Josefus: Interview [Side A]

  • [Interview Transcript from the book "Psychedelic Psounds"] JOSEFUS: CRAZY MANJosefus originated in Houston, Texas in 1968 and consisted of the following players: Pete Bailey (vocals), Dave Mitchell (guitar), Ray Turner (bass) and Doug Tull (drums). They were like a brilliant star that went nova leaving only fond memories and one great album. The Dead Man LP received extensive airplay including the title track "Dead Man" (despite its length of 17:30) as well as "Crazy Man." A second LP called Josefus was recorded for Mainstream Records, but a hasty recording resulted in a terrible album which didn't even sound like the group.Internal problems led to the break-up of Josefus in 1970 whereupon Pete and Ray started a group called Stone Axe. The group' s new members were guitarist Mike "Wolf" Long and drummer Jerry Ontiverez. Stone Axe released a single called "Snakebite" locally on Rampart Street Records in 1971 which proved popular, but the group disbanded within a year when their equipment was stolen. "Wolf" Long later died when he was struck by a vehicle.Testimony to the band's ability included having ZZ Top open for them, but the music of Josefus is rarely heard on the radio---even in Houston. Even so the Dead Man LP has become a collector's item after a bootleg album appeared whereupon Josefus has attained a cult image in Europe reserved for those Texas bands of the 6Os who never made it---l3th Floor Elevators, Fever Tree, Bubble Puppy, Moving Sidewalks, Southwest F.O.B., Sir Douglas Quintet, and Neil Ford and the Fanatics.If you can ever find a copy of Dead Man, and you want to hear some great hard rock with a touch of blues, pick it up, play it. You may find more talent and quality sound in a family funded $3,000.00 recording from the 60s than most any album manufactured with megabucks and state-of-the-art equipment.The following interview was conducted in Seabrook, Texas on 12/27/85 with Pete Bailey and Ray Turner in an A-frame house overlooking Galveston Bay.
  • AV: What were the origins of Josefus?PB: The group started up in l968 as United Gas with Ray Turner (bass), Dave Mitchell (lead guitar), Doug Tull (drums), and Ray Hillburn (lead vocals and guitar). I was in Denver, Colorado for the Denver Pop Festival and was trying to get Ray to come up and start a group, but he wouldn't come. So I went down and jammed with the band and that was the end of Ray Hillburn. It was also the end of United Gas because United Gas Company said we couldn't use their name.
  • AV: Did the group's name come from the Jewish prophet (spelled Josephus) in the Bible?PB: We prefer to say yes. Actually, if you want to turn that tape player off I'll tell you the true story. (In a mocking little boy's voice): Doug Tull used to say his momma used to put him on her little knee and bounce him up and down and call him little Josefus. Douglas Jack "Josefus" Tull. Now don't you think it sounds better it came from the Bible?AV: That's a great story. Here you have this heavy hard rock acid band and the name came from an old religious lady.PB: Like I said, "We prefer to say yes."
  • AV: Was the band together very long before you did the Dead Man LP?RT: September through December of l968 before we went to the studio. We spent a month in the garage before we started playing live gigs outdoors in Milby Park.PB: The day I joined the band, we played that night. We got rid of all Ray Hillburn's songs and started new material. I basically wrote all the lyrics and we just jammed it out. We had two guitarists for a while because Ray Hillburn played guitar and we were convinced we needed an extra guitar. The guitar player was Philip White, but he quit after we did the Grand Funk show when Doug Tull blew the conversation with Terry Knight about signing with him. Philip White had the good sense to quit.AV: You kind of had a bluesy sound with the guitar.PB: After Philip quit, we told Dave he could handle it. He hadn't ever done it, but he rose to the occasion because technically he was great. He played a lot of chords and up-picks with his fingers which were long like Hendrix. It made for a lot of full noise with Ray on bass and Tull on drums. Tull would beat the shit out of his drums! He fit the bill as far as Josefus being heavy because he weighed about 190 pounds and he would mercilessly beat the drums.Initially, what Josefus was at first, more than a sound, was something to look at. We were an acid trip! We were big and bad and loud and would intimidate the shit out of the audience. Quite often the audience would be on the stage by the end of the show. We would say, "Do you want to sit on your dead butts or get up here and see how it really is?" Sometimes we couldn't see each other play because all these people were jumping around.
  • AV: What were the circumstances of International Artists wanting to sign Josefus?RT: International Artists wanted us to sign with them and they had a monopoly on the whole town. They had groups like the 13th Floor Elevator and Bubble Puppy, but we could see those groups weren't doing what they were capable of doing. The owners were Lelan Rogers and Cliff Carlin who also owned Love Street Light Circus. Just because we wouldn't sign their contract, they didn't let us play there. So we played in the parking lot across the street for free and took away a lot of their business until they decided to let us play at their club.
