Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Jimmy Recca: The "Lost" Stooge Resurfaces

Jimmy Recca and James Williamson, 1971
(Photo by Natalie Schlossman)

(Note: This is one of my favorite interviews I've ever done, on behalf of Easy Action Records in the UK. I think it reads like Almost Famous if it'd actually been cool, with real rock 'n' roll in it. You can still get copies of this with Heather Harris' great photos in Easy Action's You Don't Want My Name, You Want My Action box set. Label honcho Carlton Sandercock has given permission for me to publish it here.)

It was in an issue of Circus magazine early in 1971. In the “music news” section in the back of the mag, there was a photograph of the Stooges – to whom I’d been introduced via the network TV broadcast of their epochal, peanut butter-smeared appearance at the Cincinnati Pop Festival the preceding summer -- that sparked my interest because the five musicians pictured therein weren’t the same as the four Persian rug loungers from the Funhouse gatefold.

Madman frontman Iggy was there, of course, his hair bleached blonde, as were the Asheton brothers, guitarist Ron and drummer Scott, still cool behind shades and a few years away from adopting the moniker “Rock Action.” Bassist Dave Alexander was missing, however, replaced by not one but two, count ‘em, two musos. The gaunt-faced, coal-eyed one, I’d learn later on, was guitarist James Williamson, who’d play a crucial role in subsequent lineups of the band. The skinny, bare-chested young man with the fringe of hair in his eyes was bassist Jimmy Recca, who’d joined the band after Alexander was summarily fired by Iggy for forgetting all the songs in a whiskey-fueled haze onstage at the Goose Lake Pop Festival, not long after Funhouse was released, and it was decided that roadie Zeke Zettner wasn’t up to the task.

This particular Stooge lineup went unheard on record until Easy Action unleashed the four-disc You Don’t Want My Name, You Want My Action box set in 2009. After the lineup imploded at the end of its April-July 1971 tour, Recca dropped out of sight, turning up in L.A. in 1975 with Ron Asheton’s post-Stooges band, New Order (which recorded twice but had no releases during its existence, and petered out in 1976 – another story for another time).

Throughout the ‘00s, I’d periodically receive emails from folks searching for Jimmy Recca on the basis of my having interviewed his former bandmates Ron Asheton and James Williamson for the I-94 Bar, but I had no clue. Neither did anyone else, as Easy Action impresario Carlton Sandercock discovered when he tried to locate Recca to pay him royalties for the box set. But things often resolve in mysterious ways, and in April 2010, just weeks after the Stooges’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Recca turned up on the social networking site Facebook, of all places, and was overwhelmed by the outpouring of appreciation he received from fans there. “It’s like a bleeding waterfall hitting me in the face,” he wrote. I spoke wth Jimmy, who now resides in Los Angeles, via phone, early in the morning of May 21, 2010.

K: How did you come to play with the Stooges in 1971?

J: I met James Williamson at a party in Detroit about a year before that. There was a band set up there, jamming. Word came that there was a band and they were looking for a bass player and they left it upon him so he gave me a call. I was staying at my friend’s house in the old neighborhood. My old man had sold his house. He lived out in the boonies, so I didn’t stay there too much. Getting hold of me was kind of hard. They put a call out. They looked through the phone book under my last name, and the only one listed there was my cousin – my dad’s brother’s oldest kid. [My cousin] called [my dad] and told him that someone wanted to get a hold of me from Ann Arbor.

A couple of weeks went by and I went back to my dad’s house and I saw him and he told me that I had a phone call from somebody, to get in touch with him. He gave me the phone number and I called up there that night. It was actually Iggy’s phone. He’d been staying in this high rise building in Ann Arbor – I forget the name, it was Ann Arbor Towers or something like that. He answered the phone and gave me this other number to call for the roadies -- I think Eric [Haddix] or Bill Cheatham or something like that. I called them that night and they said, “We’ll come pick you up tomorrow.” It was on a Sunday. They came out and picked me up. I met the guys, I didn’t even play a note and they said, “Okay – you’re in.”

K: How long had you been playing at that time?

J: I’d been playing since I was 13, 14 years old. Played in local bands and stuff. I was actually a rhythm guitar player before I picked up the bass. I had a neighborhood full of musicians including [drummer] Dave Palmer from the Amboy Dukes. I went to school with his younger sister. The Amboy Dukes were right there in the neighborhood, this band called the Jagged Edge – old Detroit band, Ira Pack was the guitar player, he dated one of my friends’ older sisters. This guy Dave, Ira gave him lessons, he was a couple of years older.

We had this group of cats on the west side of Detroit that was striving for the chance to get out there to play. I’d been pouring myself into music because that was all you had there, the only prospect of doing anything else besides the draft and working in a factory. So anyway, they came down and brought me back to Ann Arbor and I stayed up there with Iggy at his apartment until he had to move out of there because the funds were running short and they had to get back and form this band again. So we all moved back into the Funhouse, Stooge Manor. It was still really cold, around February ’71.

