I don’t know if you’ve heard the ace garage punk 7” that Norton put out last year. The band was called Mogen David and the Grapes of Wrath and it really blew me away. I wondered why this band was never on any of the Back From The Grave comps. Read the interview for more info on that. Anyway, one day after we’d reviewed the single Ron Sims had written in the Savage guestbook so I contacted him about an interview and here it is.

Who were in the group, what was the line-up?

Steve Fuller was our lead vocalist, along with some keyboard. He could hit almost three full octaves without going to falsetto. Alias ”Mogen David”, Steve weighed about 285 and could dance up a storm all night long.

I played mostly lead guitar, along with some drums and keyboard. Steve and I co-wrote the four songs we recorded.

Hal Landseadel was our drummer and came up with a couple original drum beats for two of our songs, notably ”Little Girl Gone”. He toured the US and Europe with the McDonalds All American High School Band before joining the group.

Fred Murphy played rhythm guitar and we had Mike Summers on bass.

Were you based in Chicago or was that only the label?

We were based out of Kokomo, Indiana. We did our recording at Don-Del Recording Studio in Chicago. Our manager hooked us up with them and Cha Cha Records who pressed the records.

Tell me about how the band formed? Did you play in other bands before?

I had played in a couple other bands, The Challengers out of Logansport, Indiana and Stix and Stones out of New Castle, Indiana. Fred and Mike played with The Riddlers out of Kokomo.

I met Steve where we both worked at The Kokomo Morning Times and found out he could sing. He and I jammed a few times but I couldn’t get anything going quickly. Steve joined The Riddlers. I went to hear them and liked the rhythm (Freddie) and bass (Mike). We jammed a couple times and there was just a natural sound that we all liked and decided to go with it. We advertised for a drummer, listened to several and selected Hal.

Tell me how you got to do the first 7”?

Our manager was a DJ at a radio station and did dances, receptions and such. He had some connections, we did a demo, the next thing we knew we had a contract and were putting some original stuff together.

We cut ”Don’t Want Ya No More”, ”Little Girl Gone”, ”Jack and Jill” and ”Too Young to Love” in a really hot studio. We also recorded our introduction and a cover of the McCoys’ ”Hang on Sloopy”.

Did you put out more 7”s than the one Norton reissued?

The original intent was to finish enough songs for an album and release another 7” 45RPM if the first one did okay. It just never happened. We can come back to that a little later.

For how long did the band exist?

We formed in early of 1966. I believe we recorded in November of 1966, the record was released in January 1967. The eventual breakup started in about June of 1967. I got married to a Country Western singer (who cut 21 demos in Nashville, no releases) but the marriage didn’t work out so I took off for California until November.

The group got another lead guitar and changed drummers, Steve Miscoi. They played a lot locally. When I got back I rejoined the group. We played a few gigs around central Indiana in to 1968, but it just seemed to fade away. We were all involved more in personal stuff and just seemed to lose the commitment.

Did you go on tours or did you play dances? Tell me about the scene back then!

We didn’t tour. We just played local dances, parties and clubs.

There was a silly law then that to play where alcohol was served the stage had to be at least eighteen inches above the main floor and have an exit at that level. We played private clubs like the Airmen’s Club and the NCO Club at Grissom AFB. There were a few teen clubs we played regularly, we did a couple hot rod shows, and school events like proms etc.

We had a great show, what with Steve’s dancing, and Hal could walk clear around his drums and never lose a beat. Exept for the bass drum of course.

On the lead break to the Kingsmen’s ”Loui Loui”, Hal would throw Steve his drummer’s throne, Steve would help me up on it and turn my back to the crowd. I’d throw my guitar up behind my neck with it facing the crowd and play the whole break like that with Steve dancing.

It sounds real corny now but it could really get them going. What a great time.

You said in your first mail to me something like ”things are more fun now than then”. What did you mean by that?

As the leader of the group, I felt a tremendous amount of pressure to write, arrange gigs, the manager, our music, just keeping the group solvent.

With this recent rusurgence and reissue of the 7” it’s just a very enjoyable chapter in my life with absolutly no responsibility. That makes it a lot of fun for me. Fred and Hal feel exactly the same way.

How old were you when you started the band?

I’ll have to guess a little here, but I’ll be within a year. I was 16 when Steve and I started jamming, 17 when the band formed. Steve was 22, Hal 19, Fred 15 and Mike 16.

When I first heard the 7” it reminded me a little of the Monks, the American army guys who started a band in Germany. Have you heard them? Who were your influences when you started the band?

Sorry, haven’t heard them. We played anything that was popular at the time, and some that weren’t.

We played Zepplin, Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, Monkeys, Stones, Beatles, Animals, Question Mark, Kinks, Beachboys, Simon and Garfunkle, you name it. Even ”Long Tall Texan” or ”Bluberry Hill” for the occasional drunk and his girlfriend back in the booth.

Hal did a hilarious dead-on version of ”Can’t Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd” by Roger Miller.

The 7” has a very primitive sound and the way you guys play is also pretty primitive. Was that a conscious thing?

I’d like a little clarification, please. You say “primitive”, both in sound and the way we played. Do you mean amateurish? Or do you mean like the review at Savage Magazine about the “jungle drum” sound? One context kinda hurts, the second doesn’t!