  • PB: Bob Gately, who had come to town with Grand Funk Railroad, had seen us play for a free Friday gig at Jubilee Hall. Next thing we knew we were on the Grand Funk tour. Terry Knight wanted to sign us, but Doug Tull blew it with them and we didn't want to sign with International Artists. [This section of transcript moved to match audio] We already knew what Carlin had done to the Elevators. He had already destroyed them. They were null and void. Stacy Sutherland was so far into junk he didn't even know what a guitar was.AV: Stacy was shot and killed by his old lady in a domestic argument.RT: Dusty Hill of ZZ Top almost got killed the same way, but that's an inside story nobody is suppose to know. The papers said a derringer went off when his old lady was taking off his cowboy boots.
  • [This section of transcript moved to match audio]AV: Who were the people involved with Hookah Records that produced the album?RT: That was my dad, Howard L. Turner, who is an artist. He decided we would have our own production and our own label. He also did the cover photo of the skull. The back cover photo was taken by Jim Rockwell at Memorial Park.
  • [This section of transcript moved to match audio]AV: What were the circumstances of making the Dead Man LP in Arizona?PB: We realized we weren't going to get signed. Consequently, Bob Gately had a friend named Jim Musil who managed us for a while and even had us change our name to Come for a couple of months. Musil had this idea to call us Come and sign us to Zappa's label for Straight. He thought it would be great to say, "Come on Straight Records."So Musil took us out to Audio Recorders in Phoenix for a two day session that cost him $1,500.00 The result was a master tape whose tentative LP title was Get Off My Case. Unfortunately, Musil didn't have what it took to sell the product.Two or three months later we drove back to the same studio with $3,000.00 our parents had loaned us. We spent eight hours in the studio recording with Dave Oxman and it was mixed the next day.
  • AV: "Crazy Man" and "Dead Man" received considerable airplay in Houston. What kind of reception, both airplay and critical, did Dead Man receive throughout the rest of the country?PB: We got good response wherever we played such as Panther Hall in Fort Worth. I remember Stevie Ray Vaughan opening up for us when he was only fifteen years old. ZZ Top used to open for us. When Bill Ham got hold of them he took them out of Houston. Josefus had to burn itself out to make itself known whereas ZZ Top rarely played in Houston. Business-wise they denied the public something that they possibly wanted while we were playing three times a weekend in town.
  • AV: Were there any singles released off the album?PB: The only single released was "Crazy Man"/"Country Boy" on Dandelion Records from the first recording session we did in Phoenix. There were no singles released off the Dead Man LP and all the airplay we received basically came from the album.
  • AV: Was "Crazy Man" a reference to a hallucinogenic Josefus or Christ?PB: That song was basically about a guy I met who I thought was really crazy and you can't believe a word he says because he doesn't even know what he's talking about. I thought how far can I take that theme and so I took it.RT: Did people think it was about Christ?AV: You could probably take it that way. I was trying to get one overall theme on your album which has elements of death, drugs, and a lot of sex.PB: I was more horny at that particular time. I was always chasing chicks and then chicks started chasing me.
  • AV: "I Need a Woman" is possibly the best track on the album. It is self-explanatory, not just by the title, but by Pete's suggestive vocals. How was this track written and composed, particularly the part about "I've got wild oats that need sowing" and Pete's wonderful elongated vocals about "being in a green field"?PB: I was trying to transfer the urgency of that situation. If I was really imploring a chick then I was going to put the maximum imploring into the song. I was always big on long extended vocals because I had big lungs. I liked to sing where eventually it would drain the oxygen out of my brain and make me see lights and almost faint. I was always singing licks that would take as much air as my lungs would hold. If I could keep my brain from taking in any oxygen while forcing large amounts of the same product out, then pretty soon I'd be seeing lights and hallucinating without drugs. My better performances with Josefus were when I was straight.
  • AV: The Stones Gimme Shelter" is the only tune not composed by the group on the LP, yet it is one of the better covers of the Stones while being distinctly Josefus. Were the Stones a big influence?RT: The Stones were a big influence as far as their style. We were like the Rolling Stones of Houston. I sang the lead vocal on our version of "Gimme Shelter." Pete would do the lyrics and I would do the music on most of the songs. Dave and I would come up with the licks. Doug Tull also had a few things to say.PB: Doug Tull was good on accents and tightness. He had a theory if you can screw up the same thing three times in a row then it wasn't screwing up.
