Between Exile & Magic
- Blues In A Bottle
After the split up of the original band things get somewhat
confused. For a short time Jeff and Jim carried on as The Exiles,
bringing in John French on drums and Don Geisen to help out on guitar. The rare photo below shows this line-up - Jim, Don, John and Jeff.
But at some point they changed
their name to The Illusions (or Allusions). John and Jim had left to join Merrell who had
put together another version of The Exiles in early 1966 and was recording
with them. This time the band also included Mark Thompson
on keyboards. However, this line-up was soon to change
to include Mark Thompson again on keyboards plus two future members of
Mu, Larry Willey on bass, and Randy Wimer on drums, who went on to record
a single credited to Merrell and The Xiles.
Gary Lotspeich remembers Jeff's band performing, probably
as The Illusions (or Allusions), at his final high school prom. Their setlist included
a number of Buffalo Springfield songs which Gary recalls as being very
cool for the time.
The membership of these bands seems to have been continually
changing with people playing or sitting in with several bands at the same
time and it wasn't long before Jeff teamed up with John French in a band
called 'Blues In A Bottle'. Playing mainly blues covers in a similar vein
to the early Magic Band, John handled the vocals and played harmonica,
Jeff was the main guitar player, Jeff Parker (who would later figure in
Mu) joined on second guitar, Mark Boston (yes, aka Rockette Morton) was
on bass and Don Giesen played drums. This band, which according to John
French had a "big Yardbirds-like sound", played some live gigs, including
upstaging Beefheart when opening for him at a local concert, but, sadly,
was never recorded.
With 'Blue In A Bottle' we have three of the legendary 'Trout
Mask' Magic Band playing together. It may have been through Mark Boston,
or maybe even when The Exiles had been recording out at Palmdale that
Jeff came in contact with another guitarist who would soon figure prominently
in his life, one Bill Harkleroad. In 1994 Bill recalled:
"Jeff and I hung out a lot before
we were both in the Beefheart band ... well actually John French, Jeff,
Mark [Boston] and I did 'cause we were like the local little teenage
hotshots who one by one ended up in the band ... but Jeff and I hung
around a lot ..."
Then John got the call to replace P.G. Blakely in the Magic
Band. Jeff carried on with 'Blues In A Bottle', probably with Bill Harkleroad
as a replacement. John French said he recalls seeing them at "...an
afternoon outdoor party ... Jeff sounded great"
Jeff would certainly have been aware of what the Magic Band
were doing, they were after all the hottest band in Lancaster and he knew
the drummer, and almost definitely would have heard the SAM album when
it appeared in September 1967.
This awareness and his own ability as a guitarist and interest
in blues playing would have stood him in good stead for the job as second
guitarist to Alex St Claire. DVV was certainly aware of him, he'd have
heard him play with The Exiles and then with 'Blues in a Bottle' and his
abilities had been extolled by John French (now in The Magic Band) and
Don Aldridge (who hung out regularly with Don and at Magic Band rehearsals)..
For a while DVV had the idea to use Jeff as lead guitarist
in a band he was planning with vocalist Don Aldridge to be called '25th
Century Quaker'. Don Aldridge was another Lancaster musician who, at the
time, was working with Merrell Fankhauser and Gary Lotspiech in a band
called Aldridge, Fankhauser & Lotspiech (some of their recorded work
can be heard on the 'Fapardokly' album).
The '25th Century Quaker' project was supposedly to be kept under wraps
but Jeff inadvertently mentioned the possibility to Merrell who was not
best pleased and ended the AF&L band.
And in the end the 'Quaker' idea was dropped too, probably
because DVV decided to continue with the Magic Band and saw Jeff as a
potential successor to Alex St Claire with the added bonus of being younger
so he would be easier to manipulate.
to John French for permission to use the pictures of The Exiles and of Blues In A Bottle.