Lost Bands of New England: Duke & the Drivers
Duke & The Drivers, 1975: one of New England's best live bands (specifically, Boston area), but they never got the props they deserved.
Aerosmith were riding high with the release of their third album "Toys In The Attic," and The J. Geils Band were breezily selling out shows at the Boston Garden.
Duke & The Drivers, on the other hand, were at The Commodore Ballroom in Lowell and The Frolics in Salisbury Beach and the buzz was palpable. Their look at the time was a hep-cat mix of The Doobie Brothers and Sly & The Family Stone; their sound was a saucy selection of obscure soul singles by Otis Redding ("I Got The Will"), Gamble & Huff ("Slow Motion") and Ike & Tina Turner ("Too Much Woman For A Henpecked Man"), and they were more than totally tight-tight-tight and entertaining as hell.
The band members names were also a clue: Sam Deluxe and Cadillac Jack on guitars and vocals, Dr. Feelgood Funk, D.D.A. on drums, Koko Dee on bass, and Rhinestone Muddflapps on sax, harmonica, percussion and vocals.
And they always, always let the audience know that The Duke was on his way, you were gonna finally get to meet The Duke tonight!
Of course, just before the last song, it would turn out The Duke got delayed somewhere, but he'd show up next time...
Their debut was produced and engineered by Eddie Kramer (whose resume included Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Kiss, and Led Zeppelin) so you know they had it going on: the "Crusin'" album featured a couple of originals that sounded just as good and chunky-funky-danceable as the covers (you couldn't tell which was which) and anyway, back then we were too innocent to know the difference.
Didn't matter. For a couple of weeks in 1975, they were the best bar band in the world, rock and roll lightning in a bottle.
Then, just like 1,000 other great rock outfits, it was over, but for a little while, the thrills were more enticing than any arena show you had saved up for.
God Bless Duke & The Drivers. Check 'em out. The best stuff is always in the shadows.