clockwise from left: Doug Lubahn, Bob Seal, Dallas Taylor, Michael Ney, Cliff De Young and Robbie Robison
|Cliff De Young (vocals)
Bob Seal (lead guitar, vocals)
Doug Lubahn (bass)
Ralph Schuckett (keyboards)
Dallas Taylor (drums)
Michael Ney (drums)
Robbie Robison (guitar)
Georgia-born guitarist Bob Seal teams up with Dallas Taylor (b. 1948, Denver, Colorado, US) during the summer when they meet in Phoenix, Arizona as Seal is heading to California. Taylor has already tasted the Sunset Strip scene while drumming with Lowell George’s Factory some months earlier.
They arrive in Los Angeles and set up camp in Manhattan Beach where they meet up with Robbie Robison (real name: Clyde Edgar Robison) and Michael Ney at a Peanut Butter Conspiracy gig. Robison is the husband of Barbara Robison (aka Sandi Peanut Butter), the Peanut Butter Conspiracy’s lead singer – and had recorded an album in 1964 as Robbie the Werwolf – Live at the Waleback Club.
Deciding to make a go of forming a group with two drummers they recruit Wanda Watkins as an additional vocalist and name themselves The Garnerfield Sanitarium.
In late 1966, Doug Lubahn (b. Colorado, US), who has spotted Seal and Taylor on Fairfax Avenue wearing signs reading “Seeking singing, writing bass player” joins on bass. Lubahn had moved to Los Angeles a few months earlier from Aspen, Colorado where he was working as a ski instructor and playing with several local groups. He is spotted by Mama Cass of The Mamas & The Papas and she encourages him to relocate to the West Coast.
They acquire Bud Mathis as manager and change name to the Brain Train – a name given to them by the Peanut Butter Conspiracy’s Alan Brackett. In the process they lose Watkins, who will turn up in another Bud Mathis outfit, The Joint Effort. Mathis finances a recording session at the Electro Vox Studios and takes the resulting demo recordings of Wolfang Dios’ “Black Roses” and Lubahn and Mathis’s “Me” to Elektra Records.
Elektra snaps the band up but persuades them to ditch Mathis and be taken under the wing of producer Paul Rothchild. The Brain Train moves into a large house on Franklin Avenue in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles, which has previously been the home of WC Fields and begin reheasing material for their proposed album.
counter-clockwise from bottom left: Robbie Robison, Doug Lubahn, Bob Seal, Michael Ney and Dallas Taylor
Scene from The President’s Analyst
Barry McGuire cast as their singer, for some reason.
|(30) The group performs at the “Freedom of Expression Concert” at the Hullabaloo, Hollywood, alongside The Doors, Canned Heat, The Poor and many others.
May Despite having put down most of the tracks for the album, Elektra decides that Robison’s acoustic approach is incompatible with the group’s new electric direction and he is dropped from the group, although he remains part of the entourage, operating his own light show, set up at the group’s live appearances. After auditioning many guitarists as possible replacements, including Doug Hastings (ex-Daily Flash and soon-to-be Buffalo Springfield) they eventually decide to go with keyboard wunderkind Ralph Schuckett. Schuckett overdubs keys to several of the tracks already in the can as well as collaborating with fellow newbie Cliff De Young.
June (11) The new line up performs at Cheetah, Venice, California with Kaleidoscope.
(30) The band performs at the Oracle Benefit at the Valley Music Theatre, Los Angeles with Kaleidoscope and The Fraternity of Man (the Byrds cancel – McGuinn was sick). After this Clear Light embark on a cross country tour driving non-stop to Philadelphia where the band goes on strike, forcing Elektra to fly them to New York. The group is met by Danny Fields, who checks the musicians into Albert’s Hotel. The band initially plays at Steve Paul’s Scene East in the Delmonico Hotel but on the first night Schuckett lambasts the crowd for not paying attention to the group’s performance and it is fired. The next day, Steve Paul places the group at his main club, The Scene.
July (6-23) Clear Light play at Steve Paul’s Scene, New York. While there, the group jams with various guests including Tiny Tim, Howlin’ Wolf and The Candy Men, formerly members of The McCoys. The band plays further dates in Boston before returning to Los Angeles.
August (31) – September (3) Clear Light performs at the Magic Mushroom, Los Angeles with Kaleidoscope. Soon afterwards, the band’s debut single, “Black Roses” c/w “She’s Ready To Be Free” is released.
(25) Lubahn participates in the sessions for The Doors’ Strange Days album.
(30) Clear Light appears at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, Santa Barbara with The Quicksilver Messenger Service, Van Morrison and Blue Cheer.
October (20-22) The band plays at the Cheetah, Venice, California with The Electric Flag.
(26-28) The group supports Lee Michaels and Pink Floyd at the Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco.
