Dallas Taylor April 7, 1948 - January 18, 2015.
It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Dallas Taylor on the 18th of January 2015. Dallas is perhaps best known for his work with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Manassas, although he got his first break in to the music industry while he was playing with Clear Light. In later years he worked as an addiction counsellor and a great number of former addicts owe their sobriety to Dallas. The many tributes he received on his passing are a measure to the esteem in which he was held by all who came in to contact with him. What follows is an interview with Dallas from 2004 in which he told me about those early days with Clear Light, days that he recalled as the happiest of his life. R.I.P. Dallas.
Your website says you were inspired to take up the drumsticks after seeing the Gene Krupka Story, what was your first experience of playing drums with a band?
I played a snare drum on stage with a kid that played the accordion. I think we played "Sink the Bismarck". I was 11 years old.
You split Texas for Arizona, what sort of bands were you playing with in Phoenix?
When I was in Phoenix I played mostly R and B and some rock I was in a band with Joe Shermie, who later joined Three Dog Night.
How did you hook up with Bob Seal?
I don't remember just how Bob and I met, but we got a house together and played music and got high constantly.
What was the inspiration for you both to head to L A ?
Bob and I wanted to be a part of the music scene in L A. The Byrds, Bob Dylan, Mamas and the Papas, etc.
When got to LA you met up with Robbie Robison and Michael Ney and formed the Garnersfield Sanitarium, how did that come together? it must have been a pretty unique set up with just 2 guitarists and 2 drummers making up the group.
We where on a quest to put a band together and just play music. Bob and I walked the streets looking for musicians. We had no where to stay . Robbie and Mike Ney had an apartment in Manhattan Beach, so....they where in the band! It just seemed like the right thing to do to have two drummers.
Were you playing any material then that later ended up on the Clear Light album?
We played mostly cover songs that where on the radio at that time. No original material yet.
What was your involvement with The Factory and how does it fit in with your time in Garnerfield Sanitarium/Brain Train?
I had come out to LA before I brought Bob Seal. I answered an add in the paper for a drummer. It turned out to be Lowell George. I got the gig but got appendicitis and ended up in surgery just before a gig at the Shrine Auditorium with Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention. I was bleeding through my bandage. It was really cool. I had noticed that Frank Zappa had two drummers and it sounded really great. My friend Richie Hayward played with The Factory after that. He was a better drummer than I.
What prompted the name change to The Brain Train
I think a big fat joint inspired the name the Brain Train.
Wanda Watkins was in the line up for a short time, can you recall her and how she came to leave the band?
I don't remember much about Wanda Watkins. Maybe she was Michael Ney's girlfriend.
Do you remember how Doug came into the group and what difference did it make to the rhythm section to have a bassist in the line up?
Bob was walking around Canters Deli with a note pinned to his shirt stating " Bass Player Needed." I think some guy came up to us and said, "There's a guy holed up in my basement on speed, trying to learn how to play the bass in one week." Enter Doug Lubahn.
Then Bud Mathis came on the scene, how big an influence did he have on the direction the group was taking musically?
I don't remember much about Bud Mathis either, except, he was attempting to manage us. He must have heard us in some club or something. Actually, It was Paul Rothchild that discovered, and signed us.
One of the first things that came about after being signed to Elektra was the name change to Clear Light, do you recall who suggested that?
It was Paul that came up with the name Clear Light. It was a batch of LSD that was going around at the time.
The President’s Analyst movie production, shooting that must have pretty cool, do you have any particular memories of your time on the set?
The Presidents Analyst came about through a friend of Paul Rothchild's. I think it was the director.
It must have been shortly after the film shoot that Cliff De Young came on board, did he fit in with the rest of the group straight away and how did the dynamic of the group alter?
Cliff De Young seemed to be a perfect fit for us. He had a great sense of theater, and he was very dramatic.
I heard that a lot of sessions for the album had been completed before Robbie was taken out of the line-up, and that the material was re recorded with Ralph filling the gap left by Robbie's rhythm guitar part with keyboard runs, do you remember that?
Robbie was a terrible guitar player and absolutely insane. I don't remember how Ralph ended up in the band but he was a great addition. Robbie was our friend so we dubbed him our spiritual leader, and he went on to play a light guitar that he invented with us for a time, but he kind of faded away. The Clear Light was very much like the Grateful Dead. When we had the right combination of drugs, or the vibe was just right. It was magic, and wowed crowds. When we where off...we really sucked.It was very unpredictable.
How did you get along with Paul Rothchild?
Paul Rothchild was very much a father figure to us. He moulded us into his idea of a Psychedelic band. In the beginning we hung on his every word, but we never really took off, so Elektra and he soon lost interest.
It must have been a relief to get out on the road to promote the album once it was released although you seem to have been on quite an intensive round of live dates. Do you have any memories of that period?
That first trip to New York, however was some of my happiest memories. I first heard the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Scene. We were getting recognized in the streets of New York. We had the world by the balls. We all lived in one room of the Albert Hotel. Our road manager Lee Housekeeper would run across the street at 4:00 am to the corner deli after the delivery truck would carelessly leave the morning pastries right out in the open for Lee to steal. We actually "ate cake" to keep from starving.
Clear Light must have had a pretty impressive live presence with such a dynamic rhythm section, how did audiences react to the power of the band live?
The Clear Light was very much like the Grateful Dead. When we had the right combination of drugs, or the vibe was just right. It was magic, and wowed crowds. When we where off...we really sucked.It was very unpredictable.
You have had a long career in the music industry with its accompanying ups and downs, do you look back on those Brain Train days with affection, it must have been an exciting time to be part of that early Sunset Strip scene?
It was the happiest time of my life.
Visit Dallas Taylor's website