The story…ah what a story…the story inside a story…
If you are reading this then you must have listened to the release of
THE LOST RECORDINGS album.
If you have stumbled across this because you were merely looking into the website, then you might want to buy the album and hear what comes from this story. ☺
When Rex finally outlived the 5 year recording contract he was under with Barclay Records in France, who recorded (1969) and released (1970) his 1st album, “Roads of Tomorrow”, he arranged backing, gathered his band of music outlaws, pulled together the best of his catalog of songs and proceeded to record what would have been the 2nd album of his career. However, upon completion, It got shelved (as they say in the business)….
To understand Rex and this record it is most interesting to look at the years after the 1st release in Europe and the UK (RCA) up to and following the summer of 1974 when this album, “The Lost Recordings” was finished. Actually to get a full picture of this artist one would have to go back to his first moments of consciousness after dying on the operating table during the emergency surgery for a gunshot wound through the chest…at 14 years of age…but that is another story…
His performing began in 1963 and his songwriting began in 1964. His first band was formed in 1965 : Rachel’s Children. This happened after he returned to San Antonio from a stint in Los Angeles where he was introduced to LSD and learned open tunings from an old beatnik…this being the end of the HIP/Beat era …The band was a pre-hippie, Grateful Dead family style 7 piece group. They got the attention of Jac Holzman who was looking for a group to fill the gap in Electra Records roster for the new “psychedelic” rock music…Jac ended up choosing the Doors and Jim Morrison over Rachel’s Children and Rex Foster…
Rex began his solo folk/rock writing and performing career after the Federal Government made psychedelic drugs a criminal offense and put Rachel’s Children on the top of the “bust list” with the DEA in San Antonio. The group disbanded and disappeared, leaving Texas overnight into cities all over the U.S. Rex went to the French Quarter in New Orleans…
After a few months he made his way to Los Angeles to visit his long time friend (from the 2nd grade), Charles Zeller who was in college at the California Institute of Technology…where he re-united with his other longtime friend, Bill Bellemy (also from the 2nd grade) who was a fellow songwriter and bass player in Rachel’s Children. They befriended and learned much from a very strong influence in the recording scene in Hollywood at the time, Curt Boettcher (now an underground God of the music scene in the mid to late 60’s).
Eventually Rex moved back to San Antonio and his hill country home in Comfort, Texas…he was writing songs prolifically during all this time and travel…developing his guitar playing into a unique style of finger picking and rhythm…and his unique voice was developing.
At this point he married and divorced all in one year. In 1968 he was working in a Tex-Mex record pressing plant in downtown San Antonio. As he likes to say, “I have done this business from the bottom up”…It was a sweat shop, one record at a time, hand hydraulic presses for vinyl 45’s and 33 1/3 records.
During this time he met his first producer, Milan Melvin…at the time married to Mimi Farina (Joan Baez’s little sister). Rex was led to him by circumstance and played him the best of his catalog. Both Mimi and Milan were impressed enough to agree to pay for Rex to take his songs into a local studio in San Antonio and record them as he wrote them and develop his recording skills and continue to write…Milan was a staff producer for the San Francisco based label, Mercury Records….which he hated and steadfastly refused to bring Rex into that nightmare music world….
Rex continued this for some months going back and forth to San Francisco meeting new people in the business (Rick Beresford being the most important) and eventually joining in with Milan and “Big Daddy, Tom Donahue, Travis T. Hip and others from the old Red Dog Saloon family (The Charlatans) who preceded and set the model for “The San Francisco Music Scene” of the mid-late 60’s, i.e. Avalon Ballroom, The Fillmore, etc.
All this led to fulfilling a dream of expanding on the idea of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and their bus trips around the country…Milan and Tom Donahue convinced Warner Bros. (on the heels of Woodstock) to back and distribute a documentary film of 125 hippies (including Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farm commune), musicians, 22 vehicles, 11 tie dyed tee pees, the Greateful Dead sound system, Wally Heider’s 16 track mobile recording unit, and a house band which eventually became known as “Stoneground” to travel across America in the summer of ’69 throwing outdoor concerts in 6 different locations using the label’s roster : Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, B.B. King, Doug Kershaw, Hot Tuna, all brought in for these spur of the moment outdoor gatherings to be filmed and made into a documentary of the music scene and hippie life in the U.S. circa 1969.
