The tale of “The Next Band from Texas” is one that encompasses more than just the saga of a rock and roll group from Dallas. It reflects the changing times, the ethical mores, the musical attitudes and the general social atmosphere of the era this special band existed in.
All of the members of the band individually entered the world of rock and roll “combos” during the exploding age that was the Sixties and followed the long and winding road that led them separately into the next decade. Every one of them had graduated from the garage bands that flourished in their youth to join or form professional groups that rose to the top of the North Texas music scene in the early and mid 1970s. By the time they came together to form “Next” they represented the best elements of those bands.
Kenny Daniel had tasted the sweet fruit of success early on when his group “Kenny and the Kasuals” broke out of the local Dallas scene and burst upon the rest of the country with their hit song “Journey to Tyme” in the mid to late 60s. His strong, distinctive vocals were on two albums recorded by the band. Alas, his road to stardom was cut short when he was drafted and had to spend time in the US Army in Germany. By the time he got home again his group had scattered to the four winds and he had to start over from scratch.
Ted Brumm was younger than Kenny but had graduated from the same school (Bryan Adams High) and ran in some of the same circles that Kenny had in Northeast Dallas. He also served his country in the armed forces (in South Vietnam) and found himself back in town about the same time that Kenny did. They ended up together in “The Summerfield Band,” an eclectic mix of very talented musicians that presented a unique concoction of Country-tinged rock and roll. Ted and Kenny had a natural vocal blend that created seamless harmonies and gave the band a different character than the other groups in the area had. In a very short time “Summerfield” rose to the top of the local club circuit and cultivated a large, loyal following.
Rollie Anderson had come up through the ranks on the other side of Dallas (in Oak Cliff) and eventually co-founded “Daniel,” a popular dance band that played in the club circuits from Houston to Chicago and Atlanta to Denver throughout the early to mid 70s. They also released a nationwide single, “Take us to Heaven,” on Paramount Records before disbanding in late 1975. After a nine-month stint with the funky band “Texas Rose” (including an appearance on their album “Need Your Love”) Rollie was kicked out of the group and found himself hunting for a new batch of musicians and songwriters to join up with.
John Davis was an experienced bassist and songwriter who had formed a country rock band called Pecos Star that played in all the local clubs form The Ritz Pub to The Abbey Inn. Then moved on to the show band circuits of the Southwest for years with Dave Anderson now owner of Zoo Music, honing his vocal and professional skills night after night before finding himself in search of a new group to saddle up with in Dallas. He answered an ad in Buddy Magazine and met Kenny, who was working at The Melody Shop @ North Park Center.
Kenny had been experimenting with different combinations of musicians when he called Rollie late in November of 1976. Rollie and Kenny had been acquaintances since 1974 when their respective bands (“Daniel” and “Summerfield”) had shared the bill at various local clubs like “Sneaky Pete’s” and “The Abbey Inn.” They had both admired the best features of the other’s band even though they were nothing alike.
Rollie had just wrapped up his final gig with “Texas Rose” and was eager to take off in a new direction with his music. His role as songwriter in that group had been stifled by the controlling bandleader who didn’t care much for the unconventional, original style of Rollie’s tunes.
Kenny and Rollie realized that they shared an interest in putting together a group where the main focus would be centered on vocal harmonies, with the instrumentation being secondary. Both of them were tired of the loud rock sound that had characterized the bands they had been involved with before and wanted something more controlled and personal.
The first jam session that Rollie and Kenny participated in was with Dan Green and Danny Smith but the spark just didn’t happen for any of them.
On December 15th another jam session was held. This one occurred at Kenny’s house in Southeast Dallas and this time Kenny’s former bandmate Ted Brumm joined in. The following week Kenny and Rollie jammed with John Davis and were very impressed with his ability and attitude. The day following Christmas the foursome of Kenny, Rollie, Ted and John rehearsed together for the first time and it became instantly apparent to them all that a wonderful blend of voices was coming forth effortlessly from their union. They also discovered that they shared a love of the same style of Country/Folk-Rock music that was being written and recorded by groups like the Eagles and the Band and individual artists like John Prine and Randy Newman. They also agreed to further emphasize their vocals by not adding a drummer to the group. Instead, they would rely on tambourines, maracas and congas to provide the necessary rhythms.