K: When you first got in the band, what music did you play? Did you play any of the Funhouse songs?

J: Not one of ‘em. When I first got up there, I stayed in the apartment for a week. Iggy was up and down but I was suddenly his roommate. This guy he didn’t even know was answering the phone and taking care of his bird. James and Scotty [Asheton] were staying downstairs. They had an apartment they shared together. So at that point we were moving our digs back over to the house. Ron [Asheton] was staying there, Scotty was staying at his mom’s, and Iggy would commute over to the house for rehearsals from his parents’, at the trailer in Ypsilanti, which was just down the street, actually.

Once we got situated, James moved over into the house and every day, James would take me upstairs and show me these new songs. I was kind of looking forward [to playing older material] because I was familiar with the songs. I’d been going to see the Stooges at the Grande since ’67, sneaking into the ballroom, but we didn’t play any of those songs. It was kind of a burden for me to have to learn these new songs that James hadn’t even turned in to the band yet. It was just me and him, drillin’ me on those songs, then we’d go down and rehearse ‘em.

K: So James was doing most of the writing?

J: Yeah, they were all James’ songs. When we played ‘em to Scotty and them was the first time those guys had heard them.

K: Have you seen the You Want My Action box set yet? One of the things Carlton [Sandercock] was curious to know was whether they got the song titles right. When they were putting this thing together, nobody could remember the names.

J: They were dubious. The first song from the Electric Circus, “I Got A Right,” you can hear what that song turned out to be. As far as the other ones, the titles would change from night to night.

What they called “Fresh Rag,” I remember distinctly it sounded like what he was saying was really “Wash Rag.” Referring to when you have a girl over at your place and you spend the night with her and she gets up in the morning and washes herself with your rag in your bathroom and you go in there and wash your face with it. So you’ve got to be careful in someone else’s bathroom. But the names could change through the week, depending on which gig it was.

When I was listening to the Electric Circus tape, I was surprised at how tight [the songs] were – the endings and the beginnings – because we just flew through the set. It seemed like we’d go a long way to play and then just be done before you knew it.

K: You guys played the same set every show.

J: All the songs were arranged for a show. When you hear those breaks, they were really designed just to segue into the next song. The only stop would be when Iggy was out in the crowd and he’d be coming back to the stage. We had to wait for him to get back in place. The first song [“I Got A Right”], we had that intro [sings C-G change] that we were supposed to hold for longer, but sometimes the energy in the place was so great we had to get on with the song. There’d be somebody taunting Iggy right off the bat so we’d just give ‘em a blast of music and then settle into it.

K: There are a couple of different dimensions to Iggy: the guy you hear on rehearsal tapes who’s directing the band, who’s a drummer and knows music, and the guy who just can’t resist the urge to get into it with the audience.

J: That can [result in] the band [having to decide] who takes the rein of musical director at that point. “Who’s going to start the next song?”

Some of those places were pretty large stages. I’d be packed in there between James and Scott. I remember the Stooges as a power trio, with Dave [Alexander] on one side and Ron on the other. They could just stand there and rule that whole area behind the front line. With a four-piece, you had to cram me in because the other guys wouldn’t give up their spots on the end. That was cool, because my playing was always keyed in with the drummer.

I was used to playing loud live, and I grew up with a great drummer. He’s well known in Detroit, his name’s Martin Gross, he goes by Tino Gross right now, he’s been on the scene forever, playing blues and stuff like that. I went to kindergarten with him, we were pretty tight all the way through. I stayed at his mom’s place just before I joined the Stooges.

K: What was the dynamic like between Ron and James?

J: I found out that Ron had known James from the band the Chosen Few [in which they briefly played together in 1966]. To me [it seemed like] there was always a little bit of animosity.

When I was first brought into the band, I hardly spoke to Ron at all. Ron was this black figure that stayed in the corner and lived upstairs with his girlfriend and accepted you only on his terms. It was really hard to even communicate with him…I had to go through James for just about everything. I was trying to get to know Scotty and warmed up to him as far as the playing.

Between James and Ron, I don’t think Ron was necessarily accepting [having James in the band]. I think the only way to get Iggy playing again was through James, but that was between James and Iggy himself. Ron was distant. I didn’t hear much communication between Ron and James at all. During rehearsals, we’d go through [a song] a couple of times and sometimes Ron wouldn’t even play at all until he heard [it], and then he’d come out.

I had to remember my status. Those guys were all four years older than me, Iggy being even older; he was six years older than me. Growing up on the west side of Detroit, I learned my place as far as [getting involved with] people older than me. I knew where to keep my distance from the occasional word tussle, because they could just level me with two words if they wanted to. I just stayed on the musical side of them, asking questions and not being afraid of the answers.

K: You roomed with Scotty on the road?

