Jeff Lemlich Feature

In 1984 Lemlich had completed his first draft of Savage Lost, which he named after a song by local band the Kollektion. A Wisconsin publisher expressed some interest but lacked commitment to the project. Then a second house, R.P.M., agreed the book would fit in with other regional-music works in progress at the time. "It was looking good but there was no contract. Everything was oral," Lemlich says. "They strung me along until 1986, and then went out of business, leaving everyone in the lurch."

The Miami rock scene, which had virtually disappeared in the Seventies, began to recover in the Eighties, and made a return to glory - albeit not savage glory - by the end of that decade. "That's when I got excited again," the author recounts. "I had to acknowledge quite a rebirth." At that point, Lemlich took another look at his manuscript. So much had changed - perhaps most significantly, the invention of track acts had made Miami a hot spot for fashion-conscious singers who use tape recordings in lieu of actual musicians - that the rock historian decided a rewrite was needed. Lemlich had also begun to crack "dead wax" codes, letters and numbers etched into the smooth "dead" space between a record's last cut and its label that indicate further details about the recording. And he went out and talked to local soul and R&B pioneers, including the legendary Henry Stone of TK Recording Studios fame and the ubiquitous songwriter/nasty rapper Clarence "Blowfly" Reid. He investigated country-music radio. "Country plus R&B plus gospel," Lemlich says, "is rock and roll. So it was all related."

When he went back to shopping Savage Lost to publishers, Lemlich had to face the inevitable rejections, which he attributes to a "soft" period for the industry, combined with a glut of bad books about the Sixties. "I got letters saying it was a valuable work of research," says the writer, "but they couldn't publish it. That was more frustrating than if they just came out and said it sucked." Finally he latched on to Broward-based Distinctive Publishing, which has contracted to publish Savage Lost: Florida Garage Bands, The '60s and Beyond. The opus, all 430 pages of it, includes essays and arguments, anecdotes, 25 photos, and list after list of record releases with immaculate detail about their issue dates, labels, and chart histories. It is scheduled to hit bookstore shelves by Christmas.

The reader learns who Little Esther's cousin is, how Little Beaver acquired his nickname, which songs George Terry (who went on to fame with Eric Clapton) played on. Fantasy's "Stone Cowboy," the Blues Image's "Ride Captain Ride," Wayne Cochran's "Goin' Back to Miami," and Steve Alaimo's 50 singles all get their due. The Squiremen IV, the Razor's Edge, the Clefs of Lavender Hill, Echoes of Carnaby Street, the Limeys, the American Beetles, the Blue Beatles, Beaver Patrol, the Mor-Loks, NRBQ, 31st of February, and dozens upon dozens of other local rock bands from the Sixties are preserved for history. Space is devoted to Mark Markham, who recorded for RCA and authored songs such as "Marlboro Country" and "If This Is Love Can I Get My Money Back." (Both were remade in the Eighties by Markham's cousin Charlie Pickett, one of the most famous of Miami's local rockers.) The works of producer Steve Palmer, who guided many of these local projects, are enumerated, as well as those of Jim Sessody, one-time drummer for the Legends who went on to engineer and produce a number of SoFlo singles and albums.

Trivia, too, abounds: The Miami Herald's veteran movie critic, Bill Cosford, was once a tangential member of the Vandals, whose "We're the Vandals" is one of the coolest band-theme songs of all time. And there's the tale of the Pigeons, who gained fame after leaving town and changing their name to Vanilla Fudge.

At the end of the book, Lemlich offers brief salutes to each year of the Eighties, but he stops short of commenting on the current local rock scene. "Some people suggested I bring it up to 1991, but I have no perspective on now," he explains. "Years from now, what's written won't matter, and this is a real key year in the local scene." Also, while the fates of some musicians are mentioned, few "where are they now?" anecdotes are included. "First of all," says Lemlich, "by the time a book goes to press, that often has changed. Secondly, how would you like your life to be summed up in a couple of lines: `He's now an attorney'? Where it's relevant, I do mention it, but I tried to avoid that."

Perhaps one day Lemlich will write a second tome, one that spotlights the return of the savage. If that is ever to happen, today's bands would do well to consider the fate of their predecessors. In his book, Lemlich posits that the peace and love, flower-power mindset is what brought the savage to its knees near the end of the Sixties. "Amidst the changing world around them," he writes, "kids still just wanted to play music - whether it be outdated from a California standpoint or not. But there was just so long that this sort of limbo could go on. Eventually, the hippie world won out...eventually, people got caught up in what they thought was `their own thing'...eventually, the whole essence of the scene got lost - and I do mean lost. Savage lost."

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