Fever Tree: An Interview with Rob Landes [Side B]

  • [Interview Transcript from the book "Psychedelic Psounds". First part of interview is available at http://av.cah.utexas.edu/index.php/Vorda:Da_00110]
  • We finally realized the group wasn't going to make it with its current personnel because of different ideas. I'm not condemning them, and I still don't, because whatever they want to do is fine. I just didn't want to be part of it. We tried to get back together again to do the live tapes because we knew we had to do it. It was not successful and it became very bitter. It was more or less those three against Bud and me. They immediately tried to get another bass player and piano player and keep the name. Bud and I threatened to sue because we all owned the name Fever Tree. So that put them out of commission. Then they got another group going, but nothing ever really happened with them which is hard to believe because they are all incredibly talented people. MK: Actually, several things led up to the break up of Fever Tree. In 1968, we were really breaking nationally. Also, at that time, LSD 25 and marijuana were very popular. It was the "in" thing to do. Dennis, John, and myself were amusing ourselves quite regularly with these drugs. Late 1968 Rob, Bud, Scott, and Vivian discovered to their amazement that we were involved in this activity. Rob Landes immediately quit the band and flew back to Houston. Bud wasn't quite as upset. We continued touring for six more months, as a four piece, then finally, Bud left the band. It was time to fall back and punt. At the end of 1969, Dennis and myself moved to Los Angeles. That is where the second incorporation of the band began. Kevin Kelly played drums, Kenneth Blanchette played bass, and Grant Johnson played keyboards. We played for another year and a half and things were getting quite good. We finally solved our legal problems and, bust as I was going to tell Dennis the good news, he was leaving his apartment in a Bekins van. He said he was tired of L.A. He didn't have the nuts to tell me, face to face.
  • AV: There have been several reunion attempts. For example, Fever Tree played in the late 1970s at the Music Hall, Texas Opry House, and at Demians. Why didn't the band stay together? MK: In 1977 Dennis and I formed the third Fever Tree. We did quite well for a year, but Dennis still couldn't get over his stage fright. We had to fire him. We played for another year and a half and that was that. Also, in 1977, I had another version of Fever Tree. I found a singer, Haskell Watson, who sounded just like Keller and Kenneth played bass with me again. RL: I rejoined Fever Tree in the late I970s when we were asked to open for Billy Joel at the Music Hall. That was when we had Dennis on vocals, Michael on guitars, and me on keyboards. John Tuttle had sold his drums and had gotten completely out of the music business and Bud Wolfe had moved to Amarillo and had become a photographer. Even though we had a new bass player and drummer the nucleus was still there. We opened with "Day Tripper" and a lot of stuff off the albums which we updated. It started off with the organ, then the bass, and the guitar, and by the time the light switched to the vocals with Dennis the place was insane. They had gone beserk and we loved it. We all got very nostalgic because we had all buried the hatchet. We also had become older and a little more mature. It was a very, very emotional experience. There was talk about getting the group back together again and offers for concert dates, but I wasn't interested.
  • AV: What are the members of Fever Tree currently doing? MK: Rob Landes is now playing jazz in the Houston area. Bud Wolfe has moved to Pennsylvania and is now a photographer. John Tuttle has a woodworking shop and Dennis Keller teaches driving in the Austin area. I have been working with two different bands: The Knightsnakes and Preacher Keen. I also have a recording studio in Spicewood, Texas. Grant Johnson and Kevin Kelly still work in the L.A. area. Kenneth is playing in Houston with the Screamin' Kenny Band. Scott and Vivian do theatre in Houston. This should bring everyone that was associated with Fever Tree up to date.AV: What are your fondest memories of Fever Tree and how would you like Fever Tree to be remembered? EW: My fondest memories of Fever Tree will always be making music with Michael. He and I had a musical spark. After all, it was he who taught me practically all I knew about bass playing. With no disrespect to the others, there were nights when he and I carried the live performance, especially Michael. MK: I think my fondest memories are of the band's touring in the 60s playing with such groups as Spirit, Steppenwolf, Canned Heat, Yes, and even the Box Tops. RL: I've got to give credit where credit is due. To me the two main sounds of Fever Tree were Dennis and Mike. When you think of Fever Tree you think of that wonderful vocal that Dennis always had which was so consistent. He was wonderful at screaming the rock, but he could also do the ballads. He could do it all. The second thing you think of is the unique guitar sound that Mike got and he was the first to do that specific sound. I hope Fever Tree will be remembered as an innovator in music at the time and I think a lot of our music still stands up today. Not only was our music ahead of its time, but it also established a lot of musical ideas that are still being used. I'm always flattered when Fever Tree is remembered and with such a warm feeling. There were other groups who make me feel the same way. Neil Ford and the Fanatics was totally different from what we did, but when I think of them I almost get certain smells, and see clothes, and my car, and my apartment. Whenever I hear Fever Tree on the radio I get a specific feeling in the pit of my stomach that I don't get any other time or when I hear any other music. When I hear that it evokes all sorts of wonderful memories.
  • AV: Are there any regrets? RL: It's really funny. I've always felt that if we had stuck it out another six months or a year we would have been giant stars. It's the strangest thing because I have no regrets. I love the fact that we did what we did and that I'm still making music that I love and enjoy. To me there's always the question of if. I don't think you can live your life wondering.