No, not amatuerish of course. I’m sorry about that. No, I mean primitive in a positive way, like yeah jungle drum or as in blues or punk. It’s not a put-down of the way you sound but the opposite. For me it’s something positive.

Actually, just ”Little Girl Gone” had that sound. With the original drum beat the song sounded a lot different. Hal came up with that beat after we thought the song was done and we decided to feature it in opening the song.

It worked well as a hook. We must have made the right decision for that particular song or you wouldn’t have mentioned it. When you hear our other cuts you’ll see that isn’t universal in our music.

Have any of you played in other bands after Mogen David and the Grapes of Wrath?

Not in anything more than jumping on stage with some band. Fred and I both have done that. I hooked up with several guys in California to play in the corner of a bar for pocket change, but nothing beyond that.

That is kind of an odd name… Who is Mogen David and how did you come up with that name?

Mogen David was a fairly cheap wine making company in California, and of course ”The Grapes of Wrath” was a best selling novel by John Steinback.

I had heard of the names put together somewhere, and with Steve’s size and voice center stage it was a natural for him to be the big ”Grape”, ”Mogen David”.

I understand there were several other bands with the same name, but we were the only one that ever recorded and released.

For many years now there has been many compilations of obscure 60s garage music and reissues. How come we didn’t hear about Mogen David and the Grapes of Wrath until now do you think? It seemed so easy to get ahold of you.

Actually, I understand that quite a search was underway for a few years. My mother sent me an ad from the Kokomo Tribune in 1997 offering $150.00 for the original 7” 45. I read where one guy from Pennsylvania who heard our record in 1982 had spent three days in the Kokomo Public Library trying to run us down. I was contacted around 1999 by Billy Miller, who owns Norton Records, about the reissue. We have been in contact on and off since. I now live near Atlanta, Georgia. He was able to contact Steve’s widow who happened to have met my sister. Billy called my sister and he got my phone number from her.

My son Shane does some surfing and sent me a link to SavageMagazine.com. He had found a couple favorable reviews of our music there. I simply left a thank you post and here we are.

How did the reissue on Norton come about?

I still am not sure about all the interest, and didn’t really believe Billy when he first contacted me. He’ll tell you that. I didn’t really believe it until he had his wife Miriam get on the phone and sing ”Jack and Jill” to me. That was never released so I knew something serious was up.

It turned out that Billy had located Don D. From Don-Del Music in Wisconsin and had made copies of the six original cuts which Don still had. I can’t believe he still had those tapes from over 35 years ago.

Norton is planning on putting out a Cha Cha compilation CD later this year, tentativly scheduled for July. That is to include digital remasters of all six of our original cuts, as well as some from the Hatfields and possibly the Cardinals (of ”Tomato Juice” fame). Billy updates that at nortonrecords.com.

I know that Quagmire, I think they are in Australia, put out a compilation CD about 2003 that had one of our songs on it.

That must be cool that a lot of people are interested in your old band now. Isn’t it weird to get recognition so long afterward?

Well, I can’t deny it means a lot to me. It is quite a thrill, although it just amounts to a few calls, emails etc. And of course this interview.

A lot of more obscure 60s bands like the Monks, the Music Machine, Gonn, ? and the Mysterians are doing comebacks these days. Do you feel there is more interest for 60s music now than there has been?

It is real obvious that there is a revitalization of our generation of music. I have seen our songs on play lists of numerous radio stations around the US. I see that several companies are doing reissues of a lot of music from that era. That wouldn’t be happening unless there was a market for them somewhere. I don’t know if this is a result of baby boomers trying to reconnect with their youth or some discovery of a younger generation. I don’t know the demographics of the people buying this music, but I would think that the advent of the internet might play a role.

Do you have any plans for a reunion?

Tragically, Steve (vocals) passed away as the result of an auto accident in the late nineties, Mike (bass) left us as the result of Lukemia a couple years later.

I was lucky enough to have gotten together with Mike in 1998 and we jammed on a couple flattops, appropriatly enough, in his garage for about three hours. Steve Miscoi (later drummer) joined us to shoot the bull for the last hour or so. A great session.

Are you still in contact with the other guys? What do Mogen david and the Grapes of wrath do these days? Are any of you still working as musicians or still playing music as a hobby?

Fred still lives in Kokomo, he and I are planning on getting together in June to do some jamming and reminiscing. He has about six guitars and just completed building a version of a 1960’s Fender amp. He is still working in tool and die and jams occasionally with a cousin’s band in Columbus, Ohio. As I mentioned earlier, he and I are planning to get together in June or July.

Hal now lives in Nevada. He is retired from the same company that Fred works for. That company employs about 12,000 and they never ran in to each other in thirty years. Hal and I are discussing a fishing trip for later this year. He is affiliated with a marina on a Colorado river reservoir and spends a lot of time in the fishing endeavor. I worked for what was the largest telecommunications company in the world. I worked mostly in the fiberoptics field since 1984. I was able to accumulate three US patents and 1.7 mil miles in the air. I retired in 1998 with 31 years but continued to work in the same field until January of 2005 and have now re-retired. I try to keep myself busy with woodworking, yardwork and my six kids and six grandchildren.