Written by Bevis M. Griffin
“Franklin’s Mast” is a euphemism for Ben Franklin’s phallus. The idea being that our audiences would become auto-erotically stimulated by the electrical forces being transmitted from our amplifiers! If that’s not the epitome of rock & roll bravura, then I suggest you revisit ‘Spinal Tap‘ for reference. At the time we gained notoriety for our flamboyant stage show and poly-cultural lineup.
Jimmy Saurage, aka “James Savage” is my long-time partner-in-crime and perennial HERO! Whatever one would come to imagine from infamous rock n roll foils, ala Lennon-McCartney, Tyler-Perry, or “Mick & Keef” could easily apply to me and Jimmy. We met at Wichita Falls High, Senior Class of 1970, the year before the city begrudgingly integrated the municipal public schools.
Jimmy and I were both regarded as burgeoning art savants, and subsequently met in art class. Having migrated to Texas from California following the divorce of my parents, art, music, and film were my primary influences and I eventually gravitated towards the “eccentric” clique of “hippies”, “heads” and “stoners”. Most of these kids had cars and therefore access to mobility. It was here that my musical pallet was vastly expanded beyond the ubiquitous AM radio fare.
By enrolling in summer-classes at the tender age of 16, I was the youngest graduate of 1970. One of my classmates was Steve Nunn, younger brother of Gary P. Nunn, who lived in Austin. Steve had just been released from TX State Hospital following a court-ordered psych evaluation and he invited me to join him for a 3-day vacation in Austin during the Fourth of July weekend.
That trip was an amazing eye-opening thrill-ride of epic proportions, à la Ferris Bueller’s Day Off! Within the first 24 hours upon arrival, we visited a string of nightclubs from Austin’s storied past (Checkered Flag, New Orleans Club, Vulcan Gas Co., Black Queen, South Door, & Soap Creek).
After graduating in 1970, I ostensibly returned to L.A. with my sights set on enrolling in college. While there, I received an opportunity to tour with a blues band and immediately hit the road. After several weeks of grueling one-nighters, our bandleader surreptitiously aborted the tour.
Suddenly and desperately abandoned in Canton, Ohio I called home to apprise the family of my whereabouts and my dire predicament. My mom informed me that Jimmy Saurage had moved to Austin, and was calling to inquire upon my whereabouts and to contact him for a drum gig.
In November 1971, I reunited with Jimmy Saurage and Barry Minnick, and Frankin’s Mast was born! We lived together in a 16’x36′ storage locker and rehearsed for 6-8 hours daily until we got tight. The following week we entered and won a band-battle gig at the South Door on E. Riverside Drive.
Fortuitously, the ‘combo-gods’ were smiling, and we were duly signed by Mr. Charlie Hatchett. HTA was Austin’s premier talent agency, and Franklin’s Mast was finally ready to hit the road!