I don’t have much information on “Volunteers”, the band, but it seems they are one of those bands where a couple of guys around town keep bumping into each other and decide to form a band.
And if that fails, you try again …
Los Angeles was central to rock music in the 1970s (as it was in the 60s and in the 80s and perhaps beyond). Musicians, songwriters and singers from all over the country were dropping in hoping to get signed.
It was the first place of call for work for the musicians from the south-west and south, and together, with the local sons and daughters of the displaced depression era refugees from the Midwest, it was inevitable that country sounds would filter into the scene. And it did, in a big way, becoming the centre for country rock in the US, especially after the phenomenal success of the Eagles in the early to mid-70s.
Volunteers spring from that.
The line-up is:
Wayne Berry – vocals, electric and acoustic guitars
George S. Clinton – vocals, keyboards, horn and string arrangements
Jerry Vilicich – vocals, bass guitar, lap steel
Joey Kluchar – drums, percussion
Southerner Berry who had been in Los Angeles since the late 60s kept bumping into the same old people, most notably Tennessean George S. Clinton, who he formed the country folk rock outfit, Timber, with.
Timber were part of the Los Angeles Troubadour country rock / folk rock crowd.
They released two albums, the first, "Part of What You Hear" (1970), on Kapp and the second "Bring America Home" (1971), on Elektra. Neither album went anywhere, though Berry was noticed as a songwriter and got to release a couple of solo albums for RCA. "Home at Last" (1974) has contributions from Jackson Browne, Jesse Ed Davis, Jeff Skunk Baxter and others (the backing band were basically the band that became Area Code 615) and was followed by, "Tails Out' (1975). Neither sold (there was also an earlier album for Capitol records that wasn’t released)
Meanwhile ex-Timber bandmate George Clinton had released "The George Clinton Band Arrives" (1974) on ABC.
Likewise it didn’t sell.
Together they decided to give it another shot and recruited local bass man Jerry Vilicich on vocals, bass guitar, lap steel and Joey Kluchar, who had played drums on Berry’s second album. They then went "back home" to Nashville and recorded this album.
“Everything fell apart at RCA, but before it was finalized the VP at RCA who had heard the demos the secretary had played and had been instrumental to bringing me to the label pulled me aside one night and told me Clive Davis was about to start his own label, Arista Records. Everything was evidently in place behind the scenes for the label to kick off, but it had not yet gone public. What it looked like was that Clive was willing to make me an offer even though I was still at RCA. During that whole transition, George Clinton and I were reconnecting, partially because both of our careers were sputtering. Every time either of us would go three steps forward, we would go two steps back. So we got together and did some demos and put together some pickup bands … “Clive wouldn't offer us a deal right out, but he wanted to hear us. We met with him at the Beverly Hills Hotel where he had a bungalow. He took us to the ballroom, which was empty. The only people there were Bob Feiden, Clive, myself and Clinton. There was a white piano there, supposedly the same one used in the film "Holiday Inn." We played four or five songs with just acoustic guitar and piano and cut a deal right there. Ah, show biz! The stuff dreams are made of…..
“We didn't want to go out as a pre-Hall & Oates or something. We both were band players, so Volunteers morphed out of that. Originally, there were six of us. We rehearsed in Hollywood for several weeks and when the deal was finalized and the front money was there, we decided to go back to Nashville. We needed to get out of L.A. and the plan was to head to Nashville, rehearse and start recording there. Right at the last minute, two of the guys got cold feet. One of them had family. They both pulled out of the band, which was how we ended up a quartet. That really diminished the power of the band. I mean, I'm a competent guitar player, but I'm certainly not a lead guitarist. Both of the guys who left were guitarists, so before they left we had bass, drums, keyboards and three guitars. We were stubborn and doggedly determined, though, and we were already signed. Rather than back up and punt, we decided to go it on our own which was not really a great idea. The Volunteers album has some nice stuff on it, but musically it needed much more attention than it got. The four of us could not really carry what needed to happen … The album was received coolly and we went out on tour. We held our own, but not all that well, so the dates we played were not very strong. And that is basically how that project wound down. http://nodepression.com/article/wayne-berry-nashville-cat-home-last
The album bombed.
The music business is a bitch, even if you have talent.
Though this album is a misstep.
The music is country rock (just) with some (a lot of) smooth soft rock sounds thrown in. It isn't in the least rustic or rural, even though there are rustic, rural and commerc ial folk sounds in there, which are very smooth. Clearly there was an ear to what was going on at the time, musically. The soft rock, the upbeat sounds, good vibes and slick production make a lot of this sound like Christian rock of the time. There is nothing wrong with that but it may throw some people off. It's like hippies gone clean.