J: Yeah. Scotty was a prankster. He’d fuck with everybody in the band. I got along with him, but he could be a bit overbearing. I had an older brother too, but not being a musician, he was just a pain in the ass. I remember one time, while we were standing waiting to check into a hotel in St. Louis, and Scotty had put water in my shoes the night before, and it was still cold out, early spring. Scotty was late, and I looked at Ron and said, “Why don’t you room with him? He’s your brother!” and he looked at me and said, “That’s exactly why I don’t!”

K: Greatness.

J: Scotty had girls in all these places that were like his fans. If I was with some girl, all of a sudden there’d be a knock on the door and there’d be this little waif of a girl standing there, going, “Is Scotty there?” And she’d go in and lay on his bed and me and whoever I was with would be having fun and we’d look over and there’d be this set of eyes peering from under the blankets, “Is Scotty there yet?” They’d wait for him.

K: Who was managing the band back then?

J: This guy Jimmy Silver had just stepped down from the position, or stepped up and moved on with his life, and there was really no one other than Danny Fields. When I was [in the band], I was under the impression that Danny was our manager, but Danny was more like our spiritual guardian and financial guy who held the purse strings to make sure that hotels were paid and stuff like that. At that point, the Stooges were pulling down a fairly decent wage as far as personal appearances, anywhere from $2000 to $5000 a night. We had our expenses to pay, and Bill Cheatham was assigned as the road manager, so he would do all that stuff. It depended on us performing the gig and making sure we got the money from it so we could pay our bills on the way out.

K: You played your first gig with the Stooges at the Vanity Ballroom in Detroit.

J: That was a fun one. That was with the MC5. April 13th. It was a homecoming for me because everybody I knew in Detroit, local musicians, kids I grew up with, was there cheering me on. Now they had something to really like the Stooges for – that I was in the band! Every friend that I knew came to see me at that show, so it was a big thing for me. It was a beautiful place on East Jefferson. It’d only been open two or three times since the ‘30s. It was built like the Grande, same style, but it all its original décor. Really a fucking beautiful place.

I remember when we had to sign our contracts, because it was a union show, the agency DMA was booking the show. This guy Bob Scarlevois lived out on the east side. Me and Cheatham went out there to sign the contracts and all the guys from the MC5 were there. Guy was a Vietnam vet – he had pictures in his house of a collection of thumbs on a string and shit like that. He was a hardcore dude, and also a heroin dealer.

Heroin had just come to town. In Detroit, ’69 was the year it just infected the whole town. All the white kids, instead of acidheads, were now junkies. It infected our neighborhood as well. People you’d never have thought would were doing it. I’d even tried it by then, but it was like, “This is not where I’m supposed to go. Thank God for the music.” Those guys [the MC5] were older. They’d tried everything. So we’re promoting a gig here, and for me, it was a thrill to see those guys and to play with them, but meeting them was a different story, because up close, sizing you up, they were looking at you like thugs, like “Who the fuck are you?” They’d give you that vibe without saying a word.

The big part of that show was who was headlining. [Both the MC5 and the Stooges] had been signed at the same time, Danny Fields signed both bands when he came to sign just the MC5, everybody knows that story, but during those times, John Sinclair would always impose upon the band to do benefits for the White Panthers and the Rainbow Party. They had their other band, the Up, which was Frank Bach and the Rasmussen brothers, who would do most of those things, and they were always calling upon the Stooges to take up for them, but Iggy was not for that at all. We’d always nix that. And by that time, the Stooges had gotten a name of their own, their own style, their own fan base. John Cale had produced [the Stooges’] first album, which kinda gave us that edge, that New York thing.

[The Five] had nothing to be envious of, but the fact that they had fallen into that fucking gulch, the dark side of the heroin thing, so their edge kind of fell off. So it was a big thing, “Who’s going to headline?” Traditionally, the guy who plays last is the headline, but that only goes in the ordinary world. When you follow the Stooges, it’s done; it’s over. So we were on first and I remember it was a good show. Everybody came out to see us and then there was this conflict toward the end where when we left, we took the crowd with us, and the MC5 played to just a few people.

K: I told a buddy of mine, the Five tried harder but the Stooges always win.

J: In their day, I saw some great MC5 shows. They had a way with the crowd. When they were on, you just couldn’t fucking beat ‘em, and you were just glad that was your town.

K: You mentioned heroin, and the Stooges have the reputation of having been a heavy junk band.

J: Not really. Iggy had his introduction with Wayne Kramer. They had that deal going on before I joined the band. Between the Cincinnati Pop Festival – I was there…

K: You were there!

J: I went down there with some friends of mine. We hung out in the Holiday Inn, the same hotel [the Stooges] were staying at in Cincinnati, near the old Crosley Field where they played. I remember meeting Felix Pappalardi from Mountain. Mountain had played there. It was going on for two days. So we caught the Stooges’ act. It’s a historical event now. Traffic played there…just historically great bands, and the only one you ever see on Youtube or any of that, the only one anybody remembers is the Stooges.

K: I watched that on TV!

J: That’s from a news broadcast.

K: The sports guys!

