Band Photo by Doug Fearn
Perfesser Ferguson Plans the Route
Paul Repacks Somewhere Mid-Continent
The band pulled itself back together in the wake of Kirk’s untimely demise, and got back down to the business of making music in their inimitable style. On some songs, Jimmy and Richard started a dual-lead vocal style doubling the melody in octaves. It worked for the Ohio Players and others -- why not them?
But the Philadelphia suburbs were starting to look like a dead end as they played an endless circuit of the same bars and clubs. New songs were written and added to the set lists to keep the performances from getting stale. But in early 1976 plans were first discussed for finding a way to break this cycle -- it was definitely time for a change.
With no budget for a real recording studio, they took advantage of Bill’s grandmother’s lengthy summer vacation to set up a makeshift recording studio in her basement using a borrowed 4-track tape machine to record and overdub a collection of original songs that could serve as demo tape or a pre-recorded audition to get gigs in new territory.
1976 did feature another appearance at the Main Point in Bryn Mawr, PA -- always a treasured opportunity to play at the premier local club where top name talent generally headed the bill -- opening for Little Feat. There are a number of photos from that gig in the PHOTOS section linked below.
The City of Brother Lee Love was celebrating its Bi-Centennial, and during the summer the band played at new facilities at Queens Landing downtown. Disco music filled the plaza between sets. “Get Down Tonight” by K.C. and the Sunshine Band was number one and infuriatingly inescapable. Things were changing.
Richard contacted his cousin David Robinson in the Bay Area to see how prospects for the group might look there. How could it be worse than the Main Line? The concept of moving the whole band to California seemed like the best, most logical thing to do, and everyone worked toward making that happen. Well, except for Sammy who had no desire to leave town.
The band’s sound now depended pretty heavily on the horn section, and if Sammy wouldn’t move, a new Sax player was needed. In short order, Paul Biondi was discovered by Bicey, auditioned and offered the job. Paul had a lot of experience and could read the charts Richard gave him, and the fact that he could play two horns at once certainly helped. After a few local gigs, the new band prepared to follow Horace Greely’s advice and Go West.
In November Richard and Dottie vacated their apartment, sold their Fiat and drove across the country in a Dodge van (purchased with a loan from Bill’s mother) filled with all the musical gear and what personal belongings they could stuff in between. They stayed with Cousin David while searching for a rental house big enough for the whole group (plus spouses), and enough space to rehearse.
The others waited behind until Richard succeeded in finding an ideal spot in Kensington in the hills above Berkeley. In December Jimmy and Bicey flew out to join them, while Bill and Tony and all their personal stuff made the trip in Bill’s VW Bug, with Paul and Debbie (his wife) and all their possessions following behind in their Impala.
With a new home, a new Band and a new name -- WHITE HEAT -- the transition was complete.