This was filmed by the world renowned and highly awarded French documentary film director, Francios Reichenbach. The movie was eventually named “The Medicine Ball Caravan”. The final leg of the tour was to take everyone and all the teepees to England while the Isle of Wight festival was going on with Joan Baez and Bob Dylan headlining. The camp was set up outside of Canterbury on a huge estate and commanded by our British counterpart, Cozy Pavalco…where Rod Stewart and Faces played…Rex always likes to remember, “hanging with Rod in a vintage Rolls smoking hash and drinking whisky, watching the girls walk by”.
Cozy was a powerhouse girl. She and Rex spent a few days at her place in London after the official “end” of the Warner Bros. documentary as Rex rested in preparation for moving on into Europe. All the caravan travelers were given an open ended plane ticket home and 200.oo cash…So, with that in hand Rex and many of the caravan tribe continued the adventure into Europe. The main characters (Milan, Rex, Chan, etc.) went from England to St. Tropez on the French Rivera to camp out at the palatial estate of Dr. DeBarge who had been the head of the Sandoz pharmaceutical company which discovered, developed and distributed the early versions of pure laboratory LSD…which is what Rex first took in 1965 at Cal Tech, in Pasadena, California. Big circle competed.
The film was taken to Paris to be edited. Rex and Milan and Travis T. and many other participants landed there as well. The director introduced Rex to Eddie Barclay, owner of Barclay Records, who signed him to a major record deal. He and his staff producer were certain they had a version of Bob Dylan to capture their European market…This was the later part of 1969…
Barclay convinced his good friend and famous film score composer, Michel Magne to invite Rex to live in his country chateau (the estate of a small village just outside Paris, Herouville) and record using his state of the art studio built on the top floor of one wing. This is where “Roads of Tomorrow” was created. During these months of work and living in the Herouville Chateau, Rex nick-named it the Honky Chateau. Rex’s album was the 1st LP project to come out of this studio and when Elton John heard it from RCA’s big Rex fan, Clive Davis, he came over and recorded …yes, you guessed it ….”Honky Chateau”.
At the release of “Roads of Tomorrow” on RCA-UK, the then president of the UK division, Clive Davis wanted to buy Rex’s contract from Barclay, who wouldn’t sell. This and other problems caused Rex to leave Europe and return to San Antonio to re-group his musical buddies and put together “The Rex Foster Band”…buy a bus and tour Texas and end up in San Francisco, hooking back up with Milan Melvin and many of the friends made during the caravan.
When Rex returned to Texas with a major European label deal and an iconic folk/rock record in tow, he was received as a returning musical warrior of the time…Eddie Wilson and artist Jim Franklin (part of the Vucan Gas Co. gang) had opened the Armadillo World Headquarters….Rex headlined there a few times while he was preparing the band and the bus to take off for California…Eddie had also known Rex from the Vucan Gas Co. days in Austin putting on concerts with Rachel’s Children, The Conqueroo and The 13th Floor Elevators at the Doris Miller Auditorium.
Also during these first few months back in Texas, while playing for a coffee house in San Antonio, “The Gatehouse”… 1970, a 15 year old, tightly wound kid wanted time with Rex who tried to be useful to a budding guitar playing songwriter named Steve Earle…9 years between their ages….Steve and Rex are still friends to this day.
Having a major record label contract during this time, especially one from Europe… and a quality album was a VERY BIG DEAL…having had “front money” as part of it, etc… all this made Rex a figure to pay attention to in 1970-73..up until he got out of that contract and produced independently what is now “The Lost Recordings”.
But to continue the story…he and his manager, Clay Stewart and his band, worked with the upcoming San Antonio progressive underground radio station KEXL. They had been giving Rex a substantial amount of air time and combined they came up with the “progressive” idea to try something that had never been done anywhere in the world before. They thought it would be very cool to throw a concert in the Public Television Studio in San Antonio with a full audience; while simultaneously sending the audio signal to the FM Underground radio station, KEXL to be heard while watching the TV signal on the television…Not only in San Antonio, but also at the same time in Austin with the underground FM station there. It was engineered (which took some weeks) and successfully produced. This all being quite an accomplishment considering the low tech applications of that day and age.
During these early months Rex double billed with Dylan’s old friend, John Sebastian to open the just completed, state of the art Laurie Auditorium at Trinity University in San Antonio. He then went on to do a show with John at the Armadillo World Headquarters.
