stuck” hitching thru’ my town, oh, later 1990’s. i paid for bus-fare for him to get home to L.A. …