After just one more practice the group went into Bowley and Wilson’s “Harvest Studio” on McKinney Avenue two days later and recorded a demo of “All Join In” by Traffic, “The Weight” by the Band and “New Kid in Town” by the Eagles. Because all of them had quite a bit of prior experience in the studio environment the tunes came together in just a few hours. The songs were incredibly tight with crisp, multi-tracked harmonies that made them sound extremely professional. It sounded as if they had been together for two years instead of two days.
The resulting impressive demo tape gave Kenny something to take and play to local club owners so the group could get employment as fast as possible since only one of the foursome had other means of employment at the time. Kenny had always fancied naming a band “Next” and this seemed the perfect time to start one.
So, as the year 1976 came to a close, the members of the brand new band called “Next” looked forward to a new year filled with confidence and high aspirations.
The first order of business was to find a way to introduce the new group to the local music population. A photo session and interview with Kenny for “White Rabbit” magazine was conducted on January 3rd, 1977 at the home of Mark Lee, the former manager of “Kenny and the Kasuals.” The following day they auditioned for two local restaurant clubs. On Friday night of that same week John, Kenny and Rollie played a wedding reception at Vick’s Cafeteria. Even two separate rare ice storms didn’t stop them from driving out to Kenny’s to work up more songs. The following week on January 11th the “Next” band began playing a Tuesday through Sunday three-week stint at “The Filling Station” restaurant on Greenville Avenue.
In other words, within 16 days of their first jam session together they had formed a band, recorded a demo, prepared four sets of material, auditioned successfully and started playing their first professional, paying job.
“The Filling Station” stage was not much more than a small, shallow, triangle-shaped platform in the corner of the restaurant that was further cramped by the presence of an upright piano (used during the lunch hour). It was all the four of them could do to fit next to each other every night without banging their guitars together constantly. And, since the people they were performing for were busily chowing down on big, greasy burgers and French fries and conversing loudly, the band rarely got anything more than token appreciation for the work they were doing to entertain the crowd.
They rehearsed at Kenny or Rollie’s house during the day (sometimes five times a week), adding tunes to their growing repertoire every night. Since all of them had been writing songs for years a lot of original material was being added to the list as well and the audiences accepted those songs right along with the Top Forty hits they played.
Their job at the restaurant abruptly came to a halt at the end of January due to a disagreement with management and, for a while, it looked as if the new band might not survive. Seeing the down time as an opportunity, Kenny and Ted packed up their guitars and headed out to Los Angeles to see if they could generate any interest in their songs while John and Rollie stayed behind and pondered their now-uncertain futures.
By the time Kenny and Ted returned home 12 days later “The Filling Station” manager had changed his mind and called to hire the band back for another two-week run. The trip to California had not resulted in any offers but they did return with a few newly written songs so, on February 20th, they took some of their material to Ron Mason’s “Firehouse Studio” and recorded new demos. This time they were all originals. They taped Kenny and Ted’s “A Teardrop’s Worth of Difference,” John’s “Piano Rose’s Blues” and Rollie’s “Don’t Let the Thought Cross Your Mind.”
As the band entered their third month of existence John and Rollie started to realize something that Ted already knew. Kenny Daniel marched to the beat of a different drummer. He was an enormously talented but temperamental artist who was prone to sudden outbursts of anger and frustration. Some days he didn’t show up for rehearsal and usually gave no excuse for his absence. Some nights he would get upset with the apathy or lack of attention from portions of the audience and Kenny would become belligerent and rude in his speech over the mike. Conversely, the majority of the time he would be everyone’s best friend and participate wholly in a sincere effort to make every song the best it could be. It was this strange duality of his personality that Ted, John and Rollie would have to contend with for a long time to come.
By the same token, however, his demanding and uncompromising outlook was what made Kenny the force of nature that he was. He was extremely prolific, writing songs at twice the rate of anyone else in the band. He said what was on his mind without hesitation and that made him appear arrogant and conceited to some but it was just the way Kenny’s headstrong personality worked. Loyalty was paramount to him and Ted, John, and Rollie fit that requirement to a man.
It takes a true blend of different demeanors to make a great band. In this case Ted’s whimsical and carefree outlook, Rollie’s introverted and controlled nature and John’s practicality and common sense approach to life matched Kenny’s unpredictable mood swings perfectly. That’s why the group worked together so well.