Also during this era of early Armadillo bookings…Rex was a top bill when Willie Nelson (a barely known artist in Texas) was just moving back to Texas after many years in Nashville…but not highly recognized in the hip Texas music circles of the 60’s and early 70’s….opened for Rex…who standing back stage with owner Eddie Wilson, said, “Eddie, who is this guy?…I sure recognize all the songs he’s covering.” Eddie in reply said, “That’s Willie Nelson. He wrote all those songs.” At which point Rex shook his head and said, “Holy shit!”….
One of the most interesting and totally un-reported (as history so often does) stories is that : Rex was the first young, long hair singer/songwriter to walk into Luckenbach, Texas…which was a back water ghost town close to his home in the Hill Country of Texas…long before any of the other “famous” characters found their way...
In 1970, Hondo Crouch, a Texas folk hero, who was like a brother to Rex’s father (Rex Foster SR.) and a surrogate father to Rex II, bought the town and all properties on the 9 acres involved for $30,000…partnered up with Kathy Morgan and Guich Koock to have a place to hang out, drink beer with the few local German immigrant ranchers still playing dominoes in the (very) old bar/general store, and where his friends and fans could congregate.
When Rex II returned from Europe (also 1970) and re-joined his family in the Hill Country, his father told him about Hondo’s acquisition of Luckenbach. Of course he and Rex Sr. drove the back road from the family home to Luckenbach, where Rex II re-united with his favorite “old guy”(who had been best man at Rex’s short lived marriage in 1968)…., Hondo. Whereupon they proceeded to do what came naturally…drank Lone Star beer and pulled out guitars (Rex, his Gibson J-45 and Hondo his old gut string Mexican guitar) to swap songs…Rex his odd tunes, while Rex Sr. and Hondo sang what they had for years…Noche del Ronda and their other favorite Tex-Mex ballads. This was the beginning of music being the focus of Luckenbach.
During the months that Rex and company were putting together the traveling bus to leave for California he kept going over to Luckenbach, drink beer and hang out with Hondo. Within a few weeks he asked Hondo if he could bring his bus over and park it by the old Cotton Gin across Grape Creek from the store and use the (then defunct) dancehall to rehearse his band….Hondo was “all in”… as we say today. They set up “camp” and it wasn’t long before other musical characters started showing up and tunes started being played under the oak trees next to the old store…
A tradition began. But the road called and the Rex Foster Band took off for California.
This all was going on while Rex and his band members put together the bus for travel living (reminiscent of the caravan). By the end of 1970 they were on the road to San Francisco.
Upon arriving in this 40 foot bus…Rex immediately looked up Travis T. Hip (talk show radio personality whose real name was Chan Laughlin) down on Laguna St. where he had taken over the property of Bill Ham (inventor of the San Francisco liquid light show of the 60’s)…. and had room for Rex and the band to park and live in the bus. This gave them a central location in old San Francisco to get grounded. Rex could then start re-building relationships from his previous time there and from the caravan.
After a few months and landing a weekly weekend gig at a club on Union Street called The Mother Load…the bus and band moved over to Sausalito where Doyle Nance (one of Rex’s deepest friendships developed from the caravan)…was king dog at Gate 6, where all the drop out pirates from the movement in the 60’s had their boats and boat houses tied up and had been illegally squatted (docked) for many years. Doyle owned the Issaquah Ferry Boat that had been jammed up on the beach after WWII…He took in the wandering Texans, letting them park the bus in front of his Ferry Boat and live there while they developed California relationships.
An important event happened at this time…Rick Beresford, the boyfriend of one of Rex’s previous relationships (from 1967-68), Susan Taylor, became a huge fan of the Texas group hanging out in Sausalito…having connected like a brother to Rex during the era in San Francisco right before putting together the Medicine Ball Caravan. They became cemented spiritually and musically at that time…Rick being a brilliant talent. So when Rex arrived in 1971 with his band, Rick would come to the ferry boat and hang out as much as he could to play and absorb this crazy music coming out of these strange Texans, misplaced in the bay mud of the gates (piers) of Sausalito…
The chapter of first meeting Peter Rowan..
It fits into the time frame when Rex and the band were living in Sausalito on Doyle Nance’s ferryboat and the bus/home, Agarita Rose.
