A work in progress “Strictly From Hunger! A Rock and Roll Memoir” by John Morton with Jim Cherry.
Chapter 1 The Doors Open For The Outcasts
Don Koss, the popular local DJ in Portland, Oregon stepped up to the microphone and introduced us. “And now we have the number one band and the winners of the Teenage Fair, The Outcasts!” Our drummer Don Marrs threw his drumsticks into the air, then slammed them on the snare. We broke into our medley of the Young Rascals tunes ‘Good Lovin,’ ‘Lovelight,’ and ‘Groovin.’ It was flawless. Our fans and the audience were cheering! We had beat eighty-five other bands. We were the number one band in Portland! All of the sudden we were celebrities. Standing on that stage, lights in our eyes, sweat pouring off of us, we were instantly hometown stars when only the year before we had lost the very same contest, we’d come in last place, and we weren‘t sure the band was even going to survive.
The promoter of the Teenage Fair, Rick Desart knew he could draw a large crowd with a lot of bands, a popular local DJ, prizes that included a $500, radio airplay, a recording contract, and bringing in up and coming national acts, and he booked The Doors. In June 1967 The Doors were the up and coming band. “Light My Fire” had been released as a single, but was still climbing the charts. Not yet the number one song in the country, The Doors weren’t yet the band they were about to become. It was the night I heard “Light My Fire” for the first time and I knew they were light years ahead of the Portland scene and that music was taking a new direction. The Doors weren’t affected nor did they have any onstage gimmicks. They were real. Jim Morrison hung onto the mic like he was making love to it, his eyes were closed. I imagine he was somewhere else. The words drifted out of his mouth like honey even as he yelled “try to set the night on fire!” They weren’t well received that night. For the most part, the rock scene in Portland was still into cover songs. We wore matching outfits, knee high boots and had choreographed steps. They looked liked they were from another world with their long hair, their hippy style was strange.
Milling around the stage after the show basking in our win, I had my first encounter with The Doors. Jim was dressed like a poet laureate, black shirt, rolled up sleeves, tight black leather pants swinging from his hips, long wavy hair, a real lady killer. Ray Manzarek had what I call a California cool, he looked like a surfer with long blond hair, sideburns, blue paisley shirt, light brown pants and brown sandals. All I remember of the guitarist Robby Krieger was a flashy red Gibson SG fuzzed out guitar, and the drummer, John Densmore was tight and on the money when they played. The different sound they came up with no one in Portland was ready for. It’s like The Doors were sending a message to the higher part of my brain and it transcended into a message that was real and true. I was intrigued by The Doors. It was then that I began to think beyond three chord frat songs.
Jim was off in a corner with a bunch of sophisticated looking women hippies signing autographs telling them stories of the adventurous vagabond and his love for film. The women were mesmerized. I could see the desire in their eyes from where I was. Robby Krieger and John Densmore were on the edge of Jim‘s circle talking with the women trying to meet Jim, about their gear and how they got their unique sound. I went up to Ray Manzarek, who was off by himself, he had just lit a brown Sherman cigarette snapping closed a gold lighter. I introduced myself.
“Hi, I’m John Morton, guitarist for The Outcasts.”
“Ray,” he said, extending his hand. “Portland’s a groovy town, a little backward and weird but people here are friendly. I like the gold satin shirts with the long lapels you guys wear, I wouldn‘t mind ordering one. Who’s your tailor?”
“Our bass player’s mom made them.” We both laughed. “We’re kind of behind the times here! Folk music and Peter, Paul and Mary, and ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ is hot right now! Really not my scene.”
“Well, ‘Light my Fire’ wouldn’t even had made it on the radio if it wasn’t for ‘Puff the Magic Dragon.’”
“I like your keyboard and bass set up.” I said.
“It’s easier than having another member in the band.” Just then Jim Morrison glided over.
“Hey, man, where’s a good place to get something to eat?”
“Lido’s is great for Italian food and a lot of performers who come to town eat there and nobody will bother you.” I said.
“Thanks man! Great!” and that was my first meeting with Jim Morrison. Little did I know it wouldn‘t be the last.
