ROY LONEY (By Tapio Väisänen)
Born 13 April 1946, San Francisco, California, USA.
Flamin' Groovies were recently voted by the pop music critics of the San Francisco Chronicle to the number four slot in that daily newspaper's list of The Top 100: Bay Area's All-Time Best Bands. They were nosed out only by Sly and The Family Stone, Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Grateful Dead.
I was in San Francisco in February and there was The Dead reunion, but I was much more interested in going to Jack's Record Cellar in the lower Haight. Up a block on Page and Scott is Jack's Record Cellar, a shop that is a must for 78rpm collectors - there are thousands and thousands of them. Only open WED-SUN. The manager behind the counter is none other than Roy Loney, former lead singer of San Francisco's own Flamin' Groovies.
Miriam Linna once opined that the Roy Loney-era lineup of the Flamin' Groovies suggested what the Rolling Stones would have sounded like if they'd sworn their allegiance to the sound and style of Sun Records instead of Chess Records. That's very easy to believe, Roy once said in an interview: "You know, everybody's accused me all throughout my career of being a Rockabilly guy, basically. (laughs) It's my main influence, I guess it's sort of there, Rockabilly and basic Rock'n'Roll... Back then, I was sort of an outsider with my Rockabilly thing. Except for Elvis, nobody listened to that kind of stuff. I was the guy who had the little Carl Perkins 45s and Eddie Cochran 45s, and everyone went, `Wow! What's that?' It's amazing to me now how easy it is for the kids to just pick up the entire recorded history of Eddie Cochran on two CDs or something. Back then, you'd collect them a single at a time, and they were hard to find! It was great, I just collected everything I could get my hands on. I was picking up a lot of great things on labels like Sun and Ace. A friend of mine would go down there to the warehouses (in Memphis), pick `em up, and I'd buy `em here in the city by the dozen or so, or a box, whatever."
The Groovies story began in San Francisco in the early 1960's with a group called the Kingsmen. Unlike their Pacific Northwest namesakes, this trio - Roy Loney, Tim Lynch, and Jeff Young - couldn't play "Louie Louie" to save their lives, but they did okay with the hits of the Kingston Trio, Peter Paul & Mary, and Bob Dylan. Loney was a natural as a lead singer, a musician since childhood with acting experience as well, and a desperate need for an audience to perform to. Soon after the band's name was changed to The Chosen Few and then to Flamin' Groovies. The band was led by Roy Loney from 1965 until he split in 1971 and thereafter by Cyril Jordan until the band's demise in 1987.
By 1967, San Francisco had evolved from a West Coast folk mecca into the drug-and-music capital of the world, a giant chemical laboratory in which bands mixed blues and folk songs with hallucinogens, turned up the amperage, and played what came out. Amid this noodle-rock, the Groovies were upstarts, or at least throwbacks. Their sound was pure jug band rock & roll and their Chuck Berry covers were entirely out of step with the burgeoning love crowd.
After one self-released 10-inch LP "Sneakers" they were had their major-label debut with Epic who released "Supersnazz" in 1969. Loney had put down his guitar and concentrated on singing. To this day, it's a mystery as to exactly what Epic had in mind for the Groovies. The band was flown to Los Angeles, quartered in a Beverly Hills mansion, and sent into the recording studio with a first time producer named Stephen Goldman. "We spent a long time getting that record out," Loney recalled in an interview. "We had unlimited studio time and a producer who really wanted perfection".
It took ten weeks to record Supersnazz, at an estimated cost of $80,000. The result was a wholly unique record, not quite the formal debut the Groovies might have wanted, but unlike any other record to appear on a major label in 1969. Supersnazz, made up of traditional rock numbers like "The Girl Can't Help It" and a handful of originals by Jordan and Loney, had elements of roots rock at its best at a time when most rock had lost touch with its roots.
