Psychedelic Psounds: Interviews from A to Z with 60s Psychedelic and Garage Bands

By Allan Vorda | Go to book overview

FEVER TREE: IMITATION SITUATION

Fever Tree originated from Houston in the late 60s and consisted of the following members: Rob Landes (piano, organ, harp, flute, bass recorder, clavinette, harpsicord, and cello), Michael Knust (guitar), Dennis Keller (vocals), E. E. Wolfe (bass), and John Turtle (percussion).

Fever Tree evolved from a group called the Bostwick Vines which was composed of the same personnel except for the guitar/keyboard player, Don Lampton. The Bostwick Vines had formed in 1966 and was a popular local group, who came to the attention of Scott and Vivian Holtzman. They were a couple involved with the arts who had seen the Vines perform and recognized their potential. The Holtzman's took over the group and eventually changed their name, at the suggestion of Vivian, to Fever Tree. They secured a contract with Mainstream and had two local hits in 1967 with "Hey, Mister" and "Girl, Oh Girl (Don't Push Me)." It was around this time that Scott made a change in the group's line-up by inserting Rob Landes, a classically trained musician who could play a variety of instruments, as the keyboard player. The group was now set. Fever Tree had a young guitar wizard known only as Michael, a great vocalist in Dennis Keller (whose voice recalls that of Sean Bonniwell of the Music Machine and also Benjamin Orr of the Cars on the song "All Mixed Up"), a solid rhythm section in Wolfe and Turtle, and a classically trained rock and roll convert in Landes.

The Holtzmans seemed to do just about everything: produce, manage, arrange a contract with UNI, and write many of the songs. Fever Tree's signing with UNI brought them to the West Coast in 1968 and in contact with the brilliant arrangers David Angel (who arranged the classic Forever Changes LP by Love) and Gene Page. The group's eponymous album mixed rock and roll with classical instrumentation with the result being one of the truly great albums of all time. Though time has seemed to erase its memory somewhat, it still has not become dated. Just listen to "Imitation Situation"/ "Where Do You Go," "San Francisco Girls," "Man Who Paints the Pictures," "Filigree and Shadow," "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing," "Unlock My Door," and "Come With Me." All of these songs are timeless musical vignettes.

Three more albums followed: Another Time/Another Place, Creation, and For Sale, but the quality seemed to diminish (despite several excellent songs on each LP) with each album. The use of drugs by a few members of the group caused the inevitable disenfranchisement whereupon Landes quit and shortly thereafter "Bud" Wolfe.

Fever Tree recruited two new members and tried to play on, but the damage was irreparable. The band eventually dissolved until the late 70s when Fever Tree (with key members Rob, Michael, and Dennis) performed with Billy Joel at the Music Hall in Houston. It was a climactic return as Fever Tree was wildly received when they showed they were as great as ever. Unfortunately, this performance was their swan song as Rob Landes decided to pursue a jazz career. One cannot

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