All of them loved to spend time in the studio and they took full advantage of any chance they had to do just that. “Sound Techniques,” another Dallas recording studio, taught sound engineering classes for young students and asked “Next” if they would volunteer their skills. So on March 12th they participated in a live simulcast session. They walked away with another demo tape of their original tunes that included Ted’s “Higher and Higher,” “Clouds” and “I Was Blind,” Kenny’s “It Makes No Difference” and “I Wanna,” John’s “Maybe We Could” and Rollie’s “Go Buy Me a Beer, Louise.”
The following night they made their debut at the upscale “Randy Tar” cocktail lounge and wowed the bar patrons in attendance with their smooth vocals and entertaining show. For six weeks straight they played every Sunday through Tuesday night before switching to the headlining Thursday through Saturday slot the final week in April. This gave the band a permanent place to rehearse during the day as well as providing them steady employment at decent pay. One outstanding feature of the gig was a free meal in the “Tar’s” quality restaurant every week which the band members and their significant others took full advantage of.
For the next four months the “Randy Tar” would be their home, sometimes playing there every night for weeks on end. Most days they would drag themselves into the bar to rehearse, only taking a break to watch their favorite daytime television show, Chuck Barris’ “The Gong Show.”
It also gave the band time to add even more original songs to their set list. Kenny and Rollie’s “When You Get What You Want (Will You Want What You Get?)” and Rollie’s “Play It Again,” along with Kenny’s “Stay With Me,” and “Late Bloomer” were worked up and performed regularly.
Not only were they able to refine their songwriting collaborations but they also developed an engaging and hilarious stage routine that was never the same twice. The rapport between Ted and Kenny was spontaneous and real. Audiences crowded into the upstairs lounge night after night to catch the entertaining, impressive musical presentation of “Next.” On one occasion Ted was singing to a full house when the waitress walked by and unzipped his jumpsuit all the way down to Argentina! And on most nights Kenny would end their dynamic performance of “Shep and the Limelights” classic song "Daddy’s Home” by abruptly leaving the stage, descending the stairs to the lobby and singing the final high note of the song over the restaurant’s in-house public address system. Another unique feature of the bar was the ever-present alert “light” above the stage that only the band could see. It indicated that the hostess was ready to announce a table being ready for the party waiting in the lounge. This could have been an annoyance to the group but, instead, they turned it into a running joke that worked every night.
There was nowhere else in town where you could hear “Hotel California” and “The Last Resort” by the Eagles, “Muskrat Candlelight” by Willis Alan Ramsey, “Bad Weather” by Poco, “Naked Man” and “Political Science” by Randy Newman, “You’re Gonna Lose that girl” and “Because” by the Beatles and “Walking Slow” by Jackson Browne performed by the same band. By now “Next” was the group to catch in Dallas.
One thing that the band members had in common was a strong attraction to alcohol and assorted illegal stimulants. The years of playing and working in nightclubs had made those vices a big part of the performances (for better or worse) and every night was more or less a party by the time the last note sounded. It wasn’t uncommon for the waitresses to come on the stage midway through the evening to fetch empty shot glasses because the group had all of them up there. They would record their performances and soberly realize during playback that the opening set always sounded fantastic but bit by bit (and drink by drink) the combined quality of their showmanship would deteriorate until, by the final song, they were sloppy and out of tune. Many well-intentioned, self-imposed attempts to curb this tendency met with varying degrees of success and it became a less-than-attractive trait that would be associated with them for the term of their employment at the “Randy Tar.”
On April 24th they once again went into “Firehouse Studio” and recorded even more of their music, this time accompanied on a makeshift drum kit by George Lawrence of “Uncle Rainbow” (who just happened to stop by). They were amazed at what a good percussionist added to their music. They taped a newer version of “A Teardrop’s Worth of Difference,” John’s “Since You Took Your Love Away,” Kenny’s “Don’t Break My Heart” and “The Sky Is Falling,” and Rollie and Kenny’s “Why Did We Ever Call It Love?” and “Watching the Green Fade Away.” Every trip to the studio produced better and better results and the band started to realize that they were truly on to something special.