There was a true outlaw from Texas, who Rex describes : “ a flamboyant fellow who will be referred to as Buck here in the story. He was like a grass dealing Robin Hood, modern day, central Texas…his costume was old style, old west…tall snake boots, big brimmed Manny Gammage hats….big scarf around the neck and looks that would stun Hollywood. Sandy blond hair and a smile that melted everyone…with an attitude that was always present and came up out of old-time Texas…old family….revolutionaries…We referred to his bunch and those like them as low flyers. They had locations out on big family ranches in south Texas where they could land small planes and bring in loads of grass…They really weren’t into other drugs…they were pot heads….and loved the excitement of the new Texas Outlaw world…including the music…” (Willie has valiantly upheld this part of the Texas outlaw tradition)….
Buck had befriended Rex’s band back in San Antonio, before they left for California in Agarita. He fell in love with the whole idea and treated everyone as equal in the eyes of history….he was seriously into building his own legend as he went. Heart as big as his beloved south Texas.
He made runs to California in an old beat up pick –up with an old, lived in camper….the only thing modern about this unit was the false bottom under the camper…yep…the stash…and it could hold a lot.
During one of his trips out to Sausalito, he called Rex and asked him if he would like to go to Stinson Beach (at that time, a little hide-a-way village on the coast about an hour north of Golden Gate) where some music friends of his were hold up. Rex was, of course curious and jumped into the pick up for a ride that would be fortuitous as well as adventurous .
This was the first meeting with Peter Rowan and his first wife, Leslie. Peter had rented a little house and it had become a “hang” (for days and weeks on end) of the likes of Jerry Garcia, etc…and Buck…psychedelics and grass free flowing and music constant. Remember, this was the glory days of music.
Peter was in mediation upstairs in this house when Buck and Rex arrived…the first memory of Peter was that he was a bit farther into his spirit than some…and this appealed to Rex’s own sensibilities …
Rex says that the rest of the stay at Peter’s is a bit of a blur … mostly remembering the spiritual connection…and tweeking Peter’s interest about the Texas folks staying in Sausalito.
Peter has two musical brothers he would gig with on occasion in the area…calling themselves “The Rowan Brothers”…The first professional music encounter between Rex and Peter, was a double bill at a little club in Sausalito called Gatsby’s….seating, at most 50 people. That night Peter got to hear what these Texans were all about. And the flavor of what they were carrying into California from central Texas…eventually being a part of the drive that took Peter to San Antonio and his intrigue with everything Tex-mex and outlaw Texas music.
Peter and Rex were destined to have a life-long friendship that would come together and move apart like waves on the ocean…
Peter became one of the very powerful influences on Rex’s musical interior…which manifested many years later in the form of magical cooperations. Much the same as with Rick Beresford.
So….such upcoming talent as Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show with Shel Silverstein (who lived in a boathouse at Gate 5 and quite the character from Playboy fame), The Red Legs (the house band of the boathouse scene)…Dan Hicks (of Hot Licks fame and from the old Red Dog Saloon scene)…and to be important to Rex later in Texas, Sid Page (playing fiddle/violin with the Pointer Sisters when he first met Rex) …etc. Alan Watts was also hanging at the gates. The band eventually acquired a manager and fan named Stanley Freidman who set them up with his contacts in Los Angeles.
At this point Rex, his bus (named Agarita Rose by this time) and his revised version of Rachel’s Children : Rex, Don Earl Harding, Will Bellemy, & Merrily Weeber, went to live in Hollywood, Laural Canyon, for a stretch of intense MUSIC BUSINESS. By now the year had become 1971-2.
To give a time reference of contemporaries of Rex Foster here are some familiar names (to Texans most certainly) who released their 1st albums in 1972 (Rex already having released his 1st album in 1970).
BW Stevenson 1972
Michael Martin Murphey 1972
Willis Alan Ramsey 1972
JJ Cale 1972
Jackson Browne 1972
The Eagles 1972
JD Souther 1972
Willie Nelson returns to Texas 1972
Rex, having a fair amount of fame and history (story) already building by the time his band arrived in LA, was immediately the buzz in Hollywood….attracting offers from A&M, Electra, Shelter, and Asylum. They recorded demos and played showcase venues after settling in. The beautifully unique Texas post 60’s songs, the 4 part harmonies (pre-Eagles), the physical attraction of all the members and the unique guitar style of Don Earl was just the ticket for the industry of 1972. Texans had been making waves in California for some time already…and this was a prime time for the Rex Foster band.
