Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer of The Ducks

Neil Young and The Ducks : Mr Soul

On June 13, 1977 Neil Young released American Stars and Bars, which featured "Like a Hurricane" and little else of interest to me personally.

Young spent much of the Summer playing in local Santa Cruz nightclubs with The Ducks, a band made up of  Moby Grape's Bob Mosley and others. 

From Wikipedia:

Young  said they could play "Mr. Soul" better than Buffalo Springfield. By mid-June the Ducks began to play, normally two sets a night, three or four times a week. Sometimes there was enough heads-up that they'd be listed in Santa Cruz County’s weekly newspaper the Good Times. The Ducks had become a local sensation.

 The set list for their shows was very democratic. All four could sing and had material, so they took turns throughout the sets in a strict manner. Highlights included "Mr. Soul," a Blackburn tune entitled "Silver Wings," a soul/R and B tune of Mosley's entitled "Gypsy Wedding," and hard Chuck Berry-esque rock and roll sessions sung by Johnny Craviotto. "Comes a Time" was played as a country rocker before turning up in its country-folk studio authenticity. They also did "Homegrown," a cover of Ian and Sylvia's "Four Strong Winds" with Young singing lead, and an instrumental guitar showcase entitled "Windward Passage." Early in the summer "Windward Passage" was done in a kind of psychedelic/surf manner, it grew into a more traditional Young guitar piece as the weeks went on. Young played "Old Black" which sported a Santa Cruz sticker that summer. He usually wore a plaid shirt with drawstring pants that were high fashion at the time. In the smaller clubs the band would shake hands with the crowd at the end. Even in larger venues like the Catalyst which had a maximum capacity of 1,000 people, people would often bump into Young and company waiting in line at the bar between sets. Young was spending some of his big star money that summer on the band, by midsummer they were doing exceptional projections of animations overhead and large mobile recording vans were usually spotted in the alley during most shows. 

 They played all over the Santa Cruz area, from the showcase Catalyst, to the very cozy Crossroads, to down-to-earth spots like the Veteran's Hall. They were not without some rock and roll cliché drama, Craviotto seemed kind of thirsty some evenings, and he passed out behind the drum kit during intermission at a show. Near the end of the summer they played two larger shows, one at the Civic Auditorium that had the current edition of Moby Grape, which the benefit turned out to be their final performance with Young. And an outdoor performance at Cabrillo Community College opening for Elvin Bishop.

   The Ducks managed to end a mere seven weeks after they began. Young's rented house was burglarized and he lost a number of instruments and other items of great sentimental value. As word had spread in the national media about Young joining a local group, crowds increased with out of town "Duck Hunters" less content to let the band have its own identity and more inclined to mindlessly yell for old perennial Neil Young concert favorites. The Ducks continued on for a while without Young and held out hope that he might return, but it did not come to pass.

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