Sent via e-mail from Efram Turchik, November 12th, 2001...
This is the rough-cut. I had to cut it down to about 250 words for the Byrds sidebar, unfortunately, but we're running a few great pics as well, so Franzoni gets two pages of the booklet. We also spoke a bit about the Mothers (the origins of Suzy Creamcheese), but I haven't transcribed that bit yet. Hopefully we can integrate this with the results of your
interview to really tell the Carl Franzoni story!
What happened was something like this: Vito Paulekas, who was my teacher at the time, he had a place on Laurel Avenue, and why I’m telling you this is because the Byrds came there and rehearsed. Anyway, he was looking for a band to play at a teenage dance on Melrose Avenue, and it was at a church, kind of a church configuration, upstairs ... anyway, so we were interviewing bands, and a lot of bands came to Vito’s, but the Byrds came there like this: they had an audition and didn’t show up. A friend of ours went over to their house and called them a bunch of bums (laughs). And they had just had all their equipment stolen in San Francisco, they had went up there, and they were kind of down, I guess. Well anyway, they showed up the second time, and Vito hired them for the dance. A lot of teenagers. Tons. There were 200 people there. So they go there and the dance was for Stop the War in Viet Nam. There were signs everywhere < Vito made these signs and put them up.
The Byrds were, in my estimation, the best dance band that Hollywood ever saw, because they made people dance with that kind of music. Those guys were forever fighting with each other, but when they got up there they really cooked. The next night was Ciro’s; first night at Ciro’s, and we walk in this place, it’s a totally red room, lots of light, the best dance floor in Hollywood, it’s about 40 feet by 60 feet, all the stars in Hollywood are there; these guys have never played for them before. We stepped on the dance floor, and from then on it was music and dance for months and months. All right.
We were there at the start, maybe 15 of us, coming from this other dance the night before, or maybe a couple nights before. They just pushed us in there, we never paid. They said, Come in, just come in. We were famous otherwise for dancing to other groups ... the Gauchos from Fresno. And the Gauchos had horns and everything in their band, they were like a Top 40 band and played near Ciro’s at another place. We would go back and forth to Ciro’s and
sometimes they wouldn’t even let us in because the place was so crowded. The teenagers in Hollywood latched onto these guys and called the teenagers in the Valley, their friends, and ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ was trying to get started and on the radio, and those kids just wouldn’t let up. There were high school kids from Fairfax High School and the catholic school in Hollywood. They wouldn’t get up off of ‘Mr. Tambourine Man,’ they just called and called and called. Those were the girls that were most prominent with the Byrds ... you know, groupies. I remember that girl Norma, she wouldn’t let up. Because it was the first white rock and roll group with that kind of music and dance that they could relate to, you know.
I went to their house when they were on the bum. They didn’t have ... they were just pig-sty musicians, kind of a garage band, that’s what it was.
They had a little pad, a cold-water pad, and they didn’t have any hot water in the place, and they were miserable.
My favorite Byrd was Chris. You know, when you’re on the
dance floor and you look up and you make contact with whoever it is, I always
made contact with the bass player. I could talk to Chris about what was
happening. David was cantankerous son of a bitch that would always start
everything, but you knew that there was a fine artist there. Michael had the
hardest problem: he wasn’t a very good drummer. But he was so good looking,
the women liked him
so much. But there was another guy who was not mentioned: Bryan MacLean.
Bryan MacLean was their roadie, and I helped him roadie. Him and I roomed together on the road. He would have been the next Byrd, but Love liked him... Arthur Lee liked him. He beat Bobby Beasoleil out for the rhythm guitar player spot, because we came and lobbied for him. They were auditioning him and Beaousoleil and it was a tossup. Why I'm telling you this is we had gone off the Byrds ... the Byrds were way past us then, they were traveling the world, going to England. We weren't their people anymore, we had gone to other bands. Love: they weren't the dance band that the Byrds were and neither was Frank Zappa. You had to do an improvisation to do Frank Zappa, you never had to do an improvisation for the Byrds, because they were so miracle .. the combination of both men, the different factions of what kind of music they came from, it just was such a fantastic blend that it was so folk, from all different parts of the United States. I always think of dancing to ‘Bells of Rhymney’ and like, it's a church, you know? So, when they brought that kind of music in to Minnesota, Iowa, places like that ,those kids were just, ‘Wow, where did you come from?’ They could have started their own church with that kind of music they were playing. That 12 string guitar really worked good.
What other songs were favorites to dance to?
"Hey Joe." We would just yell and scream when David was doing that. He would raise the temperature on that dance floor with that one.
