Initially I was drawn to music at age 13, when I heard “Let’s Go Trippin” by Dick Dale on the radio in 1961. I remember playing that 45 so many times, the grooves were almost worn out. That song was so important to me that after 50 years, I still have the record today.
Surfing & surf music started to gain popularity on the West Coast, & I was right in the middle of it, having been born & raised in Los Angeles. I took up body surfing, not to be confused with boogie boarding. At about age 14, I hitchhiked to the Wedge, which is considered one of the premier spots for body surfing. Dick Dale’s “The Wedge” definitely was the main reason I decided to see if I had what it took to catch a wave there without getting pounded into the sand because of its dangerous shore break.
About this same time, there was a distinct change occurring on the radio. The Beatles!!! What I heard caused me to decide that playing music & being in a band was what I desperately wanted to do. One big problem, I didn’t know a note of music, nor could I carry a tune. OK, I'll learn to play the drums.
Somehow, I talked my mother & father into buying me a set of drums for my 15th birthday. Mom drove me to Professional Drum Shop to make my selection. The puzzled look on the salesman’s face was quite memorable when he asked if I could play & I told him no. In fact, I had never even held a drum stick. He must have thought my mother was crazy to spend $500 for a set of drums that would probably never be played.
Well, he was wrong. I set up the drums in my bedroom, & listened to my record collection countless times, just listening to the drum parts. Word spread through school that I was learning to play & was asked by brothers J.C. (Jay) & Chris Agajanian if I would be interested in auditioning for a band they were forming.
They came to my house one afternoon in 1964 & I’ll never forget their reaction when I first hit the snare drum. Somehow, I had picked up a style, which needless to say, is quite powerful, & which was totally unexpected by the brothers. They were so startled, they actually jumped.
The audition went well, & we had our first gig performing at an event their father, J.C. Agajanian, Sr., who owned Ascot Raceway in Gardena, was staging. When he introduced us, he called us the 98ers, which was fitting, because the event was for people in the auto racing business & he was the owner of two number 98 cars that had won the Indy 500.
After the gig, we realized we needed a name for our trio. At the time, surf music was still popular, so a good portion of our songs were that style. So we took the name, The Eliminators. My recollection may be hazy, but I think we got the name from Dick Dale’s song, Mr. Eliminator.
We began to get gigs on a regular basis, added Frank Velasco on keyboards & Jon Maenpa on bass & won a couple of Battles of the Bands in 1965 & 1966.
Meanwhile, the British Invasion was in full swing & surf music’s popularity was rapidly declining. Suddenly, our name was out of date & we knew a name change was eminent. With names like the Byrds, the Beatles, the Turtles & the Animals becoming so prevalent, we decided to go the opposite direction & changed our name to Glass in 1966.
We opened for some name bands, the Box Tops (The Letter), the Standells (Dirty Water), & Booker T & the MGs (Green Onions). Right when we were getting to where we wanted to be, Jay, our lead singer, told us he was going to college in Germany. We played one gig with a replacement, but it wasn’t the same. For some reason, none of us called any of the others to rehearse again & the band more or less dissolved in 1968.
About that same time, I got a call from Richard France, a friend from high school, who at the time was the road manager for the Seeds with Sky Saxon (Pushin’ Too Hard). He told me Rick Andridge was leaving the band. Because he knew I was such a Seeds fan & that I knew how to play most of their songs, he asked me if I would like to go to Sky’s house in Malibu to audition. My reply was, “When?”
When I arrived, I was taken aback as I walked down the driveway & saw the garage door was open & their equipment was all set up, including Rick’s drums with the Seeds logo on the bass drum head. They were probably the original garage band, but in those days the term had not yet been coined.
After exchanging pleasantries, we got down to business. They asked me if I knew a particular song, (I don’t remember which) & I replied that I did. Fortunately, having played a great deal of Seeds songs when I was in Glass was a plus & I played my part flawlessly. Sky, Jan Savage & Daryl Hooper excused themselves for a minute & then asked if I could play another song. More good fortune, as I knew that one as well. After a short pow wow, they asked me if I would like to join the band. No need telling you what my answer was.
A few more rehearsals, one of which Mike Love of the Beach Boys attended, & we were ready for our first gig together at Melodyland, which was across the street from Disneyland. The Strawberry Alarm Clock (Incense & Peppermints) shared the bill. Most of the evening is a blur, but I remember that I asked Sky to change the opening song. Because Glass had opened so many times with Mr. Farmer, I thought I would feel more comfortable if we began with the same song. I hadn’t thought of it before the show, but we had never rehearsed a set list & I had no idea what we were to play that night. Everything went smoothly, as Sky introduced each song by name. I recall the venue was in the round, with a revolving stage in the middle. So everyone in the audience could hear the music evenly, the speakers were laid on their backs, so the sound would fill the auditorium.
