The UNITED TRAVEL SERVICE -
The suggested location for this band was Seattle, Washington but this information has come from Fuzz, Acid & Flowers and as everyone knows info from this has been flawed before. So I'm open to any corrections etc....
The United Travel Service may be my favourite 60s group never to have made an album. This is an injustice because over the four sides on these two 45s songwriter Ben Hoff certainly laid down killer folkadelic tunes. The high quality on offer makes me certain they had enough in their repertoire to make a classic psychedelic LP.
To my ears 'The Service' sound just like 'Younger Than Yesterday' period Byrds although a lot more rawer and punkish but still displaying that Byrdsian raga rock sound and jangle...
All four cuts were produced by Rick Keefer who also worked with The New Tweedy Brothers and Sound Vendor.
If anyone knows anything about this cool outfit be sure to let me know....
Dave Mathew got in touch about this obscure outfit. I love it when more details are gathered adding 'missing' pieces in the jigsaw before all is forgotten:
This was a band that had several national releases back in the 60’s mainly consisting of protest psychedelic music and long jams, we did college concerts up and down the west coast,the band consisted of Ben Hoff,guitar and vocals, John Reeves 12 string guitar, Ray Doren,bass, and Dale Sweetland, drums. The band originated in Portland,OR and did several concerts on the West Coast, one with The Doors (yes, the real Doors). Ben wrote some books that ended up on the New York Times Best Seller list, Dale is currently playing in Las Vegas with a band called Jerry Tiffe www.jerrytiffe.com , John Reeves is living quietly in Redmond, WA, and Ray lives in Madras,Oregon. Dale played with Doc Severenson, Chase (Get it on in the morning), Sante Fe (nationally recognized number one New Country band in 1998, Eddie Mcketa www.edmcketa.com internationally recognized Hammond Organ jazz player, James Faunt Trio plus 1, Jamie Font School of Music in LA, he played with Chic Corea for a while, etc… if you want more info, contact Dale at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by Expo67 at 16:15
Labels: 60s psych, United Travel service
I am an original member of the United Travel Service. After all these years, I was amazed to find any reference on the internet. For details on the group (originally from Portland, Oregon), I can be reached at email@example.com
15 May 2008 06:15 oscar sp said...
To United Travel Service members:
Thank you for "Wind and Stone" posibly this is my favourite psychedelic song, this song transport us to another world
Tonight I won a copy in e-
Thank you another time :)))
Tonight, I´m a happy man
Óscar from Spain
(sorry for my bad english!!)
30 May 2008 00:53 Expo67 said...
The United Travel Service 45 you got is most definately rated very highly by Expo67.
Their other 45 is possibly even better (if that's possible..)pure raga rock...folk rock with a psych edge or whatever way you wanna describe it.
30 May 2008 09:14 Anonymous said...
For your info, Fuzz stated "Folk-
According to drummer Dale Sweetland
(who "was there and in the band for the duration"), "the band consisted of Ben Hoff,guitar and vocals, John Reeves 12 string guitar, Ray Doern,bass, and Dale Sweetland, drums. The band originated in Portland,OR and did several concerts with The Doors (yes, the real Doors) on the West Coast.".
06 June 2008 13:01
United Travel Service
Steve Bennett ~ Guitar
Ray Doern ~ Bass
Ben Hoff ~ Guitar, Vocals
John Reeves ~ 12-
Jim Roberts ~ Bass
Dale Sweetland ~ Drums
Visit Their page at Last FM
I was the drummer in the UTS and core member, my name is Dale Sweetland. The other core members were Ben Hoff, John Reeves.. We used a few different bass players. Ray Doern was the primary. Jim Roberts played bass on Gypsy Eyes, and Ben played bass on Echo of You.
Jim Roberts was a guitar player from Minnesota who we met at OSU, but we needed a bass player at the time. John Reeves and I met in 1967 and that was the beginning of the band. He was from San Jose and used to see all the SF rock bands around the area, so they were actually a big influence on our sound.
I don't remember the actual end, but it must have been around 69, or 70 as I left to go on the road in 71 with a band out of Portland. At the same time I was with UTS I played with Sunday Morning , Madrid and the Counts, and filled in part time for Aesop and the Fables.