Rex had started drinking alcohol again (after some years of light drinking during the late 60’s) and his band members had started using, what was becoming the fad of the entertainment world, cocaine. Rex abstained from the drugs for years while his old, dear friends slid down that crazed road. The egos started to take everything too seriously. Don Earl and Will started playing one company off the other as deals were being proposed. Of course this shut the doors on the group.
However, and this is historically quite important for Rex, the main music industry players, Denny Cordell (Shelter president and producer) and David Geffen (newly empowered owner and powerhouse of Asylum Records)….both were wanting Rex to get rid of his band and sign a solo deal. Rex turned them down…hoping to keep the band together and return to Texas. But, after all the “band” offers were withdrawn (caused by the ego centered, cocaine related craziness), and Rex started to feel quite uncomfortable (his professionalism was in serious peril)….he split from the group and upon returning to Texas each went their own separate ways….professionally (while maintaining their deep friendships).
Going back to Texas to continue life as a solo artist yet again…by late 1972, Rex was tired. He mellowed out with the love of his life, Georgia LaRue …settling back into his beloved Hill Country…His home ground. Agarita Rose was “back at the barn”…and Rex was losing interest in conquering the “music business”. He hung out in Luckenbach with close friends and fans, being casual and relaxed…enjoying Georgia and his parents.
After a few months he got a call from Rick Beresford back in San Francisco, asking if Rex needed a guitar player for his new solo music life in Texas. Rick was so in love with Rex and his band members’ unique music (and the slowly developing Austin outlaw music scene) that he wanted to move to Texas.
He drove into a West Texas storm on the way over and had a horrible accident. His girlfriend was driving and died instantly. He went through the windshield, mangling his face, cutting his throat, coming within fractions of an inch of severing his vocal cords…
All of his Texas friends went to the hospital in San Angelo (north west Texas) where he was recovering and picked him up in Agarita Rose. (While waiting a day for him to be released they threw an impromptu concert for the patients in his basement ward where the nurses rotated all the ambulatory patients down to hear the music…wheelchairs and crutches).
Rex took Rick back to his parent’s home where he recovered and in the process fell in love with Rex Sr. and Louise (mom)…who eventually considered Rick a son. Rick became part of Rex’s blood family as well as the most solid and influential musical brother Rex was to have for the rest of his life.
When Rick was well enough to get out and play, he and Rex started booking some gigs around the Austin area. One of the most memorable was Hondo Crouch’s First Annual Luckenbach Worlds Fair in 1972. The performance line-up was (the upcoming) Willie Nelson, Rex Foster, and the (at this time not known much to Texans), Jerry Jeff Walker. The stage was a flat bed trailer set up at the end of the dance-hall. Rick’s scars were still raw and red. It was the first gig he played in Texas with Rex…
Not long after, a new friend of the musical family, Mark Abernathy called Rex and asked if he would come to San Antonio, set up his sound system and help him start a “listening venue” in the Northeast part of town. He was calling it “The Bijou”. So, Rex, with his close friend and side guy, Rick Beresford opened the Bijou, which soon became one of the three most sought after gigs in Texas for people like BW Stevenson, Willis Alan Ramsey, Jerry Jeff, Willie, Alex Harvey, and a host of others. (This included the newly formed band, Joker Moon brought together by Rex’s old band members.)
During this time Rex met and brought on board Willis Alan Ramsey’s bass/percussion player…Waller (Sony) Collie…making the new Rex Foster Band an acoustic trio (Rick playing acoustic lead and rhythm plus, at times, playing electric guitar). Rex again had 3 part harmonies and a really nice new sound…very smooth. These guys played around Texas for a year or so…Rex still not excited about struggling into “stardom”…He had really focused on songwriting and developing friendships and venues locally…Luckenbach and The Bijou becoming such a magic family of dedicated singer/songwriters and places where all the fun and creativity could combine.
Rex and this collection of Texans became known through the media trickery as “Outlaw Music”. It was a very odd, new kind of underground. Quite different from the 60’s consciousness-exploring, anti Viet Nam, spiritually advancing movement. As Rex likes to put it, “All the Texas music folks took off their sandals and put their boots back on. Got Manny Gammage to custom make cowboy hats for us. Started carrying guns and driving pick up trucks instead of VW vans”. This allowed the players to start blending back into the “good ole boy” culture of Texas as they started blending the music of the 60’s with the standard styles of old country, Texas style. Willie was very important in this, since he had devoted so much of his early career to Nashville and the country music of the late 50’s up until he moved back to Texas in 1972. But, Rex had already been in the underbelly of this new wave called Outlaw Texas Music.
