Friday, December 12, 2008

Savoy Brown, Curse Of The Blues PT. - 2

For those of you who read "Savoy Brown, Curse Of The Blues Pt. - 1", here is the second installment for your perusal!

If it wasn't for Arnie Goodman's quick thinking, I don't think that the Kim Simmonds Band would have rebounded so quickly! Losing Gary Bordonero was more than just losing a great bassist! We were losing a great performer and back up singer as well! It's no wonder The Rods fell apart after his departure from their group!

Here I was in Northern Virginia hanging with my old cronies and dabbling in things that I shouldn't be! I had left the area in 1983 and landed in New York in the hopes of moving up in the music world. Now, here I was back in Woodbridge, Va. 1985 with less money than before! It's funny how your friends are happy about you stepping up in life and they're so supportive but if you have a temporary set back and you are back among them they tend to become abusive about it. To the point where you have to say goodbye to them as friends forever.

I felt dreadful with the "What are you going to do for a closing act?" stigma attached to me!
Suddenly I got a call from Arnie Goodman telling me that he was working on getting a bass player for the band and that he had booked shows in Canada! This was great news on a gloomy December day! The news got even better when he told me that he was thinking of getting Chris Romanelli to fill the bass slot. Chris had been the bass player for Wendy O. Williams and The Plasmatics. They happened to be one of my favorite bands. I had seen Chris play with them on the "Coup d' Etat" tour.
He had a phenomenal sound and he also wrote their heaviest hit, "The Damned"!

Chris Romanelli had been the bassist on The Plasmatic's "Coup d' Eta" and I knew he would be a perfect addition to K.S.B. !

Kim Simmonds called me the following day to confirm the rehearsals and give me all the details.
He told me that he had fired our old road crew which consisted of ex-roadies and tour managers from Richie Blackmore's Rainbow. He replaced them with new people. He said in his thickest starchy British accent, "We'll Be working with Kerry Wittig"! Little did I know that he had hired the craziest rock and roll lunatic currently doing the circuit!

Kerry Wittig was the craziest rock & roller I had ever met! Years later he was notorious for wrecking Overkill's tour bus whereupon he was instantly fired!

Rehearsals were scheduled for early January and Jimmy Kunes and I were to return to Cortland, N.Y.. I remember driving up from Virginia through a blizzard that started in western Maryland and continued all the way to Scranton, Pa.. My 1973 Ford Ranger pick up truck finally gave up the ghost with a blown engine as I climbed the last hill before reaching town!

I managed to get towed in to Scranton and called up this Kerry Wittig guy and told him my problem. He said he would come right out to get me as he only lived an hour away!
Standing in a gas station and drinking gallons of coffee I watched a small banged up Japanese car pull into the parking lot and a crazed balding maniac got out which had to be Kerry! He turned out to be a real character and it looked like I finally had someone who would be on my side in the organization. He asked me to stay at his place for a couple of days while he arranged to sell my truck. He managed to find a buyer for it, blown engine and all who was willing to pay 3 times what I had paid for it in 1983!

Kerry was a drinking man and he took me to a bar with his old music buddies who also liked to drink! They were ordering rum and cokes and throwing the drinks, ice and all into each other's mouths from 2 feet away! Obviously they had done this kind of work before! It wasn't long till I myself became a semi-pro at this! I was carrying around this huge wad of money from selling my truck and I'm hammered! I told Kerry to go get us $600.00 worth of cocaine and he being the resourceful chap that he was, came back with the stuff in a flash! We went to his house and marveled at the fact that my whole pick up truck now fit perfectly on his glass coffee table! That night of substance abuse almost killed me! It ended a terrible trend in my life that was getting out of hand! Now it was time to get down to business and straighten myself up or lose my rock & roll dream! Needless to say, I never went to those extremes again and would never suggest to anyone to try cocaine or any other drug other than life itself!

Rehearsals started and Chris Romanelli worked out perfectly for the band! He gave a certain pizazz to our sound and he was a decent back up singer. Chris and I quickly became the best of friends! He had brought a closet full of Plasmatics stories with him that were outrageous.

Chis Romanelli became a great friend as his attitude was street level with all the brutally honest Brooklyn humor to go with it!

The day came for our mini-tour of Ontario. This was the first time I had ever been out of the U.S.! Our first gig was in Brampton and at sound check Kim had a hissy fit with the lighting guy and our soundman/ tour manager Kerry Wittig. Kim was not happy with the production elements that were going on and suddenly stopped the sound check! You could hear a pin drop it was so silent! Kim then pontificated from his lordly pulpit, "I want to be seen and I want to be heard!" then silence again. It was all we could do to keep from bursting out laughing. To this day, that phrase has been ingrained in the minds of all of us that were present and to those we told about it later! It's still one of the greatest megalomaniac moments in rock & roll history! I even thought about writing a rock opera around it!
All the shows in Canada went down well and the Brampton show was videoed and is still featured on YouTube!
Kim Simmonds: "I want to be seen and I want to be heard!"