Dale Sweetland, June 2008
This was a band that had several national releases back in the 60’s mainly consisting of protest psychedelic music and long jams, we did college concerts up and down the west coast,the band consisted of Ben Hoff,guitar and vocals, John Reeves 12 string guitar, Ray Doern,bass, and Dale Sweetland, drums.
The band originated in Portland, OR, and did several concerts on the West Coast, including one with The Doors.
From the UTS page at Last.FM, June 2008
Excerpts courtesy: www.pnwbands.com
Q: How did you first get interested in music?
I played clarinet in Junior High School circa 1959-
Q: Was The United Travel Service your first band? If not, which band was? How long was it together?
The United Travel Service was my first band. We formed in the fall of 1966, the beginning of my Sophomore year at Oregon State University. We were together through college until I entered active duty with the Air Force in July 1969. I think the guys played some after my departure, which may be why some names that have been attached to the band are unfamiliar to me.
Q: Where was The United Travel Service formed, what year, and by whom? (You've already somewhat answered this so I can use your earlier response.)
Once Dale bought into the idea of forming a band with me and trying to bring a SF sound into the NW, we were on our way. I had a Hoyer acoustical-
Q: If you haven't already done so, please list the names of each member of The United Travel Service, as well as the instruments each played.
The four primary members for the longest duration were:
John Reeves -
Dale Sweetland -
Ben Hoff -
Jim Richards -
Also playing with us for periods were Ray Doern and Steve Bennett. There may have been one or two others but I really can't recall.
Q: How would you describe the band's sound? What bands influenced you?
I was trying to bring some of the SF sound to the area, so the acid rock of the day was evident in our jams and Jim Richards could copy just about anything. He was particularly good at covering folks like John Cippolina of Quicksilver. Aside from that, the 12-
Q: What was the Portland rock and roll scene like at the time?
In the beginning, it was all Sonics and Kingsmen. Other than that, you had Gary Lewis and the Playboys and the like. I recall the first time I heard the Jefferson Airplane (Somebody to Love) on the radio up there . . . the DJ said they should fly back home. I was committed to changing that attitude. By the time we started recording and playing regularly, things had quickly changed. Quicksilver headed a card which we were also on at the Portland Masonic Temple sometime in '68 I believe. We met them in a small pawn shop by coincidence in Portland. I was a huge fan of Gary Duncan and John Cippolina and was thrilled to have met them. The UTS name was close to a plagiarism to be honest. We also opened for the Doors at OSU in and around the same time, so the music in the NW was changing rapidly. Of course, we also played on a ticket with the Brothers Four at OSU's Gill Coliseum so some of the folk stuff remained a fixture.
Q: Where did the band typically play (schools, parties, etc.)?
We played a lot of frat/sorority dances as well as a few in the OSU Memorial Union building. I recall playing in Eugene at a place I think was called the Yellow Balloon. If memory serves me, the Vanilla Fudge was heading that card and it was a thrill to be part of it. We played the gig in Portland's Masonic Temple. We played in Monmouth at the Western Oregon College. We played at some High Schools in the area as well. After getting established we spent much of our weekends recording in Portland and Vancouver. We were a start-
Q: Did you play any of the local teen clubs? If so, which ones? Were there many?
I don't recall any of these, personally.
Q: How far was the band's "touring" territory?
We played from Eugene, OR to Woodland, WA and several points in between.
Q: Did The United Travel Service participate in any battle of the bands? If so, what other bands do you recall playing against? How well did the band typically fare?
I think we may have played in a couple of these, but really can't recall any specifics. You know after 40 years the mind slips a bit. There is a fine line between factual memory and nostalgic creativity.
Q: Did The United Travel Service have a manager? If so, how did you hook up with him? How active was he in promoting the band?
We managed ourselves entirely. In fact, this was one reason (perhaps) we never really made any big moves with our recordings or touring. We had no money as we were all starving students. Had we had some money behind us, I think we could have made a reasonably good sized splash, even on the national scene.
Q: How popular locally did The United Travel Service become?
At one point, Wind and Stone was #3 on the KFLY charts in Portland. I think we were reasonably well known at the University but beyond that, I wouldn't really have a feeling about it.
Q: What were the circumstances leading to the opportunity to record the first Ridon 45?