Wayne Berry left music, had a spiritual awakening, and became an ordained Preacher / Minister / Worship Pastor at Smyrna Assemblies in Smyrna Tennessee. He is a prolific writer of religious songs. Or as a punter described it “He is alive and well … and walks in the role of a Psalmist and a prolific writer of vertical songs to the Lord and horizontal songs for the people to encourage one another”. http://skydogselysium.blogspot.com.au/2009/11/wayne-berry-home-at-last-1974.html
Clinton stuck it out and now composes film scores for major and mid-major Hollywood films.
Jerry Vilicich (now that sounds like a Croatian name) is still plugging away in Los Angles and was in Ricci Martin and The Pack with Ricci Martin, an entertainer and the youngest son of legend Dean Martin (he died in 2016). Apparently he has also played with Loggins and Messina, The Doobie Brothers, Sly and The Family Stone, Linda Ronstadt, Boz Scaggs, The Beach Boys, Ambrosia, Danny Douma and Fleetwood Mac. Recently he was playing with LA based Australian singer Daniel Aranda.
Joey Kluchar is still playing in small and unsigned bands like PGH with Sputzy Sparacino, Southside Rhythm Section
All songs by the band unless specified.
Tracks (best in italics)
- All Night Long – (Berry-Clinton) – very, very slick with some funky asides creeping in (horns and things).
- Queen Of The Night – (Adam Mitchell) – Mitchell was the former lead singer for Canadian 60s garage and psych rockers, The Paupers (and later wrote songs recorded by many acts including KISS, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Art Garfunkel etc. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Mitchell_(songwriter)). This song was subsequently recorded by Stonebolt for a single release (1978). Slick but quite good. Sneaky Pete plays slide guitar on this.
- For The Lack Of Anything Better – (Clinton) – a ballad which is "inspirational" and hymn like. Surprisingly it's not by Wayne Berry (given his later career).
- Maybe It Doesn't Even Matter Now – (Berry) – a mid tempo song with some sweet strings and keyboards added.
- Long Haul – (Clinton-Berry) – Quite good with a couple of lines that sound like (in tempo and phrasing) as if they are from "Welcome Back" (#1 US Pop 1976) by John Sebastian. That was the theme song to "Welcome Back Kotter" which premiered in 1976. Very pleasant.
- Standing Up For Love – (Clinton) – and up-tempo song that sounds like a lot Christian rock of the time.
- Gypsy Thief (Who Do You Trust) – (Berry-Clinton) – Quite good though the keyboards are totally wimpy.
- Driven Snow – (Berry-Clinton) – another ballad. It doesn't have a hook and comes across as a small mood piece.
- Lost In The Hills Of Hollywood – (Berry-Clinton) – a warning piece, quite strident by this albums standards.
- Payday (The Weekend Again) – (Berry) –
Some okay tunes but too slick for me. I like my country flavoured rock a little ragged around the edges … I'm taping a couple of tracks and selling.
- George Clinton ended up as a film composer doing the Austin powers films, “3000 Miles to Graceland" and others. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_S._Clinton_discography
- Produced by Jim Mason. I can't say for sure but I assume it is the same Jim Mason working in the mid-70s … "Jim co-wrote the Peter, Paul, and Mary hit "I Dig Rock-N-Roll Music", produced gold and platinum albums for the band, FireFall, produced albums for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members Chris Hillman of the Byrds, and Richie Furay, of Buffalo Springfield. Other production credits of Jim's include Poco, the Cate Brothers, Bob Buford, The Rhinestones, Robbin Thompson, and Paul of Peter, Paul, and Mary, who originated the timeless "Wedding Song (There is Love)"". http://www.broadjam.com/bio/jimmason
- There is session work from from Joe Lala on percussion and Sneaky Pete on pedal steel!(Photos of the band by the great David Gahr)1976.
- Wayne Berry says, “I got very involved in left-wing politics as a teenager because left-wing politics was so fundamental to the folk movement. So many people who were voices in folk music were standing on platforms which were basically leaning to the left, politically. and “I got involved with The Underground and The Resistance,” he said, “helping people to evade the draft. That was a direct result of everything that had been keyed in during my mid-teen years because of the Civil Rights Movement. In those days, if it had to do with Republicans or conservatism, my path was in the extreme other direction. In a sense, you can trace a lot of the hippie culture and movement to that. Whether the hippies were going to vote Democrat or not was not the point. The point was that culture needed to change and it needed to change in a liberal context.” http://nodepression.com/article/wayne-berry-nashville-cat-home-last
RIP: Jim Nabors 1930-2017