Chris and I got in a little bit of trouble after the Kitchener show when we brought back two blond beauties to our room! Suddenly the door to our room flew open and this "crazy" with a knife and a plaid lumberjack shirt claimed that he was with the girls and he now wanted them back! They told him to get lost and then he just got crazier! Chris and I managed to kick his podunk ass out the door and lock it! We kept hearing him cursing his head off outside and then the cops grabbed him! Good work R.C.M.P.!

These 2 lovely girls from Kitchener , Ontario proved to be pretty poison when their lumberjack friend threatened us with a knife if they didn't leave with him!

When we got back to New York we played the Sundance in Long Island with White Lion opening up for us! As you know from an earlier entry I had been White Lion's original drummer for about 2 weeks and was canned by their management. At the Sundance gig I was setting up my drums and White Lion's guitarist Vito Bratta was sitting there nagging me about my drums not being polished. "Hey, why don't you clean those things, they look disgustingly dirty!"I thought he was joking but then Mike Tramp chimed in with the same crap and told me that I should know better and I said to them, "Your the guys opening for me, not the reverse"! Then it was just cat calls from there on. To this day I don't know what that was all about because I always took Mike Tramp for being a nice guy!

The beauty of it all was that their bass rig later went down with a blown transformer and they demanded that we lend them our bass amp but after all there childish animosity towards me they got paid back with a big "NO SIR"and had to finish their set with both bass and guitar going through Vito's rig! The reviews in the Long Island Ear also said that we walked all over them musically, professionally and that we were light years above them! That was sort of sweet revenge for me after being rejected by them 2 years earlier! Of course we all know that they later became the darlings of MTV with their 2 forgettable hits and then fizzled out like the rest of those kind of bands!

The Kim Simmonds Band never seemed to be hurting for work and finally it was time to put on a showcase for the major labels so that we could reach the next level! Enter Ira Sherman! He had helped out many signed and unsigned bands in his career. He was to help us with our overall presentation stage show, etc. ! He did a wonderful job in finding our strengths and weaknesses many of which we weren't aware of. This also meant that we would have to record 2 new songs to round out our already recorded 5 song demo. We hired Raven's drummer Rob "Wacko" Hunter to produce as he had learned a few tricks from the legendary Eddy Kramer in his sessions with Raven. We recorded the Def Leppard like "Angelina" and the kick ass Detroit blues rocker "She's So Good".

The Kim Simmonds Band with Arnie Goodman , The late Ira Sherman and his wife, far right!

Ira spared no expense and got us the finest photographers and built a nice bio on us and got a decent buzz happening with record companies! L-R Chris Romanelli, DuckMacDonald,Jimmy Kunes, Kim Simmonds and Joe Hasselvander

While we were preparing for our showcase we had all planned a birthday party for Kim at the Rock & Roll Hotel where now Chris lived also with Jimmy Kunes and I. It was Kim's big "40" and we were inviting the whole town! The Party came with all the trimmings including a cake made to look like 2 large female breasts! The rest of the guys from Raven had also come home from their "Stay Hard" tour and were also presentfor the festivities! It was a lot of good fun and mischief rolled in to one! Kim had been getting a little nervous about the upcoming showcase and this would help get his mind off of it at least for a night!

Kim's 40th complete with boob cake!

Jimmy Kunes asks Kim if he likes his booby cake!

Jimmy tries force feeding!

Meanwhile, Joe hasselvander and Chris Romanelli go for the real boobs!

Arnie Goodman booked SIR Studios in Manhattan for the showcase. We had booked the big room where Kiss and others used to rehearse. It had lights and P.A. with a stage comparable to any large venue. This was the best possible forum for a major label to view a band in New York. Kim was starting to feel the pressure and was becoming irritable in the anticipation of the showcase. So, I traveled by myself to the city without the rest of the band so I could get away from all that and keep a cool head for the show.

SIR studios in N.Y. supply the greatest showcase environment in town for musicians!

I was sitting in the lobby of SIR waiting for the rest of the band to arrive and I suddenly heard this music start up in one of the rooms with this high pitched squealing voice that was surreal. Then I kind of dozed off sitting there when I heard female footsteps sort of shuffling my way and then a soft and gentle voice asking "Are you OK?" I looked up and it was Yoko Ono!
It was her voice I had heard earlier coming from the room adjacent to the lobby. I told her that I was fine and that I was showcasing later and that I wished her good luck on her upcoming shows.
She wished me the same and I thought "Only in New York"!