J: I think after that, the next show was the Goose Lake Pop Festival. Funhouse had just been released [on July 7, 1970], so they were doing all those songs. That’s when Iggy and Dave Alexander had their falling out and Iggy fired him.

K: What happened there?

J: I knew Dave. He gave me his blessing to be in the band. He was a character. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was the oldest one in the band. He was the magic boy of the band. He had a great sense of humor and a very spiritual connection with everybody that was associated with what he was doing. He could infect you with that, so he always had a magnetic attraction to what he would say. He was a visual kind of guy. His jokes came of nowhere. He had his own opinions about things and he didn’t pull no punches, so I guess he and Iggy had a falling out.

Dave had done a bunch of acid, a little bit too much. It was hot; they were playing outside. They went on right in the middle of the day. It was a hot, real hot, humid summer. And he just forgot all the songs. Obviously the crowd didn’t pay too much attention, but between him and Iggy, it was like he did it on purpose, to piss Iggy off, and Iggy just fired him. And Dave just cried and said, “Just as well.” I heard the album on the radio for the first time in October. I remember the Stooges album was released, and then Jimi Hendrix died.

K: I remember seeing a picture of the band with you and James in Circus magazine and being puzzled because it wasn’t the same guys I’d seen on TV and on the Funhouse album cover. Iggy had his hair bleached blonde and you had your shirt off and I wondered, “Is that Iggy?”

J: Danny Fields wanted to capture that moment of the band, so he made us go to that photo shoot at six o’clock in the morning after we played both those nights [at the Electric Circus in New York]. It was raining out and we went to this weird place where this weird gay photographer was telling us to do this, do that. We were giving him the finger and posing and I was acting like a fag. James took off his pants for the famous “Boots and ‘Wear” shot, I don’t know if you ever saw that one. He’s down to the big jackboots and his black underwear, Ron’s got ahold of his arms, me and Iggy on each side of James like we’re pulling him apart, spreading his legs. It’s a great shot. We were hammin’ it up. I combed my hair down so I looked like Cleopatra. Iggy was cutting my bangs. Two nights before, he trimmed my fuckin’ hair. And that’s the one picture that they took out for the fucking magazine. I spent years living that down.

K: Those Electric Circus shows are legendary. Everyone’s seen the photos of Iggy covered in glitter, and now we can finally hear them. But what do you remember about those shows?

J: Those were great shows, and it was great just being in New York. Danny was bringing us around to everybody. They were talking about us on the radio. We were staying at the Chelsea. Me and Scotty had a room on the seventh floor, and right across the hall was Edie Sedgwick, the famous Warhol model. I actually went into her room a couple of times and talked to her. I was going to get it on with her one night but she fell asleep. That’s when James and Iggy both started dabbling with the drugs. James was the one, but Iggy and Scotty were up to no good. I remember James going into the truck and this cat had come to see us the first night. We finished the set and I walked back to the room. I didn’t see Iggy. We didn’t leave the show together. Some of us went back in a cab, and Iggy and Scotty were gone. Ron went back to his room.

I remember this one cat, this big black dude, and he was all dressed up like a biker with fucking gauntlets and studs, and he was walking around backstage, in the dressing rooms, hanging out. I didn’t know who he was, but apparently he worked for Sly Stone, he was a bodyguard for him, and I guess he knew where to get some heroin and he took Iggy and Scotty up there. They went to the truck and took Ron’s old pre-CBS Stratocaster and sold it for heroin. I think Ron told that story in that Legs McNeil thing [Please Kill Me], but that was the truth. They took his spare guitar up there and pawned it for heroin. I didn’t know nothing about that, and Ron didn’t find out until he got back to Ann Arbor.

But James, Iggy, and myself, we stayed on after the shows in New York for a week. We had to get out of those rooms, so I convinced my old girlfriend, and she wired me 50 bucks so I could stay. I’d met a bunch of people on my own, I went out with one of these Warhol girls. They were taking me around the city. I wanted to see Electric Lady Studios. I was just a kid in New York, and the drinking age was 18, so I was hitting all the bars and stuff like that. My own fan base was developing in front of me and I didn’t know it. I met a lot of interesting people, so I just wanted to prolong it as long as I could. It was a great time.

I stayed out all night with this girl and walked across town to the West Village. By morning, we got to Electric Lady Studios, which was Hendrix’s studio. At that time, Dave Palmer, the drummer for the Amboy Dukes, had just started [working] there. He was an intern for [Hendrix engineer] Eddie Kramer. He worked there for years. There’s stuff that’s been released where he actually played with Hendrix while they were waiting for Mitch Mitchell. Dave had set up and mic’ed all the drums, and Hendrix said, “Tell that guy to get over here before he falls over ‘em.” I got to see the inside of the studio. It was a super cool thing. If I’d only been there one year earlier…

K: The Eastown Theater show you guys played, where Scotty wrecked the equipment van…

J: Trucks and the Stooges…you gotta wonder how they changed the course of history. After that big fiasco with the one guy, we were really worried about roadies, because they would just destroy everything on the way there, so who could ask for a better roadie than Scotty? He wanted to get there early, and that was fine, but nobody told him to drive the truck. He didn’t have a license.

