Walter Egan - Fleet Word Knack
By Jess Marich
Walter Egan is a prolific songwriter, an accomplished musician, a painter, sculptor and author. He has written books and screenplays relating to life as a musician. His smash hit, "Magnet & Steel" from 1978, tends to overshadow Egan's multitude of great works. Another of Walter's songs, "Hot Summer Nights" has been recorded by many artists in many languages. His recordings have been featured in movie soundtracks. His songs have been in television shows and commercials. He's even been in the crossword puzzles in the New York Times.
Walter has enjoyed many highlights in his long fruitful career. He was there when Gram Parsons sang with Emmylou Harris for the first time. He jammed with The Eagles. He met Bob Dylan. He played in Jackson Browne's band. He saw Jimmy James & The Blue Flames in Greenwich Village in 1966 (this was Jimi Hendrix just prior to his Atlantic crossing to superstardom). He saw The Doors at Singer Bowl, a concert that turned riotous (Walter took some photos). He played rock festivals in the late sixties. Walter tooled around LA in the mid-1970s with his guitar-slinging pal, Lindsey Buckingham. He was close to Stevie Nicks too. He had a major label record deal with Columbia in the 1970s. He toured with Brian Wilson & The Beach Boys. He attended Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk" party. He played on the same bill as Poco. There's much more.
As the fifties were changing into the sixties Folk music began to interest Walter Egan much more than pop. Walter attended a concert during the summer of 1963 at the tennis stadium in Forest Hills that profoundly affected the way he felt about music. Joan Baez, the headliner, sang a few songs and then announced, "I want to bring my friend Bobby out". "That was the first time Dylan really hit me. He sang, "Masters of War" and "Pawn in the Game". He had this aura about him. These words! What was he singing? I remember the songs were going through my head for days. Then the first Bob Dylan album I got was "Freewheelin'."
Walter was influenced by the classic rock groups of the mid-1960s. Of course The Beatles were inescapable. "They were like the fresh warm breath of springtime." Walter attended The Beatles' concert at Carnegie Hall and considered it an almost religious experience.
Brian Wilson was another major influence. Walter considered Wilson, like Elvis, a guy who was clearly the leader at "California Surf music", nobody could touch him.
Early on Walter's was in The Malibooz, a rock & roll garage band. In spring of 1965 The Malibooz played the New York World's Fair. Walter sang the brand new Rolling Stones hit "Satisfaction". A month later, the group taped a twenty-minute television show, "Go-Go at the Fair". The recorded interview with RCA announcer, Colin Murphy is included on their 1981 album, "Malibooz Rule!".
Walter's hippie era group, Sageworth & Drums, is one of the great, lost bands of the late '60s. Their main influences were Buffalo Springfield and Jefferson Airplane. They would jokingly call themselves 'Jeffalo Springplane'. Walter was the principal songwriter though not the lead vocalist. That position belonged to Annie McLoone.
Emmylou Harris was playing the same circuit in D.C. as Sageworth. In 1970, Walter wrote "Hearts On Fire" with Tom Guidera, Sageworth's bass player.
In late 1971 Sageworth moved to Boston. Paul Colby, owner of the Bitter End, saw them doing a hoot night at his club and approached them. Colby became their manager. They opened for major acts at his high profile club. Walter met Dylan there. Sageworth & Drums began performing concert venues. They never made an album. "But we have enough demos," Walter assures.
Egan has been regarded as a "country rocker". This is due mostly to his association with Gram Parsons. The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers had a strong impact upon him. Walter began following Country-Rock. He considered the charismatic Parsons as its leader. When the Burrito Brothers came to town for a gig at the Cellar Door, Gram had already left the group. Walter talked with Chris Hillman. "It was a thrill to meet him." After their set we all went down to a local eatery/watering hole called "Clydes" where Emmylou was singing. Soon Chis approached her about Gram who was searching for a female singing partner."
Harris had no idea who Gram was.Walter gladly took it upon himself to play the records and make her aware of Parsons' talent. Later when Gram came to town for her audition it was in the kitchen of the house where Sageworth lived. They sang "That's All It Took" and "Sweet Dreams". A year later at a club called Oliver's in Boston Walter heard them play "Hearts On Fire". "Gram mentioned my name from the stage." A couple months later Gram was dead. "Before he checked out he sent a set of lyrics to me via Emmy. The very week that he died I completed my music for 'Carolina Calypso'." This is the last Gram Parsons song.
Egan moved to California. Chris Darrow gave him a place to stay and put together a band called the Ghost Writers, later the Wheels.
Everything changed for Walter in February of 1976. He was playing a "Hoot Night" at the Troubadour and promoter Greg Lewerke was in the audience with Andrew Lauder, A&R guy for United Artists. They were impressed with Egan and offered him a deal.
They looked for producers. "That's when I got in touch with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. The guy we'd been doing Wheels demos with at Sound City in Van Nuys, Duane Scott, was the engineer. Duane had met them as Buckingham/Nicks." Walter met them in April of 1976 while they were in Santa Barbara in a concert that aired on 'Night Flight'. Walter and Lindsey Buckingham hit it off.
Reviewer Rick Kutner wrote this about Walter's first album. "'Fundamental Roll' is some of the best California Rock ever to be laid down on tape. It's essential for fans of the Buckingham/Nicks version of Fleetwood Mac."
Mac fans would especially notice "Tunnel of Love", which features Nicks' free-form wailing as the song fades. The night it was recorded Walter went home and wrote "Magnet & Steel".
