Interview with Bobby Caldwell of Captain Beyond

 

Interview: Pam and Mark Schaff

Photos: Pam and Mark Schaff

 

 

MGM: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today.

Bobby Caldwell: No problem, thank you for asking me to.

MGM: So you’ve played, or been a part of, some of the biggest bands. You’ve played with some of the most influential bands of the seventies. People consider you to be one of the best drummers that came out of that whole scene. Your big break came when you were asked to join Johnny Winters band. How did that come about?

BC: How did I join Johnny. It happened on a very hot afternoon. The guy that was working with me for the Florida group I was in, he says, how would you like to come down and jam with Johnny Winter? I said, “not interested”. It wasn’t about Johnny, I’m just not big about jamming. So, we stayed on the phone. And every few minutes he’d come back and say, Bobby, listen, would you come down and jam? This is a true story, come down and just jam, hang a little. I said, Dave, I’m really not interested buddy. Well you know, we talked a little bit longer, and he would come back to it again, ooh you just come over. He said they’re having jams, just come over and jam a little bit, you’ll know all the people that are local here. So I said OK, I went over, sit outside for an hour and a half, two hours. It’s very hot. And I remember saying to Dave, he would come in and out, and I would hear them all inside this persons house. It was like a guys parents house, and they were allowing everyone to set up in it. And that was how it was, finally, he said they wanted me to come in. I said OK, let’s do it, and by that time I was so frustrated. You know, I sat down and started playing this, you know, fast thing. And they all joined in. And there’s Rick Derringer, and there’s Johnny. And Edgar and Hobbs, and everybody. And we literally did this jam, probably I’d say for a good forty minutes. And it finally comes to this crashing halt, and Johnny looks at me and says, I want you to join my band. And a voice behind him, that was Edgar, says I want you to join my band.

MGM: That was our next question. We heard that Edgar Winter had asked you to join his band as well.

BC: At that very moment, that’s what happened. And so I joined Johnny, and that’s how it started.

MGM: Awesome! You’ve played on two of the most iconic live albums ever, The Allman Brothers, Live at the Fillmore East, and the Johnny Winters Live album. I know both bands were touring together at that time. We’re both albums recorded on those same couple nights that The Allman Brothers was recorded?

BC: No, there’s two Johnny Winter Live and albums. The first one Live Johnny Winter And the second one is called Live at the Fillmore East, that was recorded live in 1970 and released in 2010. That’s the one you need to get a copy of. I think it’s even better than the one that’s so historic. We have a couple different songs on there, but the sound is great. I mean the first one’s great too, but this I think that even in certain places it sounds better. It’s called Live at the Fillmore East. That particular performance is, the Allmans is theirs, the album that’s out is their recording of that. But not ours. Ours was up at Port Chester, at the Capitol Theater, and down in Miami at an outdoor venue. I forget the name of the place, but that’s where ours was done.

MGM: Now, how did you end up on the Allmans album?

BC: I had played with the Allman Brothers since they started. We grew up, probably, forty-five minutes apart. And I had just played with them from the very beginning. We met in this funny sort of way, we met at this battle of the bands, to which I had faithfully reminded all of them that they got honorable mention. And my local band from Florida called Noah’s Ark got second place. And that’s how it started with me playing with them. We just remained friends. And it was so funny that afternoon, joining Johnny, all of a sudden we were up in New York, and I’m walking into this hotel, and out comes Duane Allman. I think it was “Fire”, what are you doing here? He always calls me fire. I said, well I just joined Johnny Winters. “Unbelievable,” he says, Duane was the kind of guy that wanted you to do well. In a business where there’s this sniping and jealousy, especially if he believed in you, it was all about how good you were. If you were good as a musician, man he loved it. It was really funny that day I’ll never forget. Anyway, I just kept playing with them. Whenever I could I’d go out on the road with them. I didn’t like sitting around New York week to week to week. Because there was just nothing to do. And all of us got along so great, it was really a brotherhood. So we just had fun, so I just went out with them.

MGM: Very Cool! After what Johnny Winter took what appears to be a break from recording and touring, that’s when you guys decided to form Captain Beyond. Can you tell us a little bit about the formation of Captain Beyond?

BC: Well, what happened was, Johnny, says he’s going to into this sort of break/hiatus type thing. That he was going to be out of the loop for the foreseeable future. So Rhino and Lee had contacted me about starting this band. Iron Butterfly had just broken up or was just about to. And I was kind of on the fence about it because I didn’t know what was going to happen with Johnny, I didn’t know the status of it. I went out to LA, and we all got together and we talked about this thing. And we didn’t even have a singer, we didn’t have Rod in the band at the time. Rod had moved from London to LA, but he hadn’t been lined up. And that was it, that’s was how we started.

