Growing Up In A Country / Mad Mike’s Breakdown 

Modified: May 19, 2018

Release: RCA JB-10523 Growing Up In A Country / Mad Mike’s Breakdown (45)
Artist: Bodie Mountain Express
Release Date: 1975


Disc: (1975) Yellow label. NOT FOR SALE.
Matrix Numbers: PB-10523A 3S A1 / PB-10523B 3S A1 (Indianapolis pressing)

How does this record and artist tie into the Elvis collecting universe? The story was so compelling I had to add it to this site. The entire description below came from an eBay auction.1.

THANKS to ebay member man_from_plaid who just emailed me the below update on BODIE MOUNTAIN EXPRESS

[I]n 74-75 Bodie went to Palm Springs Music Store owned by Jody Reynolds (Endless Sleep) which was there in the mall & they started playing instruments, Jody called Greg McDonald held the phone up and Greg called Col Parker who was at Elvis’s pad there in PS. Col & Greg shows up and the Col signed them and got them the RCA contract. Greg was managing Rick Nelson & Jody and wound up managing Bodie – they played on an album Jody cut in 76 – after Elvis died Bodie toured with Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton. They did a lot of Vegas shows with Jim Sattford and his wife Bobbie Gentry (whom Jody Reynolds also discovered) – Somewhere about ’79 the band broke up. They since had many reformations & reunions. I played guitar with them many times – to many times to count. In fact I made my public performance as a musician debut with them in 1973 – I was 17 and a senior in high school – I had known their bass man Jack since 7th grade (1967) – he quit school for the band in the 10th grade. He since died not long after working on my car in 2001. Played a lot with those guys over the years. They started out doing Bob Wills & Bill Monroe, CCR (Proud Mary & Green River etc) plus a lot of blues.

The Bodie Mountain Express was a band that Col. Parker management wanted to sign to their Boxcar label, although only one single came out, and it was on RCA. The disc did not chart.

unusual openers added to Elvis’ 12-31-1975 New Year’s Eve show at the Pontiac Silverdome.

I’m unclear on the exact sequence, but that Wednesday night, starting at 8:45pm, 60,000+ fans saw an expanded array of warm-up acts:

Jackie Kahane, comedian
Bodie Mountain Express, bluegrass quartet
Freedom, three-piece band (previously called Upton and the Spiral Starecase)
Sweet Inspirations, female r&b trio
J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet, gospel quartet (Freedom joined the Stamps for their set)

One imagines the added firepower helped fill out the necessary two-plus hours before Elvis came on, shortly after 11:00pm.

When Elvis’ show played Pontiac on December 31,1975, there were two groups who performed for an hour – from 8.45pm – before the usual show started.

They were Freedom (a vocal instrumental group) and Bodie Mountain Express (a blue grass vocal instrumental group)
We hit that stage first in 1975, doing the warmup for Jim Stafford,” said guitarist Chuck Stewart, Bodie spokesman. “Up to that time we’d been doing our bluegrass around the area for whatever money or food we could earn. “The Stafford show launched us. Col. Tom Parker heard us and asked us to go on tour with Elvis Presley. Which we did off and on for 2X2 years. “It w as a great experience, appearing on the same show so many times with Elvis. We played to huge audiences, of course, yet there is nothing like working with a small crowd w here you can feel the closeness,” Stewart said

“While Working in Palm Springs I met Greg McDonald and was introduced to Elvis’ manager Colonel Parker. Greg was a gopher for the Colonel trying to learn the business. At that time singer Rick Nelson wanted the Colonel to manage him. The Colonel did not want to for whatever reason. The Colonel introduced Greg to Rick and Greg became Rick’s manager. I met Rick at a club on Sunset. Rick asked me to sing back-up on an album he was recording for Capitol [Playing to Win]. Jack Nitzche produced the album. The album came out in January 1981. Rick asked me to tour to promote and I wound up playing for three and one- half to four years.

