Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Aww, Pick It, ______ !?"

I've looked around the web and I don't think anyone's yet made this connection:
There is just a little bit of a Monkees spirit floating around the uber-hip 1968 album Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, and Stephen Stills: Super Session.

Follow this, if you can dig:

Exhibit A--1966: Mike Bloomfield is part of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. In August (a month before the debut of The Monkees on TV) they release their highly influential album, East-West. Though it's largely known for the title track, which basically invented the free-form jam in rock music (for better or worse), track one on side two of said album is a little song called "Mary Mary" by a largely unknown songwriter named Michael Nesmith.
A month or so later, of course, that name would only be met by scorn by hipsters who didn't realize that the guy running around every week on TV with Micky, Davy and Peter was the same guy that wrote the song.
A few months after that, The Monkees version of "Mary Mary" would appear on their second album (More of The Monkees) with Glen Campbell on guitar, since The Monkees weren't yet allowed to play on record. (By the way, their live versions--just the Monkees doin' it themselves-- were great).
Apparently, some Butterfield fans would say to the band/their label,  "do you realize this Monkees guy is saying he wrote your song?" And of course, after learning the truth, the fans would walk away enlightened. Or probably more like angry and confused and questioning their hipness.

Mary Mary--The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, 1966

Mary Mary--The Monkees, 1967

Exhibit B: 
1966: On the Monkees' debut album, Nesmith has a song called "Papa Gene's Blues" (with James Burton on lead guitar!). Halfway into the guitar solo, Nesmith calls out "Aw, Pick It, Luther!". Which is a shout out to Johnny Cash and his guitar player, Luther Perkins.

HOWEVER, prior to the remastered CDs, I always thought Nesmith was saying "Aw, Pick It, Wilson". As in making a joke--Wilson Pickett. Pickett Wilson. Ha ha. No?
(a couple friends of mine thought he said "Pick it Elizabeth". But that's beyond the point. And I don't believe they were referring to folk/blues lady Elizabeth Cotton. Get it?)
(while we're at it, it also sounds a bit like "Pick It, Lucifer", which could be interpreted as Nesmith acknowledging that by signing with Don Kirshner, he knew he'd sold his soul. but now we're just free-associating in parenthetical sentences. back to business.)

Perhaps I'm not the only one who thought Nesmith was saying "Pick It, Wilson".
On side two, track one of Super Session, part way into Stephen Stills' solo in a peppy version of Dylan's "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry", Al Kooper says, you guessed it, "Aww, Pick It, Wilson!". Yup. Same inflections, and at the half way point in the solo.

The Monkees--Papa Gene's Blues, 1966

Super Session: It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry, 1968

A footnote to this can be found in the form of Gram Parson's "Return of the Grievous Angel". James Burton is the guitar player on that song too, and before his solo, Gram intones, "Pick it for me, James!". 

I wonder if the Super Session version of "It Takes A Lot to Laugh..." perhaps pointed the way for both The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Grateful Dead? The harmonies, the loose but dance-y vibe. Maybe? Kind of a cross between "Christine's Tune" and "I Know You Rider"? Well, also a bit Monkees-sounding too. If you're a faithful reader of this blog, you know that I think Gram Parsons,  Jerry Garcia and Mike Nesmith were a supergroup in a parallel universe. Or at least a George Jones cover band. All three of them played with Elvis' drummer Ronnie Tutt, you know...

Exhibit C: In 1965, Stephen Stills tried out for The Monkees but didn't make it (he referred them to his pal Peter Tork, however). But he remained friends with the band, and in1967-68, Stills was constantly orbiting the Monkees' universe, hanging out and playing on sessions... at least (so it would seem) until their star plummeted and his shot upwards around 1969.

Peter Tork with Stephen Stills-1967-68. 

Stephen Stills with Micky Dolenz. Summer 1967. Photo by Henry Diltz

Exhibit D: "Fast" Eddie Hoh on Drums!!

