Though Chuck Kirkpatrick would eventually find fame and wider success in the 1970's with Game and Firefall, he began his musical
journey as a member of several local Florida bands - namely Gas Company, which would undergo a name change to Proctor Amusement
Company. Though Proctor Amusement Company was successful enough to record a handful of singles, appear regularly on Florida TV,
and play all the top area hot spots, the rejection of the band's still unreleased LP caused great grief to Kirkpatrick.
Fortunately, it didn't deter him from the music business, and he's parlayed his talent into being a session musician, and
a jingles/commercials composer.
An Interview With Chuck Kirkpatrick
60sgaragebands.com (60s): How did you first get interested in music?
Chuck Kirkpatrick (CP): When my family moved to Florida in 1955, my mother took up guitar and learned some Bahamian songs. I and my younger brother liked to harmonize with her. I started messing with her guitar - a Martin 4-string baritone - when she wasn't playing it. Pretty soon I was teaching her!
60s: You were in a few bands prior to joining The Gas Company...namely The Impalas and The Aerovons. Did any members of those bands join you in The Gas Company?
CP: Nobody from either The Impalas or Aerovons came over to Gas Company.
60s: Where was The Gas Company formed, what year, and by whom?
CK: Gas Company was originally Tim Mitchell (bass), Gary Carter (lead guitar), Sandy Meyer (drums), and Ken Byers (organ). I don't know who actually started the band but these were the original guys, and I knew they'd been around awhile, probably since 1965. I joined in '66. Right after I joined, Tim Mitchell was replaced by George Terry, and several months later, Cleve Johns became our front man and lead singer.
60s: How did you hook up with them? With you familiar with them prior to joining them?
CK: I had heard of Gas Company and knew that they were pretty popular. I don't think I ever actually heard them play before I actually joined. The Aerovons broke up at the end of '65 because Denny Williams was heading off to Notre Dame with a scholarship and we didn't feel we could continue without his enormous talent. Word got to Gas Company about my availability. They were very interested because of my vocal arranging abilities and wanted to be a good vocal group. I was - if I remember correctly - 'propositioned' on the phone by Sandy Meyer at the time.
60s: What type of gigs did The Gas Company land?
CK: Ken Byers was very tight with a couple deejays from WQAM so Gas Company got some pretty good gigs. We played the Action, Tiger's Den North, the World, Winterhurst, Mallory Square (Key West), and a bunch of high school dances and clubs on the west coast of Florida. We even played for a fashion show at Burdines. And we were regulars on the Rick Shaw Saturday Hop TV show.
60s: Did you ever work with a mananger?
CK: Ken Byers pretty much took care of business. I did my share of handling bookings and payroll, plus arranging all the harmonies. We did acquire the services of one Mr. Tommy Beauregard somewhere around 1968 for a short while. He did little more than get some gigs and try to keep us looking neat and orderly on stage - something we were beginning to tire of. Through some unknown circumstance, he got himself arrested in central Florida and wound up in prison for a time.
60s: How far was the band's "touring" territory?
CK: We went to the Tampa / St. Pete area almost weekly. There was an agency up there, PED-DYN Productions, that kept us pretty busy. We played Gainsville in the fall at a lot of frat parties.
60s: The Gas Company participated in a Battle of the Bands for the National Tea Council. What do you recall about this?
CK: It was sponsored by radio stations all over the U.S. - by WQAM in Florida. The idea was to promote tea as a beverage appealing to the younger generation by having a national battle of the bands. We in Gas Company had gone to the trouble of creating our own version of The Tea Song (they supplied the necessary lyrics but gave carte blanche to musical style - whatever you wanted to do) and submitting the necessary forms. But when we found out that the preliminary/first "battle" was on the same day as a paying gig, we said, "fuck it". The following week while at a gig in Tampa, we received a frantic call from a WQAM deejay - I can't remember who now - who begged us to come to the final competition that very day. And I mean this guy was frantic. We figured we were out of it totally by not even showing up for the preliminaries and told him so. "Don't worry...", he said. "Just show up". We drove all the way back from Tampa straight to the venue - tired, sweaty, and pissed off at ourselves for agreeing to this stupid contest. We took the stage in rumpled street clothes, not giving a damn, and started playing our required three songs. Before we even got through the first tune, I could see the judges smiling while writing things in their notebooks and closing them. In a matter of moments, the local/regional winner was announced......guess who?! We were to fly to the national competition in New Jersey several weeks later. WQAM would be represented there along with many other stations from around the country and they wanted to show up with a really good band. I felt a little bad for the competing bands who had gone to way greater lengths than we had, but we were way better than most of them. We went to Jersey thinking we'd be the only real vocal group there. Gas Company at the time was known for its stunning harmonies, doing Four Freshman a capella stuff, Four Seasons, and Beach Boys. During warm-ups at the nationals, we strolled through the dressing room singing a capella, trying to 'scare' all the other groups with our harmony. Wouldn't you know it - the very first group to perform was from California, The Five Sierras or something like that. They kicked our smart asses all the way back to Miami with an absolutely perfect a capella rendition of Pennies From Heaven. (NOTE: For more recollections such as this from Chuck and other notable memebrs of the '60's Florida music scene, visit Jeff Lemlich's Limestone Lounge at http://pub64.ezboard.com/blimestonelounge