Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Fort Mudge Memorial Dump interview with guitarist Dan Keady

Fort Mudge Memorial Dump

Listen via youtube
Thanks to Black Widow's channel (link)

Also on Spotify

Happy new year. TDATS is in its ninth year now, and still going, so thanks to all those who have shown support and welcome to the first post of 2017!

The Fort Mudge Memorial Dump was a prime psychedelic band from around Walpole and Boston in Massachusetts. They released one LP during their peak in 1969 and it's been a steady grower for me ever since I heard it a few years ago. A rich and varied LP which has something to offer everyone into vintage rock sounds. As was typical at the time, there were less genre constraints and expectations back then and you'll hear blues, folk, country and hard rock sounds mingling happily, with male and female vocals from various members of the band. These were David Amaral [bass], Jim Deptula [drums], Caroline Stratton [vocals], Danny Keady [guitar, vocals] and Rick Clerici [guitar, vocals]. Interestingly, comedian and actor Martin Mull (Roseanne, Mrs. Doubtfire, Veep) made a small contribution to the LP too.

As is often the case when I am looking into bands to include in mixes (Fort Mudge has appeared in three so far: Vol95Vol97 and Vol117), there was a surprising lack of general information about the band and their album, so I attempted to track down a few key members, eventually getting in touch with founding guitarist Dan Keady. He still plays and is currently in South West Florida's Deb & The Dynamics, where he now lives (link). He's kindly agreed to answer a few questions!

Interview with Dan Keady

Dan in a recent show
Hi Dan! Can you give us some background about how you originally became a musician and some key events leading up to being in Fort Mudge?

Dan: I started playing guitar at age 14 and sucked at it for a year or two but eventually put a band together made up of neighbourhood kids playing instrumental guitar music like the Ventures and surf groups. I used to go to see Rick play at the local record hops and he was doing the same kind of music. All that changed when the Beatles arrived and we all had to learn how to sing [and buy mics and vocal amps etc]. I ended up in a band that my older brother left for a gig in Boston. This was Walpole Massachusetts big time band Little John's Nocturnes.

How did you and Rick get together with David, Jim and Caroline to start The Fort Mudge Memorial Dump, and where did that colourful name come from?

While in Little John's Nocturnes playing soul music hits I met Caroline who was doing a folk jam with Rick. We decided that a folk rock band might get us an audience so we added drums and bass. David [bass] was younger than us and playing with a garage band down the street when we recruited him. The first drummer Al Barnicote just wanted to jam and recommended we replace him if we were going to rehearse and write every Tuesday night at my parents house.

Jim "Chicky" Deptula was my drummer in earlier bands and could play well had great hair but was a troubled kid. We spent about a year just jamming and playing Rick and Caroline's varied compositions until they morphed into the crazy mess that is Fort Mudge. The name came from Walt Kelly's comic "Pogo". If the band had been more successful we probably would have had to change the name as it was used without permission.

Pogo comic March 3, 1968 - Full page - Source
Excerpt from Wikipedia (link): "Pogo [Comic, est 1913] is set in the Georgia section of the Okefenokee Swamp; [the Georgia locales of] Fort Mudge and Waycross are occasionally mentioned. The characters live, for the most part, in hollow trees amidst lushly rendered backdrops of North American wetlands, bayous, lagoons and backwoods. Fictitious local landmarks — such as "Miggle’s General Store and Emporium" and the "Fort Mudge Memorial Dump," are occasionally featured."

Can you tell us some things about life in the band? Where did you play shows?

We heard about free concerts on Sunday afternoons at Cambridge Commons near Harvard University and went to check them out. The guys running it said we were welcome to come and play our own material for their crowd [not the standard thing in those days]. We played every Sunday that summer [1968 I think]. At the end they offered to manage us and make us stars. One was eliminated when he started messing with the money [we were playing colleges and high schools by then] and Ron Beaton became our manager with the agreement that he wouldn't get paid until we got signed with a record company.

He formed Moonstone management and went to New York bringing our demo to everyone that would listen. I guess the "Boston sound" had attracted some attention and bands were getting signed and selling records. A few reps came up to see us but the summer of 69 saw a great increase in our audience at the free concerts in Cambridge. So we got a rep from Mercury to come up for a weekend to see us play for a thousand people at a university followed by our headlining the Sunday concert for 8000 or more.

Fort Mudge in front of a home crowd at Walpole Mass.

How did the recording of the album come about, and how did comedian/actor Martin Mull get involved and what did he contribute on the album?

The Mercury rep reported back to NY that we were extremely popular and should be signed. Of course it took months to get the deal done and the rep was long gone by the time we recorded a note. We recorded in Boston in what would later become The Cars' studio [Petrucci & Atwell Sound Studios]. Martin Mull was a struggling musician and house guitar player at the studio. He lent me his Gibson ES-335 for 'blues tune' and entertained us between takes. Once the basic tracks were laid down half of the band just hung out in the front office with Martin while others did overdubs and vocals. Rick Clerici played all the acoustic guitar parts as well as electric on his songs. Most of the noisy stuff is me.

Did the producer Michael Tschudin and engineer William Wolf  have significant input in the record?