Rock ’n’ roll has always been my dream and focus, early in life I found music to be my friend. As a kid I was shy and loved to block out the world by daydreaming. I was very into keeping track of all my experiences. My mother was crazy and always screaming and yelling at me and my brothers. My father was my angel and devil all at the same time. He would take me to classical concerts with Andre Segovia and Flamenco of Carlos Montoya. From the age of five to twelve he beat me, but I didn’t hate him because he gave me my love for music. He played guitar, mostly by himself, but sometimes he entertained neighbors and friends, or at church with my mother singing. The most exciting times for me were when my father’s cousins came over from Hawaii. I loved the singing, guitars and ukulele. I was proud to be of Hawaiian descent. My father’s cousins were all storytellers, one of them had even played and recorded with the Arthur Lyman Band in the 40’s. It was during one of these visits that a light bulb turned on in my head and I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to play guitar. My destiny in music had begun, little did I know where it would take me, and how far!
My brothers were beatniks and dug jazz. I was eight when I first heard Miles Davis, he
was way out there. Theolonius Monk, Dave Brubeck would always play loud on the record player. My brothers would listen to them for hours and smoke weed. I’d get high just from the smoke in the room. A lot of that music rubbed off on me. So when I got older I always dreamed of playing like Wes Montgomery or Barnie Kessel. The Hunger! music has a jazz tinge to it. I even used jazz chords in some the songs. It fit for psychedelic rock. Jazz was experimental and so was psychedelic rock.
When I was 12 when I started playing guitar. I’d watch my dad play and learned from his style. He played like Chet Atkins with a thumb pick. I was fascinated by the way he’d alternate his thumb and play chords at the same time. The first guitar I played was my father‘s beloved Martin guitar when he wasn‘t home. One day My brothers told my father and I spent the afternoon waiting, wondering how my father would punish me. Instead, he surprised me with a cheap Roy Rogers type guitar with palm trees painted on its face. Like I said, my father was my devil and hero all at the same time.
It was difficult to learn to play that Roy Rogers guitar because it was hard to keep in tune, and it killed my fingers. But I persevered and despite the pain I finally got good enough to play the Ventures “Walk Don‘t Run,” and “Pipeline.” After I mastered that cheap guitar it was time to start rocking out! My older brother bought me a Danelectro guitar which had the unique feature of the guitar case doubling as the amp. I was into surf music and “Louie, Louie.” I played that guitar until I wore it out. As I neared my eighteenth birthday it was time to take the plunge and get a Fender Strat and Fender amp. I had already played a few gigs and always had to borrow an amp, or plug into the lead player’s amp. It was pretty sad to have two guys jacked into one amp and have only one microphone. I talked to my father and I asked him for a Fender guitar and amp for my graduation present. He gave me a choice, he’d either buy me a guitar or a car for graduation. It ain’t hard to guess which I chose! I still had to get a job to pay for the amp so I worked after school delivering newspapers until I got a Fender amp to go with the guitar.
With Fender Strat and amp in hand I was ready to play in a real band. My cousin, who knew of my ambition, asked me to play at a party she was having for her sorority and they wanted a live band. So I got together some of my high school buddies. The first was Steve Hansen who I had previously met on the bus after school, I had my guitar with me and I was going to practice. Steve asked me if I played guitar, the answer seemed obvious, but I said ‘yes‘ anyway. Steve was my age and told me he played guitar too and knew some Ventures tunes and “Louie Louie”, that sold me! It turned out Steve had lied and he couldn’t play a lick of rock and roll, but he wanted to learn to play the guitar so I taught him everything I knew in 3 months. He didn’t have an amp so I gave him mine, a Gibson amp with a 12″ speaker. That amp was loud. I got a Silvertone amp with two 12″ speakers and we were off and running! The band had its rhythm guitar player. High School was a small world of friends and girlfriends, and it was through them I put together a band. I met Tom Tanory, who played bass, and Mike Lane, who would be our lead singer. Tom and Mike knew John Crispi, who would be our drummer. I had thrown together a band in two weeks! We weren’t even the Outcasts yet We named the band Frog Morton and the Toads.
