The following is an article originally written for a January 1997 magazine. After the original article, there is a short update bringing things to 2016. I love Colorado and especially the music of my state – hopefully this continues to pay a debt I owe to these guys for being good friends and a fun rock and roll band. The lyrics to their 1975 single “Good Times, Rock & Roll” could well be the story of my own personality. “Turn my radio on – sing along with the song – music is my friend. When I’m down – turn up the sound – soon I’m smiling again. Radio blastin’ – everybody’s laughin’ – good times rock and roll. There ain’t nothin’ in the world like the sound of music to satisfy my soul.”
FLASH CADILLAC (AND THE CONTINENTAL KIDS)
America’s Favorite Party Band
by George W. Krieger DDS (the Rock ‘N’ Roll Dentist)
“Flash Cadillac And The Continental Kids are really neat. But my father wants them to stop cruising our neighborhood.”
So proclaimed no less an authority on rock ‘n’ roll than Annette Funicello on the back cover of the first Flash Cadillac And The Continental Kids LP in 1972. 24 years later, the band is still neat and they still want to cruise your neighborhood. Today’s difference is that when they do cruise into your town, they’re likely to do so with a symphony orchestra to back them up. What hasn’t changed, in all those years, is the band’s credo, music should be about having fun.
Flash Cadillac charted only four singles in the mid to lower reaches of Billboard circa 1974-1976, but continue to record and release product with an eye to quality rather than chart placings. Flash Cadillac would prefer to “hit for average and let the Michael Jacksons and the Bruce Springsteens of the world hit the home runs”.
Sam “Flash” McFadin and Kris “Angelo” Moe, the group’s chief songwriters and mainstays, kindly gave up several hours of studio time to discuss the history of their band while Flash Cadillac’s founder Harold “Marty” Fielden held forth on the early days from his Boulder, Colorado law office.
Flash Cadillac And The Continental Kids came in to being in 1969 on the seventh of March, ostensibly to commemorate the death of Buddy Holly. Unfortunately the planners of the party didn’t realize that Buddy Holly had died in February plus the third of March fell on a Tuesday anyway which is simply not a party day. The band for the Bacchanalia consisted of University of Colorado students Fielden on drums, Warren “Butch” Knight on bass, Linn “Spike” Phillips III on lead guitar and Mick “Flash” Manresa on guitar. Fielden had offered the Flash position to Boulder guitarist friends Tommy Bolin (Zephyr/Energy) and Jock Bartley (Zephyr/Firefall) and been turned down. The prospect of cutting it short and slicking back hair to play greasy rock was a bit radical in 1969 Boulder, Colorado. Manresa was found when a guitar was noticed in his dorm closet. The band was to play for beer, but since they were unable to get to the libations they became instant pros by getting paid “20s of dollars.”
Moe joined the band on keyboards when school let out for summer using the nom de rock “Spin” (to play off Fielden’s “Marty”) later changing to the greasier “Angelo.” The nicknames and slicked back images allowed Flash Cadillac to assume a persona the exact opposite of what was fashionable in Boulder, Colorado circa 1969. “We got up and abused the audience,” said Moe. “There was immediate disdain of basic Colorado University hippies to a bunch of greaseballs. We got away with it because we were having fun.” The band gained a major local following playing Tulagi’s (managed by Chuck Morris, one-time Nitty Gritty Dirt Band manager), the Buff Room, and various school functions (including a homecoming dance in October of 1969 at the author’s alma mater of Broomfield High School).
Flash Cadillac would play just about anything at first, covering songs like Donovan’s “Atlantis” and the Yardbirds’ “Mr. You’re A Better Man Than I”. “We’d break in to these things just to goon people,” joked Moe. “We played so badly that you couldn’t tell when we were trying to do well and that was just not the issue.” The stage show became wilder leading to naked twist and most disgusting person contests. Other crazed classics were: Big-Assed Lil, Wild Elephant (something only guys could do with everted pants pockets and undone zippers), One-Armed Banjo Player and “Banana Boat Song” (if you have to ask, you don’t want to know).
While Sha Na Na was mining oldies doo-wop as, basically, nostalgia theatre, Flash Cadillac never felt like anything but a midwestern rock ‘n’ roll band. “We’re Flash Cadillac and rock ‘n’ roll is whatever we say it is,” joked Moe. The musical style of Flash Cadillac has always leaned on ’50s and ’60s classics because they have always enjoyed playing them.