Between Ben and Dale, they had the connection with Rick Keefer and we were one of his first groups. Rick basically gave us unlimited time in the recording studio for no payment. We couldn't have paid anything to speak of so it was a terrific deal for every one concerned. This started in Ken Bass's basement, I believe, but they opened their first real studio in Vancouver in '68 or '69. We played back up for another band they recorded but they had great faith in our sound and gave us a lot.
Q: Where did The United Travel Service record? What do you remember about the recording session(s)?
See last question. With the first recording of Wind and Stone and Drummer of Your Mind it is my recollection that it was just Ben, Dale and myself. I believe Rick or Ken actually laid the bass, but it might have been Ben just laying a separate track. I thought it was all done with the Vox amp. It was very exciting for me but being the least experienced musician I think I stressed out about it more than the others. When we recorded Gypsy Eyes (still my favorite) and Echo of You, we were throwing in some gimmicks as Laurie Records wanted to appeal to the younger set. On Gypsy Eyes, I remember laying a track with Dale drumming on the 12-
Q: Did The United Travel Service write many original songs? Who was the band's primary songwriter?
Ben Hoff wrote the lion's share of our original songs and did the lead vocals on all of them. As I said, we were 40/60 in original vs cover material. Dale penned a few and I penned a few but none were recorded.
Q: There are a couple of unreleased United Travel Service songs ('Slightest Possibility' and 'Snow'). Where were they recorded? Why were they never pressed to 45s?
They were recorded with Ridon (Rick Keefer). My memory has it this way. The first release (Wind and Stone) was national but they did not print a lot of records and so when folks looked to buy them they couldn't find them. So the record hit the charts and quickly fell. Because the first release was less than a hit because of this, they were very reluctant on the second release. We mutually voided the contract with Laurie Records as a result and Slightes Possibility and Snow were left on the table.
Q: Did the band make any local TV appearances? Does any home movie film footage exist of the band?
Q: What year and why did the band break up?
For me the band broke up when I was commissioned into the Air Force and went to Active Duty in July of 1969. My memory (probably the nostalgic one) thinks that we had a chance to play the Fillmore in September. That would have been my dream come true. Going active in July put the kabosh on that idea and it never came about. I don't really have a feeling to what extent the band played the year I left and Dale and I have never really talked about it.
Q: Did you join or form any bands after The United Travel Service?
I formed a company band with my employer in 1983 and we played for a number of years at company picnics and other company events. We played some Little League Adult events and the like as well.
Q: Please tell me about your career today. How often, and where, do you perform (if at all)? If not, what keeps you busy?
Today I work for Honeywell Aerospace as an instructor in Process Control and Lean Manufacturing. I haven't played in several years. I always hated the old Hoyer and fulfilled a life's dream when I purchased a Rickenbacker 12-
Q: How do you best summarize your experiences with The United Travel Service?
Some of the best years of my life for sure. I loved every minute of it and the memories will be forever. We played at the Air Force Base in Crescent City California one year . . . stayed at the Trees Motel owned by one of the airmen's parents. They didn't want us to have to sleep in sleeping bags in the forest. All slept in the same room and woke up to a NASA space launch and huge breakfast at the hotel. There are other events just as memorable. We played together at a re-
I don't really have any photos or memorabilia. It is one of my great misgivings. A couple of the photo's I have seen I can't even remember being taken. It is fun to see me at that age though. A long time has past. It was fun.
Ask me anything else you like . . . it has been rather enjoyable to think about it some again.
RECOLLECTIONS OF A LIFE IN MUSIC – BY RAY DOERN (7/31/08)
My interest in music began with the birth of rock & roll back in the mid-
When I was about ten, they signed me up for accordion lessons. I don’t recall the instructor’s name, but it was some guy in downtown Portland.
I became a member of Oregon Journal Juniors and played at Oaks Park in Portland in 1957. This resulted in my picture (with accordion) appearing in the Oregon Journal (my only claim to fame…ha!)
IN JUNE OF 1958 I PLAYED AT AN ACCORDION FESTIVAL AT LEWIS & CLARK COLLEGE WITH ACCORDIONIST CHARLES MAGNANTE DOING THE JUDGING. ON SUNDAY, JUNE 15, I PLAYED WITH TWO DIFFERENT GROUPS. IN THE FIRST, THE YANKEYS, SIX OF US PLAYED THE BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC AND WON THIRD PLACE. THE OTHER GROUP, THE PORTLAND ACCORDION BAND, PLAYED MALAGUENA AND ALSO TOOK THIRD PLACE.
