Forrest Rew "Bud" Mathis 1927 - 2009
I'm sad to report that Bud Mathis passed away in 2009, you may be familiar with his name from the Bud Mathis' Sunset Trip compilation CD of material that he had written, recorded and produced. Amongst his many claims to fame most relevant was his role as manager of the Brain Train, he was responsible for getting them signed to Elektra records, where they subsequently found fame as Clear Light. He then went on to manage the Joint Effort. Amongst his many song writing credits he co-wrote Me with Doug Lubahn for the Brain Train and the Third Eye with the Joint Effort and Brenton Wood recorded a version of Bud's Running Wild. Prior to his involvement with the music industry he had boxed under the name of Babyface Mathis and was Arizona lightweight champion from 1951 to 1954. More recently had been working as an actor on TV and films, appearing in Pirates of the Caribbean and several music videos for atist such as Eminem and Gwen Steffani. He ran several clubs around Hollywood in the late sixties and was a well known figure in hip circles, despite being in his early 40s at that time. In between he managed to marry three times and father five children. His self published memoirs, "Confessions of a Robot" are a fascinating insight into a lost America of the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s and are well worth seeking out. Bud had been battling mouth cancer for many years, caused by material used for gum shields back in his boxing days, but was always happy to talk about the old days and his spiritual beliefs as a devotee of Sant Mat. Over the past few years he had become a good friend and I enjoyed our long phone conversations, but I know he was prepared for the next spin of the wheel and had no fear of what the future held for him. He always finished his converations and correspondence with the phrase "Straight Ahead!" and I like to think that is the direction he has now taken. Goodbye Bud.
BUD MATHIS by Doug Lubahn
There are two people in this music business that changed my life in the biggest way possible. Mama Cass and Bud Mathis. Mama for finding me in Aspen, CO sitting in on bass in local bars and spiriting me away to LA. And Bud! For believing in my abilities and being there every step of the way in my early 'music biz' years in Los Angeles. There was no mountain too high for this small powerhouse of a man. A very quiet voiced man. With huge vision. He was my personal angel, and I would not have accomplished what I have done without him. From the moment I met him in 1966 my life changed. I was living on the street on Sunset Strip, sleeping in the bushes. Another street waif like myself offered to share a basement in an apartment building on Fountain Avenue. Said that the 'building manager' was a cool guy and wouldn't mind. That cool guy was Bud Mathis. Bud took a little 'gettin' used to'. A gruff exterior hiding one of the biggest hearts in the world. After listening to me on his porch for so many days and nights playing bass lines on his acoustic guitar, he actually went and bought me a bass and amplifier. His words when he gave them to me were simple: "This is a gift to you from me. You should be playing bass." The memory of that moment: him standing near his couch...with the bass leaning up against it...is a precious picture that will never fade. I can still feel the happiness in his eyes. (wow. a little waterworks here....sorry.) Bud and I wrote some of my first songs together. Bud became the manager of the band Clear Light that I joined. He got us into the Sunset Strip clubs for the exposure we needed. He put us in the studio at his expense. He was the single driving force that got us the ear of Elektra Records. In a time when 'new groups' were a dime a dozen, there was no stopping Bud when he decided to do something! And always with integrity and honesty. For the joy of the music. Sometimes it is hard to put things into words: this is one of those moments for me.
Excerpts from Confessions of a Robot
Bud Mathis has had a long and varied career that's taken him from professional boxer, where he attained the Arizona Lightweight Champion title, to sergeant in the US army during World War Two and onto a career in showbiz as a songwriter, performer and rock group manager. He is still active as an actor, appearing in such films as Travelling to Zigzig Land, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, the Dukes of Hazard and the Pirates of The Caribbean sequel. He has also made appearances in music videos for artists such as Eminem and Gwen Steffani. Along the way he even found time to get married three times and father six children. Here we present exclusive extracts from his private memoirs, telling the story from Bud's point of view, which may be in contrast to how others involved with Clear Light remember those events.
The first band I found didn't have a name. They hadn't been together long. They consisted of five guys and a girl. I heard about them from a songwriter, Wolfgang Dios, from Switzerland. I had signed one of his songs , Black Roses, into my new music publishing company I had recently started, Little Giant Music Pub. Co. You may think from the name I chose I had big ideas for the company. You're right. Why not ? What did I have to lose ? How about time, energy, money. peace of mind, sleep. But, that's another story. It will be a part of the overall story of my romp through the world of rock and roll. Wolfie and I drove down to a beach town, south of Hollywood where the band lived, to meet them. And have them audition for me. The understanding was that if I liked them I would take them into a studio and record them on a couple of songs . Then, I would attempt to get the group signed to a label.
