Notes From The Cactus Patch

Tall Tales and Ripping Yarns from The Great State Of Texas

“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.

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29 thoughts on ““Iron Butterfly’s Are Heavy”

  1. That’s a great story! I want to hear what you sounded like! (We hung with a band who opened for Styx back in the day, but I don’t think they did one of their numbers). Very funny. Is there something on your site?

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  2. badfinger20 (Max) on said:

    While I was reading it…I thought no…no surely you didn’t play it. Oh that is fantastic. I’m glad they settled down anyway and saw that you weren’t trying to show them up.

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    • This happens more than you would think. All turned out well in the end. I think Doug Engle is the last one left of the original group. As for my band, 3 us are still standing, but old and deaf.

      Liked by 1 person

      • badfinger20 (Max) on said:

        Phil I have trouble hearing also. In the eighties we played the music you guys did…I did not like the decade I grew up in so we played “oldies” but very loud. I can relate on that part.
        I do envy the time you grew up in. Did you guys make it to a recording studio? Now all you have to do is get a computer and you can record. We recorded on an 8-track back in the day at a “studio” (a guys basement)…

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      • We did record a 45 in 1968. I am trying to post it on this blog and with a bit of luck, it will be soon. Yep, loud was the order of the day back then. Large amplifiers turned to 10. I used a Fender duel showman with 8 12 inch speakers. Then, I figured why not finish off my hearing and went to a Kustom stack that was over 6 ft. tall. When I started playing again in 2001, we used small amps and ran everything through our mixing board and PA. Times have sure changed. Every one of us now have hearing aids.

        Liked by 1 person

      • badfinger20 (Max) on said:

        A few years ago I went on a buying spree of the old Kustom Amps. We now have around six in our garage ranging from 1967-1973 Kustom 100 to 200 watt amps. They don’t break up…

        We don’t play as loud as we did. We try to balance it and not compete. I thought I was John Entwistle so up I would go and the guitar player would follow.

        I’m sure I will need a hearing aid.

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      • I ran across a Kustom last year in a Guitar Center. I believe it was a 2×12 100 watt, and in good condition. They were asking 1500. Good amps that can take a beating.

        Liked by 1 person

      • badfinger20 (Max) on said:

        Kustom prices goes up and down. It was a down period when we got ours. We would find the cabinets and then look for the heads…on a few we got the complete amp.
        I’ll post a picture soon.

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      • badfinger20 (Max) on said:

        BTW…I hope you get it posted! I would love to hear it.

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      • One more thing Max, The Butterfly played so loud our ears rang for a week.

        Liked by 1 person

      • badfinger20 (Max) on said:

        Oh geez…I can’t imagine how loud they could get. What did you guys use as a PA back then? I don’t like the progression of amps…I like vintage but we tried an old 300 watt Kustom PA and the feedback was crazy.

        Modern PA’s I DO like…modern amps not as much.

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      • We used a Kustom for a while, but ended up with a Sun PA system with a Echoplex loop echo for the voices. I believe the brain was 500 watts and the speakers were 4×12 with 2 horns in each cabinet. Heavy isn’t the word for those babies.

        Liked by 1 person

      • badfinger20 (Max) on said:

        Wow! So I would assume it kept up with the Fenders and Kustom amps. Our singer would get so pissed off at us.

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      • Does holler a lot?

        Liked by 1 person

      • badfinger20 (Max) on said:

        Oh yea

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I had to look up Southwest F.O.B. and Felicity:
    https://www.dallasnews.com/arts-entertainment/music/2020/03/21/the-eagles-don-henley-recalls-how-kenny-rogers-took-a-gamble-on-me/

    I’m trying to wrap my head around England Dan & John Ford Coley as psychedelic rockers.

    You’d think that Iron Butterfly would be happy that a band did a good tribute of one of their songs.

    I hope you do post some music.

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    • Dan Seals and John Coley left SWFOB in 68 taking a few more band members with them. They formed a band called La Circque and had a hit with The Smell Of Insence, a good song suitable for AM airplay. I knew Dan better than John because we all had been kicking around the Dallas and Fort Worth music scene since the early 60s playing in different bands. Back in those days, the clubs were fond of booking two top bands to play in one night. LuAnns and The Studio Club were the big dogs in Dallas and this was their m.o. One gig at the Studio club had our band, the ATNT and the newley formed La Circque on the same bill. one band played a set, then the other and so on until closing time. That night, La Cirque premiered their new 45 and judging from the crowd reaction, it was bound to be a hit. Fast forawrd to early 70s and Dan and John departed the band and formed a duo and on to stardom. Dan passed away a long while ago from cancer, but John is still living in Texas and dabbeling in music. We are old guys now, but will share our memories at the drop of a hat.

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      • I had read where Dan passed away many years ago. I really liked their music. My very first music concert was seeing them, believe it or not. It was the summer of 1976 (or…maybe, 1977…) and I was about nine…or ten. I went to Carowinds with my mom and they played at an amphitheater there. It was well crafted and the sound was great, even with people screaming on rollercoasters.

        I need to look up your documentary…you said it was on Netflix.

        You certainly are a wealth of information and a great story teller.

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      • Last time I checked it is on Netflix and Amazon. Teen A Go Go is the name of the movie. Mark Nobles and Melissa Kirkendall made the film. Many of the bands from the 60s are interviewed as well as pictures and movies from then. Hope you enjoy it.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Henley formed Felicity while he was a student at North Texas State University. They were mostley rock, but being Texans, they couldn’t help throwing some country in there. I believe this is where The Eagles early country rock sound was birthed. Henley is from an East Texas town of Lindale, a more redneck country town can’t be found in Texas. His roots were in country, so there you go. He still lives in Dallas in the ritzy area of Highland Park, gates, gaurds and all. He frequents all the restaurants and shops around the Preston Center area and is not afraid to sign an autograph or a picture with fans. My wife has talked with him a few times when we lived in Uptown Dallas. A nice man.

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      • Really? I always thought most of the country/blue grass sound came from Bernie Leadon. But, Henley being a Texan, which I can relate after being in Round Rock for a decade and working in downtown Austin, I get that, too (God, I miss Texas).

        It’s good to hear that he isn’t a jerk. I have to laugh at Hans, sometimes. He is like The Dude in The Big Lebowski…”I f***ing hate the Eagles!” LOL!

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  4. Gilmer Gal on said:

    In your photo, I recognize you and Jarry, but I am only guessing at the other three. Can you name them for us?

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    • Drummer is the late Barry Corbett, Singer in sunglasses is the still around Danny Goode, Organist is the late Marshall Sartian. Jarry Boy and I are still kicking, sort of. I believe Barry had a crush on you .

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  5. You guys should have played In A Gadda Da Vida. That would have really pissed them off. Great memory.

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    • Well we probably would have played it, if it had been out. That Gadda Da Vida album came out about six months after that. They were touring and promoting their first album, “Heavy,” which one of the band had bought. The only member that wasn’t too upset was the organ player, since I think he may have been there and done that in his past. One thing I left our of the story was that our drummers velvet jacket dissapeared from the dressing room, and my new Vox Wah Wah peddle came up missing at the end of the night. Not saying Butterfly took it, but it would have been perfect payback. All in all, they were ok guys by the end of the second gig which ended around 3 AM the next morning. Thanks for reading about my exploits CB.

      Liked by 1 person

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