Love Stories: Kevin Delaney interviewed by Kim Cooper and Margaret Griffis
Arthur Lee’s Love was one of finest bands of the sixties, but for a variety of reasons they’ve been neglected by the oldies/ nostalgia industry. The rock section of your local book emporium holds a half-dozen tomes celebrating the dubious poetics of Jim Morrison, but so far there’s no book on the far-superior Love. That seemed about to change some months back, when news reports began circulating about a young journalist named Kevin Delaney who’d moved to L.A. to track down Love and their associates. I was curious to learn what he’d found, so I wrote to ask for an interview. Kevin replied that he’d be happy to sit down and talk, but that a Love book was no longer in the works. The institutional racism that hobbled Love in their lifetime seems still to be at work: no major publisher is willing to give Kevin an advance to complete his research. Margaret Griffis and I met Kevin for bagels and juice in Hollywood’s Fairfax District one Sunday in April. This is a story of obsession and thirty-year-old mysteries. Free Arthur Lee.
Scram: So, how did you get into Love?
Kevin Delaney: (Opening a folder and showing us a color xerox) I got into it through this illustration, the cover of Forever Changes. I saw it in a book when I was around seventeen, when I was just getting into rock and roll. This was around 1990, so my experience prior to that was the eighties; eighties Top 40 radio. I had no interest in pop music at all! But once I started to find this sort of stuff, it was like a whole new world was opened to me. They had polled a bunch of rock critics on the best albums. There was Sgt. Pepper and Revolver, and even I knew those. And then there was this. I think it was #17.
Scram: A lot of critics pick it.
Kevin Delaney: But I’d never heard of it before. Love. And just to see the logo, it just looked so weird and trippy, and this illustration I just thought was out of this world. It was reproduced real small and black and white, and I wanted to get the record so I could have the illustration. I found it on CD, which I couldn’t believe. It was actually really neat, because they still had the cardboard longboxes at the time, and this image was right on the longbox. It was kind of a bonus that the music was pretty good, too. So I got really interested in this mysterious band that nobody knew about, and yet they put out such great music.
Scram: So after Forever Changes you picked up the other records.
Kevin Delaney: Yeah, I just fell in love with this album, and obviously then I wanted to get the others. I didn’t know that anybody else even knew of this group. It was totally my own little thing. At that time I don’t think many people cared about them. In the years since then there’s been a resurgence of interest, with the box set, and Bryan’s solo CD that came out. So I was just a little fan, basically.
Scram: And at some point you decided you wanted to be more than that, you wanted to document the group.
Kevin Delaney: I said (overly dramatic voice) “I want to be more than a fan! I wanna have a real relationship!” (laughter)
Scram: So what did you do?
Kevin Delaney: I was sitting on my futon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I’m from, and — well, two things really made me wanna do more with the group. I wanted to do something. I’m the kind of person, I’m not content to just observe things, I always wanna be a part of it. That’s gotten me into a lot of trouble, I might add. Actually, it was Bryan’s CD — have you heard If You Believe In?
Kevin Delaney: That really intrigued me, because again it was this person who I only knew through a few songs on the records, and then to hear all of this other stuff that he had done that had been hidden away for so many years! That really fascinated me. I love that these tapes were found in his mother’s garage. Then what actually started me working on this book project was, Arthur did an album in 1974 called Reel to Real, which is a very funky, kinda soul-influenced record. There were some songs on there that had an amazing bass player. I thought, “Who is this guy? He’s incredible!” I looked at the credits, and the songs that I really liked — he used two different bass players, but the songs I really liked used this guy Robert Rozelle on bass. So I started checking on the internet. I’m a researcher; I love to find obscure things. I’d never heard of this guy before, and as far as I could tell he never played on anything of any real note. It’s not like he went on to something great, or I should say he didn’t go on to be really famous. But lo and behold, I found someone with that name on the internet. I emailed him and asked “Are you the guy who played bass on this album?” And he wrote me back and said “Yeah, that’s me. How’d you find me?!” Because I had found him, I thought I’d like to do something with him, I didn’t know what. Maybe I can write an article and interview him. And he was very agreeable to it. There’s a Love fanzine called The Castle, and I said I’d like to do an interview for it with him. So we did that, and again I was in Pittsburgh at the time. I had no intention of moving out here, but Robert and I had several phone conversations—
Scram: He lives out here?
