by Michael Buffalo Smith
Eric Quincy Tate was one of the greatest Southern Rock bands of all time, but they just never got the recognition they so richly deserved. The Texas based band was compared by many to fellow Capricorn Records artists The Allman Brothers Band, due mostly to their extreme talent and ability to take the music to another level in concert, playing extended jams and brilliantly executed rock songs.Two of the band’s founding members died during t
he past year or so, leaving behind a musical legacy of great importance to any who ever heard them live or on record, because onc you herd the band, you were hooked for life.
We spoke with bassist David Cantonwine about the band, his friends, and the whole Macon scene during the Southern Rock Era.
It’s been a rough few months on EQT fans, and I am sure on the band and family. First off, give me your thoughts on the late Donnie McCormick, his music and his art.
Donnie McCormick was a ture friend and mentor. He taught me how to be a real musician. I guess I can say that about all the guys in the band. We spent a lot of time together, touring and playing club dates. Donnie was a one of a kind. He Didn’t act like, sing like, or talk like anyone else. And he was great at making you watch him while he was singing or playing the drums. Hell, I used to have a blast watching Donnie perform - and I was in the band! Best seat in the house.
Same question, Bear Sauls.
Wayne Sauls was another true friend who would do anything for you. We were playing down at Grants Lounge one weekend, I think it was Saturday. We all got up and wandered around Macon and found this fresh meat market, and Bear said "I bet they got pigs feet in there.” So we go in and Bear told the lady that he wanted fourpigs feet. She said, “honey these all for you?” Bear said “Yeah.” She says “Okay, I'll give you four pigs feet. You gonna eat them all at one time?” Bear said, “Just four pigs feet please, %#$*&!!” The lady hollared out, “Junior! Give the man 16 of them pig feet!” I guess you had to be there but we all laughed our asses off. But yeah, Bear was a friend and damn good guitar player - sorry, GREAT guitar player.
Back to the beginning. How did the band come to be formed? What was you guys “battle plan” when you first got together, and what year was that?
In 1967, I was having the time of my life, It was like - wow! Joe Rogers and I played together in a band named The American Way. We were still in high school at that time, Dyke McCarty, our drummer, had this brother Allen who was the host of an American Bandstand type TV dance show on Saturday mornings called Teen Time. We were on TV every other week. Our manager owned the biggest rock venue in town, The Stardust Rollercadel, so we played there ever other week. I was 17 and in high school. The band, the girls, sex in the parking lot during lunch - we were local rock stars.
I really can’t remember why our band broke up. But Joe and I parted after that and played with other bands. Somehow I wound up in Austin, Texas jamming with all those acid freaks - remember this was still ‘67. Anyway, I got a record deal with International Artists out of Houston - more acid. I think that was on a Fri - Fri - Fri - Da - Da - Da -Day. (Laughs) I was suppose to start recording an album on Monday, so I decided to go down to see my parents that weekend, who lived in Corpus Christi. Long story short, while I was there I went out to a Club called the Muddy Turtle, and that's where the birth of Eric Quincy Tate took place. What a mess - goey shit everywhere.
How did Tony Joe White figure into your success?
The first time I met Tony Joe White was at our local music store in Corpus Christi, Texas. He had his guitar with him, getting strings put on or something, But I remember asking him why his guitar was so dirty. He told me that It gave it soul. Gators got your granny...
Donnie and Tony Joe were good friends and had grew up with the same influences. Donnie had put out a couple of 45’s and had a local hit with "LCB"( Liquor Control Board) then Tony got this record deal and had the the national hit "Polk Salad Annie." Tony went on to the big time and on the way got us this record deal with Atco records, which led to Capricorn, staring Phil Walden and Frank Fenter.
Did you guys do a lot of shows with The Allmans? What was that like? Did you know Duane?