When we played for my cousin’s sorority the girls hovered over us like bees to honey especially when we played Beatles tunes! Before The Beatles, instrumentals dominated the radio, the big bands were The Ventures and The Fireballs. If you could play “Walk Don’t Run”, “Tequila” or “Pipeline” you were in demand. All the young people loved to dance to that music, it was the closest thing to rock and roll you could get and call your own! Most parents were into Mitch Miller and Lawrence Welk, or square dancing. Jazz was the popular music of the day. It took everybody by surprise when The Beatles came along with their own brand of music and strong rich harmonies. Time to get rid of your Fender for a Gretch or a Rickenbacker guitar. “A Hard Days Night” and “Ticket to Ride” became anthems of the year and the airwaves were saturated with The Beatles. Everybody was talking about The Beatles. Even parents were into them, “they’re such cute lads.” Bands learned to fake English accents, it was great to finally relate to our own generation of music. Later, we even started a fan club for The Outcasts because Steve Hansen looked like John Lennon and played a Rickenbacker guitar. Fame to The Beatles must have been an absolute mind blower.
After the show, the girls wanted to give us their phone numbers and asked us where we’d be playing next. These were the best looking, popular girls who wouldn’t have given us the time of day if they had seen us in a class at school. All of a sudden we were no longer geeks but cool musicians. After that gig those girls were the best promotion a band could have, it was all over the school about our band! In all the excitement from that party we decided to see where the band could lead us, but we needed a manager, someone who could get us gigs.
I had met Steve Davis in high school. He played guitar, but was too shy to play in front of people. I knew he wanted to be a member of the band, but once he heard us he didn’t want to rock the boat because we had a decent sound. So I asked him to be our manager, and he took the job seriously. He took us from a sloppy sound to a musical unit. He got us to practice until we got down a good set list, cover songs, fast songs, ballads, instrumentals and slow songs so we could play any gig that came up and give the people what they wanted to hear. A couple of qualities that made him a good candidate for manager were that he had a great way with people, and he got us a lot of cool gigs. We got experience playing every gig we could, lots of parties, high schools, store grand openings, and contests like battle of the bands. The best gig Steve ever got us was at the Crystal Ballroom opening for The Sonics. How he swung that one still baffles me. It still blows my mind, he was a great manager for being only seventeen. Frog Morton and the Toads was a hard working band making $25 dollars a gig.
It was around this time I met Laura who would become my girlfriend. I met her through Tom Tanory who introduced me to her at his house when I picked him up to go to a gig. She looked like Marilyn Monroe to me, blonde, blue eyes and a curvaceous body. Laura thought it was cool to hang out with the band. She had her eye on the rhythm guitar player Steve Hansen with his John Lennon looks and deep blue eyes. Of course every girl dug Steve, but I was totally infatuated with Laura. It was love at first sight but she had no idea I was head over heels for her. I had a 1956 blue and white Buick so I’d drive everybody around back then. After the gig everybody was hungry so we went to a hamburger joint called The Whizburger and I paid for everyone. Of course the hamburgers were only 19 cents back then, so for everybody it was less than five bucks. But it impressed Laura and she was the first person to thank me for being so generous, everybody else followed suit. On the way home we were packed like sardines in that Buick. Five guys and three girls, but that Buick fit us all. Laura, either by chance or design sat next to me. I turned to her and put my hand on her leg. It was like electricity went through me and I stuttered and asked her where she lived. When we got to her house I walked her up to the door and asked her for her phone number. I didn’t have to write it down it was burned into my memory. I was in love and awe struck. No girl had ever affected me that way. When I got back in the car everybody asked “why didn’t you kiss her?” I replied, “next time for sure!” They all laughed. Life was pretty simple back in the early sixties
Frog Morton and The Toads were a typical teenage rock ‘n’ roll band out for adventure. We were all so young and crazy, we didn’t take things too seriously. We’d show up late to shows, or we’d bring our girlfriends to practice and once there bullshit around before we’d even start practice. At one of our early gigs we played a party and I got drunk. On our way home we took a corner a little too fast, the car door flew open and I fell out of the car, tumbling and rolling on the concrete. I wasn’t hurt, just a little battered and bruised (but I was used to that from my father). Everybody in the car was laughing and one of the guys said “now you know the meaning of rock ‘n’ roll!”
