Canadian rock icon Greg Godovitz is best known as the bassist and vocalist for the Toronto band Goddo, but he’s got a musical history that spans decades, including stints with Fludd and an early band called Sherman & Peabody with Buzz Shearman (Moxy) and Gil Moore (Triumph).
Greg has recently released his second book of stories and antidotes and took some time to tell 519 all about it.
Tell me about the new book.
My new book finished late in 2020. I wrote it in five or six different locations. I’m not very adept at writing at home, so, I have a tendency to travel.
I started in Canmore, Alberta for a couple of months, then I went to the Dominican Republic, up north to Muskoka, and finished it down in Picton, Ontario. I always find it easier to write something when you’re in different locations.
I don’t know if you’re aware of my first book, “Travels With My Amp” that came out in 2011. I started to write part two of that book, which ended in 1984, when “GODDO” first called it a day, and I started writing. I wrote 150 pages, and I just thought it was more of the same and it was pretty boring. So, I scrapped it, and then started writing short stories that just flipped around in time, because there was nothing in the first book about my early days, which was pretty much as messed up as my adult life.
I started writing stories, about my early life, but then included rock and roll stuff – updates on Goddo, my radio show “Rock Talk”, which encompassed a lot of rock stars, that I interviewed for a couple years. Things like hanging out with Jeff Healey and Steve Lukather (Toto) introducing me to Ringo Starr. But the thing is, the stories for the most part, were really funny. And I realized I was writing a humor book.
That’s why it took six years to finish it because being funny is one thing. Writing funny is quite another – it’s difficult. You wake up, sober up, and you look at what you wrote the night before and go, this isn’t funny. So you have to start again.
I finally finished the book in Picton, Prince Edward County. Fortunately, we got it out in time for late November/December. The book sold very very well and continues to do so.
Why handle a second book? You briefly mentioned that the first book didn’t cover the early stuff, but why a second one?
At this point I’ve written just under 800 pages. And it still doesn’t encompass the whole story. The first book started in 1964, when I started playing, it ended in 1984. So, it really only covered 20 years of my career. Some of the next 20 years was interesting, some of it was annoying and some of it was just boring, but there was enough stuff in there to keep it flowing, keep it interesting, and keep it funny.
Then I realized when I finished this book, I’ve written nothing about the eight years I spent in Calgary. I’d written nothing about the five years since I returned to Toronto. I realized that there was another book to cover.
Is there another book?
Well, it seems that I have this natural aptitude I’ve got for writing stuff that people find amusing to read. I can’t see stopping anytime soon.
I don’t know if you’re a musician, yourself, but the music business is finished. The pandemic has put so many people out of work and in the poorhouse. I’ve got all my guitars, all my equipment, I got my band sitting around waiting, and we can’t do anything. So, I thought, what’s my drummer doing? He’s writing a book. What am I doing? I’m writing another book.
If you got that ability, instead of just sitting around staring at the walls, or drinking yourself to death, you might as well do something, positive for yourself, even if it’s just for you.
I hope that everything turns out, and I live long enough to finish this next book. I’ve been thinking that it took so long to write the second book – six years because of the nature of what the book was about.
What I’m trying to do is condition myself to write a couple of pages every day, just that, and I could have the book ready for this year, or this Christmas coming up. So, that’s the game plan. Then, I have written a trilogy, basically it’s a three-part series.
I’m calling the book, “The Idiots Trilogy, Part 4”. So, that’s the title of the new book. I have to write about books, a subject of a pandemic, because it’s what we’re all living through. I’ve managed to find humor in the stuff that I’m writing already about what we’re going through.
There are certain elements of our new reality that are pretty funny when you think about it. It’s not all going to be about that, of course.
I’ve already got stories coming in about the other things, like living in Calgary. I had a great eight years living out west. It was a whole new career for me, a whole new world. There was a lot to explore. There were a lot of incredible adventures that happened. It was women and new musical experiences. There’s still stuff to write about.
It’s funny you mentioned Calgary as a different world because I’ve lived on both sides of the country, as well as Toronto and Vancouver. And I’ve noticed that the Western bands spend most of their time, out west and the Eastern bands spend most of their time out east, because when I moved from Toronto to Vancouver, I was like, none of my favorite Toronto bands are playing anywhere around here. So, I got to learn some new stuff.
