Dan Schafer is today a very successful performer and songwriter, having penned All Along The Way, which retained the #1 spot on the
Inspirational charts for five straight weeks. He has, among other accomplishments, shared the stage with Shania Twain, George Jones,
Barbara Mandrell, and other country and western superstars; has produced radio and TV commercials for Dow, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and
others; has regularly performed at the Grand Ole Opry; has...well...perhaps it would be best to check out his website (www.danschafer.com)
for a more in depth list of career highlights! His musical career began, however, in the Michigan garage band The Bark of Paper Mulberry.
An Interview With Dan Schafer
60sgaragebands.com (60s): How did you first get interested in music?
Dan Schafer (DS): My parents were both musicians. My father taught my mom to play bass. They played together every weekend in honky-tonks, etc. in the mid-Michigan area. I started singing before I can remember and sang at jamborees when I was little. I started playing guitar when I was nine years old. I was playing with my dad and wedding bands shortly after that.
60s: Was The Bark of Paper Mulberry your first band?
DS: I feel like they were my first serious band. I had a school buddy named Phil Ludwig who played the snare drum. We loved the Beatles and played songs together. We were The Tarantulas. When I was in junior high some high school guys had a band. They asked me to be their lead guitar player. They went through some name changes…The Question Marks, and the Fifth Dimension. Both those names were eventually dropped due to other groups that had become famous with those names. Brad Bacome was also in that band.
60s: How long was it together?
DS: A year or so? I'm not sure…it was a long time ago.
60s: Who formed The Bark of Paper Mulberry?
DS: I met Ron Graham when he and his dad came to my house. His dad and mine were talking about something in music. His dad played drums. Ron and I became best friends through all of high school. Brad and I joined up with Ron and Gary Klunzinger. The band was first called the Minors, and then Gary came up with this Bark of Paper Mulberry name with the bass drum head in old English. We all liked it and were together until I graduated from high school.
60s: The Bark of Paper Mulberry?
DS: Gary came up with (it) and put it on his bass drum head…we liked it even though it was hard to read. Gary would've kept it on there if we liked it or not...he was a pretty aggressive cat.
60s: So the band consisted of you, Ron, Brad, and Gary. Which instruments did you each play?
DS: Dan Schafer - guitar and vocals; Ron Graham - bass guitar and vocals; Brad Bacome - guitar and vocals; and Gary Klunzinger- drums and vocals. Brad left at some point and was replaced by Jack Neal - Farfisa organ and vocals. When Jack left we remained a hard rock trio. (We called ourselves) BPM.
60s: What type of gigs did The Bark of Paper Mulberry originally land?
DS: Mostly high school and junior high dances, and church basement dances at the Presbyterian church on Saturday nights called 'Holy A Go Go'.... really!
60s: How far was the group's normal touring territory?
DS: Just in the Mt. Pleasant-Clare area. We went to Lansing one time to be on the UPBEAT TV show and we lip-synced our record.
60s: So you didn't travel outside of Michigan at all…
DS: I don't remember going anywhere further than 100 miles. We went to Detroit to make the record. (It was a) New Haven suburb, I think...
60s: You've already mentioned that Brad left the band, and apparently he did so prior to making the record. Why?
DS: I don't remember...maybe his work, or maybe we didn't feel we needed him. I'm not sure. I remember buying a mo-ped from him after that, though.
60s: Without Brad, the band recorded Wait b/w Get Yourself Together. What year was this recorded in?
DS: I think in '67 or '68.
60s: What were the circumstances leading to the recording?
DS: An ad in the paper that Ron found for an "audition" for a label. I'm sure anyone could've made a record there if they had the dough.
60s: What do you recall about the session?
DS: (It was) very exciting. 4-track. We multi-tracked the background voices, and my lead vocals on Wait, I think.
60s: How did you hook up during this time with Mike Valvano - the producer for Frigid Pink?
DS: He and Johnny Powers owned the studio and the label. I think Frigid Pink were his serious project. They made a lot of money and were eventually on a major label and had a hit with the remake of House of the Rising Sun.