Kenny and Ted had worked with Phillip “Rughead” Laughlin many years earlier when he sat in with “Summerfield” from time to time and was considered to be an average but enthusiastic drummer. After just one rehearsal Phillip joined the band on June 22nd and the group instantly became more dynamic and powerful while continuing to maintain the emphasis on their vocals.
Sometime in early July Kenny made a fateful and shocking announcement. He was going to move (along with as much of the band as was willing to accompany him) to Los Angeles to pursue a record deal. He had just turned 31 years old and it was now or never as far as he was concerned. He truly felt that the band had enough good songs and talent to make a realistic run at a record contract if they had the guts to move to where the real music business was happening. They could stay in Dallas and play in the same bar for years to come or they could risk everything and reach for the brass ring in California. Kenny was choosing the latter option. His strong conviction was enough to convince the rest of the band to pull up roots and relocate to the West Coast. It was a huge decision for all of them, especially John and Ted who were married.
For two days in mid-July the band took a private hiatus (without wives or girlfriends) to an estate on Lake Travis just outside of Austin that was owned by a friend of Kenny and Phillip’s. The stated purpose was to hunker down and write new material to take to California but it turned out to be yet another drunken party and all they got out of it was a massive hangover.
The rest of July and August were taken up with their gig at the restaurant, rehearsals and making preparations to move to Hollywood. The initial plan was to drive out and stay at the home of a friend of Kenny’s (from his Army years) until everyone could secure a place to live. According to Kenny, jobs were already lined up for the band to start playing as soon as they hit town.
The “Next Band” played their final show at the Randy Tar on August 27th. It was a bittersweet ending to a long, rewarding engagement. They had endeared themselves to the employees and regulars of the intimate bar and everyone was there to wish them luck and success in L.A.
Late on Monday afternoon, August 29th they left Dallas for California. Kenny and Phillip went ahead in Kenny’s silver El Camino. Rollie hitched a ride with John (and his wife, Susie) and Ted (and his wife, Diane) as they each towed trailers full of possessions behind their cars. At one point John’s car ran out of gas in the desert of Arizona and Ted had to go about ten miles further to get them some gasoline. About thirty minutes later Ted and Diane pulled up in front of John’s car but, curiously, they didn’t get out. Soon they pulled away again, headed back to the gas station. It seems they had filled up the gas can with fuel but neither of them had remembered to put it back in the car! It was still sitting by the pump when they arrived at the station.
After two and a half days on the road the weary travelers pulled up in front of Rich Taylor’s house in Playa Del Rey and set up temporary camp. Within a few days they all had found places to live. Kenny, Rollie and Phillip moved into a house at 1930 Monterey Street in Hermosa Beach while Ted and John found separate apartments in nearby Manhattan Beach.
To the absolute outrage of the members of the band, it quickly became apparent that Kenny had greatly exaggerated the supposedly “sure” bookings he claimed to have lined up for the group before they left Dallas. The opposite was true. They had no contracts for work whatsoever and the band members felt Kenny had selfishly deceived them. For a few days it seemed as if the hard sacrifices undertaken for the sake of the whole endeavor might come to nothing. It could all crumble apart and send them all headed back to Texas in frustration and defeat. But, since they were already there, they decided to give it a few weeks before hitting the road again.
A few blocks from the house on Monterey there was a nightclub called “Shenanigans” that featured live music and stand-up comedy. On a stroll through the neighborhood Kenny went inside and talked the owner into letting “Next” audition for a gig the following afternoon. The band promptly blew the club owner away and the group started their first California gig three days later on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. Their opening act was a young comedian named Skip Stevenson. The following Thursday night they played a paid audition at the “Scotch and Sirloin” restaurant bar in West Hollywood. They eventually played seven more nights at “Shenanigans” in Hermosa Beach through the end of September. Everyone who came in to hear them was astonished at their tight vocals and musicianship. They had brought a fresh, energetic sound to the Bay area.
The fact that Kenny was able to procure work for the group immediately went a long way in calming the initial doubts of the other members and things settled down in short order within the ranks. When it came to selling the band, no one could do it better than Kenny Daniel.
Word gets around fast in Los Angeles when a talented group starts up a stir and soon potential managers and agents were showing up to get a listen. The marquee read “The Next Band from Texas” and the longer name stuck. It instantly identified them musically and geographically and suddenly every Tom, Dick and Harry talent agent wanted a piece of them. Even former teen sensation Bobby Sherman came in one night and made them a management offer on the spot.