With an eye to recording, the band was managed early on by Rich Fifield of the Colorado band the Astronauts who had enjoyed some success on RCA Victor in the early ’60s. They did record a now lost demo which didn’t gain them a recording contract.
Realizing that to move to the next level of success they would have to leave Colorado, the boys played free concerts at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. The acclaim they received in California convinced them to return to Boulder, drop out of college and become a full-time band. Once they turned pro in L.A., however, the bookings were actually less frequent than they had been as an amateur outfit playing for fun in Colorado.
With time, the wild energy of Flash Cadillac’s stage show finally gained them a loyal following and a four page 1971 spread in Creem (a cool rock magazine featuring writers such as Lester Bangs, Greg Shaw and Dave Marsh). Writer John Shaw enthused about a killer show he’d witnessed at an Anaheim “joint called the Warehouse”. He even compared Moe’s wit to that of John Lennon and predicted great things for the band noting the great rock opera parody they were working on called Tommy Who. While the whole opus was never recorded, several songs have been rescued from the original idea (notably “She’s So Fine” and “In A Cathedral”).
It has always been tough for Flash Cadillac to find bands willing to appear on the same bill with them as they invariably wear out the crowd (in the Creem article, mention is made of a concert with the Beach Boys that Flash Cadillac stole from the headliners, for instance). Fielden recalls that Gary Puckett & The Union Gap shared the same management and would appear with the band. Another band that enjoyed the Flash Cadillac sense of humor were the Grassroots. At a show in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Flash Cadillac went ape on stage as usual. Moe’s keyboards always rested on a 50-gallon trash barrel (rather than on legs) and at the end of their set, he dumped garbage out on the stage, turned up the amps and deposited all the instruments into the barrel to scream feedback as they left the stage. This apparently outraged the local police chief, and finally got them thrown out of town when they spent the good part of the Grassroots’ set drunkenly disrobing and throwing clothes on stage from the audience.
Less than a year after the move, first Fielden then Manresa became disenchanted with life in California and opted to return to Colorado. Fielden stayed in Boulder after law school while Manresa worked in the aerospace industry doing such a high security job that “you would have to be killed if he told you what he did”. The two remained active in music fronting the Legendary 4-Nikators (mining similar horn-driven music from rock’s golden age).
Coming in on drums was John “Ricco” Masino a San Franciscan playing in the Boulder band Apple West. Masino had shared the same 12th St. house as Fielden and was known to the rest of the band as Flash Cadillac with Apple West rehearsals often overlapping.
Colorado Springs musician Sam McFadin (a friend of one of Flash Cadillac’s roadies) was recruited to be the new “Flash,” the group’s frontman. In October of 1971, a hasty call had gone out to McFadin and he jumped at the idea after practicing in his basement to Chuck Berry records to see if he could play after downing a six-pack of beer (a big prerequisite to play with these guys).
Flash Cadillac got to be big stuff on Sunset Strip via their wild stage show and the savvy marketing of a sharp-looking logo t-shirt designed by Jeremy Kay (a picture of one was used as the front cover for their first LP). Inevitably the band came to the notice of Dick Clark, whose American Bandstand show originated from L.A.. Flash Cadillac was booked to appear on Clark’s show in 1972 and became the first band to appear on the show without a record to lip-synch to (the first of four appearances). Given three hours of studio time to record some songs for the show, Flash Cadillac (now including a sax player, George “Eddie” Robinson) laid down “Rockin’ Robin,” “Rock Around The Clock,” “Justine” and “I’ve Had It.” The first two were used on the show. It seems those tracks have, sadly, been lost to the ages.
Things were really moving fast at this point. The boys were signed to Epic records to record an album and were also asked to play the high school band Herby And The Heartbeats in American Graffiti. (2016 Note – every spelling in print and online has always had it as ‘Herbie’, however if you watch the movie you will see that the name is spelled ‘Herby’ on Ricco’s drumhead.) The casting director, Fred Roos, had seen that first show at the Troubadour (in 1971) and persuaded George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola to check out Flash Cadillac at the Whiskey A-Go-Go. The band was asked to play “At The Hop” and was given the green light with the proviso that they would also do “Louie Louie” and possibly an original. Flash Cadillac recorded those three songs (the original was “She’s So Fine”) and lip-synched in a gym while pretending to be a nervous and unskilled band. For this reason, the versions of the songs were not very polished sounding.