60s: Apparently, Catfish Hodge, who is now a fairly well known blues singer, sang background vocals on both songs. How did you become associated with him?
DS: He was just hanging out at the studio and was friends with Mike and Johnny. I guess they thought we needed a more experienced background singer in the session group.
60s: Had he become known at all at that time?
DS: I don't think so. (It's) funny…about five years later he asked me if I was interested in doing some "Catfish" dates. I wasn't. I was into something else at the time in Detroit.
60s: You wrote the song Wait. Were you a profilic writer during your Mulberry days?
DS: No. I had two songs then: Wait and Leaves and Trees. They both sounded like the Byrds meets the Kinks. I just loved the Byrds, Beatles and the Kinks.
60s: Are there any unreleased Bark of Paper Mulberry recordings in the vaults?
DS: No, just the 45 record.
60s: So, no live recordings either?
DS: None that I know of. I know that TV show in Lansing was taped because we watched it a week later. I'd love o see that.
60s: Considering the TV appearance, The Bark of Paper Mulberry must have been somewhat popular…
DS: Just in the Mt. Pleasant High School kids arena. I know there were other more popular groups. The Conspiracy had won a statewide Battle of the Bands. They were from Mt. Pleasant and were a little older than us.
60s: What were some of the other local bands that you recall?
DS: The Exiles and The Conspiracy. My dad owned a music store later. I came to know most of the guys. Of course, everybody thought they were the "baddest."
60s: You've mentioned The Conspiracy's Battle of the Bands victory. Did The Bark of Paper Mulberry participate in any Battles?
60s: How'd you fare?
DS: We won one I think. (We) lost a big one from a radio station in Saginaw.
60s: Do you recall what songs you typically played?
DS: No, but I dropped my guitar during one of the songs and broke the headstock off my SG special. I may have done it on purpose, I don't remember; I never did it again!
60s: Eventually, Jack Neal left the band? Why?
DS: The music trend was changing. We went through a Doors and an Arthur Brown phase. Jack was great with that stuff, but Ron, Gary and I were getting into Blue Cheer, Cream, MC5 and the like. I think we just sort of pushed Jack out. I don't really remember for sure.
60s: After Jack, the band continued on as BPM. How long was this for?
DS: A year or so. (It was) the hippy stage.
60s: Was there a major difference between The Bark of Paper Mulberry and BPM? How would you describe each band's sound?
DS: Bark was Top 40: Byrds, Monkees, Doors, etc. BPM was a power trio. (We had) big amps, etc.
60s: Why did BPM eventually call it quits?
DS: Gary and I left to be in the Wild West Show. We were re-discovering country and country rock music was hip - Byrds, Burritos, Poco, etc.
60s: How long was The Wild West Show together?
DS: A year or so.
60s: Did you record?
DS: No records, but I have some reel to reel tapes that someday I'd like to get burned to digital. I don't know if they'll play...it's been so long.
60s: What kept you busy after The Wild West Show disbanded?
DS: I moved to Detroit to play with the Grand Band with Pete Woodman from the Bossmen. Dick Wagner & Mark Farner were in this group. I lived and played in Detroit for about 8 1/2 years before moving to Nashville. There was a Dan Schafer Group for five of those years. I recorded for RCA for two of those years. Two 45s, but nothing is available anymore.
60s: How about today? You've had a very successful career after Bark of Paper Mulberry. What is your most proud musical achievement?
DS: Playing the Ed Sullivan Theatre (twice) on LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN is probably the high point of my career. Wow...the Byrds, Beatles, Doors and the Supremes were all on that stage! I have been very blessed with some wonderful gigs with some great artists: Shania Twain, Barbara Mandrell, Lorrie Morgan, (steel & guitar) George Jones. I play bass on the Grand Ole Opry almost every weekend with Jack Greene and don't travel too much. Sessions and jobbing out are my main income. I took up the pedal steel in 1972 and do some of that, too! I've been known to play the five-string banjo and mandolin on occasion.
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