This guy Dickie Sluss and Jimmy Oppner, who was the drummer in a band called Detroit – Mitch Ryder’s new band, they’d just had a hit song with a remake of “Rock and Roll” with Steve Hunter on guitar – he’d been hanging out with us and he told Scotty, “Don’t worry, man. I’ll be your roadie, I ain’t got nothin’ to do tonight, so I’ll hook you up.” Dickie was supposed to be driving. It was his uncle’s truck; Dick Sluss’ uncle owned the U-Haul yard. He got the truck for us, but he never told us that he didn’t sign it out; he just took the fuckin’ truck. We’d been using the truck for ages. Dick Sluss took this big 24-foot U-Haul and it became the Stooges’ truck, but he just stole the truck.

Somehow Scott’s determination prevailed. He’s got to get behind the wheel of this fucking big truck and head for the 94 out of Ann Arbor. Which is okay, he wanted to take a shortcut through town, but he took this one-way under a 10-foot railroad trestle, solid fucking steel. In a car, it’s a quick way under the 94, but with a two-foot overhang above him that wasn’t going to clear that fucking bridge, he just went in there full force and peeled back the top. Took off a bunch of bass cabinets and stuff like that.

It fucked those guys up. It’s lucky they weren’t killed, because he was in third gear, rollin’. That truck had a ton of shit in there, PA and everything, and the momentum immediately stopped dead and sent Jimmy into the front mirror, put a hundred stitches in his head, he’s damn near in a coma for a day or so, Dick bit his tongue off and bashed his face on the dashboard. They were hospitalized. Jimmy was in intensive care for two or three days. Probably was never the same afterwards, either. It was a head injury.

Scotty couldn’t make [the gig]. He couldn’t play because he fucked his back up and they took him in for internal injuries to check him out because he took that steering wheel [in the chest], so he didn’t make it. I figure, “The gig’s a wash.” Somehow…

K: [Funhouse saxophonist] Steve Mackay played drums, didn’t he?

J: Not to his liking, either, I’m sure. Being an official Stooge by then, he was gonna get the call. “You’re a saxophone player, man…you know you can play drums!” Which was decided right there in the dressing room, which is really funny, because there was a guy named Martin Gross, now known as Tino, he was in the crowd, my homeboy from the ‘hood, and I said, “I’ve got this guy I grew up with and he’s a better musician than all of us, he’s been taking lessons since he was a kid, he’s been in bands since before I was in bands” -- he was in these bands that wore suits and ties and played all of these teen dances – “he’s out there in the crowd, man, just drag him up here. He can do it.” And they said, “No, no, no, we’ve got this guy Steve Mackay, he’s our sax player.”

He gets up there onstage and our first song, he just falls apart, he’s not there. I’m lookin’ over, and I look at James, and James just give me that silly smirk. I couldn’t hear the hysterical laughter that goes underneath that smirk, and I look like a camera’s lens opens up the iris, and who’s standing right behind him in the wings, just having a ball with it, but Michael Bruce and Glen Buxton from Alice Cooper’s band. We opened up gigs with those guys, the first big stage I played was at the Opera House in Chicago.

At the Eastown, I walked off the stage, and Glen and Michael told me, “Man, you gotta go back!” I turn around and Iggy’s going, “Come one!” and I’m like, “Oh, Jesus, man. Go back out there and take your licks.” But I was a fan of those guys in the Alice Cooper band. Those guys were like my older brothers; I love those guys. But they gave me shit: “You’re gonna have one distinction. They’ll always remember you for this.” Thanks, guys.

K: You had that Felix Pappalardi bass.

J: It was an SG-type bass, a prototype. I wish I still had that one. It was one of maybe 50 they made, called an SB2. They put [single coil] pickups in ‘em so I could get more high end out of ‘em. It was all walnut, set neck. A long-scale bass with a thin-line neck. That became my signature bass there for a long time. Everybody since then that’s played bass in the Stooges, even Mike Watt has played one of them. Actually, Ron played a Guild version of that bass, which I played in New Order when we got our stuff stolen from the airport. [Which is another story for another time.]

K: Although you had other shows booked, St. Louis spelled the end of the band.

J: Eric Haddix had come down with hepatitis, so he turned this [road manager] gig over to this friend that he grew up with, and Tim was green. He got on the highway [with the equipment truck] and he’d just stopped in to see one of his girlfriends and gotten lost coming out of Indianapolis. We had to cancel a gig in St. Louis, which led to the end of the band because our morale was totally down. It was one of the bigger places in St. Louis [the Music Palace], and we started a riot there.