Kevin Delaney: Yeah. And we were talking about a lot of stuff. He was surprised at how knowledgeable I was about this record. He’d played with Arthur Lee for a long time, but as far as that record was concerned it was just one thing that he did, and he was really surprised that I knew so much about it. Robert really started telling me a lot of stories. There was some amazing stuff — and remember this is all from the seventies, this wasn’t even the sixties!
Scram: I don’t think Arthur ever slowed down, though. The stories go all the way up until he went to jail.
Kevin Delaney: Oh god, the seventies got really crazy! Libel lawsuit material crazy. (laughter)
Scram: But you’re gonna tell us all those stories later, right?
Kevin Delaney: Maybe...
Scram: As long as you say “allegedly,” it’s all right.
Kevin Delaney: Right, “he allegedly—”
Scram: “I’ve heard rumors...”
Kevin Delaney: “Supposedly, I don’t know this is true—” (laughter) Robert knew some people, and he was saying, “You gotta call this woman, because she was a part of the whole thing too, you gotta call this guy, you gotta call Melvin, who played guitar on the album. And so as with a lot of things — and I’ve since learned how to keep this in check — I’ll think “Oh, I wanna do an article for a little fanzine—” and next thing I know I’m working on the screenplay, I’m doin’ the novel—
Scram: You were sucked in! It’s like you opened the tap, with these people who haven’t talked about this in years.
Kevin Delaney: That was what was so exciting about it! So I decided to move to L.A. for a couple different reasons. Some people have made it seem like I only came here to do the book, which was a big part of it, but mostly I just wanted a change. I wanted to get out of Pittsburgh and live somewhere else. I really like L.A. I’d been here before.
Scram: Listening to all that Love couldn’t have hurt. It’s a very seductive image.
Kevin Delaney: Yeah, it was somewhat. So I came out here, and I didn’t know anybody.
Scram: When did you come?
Kevin Delaney: I came in December of ‘97, a few days before Christmas. I mean, I didn’t have any friends here, but I knew Robert. And I just started working like a maniac on finding these people. I guess the big one was Bryan MacLean. I got to know him. I spent a lot of time working on it, and it was really neat, as a fan, to get to know him.
Scram: Were you basically doing this full-time, or were you doing other things?
Kevin Delaney: Well, I was an actor in Pittsburgh, and I worked it out that I did some TV commercials that would be running after I moved, so I had residuals! (laughter) I was like the alcoholic on welfare, with just no responsibilities at all! And the only problem with residuals is that they eventually run out, and then you’re kind of left, like, “Oh my god, what am I gonna do? I have no job, I have nothing!”
Scram: But you have a lot of tapes, of the people you’d talked to, right?
Kevin Delaney: Right, I have a lot of tapes and a whole bunch of friends, but not too much money in the pocket. It was an interesting learning experience. It was one of the most rewarding ways to get yourself totally financially devastated! Some other people blow it all on the lottery, or drinking or drugs — I got to meet all my heroes! That was good enough for me.
Scram: How did you meet Bryan MacLean?
Kevin Delaney: I got in touch with a writer who had interviewed him, Matthew Greenwald, because he was doing what little bit of press Sundazed was arranging for the If You Believe In CD. Matthew gave me Bryan’s phone number. So I called Bryan on the phone. This was not long after I had arrived. I was living in this little dump of an apartment up on Laurel Canyon Blvd. in North Hollywood, and I didn’t even have a sheet on my bed, and I thought “I don’t believe this; I’m talking to Bryan MacLean on the phone!” How much better could my trip to L.A. be? This guy I totally admire and and love and never thought I’d ever be talking with. The thing with all of these people is that they’ve been so out of the spotlight for years, there’s something almost unreal about it, like these are characters from a novel or something. You don’t think these people exist today. And here I was talking to Bryan on the phone, and he was totally, completely against any kind of book!
Scram: Why is that?
Kevin Delaney: Well, I don’t know, really. And I don’t even know if he really was totally against it. He was acting that way, but I can say now, now that I know he’ll never read this, that he was totally obnoxious. (laughter) And I just kept on. He was trying to convince me that nobody cared about Love. Why would he talk about this? He had no interest in opening up this old part of his life.
Scram: But he had just allowed his old tapes to be released.
Kevin Delaney: Right, but I think that was different, because that was his music, his songs. He was against the idea of going into the whole story.
Scram: Do you think that was his religious convictions, just being offended by the decadence of Love?
Kevin Delaney: No, I think he was testing me, basically. Because about eight months later, after a lot of hounding and begging and crying— (laughter)
Scram: You just wouldn’t give up!
