Posted by Weston Blelock
Billy Batson, a rough hewn and as authentic a musician as you’re likely to encounter, arrived in 1965 Woodstock by way of California and Greenwich Village. For a time he gigged around town as a solo act. In the late sixites he played a set at The Elephant. Sitting down afterwards with his customary bottle of Jack Daniels at the ready, he watched Holy Moses play. The band, consisting of Ted Speleos on lead guitar, David Vittek on rhythm guitar, Marty David on bass/tenor sax and Christopher Parker on drums, played with panache. Billy felt they had real gas. Apparently the attraction was mutual. The others were reportedly blown away by watching Billy in action.
They decided to team up. The group at that point was living in a tent on Pan Copeland’s farm—where the Sound-Outs were staged. Billy invited his newfound brothers to join him at his home on lower Ohayo Mountain Road. Batson’s namesake in the Captain Marvel comics always used to say, “Holy Moley.” So Billy felt destiny was calling when a band showed up known as Holy Moses. Billy had a bunch of songs that needed recording, so the band set about mastering them in dates around town. Buzz grew and soon Albert Grossman came calling. The band had a verbal agreement with Albert and The Band’s Rick Danko was penciled in to produce it, but Michael Jeffery (Jimi Hendrix’s manager) caught them in action at the Joyous Lake and the band decided to work with him instead.
A recording contract with RCA followed. The self-titled Holy Moses!! came out in 1971 and failed to chart, but fortunately in the intervening years Fallout has brought it back into circulation. The album showcases the talent and style extant from the town’s rock ‘n’ roll heyday. In addition, a number of the waterholes are lovingly referenced, including the Cafe Espresso and The Elephant. The CD begins with a gorgeous number entitled “The Sad Cafe.” Billy Batson’s vocals and piano-playing palette is full of color and humor. His teasing Texan drawl welcomes listeners to the musical repast to come. The song is a recreation of the life and times of the Cafe Espresso—sometimes referred to as the Depresso or the Sad Cafe. Another great number is the haunting/psychedelic “Roll River Roll.” Quite frankly, the eight-number recording abounds with good listening tunes. The CD is readily available online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
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