Yeah, that’s a good point. We were lucky in the Goddo touring days because our records were selling right across the country. We were hugely popular in certain markets up there. Winnipeg especially was a huge market for us. When I arrived in Calgary, I remember driving from the airport down to where we were going to live. And we drove by the Max Bell’s arena, which is up on a hill, it’s yellow and red, you can’t miss it. I looked at my gal and I said” we put 7500 people into that, the last time I played Calgary”, so a lot of people have this misconception that Goddo for instance, was just an Ontario bar band. We were a bar band to Toronto because you could play in six different clubs every night of the week, or seven if you wanted to. One night, you could be in Mississauga, the next night you could be in Pickering. It was all a hop skip and a jump away from the next packed club, it didn’t matter if it was Monday or whatever. But then when we left Toronto, and started playing outside of Toronto, that’s when things started taking off during these wonderful halls like The KEE to Bala, or the Port Dover Summer Gardens, those were all big dance clubs. And then it was a jump to going out west and playing clubs. The first time west, and then coming back. All of a sudden, we were in soft seat theaters, smaller arenas, or else we were playing the big arenas opening up for Rush or people like that.
Are the books therapeutic for you to write?
Oh, absolutely. Not only that, but when I was in Canmore about to start writing the second book, the first thing I did was take out a copy of the first book and read it. I was lying on the couch, reading it, and laughing out loud at my own writing. I can see why people like this because I’ve never re-read it after I wrote it. So, I didn’t really have to, but then I wanted to make sure I didn’t repeat myself. Now I have an opportunity, I have a copy of the new book sitting on the table in the living room. And I’ve been picking it up and reading a couple chapters.
Okay, this works, I mean that whatever the heck flowed out of my head is working on the printed page, I’ve enjoyed it. There are not too many mistakes and I think it’s pretty factual because I sort of remember everything.
I had the advantage with “Travel With My Amp”, because I had all my diaries, pictures, concert ticket stubs, and I could really keep it chronological. But this book, I didn’t have any aids. It was basically just remembering things, from my childhood or remembering things about a recording session, a lot of it was pretty memorable stuff anyway, so it was a lot easier to write this one.
With research, you said, you’ve kept a lot of notes for the first one. How detailed are your notes?
I kept accurate daily diaries for almost 40 years. Whenever we did a concert, one of my crew guys would get me the ticket stub from the actual ticket and the poster, and then the next day we got the reviews from the newspapers. We also had fan letters.
My archives currently are at the University of Toronto, and they said that they’d never seen a more comprehensive archive from any artist. I had the first blurb from the Toronto Telegram, which doesn’t even exist anymore.
My first band playing at a place called the London Fog, we were like a British Invasion band, and I cut that out of the paper and kept it.
My mother kept a scrapbook of all my stuff, so the first book is really in chronological order.
The second book, not at all, it just jumps around in time and space.
I don’t know if you’re a Kurt Vonnegut fan or not, but he wrote a great book called “Slaughterhouse Five”. The hero of the book is a character named “Billy Pilgrim”, who becomes unstuck in time. So, one minute, he’s sitting at the dinner table, the next minute, he’s on the planet Tralfamadore in his geodesic dome, with his stripper name, Montana Wildhack. And I actually said this, “I’m the Billy pilgrim of this book”. I am unstuck in time. So, the next story could be about going to scout camp with a psychopath, when I was 11. And then it’ll jump to last year meeting Ringo Starr. That’s how the book went; it was just all over the place. And I liked it that way, it reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut. He’s my favorite author.
You just mentioned a couple seconds ago, that your first band was a British cover band. What do you remember about that band? Was it a good learning experience for you to bring it to the next level?
I was 13 years old, for starters. Then, I met Brian Pilling, he was 14 or 15, and his brother Ed came back from England, he was 17. And we formed this band called “The Pretty Ones”. Now, the Pilling brothers would end by the time I was 15 – they left to go back to England. And I couldn’t go because my parents said, “No, you’re not going to go and live in England at 15. You can’t do it.”