Kevin Delaney: He finally just said, “Man, I gotta get this kid off my case!” (laughter) “This kid’s gonna kill me!” He wanted to make sure it was gonna be really good. And we also became friends, and I think he wanted me to get to know him. Maybe it had to do with him doing the press for If You Believe In, when everyone was asking him all about the sixties. It’s like, “Hello — I’m a human being — I’m alive now.” And yet all anybody cared about was the Bryan MacLean from Love in the sixties. So we became friends, and that gave me the opportunity to get to know him as a person, which is what I think he really wanted. He made it clear that he didn’t want to delve into this right away. He always kind of left the door open, that was it. When I say he was against it, he was seemingly against it but he let me know that there was maybe a possibility of it happening. (laughs)
Scram: If you really wanted it. Do you think if he had been totally opposed, without suggesting that there was an opening, that you would have backed off and left him alone?
Kevin Delaney: Oh yeah. I wouldn’t pressure anyone into doing something they didn’t want to do. He was more trying to convince me that this was ridiculous and I was wasting my time, and most of the other guys were probably dead anyway. One time, after we’d started doing the interviews, he called me up. I’d been talking about Johnny Echols, the guitar player, who has not been heard from in years. I mean the guy has vanished! All kinds of writers have been trying to find him. And Bryan calls me up for some reason, and he says, “I think Echols is dead.” I said, “Why?” “I dunno, I just think he is.” I said, “Well, that’s not that much to go by, y’know?!”
Scram: You can check the social security index—
Kevin Delaney: Well, actually we did! That’s a whole ‘nother story. I hired a private investigator. It was the only time I’ve ever done that. For everybody else, I just busted my behind to find them. Echols was a guy I just could not find. I didn’t know if he was dead; I didn’t know anything about him. I did get his social security number, though, off a session sheet. (Laughing) And I hired this private investigator.
Scram: How’d you find a P.I.? The phone book?
Kevin Delaney: Oh yeah, you know, it’s a fairly routine thing. They find people, deadbeat dads who don’t pay their child support and whatnot. And this guy is saying to me — it was comical! — he was saying, “I’ve been in business for thirty years, I have never failed once. I will guarantee—” I said, “But what if you don’t find him? Do I get my money back?” “Don’t worry about that. I will find him. I have never failed once in thirty years!” I said, “All right, fine, whatever.” He said, “What information do you have?” I have a social security number—” “That’s all I need! If we have a social security number, we’re in!” So I gave him the social security number, and he calls me back about a half hour later, and he says, “Uh... do you have any more information on this guy.” “Why?” He says, “Well, uh, I checked a couple databases here—” “What, wasn’t the social security number good?” “The social security number is good, but he’s not using it! The last time it’s been used is 1978.” So I gave him some more information, and he called me back and forth, and he ended up trying to convince me that Arthur Lee and Johnny Echols were the same person! (Laughter) I said, “You gotta be out of your mind. Are you kidding me?’’ He asked me “Well what can you tell me about this guy?” I said, “All I really know is he was a guitar player in a band called Love, and he was in Los Angeles in the sixties. I don’t know where he is today.” “Who else was in this band?” “Well, the leader was a guy named Arthur Lee.” He asks “Is Johnny Echols white?” I said, “No, he’s bi-racial, he’s part black and part white.” “Uh huh. And is Arthur Lee white?” “Arthur Lee is also mulatto.” And he goes, “Ah ha!” (Laughter) I said, “No no no no no!” He goes, “What instrument did Arthur Lee play?’’ “He played guitar.” “And what instrument did Johnny Echols play?” I was like, I don’t believe this, he’s trying to convince me that they’re the same person. He’s like, “But how do you know?!” I said, “Oh my god!” Needless to say, he was not able to find Johnny Echols!
Scram: Did you get your money back?
Kevin Delaney: I didn’t pay him anything. When he delivers the information you send him a check. But the story has a happy ending. About three weeks ago, real early one Sunday morning, I’m lying in bed, the phone rings, and I think, “Oh, I’ll just let it go.” And I got up a little bit later, checked my phone messages — and Johnny Echols called me up! He had read in Rolling Stone about Bryan MacLean’s death, wanted to find out about it, saw my name in there and just looked me up in the phone book.
Scram: Where is he?
