Week of September 23, 2007

Rockin Foo

Lester Brown Jr. - Drums
Wayne Erwin - Guitar
Michael Racoon - Piano, Organ

Rockin Foo (Hobbit HB 5001) 1969; CD: Second Harvest 404
Rockin Foo (Uni Records 73115) 1971

Rochester River/Stranger In The Attic (Hobbit 42001) 1969

A Californian hippie rock trio, Rockin Foo released their album on the same label as Sapphire Thinkers. Housed in a rather intriguing sleeve with a black and white front cover with the ying/yang symbol and a seagull and a back cover with a Chinese ideogram, the album was produced by Les Brown, their drummer.

Clearly a minor group, their songs combined pseudo poetic lyrics with second rate melodies. Only some instrumental parts (organ and guitar) are of interest. All the songs were written by Wayne Erwin, save "Old Friends" co-written by Erwin and M.Clark. The overall result sounds a bit like a lightweight version of Morning.

Les Brown also produced Plain Jane on the same label.

(Stephane Rebeschini)

Taken from: Fuzz, Acid & Flowers - American Garage, Psychedelic & Hippie Rock 1964-1975

What do Roger Corman, the now famous and prolific B-movie producer and director, legendary singer Doris Day and her first hit, "Sentimental Journey", an early session guitarist for the band The Monkees and the tragically killed Saturday Night Live comedic actor Phil Hartmann have in common? The band Rockin Foo that's what! See the bios below.

Rockin Foo was a short lived musical experiment in the late 1960's. Many bands are reviewed with what I feel are jaundiced eyes because of the sheer volume and quality of music produced during this period 1965 to 1975. Most reviewers are always in comparison mode. This band sounds like these or those and this band is not as good as that or their music is categorized as dark, hippie, pop, country, hair, metal or whatever.

This practice often misses the point and true nature of music. To me music is that which is produced from the heart, soul and mind of one human being and offered to another for the sheer purpose of making a human connection. This is how I want to tell you what I see (hear) in Rockin Foo's music through a couple of their songs.

Rockin Foo subtly communicates activists themes ("You Are the Music"). "I make you a promise; I will treat you like my brother." Opening as a ballad this civil rights proclamation slips into fast shuffle with Les driving the groove as Michael Racoon's staccato counters and the backup singers shout out their gospel influenced harmonies. This tune is a fun uplifting commitment to civil rights.

"El Camino Real" - this short tune opening with a Harmonium and Beatlesque bass sound, telling a sad story of a man shaped by hunger robbing and slinging guns until he is inevitably killed along that famous road.

"All We Need is Time" - this heartfelt plea for a connection with someone is really three versions of the same song in one. First is Wayne plunking a ballad with just piano, part way through the song the whole band enters and perks it up to a mid tempo rock song. Last but not least, the song jumps into a fast paced oompah Polka beat to the finish, again, seasoned with some great gospel backing harmonies.

Fun band, interesting, even unusual arrangements and lyrics that tell a story, sounds like a good band to me

Here's what connects the above named artists to Rockin Foo.

Wayne Erwin - Rockin Foo songwriter, lead guitar, lead vocals. The main songwriter, lead singer and guitarist, Wayne Erwin, sang backing vocals and played guitar on several of the Monkees' early releases, including "Not Your Steppin' Stone", "Last Train To Clarksville" and "Valleri". In 1966, Erwin replaced Warren Zevon in the band "Lyme And Cybelle" the duet with Zevon had charted on Billboard at #65 with their first single "Follow Me" on White Whale Records. Erwin replaced Zevon and the duo released "Song 7" on the A-side and "Write If You Get Work" on the B-side. The songwriting was attributed to Joe Glenn, who some believe to be a pen name for Erwin. Some of Erwin's other credits include guitar on "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight" by Boyce and Hart, the self-titled Brian Wilson, as re-mixer, background vocals on "The First Sessions" by Warren Zevon and guitar on Del Shannon's "Home and Away", the complete recordings 1960-1970.

Michael Racoon (Clark), Rockin Foo keyboards and backing vocals. Michael Clark went on to become sound supervisor for Roger Corman's Concorde Studios in Venice, CA, and is a respected keyboardist/music director, who has worked with many rock legends, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Chubby Checker, The Temptations, etc. (Paul Carlson)

Michael is also listed as contributing a song to the Hal Jepson surf film compilation "A Sea For Yourself", which also contains 3 other Rockin Foo songs.

Ron Becker, Rockin Foo's bassist on the second album. Other than some killer bass riffs and generally good playing he did for Rockin Foo, I can find no other attributions. Great playing though, dude, hope you are still at it!

Les Brown Jr., Rockin Foo drummer and backing vocals. Les Jr. entered the music and entertainment world at the tender age of 15, when he spent his summer vacations on the road with his father's famous "Band of Renown" as a drummer. Les Jr.'s father Les Brown and his band recorded Doris Day's first hit song, "Sentimental Journey" in 1945. In 1960, after leaving Duke University, Les Jr. joined his dad's band full-time as the "boy singer". In 1962, Brown released two solo instrumental records, "Surf Crazy", which featured surf-themed songs of the day and "Wildest Drums Yet", both on Crescendo records. The discs are quite collectable now both here and in England and can go for up to $100 in good condition. Les Brown Jr. has had a varied and successful career in music, TV and film.

By 1962, Les Jr. turned to his other passion in life - acting - and worked both freelance and under contract for CBS and ABC TV, appearing in over 200 segments of various situation comedies and dramas. In 1964, he starred with Paul Ford and Judy Carne in the series, "The Bailey's of Balboa" and later spent two years on the daytime drama "The Young Marrieds" and "General Hospital."

Les Jr. switched his career back to the music business when he became head of production for International Management Combine (IMC). In that position he produced and oversaw the production of many albums from soundtracks to pop for all the major labels. IMC also started its own label at that time and Les produced and/or oversaw all of IMC's albums. (IMDb)

Phil Hartman, roadie and album cover artist. Phil was a roadie for Rockin Foo and drew both of Foo's album covers. After graduating college with a degree in graphic arts, he designed album covers for bands like Poco, America and Rockin Foo. Hartman joined the comedy group The Groundlings in 1975 and there helped comedian Paul Reubens develop his character Pee-wee Herman. Hartman co-wrote the screenplay for the film Pee-wee's Big Adventure and made recurring appearances on Reubens' show Pee-wee's Playhouse. Hartman became famous in the late 1980s when he joined the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. He won fame for his impressions, particularly of president Bill Clinton, and stayed on the show for eight seasons. Hartman won a Primetime Emmy Award for his SNL work in 1989. Hartman married Brynn Omdahl in 1987. On May 28, 1998, Brynn shot and killed Hartman while he slept in their Encino, Los Angeles, home, then committed suicide several hours later.

Chris Faust, June 2014

Back to Alex's Home Page