We owe a big THANK YOU to DENNIS DALCIN of the cool jangle pop band the LEARS! He supplied me with theTropics photos!!
Hello space friends, as I promised MORE W W info! I recently had the pleasure of chatting with a founding memeber of WW BUDDY
PENDERGRASS. This is part one of what turned into a 2 hour tryp back into the history of this creative genius.
(Damien) When did the Tropics make that transition from THE TROPICS to WHITE WITCH?
(Buddy)Well really, the Tropics broke up, and White Witch was formed by me and Buddy Richardson, and we decided to use Bobby Shea on drums.
Bobby was the only one from the Tropics, other than myself, that was in White Witch at the time. Charlie (Souza) had gone off to do his own thing
after the Tropics split and he came back on the second White Witch LP.
(Damien) What was the reason for the Tropics split up?
(Buddy) A conflict in direction mostly, understand, this was back during a time when music was making a transition from great melodies and
harmonies like, Beatles kind of music to Hendrix and Cream , free jam kind of stuff.
(Damien) And I would guess that you were pulling for the beatles style over the free jam?
(Buddy) Yes, that was really the kind of music the Tropics were doing and Eric, the guitar player, totally flipped out when Hendrix came out ! ha
ha, and I can understand that as a musician, but that was not the direction the band wanted to go. So after that Eric and Charlie did a band called
BACCUS and they were more in that heavy jam style. We replaced them and continued as the Tropics for a bit when Mel left the band and became
a Jehovah's Witness.
(Damien) I guess the reason I was calling it a transition is that I read that some of you early gig's were being advertised as "THE
(Buddy) Yea well, we wanted to start being an all original band and it was hard establishing a new band and starting all over so we ended up
playing out in Clearwater beach , we were actually the house band at this place, and I think we booked that as THE TROPICS. We played there
six nights a week with an afternoon jam session on Sundays. Every morning we would hook up at this band house that Buddy Richardson and I
had purchased as a band house. That was where we would go over our original material. It was like an optional thing, anybody who wanted to
show up could show up and we would work on the
material. Well, it ended up Ronn Goedert, Buddy Richardson and I were the ones that showed up most every day .
We ended up writing a lot of material. In fact Ronn and I wrote... I think… let me recall… three or four songs that ended up on that first album all in
(Damien) Excuse me, I thought you said one night?
(Buddy) Yea, I know… one night.
(Damien) Do you recall the first first song you guy's wrote?
(Buddy) It may have been "HELP ME LORD"… I'm trying to think… yea, that one "AND I'M LEAVING" was also one of the first ones as well, and it was
one of my favorite. "SLEEPWALK" was one of those early ones as well. They were all born the same night.
(Damien) That is incredible, you just named three of the stand out tracks on that LP and you conceived all of them in one night! Now that we are
on the subject, what are the standout tracks to you?
(Damien thinking to myself during the long silence: uh-oh, he's not speaking. did I ask the wrong thing? Is he getting bored with this? Oh man, this guy
doesn't know me from Joe Shmo and it is starting to occur to him. SPEAK! space witch SPEAK!)
(Buddy)… Different songs for different reasons.
(Damien to self…whew, he's back!)
(Buddy) "SLEEPWALK", I just like the way the song developed in the studio.
(Damien) Yea, the way that song swirls up from underneath "YOU'RE THE ONE". It totally takes you drifting into a dream world.
(Buddy) Yea, thanks, I'm glad that you felt that. We were hoping to get that affect and "YOU'RE THE ONE" is such a simple song but in the middle,
that choral section is very complex you know, it's probably seven part harmony and uh… that was a lot of fun to , imagine what that would be like in
the studio layering those parts. Until we got there and started doing it we didn't even know how it was going to work out.
(Damien) How did you meet up with this new writing partner RONN GOEDERT?
