Written by Bevis M. Griffin
Within the first few months of 1972, Franklin’s Mast was starting to gain notoriety as one of Texas’ most exciting and controversial live acts. Our reputation was accelerated by the arrival of former Blackbird bassist, the irrepressible Jimmy Fleming, a former bull-riding, half-back in stack-heeled platforms. Our initial bassist, Barry Minnick, was a respectable musician, but his soft-spoken demeanor was ill-fit for the hardcore rambunctious shenanigans of Franklin’s Mast.
Inspired by hyper-kinetic hard rock acts like Hendrix, Bowie, Humble Pie, Slade, and Trapeze, “The Mast” was loud, glam, and proud in an era when long-hair was cause for harassment, let alone our penchant for flamboyant unisex fashions and androgynous cosmetic stage makeup. Fleming and I became widely respected as a formidable rhythm section and Jimmy Saurage was a whirling dervish of a “guitar-hero” frontman. Our stage shows were incendiary without pyrotechnics and by the fall of ’72, we’d established ourselves as one of the best acts in ATX.
As a matter of fact, during that era, Austin, Dallas, and Houston were in direct competition for bragging rights as progressive-rock meccas. Houston’s 13th Floor Elevators and Bubble Puppy along with pre-ZZ-Top Moving Sidewalks were all legendary champions of 60’s “psych-rock”, but by 1972, the musical stylings of British-heavy-blues bands like Fleetwood Mac, Spooky Tooth, Trapeze, Humble Pie, and Deep Purple were infusing the influences of American blues, soul, and vintage rock & roll with megawatt amperage and euro-centric fashion sensibilities.
From 71′-74′ Austin was especially enamored of one of my biggest rock influences, Krackerjack, whom I first encountered in Wichita Falls at a rare Midwestern University fraternity engagement. To this day, I consider this band one of the greatest unsigned acts I’ve ever seen in my life! I frequently accredit their collective friendship as the single-most fortuitous asset to my career. Led by former Johnny Winter bassist, Tommy Shannon and “Uncle” John Turner on drums, the band featuring keyboard wiz Mike Kindred, guitar phenom John Staehely, and ultra-vox, Bruce Boland were arguably the highest-grossing live act in Texas second only to Houston’s ZZ-Top!
Krackerjack eventually invited me into their notorious inner-circle and I was subsequently thrust into the “deep end of the pool” of rock star lifestyle, discipline, etiquette, and other inequities. Eventually, they all became my extended family and by the gravitas of our friendship, I found myself with unfettered access to the upper echelon of the most respected musicians in Texas.