“Iron Butterfly’s Are Heavy”
In 1968, the rock band I was in signed a management contract with the top agency in Dallas, Texas; Mark Lee Productions. We had been together since 1967 and played all over Texas, but once we hitched on to Mark Lee, we entered another level. Friday and Saturday nights were booked for the next year, and we made more money than our fathers. Pretty good for a bunch of teenagers in Texas.
That was the year that rock music exploded in Dallas and Fort Worth. Forget Los Angeles and New York, we had more bands and better music right here in Texas. American Blues, which would soon be ZZ Top, Felicity that would become the Eagles, Delbert McClinton, Roy Orbison, B.W. Stevens, Michael Martin Murphy, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jimmy Vaughn, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Doyle Bramhall, Southwest F.O.B that would birth England Dan and John Ford Coley, Kenny and The Kasuals, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, Sly Stone, The Jackals, The Nova’s, and our band, The ATNT. We didn’t think much about the East or West coast; there was too much happening here.
A rock band out of San Diego, California, was making some noise with a 45 that was getting some airplay on KLIF AM radio in Dallas. The Iron Butterfly was unknown outside of California but was starting to make some noise in our neighborhood. With the release of their 45 and the following album, they hit the tour circuit playing smaller venues in the Southwest.
Mark Lee informed us that the band would be coming through Dallas in a month and if we would like to do a few dates with them at a local music club called “Strawberry Fields” and “The Phantasmagoria.” It was a go. We got their 45 and really dug their music, so we learned the two tunes and added them to our set-list. Folks liked them even though the songs were much heavier than what our local bands were playing.
The night of the first show at Strawberry Fields, we set up first then the Butterly arrived and added their gear to the stage, making it darn tight, so we agreed to let them use some of our equipment. In the dressing room, they were quiet, talking among themselves and not much to us. We were teenagers, 16 being the youngest and 19 the oldest. They were in their mid-twenties or older, hardcore and mysterious rock musicians from the west coast.
Before we went on, our manager, Mark Lee thought that it would be nice if we did one of The Iron Butterly’s songs; an adoring shout-out of sorts. We were young and stupid, so we agreed to do their song “Possession.” If we had massacred the song, it would probably have gone unnoticed, but we nailed it to the wall and plastered it with gold stars. We finished our set and were met by the pissed-off members of the Butterfly. The keyboardist and the elder leader, Doug Engle, tried his best to keep his band members from kicking our butts. He understood what we had done and didn’t take offense to our gaff. Our illustrious manager thought the entire event was hilarious and was laughing his ass off. Feelings were soothed, tempers lowered, and we finished the gig and on to the next club where, by the end of the evening, we were all buddies, exchanging phone numbers and promises to keep in touch after we all made the big time rock scene.