A Real Electric Sailor Speaks Out


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It's kind of funny, sometimes you write a blog and you forget that your post goes out to the whole world. I've already made clear my love for the extremely short-lived band KAK (1967-1968), who released only one album, and wrote the song "Electric Sailor." One of my first posts on this music blog was dedicated to the band. Well, just a little while ago one of the members of KAK responded to that post to clarify my sketchy and partially inaccurate summary of the band's history, as well as to offer his own reflections on the group. It's a history worth reading. I give you KAK bassist Joseph D. Damrell:

* * *

Well, somehow I found myself reading this site, the title Electric Sailor having got my attention. See, I am the Joseph Damrell mentioned on this site. Kindly permit me to say that I never played with the Majestics. I was with Group B. (we released singles under the name the Spokes and Group B. on Scorpio, a Fantasy project) and before we formed Group B. I was also bassist in a 7-8 piece R&B / surf /jazz band called, originally enough, The Nomads. Preceding this and to some extent overlapping with it, I also played some piano bars in Sacramento as a pickup bassist with jazz trios, played country club etc. dance gigs with a group of professionals (MD, DDS, Psycho Prof., Esq, etc.) and while a student played with the Sac State Marching/Squatting Band (as we called it) under Norman Hunt. Group B opened for the Beach Boys and other groups at the Sac'to Memorial Auditorium. We met and schmoozed with the Kinks, Stones, Sonny and Cher, Dobie Gray, Bola Sete, Lenny Bruce.... As a Fantasy group, we were exposed to all sorts of characters, including whole blues, jazz, rock, and schmaltz roster on the label.

When it came to the minute that was KAK, our ineptitude as well as our ability to nail certain tunes on the KAK album in the time alloted by the all-wise, all-powerful, all-seeing forces (of squaredom, idiocy, and bureaucracy) behind Epic/Columbia were always enigmatic to a degree. The energy and enthusiasm are unmistakable, and if you labor under certain delusions about the era, this can be a real trip to listen to. However, the real deal about KAK was that we had and, semi-directionless, squandered an opportunity, while the "company" (in the persona of certain actors from New York and Hollywood) was always just interested in making money. This is not such a mystery, but this was '68. We had a hard time getting along because we were all dealing with what was coming down in '68. The day we finished the album Robert Kennedy was assassinated, which followed King, which followed...and the war raged on. We had no musical "scene" from which to reallly draw any strength, no community. The "movement" had already come under frontal assault. I was privileged to be in the company of these great musicians who played on KAK. They were heavy people, very cool, very committed, nothing bullshit about them. Some people just love bad music is all, like I told Alec Palao [music archivist]. "No, Joseph, it's good music. It's great music, man." To each his or her own, my brother. I like the last cut, "Lemonaide Kid." This should have led off the album. I would have ditched the country and western tune, but then that was Yoder's karma. Gary is still doing his verifiably unique thing. Dehner had the blues then, still does. Incredible. I hear Chris is way into music, always has been. No question, I would have guessed this not having seen him in ages. (But--another correction--I was in grad school at UCD at the time, not him; he was just out of high school, maybe going to City College or Delta). Gary G.? College boy. He was a writer. "HCO" etc., etc. What can I say? You got this right, I have to admit. Anyway, I hope my comment won't increase the fog on your blog, or whatever.

But while I'm at it:

"Kak-ola" was what I called the whole KAK phenomenon when Alec Palao was interviewing me for his Ace/BigBeat re-release of the album, and he decided that this would be the name of the CD compilation of KAK and Gary Yoder, whose solo work had prior limited release for some unknown (to me) reason.

Since you are using the title, Linda Damrell wrote most of the lyrics with Dehnor's help for Electric Sailor but never got credit. Didn't go over big with her, needless to say. Dehner sung on this through some kind of wacky filter. "Who is this guy...ahhh..."

In sum, I wish I knew then what I know now, but I also wish I knew now what I knew then. It was a moment, albeit without the accompanying infamy and attention that, which, come to think of it, might have ruined it. There were groups around us that were not just "breaking up" they were crashing big time. It would be nice to be rich, of course, but since we never "made it", minus the fame and fortune, KAK gets to hang out in the rarified atmosphere of the elite hip who kind of know rock and roll when they hear it and are willing to form an independent judgment. We were indies and didn't know it. Or, again, we knew it; nobody else did.


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