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An Interview with Gordy Hunt of Red Weather
By Mike Dugo, 60sGarageBands
(more articles from this author)
2001-01-14
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According to Gordy Hunt, the sound of his '60s band, Red Weather, combined "the best of the Detroit influences: rock, rhythm and blues, Motown, and soul but (was) slightly psychedelic too." In other words, just the right mix to catch the attention of The Lance Monthly. Many thanks to Gordy for sharing his band's fascinating history and future with The Lance Monthly:

[Q] Prior to Red Weather, you and bass player, Brent Marvin were members of various other garage bands. What were the names of some of these bands, when did they start, and how long did each last?

[A] We were never actually ever in a "garage" band, just to set the record straight; it was always a "basement" band. I've always loved the expression "garage" band, but in all my years I never ever saw any bands rehearsing in a garage. I'm sure it happened somewhere, but not in Clawson ..."Hey, that's where ya keep Dad's car ... there's no room in there" (ha)!! But to answer your question, I met Brent in seventh grade math (I think). I sat behind him and I was in a Monkees type band. I can't remember the name of it ... and Brent was in a band called 3rd Generation. We both knew from talking in class that we were in bands, and there was a friendly ego/rivalry thing going on between us, even though neither band had any gear other than junk and never played anywhere...it's the idea that you are in a band that counts!!!! One day, Brent invited me over to their practice after school to listen, and (I went) out of curiosity only to find out their guitarist didn't show up. So, I picked up his guitar and began to play all the songs they knew. We went on from there ... I think we called the first band Aftermath, which we had to change to Axis Powers because the talent show committee at our Junior High school made us change (since) Aftermath sounded too much like Afterbirth. I still don't know what that was all about. Along the way there were bands called Fly by Night, The Idols of Sound, The Late Train, and The Time Merchants, but Red Weather was a name that was used for a very long time.

[Q] What was the main factor that differentiated Red Weather from those earlier bands?

[A] I was very fortunate to have been in a situation where just about every band I was ever in played one or two of my songs. I had a reputation even as a little kid for being a pretty decent song writer. Heck, nobody else we knew was doing it. So a couple of my songs would work their way into any band's repertoire. I think what separated Red Weather from the other bands was our total original material written by me. Almost no covers. If there was a cover it was always some off the wall song that nobody in general would ever know. Also, our approach to playing became more and more sophisticated. Bud Beeler, our drummer, who was older and had already been in a professional band called White Light, really helped us tighten up our sound and make it more mature.

[Q] According to your web site, Red Weather's sound was/is "rock music for the thinking man." Could you please elaborate on this?

[A] The rock music for the "thinking man" is derived from the nickname that Bud and Brent had given each other ... the thinking man's rhythm section. Basically, we thought of ourselves as a power trio with a little more finesse than just banging away. We paid a lot of attention to interesting tight arrangements and accents in our songs. At the time that Bud, Brent, and I were playing together, we were very into bands like Yes, Gentle Giant and Wishbone Ash, and their approach to their arrangements rubbed off on us in a way. Keeping in mind that we were very influenced by a lot of the Detroit bands of our day ... Frost, Savage Grace, Brownsville Station, Third Power and the Amboy Dukes and SRC... So there was a lot of high mindedness in our music from that angle as well. Bear in mind that "music for the thinking man" is slightly tongue in cheek.

[Q] The name of the band is taken from Wallace Stevens' poem 'Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock.' Did the poem have any significant impact or influence on the band?

