Sunday, November 09, 2008


In 1966, the Byrds and the Monkees nearly had some competition from a band named for a curmudgeon who died on Christmas Day, twenty years earlier.
But did the group's lead singer sound anything like W.C. Fields?
Well, no. He sounded more like any guy fronting a Strawberry Watch Band Love-In Groove band of the day...
The band released a single "Hippy Elevator Operator" b/w "Don't Lose the Girl" on HBR...which was the music wing of the less-than-hip Hanna-Barbera TV cartoon factory. DJ's may not have taken too seriously anyone associated with Yogi Bear and Quick Draw McGraw, but the group did have rock creds. The main members of the group were George Caldwell and Robert Zinner (who co-wrote "Hippy Elevator Operator"). They had previously been in a Redondo Beach area band called The Bees, a band that showed some Rolling Stones influence and covered Dylan once in a while. They played fairly regularly in Southern California but only recorded a few tracks. Then came a name change. According to Caldwell, "One night I was lying on the couch watching TV and the name just came to me on a piece of flaming lemon meringue pie. I saw the words on the screen being typed on a piece of paper - "W.C. Fields today" - and so I renamed the band the next day."
The band also issued one single for Mercury the same year. They were the first to record "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone," but it was The Monkees who brought it into the Top 10...while the Fields band disappeared into the haze. They are still fondly remembered, and/or flash-backed, by fans of garage-psych, and sometimes a comedy fan will raise an eyebrow and ponder one of their 45's, and wonder if it's worth buying for $10 or $20 because the band members might be somehow doing an imitation of Uncle Bill. No, no matter how much Sheepdip you consume, you won't be able to hear anything to remotely remind you of The Great Man.
But for mid-60's spaced-out grunge, these guys deserve to be more than stepping stones to The Monkees.


Lyn said...
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Anonymous said...

As an innocent 14 ur old I knew & loved these guys. I remember visiting the guys at George's apt By Franklin. I remember this as a fun time. To' George, Bob & John thanks for the great memorie. Marcy