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From 1968, when I joined up with the Sons, to 1972, poverty was the principal state. This wasn't too hard on me, because I was a bachelor and could sleep standing up in the rain. Bill Champlin was the only family man, and he was always under pressure to provide his family with the minimum standard of living. Bill always had a decent rental house, and probably spent more on rent than the rest of the band put together. Even though the necessity of this arrangement was obvious, the two standards of living separated Bill from the other guys in a subtle fashion. None of the other guys had kids, and their wives/girlfriends had jobs. Terry could sleep anywhere. And did.
For me, the relative poverty translated into the minimum amount of truck it took to deliver the equipment. When Tooth and I blew up Bill's Econoline in 1969 (hey, Tooth was driving), we used the Quicksilver Messenger Service's truck for a while, because they weren't getting along and weren't playing any gigs.
By the time we used up the Quicksilver favor, Tooth had already quit, so Fred Roth hired a reasonably professional roadie, Gary Jackson, who had handled gear for the all-girl Ace of Cups. Gary was hired more for the fact that he owned a van than for any other reason, and he wasn't much into the family aspect of the Sons. When we were getting ready for the two month tour that finished off 1969, Gary saw the writing on the wall: two months of hard living for not much money with a bunch of guys he regarded as marginally crazy and a partner who didn't give a shit about money. He quit, and was replaced by "Hog" Steve (Rhodes), our old friend from the Hog Farm, my third roadie partner in a year and a half.
Steve and I turned out to be completely compatible. He knew it was an adventure, and that comfort was not required, and he was the only guy I worked with whose stamina matched my own. We never argued over a thing.
We desperately needed a truck for our tour, one that was big enough to hold all of our gear plus a P.A. system. We didn't have the money, so Fred Roth and Julie Salles went to see Bill Graham. In his office they asked him point blank if he would buy the band a truck.
According to Julie, Graham exploded. He went on for some time, and when he stopped, Fred and Julie were still waiting for a truck. Finally, in opposition to every commercial principle he had, Graham said he'd co-sign a loan so we could get a truck.
It was really the minimum truck we needed, a Ford one-ton, and it was the no-option package with a wimpy engine and a cheesy box. It had a lift-gate, which we considered essential for loading the Hammond, but when the lift died about three weeks after we got the truck, Hog and I had to pick the organ up to chest height to put it in the truck.
By the time the band broke up in 1970, the Ford was trashed. We drove it back to Graham's offices, and gave him the keys.
I took a job as sound man at The Lion's Share, a nightclub in San Anselmo where various groupings of the Sons and their friends played just about every Sunday night under several names, such as the Nubugaloo Express. I always roadied for them, and I doubt if they ever looked farther than me when it came time to move some equipment.
In late 1970, Bill Champlin decided that he was going to move to Santa Cruz, and start a band called the Rhythm Dukes with his friend Jerry Miller, formerly of Moby Grape, and John Barrett and "Fuzzy" John Oxendine. The latter two had been in a band called Boogie that had practiced at the Heliport, and Fuzzy had been the second drummer in the Sons for one awful month.
The first Rhythm Dukes gig took place before Bill had even moved down to Santa Cruz, and there was this little problem of getting the Hammond down there, about 100 miles. I knew a girl with a pickup truck, and I asked her if she wanted to go to Santa Cruz for the weekend with me. Oh yeah, do you mind if I throw a Hammond, Leslie and a Twin Reverb in the truck? Oh, did I mention we're driving your truck?
We got the stuff down there, and after a day or so, the girl started to get the feeling that I was more interested in her truck than in her. Maybe I said something, I don't know. She took off in a huff and drove home, leaving me in Santa Cruz with all this equipment that had to be brought back to Marin. I had to practically hitchhike back with it. I had my bicycle with me, so combed the area, asking about anyone who might be heading north, and I finally found some hippies who dug the band and had a VW bus headed up the coast. We loaded the gear and got it home.
When the Rhythm Dukes phase was over, Bill moved back to Marin and the band reformed as Yogi Phlegm. The name came from a fictional Indian mystic who was always being quoted as the guru of weirdness. Bob Cain had invented him while we were all in a restaurant one evening, and he became symbolic of new-age nebulous philosophy.
The real reason that the band changed the name was that the Sons of Champlin had been a brotherhood, and when Bill decided that he wanted to play with a different bass player and drummer, the problem arose: is the Sons this specific group, or does someone own the name and have the right to apply it anywhere? Rather than hassle about it, it was easier to get a couple of new guys and call the band something else. Of course, there were probably better choices than Yogi Phlegm, but the name had a lot in common with the music.
Yogi Phlegm was Bill, Terry, Geoffrey, and bassist Dave Schallock and drummer Bill Vitt. Dave Schallock had been in Bill's high school class, and along with Bruce Walford had been the unofficial producer of "Loosen Up Naturally." Yogi Phlegm never practiced, they just played gigs at the Lion's Share. They didn't really have material. Bill would name a key, count to four, and they would play something. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, and when it didn't, people left. One memorable night, they emptied the Lion's Share except for one guy leaning against the bar grooving his butt off, Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead. That was probably the low point, and from that point they started to once again build a repertoire.
Things started to turn around when Bill Graham started putting together the "Last Days of the Fillmore" show in 1971. By this time the guys had finally put together a few tunes, but even though they referred to themselves as Yogi Phlegm, Bill Graham hated the name. On the posters for the gig there was a subtitle, (Sons of Champlin) and on the record album that was later released from the concert, the one tune ("Papa Can Play") was credited to the Sons of Champlin.
Of course we didn't have anything like an equipment truck for the last days of the Fillmore. I can still remember the look on the Quicksilver roadies' faces when I drove the equipment up to the back door of the Fillmore in a borrowed 1951 Chevy flatbed that looked like it might have flunked the Mexican safety inspection.
As 1971 turned into 1972, hope appeared on the horizon in the form of Wally Haas. The scion of a prominent San Francisco family whose wealth goes back to the founder of the Levi Strauss company during the Gold Rush, Wally had money, was a devoted fan of the band, and felt that what they needed was a manager and some decent equipment. He said he could provide both, and with no one else lining up for the job, the Sons took him up on the offer.