[A] This is a very interesting question. Years ago, when the first version of Red Weather was coming together (the Hunt/Marvin/Conaton/Biederman version), we were sitting around at Pat Conaton's house trying to figure out a name for this great new band. At the time, I was very into a San Francisco band called Blue Cheer and I always had their records with me wherever I went. The original guitarist for Blue Cheer was a guy named Leigh Stephens, who had just left the band and released a solo album called Red Weather. We threw around a bunch of names to no avail. I remember Brent wanted to call the band Brent. I think you can guess what happened to that idea. Finally, out of laziness and desperation, I looked over and saw my Leigh Stephens album and I said, "How about Red Weather?" I think everyone agreed to go with that because nothing else sounded better. Now here's the interesting thing. All this time up until this year I was always under the impression that we got the name from the Leigh Stephens record. When Mark, our new drummer, was setting up our web site, he discovered that there was already a www.redweather.com site and we had to hyphenate our title. We sent an email to the website and got a response that this guy had also been in a band called Red Weather and that it comes from the Wallace Stevens' poem. It's the last two words in the poem. So my guess is Leigh got it from that. I should ask him if that's the case. You would have thought in all the years we used that name, somebody would have brought that to our attention. I get a kick out of that. That and the fact that there was another band called Red Weather.

[Q] Red Weather was originally known for its original music, rather than for playing Top 40 music. How would you describe the band's sound?

[A] Well, once again, it was our influences plus my song writing style that shaped our sound, but moreover it was the 'hellacious' drummer and bass player, (and) Brent's approach to playing bass was all his own style. Even today nobody plays like him. I think over the years he's gotten better and better, but he still has this quirky reckless abandon kind of style that makes him and our sound unique. It wouldn't be Red Weather without him. The sound would definitely be gone. Bud's drumming was very sophisticated and experienced sounding, and he and Brent melded together quite nicely. So, with my songs and their tightness, we had a motor city crank sound that combined the best of Detroit influences: rock, rhythm and blues, Motown, and soul ... but yet slightly psychedelic too. You have to also understand that in terms of the talent in the band, the real musicians were Brent and Bud. Brent was a seasoned orchestra student, and had played bass violin for years (winning) lots of awards at music camps and music festivals; and Bud was also a symphony band percussion section alumni as well as a professional drummer. I, on the other hand, was just a kid that wanted to be in a band, and slightly handicapped in that I was left-handed and only had a right-handed guitar. I learned to play it upside down with the strings strung for a right-hander, so I didn't really play very well, and even though I thought I sang pretty good, I listen to our old tapes, and I find that I wasn't really very good. Lucky for me, I had a great rhythm section to make my noise over. Over the years, I think I've improved quite a bit which makes playing and singing our old songs a bit of redemption for me. All this and a sense of attitude for being a 'people's band' set us apart from the others.

[Q] If you had to choose, which of the band's original songs is your favorite, and why?

[A] hmm mm . . . that's a tough one. I like them all for different reasons. I guess right now my favorite is a song we do called, "I Wasn't There." We just finished recording it for our CD that's coming out, but the song is actually about ten-years-old. I like it for a lot of reasons. First of all, in terms of subject matter, there is no other song like it, and musically and dynamically it is so haunting that it touches the soul. It deals with the birth of a child out of wedlock from a father's perspective. I think dads get a bad rap these days as far as their role in the family and their importance, and I think, by and large, fathers are characterized as unfeeling and uncaring with regards to children being born. "I Wasn't There" sets the record straight on that. The radical woman's movement wouldn't like this song because it takes a father's feelings to account.

[Q] Did Red Weather ever record? Do any vintage tapes still exist?

[A] Luckily, somebody had the foresight to set up a tape recorder once in awhile. We do have some vintage tapes; nothing more elaborate than rehearsal and performance tapes. We never took it to the studio. The tapes that exist are pretty good for somebody just turning on a tape recorder and rolling. That's what makes the recent CD we just completed all the more exciting--Red Weather finally in the studio and successfully recording. What a thrill!

[Q] The band was never signed to a record label. How popular was it locally in the Detroit area?

[A] We were popular in the sense that there was a lot of interest in our hometown of Clawson, Michigan in the Detroit rock scene. So, as far as that goes, we were underdogs. A lot of people just referred to us as Gordy's band or Brent's band, so it was like we're just a band everybody knew about. We used to idolize a band called Iron Horse Exchange, a band from our area who were just amazing performers and Detroit rockers, and they were being touted as the next band to get signed in Detroit. We used to hang around at their house all the time and open for them. By the time we went four-piece, the Detroit scene was beginning to die down, so we never really hit our stride in terms of exposure ... but I'm quite sure we could have.