What I saw were some guys with the totalled-out sixties look, plus a young female with the same look. Hippies was the term generally applied to young people who looked like them. They wore the look like a badge of honor. The prerequisite identifying factors being, long hair on the guys, and no lipstick, or other makeup on the girls, and of course, no bra. Also, colorful clothes on both. No torn jeans on the sixties hippies. They liked flash. They played a few songs for me and I was impressed. Not that I thought I knew anything about the competence of musicians. Or singers. I didn't. Nor did it matter. All I cared about was did I like what I heard ? I figured I represented the non-musician public. I liked what I heard that night.
I told the group I'd be in touch and Wolfie and I returned to Hollywood. I told him I'd find a studio and book time. He promised to make sure the band rehearsed the song, Black Roses. At that time I had co-written a song , entitled 'Me' with a bass player/songwriter/ singer I had rented a room to. In the basement of the apartment building I was managing, in West Hollywood at 1234 North Formosa St. I decided if I was going to invest money in a recording for this band, they could do one my songs, too. So, I brought the band up from the beach to my apartment. I introduced them to the bass player, co-author of the song, and had him sing it for them.
They not only liked the song, they liked the singer. They invited him to join the group. He accepted. Without even hearing them play or sing. These were desperate times for unknown, unsigned musicians, who were watching the world of rock and roll explode. They wanted in. It was cold being on the outside watching all those new groups on all those new TV shows. And hearing all those stories about all that front money being paid by labels to unknown bands they were signing. This bass player needed a band. The band needed a record deal, another singer, and a bass player. Whammo. Done deal.
GETTING MY FEET WET
We were all positioned to join forces to take our shot. I agreed to take the band into a studio and record the two songs, Black Roses and Me. Of course, what with me being the publisher-producer it was up to me to come up with the bucks. Which I did. Karma was coming down heavy. My oldest son, Mark, joined with me to finance the recording session, which we did at Elektro Vox Studio on Melrose in Hollywood. At that time it was a three or four track state of the art place. That was more tracks than any studio I had produced any of my demos in. I'd had a demo done at Gold Star Studios, engineered by Stan Ross, a very well known and respected engineer-producer of the late fifties and early sixties. They were 8 track at the time. But, I wasn't paying for it. Calaban Music was. They were publishers who had signed my first pop song, Thirteen. When the band learned I was willing to spend some money on them they came up with the idea I should represent them. Like maybe become their manager. I really wasn't too sure that was a good idea. I didn't know anything about managing a band. Not to worry. THEY would teach me everything I needed to know. They weren't kidding. They started right in giving me the scoop on what to ask for from a label. Suffice it to say I succumbed to their persistence and agreed to take on the task of steering their career. On a handshake. Contracts could come later. My first mistake. My education about the wild and woolly ways of the Sixties Generation, and rock and roll was about to begin. It turned out to be full of surprises.
ON THE JOB TRAINING
So, into the studio we went. We were a crowd. There was Bob Seal, lead guitar and lead vocal, Robbie Robison, rhythm guitar and vocal, Doug Lubahn, bass guitar and vocal, Dallas Taylor, drums, Michael Ney, Drums, (that's right, two drummers). Plus Mark, my son, and John Marascalco, a friend. I had invited him as a guest. He was a songwriter, publisher, and producer and he had lots of experience in studios. He was way ahead of me in the ways of the record racket. He had written a couple of songs that had made him a bunch of bucks. Good Golly Miss Molly and Rip It Up, recorded by Little Richard. Elvis also did a couple of his songs, years before I came to Hollywood. I felt good that John had agreed to come baby-sit me in my first ever recording session with me producing a group. Mark was my co-producer, having put up some money to help finance the session. I remember wondering if he would become infected with the same bug that I had, and want to get into the record racket, as a producer, too. He didn't. Lucky him. He was probably saved from a lot of aggravation. The recording session was a great experience for me. I already knew, from all the demos I had done of my songs how easy it was to waste a lot of time and money, if the group wasn't rehearsed and ready. Fortunately, this group had come prepared. They were great.