As time went on I lost interest in playing the accordion (there didn’t seem to be any rock groups with accordion players) so I took up piano. A friend from my neighborhood got a snare drum and cymbal and we started a two-
There was a piano in the gym at the high school I attended, and a friend and I would go down and play from time to time. One song I remember is What’d I Say by Jerry Lee Lewis – I plunked on the piano and my friend sang. We didn’t sound too bad!
The upright piano in my parents’ living room wasn’t something you could pack up and haul to gigs with a band, so my interest shifted to six-
In the fall of 1963 I entered Portland State, and by then I had acquired a Harmony six-
It wasn’t long before I developed a love for bass, so in December of 1963 I bought the only bass I could afford – a Harmony H22 hollow body. I think I paid $80 for it. By the summer of 1964 I was in my first rock group, The Targets (we soon changed our name to The Ascotts).
Meanwhile I had begun what turned out to be a 35-
A neighbor of mine was an electronics whiz and offered to build me a bass amp (I think this project cost around $50). I built my own speaker cabinet and got one JBL D140F bass speaker and passive radiator. I couldn’t afford two speakers. Since my neighbor’s last name was Coy, I got some stick-
The Ascotts played a lot of sock hops at local high schools in Portland in 1964-
Some of the band members wanted to do nightclubs but John Morton (rhythm guitar) and I just weren’t ready for that, so we left the group.
The next group I played with was the Redondos. This was more of a surfin’ group and marked my introduction to singer/songwriter/lead guitar player Ben Hoff and John Carter (12-
I played with The Redondos through the end of 1965 and I think the reason the group broke up was because John went into the army in January 1966.
In late 1965 I joined up with a group called The In Crowd which reunited me with Gerry Durham, drummer from the Redondos. I think the name of our group is the reason we landed a regular job at a new nightclub in Portland with the same name.
Our first gig was a Halloween party in October 1965, and we also played sock hops at the local high schools and one dance at Portland State College in March 1966. The last time we played as a group was at The In crowd in May 1966. I don’t recall why the group broke up.
Moving on, I replied to an ad placed in The Oregonian by a group looking for a bass player. I auditioned and got the position with a snazzy group called The Classmen. This was my introduction to drummer Dale Sweetland. We only played together for two months as our lead guitar player Mike Smoke entered the army in June 1966.
My most memorable gig with The Classmen was competing in the first Battle of the Bands in Portland, held at the Memorial Coliseum. We ended up taking – you guessed it –third place. We had matching outfits and choreographed steps we did while playing. This experience landed us a gig at a dance in June 1966 in Corvallis, which was our last one together.
In August 1966 I was drafted into the army, but I kept playing. My first Army group was formed at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, and we called ourselves Leon Snarf And The Boys Minus One Buffalo Fish. I had heard that name somewhere along the way and since no one objected, we adopted it. Kind of a strange name for a folk singing group. We played a talent show at the base and took –yep, you guessed it again – third place!
We also toured as a group through Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio to play for the troops in the hospital there. I used an old standup bass that i dragged through the hospital…what a monster. I had never played one before, but it worked out pretty well. We even received a letter of commendation…someone must have felt sorry for us!
When I ended up at my final duty station at Ft. Lewis, WA, another group was formed. I played bass and we had a drummer, a guitar player and a singer. Our name? Vulture And The Body Lies. I have no idea where that came from. We played a talent show in November 1967 at The Chinook Club at Ft. Lewis, and at a “company” picnic in February 1968. I was honorably discharged from the army in August 1968.
Around the time I entered the army I became part of the group I’m most fond of – United Travel Service. It reunited me with two former fellow group members, Ben Hoff and Dale Sweetland. Our rhythm guitar player was John Reeves on 12-
I played with UTS through October 1969. We cut several records, which did quite well locally. We were all in college and I guess we epitomized the typical starving musicians stereotype. I still have tapes of much of our music from that time frame.
UTS was quite a special band. I don’t think any of us realized this at the time. Ben was (and is) a very gifted songwriter and great guitar player. John was great on 12-
I don’t recall why the group broke up –possibly John going into the air force in July 1969.
Recently, after a nearly forty-
I’m certain we’ll have a reunion of UTS later this year and hopefully we can do something we should have done all those long years ago…make an album.