(Buddy) Ronn auditioned for the band that Buddy R and I were putting together, we had BEAU FISHER and we were looking for singers. It's
funny because we knew RONN , he had been working with a band called ROCK AND ROLL CIRCUS in Tampa and he kept calling, wanting to
audition, and because we knew who he was we kept saying "NO that's ok, I think we have a singer" (Laughter) We really didn't even want to
audition him, it's funny. Then he finally came out to sing with us and it was a shock. He had a real wide range and he was also able to learn
lyrics really quick! That really impressed us because at that point it was really critical , we had to get out and play . You know, the old starving
(Damien) Was there a large gap of down time between the TROPICS and WHITE WITCH?
(Buddy) No, Buddy and I actually had put a little thing together called "THE DEAD BEAR BLUES BAND" and we had MEL DRYER (ex-TROPICS ) sing
with us , we had BLAIR MOONEY on bass and our first gig was opening for JETHRO TULL
we did a lot of jamming along with an arrangement that was a medley of EXODUS INTO 2001 (Laughter) That was pretty dramatic and met with rave
reviews in the paper. But that band was put together just to play gigs and get some $$$ coming in. After we had turned into WHITE WITCH we had
that steady gig at Clearwater bringing in steady money and we pretty much got it together live and wrote the material for that first album all in a three
month period. We did that first WW show, out side of Clearwater with MOTHERS MILK and TED NUGENT who was doing a blues band thing at the time.
He wasn't the wild man that he became back then. It was that show that TERRY CAIN was doing sound and he had been putting together the
Capricorn studio's up in Georgia. He heard us and liked what he heard and went back to Georgia and told them about us and they called and let us
come up and do an audition.
(Damien) So they called you!
(Buddy) It's funny, because we had already knocked on their door. We had gone to Atlanta and knocked on some publishing companies doors and we
used contacts we had with the TROPICS. I remember sitting down at the piano and RON would sing the songs and that was pretty much our
representation of our material with WW.
It was there that they said, Hey, on your way back to Tampa you should stop off at Capricorn. I remember we pulled up at the place, the roadies
woke us up, we were in the back of the camper, we dragged ourselves out, went in and talked to somebody. We told them we were looking for a
record deal , we told them who we were and they didn't show much interest so we went back out and went back to sleep and woke up in Tampa. So
we had really written Capricorn off.
(Damien) So how did you end up with Capricorn?
(Buddy) Well it was our connection with TERRY. We got called in for a demo session, we played three songs in the studio that night and GREGG
ALLMAN had walked in that night while we were doing "AND I'M LEAVING".
The story that we heard was, he went to PHIL WALDEN'S house that night and said he just heard a song that he thought was a hit and he had better
get down to the studio and sign this band! Our paths had crossed with Gregg several times when we were in the TROPICS and he was in the ALLMAN
JOY'S. He told us later, up in the Capricorn studios, he had gotten so sick of people coming up to him in the old day's saying 'You guy's are so good,
have you heard of the TROPICS?' (Laughter)
(Damien) Speaking of the ALLMANS, that album cover, is that DUANE ALLMANS grave site?
(Buddy) Yea it is, That whole album cover was a mess. We were not told that we were taking the shots as THE album cover. We had been recording
the previous night, all night! We would go in around 9 at night and come out around 8 the next morning. We did that 6 day's a week for around 6
weeks. So, we were back at the hotel, we had just gone to sleep, it was around noon when we get a call that BARRY FEINSTEIN was in to take our
photo's. BARRY had just done ALL THINGS MUST PASS for GEORGE HARRISON
he was like a really hot photographer at the time. We told them , "we're not
prepared", we didn't have any of our stage clothes and we were a theatrical band.
Anyway, we couldn't win the argument so we got up and had to put on what ever we
could find. I had NO shoes other than tennis shoes and I refused to wear those, so
those white shoes that I have on the back of that album cover actually belonged to
one of the roadies.
They were three or four sizes too big, if you look closely you will notice they were huge! The stick I was holding was something I had found in the
graveyard and we were not real happy to be there. We were just too tired, we were not prepared and we just didn't look good or feel good.
(Damien) So let me get this straight, the clothes you are wearing were
just the clothes you happened to have and they were not at all theatrical?
(Buddy) Correct, that was pretty much our street clothes
(Damien) Wow, I ask because I have the album in front of me and I am looking at Ron's pants and I'm thinking: If these are street clothes, I do not
think I have ever been down that street. They are amazing! The man had exquisite taste in odd pants! Now let's clear something up for all who have
wondered over the years. Looking at the back of the album who is who?
(Buddy) Of course, that is me in the center with the shoes and the stick, RONN is on the right with the pants, BUDDY RICHARDSON is lying in front,
BEAU FISHER is standing on the left and BOBBY SHEA is the one with the beard. He was sitting next to me I believe.
(Damien) Now I must ask about the SO MOTE IT BE that appears on the step right below the brilliant MR.RICHARDSON.
(Buddy) I am pretty sure that was RONN'S idea, I forget.
(Damien) Is that not from an old Masonic poem?
(Buddy) I am not really sure, like I said, it really wasn't my idea
(Damien) It is from an ancient poem, I believe, it had been written by a monk. It was used in association with "AMEN"
(Buddy) Yes, that's what it was, kind of like so shall it be, amen. Our work had been done.
(Damien) Was there any symbolism in the make up you were all wearing or did you just wake up with the teardrop?
(Buddy) ah, no, I didn't just wake up with the teardrop, that was the mood I was in however. Actually BOBBY was really the artist in our group, though
BEAU was as well, but BOBBY did the teardrop on me and we were just doing what we could to through something together for this photo shoot. We
just wanted to get our picture taken and go back to sleep really. I remember at the time when FEINSTEIN took the front shot he got us to get real
tight together and he took the shot and said, 'OK, that's the cover' and I thought, yea right and later, I think we were all surprised how the shots came
out. We were not out there very long and he didn't shoot much.
(Damien) Well did you have any say in your
(Buddy) Well when we saw it for the first time it was a surprise but all in all we were happy with it.
(Damien) Did you realize at the time what new ground you were breaking or did you think you just sounded like any other rock band? You had to
know that you had a sound that was unlike any band of that time period!
(Buddy) It was just natural for us to play like that, I had a lot of different influences coming out. I had listened to a lot of jazz. The first guy to use a
B3 Hammond on recordings was JIMMY SMITH.
He was a jazz organist that I listened to and I loved that sound. I remember getting my first Hammond, it was such a GREAT thing. I dreamed about
having one. I think you can hear in my playing a lot of jazz influence and the harmonies were definitely because we had done BEATLES material in
the copy bands and with the TROPICS.We were influenced by the BEATLES a lot.
The theatrics came in because we wanted to do something more then just being a band that plays a list of songs. So when we decided the theme
would be good over evil, it gave us a lot to write about. That concept inspired the theatrics as well. I think part of the reason the sound is so
different was because not many people were using synth's at the time. I still have the synth that I used on that LP which was the 43rd moog synth. I
remember I went through Gainesville, stopped at a music store ,saw the synth, everybody in the band wanted us to have it and so I left my Leslie
tone cabinet with them and took the synth. I was using it as a flute a lot at the time, like the solo on "SLEEPWALK" or the answer lines on "YOU'RE
THE ONE". People who used it at the time used it in a way that you knew it was a synth, but I used it a lot to take the place of actual instruments.
(Damien) Were there a lot of over dubs on that first record?
(Buddy) Oh yes, like SLEEPWALK has a lot of acoustic guitar overdubs and of course they do not stop to play the solo. so yes, we did do overdubs. On
many songs you hear piano organ and synth so when we played live I had to pick just two sounds. It was still a good representation of the album.
(Damien) I always thought that first LP, due to it's layered tracks, would be a difficult record to promote in the live arena
(Buddy) No, it translated well. I think the difficult part of promoting that record was the fact that we were on Capricorn records and they were, for
the most part, a label the featured a lot of Southern Rock.
(Damien) Indeed, but I think you may have had that problem with any label in the since that you were extremely hard to categorize. That is what
makes you GREAT but at the same time, I think that is what held you back from commercial success.
(Buddy) Yea, it all made since to us at the time considering the whole "good over coming evil" concept. It all seemed to fit within that bracket. But
looking back, how many people would like HOMEGROWN GIRL and SLEEPWALK? Not many. We didn't consider that being a bad thing at the time.
We thought that was an asset, offering the variety of styles. Looking back if we had drawn some boundaries and said , 'well, this one is a bit too
jazzy, let's not do it' I think we could have had more of a commercial appeal.
(Damien) In all honesty Buddy, I am so glad that you did not do that. Call me selfish but I would rather have access to that music over the world
having yet another band that plays by rules.
(Buddy) Yea, what is on that album is a bunch of musicians who took the art aspect of the music very serious, 100 percent. I do not think we ever
said ' It would sell more if we just do this' We were just doing what came natural and tried to stay true to our selves and build our fan base off of
that. We really didn't analyze it that much. I think HOMEGROWN GIRL was the only song that we wrote with a situation in mind. I think we were
going out to do a show with ALICE COOPER, I think, and we thought, hey, we need a rocker, a song to come on with. I think we wrote that one in the
dressing room before going on.
(Damien) How did you and RONN become this fantastic song writing team so quickly?
(Buddy) We just both knew we wanted to play original music. I never really was that into lyrics, I mean, some of my favorite songs we had written I
am just now learning what RONN was actually saying. Putting music together and creating melodies was the part I loved to do. Sometimes I would
just have the music ideas and I would play it to RONN and he would just start singing along and that was the song! It really did not matter to me
what the lyrics were except with IT'S SO NICE TO BE STONED. I had written the music to that one and BEAU and BUDDY RICHARDSON had written
the lyrics and I told them, That's OK, you do not have to give me credit on that song. Even at that time, I did not feel like I wanted to openly have
that kind of influence on people.
| (Damien) Yes, I recalled you saying once that RICHARDSON had gotten credit on a song that you had written, that must have been it?
(Buddy) No, That was HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF CHANGING.
( hi, Damien here. I am interrupting buddy real quick to add, I just looked at the album and Richardson does not get writing credits on 'have
you ever thought of changing'. Do not worry, I did not interrupt him in person. Now, let's rejoin the interview in progress shall we? Ssshhhhh)
But IT'S SO NICE TO BE STONED was one song that I said, you can have my credit. I did write the music to that one. RONN and I had even written a
song to that same music earlier, what was it called? Hmmm. 'LIFE IS A SINGLE PILGRIM ' what ever that means. You would have to ask RONN about
that. You know it didn't matter to me what he sang as long as the melody was there and he didn't mess with the structure of the song. RONN and I had
been working on that song at the time and we were in the camper coming back from a gig and BEAU and BUDDY started singing the song and writing
the lyrics on the drive home.
(Damien) That is interesting, I recently typed in WHITE WITCH on a search engine and the only thing that popped up on you guys was IT'S SO
NICE TO BE STONED. It was actually on a list of songs that you should beware of if you are concerned with music influencing drug use. And what
you are saying is, It's not on your head, you just wrote a cute little vaudeville piano part, it was the other guy's! ?
(Buddy) No not really, but I regret any negative influence we had on anyone.
(Damien) I really don't think you did have a negative influence.
(Buddy) Well, now you're just trying to make me feel good.
(Damien) No, I think people find what ever it is they are looking for in anything. You can do it with the bible you can do it with cartoons. Some get
something positive and others see the negative aspects in all things. Many people will find some aspect of anything to justify poor traits in their own
(Buddy) yes, and some make that search for justification easy.
(Damien) Fair enough.
(Buddy) I mean really, at the time I am sort of surprised I felt that way, because, even CLINTON was doing it you know, now none of us have inhaled!
If you want to believe that! ( laughter )
(Damien) I can't help wondering if RONN would say that he never inhaled.
(Buddy) Ah, I don't think so, but you know it was acceptable in our circle and I did it myself so I guess I sound hypocritical.
(Damien) Not really hypocritical, What you are saying is, the decision you made to smoke pot was one you had made for yourself and you did not
want to influence or be involved in someone else's decision making.
(Buddy) Yea! I think another reason I was feeling the way I did, I had a young son at the time and I think that was playing a roll in my opinions at the
time. I have another new son now, he turned 1 the day after Christmas. My first son is 31 and my second is 1.
CLICK HERE AND GO TO PENDERGRASS PART TWO!