Music Notes and Entertainment Briefs, June 30, 2011 Edition
I Shall Be Released
About forty years after they broke up, legendary local band Devils Kitchen— Robbie Stokes and Brett Champlin on guitar and vocals, Bob Laughton on bass and vocals, and Steve Sweigart on drums— has finally released an official album.
The Devils Kitchen story is one of the more important chapters in the history of Carbondale music. The group formed in Carbondale as Om, then moved to San Francisco in 1968 and changed their name to Devils Kitchen. There they developed a following, played at legendary San Francisco venues the Fillmore West and Family Dog, and fell in with bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. (Stokes, in fact, later played on solo albums by Mickey Hart and Robert Hunter.) Mercury Records reportedly offered Devils Kitchen a record deal, but the band turned it down, and by May 1970 they had broken up.
The group recorded a studio demo that Stokes kept in his possession. One local musician who heard the tape called it spectacular, but unfortunately another local band using Stokes’s studio recorded over it. That was feared to be Devils Kitchen’s only surviving musical document.
In 2001, however, Stokes rediscovered a tape of Devils Kitchen performing “Mellow Pot Blues” in 1969 at the Family Dog, and released it on his compilation CD The Road so Far. The motherload followed in 2006. That’s when Wolfgang's Vault, a website devoted to bringing to the public live recordings made by legendary concert promoter Bill Graham, unearthed, digitized, and began streaming a March 1970 show by Devils Kitchen at the Family Dog. King Biscuit Records has since released a download of the show, available at <http://www.WolfgangsVault.com>. The company was interested in additional Devils Kitchen recordings made at Graham’s venues. A little archeology turned them up, and then some.
“Robbie and Steve both had about five or six tapes each laying around in their garage/attic/basements,” Champlin tells Nightlife. “We sent the tapes to the Vault and they were able to restore a few of them. One was the second concert that they now have available for download. Some of the rest they were unable to restore on their equipment, and others were studio recordings which they were not interested in.
“I sent a couple of those other tapes to a lab in Cincinnati that restored them for us, and about the same time, my oldest son told his band about the whole thing,” Champlin continues. “One of the guys' father was an avid collector of psychedelic-era music who had started producing LPs of rare recordings for the collectors’ markets, and when he heard that we had a bunch of tapes that had never been released, he contacted me and it sort of evolved from there. He only releases twelve-inch vinyl LPs for the collector market, and that's what we produced.”
The company, Lysergic Sound Distributors Records, has only released one-thousand copies of the eight-song, self-titled, limited-edition album, which contains a mix of live recordings and studio demos. “This is my kind of music, and I've been happy with the response we've gotten from the record,” says LSD Records owner Steve Purdy. “I think their music is great, and is my personal favorite from our LSD catalog.”
The band might release a CD version with bonus tracks sometime after November. Meanwhile, Devils Kitchen is attracting attention from as far away as Europe.
“The music has a great and unmistakable late-sixties acid-drenched west-coast guitar-driven blues-psych sound with snakey electric slide and roaring fuzz guitar throughout, provided by the talented Robbie Stokes,” states a review at <http://www.60sGarageBands.com>. “The discovery of these master tapes and this subsequent release of Devils Kitchen's first full-length album, more than forty years after the recordings were made, is an exciting find for the collectors of obscure sixties psychedelia. How a great band like this remained under the radar and unreleased for all these years is mystifying.”
“It is funny that forty years after we broke up we are getting so much interest,” Champlain says. “We have done interviews with French and German fanzines and there is an Italian rock historian who has helped us rebuild a gig listing from his research.”
Other releases are sure to follow Devils Kitchen, Champlain says. “I have two more tapes that have yet to be restored, and we hope to get enough material from those and some of the other as-yet-unreleased restored recordings to make a second CD, which I hope to have ready early next year,” he says.
Today Champlain teaches computer science at the University of Chicago but still plays guitar. Laughton plays in a Celtic band in California, Sweigart teaches music at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, and local legend Stokes plays in numerous local bands (including the Venturis, who play this Saturday, July 2 at Tres Hombres) and works as an audio technician. With all four members of the band still playing music, perhaps a reunion show isn’t too far behind.
Plaza Records will soon stock Devils Kitchen. Meanwhile, readers can find out more at <http://www.DevilsKitchenBand.com>...
Those who would like to preview Nighty Night’s new CD before heading to the Thursday, June 30 CD release party at the Hangar 9 can stream two songs on Nightlife’s web project at <http://www.CarbondaleRocks.com>.
Other local musicians who would like their music featured on the site need to write <firstname.lastname@example.org> for details...
SIU theater professor emeritus Alfreds Straumanis died of pneumonia on May 20 at age eighty-nine. He retired from SIU in 1991 and moved to Wisconsin, where he lived out his days. He is survived by his wife Biruta, among others.
To offer online condolences, visit <http://www.CashmanHillFuneralService.com>...
Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames featuring saxophone great Abb Locke will perform Sunday, July 3 at Walker's Bluff.
Weld was an early member of Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, playing rhythm guitar on the slide-guitar party classic Roughhousin' CD, and for a little while wildman Lil’ Ed disbanded the Blues Imperials to play in the Imperial Flames. Weld and Ed even recorded an excellent CD together, Keep on Walkin'.
Locke played in bands led by Earl Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Albert Collins, and Otis Rush. After high school in Memphis, Locke lived in Southern Illinois for a little while before heading to Chicago in 1962.
Weld, for his part, tells Nightlife that he has relatives in the Pomona area.
In 2010, Weld, Locke, and company (Jeff Taylor, Monica Garcia, and Dave Kaye) released Burnin’ Love on Delmark Records. Listen to tracks at <http://www.DaveWeld.com>...
Carbondale Community Arts is sponsoring Renditions, an exhibit by local artist DeSande R., which runs through July 5 in the Carbondale Civic Center Corridor Gallery. A closing reception takes place Friday, July 1 at 5 p.m.
The artist is influenced in large part by film, specifically the observance that any given moment in a movie— particularly actor closeups— is part of a portrait in motion.
Renditions includes paintings based on the Twilight films and books. “I chose to do three small squares of other scenes around the main portraits that I depicted,” she says in an artist statement. “Imagine it as a story board being created for the film.... We all have different perceptions of what we see. This is my rendition of a popular film that has taken teenagers and adults to a whole new level of romance and intrigue.”...