Rex and all these characters had brought Luckenbach to the point of being a destination for music lovers of the day, both players and listeners. The Bijou in San Antonio also being “the big city” location for the same outlaws. It was a moment in Texas music history that was sublime on the one hand and outrageous on the other.
Rex’s trio was also playing gigs in the popular dives of Austin… Soap Creek Saloon (when it was out in the boon docks) and the Saxon Pub (when it was on I-35 in an old converted What-a-burger A-frame)…and the original Threadgill’s….etc…
As is fairly common history, Jerry Jeff Walker idolized Hondo Crouch, Rex’s surrogate father, and by 1974, Rex had bumped shoulders with Jerry enough that when Jerry’s record company (MCA) and producer Michael Brodsky decided to make a record in his new environment, Texas, (he actually came down from the east coast), they wanted to do it with a mobile recording unit in Luckenbach, right down the road from Rex’s parents home. So, the year 1973, saw Dale Ashby and Father (name of their recording biz) show up in town to record Viva Terlingua…Jerry’s break album for his rejuvenated career as one of the Texas Outlaws …songs that definitively put him on the Texas radio map…surrounded him in the new Progressive Country limelight.
Rex spent most of the recording time with Hondo, Dale and his dad, who everyone called “pop”, and met for the first time all the Gonzo band (later to become good friends). He was in the recording truck a lot while the production was moving (very slowly) to the whims of JJ and producer Michael Brodsky. Rex had a great rapport with Dale and Pop who would listen to Rex’s songs during down time and in the late evenings…they were intrigued and through smoke filled sessions started dreaming of doing a record with Rex. A far-fetched dream, most certainly.
Jerry and Brodsky wrapped the sessions for Viva Terlingua and went on their way, while the truck went back up to home base in New Jersey with continued discussions about coming back to record Rex and his band of gypsy outlaws.
The dream materialized as Dale was hired to return to Texas and work for a young documentary film producer, Gary Kratochvil who was filming Willy Nelson’s 2nd annual 4th of July picnic in College Station… summer 1974. This paid for Dale and company to return with 50 reels of 2” tape (of which they had extra to use with Rex at a very wholesale price)…After they did the picnic they came to Rex’s parents home in the country outside of the little village of Comfort, Texas, not far from Luckenbach. This is where, for the next 10 days, they camped and turned the home into a recording studio…using the family piano and turning couches on end as baffles…using the outer porch as an isolation room, because it had a big picture window looking into the main recording room. The truck was the control booth with machines, etc…and was connected to the studio (house) via speakers and headphones, etc. and a multi-veined “snake”… The main microphone usage: Shure 57s ….the workhorse of live recording microphones of the era (still used today as a primary stage performance mic).
Rex’s folks, Rex Sr, and Louise found other locations to stay while their home was used to house the players and studio. However, they were in and out all during those magical 10 days.
A continually fed campfire was set up outside of Agarita Rose, the old touring bus and a tee-pee erected (Medicine Ball Caravan style), coolers of beer, plenty weed, and various brands of tequila were always available to the contingent of players moving around camp Comfort Studio…girlfriends and mom Louise would make sure food was mysteriously always present for anyone’s hunger level…Rex’s love, Georgia LaRue, the sweetest woman one would ever want to hang around with, was an angelic presence.
Rex’s band at this juncture of his career was the mainstay of the sessions…Rick Beresford, Waller Collie, Riley Osbourn and Rex.
The main session additions were Michael McGeary, and Herb Steiner, part of the Lost Gonzo’s who had backed JJ’s sessions in Luckenbach not long before.
Other additions came through the camp and would add a track here and there, but these guys were the mainstay:
Rick Beresford, who by this time had been working with Rex and becoming an integral part of Rex’s music life. Rick was entering into his first “real” album project…yet proved to be (as realized 42 years later) playing at a level beyond his own recognition…he was very much a co-producer with Rex, playing both rhythm and lead guitar (electric, acoustic, and classical), harmonica, tub bass, and background vocals. Rick eventually created his own band, “Rick Casual and the Kitchen Band”…taken from his nickname given while hanging out in Sausalito with “The Texans” in ’71….and worked the circuit for a few years, before winning the first song-writers contest at the first Kerrville Folk Festival….a song titled “Virginia Lace”. Rick was blessed in 1980 with the cut by George Jones of a song he co-wrote with Harlan Sanders called “If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me, (Her Memory Will)”. The mailbox money allowed he and his family to move to Nashville, where he started the new phase of his career as “professional” songwriter…continuing to this day as a highly respected part of that community…teaching and sharing his brilliance with up-coming talent. He later produced Rex’s next 2 albums. “Artist” and “Believin’ ” at his studio in Nashville.
