S.S. Fools - The Story
By Michael Allsup
Check out this story about S.S. Fools by Michael Allsup.
1975: S.S. Fools
Three Dog Night continued to perform without me and Floyd throughout 1975, but ultimately, disbanded after a gig at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles in August of 1976. I was not involved, so I don't know the intimate details of how and why the band broke up.
In 1975, Floyd and I began rehearsing with Joe Schermie and 4 other musicians, Stan Seymore (guitarist), Wayne DeVillier (keyboardist - pronounced "De-Vill-yeah"), Bobby Kimball (lead vocalist and keyboard player) and Jon Smith (Sax and woodwind player), formerly of Edgar Winter's White Trash. All but Stan were from Louisiana, so I was basically surrounded with "coonasses," (as Bobby called them) from Louisiana. There was a high concentration of talent among these guys, and we were very excited about getting to work and securing a record deal.
We began rehearsing at a place called "Stage 4," run by Stacey Liffiton, who would become a lifelong friend of mine. (My good friend Freeman Batchelor had the dubious distinction of being our road manager during our rehearsals for awhile, but he had to return to Atlanta due to a death in the family. He returned 6 months later.) Stage 4 was an old television studio lot in downtown Hollywood. In fact, it was the same sound stage where "Bewitched," with Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York, was filmed a few years earlier. Not to belabor the subject, but cocaine use was still rampant, and it shaped our relationships as much as the love of the music did. It also caused tempers to flare more than usual.
I have a story to tell about my ol' friend, Jon Smith. It will make him sound awful, but that's not the case. He's a great guy and a major talent. One day, while rehearsing at stage 4, I said, "I think it would be a good idea for us to do a song without any saxophone, just to give the song list a timbre break." Soon, I discovered that Jon was no longer at the rehearsal. After a while, Jon walked in with a gun. A pistol! Allsup reconsiders. "You know, the more I think about it, we could use a few more songs with a sax or two in it." Nyuk.
On another occasion, we were working up an original tune called, "Fool Hard E," named after the key of "E" that it was written in. I had come up with a riff that I thought might make a good section in the song. It had a Hendrix-type horn chord riff in it, that was answered by a funky little guitar lick on some of the lower strings. In fact, we used it in the final song. It was my intent for Jon Smith to play the "usual" horn part, with the James Brown type horn/chord lick. Instead, he chose to play the guitar fill lick with me, and I wasn't happy about it. He was trying to perfectly double what I was doing. I had the audacity to tell him he wasn't playing it right. He almost 'went off' on me, but instead, he kept his cool and just challenged me saying, "Not right? Fine. You show it to me ONE time and I'll play that mother f_ _ ker perfect!" In the heat of the challenge, I rose to the occasion and said, "Fine. Here it is," and then proceeded to play it at double speed, just as fast as I could, to minimize any chance that he would actually be able to copy the notes. He said, "Okay, I've got it. Count it off," and I did, just as fast as I could. We came to the part and Jon played that turkey PERFECTLY! I mean absolutely PERFECT, without even one single bad note. He stopped, looked me in the eye and said, "So how was that, Mr. Three Dog?" He had nailed it SO-O-O-O perfectly that I just had to "eat crow," laugh and give him his "just deserve." I just kind of gulped, smiled and said "Yup, that's it." Talk about shutting me up! Jon is an absolute monster of a player and I walked right into that one. I just had to tell on myself and give you an example of just HOW good Jon really is. He is, by far, the best "funk" sax man on the planet. He does "chicken picken" guitar licks on saxophone, or at least that's my way of trying to describe it. Jon gets this great edgy tone, as well. He fancies himself a "swamp" player and by God, he's got a witness in me. As far as I'm concerned, he's the ORIGINAL "swamp horn dude." When Jon Smith takes you for a ride with his sax, you'll have been "rode hard and put away wet," as they say. Give yourself a treat and search him out sometime. Just hold on to your seat when he puts the mouthpiece to his lips. I don't really remember the circumstances, but Jon eventually dropped out of the group. We were ALL really wound up tight, if you know what I mean.
Here are some pictures of us at rehearsal at Stage 4 sound stage. Sorry about the red lighting. Some of you complain about how hard it is to take pictures when the stage is lit with red lights. Si. It does make it tough.