Q. How did you start in music? Was the Satisfied Minds your first band?
Yancey Burns: I had played in high school groups, but I didn’t know Darrell or any of the other guys then. When I came to Marshall, I formed an R & B group called “The Seagram Seven.” We featured a big black guy who looked and sounded just like Junior Walker on saxophone and a crazy New York Italian guy who sang soul songs. Since we were a mixed group (black guys & white guys) we played a lot of black clubs and frat gigs.
One night, during a snow storm at about 3 a.m., we were driving from a gig in the customized hearse we used to haul our equipment. No one else was on the road at that hour but the occasional truck driver. Suddenly, we saw this silhouetted figure crawling out of a snow drift in the Interstate median – It was Darrell Fetty struggling across the highway to flag us down. He had been driving from a gig in the opposite direction when his car broke down. He had been out there alone (remember this was before cell phones) for a couple of hours and was about to freeze to death. That’s how we met.
Darrell was still in high school at the time, but had been playing in various rock groups for several years. He started playing piano when he was eight for church choirs and gospel quartets. We happened to be looking for a new keyboard player at the time, so Darrell gave me his number. I called him a couple weeks later, and he was thrilled to join the “Seagram Seven” to play college bookings and get away from the Elks Club and Moose Lodge gigs he’d been playing with an older group.
When Darrell came to college the following year, his Dad bought a boarding house where a bunch of us guys lived and practiced music in the basement.
Q. How’d the band get it’s name?
Yancey Burns: After the “Seven” broke up, we were looking to play a new kind of music that was happening then. It was 1967, so we still had to play a lot of R & B for the local gigs, but we started stretching things out with guitar solos and so forth and played sort of “psychedelic soul” style. We got a light show, and I started burning guitars and setting off smoke bombs onstage. We wanted a name that reflected sounded kind of mind expansive, so Darrell came up with the “Satisfied Minds” which was actually pulled from the lyrics of an old country song about “a man with a satisfied mind.”
Q. Did you know other bands on the Plato label, or were friends with other local acts?
Yancey Burns: We knew all the acts! They weren’t exactly friends, because, then, we saw them as our our competition. Although secretly we were all kinda fans of each other. Most of the acts on Plato were managed and booked around the area by Hal Scott Enterprises.
This was a great time for music in this area. We’d see professional acts like Paul Revere and the Raiders, then later Led Zeppelin, the Who, etc. but none of them seemed as exciting as some of our local groups! Among some of the other groups in the Tri-State area at that time were “The Explosive Dynamiks” who featured three lead singers, a white guy and two black guys (one sounded like James Brown and the other like Brooke Benton). The Dynamiks had a local hit, but it was a record they produced and distributed themselves (not on Plato). [for more info on the Dynamiks, check out this entry at Capitol Soul Club]
There was also “The Fugitives” who went to New York for awhile and actually opened for “The Young Rascals” for a couple of concerts. Darrell and I were also big fans of “Little Archie & The Parliaments” an all-black group who also recorded their own records (not on Plato). Little Archie was about seven feet tall who could sing, dance, and gave as great of a show as Otis Redding!
Q. I’ve heard that Plato was started as a label for black music. This doesn’t really fit in with the fact that the Satisfied Minds was the first record released on Plato. What would you say were Wiseman and Ullom’s ambitions for the label?
Yancey Burns: Maybe because of the number of black groups on the label and in the area. Actually, Wiseman and Ullom just wanted to tap into that locally-happening music scene and just get a hit! Our record was the first release, but remember we were segueing from a soul band (you saw the tuxedos) to a psychedelic/rock band at the time.
Q. Are there any unreleased or live recordings of the band?
Yancey Burns: Not that I know of.
Thank you to Yancey Burns for his history and photos of the group.
Update, October 2010:
I’m very sorry to hear that Yancey passed away on June 6, 2010.
Darrell Fetty wrote to me about some of the music he and Yancey did after the Satisfied Minds:
“Reds and Blues” is from a live performance we did in L.A. (I think it was the old Palomino Club) as “Leon Keyboard & the Bilnor Spashers” – it was the “Raw Dog” core musicians: Yancey on guitar, me singing and on keyboards, etc., but for a few gigs we brought in a number of friends of ours who were celebrities at the time. It was a fun, ever-evolving gang of people modeled after the “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” group. On this performance, in addition to Sam Melville and Mark Singer, and our wives Annie Melville, Hau Nani Singer, Carolyne McCoy Fetty, we had Carradine brother Bobby on guitar.
Yancey wrote “Red and Blues” one night after watching a documentary on Custer’s Last Stand. It’s a funky rock/folk song with a raw reggae feel that tells the story (with real names of some of the soldiers involved) from the Indians point of view. This is also a rare recording of Yancey himself singing the lead vocal.
Leon Keyboard & the Bilnor Spashers – Reds and Blues