“Louie Louie” was recorded as the Richard Berry version since the movie was to take place before the Kingsmen would have covered it. That song was cut from the original release of the movie, but restored, later, when the movie became a huge hit (it never made it to the soundtrack album, but is on 1996’s 25 Years). More’s the pity as Moe may well have received Academy Award recognition for best supporting use of chewing gum by a rocker.
Flash Cadillac originally thought of using Phil Spector to produce their first album, but decided against it as they wanted more freedom than he would likely have allowed. They did, however, record at Gold Star studios with Stan Ross as engineer and Kim Fowley as producer. That team had been responsible for “Popsicles And Icicles” by the Murmaids and “The Big Hurt” by Miss Toni Fisher which impressed the band mightily. The fact that Kim Fowley had a wild sense of humor didn’t hurt. “He even broke records,” said McFadin. “If you didn’t like it–bam–open the window and throw it out in the street.”
Their first 45 was the old Fendermen song “Muleskinner Blues” backed with the Moe original “Teenage Eyes”. Neither track bothered to reach the 1972 Billboard charts which is a pity as the A-side was an absolutely crazed yodeling rave-up and the B-side was one of the LP’s highlights. From the gargling background vocals to the transformation of the lyric to “teenage thighs”, this rocker is flat out demented. Other LP highlights are Moe’s frenzied rocker “Betty Lou” containing the profound lyrics “Won’t you dance with me, so I can dance with you”, McFadin’s hot Eddie Cochran sounding “Nothin’ For Me” and a blistering “Pipeline.” The LP didn’t trouble the Billboard album list either, but Mark Shipper had a great review of the thing on page 23 of the Feb. 1973 Phonograph Record Magazine. Lamenting the overabundance of “soppy, simpering, sensitive solo singer-songwriters,” Shipper goes on to implore readers to “pick up Flash Cadillac And The Continental Kids’ first album which maybe has a few weak moments but essentially is righteously stupid, as stupid as rock ‘n’ roll itself!” The guys were on perpetual tour anyway and likely didn’t give much notice to the lack of chart success (If anything, they probably gave the charts an arithmetic lesson with their middle fingers a la the back cover photos on the LP).
When American Graffiti became a huge success, Epic paired “At The Hop” and “She’s So Fine” as a 45 with little notice from the singles buying public. Prior to recording the second album, the band underwent another personnel change. Robinson was asked to take his sax elsewhere and Dwight Dumas “Spider/Carlos” Bement was welcomed into the fold. Flash Cadillac was managed by Peter Rachtman (the Great American Amusement Co.) who had also dealt with Gary Puckett And The Union Gap. Bement played bass and keyboards with them and originally assumed that is what he would be playing for his new band. Sax became his position, however, when the band asked him if he was married, drank beer and could play “Yakety Yak.” Bement was hired when he answered: “No, yes, in what key?”
While feeling somewhat reined in soundwise on the Flash Cadillac And The Continental Kids album, McFadin and Moe at least had fun recording it. This was not the case with the second LP, There’s No Face Like Chrome. Jerry Leiber, the East coast songwriter, was chosen by Epic to produce. This would have been more fitting for Sha Na Na’s doo-wop style than for a bunch of raging Western rockers. Leiber wasn’t terribly interested in the project anyway, so his niece Christie Thompson was deputized to follow the band to L.A., Seattle and Keystone, Colorado to rehearse and pick songs. Leiber and Thompson only accounted for four of the ten songs on the album, with session drummer (Tommy Roe’s “Dizzy”) and producer Toxey French finishing the rest. Jon Stevens’ album cover is the highlight of the whole set. It features what looks like a six-headed greaseball comet whizzing through a black and white cosmos. The idea was hatched after someone saw a Penthouse layout (nobody in the band will own up to it) in which Stevens had painted the women to look platinum. While in New York (since Leiber wouldn’t fly to L.A.), Flash Cadillac were sprayed platinum and photographed for the album cover. Apparently while walking the streets of New York after the session, the locals didn’t particularly notice these six spraypainted weirdos which must say something about life in the big city.
