Thursday, August 31, 2006

Savage Grace, SRC bill missed

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One of the best rock concerts I never saw took place on Saturday, May 23, 1970 at the Northern Michigan University Fieldhouse in Marquette.

Yes, I'm talking about a twin bill featuring Savage Grace and SRC, perhaps the hottest bands in Michigan, that I didn't attend.

Fact is I didn't even find out about the show until decades after it took place.

You see, I was checking out a used SRC album I bought, called "Traveler's Tale," when I noticed the inner sleeve contained a poster and unused ticket to a concert featuring a pair of great bands, homegrown right here in Michigan.

The psychedelic-styled poster shows two yin-yang symbols and an eye with this cryptic text: "Telephone poles are tall. Who cares? Buddha does!" and the words "Wah Wah." The poster also lists a third band, "The Walrus," and is signed Szluk. Numbered 00545, the ticket listed single admission at $2.

At the time of this show, Michigan had a thriving rock 'n' roll scene, which besides Savage Grace and SRC, included the MC5, Bob Seger System, Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes, Mitch Ryder, the Stooges, Frost, Third Power and the Rationals.

Since I didn't go to this concert, I thought I'd contact someone who did. So, I got in touch with Al Jacquez, lead vocalist and bass player for Savage Grace.

I asked Jacquez, who lives in the Detroit area, what he recalled about the show. "That was a long time ago. I remember that SRC was very well rehearsed and I thought some of their songs were strong. We all had much more fun than we deserved," said Jacquez, who was college age himself at the time.

Besides Jacquez, the band consisted of guitar wizard Ron Koss, keyboardist John Seanor and drummer Larry Zack. At the time of the Marquette show, the band had released a self-titled debut album and closed its shows with a barn-burning version of the Bob Dylan by-way-of Jimi Hendrix song "All Along the Watchtower."

Jacquez recalled that Savage Grace did other shows in the Upper Peninsula. "We played in Marquette and Sault Ste. Marie at the very least. I know that we did shows with the MC5 and shows of our own."

In fact, the band performed many concerts on twin bills with SRC. "We did quite a few shows with all the Michigan and Midwest bands. I know that we played in Ann Arbor, Saugatuck and Petoskey with SRC."

SRC may be best remembered for their hypnotic regional hit "Black Sheep," which was edited for single release but appeared in a longer version on the group's self-titled debut LP, and was certainly a standout in performance. Their three albums on Capitol Records mixed spacey guitar and organ work with haunting lyrics into pure Motor City rock 'n' roll.

The group centered around Gary Quackenbush on lead guitar, his brother Glenn on Hammond organ, and vocalist Scott Richardson. After leaving the stage at NMU, SRC rushed to Tartar Field at Wayne State University in Detroit where they had a gig the next day. In the following years, failing to attain a national break through, the group disbanded.

In the period after their Marquette appearance, Savage Grace managed another album, "2," recorded in Los Angeles, but broke up in 1972 without achieving the success many fans felt they deserved.

Today, Jacquez carries on musically as leader of an and coming blues quartet named Measured Chaos, which has also played north of the Mackinac Bridge. "Measured Chaos had a great show up in Ontonagon and we want to go back again. I would like to do the Woodtick Festival and other dates in the U. P.," he added.

Besides the gravelly-voiced Jacquez, Measured Chaos includes guitarist Mark Tomorsky, drummer Bill Gordon and bassist Mark Gougeon, an alum of Detroit legend Mitch Ryder.

The group has a new compact disc, "Somewhere between Detroit & Chicago," as well. They've had some airplay on satellite XM Radio, WCSX in Detroit, Ontonagon's WOAS and other stations, Jacquez noted.

By the way, while Savage Grace and SRC played that twin bill in Marquette 36 years ago, thanks to email, Jacquez now knows what the poster used to promote the concert looks like. "Wow! Great poster," was his comment.

Don't worry, my poster for one of the best shows I never saw is still safely tucked away in that old album cover.


kink said...

Szluk is Mike Szluk who lived in the dorms at NMU at the time. He was a good friend of mine. The Walrus was a local band of NMU students, and still exists in some form today.

I didn't attend this concert, but I did go to the Savage Grace/MC5 concert in the winter of '69 at the NMU fieldhouse. MC5 was supposed to be the headliner, but Savage Grace was caught in a blizzard driving up from Detroit, so the 5 played first, and Grace arrived during their set and closed the show.

I remember going to the Big Boy restaurant after the show and seeing the bands there. What a hoot for the local Big Boy regulars!


Kim French said...

I played bass, for Walrus, at the Savage Grace, SRC concert. Nice to play in front of so many appreciative people. The only NMU student was Don Kuhli, our drummer. Where is Mike Szluk? He was a crazy mo-fo. I seem to remember Kink, as well.