Johnny Echols interview by
Photo by Tina Winter from Nottingham April 1005
So Johnny, can you tell me the story behind Arthur not coming over to the UK?
Arthur decided he couldn’t come, we talked a couple of hours and he felt he didn’t have the heart or the stamina for the tour. As events unfolded, his ribs have been bothering him, all through both San Francisco nights he had to sit.
I heard a story about his dog knocking him down..
Yes, he’s got a pit bull, it’s been wrestling him and he got broken ribs. He wants to tour but he needs to get his health together. The rest of us were committed to tour so we decided to go ahead, plane tickets had been bought, a tour bus paid for and so on. I really enjoyed the last tour to the UK, it was great, and was keen to come over here again. I live in Arizona so until a few days ago I hadn’t seen Arthur since the end of the last tour.
Can you tell me what you’ve been doing since 1969?
Well initially I lived in New York, working as a studio musician. I worked with Miles Davis, I’m a big jazz fan and did some more jazz stuff
I understand you play a mean blues guitar as well
Yeah I’ve done lots of blues stuff. I did a lot of session work for Japanese commercials, they used to send guys over and record blues and jazz stuff to use in commercials in Japan, I never got to find out what the products they were advertising were. Old school blues is my thing, Lightning Hopkins, Robert Johnson, that sort of thing.
I moved to Arizona 15 years ago but keep visiting New York from time to time. I’ve been working as a therapist, dealing with wayward Catholic priests as a lay person, they need to have lay members involved with that, deciding if they move them on or suchlike. I’ve also been doing studio work, David Crosby is a good friend of mine.
So what was the catalyst for you coming on the last tour to the UK?
Well before Arthur went to prison we were all getting together, with Brian who was in LA and Kenny in Seattle, they’ve both passed on now, and Mike in Florida, to put something together. Arthur was meant to ring back about it the night I later learnt he went to prison – I didn’t hear about that for a while – I was upset because I thought it meant he wasn’t interested, none of us knew for a while that he’d gone to prison. Brian was doing an interview with Chris Delaney and died suddenly, then Kenny died. We were all ready to do a world tour, China etcetera but it all stopped.
Gene (Kraut) called me when Arthur was out but I had commitments then, then I played Royce Hall. They’re a great bunch of guys, we found we could all get along so it was all aboard.
So can you tell me about Gethsemane, the lost Love album?
I was interviewed by Chris Charlesworth of Melody Maker and told him I was working on it. The picture on the back of Forever Changes shows me with my hands clasped, that was meant to represent the betrayal of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Brian, Arthur and I all worked on songs, we were going to do Gethsemane after Forever Changes but the group split. I was working on it in the early to mid 70s, it will be recorded, some songs with the Baby Lemonade guys, some are already recorded. I’ve talked to several labels but I’m really trying to find a distribution deal then you can do it the way you want.
What is the predominant style of the album?
I’d say eclectic rock – it goes from where Forever Changes left off, some ethnic sounds
What you might call World Music?
Yeah right. It starts with a guy who falls in love with the devils daughter – it’s the search for his soul – he finds it! He cleanses his soul in the fire.
How many tracks?
19 or 20 songs – it might be a 2 CD set or we’ll pick the best ones. The guy is infatuated with the devil’s daughter and she steals his soul, so he goes round the world looking for it, it deals with immigration and things like that, there are issues covered that are as relevant now as they were then. At that time the big event was the Vietnam and being drafted , I’m so grateful I wasn’t in it but the same issues are around today with Iraq and so on. So many people backtracked, and there’s resonance for today.
Are there going to be any Gethsemane numbers on this tour?
No, but we are going to do Revelation. The album version is not the proper version, that was something that was cobbled together from three different tracks. We have been working on other songs, we’ve been working on songs for the last few hours since we got here.
I understand you’ve been victims of Live8 with the Shrewsbury gig being cancelled
Yeah, we’re going to keep the energy level higher – Rusty will be doing the vocals. We’ll do the more upbeat songs, the music will be exactly the same, upbeat lively and fun. Back in the 60s and 70s we weren’t always so consistent – we had different lead singers in the past. Love was never a group of sidemen, everybody was given free rein to improvise, and the body of work turned out to be timeless. We’ve got to keep the show on the road although a couple of the venues have been nervous!!
Thanks a lot Johnny, and your final message to everyone on the messageboard?
Johnny loves you and keep on truckin’!!