November The group’s eponymous debut album is released climbing to US #126. The band’s second single, “They Who Have Nothing” c/w “Ballad of Freddie & Larry” is issued to support the album. The debut longplayer is subsequently released in the UK, and although it is not a hit, it is greeted with interest, particularly on the underground scene. (Clear Light’s records are regularly featured on John Peel’s Top Gear). Bud Mathis licences The Brain Train demos to Titan Records in order to cash in on the release of the Elektra album.
(8) Clear Light appears on Pat Boone’s weekly show Pat Boone in Hollywood.
(17-19) They play at the Cheetah in Venice, California with The Nazz.
(22) Clear Light performs at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, California with The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, The Merry Go Round, The Hour Glass and others.
(25) They appear at the Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara, California with The Youngbloods, Canned Heat and The Merry Go Round.
(30) – December (2) The band is joined by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band for a series of shows at the Fillmore Auditorium.
(8-9) They play at the Boston Tea Party, Boston with The Street Choir.
(19-31) Clear Light perform at the Café Au Go Go in New York where they are joined by Tim Buckley on the 28th and 30th. After much behind the scenes manipulation and Svengali–ism by Rothchild, the band starts auditioning guitarists, including Kenny Pine and Jeff Jacobs, on the club’s stage to replace Bob Seal, who has come to blows with the producer. Danny Kortchmar, who has previously played with New York groups, The King Bees and The Flying Machine and recently returned from Los Angeles where he had tried out for Elektra’s project supergroup (later Rhinoceros) takes over lead guitar. Seal meanwhile relocates to the Bay area and, disillusioned with playing six string takes up the bass – gigging but not recording with Gale Garnett & The Gentle Reign. He later takes up the six string again, replacing the original guitarist in the Transatlantic Railroad. He subsequently teams up with former Salvation member Joe Tate in Redlegs, a popular Bay Area group.
from left to right, back row: Ralph Schuckett, Dallas Taylor, Michael Ney and Doug Lubahn
front row from left: Bob Seal and Cliff De Young
January (5-6) With Kortchmar on guitar, Clear Light play at the Grande Ballroom, Detroit with Gypsy and Children.
January Elektra’s news letter, Revelation announces that Clear Light have split up.
May (12) Taylor is sacked by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young after a gig in Denver and rejoins John Sebastian’s backing band.
March Debut Jo Mama album, O Sole Mio is released. Schuckett also appears on Carole King’s Tapestry album and follows this with two US and one UK tour with James Taylor in support.
Lubahn appears on the Everly Brothers album Stories We Could Tell.
Cliff De Young stars in the TV film Sunshine and subsequently releases a soundtrack album featuring songs by John Denver on MCA.
Cliff De Young releases an eponymously titled solo album on MCA. He continues to be in demand as a film and TV actor.
September Kortchmar joins Crosby & Nash’s backing band, The Mighty Jitters, and subsequently appears on their albums Wind On The Water, Whistle Down The Wire and Crosby/Nash Live.
June Schuckett appears on a recording by Free Beer, who release the album Highway Robbery on RCA.
March Schuckett appears on a second Free Beer album, Nouveau Chapeau. Lubahn forms new a group, Pierce Arrow, with ex-Dreams member Jeff Kent and ex-Compton & Batteau guitarist/vocalist Robin Batteau. Schuckett fills in for Jeff Kent when he recouperates from a serious injury in 1978.
July A second Pierce Arrow album Pity The Rich is released, but is not a success and Lubahn leaves to pursue other projects.
Schuckett joins Ellen Shipley’s backing group and continues to do session work for such notable artists as Cher. Lubahn writes Treat Me Right for Pat Benatar, which appears on her album, Crimes of Passion.
Lubahn forms Riff Raff who release the album Vinyl Future for Atlantic. He subsequently joins the Billy Squier band.
Lubahn appears on Billy Squiers’ Emotions in Motion.
Schuckett produces an album for Clarence Clemons for Columbia Records. He also co-produces two tracks with Bruce Springsteen. Lubahn apears on Ted Nugent’s Penetrator and Billy Squiers’ Signs of Life. He also writes Talk To Me – recorded by Patty Smyth and Scandal on their album Warrior (which features Schuckett).
September British indie label, Edsel issues Clear Light’s album with the bonus cut “She’s Ready To Be Free”. In 1991, Lubahn sings background vocals on Billy Squier’s album, Creatures of Habit.
Einarson, John and Furay, Richie. For What It’s Worth – The Story Of Buffalo Springfield. Quarry Press Inc, 1997.
Thanks to Gray Newell for his extensive help in piecing this story together. Many thanks too to Marc Skobac for research on some of the live dates. Huge thanks also to Ralph Schuckett for filling in many of the gaps and Doug Lubahn for his input. Thanks to Marc Skobac for his corrections.
Be sure to check out the official Clear Light website.
Copyright © Nick Warburton, 2008. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any from or by any means, without prior permission from the author.