That show is so different than the Pittsburgh show one year later. From all accounts it seems Elvis didn’t even want to be there in Pontiac that night. While he gave some good performances that evening, the overall show seems “indifferent,” at best, IMHO. The pics I’ve seen of Elvis before the show present an entertainer who looked less then thrilled about the upcoming show. I’m not trying to crawl into his head, I’m basing that comment on the pics I’ve seen.
Also, Why the hillbilly groups? Sometimes you have to wonder what Tom Parker was thinking about. An entertainer like Elvis didn’t need that kind of act as a “warm up.” Elvis entourage doing their thing, OK, I can live with that. But if I were there that night and this hillbilly group comes out (and wearing diapers!) I’m going to the men’s room or make a run for some food. It’s almost an embarrassment, IMHO. If I had purchased a ticket to enjoy “an evening with Elvis,” the last thing I want to see are hillbilly performers wearing diapers! :facep:
Beyond this, I don’t understand why Elvis started and then abandoned “Wooden Heart” and to do so in such an abrupt manner. He had just performed it in Vegas a few weeks earlier and I’m sure the TCB band remembered it. After the way too long countdown to midnight Elvis doesn’t seem to even know the words of “Auld Lang Syne.”
I have read that Elvis didn’t like the stage, but as an entertainer don’t you adjust for the sake of the fans and the show? Especially with over 60,000 fans coming out on a cold New Year’s Eve?
The fact that Elvis could draw 60,000 fans to a single show is very impressive. But looking back on December 31, 1975, What a shining performance it could have been. It could have been a positive jump-start into 1976, it could have been such a major triumph.

Even more interesting is a concert review I just uncovered, you’ll find it below.

It turns out that both the Bodie Mountain Express and Upton’s Spiral Starecase (later re-named Freedom?) opened a show for Jim Stafford in San Bernardino, about two months before the Presley gig in Pontiac, on 11-01-1975.

The article notes this was the concert debut for the Bodie Mountain Express, and the RCA single you see in the original post above was supposedly available on the Boxcar label. Boxcar, of course, was an entity run by Parker and his cronies. I’ve not seen any copies yet on Boxcar, maybe it never went that far.

Also on the bill that evening was Emmy Lou Harris and the Hot Band. The members of her “Hot Band” at that time were James Burton, Glen Hardin, John Ware, Rodney Crowell, Hank de Vito and Emory Gordy, Jr. As most know, Burton and Hardin were full-timers in Presley’s band, and Gordy played with Elvis for most of 1973.

Could all of this be coincidence? I doubt it. It seems more likely now that both acts were tabbed by management around this period, perhaps the connection with Burton and Hardin also played a part, and somehow each of them seemed like viable show business prospects. Management was reaching out to Presley show soprano Kathy Westmoreland at this time as well. All of this implied that Parker’s “Elvis is my sole client” routine was being abandoned, which had many potential implications.

This thing keeps getting weirder!

Jim Stafford concert was a country explosion
San Bernardino County Sun-Telegram
R.B. Rawnsley, Sun-Telegram Staff Writer
Monday, November 3, 1975

SAN BERNARDINO – Take a large mixing bowl the size of Swing Auditorium. Mix about 2,200 audience members, ages 9 to 90, with the Bodie Mountain Express, Cecilio and Kapono, Jim Stafford, a touch of spice with Emmy Lou Harris, and a pinch of garlic with Upton and the Spiral Starecase. Simmer slowly under spotlights.

Stand back and watch it explode. Don’t worry, the explosion isn’t dangerous. It’s just plain semi-country fun.

The evening started when the Bodie Mountain Express was greeted with warm applause as they entered on stage. The audience knew that they were the “new guys just a local group,”deadly knowledge that can destroy the authority of a performer.

But the Bodie Mountain boys didn’t care. They played on, slowly warming up the audience for the evening ahead. Though it was their first major concert, they pulled it off like seasoned professionals. By the time they were into their second number, “You Stomped on my Heart and Squashed that Sucker Flat,” the audience was warm. And when they started their final number, “Orange Blossom Special,” the audience was cooking with excitement.

The Express is a bluegrass band, but it doesn’t limit itself to traditional bluegrass compositions. It does what the members call “new grass,” which consists of tunes taken from rock, blues or any other style and transforming them into a bluegrass style. The group is innovative and has a lot of potential to increase the popularity of bluegrass music.