Like Dale says: “UTS ROCKS!”
P.S. When I retired from Nationwide in 2001, my wife started begging me to start playing guitar again. Seven years later her wish is coming true. Last night I plugged my newly acquired vintage Harmony bass guitar into a borrowed amp and tentatively began to play while she stood nearby grinning from ear to ear. I now have a Sunn Coliseum 300 bass amp, and will soon have Sunn speaker cabinets with JBL D140F bass speakers. I’m baaaaaack!
You may donate whatever you feel is appropriate, or just enjoy the tunes, the money will be distributed amongst the players, as you may know we haven’t made a penny from any of this so anything would be appreciated!! Thanks, The Band
4 Like Me
8. Gypsy Eyes
11. Crystal Land
12. Plastic Paradise
Click to play, right click to download
All songs copy protected: Benjamin Hoff 1968
Plastic Paradise: Music-
Special Note: 10,11,12 are “basement recordings” done on a home tape recorder at a rehearsal in 1968,69
UNITED TRAVEL SERVICE: MY RECOLLECTIONS
By Benjamin Hoff
Sometime in 1966, my second year of college, Dale Sweetland and John Reeves contacted me from Oregon State University in Corvallis. They said they were looking for a lead guitar player for a band they were forming, and had heard about me I-
Of the four of us musicians, Dale Sweetland was the most technically knowledgeable, due at least in part to being the son of Elliot Sweetland, all-
John Reeves impressed me when I first met him as a sort of study in contrasts: He looked like an open-
Ray Doern was so reserved and self-
As for myself: I started guitar in middle school, after trying clarinet -
In the early 1980s, after writing a surprise (to me) hit book, The Tao of Pooh, I got sidetracked from writing and playing music into writing book manuscripts -
I've been having a recurring dream, late at night: We United Travel Service members are on stage in a large, crowded music hall. I step up to the microphone, playing my old white solid-
I've ridden horses at full gallop. I've driven powerful cars very fast. I've climbed mountains, hot-
Here's some background material on our studio recordings:
"Drummer of Your Mind" was, I believe, the first recording we made at Rick Keefer's/Ken Bass's home studio in Beaverton, Oregon. The words were inspired by Thoreau's famous "different drummer" quotation; the tune was inspired by clavichord and harpsichord minuets. Dale double-
Next to record -
"Snow" was, I believe, the next song we recorded, followed by "The Slightest Possibility" -
"Snow" is the only one of our/my songs that I attempted (sort of) to market. I sent a demo tape of our recording to the vocal group The Association. About a year later, I got it back in the mail -
"The Slightest Possibility" was recorded in the bouncy, nutty spirit of the song itself. Ken's basement studio had flooded the night before, and he was still mopping up the water when we got there. We stood on our toolboxes, off the wet floor, to keep from being electrocuted as we danced, played, and sang through the song -
I got the idea for "ytilibissoP tsethgilS ehtT" ("The Slightest Possibility"backwards) when Rick rewound "The Slightest Possibility" on the studio machine. As it passed over the heads in reverse, I thought: It sounds pretty good that way. I later asked Rick to make me a demo of the song on 1/4" (home-
"Like Me" has the strangest history of the songs we recorded for Rick Keefer -
I played "Like Me" again and again. "I really like that song!" I declared to the living-
"Gypsy Eyes" is the only studio recording I have a date for: March 16, 1968. It and "Echo of You" were recorded by Rick at Ripcord Studios in Vancouver, Washington. "Gypsy Eyes" is my favorite of our songs on record. I wrote it for a girl I saw at a downtown Portland bus stop. It's one of the first, or possibly the first, flamenco-
Ray was gone by then, so Jim Roberts played bass on "Gypsy Eyes" -
"Echo of You" was the last studio recording we made. I played bass; John played rhythm through a rotating Leslie speaker; Jim Roberts played backup rhythm. We then added an instrumental overdub, at the end of which I played my electric bass with a cello bow while Dale played chords on the studio grand piano, over the strings of which Rick had placed a chain for a clang, clang, clang sound. Before the final verse of the song is a brief interlude, during which three music boxes play simultaneously. John's job on the overdubbed track was to start the music boxes playing -
One of the music boxes had been loaned for the occasion by my then-
Today I saw your face in a magazine
Then it changed and it wasn’t you
Someone else – oh no, no, no
But in the night, the echo of you
Drives away the darkness -
I’m no longer alone.