The night Frog Morton and the Toads became The Outcasts we were the wrong band at the wrong gig. It was for a black tie affair for a mayoral candidate at the Hilton. After the show a woman who was dressed to the nines for the affair came up to us and said “your band was terrible, you’re nothing but a bunch of outcasts.” I think we looked scary to her even though we were clean-cut and dressed in suits and ties. I think she expected Frank Sinatra tunes. She was shocked as hell when we played rock ‘n’ roll. But we liked the name ’The Outcasts’ so much, Frog Morton and the Toads became The Outcasts that very night!
We hadn’t been a band for very long when we had our first defection from the band and we almost disbanded because of it. In early 1966 John Crispi, our drummer quit the band. John’s dad wanted him to spend time with him running the family Italian Pizza Restaurant and keep his grades up for graduation. I think John (and his father) basically saw the band as fun and games but not a way to make a living as an adult. We didn’t perform for a month until Steve hooked us up with Don Marrs. Steve found him from a ‘drummer wanted’ ad that he placed. Don called him and told him he had played with The Bishops who had broken up. We met Don at the house of The Bishops’ manager, L.K. Wright (little did we know he’d be playing a bigger part in our future). Don was a great drummer and showman. He’d double time with the snare and pop the cymbal and immediately stop the ring with impeccable timing. He could throw a stick behind his back and catch it. He was definitely a big attraction, but with that came ego and attitude. He was temperamental always throwing jibes at us but he believed in the band as a whole. I admired that in him. It was kind of a mutual thing. He made things exciting.
As we neared graduation from High School in the spring of 1966 we had another setback when Steve Davis quit to join the Navy. Because of Steve we were playing lucrative and respectable gigs. Before Steve managed us we were playing gigs for free, but he made sure every gig was paid up front. He had a great belief in the band “you guys sell yourself every time you get up and play, and you’re gaining a following!” But I guess, in the end he didn’t see a future in rock ‘n’ roll from a high school band.
As his last act as manager he turned us on to our next manager L.K. Wright. At first, Wright didn’t seem interested in managing us because he’d had his fill of guys screwing off and not showing up for practice, but he already knew Don Marrs and The Outcasts had a pretty good reputation as a band. He was a mechanic but he was ambitious and wanted to quit his day job. When he agreed to manage us he had his eyes set on The Outcasts being a show band that could play anywhere, clubs, the college circuit, local tours in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Northern California like The Sonics or The Wailers. His idea was to have us playing 5 to 6 nights a week as a profession. We started calling him Merle, because we thought it sounded better than L.K. Wright, and it stuck.
His first act as manager was to lay down some rules and consequences that were pretty severe if you broke them. No immature behavior, know your parts to the songs, know the setlist, no changes in songs unless it was decided as a group, no lying to parents and using the band to get away with sneaky behavior, respect for all fans, no complaining, be on time for practice even if you’re sick, pretty much you better be at practice unless you’re dying, but let band know ahead of time. The first and second offense you were fined and the third time you were out of the band.
One of the benefits of having Merle as our manager was we also got a band van. Merle had an old van International from the ‘50’s on his back lot that needed a new engine and a drivers seat. We painted on the Outcasts name in large cursive lettering. It kind of looked like a UPS truck. When it didn’t have equipment in it, we’d throw in some bench seats. If we were hauling equipment we’d throw moving blankets over the amps. Either way it was pretty comfortable when the whole band was going to a gig in it.
I turned 18 in February 1966 and was required to sign up for the draft by June. Before and after school the recruiters would be talking to us handing out pamphlets. I remember guys were excited about joining the army and serving our country and making a career out of it. Groups had already started protesting the war but it was still thought of as a honor, so a lot of guys wanted to go to Vietnam. I wasn’t very gung-ho about the idea, and I waited until almost the last minute.
When I went to sign up, there was one guy who came in with long hair and a robe and Samurai sword. He was higher than a kite, waving the sword at everyone telling us to not be fooled by the lies and we were all going to die. Four recruiting officers jumped him and put him in a choke hold and the guy just went stiff as a board chanting, mesmerized in some trance. They picked him up like a sheet of plywood and carried him out. When the officers came back they told us “that nut case would sleep it off in jail and they would escort him back the next day, shave his head and have him fit for duty.” Then they walked us into the next room, gave us physicals, dropped our pants, checked our nuts with the cough test, and then we waited. The recruiting officer came in and said “you guys are all headed for boot camp!” Everybody was cheering and shouting except me. Then they really scared me, the recruiting officer took me into a separate room and said “you didn’t pass the physical because of a heart murmur.” He said, “we would have taken you but we had a guy drop dead in basic for the same condition, and besides being tall as I was I’d be the first one to get my head blown off in combat.” Then he told me “we have a desk job available if I wanted to join on my own and they would classify me 1-Y and I’d only be taken if a major war broke out.” I said “I’m not interested but if I change my mind I’ll get back to you!” In the back of mind I was thinking what a lucky shit I was! I drove my car down the street, rolled down the window, cranked the radio up hooting and hollering. People were staring at me like I was some crazy teenager. I had hit my rite of passage head on. All the other guys in the band were a year younger than me. When they were required to sign up, they all managed to get deferments as well.
