[I was still playing gigs with other bands and one night, in late ’88 or early ’89, I was playing with the Rhythm Rats near my home in Oak Hill at a place called Trudy’s.]
This guy came in with a little keyboard and asked me if he could sit in with us. We were just doing some blues stuff, nothing fancy, and I didn’t actually take that much notice of what he was doing because he was just playing along with the songs. We took a break and I walked outside to go smoke a Joint when I heard ‘King Kong’ being played. At first I thought it was a record or something, so I went back in and there was this guy playing away on ‘King Kong’ and doing it perfectly! So, I went up to him and said, “Can you play ‘Peaches En Regalia’?” and he whipped that out also, so I immediately asked him if he wanted to join my band - the Grandmothers - and he said, “That’s what I’m here for. I came down to audition for you!” His name was Roland St. Germain. Roland was a good musician, a great keyboard player and he also played guitar.
We almost had the complete line-up at that point. We were playing quite a few gigs after we got Roland broke in with the material, which didn’t take too long since he knew all of it anyway. I have to mention that he was also a vocalist, as was Mike. They were great singing backup with me and also singing on their own. This was about 1989 and the band was really starting to smoke at that point.
Jeff Hogan was not very happy playing Zappa music, since he was really a Reggae kind of a guy, so he quit the band. We really didn’t miss him that much because what we needed was another instrument that blended with what we were doing. Along comes Linda Harris, Mike’s wife, who was also a graduate of North Texas State University in music and her instrument was violin. That was the cherry on top of the cake. She was also a great vocalist.
[JCB forms 1st Austin Grandmothers late '87]
We got a gig backing a dance company that was doing a few performances at a theater in Austin when I got very ill with a rectal abscess on the right cheek of my ass.... I was in the hospital for six days and, of course, I couldn’t sit down to play the drums so I had to get another drummer to play the dance company show. I did the vocals laying down on a mattress back stage!
That is when the keyboard player, the bass player and the guitar player quit the band, so I basically had to start all over again.
I formed a second version of the Austin Grandmothers with some of the best musicians I was able to find around town.
The line-up for this Austin Grandmothers band was me on drums, Ener on bass, Gerry “Eli” Smith on sax, Mike Harris on guitar and keyboards and Jeff Hogan on percussion. Mike Harris was an excellent guitar player.
We were rehearsing three times a week at Jeff Hogan’s rehearsal studio. We did that for at least six to eight months before we actually played our first gig.I wanted the band to sound so tight with that music that nobody in Austin would believe us and that is exactly what happened.
We still needed a keyboard player - even though Mike played keyboards, he couldn’t play keys and guitar at the same time. That was the next problem to be resolved.
AGMs on Tour
We played South by Southwest Festival in Austin that year again, and met a guy named John - I can’t remember his last name! John wanted to be our manager so he booked us a small tour in Michigan, since that was where he was from. We played six gigs in different venues around the State and it went very well. The people really enjoyed the Zappa music that the band was playing.
After we got back, we were playing at least three or four times a month at the Dam Café. We were also playing at the Elephant Room, which was primarily a jazz club but our music fit in very well there. We did the KUT radio show again and I got a great recording out of it as usual.
The Austin Pops was a one-off project which happened on Father’s Day 1989. This guy called Bill Abberback - a trumpet player - contacted myself and Rene, who he’d known for some years. He told us, “It’s a bunch of fathers getting together to record a session for Radio KUT.” There were eventually four of us from the Grandmothers in the band. I’d never played a lot of that stuff before, like Miles Davis and John McLaughlin numbers!
On into the 90s
That year the Grandmothers played New Year’s Eve at the Dam Café.
So, I kept a Grandmothers band going right the way up until I moved to Italy in 1992.