Bob Seal was right on the money with his passionate rendition of both songs. He tore the walls down on the guitar solo. He was sealing the deal with his signature vocals. Nobody could have done it better. I remember thinking a record deal was in the bag. Dallas Taylor was the touch of perfection in keeping the beat and powerful drum accents and fills. Michael Ney, the other drummer was right along side him, adding to the power. Everybody else was fired to their peak performance by these three and they all did great. Both songs came out with the sound and feel of the times. I was real pleased.
Now that I had my record, (I never considered it a demo) I had to find a label to release it into the marketplace. Although I had spent years trying to get songs recorded by solo artists and had been successful to a very limited extent, I had never shopped a production of a group. I really didn't know what to expect. But I was determined to find out if there was a deal out there. I loved what I walked out of the studio with. I was convinced the band had done a great job and I was right. They had. Subsequent events proved it. They had what it took to be successful. I was sure of it. So, I got on the phone and made a few calls and ran into defensive receptionists who took messages for A&R guys, who never called back. I'd been through this many times before.
So I decided to try my luck at cold calling, in person. It had worked a short time earlier with Double Shot Records, why not with another?. I'll tell you about Double Shot Records downstream a bit. So, I went over to Sunset & Vine and went into the tall skinny building on the southeast corner. I didn't know if there was a record company in there or not, but I figured there might be. I was right. There on the directory was Elektra Records. Bullseye. Into the elevator, and up I went.
It was really strange, the way it turned out. I walked into an empty reception area and called out, 'Hello, anyone here?' Same scenario as out on the Strip at Double Shot earlier. Would it have as good a result?
What happened at Double Shot was , I got one of my songs, Runnin' Wild, recorded by Brenton Wood, and put on his first album, Oogum Boogum. He was a hit artist at the time, with a song in the top ten. I made some money. Would history repeat itself? I intended to find out. As fate would have it, out walked the A&R guy, Billy James. His receptionist was out to lunch, and had left the door unlocked. Exactly as it happened out at Double Shot. This was a little weird, but I loved it. Bud looking on from side stage as The Brain Train do their thing at The Sea Witch on Sunset Strip. Billy was friendly. Not at all upset with me walking in on his lunch hour. Once again, a carbon-copy of the experience with Hal Winn, the head-honcho at Double Shot. Well, not to stretch it out too long, I was totally involved in a classic case of deja-vu. Billy agreed to listen to my acetate dub right then and there. He listened and he liked what he heard. Same as at Double Shot. He said he'd send it to New York to Jac Holzman, the president of Elektra, and he'd get back to me. The difference here was at Double Shot Hal Winn WAS the president. All he had to do was show it to the artist, for his approval. I was elated, Couldn't wait to tell Wolfie, and the group. The record racket is a minefield of denials, rejections, turn-downs, deception and disappointments. I'd already had plenty of that mix. So it was really great to be able to report this success at the first stop. To me, it was a very good sign.
The best way to tell the rest of this episode is the briefest way. The group got signed, I made a deal that suited me and everyone else, which included keeping half publishing rights to Black Roses, for my publishing company. Plus, all new equipment for the band, a van to transport it, a years rent paid in advance on a house, soundproofing one room for rehearsals, front money for survival and a two album deal. Not too shabby, for a brand new, green manager. But, as I said earlier, I had a lot of input from the band. They were always there, prompting me with demands, when I was on the phone with the company lawyer, negotiating terms of the deal. It worked. They got everything they wanted. Shortly thereafter, I stepped out as advisor, manager, mentor, or whatever I was. The reason? Elektra brass convinced the band I was not the guy for the job. Too inexperienced. Besides, they wanted Paul Rothchild to take over. He was 'in house'. At least that's what I was told. As it turned out, all the experience they had didn't save the Elektra crew from taking it in the ass from the boys in the band. Jack Holtzman and his pirates outsmarted themselves. More on that a little later.
(Situation Normal, All Fucked Up)
If I'd gotten a contract signed by the group, I would have been in position to negotiate something. But, I did get some front money on future royalties for Black Roses. It wasn't much, but it gave me a good feeling to cash that check from a label, for my very first effort as a producer, and my deal as a publisher. I was getting better results from my efforts , finally.And a bit more seasoning, as to the ways of record companies, their lawyers, rock and roll musicians, negotiating deals, plus the importance of signed agreements. So, I was better prepared for my next venture into rock and roll razz-ma-tazz, with the next group I was destined to get involved with. Sooner than I expected.
