Jeff Lemlich Feature

After learning to be a DJ as a student at Miami-Dade Community College, Lemlich interned at the old AM country station WWOK and then landed a job at WIGL-FM. One night in January 1978, a night listeners didn't know would be the last in the life of WIGL (107.5 on the dial, now Super Q, WQBA), DJ Lemlich took advantage of the what-are-you-gonna-do-fire-me? opportunity. Although he stopped short of playing the new Sex Pistols record, he did supplant the usual Helen Reddy tunes with "Ring Around the Rosie" by the long-gone Shaggs, and was immediately rewarded with an angry call from his boss and excited calls from listeners.

Lemlich felt the advent, and the fringe acceptance, of the punk movement was more than an antidote to the firmly entrenched disco sound. It might also be a way of opening the doors to an appreciation of Miami's mid-Sixties savage. At about the same time, Lemlich recalls, the Miami Herald published a story by Christine Arnold about the punk scene. "Arnold's article was about the music," not about the negatives, says Lemlich, who was impressed enough to write a letter to the editor lauding the local rock of the Sixties. "When is this boogie fever going to end?" he asked in a desperate postscript.

Others, it turned out, shared Lemlich's view. One woman, who'd seen his letter in the Herald, tracked him down. "She knew all these groups," Lemlich says now. "She confirmed that certain groups I wasn't sure about were in fact local. She came to the radio station with all these Sixties negatives. I had the photos developed and I could see the fun these bands were having on-stage." Lemlich found Cleve Johns, the guitarist-vocalist of the Shaggs, in the phone book. He ended up speaking to at least one member of every garage band he would eventually write about in Savage Lost.

And he had already begun to compile a discography of his burgeoning record collection, the names and dates printed on record labels supplemented by interviews with musicians, producers, disc jockeys, and others. Thanks in part to the British punk wave, fanzines were popping up around the nation, and Lemlich decided to publish his lists and let others in on the secret treasure of South Florida. "Two magazines were interested in publishing it," he says, "but then I heard about all the stuff in Tampa. Then Orlando. The article was taking on subchapters and subgenres." And the savage was out of control. "By 1980," Lemlich says, "I realized it was a book." Then he realized he'd have to include a chapter about radio. And when he began to uncover the vinyl remnants of the great soul music that was created down here, the size of the project grew even more daunting.

These days any band with a name like Evil immediately evokes images of Spandex and mousse, power chords and M(etal)TV. But the Evil Lemlich now lays down on the dining-room turntable was a rock band, a fact that becomes clear with the first strains of a collection of unreleased demos recorded in 1966. The songs rock on the strength of driving, relentless drum beats, guitar riffs that fly every which way, vocals that forsake technical precision for the sake of raw power. Lemlich claims he's attempted for years to reunite the members of the band for a show. "But their lead guitarist is a born-again Christian," he says, and therefore wants to have nothing further to do with Evil.

Next up are Dr. T and the Undertakers; then Lemlich moves to the Canadian Legends, a group that duplicated its strong Milwaukee following after it moved to South Florida, even scoring mention in a story in the New York Times about what Lemlich calls "the Miami Beach teen scene." After two of its members were drafted for Vietnam, the band fell apart. Lemlich introduces the Neighborhood of Love's "Miss Blue 3/4" as "sounding just like Mitch Ryder on acid." He suspects the band's name was a pseudonym, he says, "but I don't know anything about this record." When he spins the tune, it sounds just like Mitch Ryder on acid.

Lemlich lays down the needle on the Birdwatchers' "Mary Mary (It's to You that I Belong)," a high-flying ode to marijuana. One of Lemlich's two copies is a promo that once belonged to WQAM - along with WFUN, one of two dominant broadcasters of South Florida rock in the Seventies - and someone at the station pasted a piece of tape over the "Mary Mary" on the label, hiding the contraband from view. Of course that did nothing to cover the blatant lyrics contained within. Singer Sammy Hall, Lemlich reveals, became a born-again Christian, recording a number of Christian folk records.

Part Two
A worse fate befell Ronnie Luke, guitarist of the Catalinas, who was killed in Vietnam in November 1965, a year after graduating from Southwest High School. But some survived the savage days alive, and with their musical mentality intact. Lemlich documents the early years of Lee and Steve Tiger, Miccosukee Indians who recorded and performed as Tiger-Tiger through the Seventies and Eighties. Lee Tiger worked with a very early incarnation of NRBQ, a group that later left North Miami for New Jersey, national fame, and a career that endures to this day. The New Society Band, formed in 1966, went on to become the Rockerfellas, who still play local clubs. Brooks Reid, once of the South Miami band Cottonwood, has held a steady solo gig at Tony Roma's for the past six years, and released a CD of new material in the spring of 1989.

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