But it was the fast-talking manager Scott Goldman that impressed them the most. He was offering the band the solid financial backing of Dr. Kurt Wagner, an enterprising Hollywood plastic surgeon, and promises of a myriad of personal industry connections in the record business. He also wanted to get them into the studio as soon as possible. They signed a personal management contract with Scott and a business management contract with Kurt on October 16th and started to gear up for their first demo recording session in L.A.
On Halloween the group went into the famous “Village Recorder Studio” in West Hollywood and recorded three original songs with a seasoned producer who had worked with Sergio Mendez. “A Teardrop’s Worth of Difference,” and Kenny’s ‘So Sharp” and “Money” were taped over a three-session timeframe. Working at the same studio were Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham of the fabulously successful “Fleetwood Mac” as they were co-producing a friend’s album. Their album, “Rumors,” was the number one album on the charts at that moment (it was recorded in the same studio) and went on to become one of the biggest-selling records of all time.
Of course, all this went straight to the band members’ heads and they became convinced beyond a doubt that they were finally in the right place at the right time and on the verge of landing a lucrative recording deal. Scott took them all to a private pre-tour rehearsal of “The Band’s” Rick Danko on November 8th which further persuaded the group members to believe in their impending fortune.
But it wasn’t all work and no play by any means. One of the obvious advantages to living in the bay area was their proximity to the fabulous beach. It was literally just yards away from their houses and they took advantage of it almost daily. The smog and congestion that typified the city were practically non-existent in Hermosa, Manhattan, and Redondo Beach and it made living there a beautiful and totally new experience for these boys (and girls) from land-locked Dallas. The volleyball and touch football games, boogie-board and body surfing and invigorating jogs along the strand were exciting recreations for them all and gave them a fast escape from the pressures that surrounded the group.
The band learned a significant lesson on the night of November 21st when Scott took them to an exclusive showcase for an act called “Jan Stevens and Spats” at a spacious theater in Hollywood. It was obvious that a lot of money had been spent on staging and on perks for the record people who attended the concert. However, the featured act was not very good and the showcase was a flop. It made it clear to “Next” that success in L.A. depended a whole lot more on who you knew and how lucky you were than on how talented you might happen to be. Otherwise, someone like Jan Stevens would never have gotten an iota of notice. It wasn’t fair but that’s the way it was. (In 1979 Ted, John and Rollie would attend another high-dollar showcase held at the spacious Santa Monica Civic Auditorium for a strangely costumed group called “Kommander” that was even more pathetic!)
Although Kurt had each member on a $200 per week allowance so they could concentrate on their recordings, the band continued to perform. They played Thursday through Saturday every weekend in November at the “Scotch and Sirloin” restaurant bar that was much like the situation they had back home at the Randy Tar (minus the free meal every week). It wasn’t a bad gig, it just wasn’t located in a very high-profile part of Hollywood.
On November 26th Kurt treated Scott and “Next” to a day with himself and his young daughters at Disneyland. There was a consensus opinion among the members of the band that their benefactor merely wanted a rock band to amuse his offspring and this little outing didn’t do much to quell that idea. Still, he was paying the bills so no one was about to complain. Plus, the Space Mountain ride was a real head-trip!
Scott stayed busy getting the demo tape in front of as many record people as he could and arranging showcases to get A&R men to come see the band in person. A December 7th and 8th gig at the “Topanga Corral” in the canyon went well and the band was continuing to generate buzz. The little bar in the hills just west of the city was a hangout for rock musicians, record company honchos and area bikers. It wasn’t uncommon to see cello players in the Electric Light Orchestra playing pool and quaffing beers with a couple of Hell’s Angels.
It is worth mentioning the huge presence at that time of cocaine in the Southern California lifestyle. In 1978 it was as common as breath mints. Part of the budget for these showcases that Scott put together was the “nose candy” allowance that was required to lure the record company representatives into attending. “No blow, no go” was the unspoken rule. It wasn’t just limited to the “biz,” however. If you went to someone’s casual dinner party there would be an obligatory mound of white powder available for the guests right on the coffee table. This explains a lot of the temperamental moods (inside and outside the group) that the band members had to deal with on a daily basis (as well as the crazed population in general).