Regarding the three home recordings:
I wrote "Beyond the Rainbow" (for the former girlfriend mentioned above) after listening to some Neil Young albums and deciding to write a Neil Young song. So here it is, complete with Neil Young-
"Crystal Land" was written under the influence of Tim Buckley. ("I will sing silver songs of your smile" -
"Plastic Paradise" was written under the influence of Malvina Reynolds and Pete Seeger. ("I heard once long ago," it says, "of things called 'grass' and 'trees.' But where did they go? What do they mean to me?") Like "Wind and Stone," "Plastic Paradise" is what was then called a "protest" song. Could the "protest singers" of the '60s have imagined then just how bad things were going to get? A sobering thought.
United Travel Service
Mt Angel College 1967
P o r t l a n d
1 9 6 7
60’s Psychadelic Rock
Of the ten steady and stable bands I have played in, the first four (1963 The Cobras, 1964 The Valiants, 1965 Redondas, 1969 The United Travel Service) are the best. The common thread is the musical corroboration with Ben Hoff. I relive this epoch in my life as often as my memory permits.
The story with the United Travel Service can be told in two very different ways: the first story would have me live the last forty years (from 1968 to 2008) just missing the success yet living the energy and being part of the power that was generated. To me this band has always been Ben’s band and during the course of the past forty years, I unconsciously took direction and meaning from Ben. Story number two, the story I recently just learned, changes everything. Story number two is that John Reeves started the whole thing. You have all been able to read his story, so I will take the liberty to tell you the story I lived.
It’s important for me to start where my music found its beginning. I was always musical and rhythmical. I can remember listening to all forms of music on the radio before I could reach the knobs and playing music on anything that could make music. I tried everything from tapping on the leg of a chair to pressing the keys of a Baby Grand Piano. My mother was a great piano player and I can remember watching her hands float over the ivory keys creating anything from one note using one gently placed finger to as many notes as she could reach with all ten of her fingers coming down at once. I also discovered that I could sit under the piano and truly feel the rhythmic changes and the huge vibrations so much so that I sometimes believe I could move the floor as I listened.
During this time of exploration my older brother (by four years) started piano lessons. My mother was classically trained and my brother was getting lessons in popular music. This exposed me to the distinguishing characteristic of multiple time signatures my mother used and the power and gravity of my brothers’ 2/4 and 4/4 time that he seemed to end each practice session with. In those sessions, I remember him improvising chords that didn’t sound like those my mom played.
Whatever the style, this was live music that wanted to live with me and I wanted to live with it. Four years passed as my life and music experience for the most part stayed in our home. Then one night our family went out to
dinner. I can still remember so clearly. At the Three Star Restaurant in the far corner of a very large dinning room with a dance floor, I saw my first band. I knew that was so cool. My mind left the dinner table for the whole night and several times I even walked over to the band to watch them work. It was amazing to see, hear and feel the pulsation of four men playing four different instruments. I can remember being able to focus on one man at a time. I remember being able to move from one instrument to another sound and back again when finally I let them all come together to form one perfect sound with four parts. I can’t remember any singing or a singer so all I can say is this was my introduction to the musician or the “sideman”. From that moment, I wanted the same connection with a band.
Since my brother was the piano student, he more or less controlled the time at the piano. So, my interest took me to a different direction. I went with my mom to visit our neighbor. As they talked I found a way to entertain myself with a ukulele I had found in the corner of the room. Before the morning was over she gave me the ukulele and a book which taught me to play.
Another musical milestone occurred at Christmas during my fourth grade year: my father gave me a record player that played 33s and 45s. This would ignite a new freedom of major importance. I was able to collect the music that left me speechless and more than anything else I was able to listen to music whenever I wanted to. As my record collection grew, my social life changed. My latest record and I were invited to the house of the girl across the street. She was my age and I still think she is one of the prettiest girls I’ve ever known. I spent a lot of time with her listening to our records. On one of these days we were sitting on the floor together when she said, “all of your records have one thing in common, they all have a guitar playing a major part. Why don’t you get one?” (A guitar,) I said as she nodded. I don’t know if I did it for her or for me, it didn’t matter I went out to purchase my first guitar. I got a $20 Sears Spanish Acoustic. It came with a small instruction book I used to helped me tune it to our piano and to play a few chords.