[Q] So Red Weather never opened for any national acts?

[A] No, we never opened for any national acts. We were so into the-having-fun aspects of playing that we never pursued sophisticated management to help us with that. There was a guy who managed a band called Dagwood, who were very into the theatrics of performing. Alice Cooper was very big at the time, and Dagwood's manager just loved us. He had a lot of money and he wanted to back us, but it never panned out. We played one day at the reopened Eastown Theatre, with Dagwood as sort of a dual audition, and got the hook. After that we never saw that guy again.

[Q] What other local bands of the era did you associate with?

[A] We used to bump into a band from time to time at gigs, called Harvey Kheck. They were a bunch of characters ... I would love to know what happened to them, and Ironhorse Exchange. Cinecyde was another band from Clawson that we knew.

[Q] In 1969, Pat Conaton (guitar and vocals) and Ken Biederman (drums) left the band, and Terry Shields (drums) was added. What led to the change in personnel?

[A] Well, its the same old story: band members come and go. Ken Biederman was a guy who had a set of drums and the girls liked him, so why not have him in the band? He wasn't all that fun to work with in that he was sort of a pain in the ass. We almost beat him up on stage at the Clawson Methodist Church concert because he refused to play a song we had started. After that, I think we just stopped calling him for practice and got Terry. Terry Shields was a good-looking jock with a great set of tiger-striped Ludwigs. He had the raw talent you need to be a great drummer, but there was a conflict with his athletic thing too. It's a shame, cause he could have been great. I'm not sure why Pat Conaton left the band. I wound up playing with him later in a classic rock band. He's a good friend of mine and a fine musician to this day.

[Q] After a few more personnel changes, the band apparently called it quits in 1973. What caused the breakup of Red Weather?

[A] At the end of our run, we were a quartet. We added Dan Mayer from Royal Oak on lead guitar, and he was just amazing. He is in a band called the Sun Messengers now. Anyway, when Dan joined the band, the sound shifted to a more rhythm and blues, soulful sound. The emphasis wasn't on original material anymore, even though we were still doing it. The scene was burning out, we were out of school now, so the only place(s) left to go were the bars. So we got more funky and started doing more songs that were more accessible, and (then) one day Dan got an offer to join another band (one of the 50 some odd bands he's been in since Red Weather), and I was in love with this girl that wanted me to quit. The hippies I was hanging out with made her nervous, and, like an idiot, I obliged. I have nothing but regrets about that decision, but girls will make you do some pretty stupid stuff. I think I've made up for it though. Brent and I have played together with a lot of things since those days. Red Weather reunited a couple times over the years, and Brent and I wound up in a bar band called Morningstar for a while, so we have kept in touch. We did a charity event a year ago April with another drummer besides Bud, who is retired now, and before Mark, and that fueled the fire to keep going. We found Mark through my brother Dave who works with him and sent him some old tapes, and the rest is history. We have recently played several shows around Detroit and have just completed the recording of our very first CD entitled "Every Alley Wall," which is a phrase from our song "Part of Your Soul," which goes, "writing on every alley wall, long live rock and roll!" The song didn't make it onto the record, but maybe the next one. The record will be out on a new label called Searchlight Records and will be available soon. Stay tuned to http://www.red-weather.com for details. We are very excited about the record and our future at this point. We recorded in Ann Arbor at Tazmania Studios, which is famous for recording Ted Nugent's "Spirit of The Wild" record, with veteran rocker, writer, musician engineer and producer Michael Lutz who is known for his work with Brownsville Station and No Mercy, as well as national tours with Ted Nugent. Michael is a genius and really locked into our vision, and produced a great record for us. Also, our friend and hero, Dick Wagner guested on one of our songs as well. It was a real labor of love and a celebratory experience. Red Weather is back and the sky is the limit. Thank you on behalf of myself and the band for including us in your paper. To learn more about Red Weather, and keep up to date on all the latest band happenings, please visit: http://www.red-weather.com


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