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An Interview with Carl Manfredi
A Principal Pioneer of Albuquerque’s ‘60s Rock
By Dick Stewart, The Lance Monthly
(more articles from this author)
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Interviewer’s note: It’s been three decades or better since I’ve corresponded with Carl Manfredi, but thanks to the Internet, it’s finally happened. Carl was one of the major pioneers of Albuquerque’s rock when it was in its infancy. In a sense, he and I were competitors in the music business during that time, as all the local bands felt that they were better than the others with the exception of Cidro and the Sneakers (no one was better than that group). Although Carl played bass and other musical instruments, he was best known for his excellent keyboard playing. When my group, The Knights, became King Richard and the Knights in the mid-‘60s, the band landed a steady, two-month gig at Paul Harvey’s in Albuquerque’s Hilton Hotel. Lacking variety, I hired Carl to remedy the situation, which he did nicely. After the venue, he moved on and so did I. Those of you who have Vol I and II of “The Lance” newsletters will be happy to learn (from the following brief interview) some additional details of the various Albuquerque bands mentioned in these volumes.

[Lance Monthly] When did you first get interested in performing?

Carl Manfredi I started in Portales in '62 with my first band down there. I used to rent an electric organ (Lowry) for $15 a day (I had only made $10 per job). We played [mostly] frat parties. I came home [to Albuquerque] in '63 and played with Jim Smithson. The Jesters’ Don Rudd used to play with them until he joined Cidro and the Sneakers. I took his place. Mondo Mena showed me how to do a blues run in '63 and after that I joined the Chessmen and played with Jarrett Galbraith, Mickey Willins, Booth Fowler until 1965. We recorded one record at Red Feather ("Say You Want Me to Stay"). I think it sold 15 copies.

[Lance Monthly] The Chessman were the first Albuquerque band to do Ventures’ covers in the early ‘60s and The Knights followed shortly thereafter. What ever happened to the Chessman?

Carl Manfredi The Chessmen went to California and changed its name to the Gemini IV. The band played in Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Newport Beach then we all came home. I was drafted in '65 and so they replaced me. As it turned out, I failed the medical exam with missing parts in my back, so I never left Albuquerque; nevertheless, the Chessmen wouldn't take me back. About that time Mickey Willins, Booth Fowler, Roger Dibble, Steve Maase, Mike Brown, and myself played as the Sunday Funnies. Les Bigby replaced Booth and that band was probably the best band I ever played in. [Reviewer’s note: Les Bigby was also a fill-in drummer for The Knights in the early ‘60s.] Eventually, Roger Dibble started his own group: Jolly Roger and the ______? And, when the Funnies broke up, Mike Brown moved somewhere in the North Pacific? (can't remember - '60's memory loss).

[Lance Monthly] I remember you mostly in connection with the Pallbearers. In fact, that’s when I first met you.

Carl Manfredi [In 1966], I played with the Pallbearers [which included] Jerry Beardsworth, Bill Brandou, Dave Goodenough, and Bob Baron. You have the original photo on your site in your first book. [Reviewer’s note: reference is being made to “The Lance Vol I.” ] I was the legal guardian for Dave, Bob and Bill, because they were under age and we played at the La Rock. [Reviewer’s note: The La Rock was a hugely popular nightclub which featured the top local soul, British rock, and psychedelic rock bands during the mid-‘60s.] We replaced the drummer with Les Bigby and enjoyed a lot of success. We designed our own costumes, went on the road, and recorded only one record [which was] in Colorado Springs. [Shortly thereafter], we sold our polka-dot outfits and hearse to a local band, changed our name to the Rue Five (photo included) and continued playing. The Beatles' Revolver album came out while we were on the road and [it] depressed all of us. That music was so radical and it took more than 3 chords to play it. I left the Pallbearrers to play with the Music Machine III (Sean Bonniwell was the only original from the Machine). We recorded an album and did a USA tour [and] wound up in a Rose Bowl concert with some of the old Paul Revere and the Raiders guys. Our offices were next door to Frank Zappa's.

[Lance Monthly] So then what happened?

Carl Manfredi I left Machine III when all the equipment was mysteriously stolen (later it showed up with Bonniwell). Somewhere in there I played with The Plague, then I switched to bass and played with a group call Judas for a while, and then with [a group called] Ouzo.

One day I took a good look at my audience: not the Rose Bowl’s (100,000 plus), not the UNM Sub’s (500 plus), not [Albuquerque’s] Sage City’s or Beaver Town’s, nor the [UNM’s] Newman Center’s, and not Sandia Base’s (remember Mrs. Martinez?), but a grade-school sock-hop at 2PM with an audience of 5th and 6th graders all in white socks. I asked [myself], "What's wrong with this picture?" I was in the picture, so that's when I finally hung up my rock and roll shoes. I was in my late 20s and then I started my own businesses.

All throughout my music history, I always dropped into Wagner's Studio to add a coke bottle or tambourine or scream in one of his productions. [Interviewer’s note: John Wagner Studios is the largest sound studio in New Mexico and is active to this day. When Wagner moved to Albuquerque in the early ‘60s from the Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, NM, the first band he signed to his Delta label was The Knights (then known as King Richard and the Knights).] You were always there too. It just seemed to be the in thing to do. We've both done a lot, but I will always remember Vena's Roaring 20's as the neatest place to play Little Beaver Town as the funniest place to play, UNM sub as the wildest place to play, and the Newman Center as the hottest place to play. [Interviewer’s note: Vena’s was the first nightclub in Albuquerque to book rock groups because their fans had reached the legal drinking age.]

Another funny thing of note was Les Bigby and Jack Paden always sabotaging each other's drum sets. I don't know who ever won . . . Jack, I think. Here's one for you. Do you remember the Dancette or the Peppermint Lounge? [Interviewer’s note: Yes I do, Carl. Those were Albuquerque’s first two teen dance clubs in the early ‘60s, and boy did they pack them in. The Knights pulled in record crowds as well.]

[Lance Monthly] So what’s up now?

Carl Manfredi My 19-year-old son has a real flair with the guitar and my 13-year-old daughter is a wiz on electric/standard piano. They must get that stuff from their mom, to whom I have been happily married for 24 years. Life is good, keep in touch, and God Bless America - United We Stand.

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