The Story of The Heard
Twin brothers, guitarists Andy and Randy Clendenen, formed the Heard in 1965 with three classmates from Longview High School - Billy Hazard on organ, Bill Lewis on bass and Jack Batman (his real name!) on drums. Although details of the nascent days preluding the band's ascension to local infamy are lost, it is certain that the Heard were making a splash in East Texas by the summer of '66.
The community centers, high school gyms and church halls in Nacogdoches, Tyler, Lufkin, Carthage and Kilgore, were just a few venues and towns on theHeard's rural circuit. Though the band don't recall any confrontations with the good ol' boys, they were strategically located to experience a fair share of bizarre shows.
"The Jaycees of Gregg County really liked us, for some reason," Andy Clendenen recalls, "and we played a lot of shows for them. They hired a stripper once when we were playing at the Gregg County Fairgrounds. She came out at midnight and it appeared to be impromptu, but obviously somebody must've planned it. And we just played some grindin’ music...it wasn’t exactly what you call the height of showbiz. But, we were pretty versatile.
"We played at an opening of an apartment building somewhere once, and we'd already set up when the guy who owned this place informed us that he wasn't going to pay us until we performed the National Anthem. Billy Hazard, our keyboard player, somehow came up with it. The rest of us stood up and sang it the best we could, and the guy loved it! We were just good enough to do it."
As the band's notoriety in the backwoods and dry gulches of East Texas began to spread, booking picked up in the more metropolitan areas like Dallas, Austin and Houston. In fact, it was at Houston's Catacomb Club where the Heard seemed to enjoy their highest visibility away from home, playing there at least six times."One time the Houston Jaycees were throwing a battle of the bands at the Catacombs, first prize being a Dot Records' contract," Andy recalls, "It started at like nine or ten o'clock in the morning and there must've been 40 or 50 bands signed up.
When our turn came we did 'You Really Got Me' and lost control, jumpin' up and down, and it really came off well. We came in second or third place. The guy who ran the Catacombs, Bob Cope, heard us and liked us and he invited us back several times, one time to open for the Five Americans."
It's strange that the Heard never had any run-ins with the rednecks, since they concentrated their sound completely on crankin' up Stones, Kinks and Yardbirds songs at the loudest possible volume in a part of the country where the likes of Flatt & Scruggs were regarded as being a little too radical. "When we played live, we'd turn it up as loud as we could... and then try to get it louder! It really offended us when people asked up to turn it down," Andy says.
The Heard had been playing "All the time for a year" when they decided to make a record, booking time at Robin Hood Brian's studio in Tyler. The guys were impressed by Robin's eight-track recorder (the only eight-track in Texas at the time) and homemade mixing board, but less enthusiastic about Robin's insistence upon using a new electronic gadget called the Cooper Time Cube - a tape-delay echo device that succeeded in giving the music a strange sound, as well as making Andy's vocals virtually incomprehensible.
The song that the Heard took to Robin's studio that night, 'Exit 9', was an original composition that Andy & Randy had written in their estimation, to "catch the spirit of the times." With Andy's crazed vocals matching Roky Erickson's finest moments and Bill Lewis' outta control bass runs approximating the sound of an electric jug (sort of), 'Exit 9' is debatably the greatest of the many Elevators-inspired songs of the era.
The fact that the media was giving much ballyhoo to the Summer of Love and the acid-rock bands in San Francisco meant absolutely nothing to the Heard, who underscored Exit 9's weird sound with murky anti-drug lyrics ("You're at the start, it's over now/Take your hippies and leave me child!" being a particularly brilliant line) and a wild fuzz guitar blast for a coda.
The guys added a surprise ending for the song that unfortunately never made it to the record. Andy explains: "At the end of 'Exit 9' there's this wild, climactic crescendo, and we thought it was too harsh to just leave it like that. So we came up with the idea of having the sound of a toilet flushing for the ending. I remember holding a very expensive microphone down in the toilet, and we flushed it while Robin recorded this." After much deliberation, it was finally agreed that the flush would be left off the master tapes." "It doesn´t sound like a big deal now," Randy states, "but at the time, having a toilet flush on your record would've been total anarchy! I remember Robin saying to us , “Man djs aren’t gonna play that!"
The band used up all their time at Robin's for just the recording of 'Exit 9', and thus were left with the problem of not having a flipside to the upcoming record. They solved it by booking time at Steve Wright Studios (less professional than Robin but more affordable) for the following weekend, deciding to record the Elevators' 'You're Gonna Miss Me' for good measure. Randy says, "'You´re Gonna Miss Me' was a cult favorite and everybody in the band really liked it. It was always well received whenever we played it live." The Heard's version is faster and more aggressive than the original, and stands up well on its own.
Though the Heard's debut 45 did manage to get a few spins on local radio (Andy providing copies to area deejays with a lyric sheet!), public response was otherwise indifferent. Like many groups, they sold most of their copies at gigs, but that was about it. One funny 'chart toppping' incident came out of it, though. "A few weeks after the record was released, I got a call from a dj in Center", Andy says, referring to a small town 75 miles south of Longview, "And he said, 'I wanna tell you that your record is number 1 in Center!' So we got a gig there.
"After the show we went to the radio station - it was real late, about one o'clock. And the dj said, 'I'll show you what my secret is here.' He went back to the transformer and dialed up the power. All of a sudden, it went from like a 10,000 watt station to a 30,000 watt station, and his range went from 30 miles to 250 miles. The FCC probably wouldn't have liked it. So here it is, one o'clock in the morning, we're being interviewed on the air in Center and broadcasting in Houston and Shreveport." But, as Randy laconically comments about the record: "I think making #1 in Center was the most acclaim it got." It sure as hell deserved a lot more.
The Heard broke up that fall when the usual post-high school complications (college, the draft, etc) reared their ugly heads.
Story written by Andy Brown and first published in Brown Paper Sack Magazine #1