That month they began rehearsing and developing new tunes for another demo session. This time they were put under the guidance of saxophonist Don Markese (who had been a member of the excellent “Tower of Power” horn section). Don was a brilliant arranger/producer and his calm demeanor was perfect for steering the overanxious band members along a positive and productive path. Having the luxury of practicing in the professional atmosphere of the S.I.R. soundstages also helped them to focus on the tasks at hand.
On December 11th the band took a pre-planned break and came back to Dallas to pick up the rest of their belongings and move permanently to Los Angeles. Both Rollie and Phillip had refrained from making a total commitment to the relocation until they could see what the prospects were out there. Since things had moved so fast in only two and a half months there was no reason not to complete the move. The band even played a gig while in town, a cardiovascular clinic’s company Christmas party at the “Canyon Creek Country Club” in Richardson on December 17th. The break lasted for the remainder of the month.
In one eventful year the band had come from playing in a noisy burger joint (where uncouth patrons would sometimes hurl cheesy nachos at the stage) to recording in one of the most prestigious studios in the world, backed by a wealthy Hollywood surgeon. The confining atmosphere of the limited Dallas music scene was behind them now and they had boldly stepped up to compete in the “big leagues” of the competitive and cutthroat California music business. To a man they felt that they had been selected by destiny to reach for and attain the stars.
Rollie (who had been delayed in driving out from Texas by icy road conditions) finally got back to the bay area on January 5th, 1978 and moved into a small apartment in Manhattan Beach with his girlfriend from Dallas, Valerie Hail. The band was eager to jump back onto the fast track to fame. On the night of January 14th they played a successful showcase at “The White House” theater in Los Angeles for the many record executives and big shots that Scott had invited. The place was packed. Kenny personally prepared a giant pot of his spicy Texas chili for the guests and a great time was had by all. Don Markese joined them on sax and flute and new sideman Sandy Mazola accompanied them on piano. They unveiled several new songs written by Kenny that night. “You Tell Me,” “Piano Man” and “You’d Better Move” had been added in rehearsals for the show. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
But reality has a way of bringing you back down to earth in a hurry and the very next night the band played an embarrassing and humbling audition at “The Tennessee Gin and Cotton club,” a disco. It came complete with the obligatory lighted circular dance floor and gaudy mirror ball hung from the ceiling. They still had to make a living, it seemed, and Scott was trying to find them employment wherever he could. They even played “hoot night” at the famous Troubadour club on Santa Monica Boulevard but the jaded and opinionated crowd there wasn’t really ready for “Next’s” look and sound.
On January 30th the band went into “Sunswept Studios” to record another batch of demos. The studio was literally dug into the side of a small mountain. To enter the control room one had to climb through a trap door in the adjoining house and go down a ladder. After five days of work they came away with strong tapes of John’s “I Get High,” Kenny’s “You Can Have It” and “Green Eyes,” and Rollie and Kenny’s “Wait a Minute, Baby.” Veteran rocker Bill Champlin (soon to join “Chicago”) contributed his keyboard expertise to three of the songs and producer Don Markese added saxophone and flute. The result was a bigger, funkier sound that was a slight departure from the guitar-dominated recordings they had produced before.
But the unrealistic expectation of thinking things should continue to happen at an unbelievable pace were starting to wear on all of them, Kenny in particular. The response from the record executives was positive but no deals were being offered. In general Scott and the band were hearing “We don’t deny that the song material and the ability of the band is of the highest quality but they’re just not what we’re looking for at this time.”
Trends were changing in Hollywood. The country-rock movement that had been successful for so many years was starting to wane in 1977-78. Disco had invaded the airwaves and made its mind-numbing mark but it, too, was starting to fade. What was “happening” was punk rock and new wave music. But “The Next Band from Texas” bore no resemblance whatsoever to that rebellious, noisy revolution that was rising up in the business. It was obvious that it would likely take years of networking rather than months to get the band on a label. And that kind of time was something that Kenny Daniel didn’t feel like he had.