Afterwards, I got my first experience with groupies. Mind you, I was playing with the Seeds for the first time, & no one knew who I was. That didn’t keep a number of girls from asking for drum sticks, autographs & my phone number, two of which I was happy to give out. Because my girlfriend (now my wife) was at my side, you can guess which the girls didn’t get.
I was so honored to have been chosen to play drums for the Seeds, I never spoke with the other members about being paid. It came as a shock to me when Daryl handed me a check for $90 for 35 minutes of drumming. I had been used to getting no more than $50 to play 3 sets.
I was contacted the following week & told that the Seeds were going on a tour of the Pacific Northwest. In my eagerness to join the Seeds, I had forgotten one very important thing. I was 20 years old, which was the prime age to get drafted into the Vietnam War. The only way to avert being drafted was to be physically or mentally unfit, leave the country, or to be enrolled in college as a full time student.
I told them of my predicament, & they said not to worry, that their lawyers would be able to get me out of the draft. I thought about it for a bit & had to do one of the most difficult things in my life, tell them that I had to return to college. My “15 minutes of fame” was over.
I put my drums in storage in the garage, where they stayed until 1986 when my son, Brian, asked me if I could teach him how to play/ I told him that because I was not taught that I wouldn’t be able to teach him properly & that he should teach himself with the same method I had used 23 years earlier. A couple of years later, he was in a high school band, just as I had been.
He traded in his days being in a band for being a stage actor, which he did through his completion of college. I found myself putting my drums back into storage, waiting for the day one of my old band mates would call & say “Let’s rehearse.”
In Dec. 1999, I received a call from the wife of the keyboard player for Glass. She said she was giving Frank a surprise 50th birthday party & wondered if I could contact the other 3 members. That proved to be a bit difficult, but not impossible. When we met at the party, it was the first time since the early 70's that the 5 of us had been together in the same room.
During our conversations that evening, we discovered that each of us had kept their respective instruments. That led me to believe that something somewhere inside each of us, made us think we may play again some time. When I suggested that we give it a shot, at first there was quite a bit of reluctance. However, by the end of the night we agreed to rehearse the following month & see what happens.
Needless to say, we were very rusty. In fact, on my drive home, I asked myself if we had sounded that bad in the 60's & I just had fond memories. Regardless, we decided to continue rehearsing & got a set list polished to the point that we agreed to play at Frank’s 4th of July party in 2000.
Since that time, we have been a finalist in a Battle of the Bands in 2001, opened for Dick Dale, performed on TV with the Olympics (Baby Hully Gully), performed on the rooftop of the Jonathon Club in Downtown L.A. & performed several times at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Also, Martin Gerschwitz, lead singer & keyboard player for the Iron Butterfly, sat in on keyboards with us at a performance at the Lighthouse.
In the midst of all this, Chris & Jon decided to “retire” from the band in 2005, & were replaced by Jim Bell on lead guitar & Blake Hunter on bass.
When Sky Saxon passed away in 2009, I was asked to sit in on drums for a couple of Seeds songs at his memorial at the Echoplex in L.A. It was the first time Daryl (original Seeds keyboard player) & I had been on stage together since the gig at Melodyland in 1968. Some of the other performers were the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the Electric Prunes & Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. In speaking with George Bunnell, bassist for the Strawberry Alarm Clock, he told me he remembered Melodyland & that it was his favorite gig.
Shortly before Sky passed away, I had sent him a recording I came across of the Melodyland show, which appears to have been recorded by someone in the audience. He didn’t know of its existence & was quite excited to hear it. He was in the planning stages of having the sound professionally enhanced for an official release. Since that time, I have been in contact with Global Recording Artists, (Sky’s label) & I have been told that it may be released some time in the future. Also, in the works is a DVD of Sky’s memorial, as well as a multi CD Sky Saxon tribute. Glass recorded the Seeds’ Satisfy You for inclusion on the tribute. Satisfy You was the closing song the night I played my only gig with the Seeds.
Glass continues as a quartet, consisting of Jay on lead vocals, Jim on lead guitar, Blake on bass & myself on drums. Because of our roots in surf music, we still include a couple of surf songs in each set. Please check us out at www.myspace.com/glass64
One more thing. My grandson, Jack, is learning to play drums & I will soon be making a gift to him of my 1963 Slingerland set.