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When I was 15 my step father gave me a small stack of records he had collected through the years. Some of my favorite artists were discovered in that pile of treasure. It’s where I first got my study on with players like Eric Clapton, and songwriters like Jackson Brown. I would put these records on, dim the lights and lay in bed listening to every note. One record that was a treat to discover was Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”. A 17-minute song that took up an entire side of a record. I listened to that record until I wore it out, especially the organ solo around 9 minutes in. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida dropped in 1968 and is widely considered to be the very first heavy metal album. Whether it is or not causes some debate, but one thing is for sure: Iron Butterfly certainly was the foundation that the houses of hard rock and metal were built on.

In 1966 Doug Ingle, Jack Pinney, Greg Willis, and Danny Weis formed up in San Diego. The music scene was beginning to pop and everybody came from rival bands. After hearing the name “Iron Butterfly” being used by another band Weis decided to adopt it for themselves siting that he liked the combination of soft and metal. Not long after that the band added vocalist Darryl DeLoach and began rehearsing in DeLoach’s parents’ garage almost nightly. With heads full of rock stardom ambition and a grueling practice schedule it wasn’t long before the band was tight and ready to show their stuff. In the summer of 1966 the band decided to make the move to Los Angeles and try their hand where it counted. Willis was still a minor and his parents refused to let him move with the rest of the guys. He was summarily replaced by Jerry Penrod and the band took off. Their break in the local scene came with a booking at Bido Lito’s on the Sunset Strip. This got them enough credit to play places like the Galaxy Club and the Whiskey a Go Go.
    Throughout this time the band was beginning to start doing something it would continue to do right up until today - change members. The list of past members for Iron Butterfly reads like a rock n’ roll phone book. I can’t even list all and still have room to finish this article. Turmoil, collapse, and reform is the pattern that has followed this band from the very beginning.
    By 1968 their seminal album Heavy was making a splash. By the time the album was completed only Ron Bushy, and Doug Ingle had left the band entirely. ATCO, the subsidiary of Atlantic Records that had signed the band threatened not to release Heavy without a band to go out and play in support of it, and so the band reformed for the second time with new members Lee Dorman on bass, and 17-year-old guitarist Erik Brann. Other players up for the job were Neil Young, Michael Monarch, and Jeff Beck, all of which were beat out by Brann.
    Near the end of 1968, somehow amidst all their issues, the band put out a second album, this one titled In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and featured a very long song of the same name that would push Iron Butterfly into the spotlight for good. The album became a top 30 hit in America and re-entered the top 100 the next year. Blowing up world wide it sold over 30 million copies by 1970 and earned the band a gold disc by the RIAA and eventually went platinum.
    Heavy touring and radio play earned the boys staple billing at pop festivals all over the world and when it was time for Woodstock they got the call. Only hours before their performance they were stuck at La Guardia Airport and couldn’t get to the festival. The band asked that the promoters be contacted and apologetically asked to explain the situation and put the band in another time slot. Instead the band’s manager sent a telegram to the promoters demanding they send a helicopter to pick up the band and fly them to the festival where they would immediately take the stage, and then be flown back directly after. The band went down to the port authority three times to wait for the helicopter that never came. Instead they received this telegram:
“For reasons I can’t go into / Until you are here / Clarifying your situation / Knowing you are having problems / You will have to find / Other transportation / Unless you plan not to come.”
    If any of that seems confusing just pay attention to the first letter of each sentence and you will see exactly what the promoters of Woodstock were conveying to the band. Despite not playing Woodstock the band continued to tour and reach success.
    In 1969 Iron Butterfly released its next album, Ball, which reached number three on the charts and went gold. But even in the middle of more success the band was going through even more personnel changes. The now 18-year-old Brann had decided he wanted the band to move in an even harder direction and, when they wouldn’t, he too left.
    In the August of 1970 the boys released their fourth album, Metamorphosis, with two fresh players - Mike Pinera, and Larry Reinhardt. Then in 1971 Doug Ingle fell off as well leaving only Ron Bushy as the only original member in the group. If you are truly following along with how this saga rolls out, don’t be too worried, nearly every member comes and goes at least a couple of times. By the end of 1971 however, the band was no more, and everyone went their separate ways. That was of course until their first, of any, reunions happened in 1974 when Brann was contacted by a promoter about reforming the band for a new record deal with MCA. Brann jumped at it and grabbed Ron Bushy to start an updated version of Iron Butterfly. Together with new players the group released Scorching Beauty in January of 1975, and Sun and Steel in October of 1975. But by 1977 they would break up again due to bad management and low record sales.
    In 1978, a German promoter made the band an offer to reform the Metamorphosis line-up and tour Germany; so they got ready. Only, bassist Dorman’s father became very sick just before the tour started and the band brought on Keith Ellis to be on hand to step in just in case Doran had to suddenly leave for the U.S., but at a tour stop in Darmstadt died of complication due to a tooth abscess and alcohol consumption.
    After 1979 the band was barely one line-up; it was constantly changing. Here is how the line-up evolved in just a few years; check this out:
(1979) Brann, Dorman, Leimsider, Caldwell and Hasbrook. (1979) Pinera, Brann, Dorman, Hasbrook, Caldwell and Pino. (1979) Doran, Brann, Hasbrook, Kislan, Johnson and Vanderlocket. (1980) Doran Rhino, Leimsider, Skirvin, Rock and Luke. (1981-1982) Pinera, Dorman, Rhino, Babylon and Uvena. (1982) Pinera, Doran, Rhino, Babylon and Bushy.
    In 1982 that last line-up went into the studio to laydown some new stuff, but to this day nothing new has been released since 1979.
    Throughout the 80’s, 90’s and into the 2000’s the band would continue to be in flux and constantly reforming until the deaths of Reinhardt and Dorman in 2012 at which time the band became quiet for a couple for a couple of years.
    In late 2014, however, the band decided to reunite once more and are currently still together and touring. Now-a-days the band consists of Michael Green on percussion and vocals, Eric Barnett on lead guitar and vocals, Dave Meros on bass and vocals, Ray Weston on drums, and Martin Gerschwitz on keyboards and vocals. You may notice that not one original member is still in the band, however, most of these guys have been with the group for 10 or more years and have previously worked with every legend you have ever heard of in the annals of classic rock.
    Iron Butterfly will be in our area this month at the Space Coast Harley Davidson dealership, off Palm Bay Road, Saturday, the 30th. It’s a free concert, and you don’t want to miss such a legendary band at such a cool venue!

Brevard Live Magazine
P.O. Box 1452
Melbourne, Florida 32902

Phone: (321) 956-9207