We did quite a few dates with the Brothers and everyone else in between. Doing dates with them was always party ‘til dawn, sleep all day, next gig. Knowing Duane back in those days was no big deal. We saw him and Gregg a lot in Macon, when we were recording. Duane did some session stuff with us, and Gregg and Donnie used to bullshit a lot. Back then the Brothers weren't that big yet, and I still couldn't believe I was making a record in the same studio that Otis Redding recorded in. That was the biggest thing to me. All the Macon acts used to hang out at Grants Lounge ‘til closing time, then go up the street to Hodges Hot Chicken Restaurant. The chicken was so hot your nose hairs would burn off before you could get it to your mouth. The other Capricorn bands, we all new each other on a “Hey how are ya” kind of thing. We all did gigs together all over the country so we would run into each other all the time, party ‘til we puked and hit the road again.Those were the days.
What do you recall about working with Paul Hornsby?
Again, I was at that stage in my life where I could not believe I was in a band that had a record deal with the company that recorded Otis Redding. But recording with Paul Hornsby was a big learning experence for me. As I remember he was very patient with us and brought out the best in everybody. We still stay in touch a little on the digital highway.
Where in the world did you guys get your band name?
It came from Eric, for Claption, Quincy for Jones and Tate as in potato.
Do you feel at all slighted by the powers that be? Many have said you should have been as big as the Allmans. Your thoughts?
We should have been bigger than Led Zeppelin. All the money was on the Brothers at that time. So what are ya gonna do.
Tell us about some of the real high points in the career of EQT.
Meeting all the famous people was a real high point. Once we opened up for B.B. King in Central Park. I was sitting outside smoking a cig before the show and this big black guy walks up to me and says "hello, I'm BB King,” and shook my hand. I about shit in my pants. I shook B.B. f**king King's hand.
Here's one for ya. Back in ‘69 when the band first got together we were playing this club in Austin, Texas. When we took a break the manager walked up to us and asked if we minded if some guys got up and jammed on our equiment. We said great, ya'll play as long as you want. We went outside for a smoke and I said, “You know who that is? Thats Jimmy Page. I think he was in the Yardbirds. Zeppelin was playing in Austin that night with Spirit- remember Spirit?
Sure. Randy California. Great band.
They were on there first US tour. Okay, one more. I met Little Richard. EQT and his people were staying at the same hotel in Hollywood, We had just played at the Whiskey-A-Go Go, That's a whole nother story. Anyway, I asked Little Richard If that was his real hair. He grabs hold of his hair and yanks it off his head and says “Hell yeah, thats my hair! I bought It!" That son of a bitch sold me an ounce of pot that turned out to be pipe tobbaco.
How many albums did you record. and did you have any personal favorites and why? Is there a place that sells all of the EQT albums on CD?
Yes, you can purchase CDs at www.ericquincytate.com. Search "order stuff." All Of Eric Quincy Tate's albums have been transferred, remastered and converted to CD By "The Vinyl Masters" out of New York, and they sound awesome, If I do say so myself. And with the new release of Rock & Roll Transfusion coming soon, that will complete all the actual albums we had out. Then we get to the good stuff - studio outtakes, live recordings, rehearsals,a lot of good stuff.
I think the album I like the best is- I listened to Drinking Man's Friend the other night, I guess that's my favorite - for now.
Yeah, I love Transfusion. What do you remember about that 20 year reunion show?
I was scared shitless. My face was flour white,We hadn't played together for a while,except for rehearsing, and I had quit playing altogether. Tried to do the family thing for few years.
Who are your favorite bass players?
Jack Bruce Is #1. then there was Jack Casady, throw in Paul McCartney for some silly pop, and I think that's about it. I'm sure there's more, but those were my biggest influences.
Tell me about your other musical projects, past, present and future?
I bought a bread route here in North Augusta, SC a few years back and that keeps me pretty busy. I still write music and record demos in a mini-studio I have in my house. Check out www.youtube.com search Damned Ole Dave. I’ve got a couple of things on there. Keeps me off the streets and out of the bars.
Read more and order their CD's at ericquincytate.com