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Phil Gammage
"Adventures in Bluesland"
Phil Gammage: Adventures in Bluesland

Phil Gammage
"Kneel to the Rising Sun"
20th Anniversary Edition

originally released on New Rose (France)
Phil Gammage: Kneel to the Rising Sun

The Scarlet Dukes
"Rogue Escapade" Jump blues/swing
The Scarlet Dukes: Rogue Escapades
The Scarlet Dukes - Rogue Escapades

Certain General
"November's Heat" 1985's classic NYC post-punk LP November's Heat

Phil Gammage
"Tracks of Sound"
Edgy downtown jazz Phil Gammage - Tracks of Sound


MAY 2004

by Icepick Phil
live photos by Mark Griffin

j3 live 2004
The Jonny 3 live 2004 in Nashville
Littleton, Colorado's Jonny 3 emerged in 1978 as the state's top Punk Rock band. Decades later in 2004 the band has released their impressive debut CD "Her Little Red Wagon".

Now based in Nashville, we caught up with the band's guitarist Kenny Vaughan and talked about the new CD and the band's history.

So Kenny, how does it feel to have a Jonny 3 CD in your hands 26 years after starting the band in Littleton, Colorado?

It feels great. I like it. Now the seal's broken.

What were the events that caused the band to reform? Had you been in touch with Leroy all these years?

We never stopped technically. We were separated geographically or by things beyond our control sometimes, but we still managed to keep writing. That was the most important part.

What was the catalyst in getting it together to release "Her Little Red Wagon"?


How have the live Nashville shows been going?

People are generally surprised. They come in thinking they're going to hear Kenny Vaughan play guitar and they come away Jonny 3 fans, since we're unknown down here.

Where did you record the CD?

In the House studio, a fine establishment.

Were the tunes demo'd before making the final recordings?

Nah, we don't need no stinkin' demo.

Can you tell us what the band's song writing process is like?

Every way imaginable. Sometimes I'll have an idea and Leroy will have lyrics that match. Or he may have a melody and lyrics and we work the progression. Or he might have a title we like and just knock it all out at once. Or he may custom write lyrics for a melody of mine. Leroy has literally thousands of titles and hundred of lyrics on hand.

The song "Wild, Wild, Wild, Wild" sounds like it could have been developed while performing on stage -- what's the story behind that one?

That song never changed an iota from the day we wrote it. It was radio ready from day one. In fact, when we finished the initial concept, the neighbor beneath Leroy's apartment started cheering through the floor so we knew we had a good one. Leroy brought me the lyrics and the general thrust and I colored it in.

For the guitar affectionados out there...what was your guitar setup for this record? Too many to remember.

Leroy was selling a lot of tube amps and working for a boutique guitar manufacturer then, so I had access to several great amps. There was a a Budda Superdrive 80 Series II, a Zwengel Banshee, Bogner Shiva, a Brunetti Maranella, Brunetti XLR, and a Naylor Superdrive 60, which I use now. I used a Captain Coconut and lots of Keeley pedals and our secret weapon fuzzbox. I wish we had written it down now.

I saw an ad in Guitar Player mag a few years back with you in it -- you were repping some guitar brand. Are you still working with them?

I did that for Johnny Cash, who was friends with Henry Vaccar, Sr. I know they're fine instruments, but I never really repped for them or used one.

Did you work with Cash?

Yes, I did. I recorded some songs with him that to my knowledge have yet to be released.

The two instrumentals on the new CD -- "The Swami of Habeesh" and "Big Dots" are among of my favorites...have you always dug surf music and instrumental rock?

Absolutely. "Wipeout" was my first record

I'd like to backtrack to an April evening in 1978. It was the night I first saw the Jonny 3 perform live. You were the opening act for New York's TUFF DARTS at a club/disco called The Broadway in Denver. What are your recollections of that show and how did you end up playing there in the first place?

That they weren't punks. They were like New York Italians. They weren't like the bands I saw at CBGB's that summer.

Tell us about your visit to CBGBs in the summer of '77(?) What bands did you see and did that CBGBs experience point you in the direction of playing "punk rock"?

It definitely pointed me that way but Wax Trax already had me headed that direction before that but it opened the world of possibilities for me. They were all so differenrt from one another at that time. I knew there was room for us. Television, Talking Heads, Ramones with Cramps opening, and the Shirts (whom I didn't care for). I really wanted to see Suicide but they weren't playing anymore.