Their goal is simple. “We’d like to make a livin’ off our music,” Chuck Stewart, guitarist for the group said backstage. “But if we can’t, well, we’ll just keep playing anyway. We just want to be the best entertainers we can.”

Pete Coffey, who drove from Riverside to see the Bodie Mountain Express perform, remarked that “they’re super good, they’ve worked hard and I’m glad to see they’re getting the exposure they need to make it big. They certainly have the quality to do it.”

The group now has a recording out called “Growin’ Up in a Country Way” and “Mad Mike’s Breakdown” on Boxcar Records of Madison, Tenn. They frequently play at the Penny University in San Bernardino. Their enjoyable act was immediately followed by Dick Haynes of radio station KLAC who overflowed with corny jokes, the sole purpose of which was to hide the disorganization of the production crews. The equipment changes between acts took far too long.

Another irritant for the audience was the lighting and sound. Performers usually had to enter in the dark and wait around on stage for the spotlight to find them. The feedback from improperly balanced mikes, speakers, amplifiers and mixers was outrageous and the resulting ear-piercing shock waves were an affront to the quality, the artists and the poor, defenseless eardrums of the audience.

In terms of production, the show was terrible. “I’ve seen high schools that do a better job than this,” one unidentified voice in the audience complained … But the music was fine. The audience was warmed up and was ready for more fun during the evening.

The second act was Upton and the Spiral Starecase, a typical AM radio teeny-bopper group that combines bee-bop with country and primitive rock. Their act was largely uneventful. Haynes returned with more jokes while the crew set up the equipment for Cecilio and Kapono.

More waiting … more corny jokes … more impatience from the audience. Then the audience discerned Cecilio Rodriguez through the semi-darkness and cheered. After getting the light technician’s attention, Cecilio and Kapono proceeded to charm the audience with their modest, but very effective stage authority.

Cecilio and Kapono are excellent musicians. The two Hawaiians are described as a cross between Seals and Crofts, Loggins and Messina and Simon and Garfunkel, but they are unique in a concert performance.

Emmy Lou Harris was okay with most of the audience but her act lacked energy. Her music is kickback country, a factor that dissipated the energy Cecilio and Kapono had evoked from the audience.

When Jim Stafford appeared, the audience immediately recovered from this semi- lethargy. He shuffled onstage amid the cheers of his fans (composing about 70 per cent of the audience).

Stafford isn’t a musician any more than Alice Cooper is. He’s an entertainer, and he’s so polished that he’d shine like gold while walking down E Street whistling Dixie during a third stage smog episode. Though his compositions, mostly AM radio and mass media TV material, lack any shred of classical value, they’re fun in concert and worth the price of admission.

While busy playing as many as four instruments at once, Stafford retained the concentration and energy necessary to play and communicate with his audience. He has a large following of people who saw his TV show last summer and turned on to him.

One of them, Rick Seasholtz, of San Bernardino, pointed out that “Stafford is pretty well open and has points of view, but he puts them across in a humorous way. He’s got a type of philosophy that he can freely communicate without really offending anybody.”

“He’s great. I love him,” said Cindy Guzman, who’s staying with friends in Rialto. When Stafford finished his act, many of his fans stayed hoping for an encore. After several minutes, most of the audience started to leave and many people were already out the door when the word spread like wildfire: Stafford was coming back on stage.

He flashed into his version of “Johnny B. Goode,” followed by “Spiders and Snakes,” and the audience loved it. He finally left the stage for good, but the audience still wanted more.

After almost four hours of sitting on uncomfortable bleachers, a large group of fans continued chanting, “We want Jim, we want Jim.”

Not every performer can grab an audience like that

The first group, “The Bodie Mountain Express” (also referenced as the “The Pony Mountain Express” and the “Foggy Mountain Boys” – but who really cares!) was a bluegrass group that tried to be funny. One of the members wore a bed sheet wrapped around him like a diaper with a large safety pin holding it together. Terrible. Colonel Parker must have gotten these ‘performers’ off the street somewhere for just about nothing.

  1. eBay reference 222578619839 (July 15, 2017)