Did you listen to the drums on that Super Session track? Pretty distinctive, no? That restless, "playing around with the One" type style. I've read it described as a rock version of Elvin Jones, and I'd agree.  Not everyone can get away with that kind of stuff, but Eddie Hoh (aka "Fast Eddie") could.

Who was Eddie Hoh? Gah! I've been digging his drumming since I started playing (1986) and only recently decided to investigate his life. And it's a strange and incomplete story.

Besides being the drummer on Super Session he's all over the Monkees' best album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones" (that drum break on "Salesman"? Eddie Hoh)as well as many other assorted Monkee tracks. Check him out on "Tapioca Tundra" and "Writing Wrongs" on  The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees.
And "Star Collector" (on PAC&J), on which he goes totally nuts for the last 3 minutes.  (That song also features the first use of a Moog Synthesizer, trivia fans).
Oh!! And of course the awesome tight and fast drumming on "Pleasant Valley Sunday"!
That kind of solves why he's called "Fast Eddie".

Who else did Eddie Hoh play with? The Mamas and Papas, Flying Burrito Brothers, Gene Clark, Tim Buckley,  and more.

One of his best drumming performances? Here you go:

The Monkees--Goin' Down, 1967.

I looked to see what he's doing now, and it's a total mystery! Totally contrasting information. Al Kooper and Denny Doherty (Mamas and Papas) have both been quoted as saying Fast Eddie died (when and where were not given).
But some others say "No, I just saw him. He went crazy/became a drug addict and has been living semi-homeless in Chicago".
But no one can prove anything. On line, at least.
In any case, he's one of the great, great drummers in all of rock and roll history. I'll stand by that. I just have no idea whether he's alive or not. He deserves more than to just be a footnote.

And we'll end this post in an unintended different place. Here's the only picture I can find of Eddie Hoh. He's with Phil Spector and The Modern Folk Quartet.
The Modern Folk Quartet have quite a few Monkee connections too, if you must know. Chip Douglas was handpicked by Mike Nesmith to produce The Monkees' first (and only) "real" album, Headquarters. And "Tad" (Henry Diltz) was The Monkees unofficial official photographer--the guy they trusted and could have fun with.  But until now, I had no idea Eddie Hoh played with the MFQ.
Very cool picture.
Thanks for reading and I hope you learned something. If not, I hope you can teach me something.

ADDENDUM: I just picked up the latest issue of Shindig Magazine, with the Bee Gees on the cover. Oddly enough, there's an article about The Modern Folk Quartet! With the below picture as well as another one that gives a much better picture of what Eddie Hoh looked like. Coincidence! 


  1. Greetings, quite a few of us have been wondering about Eddie Hoh, curious to know what you have found out... I contacted Al Kooper claims Ed has passed on... read a few articles on him, homeless lives on the south side of Chicago, great drummer, definitely deserves recognition for his contributions to music. thank you for any information you can provide.

  2. Neil Young. Pick it Wilson on the losing end, everybody knows this is nowhere.

  3. To add an equally-strange tangent to the story: Eddie Hoh plays on The Monkees' 'Salesman', which was written by Craig Smith. Craig had some considerable songwriting successes by '67, and Craig's band, Penny Arkade, was being mentored and produced by Nesmith. A few years later, he seemingly vanished with only rare sightings over the past 40 years, at which point he was homeless.

    I won't fill rehash the whole bizarre, twisty-turny story here - Google will point you in the right direction - but it's worth reading.

  4. I saw Fast Eddie at a Goodwill Store today in the suburbs of Chicago

  5. My cousin, Eddie Hoh , Fast Eddie,passed away November 7, 2015. Obit

    1. I'm very sorry to hear it and thank you for passing the sad news along. I hope Eddie knew the indelible mark he made on rock and roll with his inimitable drumming. I know I'll certainly forever love and be in awe of his playing. Rest in peace, Fast Eddie.