By the middle of February Kenny had started believing that the reason the band wasn’t getting signed was because some individual members were just not good enough to cut the mustard. Ted got an abrupt notice from Kenny that he was fired but, considering the sibling-like relationship that he and Ted had battled through over the years, no one was sure if Kenny really meant it or not. Then Phillip got the same news a week later. In the meantime, using a stand-in on drums, the band competed in the Monday night talent contest at “The Palomino Club” and lost to a one-handed blues guitarist. The signs of doom were all around.
Scott Goldman suggested that the band permanently hire the stand-in, a professional drummer named Michael Messer who lived in Encino. The group agreed and the band began rehearsing in his guesthouse. But John and Rollie stayed in close contact with Ted while becoming more and more alienated from Kenny. It became apparent to the three of them that instead of waiting for Kenny to fire every member of the band one by one it might be easier just to move on without him, instead.
After a short meeting on March 6th, Kenny Daniel quit “Next.” He eventually moved back to Dallas where, ironically, he would reform “Kenny and the Kasuals” as a popular punk-oriented band and record a new album of material.
For Ted, John and Rollie their whole world had turned upside down. The leader of the band that had pulled them together in the first place, written most of the material, handled a major share of the vocals and talked them into relocating to California was gone. The new drummer was a stranger to them all but he was a truly talented percussionist and Scott and Kurt expected the band to continue moving forward as best they could. It brought them closer together than they had ever been before.
Rehearsals of the new version of “Next” resumed at Michael’s house and Irvin Kramer, a local guitarist/keyboard player, was added to fill out the sound. Ted and John assumed the lead vocal duties with Rollie adding the third harmony.
By now the gigs they had cultivated in the previous year had faded away but they filled up the time by rehearsing up to five days a week at Michael’s. Because of the traffic and distance between the bay area and “the valley” where they practiced, the boys from Texas would sometimes have to spend up to five hours a day in a car just for the commute. But they were determined to overcome the upheavals that had shaken their band and make it even better than before.
On April 3rd the band played a well-rehearsed showcase set (with Don helping out on sax) at “The Troubadour” that was met with loud and exuberant acceptance. They performed a rocked out version of Rollie and Kenny’s “Wait A Minute, Baby,” Ted’s “Hey, You,” Rollie’s “Shine Again,” Kenny and Ted’s “A Teardrop’s Worth of Difference,” Irvin’s “I’m Givin’ Up On Love (For A Little While)” and closed with John’s “I Get High.” After that rousing set the band felt invigorated. Scott was trying as hard as ever to get the band a deal and Kurt Warner was still backing the band to some extent (though not as much as before).
Finally the band landed a Thursday through Saturday gig at a nightclub in the Reseda area called “The Marquis” that helped pay the bills for a while in late April and early May. Then, just as their enthusiasm was starting to fade, Scott secured them an audition for a new network TV talent show called “ABC presents Tomorrow’s Stars” that would feature unsigned artists of all kinds on national television. After two competitive rounds of auditions “Next” was selected (out of over 400 acts) to appear. It was an opportunity to showcase the group before millions of viewers and it was hoped that it would be the break needed to bring a record deal for the band.
While rehearsing for the show the band played gigs at “Magic Mountain” amusement park, another set at “The Troubadour” and a pub called “The Branding Iron.” In early summer the group returned to the “Scotch and Sirloin” and, on the afternoon of June 17th, “The Next Band from Texas” opened the television show (live from the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium) with Rollie’s song, “Shine Again.”
Fortunately, the band got to meet John Ritter (with whom they jammed to Beatle songs during rehearsal), Big Bird, Joan Rivers, The Captain and Tennille, Charles Nelson Reilly, Norm Crosby and Cheryl Tiegs. They also had new clothes made for them by Nudie, the famous rhinestone outfitter for country and rock stars.
Unfortunately, a cute Dixieland band from Knott’s Berry Farm called “The Bathtub Gin Gang” beat them in the musical group category. But at least they got the spotlight they felt would give them credibility. Ironically, since the show was delayed for broadcast on the West Coast the band was able to see themselves “live” on TV from their gig that night at the “Scotch and Sirloin” bar.
(An interesting note about that show is that it wasn’t picked up by ABC. Instead, it went into syndication as “Star Search.” The show became wildly successful for years to come. So, technically, “Next” was the first act ever to appear on that show.)