As Rex brought this project into 2016 on a hard drive, Rick took on the job of mixing and mastering for the present release, “The Lost Recordings” (2017).
Waller Collie on electric bass, also a primary backbone to the groove of Rex’s music in 1973-4. He had played bass and percussion on Willis Alan Ramsey’s one and only incredible record for Shelter prior to joining Rick and Rex. These three would take their music all around Texas during this magical era. Waller went on to work extensively with Freddie Krc backing Roky Erikson with their band,
The Explosives. He later returned to his home town of Dallas.
Riley Osbourn was early on in Rex’s life. He was a good childhood friend with Hondo’s son, Juan Crouch. At an early age Riley showed signs of talent and interest in music…becoming one of Austin’s legendary keyboard players.
During the early 70’s era he would play with Rex’s band on occasion…and came to sit in with these sessions in Comfort. He added the perfect keyboard feel for these songs. Also, being a multi-instrumentalist, he picked up the electric guitar and played lead on “Northeast Texas Women”…with just the right licks.
Michael McGeary and Herb Steiner were new friends of Rex’s at this juncture…having just met the Lost Gonzo band during the Luckenbach recordings. But, they seemed to have a personal and musical kinship which attracted them to want to be part of this record. Michael jumping in with his “high energy” on drums…and Herb with his particular style of pedal steel added that old county flavor where it was needed in some of the songs….perfectly.
These two very talented guys never “played out” with Rex after this session, but of course remained friends and went on to be on the list of iconic Austin musicians who are still active and honored as of this writing (2017).
Other folks who put some magic into the microphones were:
Ram Cloud (Jimmy) Weeber…one of Rex’s oldest young friends…brother of Merrily Weeber who had been in Rex’s early music life. Ram Cloud had been one of the Texans out in Sausalito. He played harp on ANGEL EYES and MAGNOLIA.
Ron Rose (of the popular regional group, Man Mountain and the Green Slim Boys, and later part of the one hit wonder group, the very talented Toby Beau) came up and hung out just for the fun of it, but when Rex decided to try his version of NORTHEAST TEXAS WOMEN, he asked Ron to pitch in some guitar work.
Georgia LaRue, Rex’s constant companion and love of his life brought magic and light wherever she was…EVERYONE loved Georgia. During the recording of BLUEFIRE she was hanging out over by the kitchen table but in range of one of the microphones. And as the finish measures were approaching she reached out and picked up a set of claves and tapped them together ….these were kept in the mix…remembering how incredible this lovely person is.
Others passed through….
Stories were told, tequila and smoke were shared, arrangement ideas were thrown around. Songs were written…love was shared.
Don Earl Harding, Rex’s old musical compadre and co-founder of Rachel’s Children…along with Merrily Weeber. This musical couple were the chosen back-up players flown into Europe while Rex was recording his 1st LP, “Roads of Tomorrow”…so naturally, they came up to hang during the recording of this, what would have been his 2nd LP.
Will Bellemy, Rex had known since the 2nd grade….was in the first band with Rex in high school (Alamo Heights in San Antonio –senior year -1964). Will went to the same college as Rex (Trinity University) and dropped out after 2 years, same as Rex…then was the main musical friend Rex connected with upon returning from his initial LSD / open tunings California adventure …1965-66. Will & Rex were the true beginnings of the 1st white boy psychedelic band in San Antonio. He and Rex wrote together extensively in those early years…”Bluefire”, which is on this recording was a co-write with Will…primarily Will’s inspiration and lyrical genius…influenced by Rex’s open tunings and lyrical support. This song is a great example of the “out of the box” songwriting these guys were into from the mid-sixties on….
The sessions were quite professional…Rex having done much recording by this time in his career…:
The initial recording experience paid for by Milan Melvin. (1968)
The recording of Roads of Tomorrow. (1969)
The recording and writing of a documentary sound track during the same year (1969) and in the same studio as Roads of Tomorrow (which he plans to re-mix and release in the future).