They asked me to pick a good amount of people to go with them and we became the Byrds’ dancers. But the Byrds ... Jim McGuinn didn’t like us getting any action, so he made us dance in the audience, he never brought us up on stage. I was upset with them about that and I think that’s why they fired me at the end. But as far as the tour itself, the tour itself was really something! The first place we went on the tour was Denver. We went into Minnesota, Youngstown, Ohio, Dayton, Ohio, stuff like that, I mean it was something to see, the way we danced! The kids were dancing in those lines at the time, line dancing, and we came in there and we broke up all that stuff ... I got punched a couple times because they didn’t like our style of dance! But after that the whole United States went into that style of dancing. We were trained dancers. Vito had studied with some really fine dance teachers in Hollywood. We had a formal place we went to, and the people who were right after us were Toni Basil and David Winters. They were the shit, big time dancers, and they would sit and watch us, and take
what we were doing, and add it into their stuff.
What was the atmosphere like on the bus as you toured around the country?
Well, I brought some women, some good looking women that they could relate to. But they didn't really have to worry about that, girls were knocking on their doors as soon as they got in the hotel rooms! But it was pleasant for them to have a couple of the dancers on there < they could talk to them and stuff like that. At times it was pretty tedious. Here we are in Montana- stop in Montana, bus stops across the street from a little western-looking
diner. we all walk in there, and you went to the postcards, they're greasy, they've been there for months. We walk in there and those people went from crying to screaming to laughing. Here were these crazy-looking long-haired people walking in ... they had never seen anything like that; those cowboys couldn't believe what they saw. They'd never seen any long-haired people, and especially the way we dressed! I was the freak, because I had my own kind of uniform tights and boots and crazy looking shirts. For the most part the women that were in it were really good dancers. I had to pick the best I could find. There was a guy who came with us < they didn't want any men < they really didn't want any guys. But I convinced them that this guy Bob Roberts should come. Bob Roberts became a saxophonist with Frank Zappa and
Reuben and the Jets, and then he became a big-time tattooist in Hollywood.
Tell me how you became a freak in the first place.
Well, I was a businessman and I was in a restaurant on sunset boulevard, ben franks, and I was having lunch with my partner, a guy by the name of Joe Dana -- we were in the mail-order business together selling funny things in the mail and [tape runs out] I said I'm going to go over there and see what she had to say .. and she was really opened. And that's the way it was in the '60s, people were open with each other, you could just walk up and talk to somebody and they wanted to know you. Especially in Hollywood everyone was interested in show business or a part and they wanted your attention, they wanted to meet you. so we were business-looking men, I wore a suit and stuff. I walked over to her and she said I'm a painter. I said, oh, yeah? I'd like to see your painting. and which was vito's studio on Laurel and beverly and she said come over there and bring your friend. I was a girl by the name of Mary Mancini. she was a fine artist. we had to walk into vito's place down in the basement, and we saw what she was painting, very vibrant painting so um when we left i said to my friend joe, Jeez, really like what I just saw and felt down there in that basement.
So I continued to come back there for at least a year. that was '64. I kept coming back there and getting involved with the artists. I had spent some time at the San Francisco art institute for photography. so I started out as the their photographer; they had a new baby and I took pictures of the baby and then Vito suggested that i might take some clay sculpting classes.
And what would happen we would go to this class and it would only last 'til 10 o'clock, so at 10 o'clock all those people would pile into their cars and go to the local dance hall. And it just increased. And I didn't dance at first.
For the first month or so I didn't dance. I just went there and watched them and looked what to do (laughs) to see their improvisations. And then one night i just went out there and I didn't stop. and i got out of the business I was in. And I gave up my cars and motorcycles and just would show up at the Whisky and places like that and would dance every night. And I
got work out of it; they asked if I'd do movies and stuff like that. And you gotta realize that I'm dancing right next to movie stars and their producers were in those audiences too, they could see what we're doing. And people said, well, we'll put you on film. And I did it for a while, and then I got busted for something major, so I just left town and I didn't even look
over my shoulder. I came up north here, then I went back there and found that it was thrown out of court.
I still dance. I still can do an hour. I'm 68, I can still do it. Once you're a dancer you can still do it. My friend vito, a week before he died, he was 79, he was out on that dance floor. And he knew he was going to die.
For some reason we just stopped going to their work. They didn't seem to continue on that line that they were doing where they would go into the dance hall, because I'm sure that if they did, we would have gone back to see them. Now Jim McGuinn one time in one of those rock and roll places, he passed me and said, "You know, Carl, I'm sorry." (laughs) "I apologize."
and that was the last time I saw Jim.
What was he apologizing for?
Well , I think he didn't realize what a good thing he had going with dancers, with the dance people. He was apologetic because we just kept doing it, kept doing our dance, and it just got better and better and it didn't STOP for us. I think what he missed was the people that came around him.
Not just us, but those teenagers went to other bands. I think it's a pretty unique situation where a band would take a whole bunch of dancers on the road with them like that.
Yeah! That was the only one that ever did it for me! I went with Frank Zappa, but I went solo. He couldn't afford it. I think Dickson and those guys, they were money men anyway, they had a lot of money. And what's his name Derek Taylor, he saw it too, and at the last moment I walked out of there. They were ready to take us to England to show the English how to dance. And I think maybe that was what jim was talking about. He had a small nucleus of dancers and could have taken them to London and then those fucking Beatles wouldn't have been so uppity about them.