But, ultimately, the mass exposure didn’t change the fact that their music was not what was selling and they continued to be ignored by the industry. The band stayed at the “Scotch and Sirloin” through the first three weeks of July. On July 20th Irvin Kramer announced his departure from the group. The following week Ted seriously injured his left hand in a roofing accident, curtailing his guitar playing for months. (In fact, if not for Kurt Warner’s expert surgical skills Ted might have never played another chord.) Sandy Mazola usually stepped in with his Hammond organ to fill the gap nicely and when he wasn’t available a journeyman guitarist named Jody Horn would perform with them.
In August the band began gigging at “O’Mahoney’s,” an Irish pub in Santa Monica that was to provide them with a place to play for a long time to come. “The Next Band from Texas” also returned to “Shenanigans” in Hermosa Beach for a weekend in September.
On October 2nd John gave notice of his intent to leave the band as a full-time member and eventually move back to Dallas. He would still work with Ted, Rollie and Michael but not as a member of an organized musical group trying to get a record deal. The band auditioned a couple of bass players but none of them fit their sound. “Next” continued to play Sunday and Monday nights at O’Mahoney’s but the spirit of the group was gone and they were only doing it for the extra money. “Ted and Rollie Tom” performed as a duo four nights a week in October and November at the “Velvet Turtle” restaurant bar in Long Beach to make ends meet.
When the band performed early in the morning of New Year’s Eve on the television broadcast of the “Cerebral Palsy Telethon” it gave John a renewed interest in trying to make a go of it with “Next” again so, for the time being, the search for a replacement ended.
In 1979 “The Next Band from Texas” continued to write and record tunes in the hopes of somehow getting a song of theirs sold but the odds were heavily stacked against them. Rollie got a job at a record store in Redondo Beach, John was painting houses and Ted found boat maintenance work around the piers. The band played an average of six nights a month at “O’Mahony’s” through June. Ted and Rollie would sometimes accompany John as a trio at “Holihan’s” bar on the Redondo Beach Pier. But by now even Scott and Kurt had lost interest in finding the group a deal.
They recorded demos of Ted’s “Jealousy” and “I was Blind,” Rollie’s “Strangers Getting Stranger,” plus some songs they wrote together, “Ooo, California,” and “Now it’s Your Turn to Cry” at “Brother Studio” in Hermosa Beach. Their recordings of Rollie’s “I’m Losing Control of my Rock and Roll” and John’s “Riverboat Gambler” even got played on a local FM radio show called “Seeds” (under the name of “Crossfire”) but they still got no bites. Many hours were spent at Ted’s apartment recording home demos and writing new songs in an ongoing attempt to never give up hope.
At the end of June John and his wife moved back to Dallas. Now just Ted and Rollie were left from the original band that bravely ventured west almost two years earlier. Yet they stubbornly continued to write and record songs on a four-track recorder in Ted and Di’s living room. They attempted to form a new band with bassist Frank Shatz and drummer Steve Urbock, (calling it “Summerfield”) but the task of finding the right musicians and rehearsing original material was slow and uninspired. They both felt like they were moving backwards.
After only one performance (“hoot night” at the “Sweetwater Café” on November 6th) Rollie called it quits and moved back to Texas three weeks later. Ted lasted a few more years before coming home in the early 80s.
You would probably have a better chance of winning the Texas State Lottery than of becoming a successful artist in the music business. Those odds become even more overwhelming if you never take your talent to the hub where the industry lives, eats and breathes in New York or Los Angeles.
The members of “The Next Band from Texas” took that life-changing leap of faith and uprooted themselves and their families to get in a position to be discovered in Southern California. And, had they been able to arrive there just five years earlier, they may have been the perfect band for the times. In 1972 “The Eagles” released their first album and started a musical trend that would have been right up their alley.
But, as they say in the business, “if it were easy everyone would be a superstar.” So much of it comes right down to being exactly in the right place at exactly the right time and, even then, just being flat-out lucky.
When all has been said and done Ted, John, Rollie, Kenny and Phillip can live the rest of their lives knowing that they had sufficient courage and belief in their musical gifts to leave their safe environs behind and go to where dreams come true and give it their very best shot. All of the music fans that heard them in those brief years were privileged to enjoy one of the best groups to ever come out of the Southwest.
And the friendships they forged together will last forever.
And then there were the Bears………………………………