Approximate dates: February 1972-September
Base of Operations: Cherry Hill, New Jersey, then Atlanta, Georgia
Agents: one main agent based in Atlanta, the name of which I don't remember (Timothy was handling the business)
Reuben David Ferguson - Organ, Vocals, Percussion
Robert Leo Ferry - Guitar, Vocal
Timothy Micah Meyer - Bass Guitar, Vocals
Stuart Fernstein (Vale) - Drums (kind of) (he didn't last long; he was a horrid drummer, and he ripped us off and split)
Eddie Taylor - Drums
Roger Paul - Drums (most of our jobs were with Roger)
Michael Berry Osborn - Piano, Vocals, Flute
And as Bittersuite ...
Franz Nachod - Drums (he didn't last long either, but it wasn't his fault. He was quite good)
This band was the precursor to Foundation II, and the descendent of Bacchanalia. Things happened in this band that are hard to believe, but happen they did. I met Stuart Vale at The Purity, a club in Boca Raton, Florida. He convinced me (somehow) that I should return with him to Cherry Hill, New Jersey and start a band with him. He guaranteed that we would be working immediately, if I could find a bass player. So, I called Timothy Meyer, who was selling insurance in Minneapolis, Minnesota and seriously considering jumping off of a tall building. I convinced him to drive from Minneapolis to Cherry Hill in the dead of winter. He made the trip by panhandling gas money from strangers (don't ask me how; only Timothy could have managed it). It quickly became apparent that Stuart had, shall we say, exaggerated the truth a bit; the guitar player he had "all lined up" had never worked with him and indeed barely knew him. Tim and I were staying at Stuart's parent's house, so Robert Leo Ferry, the guitar player in question, came over to audition. We were very impressed with him, and (probably due to temporary insanity) he agreed to join the band. He had just finished working with David Collins (see George), another guitar player, in a very popular band named Candy.
Oddly enough, it seemed that the more we rehearsed with Stuart, the worse he got. Robert, Tim and I had talked about trying to find another drummer, but that would have been uncomfortable, seeing as how we were living at Stuart's house. But he was unbelievably bad! After a few weeks of practice, Stuart announced that we had obtained our first job at the Savanna Inn and Country Club in Savanna, Georgia - a very ritzy place. We went to Savanna, played one full night and two sets on the second night, and got fired. The club owner told Tim we were one of the worst bands he had ever heard, with the worst drummer. He was right. Poor Tim couldn't handle the rejection - he and I went to the bar later that evening (the same night we were fired), and he proceeded to imbibe six (count'em, six) double rum-and-cokes. In a half hour. Shazaam! It was the first time I had ever seen Tim drink alcohol, (and it was a very long time until he drank it again), and he got blasted! I won't go into details (read my book when it comes out), but suffice to say he was horribly sick all night long. Of course, he didn't help matters by destroying the Tom's vending machine and proudly presenting the pieces to me back in our motel room. We left town the next morning.
We went to Atlanta where we were required to audition for the agency that had booked us in Savanna on the strength of Stuart's mouth. We auditioned during the day in a closed club called Uncle Sam's (apparently we were so bad we could not be exposed to the public). The agent took me aside (Tim was too hung over) and told me that we had to dump "that drummer". Once again Stuart was blessed with a stream of adjectives like: "frightfully bad", "awful", "God-awful", "horrible", and "the worst I've ever heard". This was from someone who was supposed to be a personal friend of his. The date was March 3, 1972.
We rented two rooms at a Day's Inn in Atlanta so we could get some sleep. Stuart had reserved the rooms in his name, so we gave him cash to go and pay for the rooms, and everyone else went to bed. Robert and Stuart were in one room, (Robert lost the draw), and Tim and I were in the other. It was not a very restful evening; all night long we heard sounds of wild partying and exotic sexual activities emanating from the next room, which was occupied by, of all things, a Rock Band! They were really whooping it up. At one point, the guys in the band threw a girl out of the room and locked the door. She happened to be completely naked at the time. She laughingly pleaded with them to open the door, whereupon she was asked "why should we?". She proceeded to give a detailed description of a certain part of her anatomy, being quite explicit as to the size and shape of the region being discussed. The door was opened, and she was yanked inside. Tim and I got to listen to this all night long. I was wondering if the other band, whoever they were, needed a keyboard player, when I finally was overtaken by exhaustion and fell asleep.
