Music stories: a bit about The Drongos
My wife, Martha Moran, and I managed a rock and roll band 25 years ago. They were called The Drongos. They were four intrepid young New Zealanders who had come to America with an itinerant theatrical troupe and stayed when the itinerants moved on. They made pretty close to a living playing on New York street corners through little Mouse amps and passing the hat. They’d been a band for a couple of years when we started to help them in 1981.
There were four Drongos. Stanley John Mitchell, the drummer and principal songwriter, now lives in Brooklyn with his wife Alice Barrett, a film, TV, and commercial actress. Richard Kennedy, the lead guitar player and a lead vocalist, has stubbornly made his living as a solo performing guitarist and singer, based in Frome, England. Tony McMaster, the bass player, and Jean McAllister, keyboards/guitar/vocals, are the married parents of four children in Auckland, New Zealand, and still very much involved in music there.
The Drongos were established performers on a circuit through upstate New York: Woodstock, Albany, Ithaca, Rochester, Binghamton over the 4 years or so we worked with them. We never made the match for a record deal with a major label — there was a lot of conversation but it never quite jelled. So we put out our own records.
Fortunately, but quite coincidentally, I was consulting at the time for a UK-based company called Proteus Books, which had bought into my idea for a niche strategy. We published books, mostly bios, on pop music and film. Only. The idea was that we’d do books in an assembly-line way that could sell in all English speaking markets and through bookstores, music stores, and record stores. That allowed us to have an integrated, rather than a book-by-book, marketing campaign. It also gave me a passable front for our self-produced, self-delivered records (and they were, primarily, vinyl records at that time.)
There are two reasons I’m telling you about The Drongos.
One is that I am proud of the promotional flyer I slipped onto the back cover of every copy of their first record. At the top it says, “If you like this record be sure to call your local radio station. It helps.”
And below it says, “The very best sound qualify of The Drongos Album is available only on Proteus Records or Tapes. No home taped version may lawfully be offered for sale. However, home taping to spread the word about this album is encouraged. Please buy your blank tape in a store carrying this album.”
That was my doing. How many of us have such a well-documented record of seeing through the folly of self-defeating copyright protection before there was digital distribution? (And this is documented. Our old friend and major Drongos fan Ira Nonkin has a reproduction of the flyer on his Facebook page. I’m not hip enough on Facebook to know what deal you have to make with Ira to see it, but it’s there!)
Here’s the other reason.
Richard Kennedy is an amazing guitarist. He’s a lefty who plays a normally-strung guitar upside down. You have to see it to fully appreciate it. I just discovered this YouTube video of him playing and singing Don’t Touch Me, which was probably the Drongos’ most popular song. It was a rocker back then; it isn’t in this version, but it sure is amazing. I hope you’ll enjoy it. (If you do, here’s a bit more.)