They went over there and ended up in a Cat Stevens band. I went into a blues band, then I went into a psychedelic band, Eddie Schwartz from “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” was our singer. That ended up back into a bluesy sort of psychedelic band.
Then Ed and Brian came back, and we put Fludd together. Now, we didn’t have the experience, but they became great songwriters.
When you look at the eight top 10, Canadian hits that Fludd had, “Cousin Married”, “Brother & Me”, “I Held Out”, “Get Up, Get Out and Move On”, fantastic songs that we were doing. I recorded all of those, by the time I was 20. But the problem was that I was also writing songs and Fludd was Brian and Ed band. Even though I was a boyhood chum and everything, they wouldn’t do my songs. So I finally said “I have to get my own band together” and I left in 1975 and started Goddo.
At what point was Sherman and Peabody,? That’s a legendary Canadian music tale?
I met the guys when I was 15. I answered an ad in the newspaper saying, looking for a singing bass player. I called the guy up and he said, how old are you? And I told him I was 16. Because I thought that made me sound older. I was only 15 and then I went down with my little Beatles bass and my Beatles haircut.
These guys were, like, downtown guys. They were Jones and Gerard guys; they were a bit greasy.
They were playing the blues, but they were great musicians. One of the guys to this day, John Bjarnason, is not only my chiropractor, but one of the best blues harmonica players ever.
After that broke up, they became Whiskey Howl. Well first of all, we morphed into Sherman and Peabody, and then it was like a six-piece band by Buzz Sherman that ended up being in Moxy. He was the lead singer of the band and hence the Sherman & Peabody cartoon reference – and it was killer band. We opened up for John Mayall, we opened up for Albert King, we were supposed to open up for Led Zeppelin, but we couldn’t find a guitar player that day. I went to the show, I was all pissed off because we should have been playing with Led Zeppelin. But it didn’t happen.
What exists from that era? Are there any Sherman and Peabody recordings?
No, we never recorded anything. I remember that my father came down to a club in Yorkville and recorded it on his cassette player, and my little sister recorded overtop of it – like making noises and stuff.
The day I left high school, I sang “Hey Jude” at the Christmas assembly, in front of 2,000 kids and I could sing it pretty well. At the end of it, we had the school orchestra come in, just like the Beatles playing in those big horn lines, then all the kids were singing the “nananana, nannana” part. It was the only copy of that performance and my little sister recorded overtop of it.
In terms of old footage and archive stuff, your CityTV performance from 1979, appeared in DVD at one point. That’s cool when stuff like that exists, since you guys are right at your prime there.
At that point, for sure. A lot of stuff happened at ‘78 and ‘79. We were being managed by the same people that handled ‘Long John Baldry” and “Angela Bowie” was in there somehow.
We were at the top of our game. “An Act Of Goddo” had just come out. Our third album was doing really well with overtures and everything. That was great. Unfortunately, that disc, which should be available at True North records, no longer exists. I’ve got a copy of it. You know, it’s all over YouTube and most people can just watch it that way.
We were the first band that did the set up your speakers beside your TV, it’s going to be on “CHUM-FM” and on “CityTV” simultaneously. It was indeed live.
I remember the leopard skin satin suit that I had made, it arrived 10 minutes before we went to air, I was standing there in corduroy pants and a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, not even a T-shirt. I was losing my mind wondering where the hell is my suit. The girl came, brought it in. I was in it. I was screaming at her, she was like, pinning the hems on it before we walked on stage. It was just one of those great, horrible moments that you go through.
That probably made the performance even more intense and awesome, right?
Oh? Well, there was a certain bit of nervous energy hitting that stage. Plus, knowing the fact that we were playing live, if anything went wrong.
At the end, I do a song on the piano. First of all, I can’t play the piano. That is the only song I ever wrote on a piano. I wrote it out of an arena in Moncton, New Brunswick, when I was with Fludd. I went in for sound check and the piano was there, I sat down, and I wrote that song. I don’t know what the chord changes are. I just know how to do it.