The producer Michael Tschudin played all keyboard tracks including picked piano and other odd sounds. Bill Wolf was a bass player and insisted that David use his old Fender bass because it sounded better than David's Gibson EB3. That was his opinion but he insisted like it was fact. I felt bad for David who was very young but accomplished on his instrument and he clearly didn't like the Fender's high action and dead sound but in the end it sounded great.

(l-r) David Amaral [bass], Jim Deptula [drums], Caroline Stratton [vocals]
Danny Keady [guitar, vocals] Rick Clerici [guitar,vocals]

The album is ambitious and diverse, there’s some heavy fuzz guitar on tracks like 'The Seventh Is Death' and 'The Singer', there's blues like 'Blue's Tune' and there's mellow orchestrated songs like 'Actions Of A Man' and 'What Good Is Spring'. No two songs are really alike. Can you explain how such a diverse mixture of styles and instrumentation came to be included?

The songs were written by very different people and we were intentionally not listening to any other music so that we could develop an original sound. I'm told my leadership and arranging were very heavy handed and led to the demise of this version of the band but it was successful and I felt that the band needed a direction.

What equipment did you use to get your sound on the LP?

I was mostly using a Gibson SG special running into a fuzz and wah wah pedal [only on sometimes] then into a Marshall 100W Plexi Superlead amp. I did use Martin Mull's Gibson ES-335 for Blue's Tune and possibly other overdub solos.

Is it you singing on 'Blue's Tune' (which is credited to you)?

Yeah that's me trying to sound blackish. I'm still the blues singer these days, and was also the 'B' in Southwest Fla.'s The R&B Connection in the 90's (the CD is probably on youtube), as the bass player used to say. I am featured doing blues songs on all the latest releases from Deb & The Dynamics.

Front cover
The Fort Mudge Memorial Dump - S/T

Mercury ‎- SR 61256 (1969)

A] Mr. Man / Crystal Forms / Actions Of A Man / Blue's Tune

B] The Seventh Is Death / What Good Is Spring? / Tomorrow / Know Today / Questionable Answer / The Singer

Are you able to give any personal insight into the meaning of “The Singer”? It’s a heavy and foreboding sound that I really dig, along with all your (as always) inventive guitar parts!

If I recall, Rick said The Singer represented good. Like Jesus or Martin Luther King preaching non-violence and, as in the last verse, parents can create hateful children who can grow up to be The Singer's executioners.

Do you have any favourite tunes from the LP?

I still like 'The Singer'. Both musically and lyrically it still holds up today, although my guitar tone has improved quite a bit. I also like 'Tomorrow' for the lyrics and the sounds ...a lot went into the background to get that done.

What was the public/critical reception of the record on release? From what you've said previously, I presume the LP lineup didn't last long after it was made?

In the Boston area we were an instant success. I remember Caroline and I going to a big record outlet and seeing boxes of our LPs stacked up. They were just cutting them open and stacking them. They said sales were so good that they couldn't bother loading into the bins like other records.

Unfortunately Mercury provided no display stands or posters to make us look like a successful band. I do remember hearing that the same brisk sales were reported on the west coast. Mercury blew the promo money on full page trade magazine ads which made us feel great but didn't do the band any real good. They also didn't have any successful acts to put us on tour with so most of the world had no knowledge of us. This led to bad bookings in clubs and such that had no interest in an original act with no hits on the radio. Rick and Dave left to form Brother Ralph a 'Kansas' like lineup of guitars, saxophones and violins. They were great and I did record a demo of them but they were never signed

Fort Mudge's album has been re-released by Mercury and there is a lot of buzz online from all over the world. My daughter recently found a band doing covers of these songs selling downloads online. I had several different versions of Fort Mudge, one even did another never-released album. We eventually morphed into 'FM'. then 'Madeinusa' and finally 'Love Lace' [featuring Mudge's Caroline Stratton and Chicky Deptula]. There's plenty about all that online.

Thanks Dan! And thanks for the music. It would be great to hear the un-released Fort Mudge album one day...

Check out Dan's current band at Deb & The Dynamics.net

Dan on stage with Deb & The Dynamics

Thanks for reading!
Some other TDATS interviews:

Neil Merryweather (Vol68| Heat Exchange (Vol96)
Iron Claw interview with Jim Ronnie Jodo Interview with Rod Alexander
Castle Farm Interview with Steve Traveller
Cobra interview with Rob Vunderink (Vol111)
Roy Rutanen interview | Stonehouse interview with Jim Smith
Panda interview with Jaap van Eik (Vol119)
Universe interview with Steve Finn part 1
Gun / Three Man Army interview with Paul Gurvitz (Vol125)
Blue Planet interview with Art Bausch (Vol127)

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  1. This is truly a band that deserves the status of 'unknown legends'. So thx for this interesting piece. I would actually have thought that the involved musicians were a lot more experienced cause the technical standard is really high on the album.

    1. I agree. It's a shame the LP didn't make them as famous as they deserved.

  2. I like this group a lot.But< I couldn't collect any info about this group
    on the internet.
    This interview helped me a lot.

    1. Thanks to you too