Kevin Delaney: [gives an off-the-record response; sorry fans. But at least we now know that Johnny Echols has not yet joined the choir invisible.] He seemed to really trust me, I think maybe because of the relationship I had with Bryan, and he was interested, too, in doing an interview, which I’m really excited about. We haven’t done that yet. Even though I’m not doing the book anymore, I thought—
Scram: Oh, you might as well.
Kevin Delaney: Oh, yeah! Why not? Just as a fan. After we’d talked about Bryan, I said “Johnny, I got to tell you, there’s a million questions I’ve got to ask you!” He’s really been kind of like the mystery man. It was neat to have heard from him. So actually, I’ve talked to all the guys — except for Ken Forssi, who died — from the original band now.
Scram: How did you talk to Arthur?
Kevin Delaney: He called me up, too.
Kevin Delaney: Yeah, of course. From prison. And it’s a total hassle, because there’s a beep going throughout, and he’s in a room where there’s fifteen other guys waiting to use the phone. And we can only talk fifteen minutes at a time, and every two minutes this voice breaks in (mock officious): “This is a collect call from the California State Correctional Facility.” It’s not exactly prime interviewing atmosphere...
Scram: Can you go up to talk to him?
Kevin Delaney: He doesn’t want visitors. He was another one that had no interest in it at all until maybe about two months ago, and all of a sudden he was totally gung ho, and wanted to be part of it. What he wanted to do was to write out his parts. The book was an oral history, so it’s stories from people, arranged in chronological order, and he wanted to write out all his stuff himself. I thought that was great. I was thrilled to have him be a part of it. Of course I had no way of calling him, so it was mostly whenever he decided to call me that we’d talk.
Scram: Does he still want to write that out for you, now that the book’s on hold?
Kevin Delaney: I don’t know. I’d been in touch with a former girlfriend of his, and I’d made the decision that I wasn’t gonna do the book anymore. I mean, I can’t, I physically can’t do this book anymore, and I told her and she told him about it. It was impossible to talk, so he says “Just write me a letter and tell me what’s going on.” So I wrote that I’m not doing the book anymore, and I haven’t heard from him since.
Scram: When’s he due out? Was it an eight year sentence?
Kevin Delaney: Who knows? He was sentenced to twelve years; he’s already done two or three. They said he has to serve at least 80% of that, but who knows? Killers get out after a ride on a merry-go-round. I don’t know.
Scram: Do you anticipate holding on to your material and doing the book at some future date?
Kevin Delaney: Oh yeah. Oh, it’ll get done, don’t worry.
Kevin Delaney: The main thing was, I wanted to get the word out about the book being on hold. A lot of people were really excited about it, waiting for it. Although this is probably gonna piss a lot of fans off, I’m really intrigued by the idea of holding onto this stuff for twenty or thirty years, and locking it away. It’s the untouched stuff. I mean, I’ve got all kinds of information nobody else has!
Scram: So you have to interview everybody who wants to be interviewed for the book now, because they might die.
Kevin Delaney: Well, I’ve pretty much already done that! I’ve interviewed over fifty people, everyone from band members to fans to groupies. My rule for interviewing was you either had to have seen the original band live or you had to know one of the members. If you fit either of those criteria I wanted to interview you. And I really got hooked up big time with the internet — still, I’ve got eyes and ears all over the world. I got some amazing interviews with peripheral people who had great stories to tell.
Scram: What are some of the more interesting interviews that you did?