But where it worked.. on "Rockin' Pneumonia and Boogie Woogie Flu," "Something Else" "Love Have Mercy," and "Laurie Did It" Supersnazz was a little bit of rock music history, and a little rock & roll voice in the wilderness of acid rock, blues rock, progressive rock and arena rock. "Rockin' Pneumonia" was released as a single (mislabeled as "Boggie Woggie Flu") at the end of 1969, and actually managed to make it onto radio playlists in New York and San Francisco.
Two singles were released, both with rockin' covers on the A sides and originals on the Bs. "Rockin' Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu"/"The First One's Free" went top 40 in San Francisco. "Something Else"/"Laurie Did It" followed.
By early 1970, a new record label, Buddah, was looking at the band. In the early spring they were back in the studio busily working on what eventually became the Flamingo album. By early 1971 they'd moved to New York and recorded their second Buddah album Teenage Head, considered by many fans to be the band's greatest LP. "Teenage Head"/"Evil Hearted Ada" was a non-selling single, but somehow "Evil Hearted Ada" found it's way to Wales and Shakin' Stevens & The Sunsets did a great cover version of the song. "Evil Hearted Ada" has a riff borrowed directly off 'Mystery Train', and low-pitched growling vocals so heavily drenched in echo and reverb. Loney goes so over the top with his 'ah-ha-ha-hoo-hoo' crooning.
Around the time of Teenage Head, The Groovies were going to play with Gene Vincent. "We met Gene. He was on Buddah at the time. He had decided that he wasn't going to do rock'n'roll anymore, he was a country act." Note: While Gene's two unjustly maligned Buddah LPs leaned towards a country sound, he never really made the transition to country as Jerry Lee Lewis had. "Buddah flew us all down to L.A. for this big party for Sha Na Na at The Whisky, and that's where we met Gene. He was a very sad man, a very broken man. Very nice, very sweet, but he just seemed kind of sad. He'd bloated up pretty big by that time. We said, `We're on the same label, let's do a record.' I think the company was into it, it was just a matter of talking Gene into doing some rock'n'roll, and it just never happened.
In the fall of 1971, Because of growing differences with Jordan, Loney left the band, and was replaced by Loose Gravel guitarist Chris Wilson. It was kind of a combination of Cyril kinda wanting to run the band, and Roy being kinda fed up. The Loney-less Groovies gradually shifted toward a pop-oriented course, Roy Loney worked as an A+R man at ABC Records for four years. He helped promote The Ramones (a band he loves), The Dwight Twilley Band and Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers when the label briefly distributed Sire and Shelter.
Roy got married and moved to Marin, kinda lived a real normal life, but it wasn't to be! Roy couldn't hang on anymore, so eventually he cut this little ep called "Artistic as Hell" with the Groovies backing him up on it. The EP was dedicated to Jackie Morningstar who cut the original version of "Rockin' In The Graveyard". Roy wanted to do some live shows too, so he put the Phantom Movers together and signed with Solid Smoke.
"Out After Dark" fully captured the spirit and style of the singer's former group and was the subject of critical acclaim. The Phantom Movers played Hurrah's in New York City to promote the first LP and Loney was interviewed for Kicks #2, published by Miriam Linna and Billy Miller in Brooklyn. Despite innumerable changes in personnel, Loney continued to pursue his unique blend of '50s rock `n' roll and tongue-in-cheek humour through successive, often excellent albums and a powerful stage show. The singer disbanded his backing group in 1981.
Since the breakup of the Phantom Movers, Roy (with various musicians) recorded the albums Fast And Loose (83) and Roy Loney Live (84) for the French Lolita label, Scientific Bombs Away (Norton, 89), and the Roy Loney And The A-Bones - Boy Meets Bones E.P. (Norton, 93), with Miriam (who had once been in The Cramps) on drums. In '94 Loney recruited three members of the Seattle band Young Fresh Fellows and they became The Longshots, recording the albums Full Grown Head (Shake) and Action Shots (Marilyn). The latest release byt Roy Loney and The Longshots is "Record Party" EP, which contains a great version of Simon Scott's "Move It, Baby". Simon had two US releases on Imperial 64/65, so maybe Roy heard this UK mini-classic back in the 60s.