The first 45 to be extracted was “Dancin’ (On A Saturday Night)” backed with “The Way I Feel Tonight.” The A-side is a decent midtempo song out of the British glam rock scene (written by Barry Blue and Lynsey De Paul) that points up the problem with the whole album. The sound is real distant and lacks Flash Cadillac’s basic rock edge and goofiness. Moe’s B-side composition is better at capturing the band featuring a Bobby Fuller-like guitar hook and kazoos in place of Saxes. By virtue of hit status in a few markets (Spokane, Topeka, etc.), “Dancin’…” managed a June 1974 Billboard chart placement of #93. Epic did put Flash Cadillac on a few dates with their Epic Event tour (Rick Springfield, the Meters, Johnny Nash), but that was about it for promotion. One other LP song became a hit, but for the Righteous Brothers. “Rock And Roll Heaven” was the last track on the album and featured slightly different lyrics and a less focused sound than the hit version.
There’s No Face Like Chrome contains some of the worst material Flash Cadillac was ever forced to record (notably “A Fool Like You” which should have been given to David Soul, not Flash Cadillac). Luckily, there are a few bright spots. While “Message To Garcia” and “Dirty Movies” are at least goofy, it’s Moe’s “Standin’ On The Corner” that really shines. Lotsa bells, honkin’ sax and rollin’ drums kick this McFadin sung gem into overdrive.
One other LP song deserves special mention. Flash Cadillac were signed to appear on the hit series Happy Days for the episode Fish And Fins. They play Johnny Fish And The Fins, a band set to give a concert in the town portrayed in the series. Moe gets most of the screen time while playing Rocky “Angelo” Rhodes. The story line has Moe as an old summer camp friend of Ron Howard’s character Richie Cunningham. In the show they perform “Youngblood” which was cut hastily in South Pekin, Illinois while the band was on tour and added to the album to cash in on the appearance. It was assumed that “Youngblood” would also be issued as a 45, but Epic had no interest which hastened the band’s movement to a new label for the next release. Discerning eyes will notice that a second drummer is also given credit on the LP’s back cover. Masino had packed his sticks and cymbals before the recording of “Youngblood” and was replaced by Jeff “Wally” Stewart who didn’t actually play on the track. The producer (French) knew what he wanted and recorded the drum part himself.
Fed up with Epic’s pressure to recast themselves as a typical ’70s boring singles band, Flash Cadillac sought to move to a record label on the West Coast that would allow them more room. They got Private Stock instead – a New York based label started by Larry Uttal the former head of singles-oriented Bell records. A song by former Hondell Dick Burns was chosen as the first Flash Cadillac And The Continental Kids 45 release on Private Stock. “Good Times, Rock & Roll” was a pretty good song, but the fact that the band was only allowed to sing on the already recorded track did not start things off on a happy note. It was felt that while you couldn’t actually play rock ‘n’ roll on the radio, since disco and wimpoid singer/songwriters ruled the airwaves, it was ok to sing a song about rock. “Good Times, Rock & Roll” is about having a good time and listening to the music that still seems ageless: Duane Eddy, Little Richard, Elvis and B. B. King. By March of 1975, Flash Cadillac had peaked at #41 in the Billboard singles chart (though they went Top 20 back in their native Colorado where the fans had always been loyal). Versions of the song were also recorded for radio using local station’s call letters to personalize the song for a specific region (these were not pressed on the local version of the record, however). McFadin and Stewart’s composition “It’s Hard (To Break The Ice)” was on the flip side of the 45 and was a supercharged rocker that could have been an A-side on its own.
Flash Cadillac recorded a strong album to support the single, coming up with 1975’s Sons Of The Beaches. The lead-off track is a rare Knight and Phillips vocal on the old Bruce and Terry hit “Summer Means Fun.” Given more time to remix and overdub for the LP version of “It’s Hard (To Break The Ice)”, Flash Cadillac transformed this B-side into one of the rockin’ highlights of the whole set. After the success with his “Good Times, Rock & Roll” track, Burns was given another chance with the band as they recorded “Come On Let’s Go” (not the Ritchie Valens song). While this calliope-driven ode to summer could have been a single, the new release paired Moe’s 20/20-era Beach Boy sound-alike, “Time Will Tell”,
with another British glam track “Hot Summer Girls” (Peter Shelley and Marty Wilde). Phil Spector filtered through middle period Brian Wilson essentially describes much of the record’s sound. Confusion over which track to play probably didn’t help the single’s chances. In Denver, “Time Will Tell” went Top 40, but it was “Hot Summer Girls” that bubbled under nationally at #102 in July of 1975’s Billboard.