The showcase was difficult as Duck broke a string on the first song and had no spare guitar! He had to string it up behind his amp as we played on and Kim seemed out of it and beaten! This was dually noted by CBS and the other 4 or 5 labels present! Needless to say we didn't get a deal! We were all pretty bummed! So much had been put in to this one night and now it was a bust! The only upside to the whole evening was the arrival of our guests, Dickie Peterson of Blue Cheer and T.C Tolliver of The Plasmatics. They loved the show but they weren't the perfection seeking business men that we needed to sign a deal with.

After we licked our wounds on that one we continued our usual gigs in the mid-west. Chris and I kept getting into girl trouble as usual until one day Chris told me he was offered an audition for W.A.S.P. and that he was flying out to L.A. after our upcoming gigs in Pennsylvania. Chris finished up our last shows and departed with freshly dyed black hair! He returned a week later without the job with W.A.S.P.. Evidently back at his hotel in L.A. he slept through an important meeting he was to have with Blacky Lawless after his audition that would seal the deal. As everyone knows Johnny Rod from King Cobra got the job.

Photo's taken with Chris right before his last performance with K.S.B. with Arnie Goodman taking the brundt as usual!

This era of the band had the best shot at the big time but something was always working against us!

Kim wasn't about to take Chris back in to the band and I guess I couldn't blame him. The rest of us were really going to miss him though because he was a real fun loving guy and a great musician!

The winter snows of the north east finally thawed and Jimmy and I had relocated to Elmira, N.Y. from Cortland and were now ready to play! We were back in business with an untried bass player named Danny who actually was a guitar player. It was June and we were going to play Sun Fest again in Ford City, Pa.. We had played it in 1985 with Mark Farner and now we were headlining this year's outdoor event! We played a couple of shows beforehand in the area and they weren't the best as the bassist could not remember his parts and it was too late to do anything about it. Our motto was always "The show must go on!"

The night before the festival we played a bar in Pennsylvania that you could have only found with a G.P.S.! Kerry and I tied on a whopper of a drink fest after the show and I went back to the hotel depressed about the band's future and mine as well! How could this have happened to us? We were now officially floundering! I woke the next morning and all of the furniture, TV, and drapes were now stuffed in the bathroom! Kerry informed me that I went on a Keith Moon style rampage and did a little remodeling in my 80 proof euphoria. For the first time I became scary to myself! I was banged up and hungover and so was the rest of the band. Apparently they were all drowning their sorrows the night before! We really should have called it a day but we felt if Kim was still in, then so were we!

We loaded our gear and got ready to go when a married couple affiliated with the show from the night before came to get us and have us follow them over to Ford City. The man was talking to us and we told him that we were a little bit worse for wear. He whipped out some truck driver speed that he claimed were caffeine pills with vitamins in them and that they worked wonders for hangovers. Duck,Jimmy, Kerry and I each took 2 tablets and we were on our way! We just didn't know to what!
I noticed an hour on into our journey that Jimmy was acting a little funny as was Duck. I felt a little strange myself but paid it no mind as I had a job to do later in the afternoon.

We arrived at Sun Fest and it was filled with 4000 people! This was going to be a fun gig!
Everything that happened up until we hit the stage is a blur! We started into our set and I noticed that Duck was throwing a lot of Jimi Hendrix shapes as he played guitar in a highly unusual manner! Jimmy was also ramping up his act from his norm and cracking strange jokes with the audience between songs then for a crescendo we all started wrecking our gear! Duck was humping his stratocaster on the stage while Jimmy was kicking monitors off the front and I was on top of my drums throwing cymbals and sticks and snares all over the stage!
Out in front Kerry had pegged the huge concert PA system to it's maximum volume and turned every piece of outboard effects on to full so that the band sounded more like a fleet of F-16s taking off with their after burners on, than a band! It suddenly occurred to all of us after the gig that these caffeine pills we had taken earlier were indeed high grade LSD! Kim came in to the dressing room and said "I never realized what great performers I had in my band!" We didn't dare tell him what had really happened!

When we got back to Elmira Jimmy and I were discussing leaving the band as it was now taking it's toll on our health and our wallets. Kim hired a new bassist named Jeff Howle who played really great but the rest of us told him after his successful audition that the band was not long for this earth! He understood but wanted to play the remaining gigs with us anyway.

So, we played again at L'Amour opening for Blue Oyster Cult except this time Vicky our friend who had let us stay at her house , arranged it so that Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley would come to our show that night! They were curious about the band and knew Kim from their old days at Winterland. We put their names on the guest list but when the bouncers of the club informed them both that they didn't do guest lists Gene became irate! So, Paul and Gene headed back home and Vicky received a call in the middle of the night from Paul asking "What the hell happened?" She told him what had probably happened and he understood and said he was not bothered but that Gene was acting like an old man about it. I couldn't believe that anyone would be moronic enough to turn away Kiss from their club!

Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were turned away by bouncers at our concert in Brooklyn even though they had been put on our guest list!

The curse of the blues got us again, and again we had to pick up the pieces! Duck found out that Kim was already moonlighting with another band and calling it Savoy Brown, They were more of a blues band like Savoy's early albums. We confronted him with it and he admitted it saying that he wasn't making enough money with our band at this time. He also said that he would play any gigs that we got but that business had slowed in heavy rock. His new Savoy Brown could play any blues club any time!
We booked 2 more gigs with Kim, one in Bath N.Y. and the other in Ithaca. John Gallagher from Raven came out to the Bath show on his first date with his girl Melanie who is now his wife. John had always liked me and I him because we were both rabid Budgie fans and we also loved the classic Groundhogs album "Split"! I thought it was great that he would finally get to see me play!

I aired my disappointments in the way things had gone to Kim and Duck in the dressing room of the club and I was a little rough on them! It was just misplaced anger at a situation that I had no control over and should have put a stop to months before. It was such a shame to see a fantastic band go down the tubes!

The band hit the stage and we kicked major ass! I think this was the very moment that John Gallagher started considering me for the drummer slot in Raven as they were having their own problems with Rob "Wacko" Hunter at that time. My distant horizon looked a lot better than I knew! I would just have to wait a few months!

Kim eventually moved to Elmira and started writing a column in the local paper once a week. He went on to write that he had heard my solo album "Lady-Killer" and was surprised to find out that I was in fact a good guitarist as well as a drummer and that indeed everyone involved in his band in the last 2 years were phenomenal musicians and that he was proud to have played with all of us! I realized then that Kim was down deep a very nice guy but was trying to survive in a hard business and keep a roof over his head. I believe that some of his tough guy veneer had cracked off and he was finally finding some peace within himself!

It became official! The resignation came from Kim and not us! We would finish up by playing 2 more shows. the already booked Ithaca show was to be the first and then we would end it all at Corning Community College. The night came and we played our best show for all of our local friends who had helped out over the years at Captain Joe's in Ithaca! It was kind of a sad going away bash but our friends and fans let us know how much we had meant to them. The next day we had a farewell party for the band at Cary Whittig's house which Kim did not attend as he probably didn't see any point in it.

The final shows for K.S.B. were hard charging and spontaneous as if down deep we didn't want it to end!

Some photos from Kerry Wittig's party that was meant to be a goodbye to The Kim Simmonds Band! Kim didn't attend

New bass player, Jeff Howle and Danny who had sat in for 2 gigs as bassist ,comparing notes on the imploding star of The Kim Simmonds Band at Carey's farewell party!

The last gig was a great show playing for college kids at Corning. It was not for drunken losers in a bar but concert going kids who loved music which is the way it should have been all along. I pulled my car up after loading my drums and saw the band all standing there and said jokingly "I hope I never see your ugly mugs again!" Duck laughed, Jimmy looked confused and Kim looked blank. Then I drove off and away from yet another chapter of rock & roll madness! You can bet it wasn't long before I jumped into another one!

My biggest regrets about the Kim Simmonds Band were all the fantastic studio and live recordings we had made that may or may not ever be heard by the public! One day I hope to release the live tracks before interest in rock & roll finally dies.The band I had joined with Kim and the rest of the guys was a learning experience to say the least! We played some great shows together and it taught me a lot about putting the effort into the making of a rock & roll show all the while kicking ass and taking names! Kim's guitar playing was fiery and authoritative and Duck's was solid and steadfast! Jimmy's singing was out of orbit and all 3 bass players were magnificent! I can only hope that my efforts were equally appreciated!

The lessons learned were basic! I hung up partying as it was a road to nowhere! I immediately assert myself if something seems wrong or unfair in a band situation and I will never be someone's side man again!

Thank you for taking the time to read about my exploits and the curse of the blues!
Joe Hasselvander


Woody said...

Wow, I had no idea so many great players passed through the Kim Simmons band.

I love the photo of HELP written in blow. The phone off the hook is a nice touch, too.

Janne Stark said...

That was a really cool read! I didn't know Jimmy Kunes was in KSB! Great singer indeed!

Anonymous said...

you were one hot dood. but how did you keep your pants from ripping at the penis?

Ralph said...

As I'm responsible for the giglists on the Hot Rails BOC site [], I'd like to add the KSB to the line-up for the L'amour show you mentioned.

I know BOC played that venue on these dates:

14 Dec 1984
29 Jun 1985
08 Nov 1985
02 Aug 1986

Which gig did The KSB play on? And I also saw mention of a Jaxx gig (Electric Warrior) - was that 1996?