MGM: Now speaking of Rod Evans, I’m sure you get this question all the time. He’s become a mystery almost, like Loch Ness Monster or Big Foot, everybody is like what happened to Rod? Nobody quite knows, which leaves for endless speculation online. Is he still living in the US or did he move back to the UK?

BC: Oh yeah. He lives in Northern California. He’s in the respiratory therapy field. He’s very happy, his wife is a respiratory therapist as well. And he’s doing great, he’s happy. I mean he just doesn’t want to play anymore. That’s about all there is, he just doesn’t want to play anymore. He’s an outstanding talent. He is a giant, I mean had Captain Beyond, in that time period, remained together. Even if it had been five more years even, he wouldn’t have had to work again. Because when he had decided that he had had enough, we were right on the verge of major stardom. I mean right there, everywhere we went, we were just taking out everyone we played with. Yeah, it was a big loss, a blow to the band, and to a person, I just think is a great talent.

MGM: That’s great he’s doing good.

BC: Yeah, last time I talked to him. We talk every so often.

MGM: I read something that said you’re one of the few people in the music business to talk to him. So we thought we had to ask that question.

BC: It’s probably true. He’s very reclusive. He doesn’t speak to anybody, and I guard his phone number like it’s Fort Knox.

MGM: Captain Beyond was a “Supergroup” before there was such a term.

BC: Well there was a handful of other bands. It wasn’t defined as such at that time. Now it’s a word.

MGM: Did you guys think that at the time?

BC: No, we didn’t think anything. We were just figuring out, what are we going to do here musically. And I kept saying, listen, man, whatever we’re going to do, it’s gonna have to be different. That was the main thing, I didn’t want to just play in this rock band again. Playing something very predictable. What I call predictable music, that doesn’t interest me in the slightest. I mean you’ve got to give people something creatively different to hear, so they can’t tell you, I know what the next thing is. And most of our stuff is, that’s the thing I always tried to stress to them.

MGM: I think that’s probably why Captain Beyond has this great cult following. Because you guys sounded different than everything else at that time.

BC: That’s right!

MGM: Or even now for that matter. You have your own unique sound. I don’t have to tell you what you sound like, but I can hear a little bit of jazz, rock, progressive in there.

BC: Absolutely, there’s no doubt. I mean, I’m the kind of person, that if it’s supposed to be done a certain way, I’m gonna say, no man, there might be a way that’s even better than that. Just because people haven’t heard it, that’s not my problem. Let’s see if we could do something different. So yeah, I think your right about that observation.

MGM: Now you didn’t play on the second Captain Beyond album.

BC: Correct.

MGM: But you did tour on that. How come you weren’t on that album?

BC: What happened? I’ll just put it to you simply, we were having a band meeting, and I knew that we were going in the right direction. I knew that what we were doing was right. You can call it intuition, you can call it a psychic sense, but I knew we were on the right path. And somehow, we got on the opposite side of the fence as to how we should proceed. It’s really that simple. And Rhino and I had conversations in interviews back in 2000, and if my memory serves me correctly, and I have an almost total recall, that’s basically what happened. And I just said OK, hell with it, I’m outta here. You figure it out. Decide what your gonna do. But I’m not going to give up all we’ve worked for, in sense of the direction of what we’re doing. To turn it on some whim you’ve got. You know that maybe we should go do this. I might be wrong, but I’m betting that I am right. And so that’s what happened. The four of us were separated for about five or six months. And then we kissed and made up and that was about it.

MGM: Are you a fan of that record?

BC: Ummm….. I actually have grown to like it a bit more. I won’t say I’m a fan of it. I’m a fan of a few songs. I’m mostly a fan of Rod’s work. Rod and I wrote all of the lyrics.

MGM: I was just going to ask you about that. Didn’t you write the majority of the lyrics?

BC: No, he and I did the lyrics. Rhino and I did the music. As an example, Rod wrote ‘Mesmerization Eclipse’, he wrote ‘Armworth’ he wrote ‘As The Moon Speaks To The Sea’, that beautiful parts he wrote. I wrote ‘Dancing Madly backward’, ‘Raging River Of Fear’, ‘Frozen Over’, ‘I Can’t Feel Nothing’, ‘A Thousand Days Of Yesterday’. So we shared all of that. But he was just so great when I wasn’t around, he didn’t need me. If you listen to (singing) “Yes you’re drifting in open space”, listen to what he’s saying there. The same thing is on ‘Star Glow Energy’, which we do, is my one song that I think so much of him, and that they did. It’s just tremendous, just a few parts we’ve added to it that they didn’t put on there because I wasn’t around, but I would have. Would have made it on the record with me around.

MGM: So after the group just dissolved, at least the first incarnation of the band, you joined up with Keith Relf from the Yardbirds to form Armageddon. It was another insanely talented joining of forces. What was that like? Must have been mindblowing.