  • AV: "Country Boy" is about a country boy who wants to be a rich girl's toy. How did this song evolve?RT: Doug Tull was the country boy from Alvin, Texas.PB: We rehearsed during our early days in his garage on a farm in Alvin. One day we were looking for new material and Doug told me to write about living in the country. So I looked out at the country and said, "There's not a whole lot to write about." Like the song says, "It's so flat for miles." They had the licks and I had the lyrics. It all happened in one afternoon. That's how it came down.
  • AV: Why is there so much sex in your songs?PB: I'm a double Scorpio. I ain't proud, but it's a fact. Back in those days sex was coming into its own just like drugs and having long hair. The only thing I was prolific at was sex so I could always aim the song toward sex no matter what the situation. If I was driving down the road all by myself, I was driving toward some sex.
  • AV: "Proposition" is another sexually suggestive song, but the song also incorporates the bass chords from the Beatles' "She's So Heavy." Was there ever concern about plagiarizing?RT: We had a good song going, but I was into that lick from "She's So Heavy." Since we jammed our songs, we decided on a different break and we tried it. Everybody said yeah because it would throw everyone off and then we would come back into the song. I didn't worry about the Beatles catching up with us since we weren't nationwide.PB: We were thinking no matter what happened to us it would be good publicity. I'm of the theory that there is no such thing as bad publicity unless you're murdering kids or raping nuns. Come on, Beatles, we stole your lick. Call us.We did it as a flaunting aspect. It was partly Tull's attitude. If they don't like us, we'll fight.RT: He'd get off his drums and try to start a fight with someone in the audience if they didn't clap. He'd shoot them the bird and say, `If you don't like it and can't jam with us, then fuck off!" He'd cuss them out. Every once in a while he'd get somebody to talk back, but most of the time they'd get off their ass and start jamming with us.PB: It was either that or fight. I'd try to play it down, but there were a lot of times it wasn't played down. There were a lot of times when we fought or were on the verge of fighting on the road.
  • AV: What was it like on the road?PB: One time we got in a fight with a half dozen oil field workers in Midland, Texas. None of them was smaller than that door. Doug started it by wearing a red, white, and blue bandana around his leg or ass.We got kicked out of Corpus Christi, Beaumont, and Lafayette, Louisiana. We used to cause upsets because we were a radical bunch.When we were going to Florida to record for Criteria Studios we got stuck on the side of a road in Madison, Florida about ten miles south of the Georgia line. We went in this cafe, but we could barely get served. We got some hamburgers whereas everybody else had plate lunches. There was a part-time deputy sheriff who got on the phone when we were leaving and I was out there taking microphones apart and guitars out of the cases to defend ourselves. We thought we were going to die when four pick-up trucks pulled up with three to five guys. We barely got away. It was like a scene from Easy Rider. You'd find heat when it wasn't even there.
  • AV: Side two of Dead Man starts off with "Situation" which states, "Everyone should climb high some time/maybe you should climb high and straighten out your mind/if you keep climbing you'll be surprised to find/that you'd better start now before you're left behind." These lyrics were definitely appropriate in the late 60s, but do they still hold true today?PB: We were climbing Cambelback Mountain in Phoenix when I wrote that song. I actually would have said, "Everyone should get high some time," but there had already been some censorship with the Doors with "Break on Through." I really thought "Situation" would get more commercial airplay because it was short. Taken as an experimental song, it was like a heavy electric waltz.As far as the application of the lyrics today or yesterday or a million years ago or a million years in the future, we all should be willing to experiment with the possibilities we're born with. You should stretch your facilities, be it mental or physical, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, to the limit. To your mental awareness, as to what your body and mind are capable of doing, then everyone should take it to the max.
  • AV: What role did drugs play with the group and it's music?RT: I think drugs were the best thing that happened to me, at least in the beginning, because it made me play the way that I did. I came straight out of a mental institution due to an acid overdose. Man, I came out of there a different bass player! Also I saw Tim Bogert with the Fudge and saw what a guy could do with a bass which I'd never seen anybody else do before. It didn't take me too long to learn to play chords and get real freaky.PB: We were stoned on something all the time. David was the straightest guy in the band. Doug was a wreck all the time. Ray was a wreck a lot of the time. I was a wreck the rest of the time. That takes care of all of the time. Now this is not to mean that we were all screwed up all of the time together because we weren't. We would show up in various states. We couldn't even get Doug to practice. This left a lot of time for illicit recreation which we had no business doing. The first time we started to get our act together was after we had been together ten months. 1 actually had even started to smile at our gigs for the first time. Before I had been just seething, freaky, I-want-to-eat-your-heart-out type of stuff because we were the angry white boys who couldn't get a gig! All of us were living real clean after about ten months because we snapped, but Doug never snapped.
  • [Interview continues at http://av.cah.utexas.edu/index.php/Vorda:Da_00]