Special note should be made of the Sons Of The Beaches‘ album cover. The front is a cheesy drawing of the band as a bunch of surfers, which really isn’t what Flash Cadillac was about but seemed like a smart marketing move in 1974 with the unexpected massive sales of the Beach Boys’ greatest hits package Endless Summer. Truth be told, the back cover is a better image of the band, showing them as a six-member basketball team (they wore these on their appearance on American Bandstand as well). Shooting baskets and singing was a way of life for the guys even before there was a Flash Cadillac And The Continental Kids. Of course, only these guys would play a five-man game with an extra player. Epic, wishing to cash in on the recent successes of the band, re-released the first two LPs in one package called “Rock And Roll Forever” which virtually nobody noticed.
1976 was a big year for Flash Cadillac. Stewart was replaced by Paul Wheatbread who had drummed on various Dick Clark roadshows and in The Hardtimes, the house band on the old Where The Action Is TV show. He had also played on several Union Gap tracks which is how he came to the band’s attention.
The LP stiffed so an outside track was brought to the band which lead to a change in producers as French had quit the music business. His spot was taken by Dick Chackler and Joe Renzetti. Renzetti had some success writing charts for hits like “Sunny” (Bobby Hebb) and later won an Oscar for his work on the soundtrack to The Buddy Holly Story.
The outside track that was brought to the band to record was titled “Did You Boogie (With Your Baby)” and had a spot in the middle for a spoken-word section. Rather than do it themselves, Flash Cadillac called on an old friend from the oldies circuit and from American Graffiti, Wolfman Jack. In 1974, Jack had done similar duty for the Guess Who and had helped make “Clap For The Wolfman” a #6 hit. He did the same thing with the Stampeders helping to take the old Ray Charles song “Hit The Road Jack” to #40. His trio of hits was completed with the success of “Did You Boogie…” which went to #29 in the Billboard chart for October 1976.
The recording of that track was not without its controversy, however, as lead guitarist Phillips didn’t play on it and sat in his car during the recording sessions for the B-side in case the rest of the band had a change of heart. ” Did You Boogie…” is a cute novelty that really doesn’t reflect the band’s style (though it does talk about a favorite activity -fooling around with a girl in the dark), but it’s not the abomination that the flip-side is. Moe and McFadin still have nightmares about “Maybe It’s All In My Mind”, their first and only disco track. Moe remembers going to a gentleman’s club with a friend, Passout Pete, and being stunned to see an exotic dancer entertaining the men to the strains of this song (which should at least give it some cachet, come to think of it). With the success of “Did You Boogie…”, Private Stock tried to revive Sons Of The Beaches by putting out a new version of the LP with the 45 replacing “You Sat Right There”. The album continued to avoid the charts, however.
In 1976, Flash Cadillac was also signed for another Coppola epic, Apocalypse Now. Coppola asked Moe if the band would play “Susie Q” (by Creedence Clearwater Revival) and appear as a U.S.O. band backing up a troop of Playboy playmates. The song was recorded in Dallas then the boys flew to the Philippines in May to film the movie only to meet severe typhoons and amoebic dysentary head-on. Nothing was filmed that time, so Flash Cadillac flew back to Colorado (where they had relocated) and entered North Star studios to record another Phil Spector influenced track, Roy Wood’s “See My Baby Jive.” The British glitter rock scene proved a fertile source of songs for the band as that music was at least rock ‘n’ roll inspired by classic ’50s and’60s songs (unlike America’s parallel disco scene which was more dance oriented). With the weather improved, filming resumed on Apocalypse Now and the band returned to the Philippines in November. “Susie Q” is a great loud track that is sadly lost on the soundtrack album with all the noise overdubbed on it (the sounds of lust-crazed Vietnam GIs stomping and cheering on the playmates totally drowns the song out at times). As to the movie, blink and you miss the band. (2016 Note – the whole story of this ‘adventure’ can be found on the band’s website – flashcadillac.com in the History section.)
“See My Baby Jive” was readied for 1977 release just as Private Stock folded. Single song promo copies of the 45 are in existence, but the commercial release doesn’t appear to have been available which meant that “Brown Water,” the crazed rocker on the B-side remained unheard by their fans until 1996’s 25 Years (which also has a revamped “See My Baby Jive”). Probably the most wild track Flash Cadillac ever recorded, “Brown Water” was titled after a comment Bement made about the gastric distress suffered while filming Apocalypse Now (“brown water, white death”). The biggest disappointment, however, was the lack of a release for the song that the band felt to be their masterpiece, “See My Baby Jive.” With a total wall of percussion, swirling organs and honking Saxes mixed in with a great McFadin vocal, the band is rightfully proud of this track.