THE RISE AND FALL
Elektra brought in another singer, Cliff De Young, an organ-piano player, Ralph Schukett, and assigned Paul Rothchild to produce an album with the group, which he did, at Sunset Sound Recorders on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. They also decided on Clear Light as their new name. Elektra released a single and album at the same time and began a very successful promotion. Black Roses was the song on the single, but not the recording I had done. Paul Rothchild had re-recorded it. Black Roses was also the title of the album. (Editor's Note: Black Roses was actually eventually used as the title for the mid 1980's UK reissue of the album on the Edsel label, the original album was just issued under the title Clear Light.) I was very happy to see they didn't forget to credit my Little Giant Music with half publishing rights, as per our agreement. It was the first song I ever signed into my company. I thought it was an omen of better things to come. I was right.
The promotion program included putting the group on shows with big-name bands. It worked well. Sales of the single and album soon got Clear Light on all the charts of the trade magazines, Billboard, Cashbox, etc. Things were looking good. I began to envision a new Caddie in my driveway. WELLLL,-----what happened was just a little bit different from what was hoped for. Just another bump along the road, I guess. I'm glad I didn't act on impulse and make a down payment on my Caddie.
One day, I got a call from the lawyer I had negotiated the deal with. He wanted to know if I could tell him anything about the group I might not have mentioned before. Like what, I asked? Well, you know, any bad habits, or character problems. Things like that. I told him the truth. The only thing I knew was some of the group smoked pot. I knew that because they had offered it to me. Other than that, I knew of nothing. I hadn't been with the group very long, I reminded him. And, I didn't party with them. Then, I asked him why he was inquiring? He dropped a grenade in my lap. Seems there was trouble in River City. Big time. Some how or other, the group had managed to piss off Jac Holzman. He was going to drop them from the label.
I had trouble with all this. It was a shock. I asked the lawyer if the trades were accurate in what I had been seeing. Clear Light moving up the charts with a bullet. Was that right? Well, yes it was, but when Holzman found out the band had "lost" two complete sets of brand new drums, and some other stuff, he'd had enough. There were other things he told me, but I can't recall it vivid enough to be sure I remember right, so I won't comment.
(Editor's note: I asked Doug Lubahn for his comments on this last paragraph and this was his astonished reply: I NEVER HEARD THAT ONE BEFORE! Lost WHAT? Did someone think we were doing heroin??? And selling our equipment to support our habit? No way!! I think I remember some equipment got stolen in New York... out of our van or something but that's it! It wasn't our fault! New York was a tough town! You back the equipment truck up against a concrete wall and hope that no one can get in! Sounds like Bud was hearing the record company's "spin" on why Clear Light was being dropped. Come to think of it, If we had a two album deal, ...what happened to the SECOND ALBUM we were promised? I didn't know that we even signed a TWO record DEAL! I always thought we were living day to day.)
The nitty-gritty was, in the middle of a very successful promotion, saleswise and otherwise, the group was being dropped. I was more than a little bothered by all this. There goes my new Caddie. Stop promotion and sales stop. No fat royalty checks for Little Giant Music. The group broke up. The musicians went their own ways. Dallas Taylor was the most successful as far as the music business was concerned. He went on to play and record with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young when they were at their peak. Last I heard he had some medical problems in Paris, and had some serious surgery. But I haven't seen or talked to him since I ran into him out on the Strip in the seventies. Bob Seal continued to play with various people. He continued to improve. Years later I went to see him perform at a club in the San Fernando Valley and he was great. Damn shame he never got the kind of recognition he deserved. I lost contact with all the rest of the people. Don't have a clue what happened to them or where they are. The ranks of rock and roll are full of stories like theirs.
(Editor's note: After writing his memoirs Bud resumed contact with a number of members of the Brain Train.)
I am very grateful to Bud for allowing extracts from his newly published memoirs, "Confessions of a Robot," and rare photographs from his archives to be used on the site. Some of Bud's recordings can be heard on the Dionysus CD Take The Brain Train To The Third Eye - Bud Mathis' Sunset Trip, which includes tracks from The Brain Train, Wolfgang Dios, The Joint Effort and, of course, Bud himself. This has also been released under the title Infamous - Bands and Artists From The Sixties.