When did it all begin? Sometime in 1970 is a good guess. At the Lampost Book & Record shop in the Philadelphia suburb of Bryn Mawr, affable, intelligent, and dryly humorous Richard Grossman welcomed local musicians who would hang out at the back of the store while he sat at a small desk surrounded by bins of vinyl LPs. Richard had been an influential jazz musician, but became dissatisfied with the jazz idiom in all its forms, and had pretty much stopped performing. Eventually talk turned toward making music together, and a loose core of players would find some place to gather and see where their various talents would take them.
At first, there were extended forays into new musical territory based on Richard's free-form jazz experiments, as well as attempts to perform covers of Grateful Dead songs and other favorites they could pull off by ear. Richard was playing bass at the start, with Dave Mason (not the famous one) and Jimmy Hayne on guitars, and Bill Koepnick on drums. Before long they were jamming at keggers and even playing the occasional paying gig. Sadly, there are no known photos or recordings from that time -- probably because nobody had anything like a camera or audio recorder in their pocket back in those days.
Bill Hayward and James Pabarue -- both from a recently defunct (de-funked?) band called Dingo -- were added, with “Pabs” acting as lead singer, and Bill H on bass, allowing Richard to switch to piano, his primary instrument. The often unreliable Dave Mason was let go. This more well-rounded ensemble inspired Richard to start writing songs -- often satirical, always witty ditties that had elements of Randy Newman, Frank Zappa and Mose Allison deftly woven throughout. At this point the band advanced in stature, professionalism and local recognition, and was poised to embark on the road to stardom.reat go to font for titles, paragraphs & more.
AFTER PRACTICE IN THE HAY LOFT AT BILL HAYWARD’S PARENT’S BARN
(Standing, L to R) Richard, Bill K, Pabs (Kneeling, L to R) Jimmy, Bill H
In the ‘70s you had to make a record to get anywhere in the music business. David Shrier, a horn-playing friend of Richard’s offered to produce and play on a demo, so the band came up with enough cash to buy some time at The Hit Factory in New York to record two singles that were pressed into several fragile acetate 45s good only for a few playings. Two of those still exist, with “Axelrod’s Brain” and “Goin’ Back to Nashville” on opposite sides of the record.
The songs didn’t manage to get anyone at the record companies excited enough to sign the band, so they went on playing at the premier local clubs like The Main Point and Grendel’s Lair, as well as bars like The Rittenhouse Lounge and other dives in the Philadelphia suburbs.
More songs were written and recorded. Eventually a small label in NYC showed interest in two songs presented to them on a demo tape. A contract was signed, and the band drove to the Big Apple to Blue Rock Studios to record “Big Shoes” b/w “Lucky” in 1973, also produced by David Shrier.
The record got some local airplay (Bill Koepnick was working at WMMR at the time and often prodded the DJs to give it a spin), and the initial pressing of the record actually sold out. However, Perception records filed for bankruptcy at the same time, and it was back to playing gigs.
At the end of 1974, James Pabarue left the band to further his education in pursuit of a law degree. Bill Hayward joined a newly-forming group called Café Olé, and the three remaining members went looking for new recruits.
Happily, there is a wealth of memorabilia from this era, and you will find much of it available on this site. The links below will take you to pages that are full of relevant information.
These will all contain material from the initial incarnation of Duck Soup. The personnel changed over the years, and caused the band to go through momentous changes. At the top of this page you will see links to the subsequent versions of the Soup all the way through Jack Rozz, which was the final form of the band containing three of the founding members of Duck Soup.