It’s funny how 70’s rock band, Back Street Crawler seemed to adhere to the “decade” of great rock and roll. Led by former Free guitarist, Paul Kossoff it was thought that a fresh start would give Kossoff some stability. So rather than recruiting new musicians he asked most of the Houston (though New York based) blues rock band Bloontz (drummer Tony Braunagel, keyboardist Mike Montgomery, bassist Terry Wilson) to become his band. He then recruited English singer Terry Wilson-Slesser, who had recorded an album with the blues rock band Beckett to front them. And yes, there were two Terry Wilson’s in the same band and songwriter/ keyboardist, Mike Montgomery. It was a done deal.. Atlantic Records head, Ahmet Ertegun signed them to a lucrative album deal..sight unseen…In his mind he thought they could become the next Bad Company!!
It is no wonder that Back Street Crawler’s first album is sometimes looked upon as a sub-par release. Reviewers claimed it was an insecure and timid debut that was obliterated by everything else that came during the corporate rock era. I disagree… It was just less tawdry because in the 70’s, guitarists weren’t as flashy as in the 60’s and 80s; which does not mean that Kossoff’s playing was inferior – he just didn’t emphasize that he’s playing fast. Their collaborative efforts always hit a higher level than in any of their singular works. They were another blues based hard rock band that were everywhere in the early to mid-70s. You can thank the success of Led Zeppelin for that.. though they took the music off in all sorts of other directions. Overall, Back Street Crawler were not very adventurous but nonetheless they were a cut above other bands in the genre. One thing that was evident.. Montgomery was the “brains” of the outfit.. He wrote some of their best songs…
Montgomery was born in Gutherie, Oklahoma..He cut his teeth listening to Hank Williams, Elvis and Ray Charles records… From an early age Mike was destined to become a musician…At nine years old his grandparents bought him his first guitar..and he would pick out with perfect pitch Jerry Lee Lewis and Floyd Cramer licks… There were the years where he attended O.K. City University and started bouncing around the southwest. He decided to move to NYC and became the musical director for Johnny Nash…(Best known for the 1972 hit, “I Can See Clearly Now”). After two years Montgomery hooked up with Kossoff…This is where Mike really shined… Kossoff had enough heroin and rock and roll and died of an apparent heart attack.
There is so much history surrounding the genealogy of Montgomery’s credits. . The lists of his contributions would leave any rock and roll fan speechless. Bowie, Blood Sweat & Tears,Thin Lizzy and Meatloaf. Somehow, within a solid rock foundation he indelibly included several types of sub-genres which somehow worked so harmoniously together. … He was a heavy smoker… and in 1991 he died after a long bout with lung cancer… Almost 30 years after his death and 45 years after Back Street Crawler’s ‘debut album, Mike Montgomery’s songs continue to capture the ears of loyal fans and new listeners…
His son, Marlon has put together a ambitious tribute album that epitomizes his pops’ greatest accomplishments. The album, “Crawling Spider” showcases many of Montgomery’s musical past… do not expect any pushing of boundaries and be content to just go with the flow. There are not a lot of new ideas. Some of this sounds like Free (or even Bad Company – though Paul Rodgers is a more substantial vocalist) but a lot sounds like Mott The Hoople as well…Nonetheless there’s sheer muscularity along with a spartan bottom throughout the record.. the highlights veer between stadium-sized rockers (All The Girls Are Crazy, Rock & Roll Junkie) and brass-laden tearjerkers (Jason Blue).
Rock Bands of L.A.com were able to chat with executive producer, Marlon Montgomery about the making of this project..
Rock Bands of L.A.com:So many times, I receive albums where the entire disc sounds alike … I refer to that as being, “modal”.. What made think of having a project that goes musically everywhere? There is something for every musical taste which in itself the best part of the album.
Marlon Montgomery:Thanks so much! I really wanted to create an album that went beyond the tracks from Back Street Crawler that my Dad is most known for, and expose listeners to a bit of music across his catalog, including his solo material which is in the vain of Mott The Hopple, some of his more straight blues songs from the band Rough House in the 90’s, and a little taste of his progression to country blues towards the end of his life with the song of Just A Son of America. Yet, still try to bring all the songs together, so the album isn’t jarring to the listener!
Rock Bands of L.A.com:How were you able to get all these artists together? Are there any stories that you could talk about the making of this album… I can imagine the temperament of all these incredible musicians..
Marlon Montgomery:Tony and Terry were a tremendous help in connecting me with all the great musicians and singers on the newly recorded tracks. And, the live track is with Terry Slesser’s band in the UK that he tours with doing Back Street Crawler and Free songs. For the solo material, my Dad brought in all his friends from London and NY. Those tracks have quite a cast of artists. Would have been a super group if they toured! Jimmy Kunes who contributed the song “All The Girls Are Crazy” from his band Flood The Engine with Bill Leverty of Firehouse, was considered as the singer for my Dad’s band Rough House in the early 90’s. I found a letter from my Dad a few years ago where he mentions Jimmy’s great audition. Jimmy and Bill are big Back Street Crawler fans, and have become good friends over the years.Unfortunately, we were planning on having two of my Dad’s best friends, Alan Merrill and Bob Kulick contribute newly recorded tracks, but both passed away in 2020 before we could get them in the studio. Neal Casal was also going to contribute some guitar, but he past as well recently.
Rock Bands of L.A.com:I wish I can tell you what my favorite track.. I can’t.. I know this is the L.A. Sessions Vol. 1 are there gonna be more?
Marlon: I would really love to get a Vol. 2 out and maybe even a Vol. 3. There are a few songs from my Dad’s catalog that I would still love to get out there. A few musicians have expressed interest, but didn’t make it onto Vol 1.
Rock Bands of L.A.com:Is there a chance that there could be a live stream of the album? It could work..
Marlon: I haven’t thought about a live stream of the album, but that’s a great idea!
We would like to thank Doug Deutsch and Marlon Montgomery for their help..