HARD LUCK HOODOOS ARE NOT FORGOTTEN
Joel Selvin, Chronicle Pop Music Editor
Sunday, January 6, 2002
For hard-luck rock \'n\' roll stories, it\'s tough to beat the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils. The band was great -- the Hoodoos\' records were staples on KSAN for five straight years -- but it could never get a break. The only luck the band ever had was bad luck.
But Glenn Walters will never forget. He recently scraped together enough money to put out a collection of Hoodoos recordings made between 1971 and 1976,
\"The Best of the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils,\" and released the set on his own Gazebertz Records.
Walters was the band\'s drummer and vocalist, one of the Hoodoos twin mainstays alongside singer-songwriter Joe Crane, who Walters met after Crane had written a small-time R&B hit for East Bay soul singer Rodger Collins, \"Foxy Girls in Oakland.\" The first edition of the Hoodoos cut a debut album for Capitol Records that received little notice. Signed to Blue Thumb Records, the band came to be associated with producer David Rubinson, who was red-hot at the time with the Pointer Sisters and Herbie Hancock.
Tracks from two Blue Thumb albums were blasted daily on KSAN, the country\'s top FM rock radio station at the time, but the infection failed to spread. At the peak of the second album\'s brief life span, Blue Thumb went out of business. By 1975, the Hoodoos were packing Bay Area clubs but having trouble landing a new record deal. Hopes focused on Clive Davis of Arista Records, who flew out to catch the new, enlarged edition of the band playing to a crowded house at Berkeley\'s Longbranch Saloon. Davis fell asleep during the show and didn\'t sign the band. Six months later, the Hoodoos broke up.
One year later, Walters, Crane and longtime manager Jack Leahy returned on their own label with the album \"Safe in Their Homes.\" Full of great songs, it featured assistance from the Pointers, the Edwin Hawkins Singers, Steve Miller,
Ronnie Montrose and Link Wray. The album was so good -- including the song \"Safecracker,\" the title track and Walters singing Bob Dylan\'s \"Tangled Up in Blue\" as if he were Ray Charles -- it was picked up for national distribution by Fantasy Records.
Only weeks after the album was released, a berserk handyman murdered Leahy\'s secretary and attacked Leahy and his wife with an ax while they were asleep. Ironically, the attack took place in Leahy\'s Haight-Ashbury Victorian, where Crane and Walters had posed for the \"Safe in Their Homes\" cover photo.
Another album was recorded for Fantasy, but little came of it. Then Crane fell ill with leukemia. The label dropped the band and, after two years of struggling, Crane died at age 34. For a while, Walters continued to play local clubs under the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils name. He still sings for a living and recorded a good album last year with Steve \"Doc\" Kupka of Tower of Power.
But \"The Best of the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils\" brings it all back, the raucous rock, the barbecue-drenched R&B, the funky good times of one of the greatest bands that could have been.