We’re playing live on television and I actually had the guts to play a grand piano on a live broadcast. I didn’t make one mistake, the God’s were just sitting on my shoulders that day. But I knew it was going to be a great end, because we had that four-piece horn section that were basically doing streamlines behind it, so I knew visually it was going to be cool. And Thank God, I didn’t screw it up. But would I ever do that again? No.
Do you have the balls to do something crazy like that again?
Well, No. I was 26/27 when I did that, so, I was young, foolhardy, and riding around on the top of cars that were going 100 miles an hour jumping from balcony, the balcony, and hotels 30 floors up. I was fearless back then. In fact, everybody can read all about that in the first book; they always say it’s incredible that I’m still alive.
Goddo, as a band was very high energy in general. The photos of all the leaps in the air are just epic photos. Was the band always meant to be high energy or did it just develop into that?
I was like that when I was in Fludd when I was just the bass player. I would sing harmonies, but I didn’t sing any of the lead. So I had a lot of time to develop the moves. I used to say I was in the air more than I was on the ground. Then I saw Gino play with Brutus, and he was the same way. So, I thought if we’re going to do a power trio, why not have two guys up front that really dig in! We never did any of that real choreograph stuff. Occasionally, I think somebody would get a picture of us standing next to each other. But we never did that KISS stuff, like rocking back and forth with a guitar. I always thought that stuff was crap. We never used flash bombs and stuff like that. Occasionally, the roadies would throw them in, but I thought, when you get bigger applause for your flash bombs than you’re getting for your music, something’s wrong. So, let’s save the bullshit and just be a great rock band. We’ll get our encore our way. That’s what we did.
So, you’re not a KISS fan, I take it?
Oh, very much so. But that’s their shtick. KISS came up with a million tons of dynamite onstage, God bless them for it. It looked great on them. In fact, when I was with Fludd, we played the first two KISS concerts in Canada with them. I didn’t even know who they were. They showed up at the Victory Burlesque Theatre and they had their makeup on and just I’m looking at them confused. They were about 6 or 7 feet tall with these huge boots on – they arrived at the gig looking like that – then we watched it that night. They had some flash pods. Gene did the fire breathing thing and the blood coming out of his mouth, but that was pretty much it. It wasn’t what it became. But you could tell that they were going to be huge. You’re looking at this and going “Holy smokes, this is like a Japanese monster movie come to life”. I don’t own any of their records, but you know, I certainly appreciate what they did.
You personally just prefer to take it out in energy.
Yeah, pretty much. If I didn’t come off the stage, to the point where I could wring out my socks, to me, it wasn’t a gig that I had performed my best. First of all, I’d have to be helped out of most of my clothes, because they were sticking to my body. My shirts would be clinging to my body with sweat. But it’s when I took off my socks and could wring them out. So, you could see sweat pouring on the ground from my socks. I used to be able to flick my hand and I could hit the girls in the front row with my sweat from my hand and arm. All of a sudden, I’d be looking out and there were “Alice Coopers” in front of me because all their mascara was running down their face. It’s the thing that was pretty funny.
Is there more Goddo from the archives still to come? Or is that pretty much it?
There’s a bunch of stuff, I’ve got all the stems for the albums. I always thought that we released everything we recorded, but we didn’t. I found at least another 20 songs that people don’t know. And now, of course, we’re doing some work with Eddie Kramer, the famous English producer. He has remixed the first “Goddo” album. I don’t know if you know who Eddie Kramer is, but he brought us Jimi Hendrix, and he did four KISS albums, Led Zeppelin albums, Frampton Comes Alive, Traffic, Stones, Beatles and everybody who’s a legend. We became good friends. He remixed the first Goddo album and it sounds phenomenal. I think there’s a track available on my Greg Goddo YouTube of “Under My Hat”, which everybody should hear with headphones, because it’s a real Eddie Kramer mix.
Yeah, it’s pretty good. When Eddie was remixing the first album, he was doing “Under My Hat”, we found two tracks of vocal harmonies that we didn’t use on the original. It was me singing the lead. Then we had double tracking of the lead vocal and singing the third and fifth harmony so that there were four voices. They’re all mine, doing all the harmonies and I looked at Eddie and said, “We never use any this on the original. It was just really vocal that was it.” He says, “Well, you’re going to use it now”, and now that song is a completely different animal.
