An Interview with Rick Fulton of the Nautiloids
Rick Fulton spent much of the '60's involved with numerous garage bands, including the East Coast surf group, the Nautiloids. Rick was gracious enough to share his recollections of these times with The Lance Monthly.
[Lance Monthly] How did you first get interested in surf music?
Rick Fulton I can't say exactly what inspired me to form a surf rock group. Maybe partly in revenge for being parentally-forced to play the clarinet for the three or four years prior, and also, no doubt due to my increased fascination with the Link Wray/Shadows/Ventures surf-sound transition of the early '60s.
[Lance Monthly] For the benefit of those that haven't seen the website - what exactly is a Nautiloid?
Rick Fulton The name of the proposed group virtually preceded the existence of it. I had become an avid fossil collector, and one of my favored groups of fossilized animals was that of the Nautiloids, 300 million years ago represented by a myriad of genera, and now represented by only one living genus - the Nautilus. They are basically a shell-relative of the squid and the octopus. Yet, this timid sea animal seemed a relentless survivor, having even survived several mass extinction periods, including that which had eliminated the dinosaurs, and their greatest marine competitor - the Ammonoids. It seemed an appropriate name for a proposed young, inexperienced group of soon-to-be (or at least "wanna-be") musicians about to begin the upstream swim against the many obstacles one encounters along the path of achievement in the entertainment industry.
[Lance Monthly] Similar to selecting the band's name prior to forming a group, you had even drafted songs prior to the band's formation. What was the inspiration behind these songs?
Rick Fulton "Nautiloid Reef" and "Nautiloid Surf" were the two major songs drafted after coming up with the proposed name of the group and before there was a final group to perform them. This also would have been around the time I was going into my third and final guitar lesson. There was no doubt [that there were] some additional untitled pieces as well which never progressed much further than jotting down a few of the note-runs or chords.
[Lance Monthly] Why did the band rotate so many members prior to settling on the trio that recorded?
Rick Fulton At one time or another during 1964, The Nautiloids included the following individuals: Myself, Rick Fulton (lead guitarist); Glenn Schaeffer (rhythm guitarist); Greg "Mac" Bell (drummer); Bill Olmstead (rhythm guitarist); Bob McDermott (guitarist); and an organ player/lead singer whose name I cannot recall. For some reason, I associate someone by the name of "Fred Pearson" as having been included somehow within our group, but I don't recall what instrument he may have played, or if he had simply been a friend or associate of ours at the time our band was together. I must apologize for this lapse of memory on my part. It's been 40 years. I barely remember what I looked like with a full head of hair. Probably the single-most cause of the rotation of band members was school, and the amount of time the various members could: 1) spend practicing with the band; and 2) be available to make live appearances. At, what turned out to be, the final appearance of The Nautiloids at a benefit in the Rockville area, only two of the band members showed up. A second band scheduled also had the same problem. Interestingly, the two bands joined ranks at the event to perform together - resulting in the formation of The Klick, probably one of the most successful efforts as far as my involvement in local entertainment groups. The Klick then consisted of the remains of The Nautiloids and a second band. They also continued to perform some Nautiloids' numbers among their play list. The Klick probably lasted through 1966 and into 1967, although they never recorded any records during the time I was a member.
[Lance Monthly] What about after you left? Did the Klick record at all?
Rick Fulton I'm not aware of the Klick having recorded anything after I left the group. I'm not even sure how long they stayed together. Kathy Jaeger was the drummer, one of the first female drummers in the business at the time and, given the fact she could out-drum most male drummers then, I'm fairly confident she'd have continued on in some group or another. She was certainly one hot drummer. I should know. I ducked many a broken drumstick when she laid it on playing "Wipe Out." The last big gig we played at together was probably in 1965 at Brunswick, Maryland (my childhood hometown). Since I had lived in Brunswick from birth through the age of five (by the time I was five, we had moved to Rockville, Maryland), this was something of a homecoming, full-circle event for me. Not only did we pack the house, we packed the entire park, which had to be closed-off because it could not hold any more people.
[Lance Monthly] What type of music did the Klick play?