They sent me out on stage to quell the audience. Send the new guy out there! Ted Nugent, Scot Richard Case, and the Mike Quatro Jam Band all went on before us. We always used to lug around our PA – the Stooges had a mighty PA back then – and when we were on a gig with those guys, they would share the expense of that. It’s ironic that for this particular one, they provided the PA system, in fact the guy who promoted the gig was a well known DJ in that area. He’d promoted this thing for ages, and I remember him calling several times to say, “Oh, we’re going to roll out the red carpet.”

St. Louis had a big fan base for us as far as album sales because a DJ there had actually played the albums. He put up his own money and sent a limo to the airport to pick us up. We stayed at the St. Charles Holiday Inn. It was pretty nice, and we missed the show. We were sitting in the office and all the opening acts had played, and they had struck the stage. We didn’t even have a chance to ask if we could use their equipment. No one wanted to stay beyond their allotted time, so when they got off stage, they just struck their stuff and they were gone!

The kids that were staying on were the hardcore fans, the ones that came just to see [the Stooges]. It was filling up more as we were getting ready to take the stage, so it turned into a fucking riot real fast. I remember the old girl that was there in the office, I think she was [the promoter’s] secretary. She was this old floozy, she was hitting on everybody in the band. And the equipment never showed up, so they were stomping, going “Iggy! Iggy! Iggy! STOOGES!” So, what were we gonna do? The guy comes back, the fucking fire marshal’s there, cops are all out there, and he said, “Somebody’s got to go out there and talk to this crowd before they tear the place apart!” And nobody was going to do it.

So the new guy in the band gets to go do this “public relations” thing. “Go introduce yourself!” I’m out there, and I think I incited the riot. I saw some state trooper knocking some kid around and I said, “Y’know, that ain’t cool,” and then they turned the lights on, and I said, “If you keep the lights on, we’ll never come out,” and when I said that, the whole crowd went nuts. They fucking started sailing chairs and Missouri state troopers came flying in there and started beating everybody. They were rushing the stage and they pulled me off and took me back to the room. I was like, “Did I do good?”

K: You guys played at the Factory the next night.

J: Across the river in east St. Louis. It was an old movie house. [The roadies] showed up with our gear. We spent an extra day. The night of the original show, they destroyed the place, and the promoter took all the receipts and hauled ass. He wasn’t about to pay any refunds. He and his girlfriend got in their car and headed for wherever. The last we heard from him was “You’ll never play in this town again!”

We went back to the hotel and every fan that knew where we were staying had come to have a personal audience with us. I wasn’t even 21 yet and the older guys were hanging out in the bar. We had no money because we didn’t get paid anything, obviously, but we were checked in, so the power of the pen back then, you could just sign away for anything. James and Ron were in the bar. I couldn’t be in the bar; they’d check me for ID and I was 18 years old. Iggy was back in his room.

I remember walking to the lobby and these girls were running everywhere. The innkeeper’s getting pissed off and they’re loading people out the door. I keep trying to get in the bar and they keep throwing me out. Ron and James had met this guy who started buying them drinks, so they were sitting a table getting shitfaced. I remember walking past James and he says, “Iggy’s back in his room. Why don’t you go check him out and see what he’s doing?” I said, “Well, how can I get some drinks up there?”

The guy who was talking to Ron – I think he was a fag, trying to pick up on Ron – they were hustling him, and the guy had his [credit] card out, so James handed me over his room key and said, “Just charge it to the room,” so I went upstairs and just charged it to the guy’s credit card, and room service brought up a whole fucking tray, I ordered six or seven screwdrivers, and I go up to Iggy’s room, and he’s got 15 girls in his room in various stages of undress.

So we’re in there partying and I said, “They’re throwing everybody out, they’re asking everybody for ID, so be cool, we’ve gotta keep the noise down, the police are down there, I’ve seen ‘em in the lobby,” and this one girls goes, “They’re not gonna throw be out, because I have ID. I’m 26 years old.” Meantime, each one of the girls was jumping in bed with Iggy and he’s under the covers, having a good old time, and I hear this knock on the door, BAM BAM BAM, and I told everybody, “Be quiet! Be quiet!” I looked out the peephole, and it’s the fucking innkeeper with the state troopers up there, right behind him. “Open up this door now! We’re going to break this door down! You’re all going to jail!” Different times back then.

Before they came in, I made sure everybody put clothes on and stuff like that. When they came in the room, they asked, “Who’s in charge?” They looked at me and said, “I want some ID from you!” They carded all the girls and sent them all to call their parents. They brought me down and put me in a police car. I didn’t have any ID on me. I said “I’m in the band,” so they got ahold of Bill Cheatham. He had my draft card, so he came down and verified me. They said, “You guys…one more fucking false move from you and all of you are going to jail!”

Come the next morning, we didn’t have any money to pay the [hotel] bill. That girl I’d talked to earlier, the older one, she’d come back and found my room, knocked on the door, and we just kind of holed up in that room all day, waiting for the word to come that they’d booked that next show at the Factory.

K: What do you remember about the Factory show?

