The Beginning of PPL

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The Beginning of PPL

Postby riverwatch04 » Tue Oct 02, 2007 10:53 am

Hello Tom,

What do you know about the first Pure Prairie League recording, a George Ed Powell composition, "Down to Pieces," with Powell (acoustic guitar and vocal), Fuller (lead guitar and vocal), Tom McGrail (drums), Kenny May (bass) and David Workman (pedal steel guitar)? Just saw this mentioned on the PPL entry on Wikipedia.
Was the above lineup the VERY FIRST PPL line up followed by the touring group comprised of Fuller, McGrail, Powell, Phil Stokes on bass, and Robin Susskind on guitar and mandola? The Wikipedia entry also mentions John David Call quickly joining up in 1970.
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Postby Tom » Thu Oct 11, 2007 9:22 pm

Hi riverwatch,

Well, the George Powell song they are probably referring to is actually called Break Me Down to Pieces.To this day, it's very enthusiastically described by Craig as " a great, great song ! "

As far as the first PPL recording, that's sketchy among band members including Craig given the way they were working then.In fact, I think even Craig will say that you can't pinpoint a "first song recorded." They made a demo tape with something like 4 or 6 songs. As for David Workman and Kenny May, they were never members of PPL. Kenny possibly popped in on a a gig, but Workman didn't play with them as far as I've been told. He's a great blues guitarist who was in a hot band called the Dante's in the mid 60's.

The original PPL lineup( pre-contract days) is Craig Fuller, George Powell, Tom McGrail (drums), Phil Stokes(bass) and Robin Suskind (mandolin). This is considered to be the first official PPL lineup. John Call popped in and out on some gigs in PPL's earliest days.He had a full time job, and PPL was struggling for work, so he couldn't join full time. John was with the band full time when PPL caught fire at New Dilly's, was with them when they got the full time gig at Billy's in Cincy, was on the demo tape,and was in the lineup when RCA signed them after a concert in Cleveland. His steel was a very significant part in PPL's sound not just in their pre-contract days, but throughout their history, including getting a contract, as Bob Ringe, the man who signed them, thought John to be phenomenal. For all practical purposes, John is an original member. When articles state that he was added just before they went to the studio to record the debut LP, they are incorrect. Tom McGrail wasn't all that into it and was replaced by Jim Caughlin, who played with Craig and John in earlier bands. Stokes and Suskind also departed and Jim Lanham came on board for the first LP.

Hopefully, I'll soon have a little more to add to this.

Have a good one,
Tom
Last edited by Tom on Sat Oct 10, 2009 9:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby riverwatch04 » Sun Oct 14, 2007 11:43 am

Thanks for the info, Tom. Do you know if Billy Hinds was ever a member or fill in guy before he joined full-time in 1972? Was he connected with that club Billy's where they played in the early days or was the name just a coincidence?
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Postby Tom » Wed Nov 07, 2007 8:21 pm

Hi RW,

As far as I could confirm from original members, Billy was not a fill in and didn't join umtil '72, during Bustin' Out. No doubt PPL and Billy probably crossed paths as the music scene at that time had guys bouncing all around the same spots. I have actually read in rock books that Billy was allegedly offered the drumming job on the debut LP, but I believe that to be incorrect as Tom McGrail was replaced by Jim Caughlin. I've spoken to John and Craig and neither remember Billy being with PPL until Bustin' Out.

Billy was not associated with the club in Cincy, just one of those things.

Now back to John David Call. To add a little more, John played many gigs with PPL although he was not on the stage the first time they took it as PPL. PPL played at New Dilly's and initially had an extremely small "crowd." " 10 or 15 people" laughed John. The band played Wed. and Thurs nights and suddenly those nights became the hot nights out, as weekends died down. PPL became a very , very hot act at New Dilly's and that's where they really got it going.

All the best,
Tom
Last edited by Tom on Wed Nov 21, 2007 8:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby riverwatch04 » Tue Nov 20, 2007 2:12 pm

Thanks once again for all the info, Tom. You are quite the wealth of knowledge!
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Postby Tom » Wed Nov 21, 2007 8:59 am

Hi River,

You are most welcome.

I'll be glad to answer any questions I can. I have enormous amounts of things on file for various PPL projects I'm working on. If necessary I'll make a call or send an email to get an answer. Bear in mind if I don't respond all that quickly it's not being ignored or forgotten. Sometimes it's simply a matter of time checking out the facts. I enjoy it very much and I'm glad you do, too !