BC: He’s a giant. It was unbelievable. They were looking for a drummer, singer, and I happen to run into them in LA. And I got very sick with the flu. Keith had asked Aynsley Dunbar if he’d know anybody. And Aynsley told Keith about me. That’s what happened, they called me and I said I’m really sick right now, but you can come over and we can meet at least. I’m not contagious right now. And so they did, and that’s what happened.

MGM: That album was great, it’s such a shame that that didn’t continue.

BC: That was a management problem that ruined that. It was a management problem plain and simple. We had the same manager as Humble Pie, who are dear friends of mine, Alvin Lee, Peter Frampton, a whole bunch of us. And we were another English group joining that. But the persons, who will remain nameless, who were involved with it, weren’t able to do their jobs. That’s as simple as I could say it.

MGM: At least you got a killer record out of it. The world got it anyway.

BC: Yeah, it was a pretty good record. That needed just a little bit of nurturing with the proper people. When we wanted to start playing out, nobody wanted to take us on tour with them. It was a mess, but that was a fantastic group. Keith is another one of those master lyricist, the talent of Keith Relf, I don’t even know if I could express it. I’ve run into several people that grew up with him, I mean I’m friends with a couple of guys that are in the Yardbirds still, and talked about Keith, he’s just a monster, he’s just so great.

MGM: So after that, Captain Beyond got back together in 1976, with out Rod. What was the reason you guys did that at the time?

BC: Why did we do it? It wasn’t money, I can tell you that. I’d be happy to tell you it was money, but it wasn’t. You know, it’s almost like it is now, there’s a certain, unfinished business kinda feeling about it. You know, when it just doesn’t feel right, and there’s some unfinished business. And you know, god willing, we’ll be able to do that. But that’s why really. What do you do, well you get back together and try to find somebody else to croon, or sing. But that’s just what you do.

MGM: Why did you guys not continue after that record?

BC: After Dawn Explosion?

MGM: Yeah, that was a really good record.

BC: That record had moments in it. The funny thing is the singer, again, decided he was going to quit. And we looked around for a while, there was another English group called Tucky Buzzard, with a singer named Jimmy Henderson who lived nearby, we tried him out. We tried a few people out, we just really couldn’t find anybody. It was really a shame, but you have to understand that, I think the first mistake that we really made was getting signed to Capricorn records. It was not something we needed to be involved with, and we did it at the urging of Duane Allman because Duane heard the demo. The one for the album that’s out now, the Lost and Found.

MGM: Yeah the one we still have to get.

BC: That has got the original demo on it. That we played for Duane and Gregg in LA when they were playing the Whiskey. We came down there and said, here’s what we’ve been doing, what do you think? And he freaked! And he said I gotta call Phil right now and talk to him. And that’s what happened, simple, that’s what happened.

MGM: Tell us how the current line up come about?

BC: How did this all come about, it came about, I had been looking for the last couple years for the right people. I went through some people, and they got very upset because I just didn’t think it was right. I would just say thanks but no thanks. You know, I have to tell you, it seems, on one hand, very easy to find the people, but it isn’t. It’s not like your getting someone to come as a landscaping service to come over once a week to cut the grass. In this business, it’s about the talent of the person and their personality. If you don’t have the personality, and I don’t mean you hang out together all the time, but if you don’t have a rapport that’s easy, that’s the hard thing. Gotta have a combination of personality, goodness in you, and the ability to play, and a commitment to play. It’s just a lot of screening people, the short answer.

MGM: I think you did a good job. You guys sound great, you blew us away in Maryland.

BC: Thank you, I think you’re going to see a lot better tonight. You’re going to hear a lot of music, and the sound in here is going to be killer. I’m sure that will be a big difference. I mean the sound at the Maryland Doom fest was OK, but it’s not built for that. This is acoustically set up for music. When you go to a place that’s acoustically made for it, it’s like me playing some rough acetate for you, and then hearing Sgt. Peppers on the headphones. It’s like whoa! And we’re going to do a thing where we gotta meet all these people. Make an attempt to those who want to meet us. We have to do it.

MGM: I know Jamie’s got a lot of families here tonight.

BC: Well everybody here is probably mostly his family. I’m just kidding, I may make a quip about that when I go out and sing, “Is there anybody here that is not in the Holka family?” Well when everybody finds out tonight that I’m playing guitar and he’s playing drums, that’s when it’s really gonna get exciting. No, no….I’m just kidding.

MGM: We were gonna say wow, that would be different.

BC: That would be really different. Hope there’s an exit so I can get out of here.

MGM: Is there any plans for you guys to do some recording, any new material in the works?

BC: Yeah, we’re going to be doing a new album sometime down the road. I don’t know exactly when, but that’s part of the unfinished business. So yeah, that’s gonna happen.

MGM: We can’t thank you enough for taking the time to sit with us.

 

http://www.officialcaptainbeyond.com/

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