The demo recordings for Electra in LA (1972)
The demo recordings for A&M in LA (1972)
The demo recordings for Asylum in LA (1972)
The demo recordings for Shelter in LA (1972)
All these demo recordings are speculated to be lost.
So, this recording was well prepared for and the arrangements had been “played out” with Rex’s band for some time before they gathered with Dale Ashby’s truck and the magic of 1974….
What happened after the campfire was extinguished and the house put back in order for Rex Sr. and “mom” Louise, as Dale and Pop drove the truck back up to N.J., is where the story of this record’s disappearance really starts….
Rex, by this time was starting to burn his fuse at both ends. He had never really delved into the business of the industry…always being handled by someone, even if he was the driving force…
Now he was faced with owning and producing his 2nd actual LP project. The excitement, creativity, camaraderie, and long running party of the years leading up to the finish of this project were exhausting and draining, since there were plenty of gigs, but no real money and fame was not the goal…
Now Rex had to put on the business hat, the producer hat, and the responsible hat, which he was not well suited for at this point in his life. Nevertheless, he rested a few weeks, packed his essential road gear into the 1966 Mustang and drove out of his very comfortable, very happening Texas music scene and made his way to the home and docking station of Dale and Pop and the truck…. In New Jersey !!!.
New adventure. He, Dale and Pop had become good friends by this time and they had no problem with Rex laying out his buffalo robe on the floor of the booth in the truck and working on a “rough mix” of the project. Some fun was had in New York during breaks from mixing and Tequila.
Rex didn’t really want to invest in a final mix and master. He wanted a good rough mix which he could shop to the biz. So, he packed the masters back into the mustang along with a ¼’ reel of the rough mix and headed to Texas via Nashville…where he met and hung out with Cheech and Chong (another story). Nashville of all places /ha.
He rested in Comfort for a couple of weeks then packed the mustang once again to go to L.A. for a meeting with Tom Wilson who expressed interest in hearing what Rex had been up to. Tom Wilson was one of the power house independent producers of the time…He had been the producer of Bob Dylan’s first works ( THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN’ / ANOTHER SIDE OF BOB DYLAN / BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME ) and also took Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s guitar vocal version of THE SOUND OF SILENCE, and without consulting the artists, overdubbed electric tracks making it more folk-rock and released it to become a mega hit. Tom did many other “out of the box” projects that met success and legend.
Rex wasted no time, arriving in L.A. to the warm welcome of old friends…but was truly completely focused on the interest of Tom Wilson. He was asked to join Tom’s at his studio, where he produced his acts. Tom had remained an independent producer because he was so successful at finding and producing great music. He could certainly pick and choose major labels for his productions.
After some natural BS time and comparing notes…he took Rex and the reel of rough mix into the A studio booth and reeled up a ½ track machine to take a listen. Rex was so exhausted by this time that he says he just sat back and zoned while the music filled the booth…but soon realized that Tom wasn’t skipping through the cuts, which would have been the normal procedure for almost all producer business guys.
Rex was amazed that Tom was so absorbed in the tracks…after the first three cuts, Tom paused the machine and asked Rex, “do you mind if I ask my engineer to come listen to this?”….Rex of course had no objection, thinking Tom was just wanting to share the music. But, as he played the next track for his engineer this is what Rex remembers him blaring out at his employee : “can you hear the magic in this recording, Joe?...Rex produced this in TEN days….You have had that damn band in the studio for 6 months and haven’t got anything even remotely as cool as this…..and Rex did it in TEN days !!!!!”….
This really took Rex off guard… but, Tom went on to play the rest of the tape (ABSOLUTELY unheard of in the context of this kind of meeting)…and after rewinding and replacing the tape in the box, Tom said to Rex...”this is a great tape. Great music. I sure wish I had produced it”….
Now, here is where the twist happens that kept the tape in obscurity all these years….
Rex, in his exhausted emotions and physical body, but most accurately, in his naiveté of how the music producers worked…DIDN’T GET IT : Tom was saying that if Rex would give him producer credit and, of course, points in the royalty divisions, he would place the project with a major label. The story would have been completely different than the one Rex wrote by packing his mustang once again and with a muddled and heavy heart, headed back to Texas for the last time…he was done. That is how this record disappeared for 43 years.
The story was not over. Just different. Rex’s life was actually needing to take some turns and dives and bends and awakenings to mold into something useful…and fame would have destroyed him, with no doubt.
Gratitude is the end message of THIS story.