J: That show was interesting. We tried to get there early for soundcheck, but the next thing you know, stuff was set up and the crowd was already coming in. It was filling up fast. If you had your ticket stub from the previous show you could get in for free, but that was done through a different promoter, because the guy who’d promoted the [Music Palace] gig was gone. It was one of his partners or something. I don’t know how they worked it out. It was a way for us to get some money to get back [to Ann Arbor].

So we get onstage and already the taunting had started. They were pretty hard on Iggy that night. That famous, “What’s the matter, Iggy?” He’d get a little overwhelmed with the crowd. That was always part of his trademark. He would go out and act like it was bothering him, like you were getting to him, he would go over to some girl and then he would do something really awful, like spit in her face, and someone would slug him, and the roadies would go over and beat the hell out of whoever in the crowd was holding him back, and that went on three or four times. We had to stop and start songs four or five times that night.

Finally, the grand finale, we went into this jam, and Iggy came flying back to the stage, “Just keep playing!” We just played the same groove for maybe like 20 minutes, 30 minutes. He’s starts and he’s going across the stage and jumping out in the crowd. He comes back and he’s got the fucking microphone, doing a Roger Daltrey, swinging it out, and I’m ducking, here it comes again, this SM-57 Shure microphone, just swinging it around, I duck again and it just clears the top of Scotty’s cymbals, Ron’s walking away and it just fucking nails him, right in the center of the back. He got the full impact of that microphone, and he just dropped to his knees, guitar fell down, and he was done. Took him out. That was the end of the show right there.

I guess they didn’t pay us much, if anything. They wanted to charge us damages to the club, because they fucked up that place. The roadies -- this guy Don Kuhl from Hamtramck, he was straight up from the coal mines, and this guy Tim, we used to call him Groovy Tim -- got pissed off because [the promoters] held the money or didn’t pay us, so they broke into their store and stole cases and cases of candy bars from the movie theater. We found out when we got back to unload the truck and there’s all these Almond Joys…ridiculous! Those were our spoils.

K: What about the Wampler’s Lake show that you, Ron, and Scotty played in July?

J: We got back from the St. Louis gig and it was pretty bad. The band was probably at its best. The music was coming out. We were tight, we pulled that show off, but this series of events had affected Iggy tremendously. James was coming down with hepatitis. If you partook of that shit [heroin], it was going to come down to you. I was affected more by malnutrition. Me and Ron were still living out at the Funhouse. I had no place else to go at that point. Iggy had split back to his mom’s. We didn’t hear much from him. He’d come back and forth in this rent-a-car every now and then and we’d go out to the beach or something like that, but he pretty much took off. James was out of the box, staying at his sister’s somewhere in Detroit, so we didn’t see those guys. Word was going around that the band had pretty much self-destructed, but we had this one job booked at this place. Pete Andrews had booked that job. They called him Punch. He was Bob Seger’s manager…

K: The Hideout guy…

J: Yeah. He was also the head of the entertainment committee for Eastern Michigan University. Young guy, but he was the one who promoted the “Free John Now” benefit when John Lennon came to Ann Arbor.

K: He was partners with John Sinclair for awhile.

J: Yeah. But with Punch Andrews…If you book a show, you better show up! And that’s what he said. He knew what was going on, and he said, “I don’t care who comes up there. One of you guys better show up there and be the Stooges!” So he made good on his word. We all met at Ron’s house, the same place where Ron passed away, and they sent a black Cadillac limousine to pick me, Ron, and Scotty up there, and had a bottle of champagne in there, and got us up there to Irish Hills.

We got onstage and played it out. We just had that one song that we called “Ron’s Jam,” we played it at the Electric Circus [as “Dead Body”]. I think I started to sing a couple of songs, then we started doing this other thing that was kind of like a Stooge jam, I think it was like “No Fun” or something like that, and there was this guy down in the crowd who was just standing there singing every song, and when we stopped jamming for a second, Ron said, “Anybody who wants to come up and thinks they can be Iggy…” and this cat was already up there. I never got his name, but I was somewhere in Detroit and somebody said he knew someone who played with us in the Stooges at this one gig, and that must have been that kid. He got up there, didn’t sing much, just did a bunch of contortions, but for what he did, man, he should have got paid too.

K: How did it end?

J: That was the ending right there, because James and Iggy never resurfaced after that. I went back and stayed at Stooge Manor until we woke up one morning and the guys were tearing the fucking windows out of the building. The city had come, and me and Ron had to go down there to get some type of stay. We were all pretty fucked up, but Ron actually went into court with his Go-Kart T-shirt on and the same jacket he always wore with the Nazi epaulets on his collar. He made me sit out in the hallway, it was hotter than shit out, hot and muggy at the end of the summer, and he bought us some time. “Okay, you’ve got 30 days, then you guys are out of there.”

Ron went back to his mom’s house and I was the only one there. He’d stay at his mom’s house all week and I’d sit at that fucking place all by myself. It got creepy. Some girl would come out there and bring me food every now and then. On Sundays, Ron would come back with something his mother had made. I was one of the last holdouts there, eating out of the garden and shit. So then they finally came with the bulldozers and I was pretty much out on my own. I’d go by Ron’s, there were some girls we knew in town and I’d stay at their house, just drift around, couch to couch.