Besides a thankfully unreleased bicentennial song (using the chord progression from a Colorado favorite, “I Don’t Believe” by the Moonrakers), the other main event of 1976 was the purchase of a ranch in a beautiful Colorado mountain setting. The Cadillac Ranch (once called Freedonia after the fictional Marx Brothers country in Duck Soup) was, and still is, conceived as a quiet recording studio where Flash Cadillac could go to lay down tracks whenever they liked. This lead to a new management company (first Joe Miller, then Scott O’Malley & Assoc.) when Peter Rachtman left while muttering “If you guys think you can cut wood one day and record the next, you’re wrong.”
No record company expressed interest in Flash Cadillac, so it was decided to keep recording with an eye to putting out the tracks themselves. The name Flash Cadillac And The Continental Kids was getting too cumbersome so it was shortened to Flash Cadillac since that’s what most people called them anyway. The original name had come about when Fielden and friend Hughy Plumleigh would hang out on the Hill in Boulder at the Charcoal Chef or the Sink and throw out ideas for band names.
In 1978, Wheatbread returned to California so the group turned to Colorado Springs drummer Ken “King Kenny” Gingrich. With Gingrich, the band continued to stockpile recordings, but wouldn’t release anything till 1982’s Flash Cadillac-Four Song Collector’s Edition. Of the four songs on the vinyl version (eight on the cassette), the standards “Not Fade Away” and “It’s Only Make Believe” were decent, but it was the originals that made the release worth owning. Moe’s “Later Than Midnight” is a sort of Springsteen “Born To Run”-type track. McFadin’s “What’s On Your Mind” is a loud crunchy ballad. The matrix number of the release (3-30-52) also happens to be McFadin’s birthday.
Having proved that they could record and release product on their own, the guys started work on the next release Rip It Up which was to be sold mail-order via a new syndicated oldies radio show called Super Gold. The show originated in Colorado Springs and Flash Cadillac were signed to do the jingles for the program by the host Mike Harvey. In 1984 they recorded hundreds of short versions of classic songs substituting the words “super gold” for key phrases in the lyric.
The Rip It Up album was not available on the show, however, when the fulfillment company they were dealing with took the stock and folded. The matrix number of this release was McFadin’s wife’s birthday (4-29-58). The 13-song album consisted of all standards such as the title track, “Needles And Pins,” “Hound Dog,” and a great version of “Splish Splash.” Crowd noise and between-song goofiness were added to give it a live feel, but it was actually a studio recording from Freedonia/Cadillac Ranch. The song choices were not necessarily their favorites, but were supposed to reflect the radio program. The show now originates from Universal Studios in Orlando, but it still uses the original song fragments and Flash Cadillac have played at the yearly Super Gold New Year’s party. During this period, the band moved away from standard concerts that require the sale of tickets to make a profit. Instead they increasingly moved to play corporate festivals causing them to be named “America’s Favorite Party Band”.
Recorded originals were piling up and in 1987 they were assembled in one great album that nobody heard, Later Than Midnight. This release was on vinyl and on CD. It was released on the Great American Music Hall label which was distributed by Fantasy -and that’s where the problem came in. Continuing a tradition that they would have preferred not to have started, Flash Cadillac closed down another record label leaving lots of unsold product (doe anybody want to buy some old CDs?). Luckily, all the tracks have resurfaced on releases since then as this was one fine album. McFadin flexes his great R&B chops on “Like I Love You,” gets autobiographical on “Legends (In Their Own Minds)” and reprises “What’s On Your Mind?”. Phillips has a rare composition in “Make Your Stand” that mixes edgy guitars with Who’s Next keyboard and filters Spector through Springsteen. Three covers are included: Dave Edmunds’ raver “Steel Claw,” The Byrds’ “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” and “Just A Little” by The Beau Brummels. Moe finishes up the album with a reprise of “Later Than Midnight,” “How True Is Your Heart” (an up-tempo ballad) and his centerpiece, “Hearts (Were Meant For Breaking).” Gorgeous vocals, layers of keyboards, clean guitars (playing a riff inspired by Them’s “Here Comes The Night”), just the right touch of percussion and cool lyrics (“She used to be a sweet rock ‘n’ roller / Now she’s cruisin’ in the market with a stroller.”) make this a real shivers-down-your-spine song. Over the next few years, in addition to recording songs at their studio, Flash Cadillac continued the corporate shows and did jingles for a 24-hour oldies channel (to be broadcast in smaller markets), Flo And Eddie’s radio program and the John Candy show.