The scene in Portland in the 60’s was very exciting. As The Outcasts got better we became a popular band and developed a following. We started thinking we really could make a living in rock ‘n’ roll. With Merle managing us we started playing the over 21 clubs, and they were good paying gigs. The fans were great! People started asking us to sign autographs and gave us their cards. The girls were chasing us around, we were like The Beatles in “A Hard Day’s Night.” I felt like I was a celebrity.
It was an older crowd that were digging us, a lot of women wanted our phone numbers. Things started getting a little wild and out of control. When we were on the road we stayed overnight in hotels with little supervision. Being under 21 there were a lot of one night stands, drinking, and smoking cigarettes and weed. Merle was our guardian, but he was wilder than the entire band put together. Our parents would have been appalled. Merle was married and when he was out on the road he just couldn’t yield to temptation. At that time he wasn’t much of an example to the band and we all were partying and drinking, smoking and dabbling in drugs. We lost our innocence. Steve Hansen got so drunk he passed out in the bathtub, I got whacked in the head from somebody throwing a beer bottle, somebody filled my shoes with sand and everybody was using them for ash trays. I woke up one morning passed out on the floor with two chicks in my bed. We were staying in a hotel at the Oregon coast and had played at a club called The Dunes. Merle called us all together afterwards and said this shit had to end so we all knew we’d have to have a mutual trust with each other to behave and get serious about the band again. ‘Cigarettes, Whiskey and Wild Wild Woman’ “they’ll drive you crazy/they’ll drive you insane” was a song that definitely had meaning to The Outcasts. But there was one act left yet to play out in this phase of the Outcasts career.
Merle was able to get us into the Teenage Fair 1966. The annual Teenage Fair was a battle of the bands. All the local bands vied for a shot to play in it because winning meant better gigs, more exposure, and more money. I think Merle knew we weren’t going to win, there were a lot of pressures building up in the band. After a gig at a high school in Eugene, Oregon turned out to be a bigger deal than it sounds. I don’t know if it was because it was their homecoming dance or because the girls had seen us in Portland and had started a fan club for us. They knew all our names and were in love with our lead singer Mike Lane. When they announced us the crowd started cheering wildly. I always thought Eugene was a one horse town, but the kids were pretty hip and it was a great show! Afterwards, the girls from the fan club asked us for a ride home, so we packed them into the van figuring we’d have a party, get drunk, and we’d get laid. We left the equipment locked in a storage room on campus to pick up in the morning. After that things went downhill fast. When the girls still hadn’t come home two hours after the dance was over, one of the girls father was a cop and it wasn’t too hard to figure out where they went off to and they put out an APB on the Outcasts’ van! It didn’t take them long to the find the van with the Outcast’ logo on it, they found us on a hilltop overlooking the town. They had us lined up, they poured out the beer we had and we were waiting for them to slap on the handcuffs. The girls father didn’t want to be embarrassed because she had gone off with a rock band, he told us to sleep it off in the van and leave town first thing in the morning. We could have easily ended up in jail. Don Marrs was pissed at the rest of us because we were using the van to pick girls. He complained how unprofessional it was to be picking up women in the van with The Outcast logo on it for all to see, like we were advertising it was our pimp mobile. Steve Hansen told him to “cool it, it’s time to party.” Nobody in the band cared for Don’s attitude. But Don made a big deal out of it to Merle and the whole band was fined. Merle told us he couldn’t trust us to do anything on our own.