To say this new guitar changed my life is an understatement. I began playing the instrument more than listening to my records. My record collection included Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry, guitarist that would have an influence on my early development. I stayed with them for several years until Duane Eddy and Rick Nelson gave me something new
in which to be absorbed. I loved Rick’s voice and I still do. (I even tried-
Duane had the biggest guitar sound I had ever heard. He knew how to achieve a warm, luminescent, vibrant tone I had not heard from any other guitar player. I was lucky enough to hear him at a live concert only one time and he had the same richness in person as he produced on the records. I have every record he has made and with the exception of two or three songs I could listen to him all day. I learned to play, as best I could, every song he made.
In the seventh grade I sang in a talent show but my skill level at guitar wasn’t ready to play and sing at the same time. I asked a friend, Phil, who was already a very good player to help me out. I sang the Rick Nelson song “There’ll never be anyone else but you” and I nailed it. Phil played terrifically and as a consequence he introduced me to the ever so useful C Am F G chord progression. I was trapped. I think I wore that out for the next two years. A few months later Phil had a talent show of his own and he asked me to join him. I still have the program. We were called “John and Phil”. We played once in a while for the next few years. Then I got a phone call.
The call came from Ben Hoff. He said “I got your phone number from my cousin Phil. Phil said you like to play guitar. Would you like to get together?” I told Ben that I didn’t know any songs but I liked playing chords. He said that was good because I know a lot of songs and need some rhythm. Thus began my intro to Surf music. Ben was so skilled and polished that I fell right into the grove he was building. The first time we played together felt like we had been together for years. I had never experienced so much fun. That connection I saw, felt and heard so long ago at the Three Star Restaurant was no longer a dream. I knew the feeling and I was hooked. Two weeks later Ben and I were in our first band (The Cobras) and by the end of that week we played our first job. And earned real money!
Ben and I continued to play from 1963 through 1970. In early 1965, Ben and I joined a band (The Redondos) and to the best I can recall Ray Doern was already the bass player. This was the first time I got to meet Ray not to mention the first time I played with a truly great bass player. This experience opened my ears to the joy and need for that most important part
of a band. From that moment I learned to listen to the base player. He will make you believe in the song.
During this time, ’63 through ’65, I finished high school and went on to Mt. Angel College. In December ’65, I was drafted into the Army and that lasted through Dec ’68. It was in this time period the United Travel Service (UTS) formed. I continued to write to both Ben and Ray sharing all of our related music experiences. By this time Ray was also in the Army (Ft. Louis) and playing bass in a folk band. Ben was at the University of Oregon getting ready to meet John and Dale and I had secured a place with Special Services playing guitar in a touring show. I did three or four road shows during the three years I was in the Army. They were very good and well-
When the United Travel Service (UTS) released “Wind and Stone” Ben sent me a box full of records. I was in El Paso, Texas (Ft. Bliss) keeping the Hawk Missile operational. I took the records around to the radio stations to get airplay. I recall talking to a station manager about our record he said he remembered seeing it but hadn’t listened to it. I asked why. He pulled open a drawer that was filled with records and said we just received these and will try to listen to them. He asked me again for the name of the band. I said the United Travel Service. He said, “oh that’ll be at the back. We file them alphabetically. We might not have the time to get to the end of the stack.” I eventually talked him into listening and he liked what he heard. He had a few reasons why he wouldn’t play the record. One was that I had to show that the record is on a chart. Luck would be with me as Ben had included a radio station chart from Portland that had it in the top ten. Upon seeing the chart the manager agreed to started playing it. Several stations in the area put the song on their play list and I was also able to get some of my friends to call in and request it. This was easy because they all liked the song. I even made a day trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I visited some stations and left copies. They all said they would play it. I have no way of knowing if they did.
During this time, I was able to make several trips home on leave from the Army. These were on holidays like Christmas or the 4th of July. I got together with Ben when he had a job to play. On these occasions I thought this was the UTS and I was just a sub for John Reeves since he had gone
home from school for the holiday. When my time in the service came to an end I went right back to Mt. Angel College to pick up where I had left off.