Rick Fulton The Klick played a lot of the rock and roll tunes of the day, especially that of the Beach Boys, Beatles, Searchers, Rolling Stones, Ventures and, of course, Nautiloid songs.
[Lance Monthly] Why did you leave the Klick?
Rick Fulton Quite honestly, the members of the prior group with which The Nautiloids merged, seemed to be trying to re-group. It seemed like a good moment in time to step down, and let them go their way.
[Lance Monthly] Which members would you consider the nucleus of the Nautiloids?
Rick Fulton The group of us that formed the recording element of The Nautiloids was myself (Rick Fulton, lead guitar), Glenn Schaeffer (rhythm guitar) and Greg "Mac" Bell (drummer). Bill Olmstead came aboard as a guitarist after the recordings had been done, and was with me when The Klick was formed. He probably left the Klick about the same time as I did later on.
[Lance Monthly] What can you tell me about the Lanham (Maryland) Battle of the Bands that the Nautiloids participated in?
Rick Fulton Honestly, I remember very little about the Lanham event. We played traditional rock and rock, and probably no original pieces. I don't recall that we finished very-high as we were up against some of the more well-established area bands, the names of which I have long-forgotten, nor do I recall there having been any noteworthy bands there that day. I was just glad to get out of there at the end. It was the largest audience I had ever had staring at me at once, and I was barely 15. It may have been this experience that nudged me more towards wanting to be primarily an in-studio recording group, rather than relying on public performances.
[Lance Monthly] What kind of following did the Nautiloids have at this time? Were you at all popular locally?
Rick Fulton The problem with The Nautiloids is that they were popular wherever they performed, IF & WHEN you could get them to perform! Again, the "revolving-door" syndrome prevented the group from stabilizing its overall performance. You can't really "expand your horizons" if you have to fall back and break-in a new band member every 90 days. As a result, no real following developed. The group, as a performing group, offered no real consistency, because every new band member contributed a slightly different set of abilities, qualities and sound.
[Lance Monthly] Did "Beatlemania" have any impact on the band, or were you going to stay true to your surf roots even after the British Invasion hit?
Rick Fulton "Beatlemania" did not set-in in time to impact The Nautiloids, but it certainly had its influence on the Klick, which was formed, in part, from The Nautiloids' leftovers.
[Lance Monthly] How did you arrange the time at Edgewood Recording Studio to record your two songs?
Rick Fulton We selected the recording studio almost solely because it was the one used by Baltimore's Ronnie Dove. We figured if it was good enough for Ronnie then it was good enough for us! There was no problem getting a slot. There were a good number of recording artists and groups in the Washington D.C. area then (1964), but they were not yet "a dime a dozen." I'm not even sure that The Reekers, the precursors of the Hangmen, existed yet when we did "Nautiloid Reef" and "Nautiloid Surf."
[Lance Monthly] What do you recall about the session?
Rick Fulton Seems to me that the Edgewood Studio was in an older Brownstone building at the time. The studio tech was very nice and encouraging. The tech could very easily have been David Greene, a recording engineer and maintenance technician at Edgewood, who shortly thereafter went on to MGM Studios. I don't actually recall the tech's name, but David Greene's name certainly rings a bell. We did one practice round of each of the two songs ("Nautiloid Reef" and "Nautiloid Surf") and then did each of them as a one-time/final take. One drumbeat in the "Nautiloid Reef" had to be re-done and spliced in at the end of it. I think Greg sent half of one of his drumsticks flying across the studio on that one and missed the beat.
[Lance Monthly] Did either "Nautiloid Reef" or "Nautiloid Surf" receive any airplay?
Rick Fulton The only copies we had made were studio copies with the Edgewood Studio label. None were released to the public with our knowledge. One radio station played "Nautiloid Reef" as a sort of test-market (unfortunately, I don't recall the station or the DJ who did it). The results were that the song achieved a potential top-ten rating in the Tri-state area of Maryland, Delaware, and Eastern Virginia. However, the band was already "on the run" before anything could be done with the results of the test survey. Within a couple of months or less, the group simply no longer existed.