That show at The Broadway was one of your first live shows as the Jonny 3?

Yes. Jim and Danny saw us at Sweetwaters at a drown night. They needed an opening act and we got the call. This was when their store was located on Ogden Street.

Once the band had built up a following in Denver, what was your favorite venue to perform at?

Oxford, Aeroplane Club, Wax Trax basement and Sandra, Aleece and Denice's house on York street. Plus the Western Welcome Week party, wherever that was.

kenny vaughanDid you ever open for any national acts in Denver, Minneapolis, or Chicago?

Gang of Four, 999, Buzzcocks, Magazine, The Cramps a few times, Destroy All Monsters, Johnny Thunders Heartbreakers, Scorpions at the Rock Around the dock along with Nantucket, Skafish, Jimmy Desmond and Wazmo Nariz. Simple Minds on their first US tour. We also played the first show ever at the Rainbow Music Hall, with nobody in the crowd but Barry Fey, Dave McKay and Chuck Morris. It was a dry run for the opening. Then we did a complete mismatch there with Elvin Bishop about 3 days later and got whiskey bottles thrown at us.

Was the band ever offered any 45 or LP recording opportunities back then (late 70s/early 80s)?


How come you didn't jump on them?

We were waiting for a really good offer.

Like a major label deal?


I could have imagined Twin Tone Records out of Minnesota loving you guys.

Yeah they did, but they were broke so what good would that have been? They offered to record us and send us out on the road. We were already on the road.

Did you do any studio recordings at all back then?

Yes, and we included one of the better cuts on our new live cd which is available on our website. It's The Liberated Astronaut Blues. Kevin McKindle was in town and he produced it for us. It sounds cool, to this day. It was supposed to be on some Denver punk band compilation, but it never came out.

Who is Kevin McKindle?

He was the brother of a bass player I worked with. He was a California guy who was in town and we knew he was a producer so we went over and did some tracks at his brother's studio.

I know you all were tight with Jim Nash and Wax Trax even after they relocated to Chicago, did they ever push the Jonny 3 to any record labels?

No, they were saving us for their label, but by the time it was a reality, we were underground and they had to succeed without us.

What are your feelings now about Jim, Danny, and WaxTrax 25 years later?

It was a truly remarkable time and you really had to be there to fully appreciate it. I'd do it again in a second.

What were your ties with Minneapolis' Suicide Commandos and Wyoming's Dirty Dogs?

We did some gigs here and there with both bands and grew to be good friends. In fact, we just got an invitation to go play The Lakeside Lounge, Eric Amble's club in New York City.

How was the band received at Minneapolis' Longhorn Club?

That was a brutal cold winter (the winter of '79 -- editor) and we drove where few would travel. The crowds were grateful. There was plenty of fun to be had. We also made more money there than anywhere. They gave us a sliding scale and the big hall really paid off.

How did the scene in '79 there (Longhorn) compare to Denver's at the time?

We just went there and played. Their scene seemed bigger. Plus their scene was more like band co-op.

What do mean my a band co-op exactly? Did the Mnps. Bands work together in a way the Colorado bands didn't?

There were supportive of each other and helpful. They seemed to enjoy the other bands and their company. It was a healthy music community--certainly more people involved than Denver by about 20 times!

What were the origins of the band (how did you all get started in '77/'78)? How did you all know each other?

Leroy moved next to my band's clubhouse and we became friends. When he started playing drums, he came and asked me to start a band with him. So we did and we haven't stopped.

Are you a native of Littleton?


Did the band ever have any professional management back then?


What were the first punk/new wave bands you saw in Colorado?

The Nerves. They weren't punks either. (The Nerves were from Los Angeles and performed in Denver with Boulder's the Ravers at a Wax Trax sponsored show in the spring of 1977.-- editor)

Did they have an influence on the Jonny 3?

Only that I knew we could rock harder than that.

Did you ever see the Front or the Ravers perform around '77?


Did they inspire you or did you think they sucked?

I don't recall being inspired by either band in any way, shape or form although I remain friends with Steve Knutson. (Knutson was the lead singer in the Front and went on to be the lead singer in Denver's Young Weasels in the early 80's. -- editor)

Tell us about your bass player back then Dave Hill?

