In the early Eighties, there was a buzz in the music industry about 4 out of 5 Doctors. Our agent from Philadelphia put together a showcase at Trax in NY and reps from the five major labels were in the audience. The Doctors took the stage with fire in their eyes and gave the performance of a lifetime. The house was packed with fans from the DC area. Someone from the crowd collapsed in a drug-induced state and hung on the floor monitor. My keyboard stand broke and I had to hold up the keyboard with one hand. Skunk Baxter, representing A & M records, stood 5 feet from George and cheered on his solos.
The next morning, after partying all night with our friends and DC fans, we got offers from all five labels. This was a crowning achievement for the Doctors and especially for me as we had spent five years prior peddling demos to what George describes as "howls of apathy" and form rejection letters. To me, everything that happened after that was gravy; opening up for the Cars, the Clash, touring with Hall and Oates.
Most bands have one writer, we had three. There was an unspoken competition to have one of your songs make the cut and I think it influenced us to dig deeper and come up with better tunes. I was always proud of the Doctor's lyrics and melodies and I think after you wade through the hiccup vocals, skinny ties, putt putt guitars and other affectations of the Power Pop, New Wave era, they stand the test of time. I still get several emails a month from Doctor fans who swear our first LP is one of their favorites of all time.
We had some of the same people show up at every gig. That meant a lot to the band. There was nothing like looking out at the crowd and seeing familiar faces. The Doctors still are some of the brightest, most talented people I've hung with. George, who came up with the band name, is the funniest man I know and continously takes guitar playing to places no one else has. Cal has the musical knowledge and ears that gave the Doctors their sound. If you are a musician, I challenge you to play those melodic bass parts he came up with AND sing lead at the same time. How he does it is incomprehensible to me. Tommy was the heart and soul of the band. He plays drums with so much feel and precision it was no wonder that he had his own followers edge him on. ("They're not yelling Boo, they're yelling Ballew!")
As with any criminal enterprise, it seems the delicate chemistry of such talent can only exist for a short amount of time.
I'm sure if the Doctors had their druthers, we'd have stayed together and eventually we would have reached a bigger audience.
You can still hear and feel the Doctors sound in the never-but-soon-to-be released third LP Cruel and Unusual. But to be honest,
I've never in my life since found an equal to playing for 10,000 people.
What a time it was, indeed. - Jeff (Jeff)