Kevin Delaney: Well, I’d have to respond on a totally personal level. Definitely all the guys in the band. Finally, after eight months of getting to know Bryan MacLean, when he finally said that he wanted to be part of it. And then to come to the realization — wow! this is Bryan MacLean from Love, I totally forgot! (laughter) This guy has a million amazing stories to tell! He told me things he’d never told anybody before, new insights, new perspectives on things. And one thing I was really shocked at was how many times he would mention Arthur and his current situation. He would wonder what he did to contribute to it. In other words, Arthur being the kind of person who would do things to get himself in trouble, things that are so anti-social, things that are just not right. And Bryan, I think, was really kind of tormented by how he had very abruptly left the band, and maybe he thought that Arthur felt abandoned. And so that was incredible. Actually, they were all — I was just amazed at how even people who said they had nothing to tell me had amazing things to contribute. There was one woman — this was really weird — I was looking through a book of photography from the sixties, by a guy named Baron Wolman. Great photos. There was a section in there of groupies, and there was a picture of a woman named Catherine James, a picture of her and her little baby. And I don’t know why, but I looked at this picture and I just thought, “That woman has a story to tell me!” I had no idea who she was, even if she was alive, but I said, “That woman has a story to tell me.” And I thought, well, I’ll put her on my list of people to find. So, Pamela Des Barres called me up one night — I’d interviewed Pamela for the book — and she says, “I want you to come over for dinner at my house. Just a little thing, me, someone else, and my friend Catherine.” And I said, “What’s Catherine’s last name?” She said, “James.” I said, “I’ll be right over!” (laughs) Catherine came late, we were in the middle of eating dinner, but sure enough, it’s her. And when she walked in I almost fell out of my chair! After dinner everyone was clearing plates, and I just scooched up next to her, and said, “So, Catherine, y’know I’m doing this book about Love and the guys in the band; did you have any involvement with them?” She says, “No. I lived in L.A. for a while, but I moved to New York in ‘66, so I wasn’t even in town by the time the band was together.” And I thought, “Oh, well, that’s pretty weird. Those cosmic forces, what the hell?” “You didn’t have any involvement with the band at all?” She says, “No... I mean, other than Bryan, before he was in the band. He was just a little kid then, playing at this coffee house.” I said, “Tell me more!” Turns out, she knew Bryan when he was just starting out. So, needless to say, the tape recorder was whipped out, the interview was had on the spot, and I got about fifteen minutes of stuff I’d never heard of before, and it was pretty amazing! So that was a neat one. And Bob Pepper was incredible — and again, this is all personal for me, because I love his work so much. I was collecting his artwork. And he was one of those people, too, everyone was saying he was dead! I accepted that, I never questioned it, until one day I was walking along and thought “What if he’s alive?” And I found him in New York. I was so thrilled when I got him on the phone, it was like logic went out the window! I literally hung up the phone and started packing my bag. [holds up the Forever Changes art] I just was fascinated, because he told me how he did this, how they sent him photos of the band members and he blew them up on a Lucite machine and was arranging them, and he was torn between making it a white or a black background — and I love that kind of stuff, because I think, “Wow, what if it was a black background?” The album would have such a different look to it. And also David Angel, who did all the horn arrangements, was another really rewarding interview. He had never been interviewed, and yet his name is on the albums. He orchestrated this album, which is one of the first records with strings and horns on it, and I’m thinking why hasn’t anyone talked to this guy before?! It’s a totally revolutionary thing that he did.
Scram: Did you find that anyone had ever been to see most of these people before?
Kevin Delaney: No! I was shocked at talking to writers who couldn’t believe how many people I had found. They’d say, “You talked to that guy? I’ve been looking for him for years!” Well, I did put a lot of effort into finding these people, but—
Scram: The internet makes a huge difference, if people tried to find them in the early nineties and gave up—
Kevin Delaney: It wasn’t even so much through the internet. A lot of people did not want to be found, which was an interesting situation I’d be in, because after I’d found them I’d have to convince them to be part of this. It was mostly through personal contacts, finding a lot of these peripheral people, and then those people helped me get in touch with the people who were in the band.
Scram: You must find it hard to let go, after this being the center of your life for years.
Kevin Delaney: (laughs) No, I’m thrilled to get rid of it, really! It was like this 8000 pound spider that was weaving a web around me! I got totally sucked into it. This started out with some guy — I liked his bass playing — I’ll do a little article, right? Next thing I know I’m—
Scram: It’s because you’re an enthusiast! You have to watch out what you like.
Kevin Delaney: Well, I’m not as enthusiastic as I used to be! (laughter) I’m finally at the point where I can listen to the music again, it’s not a traumatic experience. (laughter) I’d listen to the records and I’d just see these credit card bills!
Scram: And that’s the story of the Love biography up to the present. So, Kevin, what’s next for you?
Kevin Delaney: Hyping myself as an actor, voice-over artist — basically whoring myself in any way I possibly can.
Scram: You’re in the right town.
Kevin Delaney: Oh, yeah. It’s Whoresville USA. I did a lot of really wacky shit back east, and so I’m giving it a go here. I do a lot of writing — I write for Rolling Stone Online, Launch Online — actually I’m trying to get out of the music aspect of things, because I’ve been totally branded as this sixties nut, and I’m not at all.
Scram: Is Love the only sixties band you like?
Kevin Delaney: No. I like good music, and I do like a lot of bands from the sixties, but I’m not a collector. Some people are really ridiculous about it. I just like the music. I don’t know what’s next. I don’t talk about the future anymore.