The idea was conceived to do an album called Drivetime and a body of work was amassed with an eye to a release when enough existed. This was put on hold after a chance meeting with someone who would never have conceived of playing rock ‘n’ roll.
Christopher Wilkens, the music director of the Colorado Springs Symphony, chanced to meet McFadin’s wife and the idea was hatched to mesh Flash Cadillac’s rock ‘n’ roll with a symphony orchestra. After 14 months of working up the right songs and arrangements, Flash Cadillac with the Colorado Springs Symphony debuted at a sold-out Feb. 1992 concert that was recorded and later released on CD (A Night At The Symphony, 1994 on Flash Cadillac/Resounding). These symphony shows have become the main focus of the band as a touring unit. There are three sets of musical scores that are sent out to the orchestras in advance. This allows rehearsal time prior to the group actually arriving in town.
The release of the next albums and everything else was put on hold when Phillips had a heart attack after a show and ultimately died (March of 1993). He wasn’t replaced in the band and the use of nicknames was dropped.
“Spike (Phillips) was the main character,” said Moe. “Angelo (Moe) was just some snotty guy on the sidelines giving Spike, who would be oblivious, trouble. And that would give him something to talk about.” McFadin remembered that as characters they could “be foul, crude and crazy onstage. After the show we put on our street clothes, get our hair dry and walk through the same audience without being noticed.”
In 1994, three releases did come out from Flash Cadillac: A Night At The Symphony, Drivetime and Souvenirs. The purpose was to clean out backlogged product. The symphony show is an interesting mix of originals (“Later Than Midnight” and another autobiographical song (“Keepers Of The Flame”) and standards (“Whiter Shade Of Pale,” “Shake Rattle And Roll,” etc.). The strongest numbers seem to be the R&B tracks (“Higher And Higher,” “Hold On I’m Coming,” etc.). Drivetime is a collection of 14 oldies (many reprised from the ’80s releases) with songs like “Honky Tonk” and “You Can’t Sit Down” standing out. The final one, Souvenirs, is perhaps the strongest Flash Cadillac release ever. The lead track is a song originally meant to be the title track for the album that became Sons Of The Beaches. “Souvenir Of California” is a Moe original that has that easy Beach Boys feel to it. All the originals from the Later Than Midnight album are repeated with the addition of some other great new songs. McFadin’s “Feel’s So Good” is an up acoustic number that would fit on a Dave Edmunds release and Moe’s “She’s A Runner” is clean guitar pop. 1994 saw another change in the drum chair with Gingrich leaving and Dave “Thumper” Henry taking over.
Another release in 1994 was the song “Ghost of Christmas Past” which was on a Christmas CD put out by a Denver oldies rock station KOOL 105. This song was a rewrite of “Souvenir Of California” with a seasonal lyric.
This brings everything to 1996 with the release of 25 Years, a collection of rock from their whole career (but not the greatest hits set fans still wait for). The album also contains lots of weirdness (such as “Spike’s Psycho Corner”) to finally show a bit of the band’s warped sense of humor. As mentioned earlier, “See My Baby Jive” leads off the set and “Brown Water” finally rears its muddy head. There are some great previously unreleased rockers like “Geez Louise,” “Rockin’ Tonight” and “In A Cathedral.” New versions of “Later Than Midnight” and “Time Will Tell” stand out as does the unused theme song for an unseen TV spinoff of the Movie Diner (“At The Diner”).
Today Flash Cadillac continue to tour with symphonies and do corporate shows. The intent of recording is to solidify regional success and not worry about selling 10 million copies.
At the time this article is being written, Moe has opted to mostly retire to the studio as he finds himself getting weaker while fighting a debilitating muscular disease. The rest of the band will continue to tour with the possible addition of a new keyboard player. In the works are a live with orchestra Christmas CD and a set of redone “Cadillac Classics” such as a driving version of “Nothin’ For Me” originally off of their first album.
Flash Cadillac have lost a few cylinders over the years, but don’t need to be put up on cinder blocks just yet.