By the time of the 1966 Teenage Fair it was a volatile situation. Merle knew of the tensions in the band and even though he’d read us the riot act he figured once we got our immaturity out of the way we could be a great band. So I think he knew something was going to happen, and he let it. We were the last band to play that night. As we were standing around backstage watching the other bands play it added to the pressure, and we were getting more and more nervous. We argued about which song to play right before we went on. Somehow we decided on, “Out of our Tree” a Northwest favorite by The Sonics. When we took the stage we all got more nervous because we could see the judges watching us, and we knew our future was riding on this. Don Marrs called off the beat and did the drum intro, but Steve Hansen had forgotten to plug in his guitar and missed his cue. His lead was crucial to kicking off the song and it wasn’t there! Marrs stopped completely and said “what the fuck happened?!”
“I forgot to plug in.” Steve said.
“Plug your guitar in you dumb shit! Let’s do it again!” It put Steve on the defensive and we tried our best to get into it. Our synchronized steps were off and the ending was rushed. Marrs was so pissed off he threw his sticks at Steve, hitting him in the head. Steve dropped his guitar breaking the headstock. Don stood up knocking his cymbal stand over, just missing my hand but took a gouge out of the neck of my prized red Strat. After that it was a free for all, Don punched Steve in the mouth and the blood was flying! The judges were appalled, and told us to get our shit off the stage. Then security jumped onstage and broke everything up, escorting us off the stage. Naturally, We came in last place. the biggest gigs were the battle of the bands and the Teenage Fair. This made our failure their all the more heartbreaking. It made me sick and I was ready to quit the band.
After the debacle of losing the Teenage Fair Merle, called the band together and told us we really screwed up onstage and never do it again. “Don’t ever let the audience see that kind of behavior again!” He promised that if we followed his rules The Outcasts would win the Teenage Fair next year. I didn’t believe this, but we didn’t have anything to lose. He left it up to us to decide as a band whether we wanted to go on. Merle told us each one of us would have a say in what our strategy would be, and that if we held up our end he’d hold up his end. We took a vote knowing that we either had to break up, or we had to start taking ourselves seriously as a band. I’d spent too much time and energy devoted to the band, and I wasn’t ready to quit. We voted, everybody was in. We were committed. It was Merle’s way of getting us to work together. After that it was up to us to contribute a new song every week and the band would decide if we kept it on the setlist. Each of us had input on how the overall sound should be. The bottom line was there was no arguing about what songs we’d play. Even with our differences we had held together. I guess it was the camaraderie we had that allowed us to really laugh at things at the end of the day. Merle knew we were green and he was willing to watch us grow. It wasn’t like he was throwing us to the wolves at the Teenage Fair, we had to learn on our own what it meant to be responsible and successful. Later, that gave us our dogged determination to make it in Hollywood. I remember Merle asking us “you guys want to be successful? Then think of all the failures you made to this point and strive harder!” Our success was his success.
After the 1966 Teenage fair we went back to the garage for most of the summer. Merle didn’t book us any gigs and he installed the new discipline we needed for The Outcasts. He didn’t allow any drinking or showing up late for gigs. Everyone was required to show up for practice and those practice sessions were closed, no friends or girlfriends, or people hanging out. He led by example, he cleaned his act up and quit drinking, and wild partying and saved his marriage in the process. Managing the band had him going on the road a lot and he just couldn’t yield to temptation. Our practices became totally productive. We worked on not just being musicians but entertainers. Mike Lane developed a style to be more connected with the crowd, talking between sets and announcing any updates where the band would be playing next and synchronizing with the band when needed between his lead vocals. There would be no dead time between songs and our breaks would be no longer than 15 minutes. After a 45 minute set that was pretty standard, but it meant the difference between being hired back or not. We’d keep a mystique about the band and never brag about being a great band. We’d let the fans decide that. Any differences we had would be set aside to hash out at practice. We’d never smoke or drink onstage or during the gig. That time would be designated after practice ended. That was part of presenting a clean image that most professional northwest bands had.