Is that the guy that you would have loved to have worked with back in the day?
I wish I would have met him 40 years ago, but timing was only right in the last couple years. He would have thought I was nuts back in the day because he’s a pretty laid-back kind of guy. I was like a pinball that someone just shot into the machine, bouncing on all the rubbers and everything. I was a human pinball back then. I’ve calmed down a little bit.
The pandemic has been hard on everyone. How have you made out this past year? Because we’re pretty much on the first anniversary of being locked down.
We have a lovely place and everything, but you can only look at the wall so many times before you start crawling up them, which is why I continue to come up with ideas and write things down, pick up a guitar and see if something comes out. I’m just trying to stay busy, man. And of course, right now, I’m doing two or three of these interviews a day. Am I getting tired of hearing my own voice? Yeah.
Is there a point where you’re going to just say, okay, I’m done now. And it’s time for me to retire?
I haven’t even started yet. I’ve had an idea in my mind for a number of years about writing a stage musical involving rock music. That’s next for me – I’m going to write this – it’s a really original idea that’s never been done before.
What’s ahead for you in 2021?
I’m hoping that we get out of this. I have to be honest, if this ended, if the vaccine came out tomorrow, and next month, we got a clear sign, would I go back to a club and play? Would I go back to a club to see a band? Would I go to a baseball game? I have to think the answer is “no”. I don’t think so. We’re never going to look at our fellow man the way we did before, because you don’t know who’s in their bubble.
I’ve got my daughter, etc. from the immediate family, but you don’t know. If I go over to her place and there’s somebody new, I’m going to leave my mask on because I don’t know that person. I don’t know who they hang around with, and that suspicion, I think, is going to stay with us for a long time. People that don’t think this is real; it’s been a few million people that have died because of this. This is not some sort of false flag bullshit. This is real. We are having a global pandemic; people are going to die. And that’s the sad reality. Dude, I still have my front row, “Blue Jays season” opener tickets from the 2020 season on my fridge. I am the biggest baseball fan, I would die to go to have a hot dog and sit in the stands and scream at the Yankees. But I’m not dying to do it.
That just made me thinks of something. I remember looking back when I used to live in Toronto. That first season of baseball was so exciting. I went to probably 30 games.
My dad was there on the first day – it snowed. It actually snowed on the players. I think I was out on tour at that point, so, I never got to go, but my dad and I went to ball games all the time. I just loved it.
Then we became friends with a couple of the guys. I put a picture on my phone of Kelly Gruber reaching out to me going, “Hey, you’re at the ballpark, man, this is cool”. Then of course, he used to play my music there all the time, which I just loved. “So Walk On” – if they have a guy going to walk, they play a bit of that. If somebody got thrown out of the game, they would play “Was It Something I Said”. Cecil Fielder didn’t care what music was being played for his walk-up so they used my song “Too Much Carousing”. I’m sitting in the bloody stands and all of a sudden, here comes the beginning of my song and Cecil Fielder walking up and I’m going “This is fucking great”.
What a thrill and an honor.
Yeah, a thrill and an honor.
You have a Windsor connection.
My uncle owned Abars Tavern in Windsor. Yeah, you remember it?
Whenever I was playing in Windsor, I’d go and visit him in my Winnie, bur we’d never get to play. God bless him, he was a great uncle, but when I told him the kind of money that we were looking for, he goes, “I don’t pay that. I pay a couple hundred bucks”. You can’t even get my uncle for a couple hundred bucks and here we are charging thousands of dollars, so we never got a chance to play there. I would have loved to play there for him. I have some great memories of playing in Windsor back in the day though
Yeah, it’s kind of a neat city because it’s so close to Detroit. So, some of that Detroit energy comes over here.
Totally did. CKLW was the big AM station with Rosalie Trombley, who really ran the music business. If she liked you, and you got played in Detroit, and that was big time back then.
Oh, yeah. So, you work your ass off trying to please her, I bet.
Oh, yeah. Fludd did pretty good with CKLW, I remember that.
If you would like to purchase Greg Godovitz’s books go to Shopgreggodovitz.com