Saturday, February 9, 2008


(band) Dehner C. Patten (lead guitar, vocals), Gary L. Yoder (acoustic guitar, rhythm guitar, vocals), Joseph D. Damrell (bass guitar, sitar, tambourine, vocals), Christopher A. Lockheed (drums, tabla, harpsichord, maraccas, vocals)

I suppose this group isn't forgotten as much as it never made it. But I think they definitely deserved to be, if not a major success at the time, at least the type of cult band that had a small but devoted audience.

Kak produced one album before breaking up. Back when it came out, I was working in my family's store in Eastern Long Island. We convinced my father and grandfather to sell records. I don't think they made much money, but since they were fully returnable, there was little risk.

Each week, we would get shipments of new albums. Now this was before the Internet, and you just didn't have any idea what was coming out. I remember when we unpacked The Beatles double album (as we called what now is called "The White Album") and, not knowing about it, somehow thought it was really John Lennon's Two Virgins (which was getting a lot of press and which was supposed to be in a plain cover).

In any case, one week, we opened the box and saw Kak's album. We didn't know what to make of it and weren't even sure of the name of the group (the lettering looked like "CAK"). It sat in our bins until we sent it back.

A few years later, when I was in college, I discovered one of the guys on the floor had the album. And he played it a lot.

It was a good one. It was one of the few albums that I remember playing for someone back in college and having him say, "That's pretty good."*

The group came out of California, and seems to have had some connection with the Grateful Dead, though it's unclear what. As far as I can tell, the name of the group is the same as the Russian word for "How," though whether that has anything to do with naming, I can't say. The musicians were unknowns, most of their songs written by Gary Yoder and Greg Grelecki. The album started out strong with "HCO 97658," the mysterious title a reference to the album's catalog number, with the tune about cutting the record. "Electric Sailor" is a wonderfully nutty psychedelic rocker, while "Disbelievin'" and "Bright and Clear Day" were minor key blues. There was an interesting mix of sounds throughout the album.

The group sounded different and it took me a while to figure out while: Dehner Patton's lead guitar never stopped. Usually, the lead guitarist will lay back while the singer is singing the song, but Patton kept playing the entire time. It made for something that made the group stand out.

Alas, despite showing up even in rinky-dink record outlets like mine, the album flopped. The group had broken up during its recording, so that was the end of that. The only member to make any other impact is Gary Yoder, who ended up with the band Blue Cheer.

The album was repackaged for CD with a bunch of leftover material as Kak-Ola.** I haven't heard the additional material, but if that's an excuse to bring the music back, I'm all for it.

*The other was "Stairway to Heaven" -- I played it for a major Zeppelin hater, telling him to wait for it as we played the side of the album. After each song, he'd ask, "Is that it?" and try to leave. But when he got to "Stairway," he stayed.)

**The image at the top of this entry is Kak-Ola, but the only difference in the cover is "Kak-Ola" written above the hard to decipher name of the group.

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