In March of ’69, I went to what I believe was the last recording session for the UTS. This was the first time I met John Reeves. I can only remember little bits of the evening. The building was new and didn’t have any steps to the front door. The control room was narrow. Ben sat on a high stool in the corner of the control room. Dale spent most of the night at a set of drums elevated on a platform behind a baffle. John sat in the middle of the studio with his twelve-
In June of ’69 when John Reeves finished college and joined the Air Force, Ben asked me to join the band as a full time member. Because of our day jobs we were able to play together just a couple of times before the infamous Basement Tapes on Sunday July 20, 1969. Why do I remember the date? We made the recording on the same day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Why did the recordings happen? Before I met Ben I bought my first tape deck, a Roberts reel to reel stereo, and I used it to record a lot practice sessions so that I could have something when I practice at home. Through the years I have made over a hundred reel to reel recordings of every band I played with to include the very first day Ben and I played together. I admit most of them by accident turned out well. I just spent the last five years reviewing these tapes and sharing CD copies with Ben, Ray and Dale. (By the way I’m still not finished listening to my collection of tapes. Who knows what mystery is magnetized within those reels.)
Lets return to the magnetic Basement Tapes. The day started without the mystery and magic that I began to feel as the day progressed. It was a simple summer morning about 10:00 AM when we began to gather at Ben’s “old” apartment in the basement of NW Portland on July 21, 1969. I had no way of knowing that by the time the heat would settle and the dust would linger, the reward from that day would never end. And yes, I still feel it pulling on me today.
The energy I got was from watching Ben, Dale and Ray play with a collective passion that I had never seen, felt or lived before or since. I know I felt the day because I lived it but I have wondered if I could have believed it except for one thing: I got it on tape, nearly the whole day. There is a lot more on the tape than just the eight songs when including the out takes and bloopers. You can hear through the jokes and candid moments where the tension was broken how much we trusted each other. We only worked on eight songs each from start to finish that day. We lasted until about 3:00 PM when Ben, Ray and Dale crashed and I, wanting to be alone, went up on the roof of the three-
We played a couple of jobs that summer and several more times at Mt. Angel College. The last one at Mt. Angel is the most memorable. We had a light show by “Toad Hill Projection”. The Commons area was a semi-
That takes us through the fall of ’69 and the winter of ’70 until the point where Dale would find another band to work with. In September, I started my last year of college. In January of 1971, with positive advice from Jerry Garcia, I purchased my first Pedal Steel Guitar. That event changed my whole life. I became a full time student of the steel guitar. From that first day and every day since I have learned something new on that instrument.
Ben and I have always stayed in touch. We never lived more than a few miles away from each other. With Ray it’s been a little different. We stayed in touch until October 1972. We had dinner at my house and at the time my head was really into the steel. He left that night and we were not to see each other for 35 years.
As for Dale, he went on the road. Then, in 1997 I got a call to sub in a band for someone that was sick. I played one or maybe two weekends and it’s still hard to believe, but the drummer was Dale. What a night that was. There is no one who can drum like Dale. He is the most musical drummer I have ever worked with and to me that quality makes him the best, cleanest, solid musician I know. And, he is fun. I could do some name dropping right now and list some of the drummers I have been lucky enough to share the stage with but the point would be missed and lost in the naming. So it should be said that Dale is the “Sweetest” drumming you can buy.
The guys talked about their instruments so I will follow suit. With the UTS in the “Basement Tapes” I used a Fender Electric 12 string Strat. which I sold a few years ago. I still own the 1962 Gibson ES 330 TD that I bought new when Ben and I started playing together. At that time I was using a Fender Vibrasonic amp. I also just sold that a few years back. I hadn’t used it for about fifteen years. In 1968 I bought new a Martin D-
The last forty five years as a stage musician have made me a very satisfied player. Each year brought me something new and exciting. Some of the high lights have been as a backup musician for Hank Thompson, Susan Ray,
Del Reeves Red Simpson and the Hagger Brothers. I preformed at the International Steel Guitar Convention, and also worked as a representative player at NAMM Convention in Los Angles. I have been a part of an opening act for a number of shows that include Charley Pride, Gretchen Wilson, Randy Travis, and Carrie Underwood.
I have had so much fun. Who can ask for anything more? Well, I can. I just want to spend a little more time with Ben, Ray, Dale and this time I don’t want to miss out on John Reeves. What a fun band we are.
KPOV Radio Interview courtesy Mike Funke