- Tommy Thompson
6th Movement:"Sons of Champlin"
Updated: Jan 25
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
-- Lao Tzu
Pat called me the next day and told me about this band that he'd heard the night before - along with his sister, Pam, and her boyfriend, Dave - over in SF at Bill Graham's Winterland They were.called: "The Sons of Champlin." The band leader was named Bill Champlin and Pat said that he was one bad-ass lead singer who played a mean guitar. But then, he also doubled on a Hammond B-3 organ and kicked ass on that as well. Terry Haggerty was the main lead guitarist who leaned heavily on a combo-plate of jazz, rock n' blues. And his playing completely smoked. Drummer Bill Bowen and bassist Al Strong were totally locked in on the grooves and laid down a rock solid foundation in the rhythm section.
OK, so for me that was all very cool to know. Indeed, it was. However, Pat and I had already listened to some other bad-ass Bay Area bands before he had gone to hear this one. Not to mention most of the bands we saw perform at local SF venues who hailed from Merry Olde England.
But, as Pat told me, the one main difference with these guys was:
"The Sons have horns."
I could tell that Pat was really, really, jazzed about this band. And since up to this point in our musical relationship we had already both been on the same page musically mostly all the time, we decided to find out where they were playing next. And we'd go together to check 'em out.
Can't remember where we went to see the show, but I do know this: I was totally gill-hooked after only the first song. Whew! If I were to try to describe the band as far as what they sounded like? To me? It was like a giant deluxe combo-plate of Jazz, RnB, Rock and Blues. Along with a healthy dose of Soul added in to the mix via Bill Champlin's vocal chops.
Some of the tunes were in that 4 - 6 minute range. But, they had 2 songs in particular that they played that night which were waaaaay longer than that. "Freedom" and "Get High." These 2 tunes just went all over the place. Rhythmic changes, tempo changes, time signature changes, soft, loud, rockin', jazzin', and every other compilation of musical genre that I could ever have imagined..
And, to repeat once again. They had horns.
Tim Cain and Geoff Palmer both played tenor and alto sax. Palmer doubled on vibraphone, while also occasionally heading over to the Hammond on some songs where Bill was playing guitar along with Terry.
And it hit me as I was watching and listening to them, that having horns in Cookin’ Mama would open up a huge treasure chest of musical possibilities in regards to melodic structure and counterpoint. Not to mention providing musical timbres different from what we were currently attaining with just 2 electric guitarists, and a bass player. Plus, we'd be adding in a host of different rhythmic and percussive options...and, ohhh, so much more.
By the end of their set, the sounds produced by The Sons of Champlin had won my musical heart. I knew that we had to get horns. Of course, since Pat had already come to this same conclusion on the first night that he had seen them, our ride home that night was a virtual non-stop chat fest near akin to chickens cacklin’ in the barnyard. Shoot, think we might’ve prob’ly stayed up most of the night just letting our imaginations run wild with new ideas.
And those ideas appeared to us to be limitless.
I guess you could say that Pat’s “Epiphany Moment” after hearing the Sons and their horn section had somehow been psychically transferred over to me and become my very own “Road to Damascus” moment. Or sumtin’ like dat.
So, the very next day we called both Vince and Lou and told them about our new vision for the band. And since both of them had already been exposed to the world of jazz and horn sections (Louie originally played the clarinet, and Vinnie had all those Buddy Rich jazz rudiments down "pat" – no pun intended), they were both completely into it and every bit as excited as we were. Cool. Let’s do it!
Only problem was that in order to find horn players, who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters?
Nope. I told the 3 Cookin’ Mamas about my new musical buddy:
Paul @ "Children's Hospital" gig - 1970
Lou on the left - Tommy on the right