Complete U.S. Flash Cadillac And The Continental Kids Discography
(all releases after 1979 are by Flash Cadillac)
label record# title year
Epic 5-10630 Muleskinner Blues/Teenage Eyes 1972
Epic 5-11043 At The Hop/She’s So Fine 1973
Epic 5-11102 Dancin’ (On A Saturday Night)/The Way I Feel Tonight 1974
Private Stock PS-45,006 Good Times, Rock & Roll/It’s Hard (To Break The Ice) 1974
Private Stock PS-45,026 Time Will Tell/Hot Summer Girls 1975
Private Stock PS-45,079 Did You Boogie(With Your Baby)/Maybe It’s All In My Mind 1976
Private Stock PS-45,134 See My Baby Jive/Brown Water (Apocalypse Blues) 1977
Epic KE-31787 Flash Cadillac And The Continental Kids 1972
MCA MCA2-8001 American Graffiti – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack 1973
(contains “At The Hop” and “She’s So Fine”)
Epic KE-32488 There’s No Face Like Chrome 1974
Private Stock PS-2003 Sons Of The Beaches 1975
Epic KEG-33465 Rock And Roll Forever 1975
(later editions had a paste-on sticker changing the matrix number to PEG-33465)
Private Stock PS-2012 Sons Of The Beaches 1976
(“Did You Boogie [With Your Baby]” replaces “You Sat Right
Elektra DP-90001 Apocalypse Now – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack 1979
(contains “Susie Q”)
Promised LandPLR-3-30-52 Flash Cadillac – Four Song Collector’s Edition 1982
Promised LandPLR-4-29-58 Rip It Up 1984
The Great American Music Hall GAMH-2704 Later Than Midnight 1987
Flash Cadillac/Resounding 2D019 A Night At The Symphony 1994
Flash Cadillac/Resounding 2D020 Drivetime 1994
Flash Cadillac/Resounding 2D021 Souvenirs 1994
KOOL 105 Pacer 9484 A KOOL Colorado Christmas 1994
(contains “Ghost Of Christmas Past”)
Flash Cadillac/Resounding RRCD 1016 25 Years 1996
Rhino R2 72298 Super Hits Of The ’70’s-Have A Nice Day Vol. 24 1996
(contains “Did You Boogie [With Your Baby]”)
****The preceding article was published in January of 1997. While Flash Cadillac continues, much of what was written requires an update.
The Christmas CD did get released as:
Flash Cadillac/Resounding RRCD 1018 Ghost Of Christmas Past 1996
The album of new material also came out and it was a killer rocker of an album:
Flash Cadillac CD 1008 Rock & Roll Rules 1997
Sam McFadin passed away in 2001 just before the horror of 9-1-1 having one of the coolest memorial services you can imagine. It was held at the Colorado College Chapel in Colorado Springs. The music was amazing and the house came down when Bement took his chewing gum out and stuck it under the altar. After a gallant fight, Kris Moe finally succumbed to his illness in 2005.
Original member and all around good guy Warren Knight still leads the band, when they can reconvene, having scattered around the country. When they can get here, Bement on sax and Henry on fuzzy dice and drums return to rock the masses. For their 2004 live CD Flash On The Prairie (Pikes Peak Records), they are joined by new Kids Pete Santilli (keys/vocals), Rocky Mitchell (guitar/vocals), Bob Fisher (sax) and Flashman Timothy P. Irvin (having ditched the beard and cowboy hat of his spell leading the Rural Route 3).
They can still tear it up at at street dances and parties and can still be booked through O’Malley’s Colorado Springs office (somagency.com) where they also perform at times. (Here are the guys at SOMagency before Sam’s passing.)
At a September 8, 2012 gala show at the Boulder Theater, past and present members of Flash Cadillac And The Continental Kids were inducted in to the Colorado Music Hall Of Fame. The night was magical with other inductees being Sugarloaf, The Astronauts and radio station KIMN. Former Governor Dick Lamm did the honors for Colorado’s lewd, rude and crude party band who then tore up the place with a rockin’ set of oldies. Cut and paste for a short taste: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBlTIXtze5E
One of the high points of the night was Spike’s son Kasey playing guitar with the guys then picking Manresa up on his shoulders and carrying him around on stage just as his dad used to do years ago. It was a fun night and a fitting tribute to a great group of guys.
Some other fun youtube videos: