THE BROGUES MERCED MIRACLE WORKERS
BY ALEC PALAO
Readers of Cutie Morning Moon need no introduction to 1960s garage punk heroes the Brogues. Best known to the rest of the world for providing two founder members of San Francisco ballroom mainstays the Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Brogues retain an unparalleled cachet amongst connoisseurs of garage sounds, thanks to the singles, "Someday" and "I Ain't No Miracle Worker". All the more incredible when you realize they were only together for a brief nine months in 1965.

Before we begin with their story, there are two commonly-circulated fallacies about the band that need to be laid to rest:

1. There was never any member of the Brogues named"Bill Col". The line-up was always Eddie Rodrigues on guitar, Rick Campbell on organ, Bill Whittington on bass and Greg Elmore on drums, with Gary Duncan joining on vocals in the summer of 1965. Gary did call himself "Gary Cole" for a while - after all, his real name was "Gary Grubb" - which may explain the appearance of this "Cole" character.

2. The band only ever recorded six songs in their lifetime: the two released singles gSomedayg/"But Now I Find" and "(I Ain't No) Miracle Worker"/"Don't Shoot Me Down", plus an earlier demo session for "Someday" and "Journey" .The demo of "Someday" is on the recently-released Hush Records Story; "Journey" is an instrumental which sounds like the theme for a TV game show i.e. it's not very good. There was no song ever recorded by the band entitled "Early Bird"; that rumor is someone's imagination working overtime.

The Brogues played their first gig on New Years Eve 1964, and straight away became the talk of their hometown Merced, deep in the heart of the redneck Central Valley, to the southeast of the San Francisco Bay Area in California. All the guys were seasoned vets of the region's swinging pre-Beatles club scene, where R&B ruled and surf music meant zilch. But by the time Eddie, Rick, Bill and Greg got together the British Invasion was at it's zenith, and that's why they called themselves the Brogues: "American Music With A British Accent". They were still playing R&B but instead of being styled after Freddie King and James Brown, it was in the mode of the Pretty Things and the Animals.

Within a couple of months they were the kings of the local scene, and with their longhaired image and raving stage show brought crowds of screaming teenagers to every local hall they played. While most other local groups were still short-haired and be-suited, and maybe played a Beatles' song or two in concession to current fashion, the Brogues dressed like punks and spat out Brit R&B nuggets like "Hubble Bubble Toil & Trouble"and "Mama Keep Your Big Mouth Shut".

The band promoted their own shows and were doing well, so in the late spring they went down to Fresno to cut a couple of demo tunes. These were sent around the record companies to little or no response, until Clara Thompson at Hush/Twilight Records in Albany heard them, and immediately instructed her son Garrie to sign the band. On June 23rd 1965 the Brogues entered Coast Recorders in San Francisco and cut their first single, "Someday" and "But Now I Find". The topside written and sung by Eddie didn't really sound like the band did live, but it's still a great folk-rocker. Rick switched from organ to bass for this number and Bill played 12-string acoustic. The Kinks-influenced "But Now I Find" was more typical of the bandes style, with Billfs booming bass intro and wild guitar from Eddie. Rick, who wrote the song with Greg, sang.

The single came out on Twilight a few weeks later and was immediately a radio play hit in central California, charting high on stations in Bakersfield and Fresno. The band consequently toured a lot in those areas and played on some big package shows with the likes of the Zombies, Jewel Akens, Shirley Ellis and other notables. After a gig in Stockton with the Ratz, the group heisted their gritty-voiced, punky-looking lead singer Gary Duncan who fit in perfectly with the Brogues' style. The group were still promoting "Someday" when they appeared on the Los Angeles TV show Ninth Street West, and the presenter got a dose of Gary's attitude:

Presenter: So Gary, I hear the band's been travellin' all over?

Gary: No

Presenter: Well, that's not what I heard.

Gary: Well, you heard wrong!

Following further lip from the lead singer, the band were chased out of the studio by producers screaming "You'll never work again!". But the Brogues were already on their way to what they believed to be further success, for major indie label Challenge had just leased "Someday", and wanted them to cut a follow-up pronto. After the band did a couple of shows in San Francisco in early September, they journeyed to Los Angeles to cut their second and greatest record - but it almost didn't happen. The band were stuck in a motel on Sunset Boulevard with a stack of publishing acetates that all sounded like crap, and told to find something to record. It didn't look hopeful, but the band saw something in the tune "Miracle Worker", it's homespun me-against-the-world theme suiting them perfectly. So with only hours to spare, they threw together a tough, Animal-ized arrangement and transformed the song into an anthem of punk protest.

The B-side "Don't Shoot Me Down" was thrown together in a few minutes in the studio too: it says something for the camaraderie and tightness of this group that they could come up with a blistering cut in such a short space of time. By the way, that's not a fuzz pedal, but rather the shredded speaker cones of Eddie's amp, that's producing the buzzing fuzztone effect on both sides of the record.

This double-whammy single should have burned up the charts, but unfortunately within a few weeks there wasn't a Brogues to promote it. Eddie and Rick received their draft notices and had no option to quit, tearing the heart out of the band. Desperate attempts were made to fill their shoes by holding auditions up in San Francisco, but it was to no avail, because the others quickly realised there was a special chemistry in the line-up they had, that could in no way be recreated. So they decided to disband.

Fascinated by what was going on in the city, Greg and Gary decided to stay there, and were soon involved in the formation of Quicksilver. Bill meanwhile joined folk-rockers the Family Tree, but for all the guys, it wasn't ever gonna be the same again. A while ago Bill Whittington told me that had the Brogues stayed together, they would have "had a hell of a good shot at making it. We had it all going for us."Judging by the two great records they left us, of that there can be no doubt.

ALEC PALAO
Cream Puff War magazine
Berkeley, California
palao@sirius.com
 
Reissued information
 
Hush Record Story Big Beat CDWUJD154
Brogues EP"Someday""But Now I Find""I Ain't Miracle Worker""Don'T Shoot Me Down":Sundazed SEP114
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