A year later, Walter recorded "Not Shy" Buckingham co-produced the album with Walter and Richard Dashut. This time Egan scored one of the smash hits of 1978, "Magnet & Steel". "Not Shy" is a '70s treasure of summertime California pop rock showcasing Egan's knack for writing catchy songs. Mick Fleetwood plays drums on some of it. Nicks can be heard on much of the album. The guitar tandem of Egan and Buckingham is featured throughout. Walter's success lead to appearances on 'Midnight Special', 'American Bandstand',the Merv Griffin show, Mike Douglas' show and 'Solid Gold'.
Egan toured the nation in 1978 playing concerts with Heart, Foreigner and Kansas. "I did a tour with Tom Petty. We traded off headlining."Egan recalls the thrill of watching "Magnet & Steel" rising up the charts as the summer weeks passed.
The working relationship with Buckingham hit the skids toward the end of the decade. "The whole thing with me falling for Stevie might had had some kind of bad effect on him. And he was also drinking a lot in those days."
In 1979 Walter delivered his third album for CBS. This time Walter produced the album with Tom Moncrieff. "HiFi" was another strong album and an independent step in the right direction for Egan. "It was me making my move away from the big wing of Fleetwood Mac." During recording Don Ellis, who supported Walter's choices, left Columbia. The next guy in was upset that Fleetwood Mac was not involved with the album. The label, so high on Walter a year before, lost interest.
"HiFi" is dedicated to Brian Wilson. "I did a short tour with The Beach Boys and Brian was with them. I'd say half the time he was there and the other half it was like, 'who are you again?'" Dennis Wilson was the Beach Boy Egan got to know best. "I knew Dennis the last three years right up to his death. In his sober moments he was a real sweetheart. Carl was the guy who too up the Brian beautiful song mantel."
By 1980 Egan delivered his fourth album in as many years with CBS, "The Last Stroll". After leaving CBS Walter reconvened The Malibooz and made their long overdue first album. "Malibooz Rule!" is a rolicking fun-loving surf record.
In 1983 he secured a new solo deal with Backstreet Records, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' label. "Wild Exhibitions", produced by Walter and Duane Scott, is the result of that. It was the first of Egan's albums to contain his artwork. Guests include David Lindley, Nicky Hopkins and Fleetwood Mac buddies Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie. The single, "Fool Moon Fire" was climbing the charts when Backstreet got absorbed by MCA, who pulled it.
Egan had nearly completed another album with many illustrious cohorts including Jackson Browne, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, Randy California, Annie McLoone and Chris Darrow. This album was released in 2000 on Renaissance Records as "The Lost Album".
Walter Egan spent the next dozen years playing solo, in different bands, and supporting other talented people. One of his more memorable sidelines was a stint as an MTV video disc jockey for a few weeks.
Walter toured with Randy California's classic group, Spirit, for two and a half years starting in 1987. Soctt Monahan, who also played with the Malibooz, was the keyboardist. Walter sang his song "Only Love is Left Alive" with Spirit. There is a live Spirit DVD available with this line-up.
Egan moved back to New York at the end of 1991. Walter's association with Gram Parsons was regarded more highly in the '90s than ever before. He soon found himself in The Brooklyn Cowboys, a band started by Fred Perry, producer Richard Perry's drumming brother. "I met Fredro totally out of the blue at a jame session." They decided to start a band. Buddy Cage from The New Riders of the Purple Sage was also in it.
In spring of 1997 Walter moved to Nashville. He got the ball rolling with a brilliant album called "Walternative". On the CD Egan played just about everything. Reviewers raved about Walter's return.
In 2000, The Brooklyn Cowboys came back together, this time with Supe Granda from The Ozark Mtn. Daredevils, Buddy Cage, Joy Lynn White, Michael webb, Brian Waldschlager and of course Fredro Perry, the ringleader. This group put Egan back in the media spotlight.
2002 brought Egan's "Apocalypso Now", another fine collection of songs. Later that year came the second Brooklyn Cowboys CD, "Dodging Bullets". Of it, British country music writer Pete Smith wrote, "these boys stand alone as the kings of country-rock."
Presently there is a "what goes around, comes around" them in Walter Egan's career as his first four albums are currently slated for reissue in two different double length CDs by Evangeline Recordings in England. Obviously there is renewed interest in the music Walter recorded in the seventies.
Also The Malibooz keep going. They performed on the BBC Radio Show "Merseyside Tonight" on October 18th. The band followed that by appearing at the legendary Cavern Club in Liverpool, the birthplace of The Beatles. They have just released a CD, "The WRVR Sessions '65".
On January 20, 1965 The Malibooz entered the studios of WRVR in New York City for their first professional recording session. This 3-song CD shows The Malibooz in their earliest, rawest state. Most people consider the NOLA Records 45rpm of "Goin' to Malibu" b/w "That's a Lie" as the first Malibooz recording, but the WRVR sessions predate that by 5 months.
To celebrate their 40th anniversary, the original lineup of The Malibooz played at their old high school in NYC on August 11th. The event honored their favorite teacher, Fr. Eugune Prior of Loyola H.S. in Manhattan on his 80th birthday. Prior to the concert, the band rehearsed at the studios of Sirius Satellite Radio. Both the rehearsals and the concert were recorded and may become available later. Photos from the show are at www.malibooz.com.
Walter is always doing some new project. One thing we can be sure of, whether it's sculpture, writing, art or music, Walter always brings honesty, sincerity and love to his work. You're a good man, Walter Egan.