[Lance Monthly] So the revolving door status of the band, I'm sure, prevented the Nautilods from any further recording.
Rick Fulton The Nautiloids didn't record any additional material because the band dissolved by the nucleus having merged with another group, which became the Klick. I continued to write songs for other groups, including club performers, until about 1967. I also wrote "Feel So Good" for Jim Whelan and the Beau Havens.
[Lance Monthly] What can you tell me about Jim Whelan & the Beau Havens?
RICK FULTON I believe the Beau Havens were from Belle Haven, Virginia. They were a fairly rowdy, fun-loving bunch of guys. All of them were nice guys, overall. Sometimes it was difficult to maintain order, but it was the nature of the times.
[Lance Monthly] How did they come to record one of your songs?
Rick Fulton I managed the Beau Havens for a short time. It was during this period that they expressed interest in recording so I got them to Edgewood Studios in D.C. where they recorded "Elizabeth", and my "You Make Me Feel So Good," which I think was shortened to "Feel So Good" on subsequent releases. I got Ms. Claiborne (of Claiborne Music) to get them on the Gama label. Sorry, but I don't remember Ms. Claiborne's first name. I was never a very good band manager. I discovered early on that I really preferred being on the playing-end, not the managing-end.
[Lance Monthly] What about song-writing? How prolific of a writer were you?
Rick Fulton About the same time I was associated with the Beau Havens, I wrote and semi-managed a female-duo known as Bo and Sarah. They performed in D.C./suburban area coffee clubs. Once, I was able to use them as the back-up performers for Jim Whelan & the Beau Havens at a club in Rockville, MD. Among their repertoire, the two girls performed "End of Act Three," a Grassroots' genre of song. The lyrics were subliminally-based on what I incorporated as "Act One," the American Revolution; "Act Two," The Civil War; and "Act Three," the Kennedy Assassination. It was a doomsday type of song one would expect from the 1965-1966 period. Unfortunately, I don't remember the lyrics of the tune. Between The Nautiloids, and my subsequent move to Florida for a short time in 1967, I wrote the music and/or lyrics for a hundred or more songs. I personally did little with any of them, and most have been lost over time. I gave something like 50-sets or so of lyrics to someone in Florida when I was there and never saw or heard anything of them again.
[Lance Monthly] You only recently discovered that current bands are playing your songs, and that the songs have appeared on compilation LPs. How did you make this discovery? What was your initial thought after you learned this?
Rick Fulton Interesting question. My fiancé', Cathe Curtis (of 'America's Most Haunted Town' and 'America's Most Haunted Inns' video fame www.hauntedfieldsofglory.com "Cathe's Ghost Encounters of the Civil War Kinds") and I sometimes play a '60's music trivia game wherein we try to correlate groups, lyrics or song titles. We started discussing some of the '50's & '60's Maryland groups and then The Nautiloids. She said why not try a search for "The Nautiloids"" and maybe run across some of the former band members' home pages. I tried this and got an amazing number of hits (even more typing the names of the songs). That's what led to the discovery that the songs didn't die in 1964! My initial reaction was obviously one of incredulous shock, and it took a good week before the initial shock had passed. In the wake of that, I could only feel honored that there were those out there who had seen fit to keep the songs and the sound alive. That in itself, is quite a tribute.
[Lance Monthly] Do you still play guitar at all, or perform at all? If so, how frequently do you play?
Rick Fulton In late-1966, at 17, I relocated to Florida and played for a while with a group there as a stand-in guitarist called the Love-Ins. Eventually, I returned back north, attended college and got married. I haven't really played the guitar since 1967. But I am presently considering writing more music and maybe even playing the guitar again.
[Lance Monthly] How long did you play with the Love-Ins?
Rick Fulton I played with the Love-Ins for one gig. Our styles did not mesh, but they were a very good band. I've no idea as to their fate. I believe that before I had played with them, they had played as the back-up band for Jefferson Airplane in Miami for at least one appearance there. The "heavy metal/psychedelic" period had set-in and I was not much interested in making the transition.
The Nautiloids' website: www.geocities.com/thenautiloids/index.html