Everything would be tried and tested with nothing considered amateur. If we joked on stage, we’d never single anyone out in the audience unless it was pre-planned. One of our early role models was Paul Revere and The Raiders. A lot of our ideas were all taken from Paul Revere who was not only a successful musician but a savvy business man. Steve Hansen and I loved The Raiders and would see them every chance we had. I remember them playing at D Street (a local square dance hall converted into a teen club) and Paul talking to us after his set about their performance. We were groupie nerds wanting to know everything about their setup. I think Paul got a little tired of us after awhile because every time they played there we’d be talking to him. He was a cool guy, very accommodating to fans and never treated us like we were bugging him. The Outcasts had an opportunity to play with The Raiders once, but they canceled their gig when they became famous, basically, overnight. They were just regular guys like most musicians, but the difference is they played for a living and that became The Outcasts’ goal. We adopted a lot of their characteristics. The knee high boots and colorful outfits, the joking on stage, synchronized steps, great music and impeccable timing. We were now a professional northwest band. Merle was so impressed and proud of our transformation he said, “There’s no doubt in my mind that The Outcasts will win the Teenage Fair next year!” Merle was astounded that we had taken our practices and our ideas to the next level. He didn’t go out of town anymore on The Outcasts’ gigs, but still kept booking us and promoting us from his phone.
We played all the coast teen clubs and were contemplating playing northern California, Idaho and Seattle. Merle had worked hard to get us gigs, it saddens me that we never fulfilled his promise. Every place we played we were now announced as one of the Northwest’s greatest upcoming bands. By the time we walked on stage at The Teenage Fair in 1967 we were a polished band and very confident. A year earlier I would of thought it was not possible. That’s how The Outcasts came to the Teenage Fair. The grand prize was to record in Hollywood and an appearance on the Dick Clark “Where the Action Is” We had won the grand prize!
After winning the Teenage Fair, we went from 50 bucks a gig to $300 a night which was big money for a Portland band. Merle said he could book us solid for two years. We had a choice to make, stay in Portland and be a successful local band or go to L.A. for a chance at stardom. We chose stardom! We’d go to L.A., record the album, appear on the Dick Clark show, and be back in Portland in two weeks. Then we’d have the gigs at home to fall back on to and wait to hear about the album. Even though we had the $500 in cash from winning the contest it wasn’t enough to sustain us in L.A. we had to raise some money for the trip, so we booked a month’s worth of gigs, starting with a teen club on the Oregon coast for four nights. We and made $1200. The idea was we were going to pool our money to finance our big break in Hollywood.
We were simultaneously of two minds, we had our head in the clouds, sure we were going to be the next best thing in L.A., or sure we’d end up right back in Portland after we recorded the album and did the TV show. But before we even left the band almost imploded when we lost our second drummer. Don Marrs decided he didn’t want to go to L.A. because he didn’t trust the promoter. Rick Desart, he thought (or had a premonition) that we’d be stranded in L.A. without any money. To be honest I don’t think he wanted to leave the northwest. His family owned a bowling alley and he didn’t have to worry about money. I think he liked it that way. It felt like we were flying by the seat of our pants because we were going through drummers at an alarming rate. So, for a month before we were supposed to leave for L.A. we were frantically trying to find a drummer who wanted to go to L.A. At the last minute we brought in two new guys from The Kingsmen, Mike Parkinson on keyboards, and Bill Daffern on drums. Parkinson’s organ playing had great dynamics that helped shape our sound. When I first met him he played “Feeling Alright” and “Gimme Some Lovin’” just like Steve Winwood. I joined in on guitar and we fell right into the groove. I knew then his big Hammond sound was going to be a trademark of our band. Bill was fresh out of the military so when he joined us he had short hair, but he knew his chops. Besides being a drummer, he was a great vocalist. In fact, he would share the lead vocals with Mike Lane. The official line-up of The Outcasts now included me, Steve Hansen, Mike Lane, Mike Parkinson, Bill Daffern and Tom Tanory.
Also going along were two topless dancers Cookie and Lori, and their Chihuahuas. We needed a place to stay for the two weeks we’d be in L.A. Merle knew a promoter that owned a strip club in Portland and was sending two of his top dancers to L.A. for a lucrative deal. Talent Scouts were always looking for the hot dancers that would bring in a crowd. The promoter footed the bill for some nice digs in the North Hollywood Hills. The girls agreed to let the band stay with them because it would be only for two weeks.
We packed everything into a U-Haul truck, the girls were following in their own car. All of us had stardom in our eyes, and we just knew we were off to fame and fortune in Los Angeles, and little did I know, to Jim Morrison and The Doors.