He was a Dallas rock and roller who wanted to be a punk. He was actually a good musician despite his identity crisis. But he didn't have one original idea his entire career.

poster 1979What caused the band to fall apart in late '79 (was it then)?

Dave Hill.

Dave Hill...interesting. Care to elaborate on that? He replaced Nick right?

If you knew him, you'd know what I mean. The Jonny 3 was always me and Leroy. We started it, we wrote the songs and we called the shots. After Dave got in the band, he wanted to get rid of Leroy and move to LA to start a new band, but I wanted to keep writing with Leroy, so I didn't go. Dave had lots of things, but ideas and lyrics weren't among them. We only had about 25 originals at the height of The Jonny 3's popularity. Now we have nearly 500. Dave probably has 500 cases of empty Jack Daniels bottles in his home. As far as I'm concerned, we didn't get serious about writing until Miles and Dave left town. Too bad we didn't have a handy outlet at that time to play the songs we were writing. And that's the way it's been since.

How come the band cancelled their shows at San Francisco's infamous North Beach punk club Mabuhay Gardens in '79?

We cancelled twice for van trouble and once because we were uncomfortable with our lineup and we had a chance to go to New York to play with Steve Almaas from the Suicide Commandos. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. We went by the MG and met Dirk Dirksen and apologized back when we got "International/One-oh-Four" pressed.

I caught the J3 at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey sometime around 1981. Steve Almaas was on bass. How did that lineup come to be?

We called him and he said yes.

Did that version of the band just perform in the New York City area?

No, we did a mini-tour to Chicago and Minneapolis.

That show at Maxwell's was great by the way. It was fun to see you all as a three piece again and that was a great lineup. What is Almaas doing now do you know? We all remember Beat Rodeo.

Steve is a schoolteacher now. He's doing really well with it. He's thinking about spending the summer working on some new songs for a possible new album.

Tell me a little about the your involvement with Leroy's band the Excitations in the early 80s? How do feel about the 45 record the Excitations released?

That was Leroy's dance Band, not the Excitations and the other 45 was The Kenny Vaughan Band. I love those records. We even played One-Oh-For when we were two-piece last fall. There were many Excitations, over many years, which was Leroy's side project. I did it when I could and when I couldn't he had other guitarists. We had some amazing lineups including Bob Underwood, Gordon Pryor, Lynn Esser, Mike Haywood.

It's curious that those two 45s were released under your respective names yet at that time there were no Jonny 3 releases. How did you and Leroy feel about the Jonny 3 at that point in time?

We couldn't help that our band broke up but those records weren't Jonny 3 material.

So that brings us up to around '81 or '82 I believe. How long did you stay in Colorado before moving to Nashville?

I went there in '86.

What prompted the move (almost 20 years ago) from Colorado to Tennessee?

I had a chance to make a lot of money so I came down. I didn't plan to move here but I just kept working.

You've performed and recorded with a very impressive list of artists in the past 15-20 years. What are some musical projects that you're most proud of?

Greg Garing.

leroy x 2004What's the story on the upcoming Jonny 3 live CD? Why now?

Why not? We're catching up. We plan to do 3 volumes of live and then a DVD of our new act. Right now we're working on our Summer EP, Out on a Run which has a biker theme. It's got 5 totally tweaker cuts that are very aggressive and should fit in well at the Sturgis Bike Rally.

Where were the songs recorded?

We don't know. We don't even know who played bass on the tracks.

Regarding the new EP, when you say "biker feel" are you referring to something like a 60's biker flick soundtrack like the "Wild Angels" or "Easy Rider"? Or maybe a soundtrack for a Harley-Davidson commercial?

No the lyrics for the title cut are super biker anthem. It's like a sea chantey that rocks hard. And to join our biker gang you have to memorize a whole bunch of tongue-twister lyrics and sing them when you're drunk. The other 4 songs are aggressive, gnarly guitar pieces perfectly suited to the theme. It looks like the lineup will be Out on a Run, I've Heard About You, Do You Mind If I Smoke, Tite Tonite, and a studio version of our old warhorse Strangle Your Guitar.

Will it be released on your own label again?

Of course. Our hits don't stink.