I came so very close to scoring an interview with Charlie Watts, but it fell through at the last minute," says David Humphrey, author of the The Golden Years of Rock and Roll in the Hoosier State due this fall.
"The Stones had just come off tour and Charlie decided he needed to relax," says Humphrey. "That would have been the chance of a lifetime — but actually, it meant a great deal to me for Charlie to even consider granting me an interview," Humphrey says, not only as a writer and journalist, but as a hardcore fan of the music from the late '50s through the '70s. His eight-chapter book contains several interviews, recollections and stories from fans, musicians, disc jockeys, Indiana garage band members and journalists during the height of rock and roll. Fifteen pages of photos and concert reviews round out the book, with a foreword and afterword from the author. Many of the memories shared by fans for this upcoming book are from individuals who were in local bands that opened for the national acts of the time period. One thing is for sure: Opening acts, even if they were only given two to three days' warning they were to go onstage, took the job very seriously. "One of my favorite interviews is with a man who was just a teen working at Joe's Record Shop in Anderson when his band opened for The Byrds in the mid-'60s. They were only required to play a few songs, but he described what it was like spending the whole day with the band, the autograph sessions and how well the fans were treated, how they were taken seriously as an integral part of rock and roll," says Humphrey.
Expensive VIP meet and greet packages and generic photo ops are the norm now.
Humphrey continues, "I think the fans I spoke with for the book, and probably other fans of the golden years of rock and roll, miss something specific of the era: meeting the band backstage, meeting after the show for autographs and photos, touring through record stores, autograph sessions, radio interviews, the intimacy, how well fans were treated — much of that is gone now. The change started somewhere around the early to mid-'70s. Rock and roll became a big, big business." Although an even bigger business now, many of rock's past stars were wonderful, patient, and fun to talk to, according to Humphrey. "Peter Asher [of Peter and Gordon] was so very nice to interview," says Humphrey. "Mark Farner from Grand Funk Railroad was also wonderful in person. Success did not go to his head — in fact, he takes success as it is and came across as a genuine rock star with me, in a good way. And Felix Cavaliere [The Young Rascals] was also a great interview. I found him online, contacted his manager and was put in touch with Felix. He lives in Nashville and we were able to talk for quite some time. These guys love to talk about the era, the memories and what happened during the height of their music. Although there is the cliché I've heard that if you love an entertainer's work, you should never meet the entertainer — but these guys? I'm so glad I interviewed them. They were honest and fun, and they're still rock stars to me. I can still hear them on the radio."
Humphrey's book also contains an interview with Charlie Smith — widow of Mike Smith (of the Dave Clark Five). "She still lives in Indiana and was very open with me, very honest," says Humphrey. "She talked of their time together before and after Mike's accident — he was paralyzed in a fall — and of his time in and out of physical rehab. It's truly a remarkable love story. Mike passed away a few days before his band was inducted into Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame." "Peter Yarrow [Peter, Paul, and Mary] says the next Bob Dylan could be out there, but nobody's looking for him," Humphrey laughs. "And he may be right. But like so many of my interviews, although bittersweet, this is the best way to talk about history — to hear it from those who lived it.