I was determined. It was a hell of a time for me to lose my momentum: Not even 19 yet and I’d been in a great band, touring, and going back to my neighborhood was going to be a hard thing for me to do. After having a go like that, you don’t want it to end. That was something I didn’t want to face. So my idea was to keep slugging away.

Ron was pretty devastated, especially because those guys had repossessed all our gear, took Ron’s guitar away from him, took my amps that I’d brought into the band. I had my bass; it wasn’t there when they came to repossess our stuff. But James had gotten his guitar – that Les Paul that he plays today – so Ron was kind of bitter about the fact that James got to keep his stuff, but he got his taken out. So there was more and more animosity towards James, because Iggy had called a couple of times saying that he was working on something, and he even came over to 107 High Lake and bopped in out of nowhere and looked at me and Ron and said, “You guys grow your hair long, because I’m working on something.” That was the last time we seen him.

And Ron would sleep all day and we’d hang out at the house all day long. He didn’t have a guitar, so one day I went back to Detroit with this friend of a girl I knew who came over there to visit Ron and [his sister] Kathy. I went back to my old haunts and found an acoustic guitar I’d had forever, this old Epiphone, got strings for it and strung it up on the way back, so Ron would have a guitar. I’d never seen Ron play acoustic guitar. It just doesn’t compute! I brought that guitar back thinking if he just had something to play, and I’ve still got that bass, I can keep fuckin’ needling him and carry on.

I had to leave in the daytime before his mom would get up because she didn’t want me staying there at his house. She had a strict rule about people “lodging.” It was getting up near winter time, and I’d hang out all night, but sometimes in the morning, I’d be so fucking tired I’d get a fucking blanket and go in the back – he had a cemetery in the back of the house – and roll up in a sleeping bag and crash out.

One night Ron picked up the guitar that I gave him and we were just jamming at his house, late at night, and we kind of made a pact and said, “Fuck Iggy, fuck James. Long live us!” And I told him, “You’re the Stooges, man. You’ve got the name. Fuck those guys. We’re the Stooges!”

I remember Gary Quackenbush, the guitar player from SRC, he was always at these parties at these girls’ houses that we’d have, and he was kind of going through the same thing with his band. Gary had a true musician’s heart. He came over one day, me and Ron were sitting there, and I think he thought the same thing when he saw Ron playing that fuckin’ acoustic, and me thumpin’ along on the bass with a little amp, just jamming to keep our chops up. And Gary went, “This is really cool. That’s the spirit. Ron, you’ve got Jimmy Recca, he’s not going anywhere, you’ll get back in it.” He was heading out to this party and he asked us if we wanted to go with, and we hung out with him all night, then around three or four o’clock in the morning, he said, “C’mon, I’ll give you a ride back to your mom’s house.”

As we were getting out of the car, we were going up to the front when he said he’d be right back. He comes walking in with this fucking guitar case, opens it up, hands it to Ron and says, “Here, man. Now all you need is a couple of little amps and you guys are ready to go.” Ron takes the guitar over by his rocking chair and it’s this vintage Stratocaster – beautiful fucking tobacco sunburst Strat. And Gary says, “It’s yours, man. You’ve got a bass player and you’ve got a fucking guitar now, so rock on.” A really cool thing I’ll always remember Gary for.

The next day, I get up and go to this chick’s house down towards town. I come back just before sunset – it was getting cold, it was mid-November, December, and I remember Kathy answered the door. Ron hadn’t gotten up, he was still upstairs, I don’t think his mom had even gotten home yet. I was talking to Kathy and the phone was ringing. I grabbed the phone and it was Iggy calling from England. He was kind of short and said, “I need to speak to Ron,” so I went, “Hey Ron! It’s Pop! He’s calling from England!”

He picks up upstairs, and I stayed on the line. Iggy said, “We’ve got this deal going, I got signed to Columbia, so we’ve been looking for guys and we can’t find anybody, so we want Scotty to play drums, and if you don’t want to I understand, but James said you wouldn’t mind if you played bass.” The word “bass” wasn’t even out of his mouth when Ron said, “I’ll do it!” I put the phone down, stood up and said, “Fuck it. What are you gonna do?” I grabbed my guitar and headed out to the 94 and hitchhiked back to Detroit.


Blogger Retro Kimmer said...

WOW great interview! You Ken are the very BEST of all music writers in my opinion....Carlton approached me about finding Jimmy to get him his royalties...I was thrilled to hear a musician was going to get PAID! So I had recently received a friend request on Facebook from a mysterious James Recca...here is the story of finding and friending Jimmy Recca...


11:51 AM  
Blogger The Stash Dauber said...

Hey, Kim! Thanks for all you do!

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great interview. Jimmy has got a fine honed flow and with subtle flourishes puts us there, in the Funhouse. Well done all round

4:28 PM  

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