DAVID GIVENS | 2020
LEGENDS IN THEIR OWN TIME
In 1967, Boulder, Colorado was becoming an alternative to the counter cultures that were evolving on the east and west coasts. There were around 40,000 students at the University of Colorado and there was a whole economy based on this young and energetic population. Night clubs, movie theatres, restaurants, clothing stores, concerts and lectures, book stores, outdoor outfitters, Army surplus stores, and not to mention grocery stores, hardware stores, art supplies stores, and on and on were there to serve this body of young people. There was plenty of work for young bands at everything from frat parties to full on rock concerts and naturally Boulder drew musicians from all over the world. I knew musicians from Ghana, West Germany, England, Canada, Mexico and from across the U.S.A. who had come to Boulder to be part of the scene there. That year, two young guys, Harold Fielden from Yonkers, N.Y. and Mick Manressa, born in The Philippines and raised in Denver, were starting school at CU (that’s how people in Colorado refer to the University of Colorado). Harold played drums and he had an idea for making some extra cash and meeting enthusiastic coeds – start a band that played only old school rock and roll – think Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley – but with a kicker: “rudeness” would be their gimmick. Harold recruited Mick and a couple of other players from his dorm and started “Flash Cadillac and The Continental Kids”. They rocked the hell out of the oldies, Harold did X-rated standup, the band drank themselves into oblivion; they held “skin to win” naked dance contests, and generally acted up. They were a big hit. No sensitive long-haired hippy “music as art” for them, it was raw, sexy, and above all, fun. They took a couple of semesters off and went to L.A. to see if they could make it in the music biz. They got a shot in George Lucas’ first hit movie, “American Graffiti” and parlayed that into a contract with a major booking agency. They toured for a year or so and then Mick and Harold quit the band and went back to school in the fall of 1970. We met them when we came to town in ’68 and had played a few festivals with them in ’69 and ’70.
We became friends and shared some good adventures out on the road. One of my favorites was when we were both on the bill at a music festival in Texas. Joe Cocker and Mad Dogs and Englishmen were the headliners and they had a gorgeous backup singer named Claudia Linnear in their band. Claudia was the inspiration for the Stones song, “Brown Sugar” and it was easy to see why. Tommy and Harold smoked a huge fatty in one of the Flash Cadillac rooms and after spending a few minutes lauding Claudia’s virtues, decided to go find her. Somehow, they got her room number and went on a commando mission to see her. The last I saw of them, they were crawling under her window on the outdoor walkway outside her room. When they started peeking through the blinds into her room, Candy and I decided it was time to go, so I can’t speak on anything else that might have happened. Leave it to say that it was a bonding experience.
Well, anyhow, back to the 4-NiKators...
Harold was back in school, but he still had the itch to play. We’d made our first album and had been touring for almost a year and the “business” part of “show business” was starting to drag. Harold came to one of our Boulder gigs and took us aside to propose a new fun project. He wanted to get Candy, Tommy, John Faris, and me to join him to create a new band, The Legendary Fornicators, along the same lines as Flash, but with high quality musicians. We’d play once in a blue moon and be free to do whatever floated our boats. We jumped on board without reservation. Tommy suggested adding Dave Brown, our roadie, on rhythm guitar, and away we went. We made a list of all of the songs we could play without rehearsing too much and I suggested changing the name to The Legendary 4-NiKators. That was it. We played Tulagi and had a ball. We played Yardbirds, Stones, Beatles, Ray Charles, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Elvis, and so on. The crowd went wild and we got together every few months when we were in town to play.
Harold left Boulder for law school in 1971 and returned in 1973. The Sunset Ride ZEPHYR had broken up and Tommy’s band, ENERGY, had dissolved. We’d all gone through a pretty stressful time and when Harold called to redo the 4Nikators, we all jumped into it again. This time, Mick Manressa joined us on guitar and vocals, Otis Taylor came in on vocals, harmonica, and motorcycle (“Leader of The Pack”), guitarist Mac Ferris from The Leopold Fuchs Hate Band (The first recognized U.S. punk band), along with a parade of various horn players. We approached Art Yodis, owner of popular North Boulder night spot, Art’s Bar and Grill, for a job. His club was busy every night except Monday and he didn’t want to pay us the rather large amount of money we wanted on one of his already successful nights. Harold and I offered him a deal where we’d take the door and he’d take the bar and food; that way he didn’t risk anything new beyond what he was already laying out for his employees. He took a minute, but eventually he agreed to our terms.
We promoted the stuffing out of the show. We had hundreds of dayglow posters made up with “Skin To Win” prominently displayed next to our name and we put them on every vertical surface we could find in and around Boulder. We’d been very popular a couple of years earlier and when the Monday night of the show came around, there was a line around the building to get in. The parking lots were full. At our standard $1.99, we made over $2000 that night while the audience and the band had a grand time. During our breaks, a large percentage of the cars in the parking lots were rocking and swaying. The bar and restaurant made a lot of money that night and Art was a very happy man.
Art suggested that we do it again in two weeks. Again, the place was packed and he offered us a regular Monday night gig. We were having a fantastic time. All of the animosity from our breakup disappeared as we enjoyed playing music together again. Candy was singing great songs, “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes, Motown songs like “You Beat Me To The Punch” and “Stop In The Name of Love”, “Try A Little Tenderness”, Little Richard’s “Rip It Up”, “This Is Dedicated To The One I Love”, “He’s A Rebel”, and the aforementioned “Leader of The Pack” complete with large motorcycle on stage. Mick sang a lot of the Elvis tunes and I even got into the act singing “Help Me Rhonda” by the Beach Boys. We all sang backup and the harmonies were really sweet. By the time we got to the nightly twist contest, we and the crowd were ready for just about any kind of fun imaginable. We’d invite would be contestants to the stage to compete for a single prize, usually a car part, by dancing as radically as possible. We’d break into Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” and the dancers would go for it. The crowd would be chanting “skin to win, skin to win” and one by one, the shirts and pants would come off. When the under garments began to fly, that’s when the competition really became intense. We’d play until the dancers were bathed in sweat – shoot, everyone in the building was bathed in sweat – and then cut it off. I was the designated MC for the scoring part. I’d go from couple to couple, hold my hand over them and exhort the crowd to applaud for their favorites. Whichever couple got the biggest ovation got the car part. Yes, this was pure unadulterated fun for week after week all through that summer of ’73. The picture (below) shows Candy singing while Dave Brown, Tommy Bolin, and Mick Manressa are doing choreography behind her. We like to have themes for each of our shows, and this one was ‘Dress for Sports’ night. If you look closely, you’ll see that Tommy is wearing a baseball uniform and he has a baseball mitt hanging on his belt.
I was saddened when, half way through the summer, Tommy and I were setting up to play the gig and he told me he was going to be leaving to take Joe Walsh’s place in The James Gang. I looked at him with a quizzical look. Really, The James Gang? Tommy had never been a fan of The James Gang, in fact, he’d dogged them for being ‘commercial’ on a number of occasions, and I was a bit shocked. He explained that Barry had made him a deal that if he took the James Gang position for a year or so, he’d be able to make his own solo record. And, besides, Karen was getting tired of scuffling for money and she wanted him to go for rock stardom. When the rest of the band heard the news, we told him how we were going to miss him and Dave Brown, but do us proud and remember that he was always a legendary fornicator. We played great that night and said goodbye. Tommy was never quite the same guy after that, but we remained friends and often jammed and partied with him when he returned to Boulder from time to time for a visit.
Below Photos don't feature Tommy (except for ONE), but – oh, so worth the inclusion...