The Standells

Although The Standells had a hit song that is today regarded as a classic, recorded many albums, played large venues, and made movie and television appearances, they still were, for a while, the quintessential '60's garage band. They are rightfully considered founders of the "punk" sound, and their look and sound pretty much symbolized the entire U.S. garage bands explosion. Much has already been written about the band - so much so, in fact, that when had the opportunity to ask keyboardist Larry Tamblyn some questions, we didn't even attempt our typical career spanning retrospective. Rather, we thought we'd instead ask some general questions that we've always wanted to ask the band. So…please excuse this deviation from our typical interview format, and enjoy a hodge-podge of questions with Larry Tamblyn…

Hodge-Podgin' With Larry Tamblyn (60s): I believe The Standells were formed back in 1962. Who were the members that formed the original nucleus of the band?

Larry Tamblyn (LT): A fellow named Jody Rich, an ex-marine and taskmaster was originally the leader of the group. We recruited a young Hispanic fellow, stage name Benny King, on drums, plus Tony Valentino and myself. Our first gig was in Hawaii for three months. Jody, who was married at the time, was jealous of the younger band members scoring on all the babes. He became an absolute tyrant, setting a curfew, demanding spit-shined shoes, and freshly ironed clothes. Benny was the first to drop out. He went back home to his mother. Tony and I openly rebelled and Jody fired us...wait a minute…he didn't have a band left. We re-formed and fired him. Later, we added Gary Leeds (drummer, who founded The Walker Brothers) and Gary Lane (bassist).

60s: Dave Burke, a one-time Standell, came from the Florida group The Tropics. How did you locate Dave at the time in order to offer him the job?

LT: Gary Lane quit us while on the road in Florida. He really didn't want to be away from his wife. We began to audition a number of musicians and were impressed with Dave, who not only was a decent musician, but also had a great personality. However, he was with us for less than one year and actually didn't participate in much recording-wise, except the Hot Ones LP (we know what a failure that was).

60s: Much has been made about how The Standells were supposedly more of a "frat" band than a "punk" or "garage" band prior to your association with Ed Cobb. Obviously, it's your "punk" sound that you're mainly remembered for, and which led to your greatest success. Did you prefer this sound to the, let's say, pre-Cobb sound?

LT: It really fries me when people refer to us as a clean-cut band before Ed. This couldn't be farther from the truth. This misnomer was created in the liner notes of The Best of the Standells Rhino Records LP/CD, written by Harold Bronson. At the time he wrote that, he had never talked to the band. The only person he conversed with was Ed Cobb, so you know where that information came from.

In fact, we were the first American band to have long hair. We had read about the Beatles in a European magazine and performed under the banner "Beatlemania" at the Peppermint West nightclub in 1963-1964. Tiger Beat Magazine heard about it, came there, photographed and did an article on us. In Las Vegas at the Thunderbird lounge, we were publicized as "America's Answer to the Beatles". Our manager then advised us that, in order to continue working in nightclubs, we had to soften our image. So we cut off the long hair. We recorded a number of hard rock songs way before we ever met Ed, including Help Yourself, Money, Linda Lou, Big Boss Man, etc. Our first recording The Shake, written and sung by me was really meant to be a loud raucous rock song. Unfortunately, we were signed to Liberty Records. The producer, Dick Glasser, had it completely re-arranged. We didn't know until we got in the recording studio. As always, we did what we were told. Afterwards, Sonny Bono produced us and we were toned down even more with (not our choice) The Boy Next Door (written by Sonny). When we met Ed, he had absolutely nothing to do with changing our image. He had a blues song he wrote called Dirty Water. The way it was presented was nothing like the recording we ended up with. We agreed to do it only if we could arrange it the way we wanted. Tony Valentino created the famous guitar riff and Dick Dodd created the famous chant at the beginning and non-lyric lines throughout the song. I would consider Ed as a part of the team, but nothing more.

At first, he was really a pleasure to work with. He left a lot of the creativity to the group and was able to channel that creativity into our recordings. As time went on, he became more and more dictatorial. Eventually, he wouldn't even let us play on our own recording sessions. I remember, when Can't Help But Love You was recorded, Ed brought in a bunch of black musicians. He wanted the blue-eyed soul sound. When asked why we couldn't participate, he said that "these guys sound more like The Standells than you do"

60s: The Standells must have been the most filmed band of the 1960's. Apart from the regular appearances on such variety/music- oriented shows as WHERE THE ACTION IS, HOLLYWOOD PALACE and SHIVAREE, the Standells also made guest appearances on THE MUNSTERS, BING CROSBY SHOW, and BEN CASEY, as well as the films GET YOURSELF A COLLEGE GIRL and, of course, RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP. It seemed that whenever a show/movie had a part that called for a rock band, The Standells were called. Why do you think that was? How did the band manage to consistently land such high profile television/film appearances?

LT: Interestingly, most of those movies and TV shows, with the exception of RIOT, were done before we ever had a hit record. I've been told, that in most all cases, they were looking for a band that had screen presence, and with Dick Dodd (former Mouseketeer) and myself (brother of actor Russ Tamblyn, and I also had some acting experience) we just seemed to fit the bill.

60s: You produced a single (Listen To The Wise Man) by The East Side Kids. How did that come about? Did you produce any other bands in the '60s?

LT: The Eastside Kids were a local band in Los Angeles. They performed with us at the Hullabaloo on several occasions. I took them to Eddie Davis, Faro Records, Linda Records, who I used to be signed with before The Standells. I also produced a group called The Back Seat for Eddie. We recorded a song called Where is Mary? which I wrote.

60s: You released a solo single in '68 titled Summer Clothes. Is it true that The Standells actually performed on this single? If so, why wasn't it released as a Standells single? And what's with The Sllednats name on the Don't Tell Me What To Do/When I Was A Cowboy single?

LT: Yes, it was The Standells performing on the single, which I wrote and sang. It was such a departure from our sound, Ed Cobb and bunch decided to list the performer as Larry. The same can be said for Don't Tell Me What To Do, sung by me, and written by Tony Valentino. Of course, the performers were The Standells spelled backwards.

60s: Reportedly, after a radio station owner banned Try It, The Standells debated him on an Art Linkletter TV show. What was the radio station owner's main argument for banning the song?

LT: Try It, featuring lyrics that by today's standards are pretty tame, was banned by moral majority Texan radio chain mogul Gordon McLendon. He felt the lyrics (and the suggestive way the song was performed) were encouraging young girls to try sex. Even though the record was the number one seller in many markets, including Los Angeles, most of the radio stations followed McLendon's lead and refused to play it. We discovered that, like most others, if you were to follow the pointing finger up the arm you would discover something a lot more sinister than what it was pointing at, a true hypocrite. We even debated the Texan on Art Linkletter's LET'S TALK TV show, by most accounts defeating him handily, but to no avail. The song died - and so did the group's popularity and hopes of another hit record.

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