All the best,
Tom
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Postby riverwatch04 » Thu Nov 29, 2007 1:49 pm

The reason I asked was because there were portions of an interview that Billy did that appeared in the Pure Prairie League entry in the Encyclopedia of Folk & Country back in the mid 80s where Billy was quoted as saying he'd worked with PPL for awhile, then left before joining them in 1972 for Bustin' Out. Now this could have meant that another band he was in at the time worked on a bill with them. The quote didn't specify that he was actually in PPL. But it could be interpreted either way, as I'm sure you can see.
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Postby Tom » Fri Dec 07, 2007 8:04 am

Hi riverwatch,

Yes, you hit it on the head. I believe the quote has been taken out of context many times. I know the quote you are speaking about. And yes, Billy was in another band at the time.

In 1979, Billy did an interview which touched on the early days. Parts of it have been usd in various publications.

Speaking of his time at the club Billy's and how he first came in contact with PPL, he stated : " I was working in another band at the same club and we got aquainted. I worked with them for a few months, then left. While I was gone, the others did the first LP and first tour.After that, they asked me to come back and I helped record the group's second LP, Bustin" Out."

It's the part " I worked with them...then left" which has been viewed by some as meaning he was in PPL those months, but clearly when you look at the entire quote( which has not been the case in articles etc over the years) he was referring to the fact that they worked in the same club. And if Billy was in PPL for three months or so at Billy's surely Craig and John David would remember that. I can understand forgetting someone popping in for a gig or two almost 40 years ago, but the guys are pretty good with their recollections from the early days.

Billy , after joining PPL in Toronto, then suggested bringing in his old bandmates, Mike Connor and Mike Reilly, for the second LP.

All I know is this: I still have the drum sticks Billy gave me after a show on June 12, 1980 !


All the best,
Tom Sheridan
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Postby billyJvoltare » Sun Dec 09, 2007 12:52 pm

Tom wrote:
All I know is this: I still have the drum sticks Billy gave me after a show on June 12, 1980 !


All the best,
Tom Sheridan


Hey Tom

I was at the old Ritz Theater in Elizabeth, NJ to see PPL right around that time...would this be the show to which you are referring? A good one, too..that's the last time I saw the great Billy Hinds drum for PPL.
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Postby Tom » Sat Dec 22, 2007 8:55 am

Hi Billy,

Nice to hear from you.

No, the show wasn't in NJ, it was on Long Island in a place called My Father's Place in Roslyn. It too, is long since gone, a real shame. But the band may have played in NJ the day before or after the show I mentioned, they bounced between the two many times. The Capitol Theatre in NJ was another spot they hit.

Vince Gill really strutted his stuff that tour ! Freeborn Man, Ain't Living Long Like This were the best renditions of those songs I've ever heard. Gill ripped it up big time and the band was red hot, stretching out musically while still doing outrageous versions of Flat Tire Merle and all the rest of their country rock favorites. Gill on fiddle, banjo,etc. During Ain't Living Long Like this Gill did a marvelous solo where he not only played the lead, he sang the notes along with his guitar, unbelievable stuff. The crowd went beserk . It was 1980, and PPL still was a major force, still kicking butt all over the country, a great year.

Have a good one Jim,
Tom Sheridan
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PPL concerts at Sugarmegs

Postby Jiff » Wed Jan 16, 2008 3:48 pm

Probably not news here, but there are two recordings of that Jun12, 1980 concert available for streaming or download at Sugarmegs. There's another from 1980, a 1974, 1979, 1985, 2006, and they join a Badfinger encore in 1972.

The Jun 12 one really kicks alright. Gill rips like he doesn't much anymore and his vocals are gruffier. I had the pleasure of discovering him with PPL a couple months later at a fair in Yakima, the following year at a bar in Seattle and again at a bar as a solo act with Rusty Young on psg before he was discovered. What a talent.

Set lists and streams at Sugarmegs:
http://riptorn.dyndns.org/smsearch/

Click the "Darkstar" link for the Jun 12 download and 3 others:
http://tela.sugarmegs.org/__README_TO_DOWNLOAD.html
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Postby Tom » Tue Mar 11, 2008 8:40 am

Hi Jiff,

Sorry for such a delayed response, but I wanted to thank you for taking the time to bring this info to the site, it's most appreciated.

That sugarmegs site I think might have been down awhile back, not certain, but it's a nice one to have around !

It's wild when you think we were going nuts over Gill and PPL back then and now the guy has 19 Grammy's ! Hey, we knew it long before the Cats in the Hats in Nashville did.

Thanks, Tom Sheridan
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