For the Beat Farmers, a Fifth Try at Success

Denny Bruce, whose long music career includes managing such bands as the Thunderbirds and Blasters and the solo act of the cult-favorite guitarist Leo Kottke, has produced the fifth album by his current clients, The Beat Farmers.

Bruce believes in the "fifth album theory"--the LP that finally brings a band or act success. He first heard this theory from Dee Anthony, the legendary manager of such British acts as Humble Pie and Peter Frampton.

He says there's lots of evidence that the theory is true.

"I've run it down in my capacity as manager," Bruce said. " 'Frampton Comes Alive' was Peter Frampton's fifth album. It took Bob Seger that long, Ted Nugent, the J. Geils Band, Lee Michaels--the hit single 'Do You Know What I Mean' was on his fifth album--and the Fabulous Thunderbirds."

Like "Frampton Comes Alive," the San Diego rockers' fifth album, "Loud and Plowed and . . . Live!!" was recorded in concert. Unlike the Frampton effort, the Beat Farmers' effort for Curb Records was recorded in a night club, the Bacchanal, in the band's hometown.

" 'Bacchanal' is Greek for 'drunken orgy' or something like that," lead guitarist Jerry Raney translated earlier this week. "And most of the album was recorded on New Years' Eve, when the band was pumping even a bit more than usual--still nice and sloppy, though."

The Beat Farmers have been described by some as the West Coast answer to New York's NRBQ--a long-lived band whose reputation as a live act far exceeds the success it has enjoyed on vinyl.

Local fans will be able to see the Beat Farmers Friday night at the Palomino in North Hollywood.

The band might be two groups in one: a hard-rockin' combo reminiscent of NRBQ with a nod to '60s British acts like the Kinks and the Yardbirds, and also the group that backs drummer "Country Dick" Montana when he steps out from behind his kit to sing the old Kenny Rogers tear-jerker "Lucille" in a boomy basso reminiscent of Johnny Cash.

It's not that simple, though. It is co-founder Raney who expertly emulates Yardbirds' guitarist Jeff Beck's looping "Over, Under, Sideways, Down" lick at the end of the Farmers' "Texas" and boasts that "When the Yardbirds' record came out, most guitar players in town couldn't play that lick to save their soul, and I could."

But it's Montana who previously drummed in a punk band, the Penetrators, a British blues-rock group, the Crawdaddies, and who once served as the San Diego linchpin of the Kinks' fan club. (And that band's "20th Century Man" appears on "Loud and Plowed" along with a new version of the demented "Happy Boy," which New York shock-jock Howard Stern used to air with gleeful regularity.)

Second guitarist Joey Harris had played with Montana in a band called the Snugglebunnies, and bassist Rolle Love had been playing slap bass in a rockabilly revival group. When the Beat Farmers were formed by Raney and Montana, Raney (formerly of Jerry Raney and the Shames) had retired to steady employment as a tile setter.

While the Farmers don't sell records by the carload yet, they're touring fools. The Farmers' reputation precedes them, and they've just finished a circle of the West Coast, Canada and America's heartland. In September, they'll be leaving for the South and the East Coast, and while ostensibly at home between times, they're set for dates in the Bay Area, Utah and Colorado.

"A good portion of the Beat Farmers' success is due to word of mouth," Raney said. "Every time we hit a town, the crowd is bigger than it was the last time around."

The Beat Farmers will appear at 9 p.m. Friday at the Palomino, 6907 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. Admission is $15. For further information, call (818) 764-4010.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
60°