Nowadays Loney also plays out occasionally with his band the Fondellas, which includes former Groovies Danny Mihm (drums) and James Ferrall (who replaced Tim Lynch on guitar) and is, as Loney puts it, "pretty much the only Groovies band out there now. Roy has a new solo album on the way but he's currently searching for label.
If you're visiting San Francisco, give Roy Loney a visit. Wade & Roy are real nice guys and they really know their stuff, so don't miss the opportunity to find great records and talk with knowledgeable guys.
Jack's Record Cellar 254 Scott Street (at Page; Hayes Valley) San Francisco CA 94117 phone: (415) 431-3047
Here is a photo of Your's truly with Roy @ Jack's Record Cellar http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Shakin_All_Over/files/roytapio.jpg
Roy Loney Discography -------------------------------------------------------------------- Flamin Groovies #1 (1966-1971) Sneakers Supersnazz Flamingo Teenage Head.
Flamin Groovies #2 (1971) Bucketfull of Brains In Person
Roy Loney 1977 Artistic as Hell (EP) A-F Records K.O. 226 (w/Flamin' Groovies) 1983 Fast and Loose (LP) Double Dare Productions DD-701 / Lolita 5017 1984 Live Lolita 5018
Roy Loney and The Phantom Movers 1979 Out After Dark (LP) Solid Smoke 9001 1979 Return To Sender/Neat Petite (12") Solid Smoke 1980 Phantom Tracks (LP) Solid Smoke 9002 1980 Hanky Panky/With A Girl Like You (12") Solid Smoke 1981 Contents Under Pressure (LP) War Bride 9003 1981 VA: Rising Stars Of San Francisco (LP) War Bride 9005 - Different Kind 1982 Rock'n'Roll Dance Party (LP) War Bride 9006/Rockhouse LPL 8203 1982 Lana Lee/Magdalena/Goodnight Alcatraz (45) Rockhouse 1983 Fast & Loose (LP) 1983 Beware Of The Ghoul/Down The Road Apiece (45) Lolita 1989 The Scientific Bombs Away!! (LP) Norton 209 1991 Five or Six by Five Live (EP) Norton EP-010 1992 Groin Thunder: Trogg Noize from Around the World Roy Loney & The Phantom Movers: With A Girl Like You
Roy Loney and the A-Bombs 1993 Boy Meets Bombs Norton EP-019
Roy Loney and the Longshots 1993 Action Shots! (LP) Marilyn USMLP 1024 1994 Full Grown Head (LP) Shake/Cargo SAL-210 1994 VA: The Beat Goes On...Shake The Record Label - Long Shots Theme/Get Off The Phone 1994 Hodge! Podge! Barrage! From Japan!! Volume 2: Trash Compilation Teeny Weeny Man 1995 Kick Out The Hammmmons (CD) Imposible Records IMP 037 1996 Turban Renewal: A Tribute To Sam The Sham Norton ED-234 Roy Loney & The Young Fresh Fellows: I Couldn't Spell !!*@! 1998 Record Party - Rock & Roll Inc. Records R&R-INC 714
Recommended listening: ---------------------- Love Have Mercy Laurie Did It Evil Hearted Ada Rockin' In The Graveyard Bip Bop Boom Jump Into The River Slip, Slide and Stomp Lana Lee Doctor Boogie Goodnight Alcatraz Move It Baby Who'll Be The Next In Line Recommended websites: ---------------------- http://www.i94bar.com/ints/loney.html http://www.webcom.com/~smholt/groovies/ http://www.sundazed.com/scene/exclusives/groovies_interview.html http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FlaminGroovies/ http://groups.yahoo.com/group/royloneyappreciationsociety/
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