In the early morning, we were awakened by a very loud pounding on the door, and a loud voice telling us it was the manager of the motel. I opened the door and sleepily peered out into the bright sunlight. There before me was indeed the manager of the motel, and he was accompanied by a police officer.
"Time to pay the bill, boys."
"I said it's time to pay the bill. Now."
"But we paid it last night! In cash! The guy that paid it, Stuart, is in the next room! Let me wake him up, and he'll tell you!" The man considered, then said:
"Hurry up." I hurriedly got dressed, and went to our other room and started pounding on the door. I finally woke Robert up. But Stuart was not in the room. It turned out that Bob thought Stuart was in our room, and was so thankful he didn't question why Tim or I would have put up with three in one room and one in the other. At the time, we had no explanation of Stuart's whereabouts, and no money. We had to give the manager five guitars as collateral, or he would have had us arrested on the spot.
Needless to say, we were on the street. Without guitars, we couldn't work. No work, no money. No money, no guitars. Very simple. I was sitting on the curb on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta trying to figure out what I had done to get God so angry at me, when a guy walked up to me and said excitedly: "Are you Reuben? Yes, it is you! What are you doing here?!!" I had not the foggiest idea who he was, but he seemed to know me rather well. I explained the situation. He said that he thought he could find us a place to stay, and of course by that time, we were certainly open for suggestions. And that's what led to our meeting Shariar Esfanderi, an Iranian (or Persian, as he liked to say) who let us move in with him and his girlfriend in the Ogalthorpe Apartments. These apartments were built as a work project during the Depression, and they were past their prime. Far, far past their prime. Very far. Shariar (the "Persian Pervert", the name given him by his ditzy girlfriend), proceeded to borrow money from our next door neighbor, a guy named Bill Mitchell, in order to to give it to us. One day we realized that he had (1) borrowed more money from Bill and paid the rent on his apartment for the next month, (2) stolen $150.00 from us, (3) left a note saying that he was going to Florida but he that had paid the rent on the apartment for the next month. Good-bye! (We had found a new drummer - Eddie Taylor, a very strange, very straight-looking hillbilly type. Very nice guy. We fired him, and replaced him with Roger Paul - see Hudson Farfax).
A lot more happened; as I said earlier, read the book, (that is, after
I write it). William Arthur Mitchell turned out to be one
of the best people I would ever meet. He saved our lives by feeding,
housing, and clothing us, and asked for nothing in return. He loaned
us the money to reclaim our guitars. To this day, I don't know why
he did it. He has become a life-long friend - I was Best Man at his
wedding many years later, and I wish we could see each other more.
The picture of Bill on this page was taken in the late 1970's, I think
- long after the events detailed here. (See the Everest
page for another photo of Bill).
The best and steadiest money I made while in Atlanta was when I was delivering telephone books. (Atlanta needs a lot of telephone books!) I delivered to huge office buildings, driving deep into the bowels of the city, two, three, or even four levels below the street. What a strange place! Batman (The Movie) hadn't been made yet, but that's what these places looked like. I delivered to the Federal Reserve Bank, where the yo-yo running the adjustable loading dock raised it up under the open back door of my van, racking it out of kilter. Timothy was delivering books, too, and both of us burned out the transmissions in our vans. But it was better than Macon Prestressed Concrete!
I've left out everything. Sam Shouse and his house in south Atlanta (13 people living in the same house). Working at Macon Prestressed Concrete with Michael and Timothy and the Man With The Fish Tattooed On His Forehead. The clubs: Down the Hatch, The Aztec Room, the Woodcroft Apartments, The Big Dipper, The Front Page in the Atlanta Underground, the Continental Room, and many others. All are stories in themselves.
Bittersweet would become Bittersuite, which would become Foundation II.
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