Hats Off to Larry

Larry Goshorn Farewell ConcertGuitarist Larry Goshorn “retired” this week. Of course, musicians don’t retire the way some folks do. A guy who retires from Ford will probably never build another car and a retired assassin can be perfectly happy not killing anyone ever again. But no one believes that, just because a musician does his last concert and stops actively looking for gigs in clubs and bars, they quit being a musician. Following Wednesday’s “farewell” concert, Larry may not be as prevalent on the local music scene as he has been but neither will he vanish completely.

Sacred Mushroom album photoLarry, along with brothers Dan and Tim, has been a big part of Cincinnati’s music for pretty much as long as I’ve been here. I moved to the big city in the fall of 1965 and evolved from visitor to resident over the next couple years. I don’t know when I first became aware of the Sacred Mushroom or even when the Sacred Mushroom first came into existence but I do remember Sunday afternoons in Eden park with the Mushroom in the band shell and nights in a dump called the Mug Club with the Mushroom on stage. Dan Goshorn did most of the singing but Larry also sang a bit along with doing all the lead guitar work. I fondly recall a couple of break time conversations with Larry at the Mug Club. I don’t recall their content; Only that they happened. No reason for Larry to remember them at all.

The Sacred Mushroom was a different sort of band. There was, of course, the Mushroom House and a life style that said “we are musicians, dammit” but their music was different, too. There were other good bands in Cincinnati including several that, like the Sacred Mushroom, did a mix of covers and originals. But the Mushroom’s covers were from guys like Willie Dixon and Paul Butterfield and their bluesy originals (actually Larry Goshorn originals) were not exactly formula top 40.

The peak and the crash were not far apart. In October of 1968, they opened for Big Brother and the Holding Company. I was there in the last row of the last balcony with a ticket I’d bought at the last minute. Their one and only album was released the following summer but the band was already disintegrating. It was kind of like the Beatles and Let It Be minus the long string of million selling albums in front of it.

Larry didn’t stop playing, of course. I may have even seen him a time or two before he went off to help put Pure Prairie League on the charts but I really don’t remember. My memories of his days with PPL are pretty spotty, too. Even though I liked several of their tunes, I never became a big fan. I saw them perform just once.

Pure Prairie LeagueLarry didn’t write the song that put Pure Prairie League on the charts. That song, Amie, was written and recorded by Craig Fuller before he left to deal with draft obligations. What Larry did do, after replacing Craig, was sing play (see Tom Sheridan’s informative reply below) Amie in a couple of hundred concerts that got the song enough airplay to make it a hit. He then went on to write a number of the band’s songs including my favorite, Two Lane Highway. As much as I like the song, I don’t dare dwell on the lyrics. Just like Springsteen’s Born in the USA  is not (despite what some politicians apparently believe) exactly glorifying the country, Two Lane Highway is not an ode to back roads. I never thought to ask but was there when a friend did and learned that Larry wrote the song in the back of a GMC motor home as the band rolled through a Pennsylvania night and he really did want to “get off this two lane highway”. He’s got a front row spot in the picture at right.

The Pure Prairie League story is a convoluted one and quite a few web pages offer up pieces and variations of it. Today, a four piece group with a couple of original members keeps the name alive. The official Pure Prairie League website makes no mention of Larry at all. A careful scan turned up one tiny uncaptioned picture that has Larry in it but that’s all. The closest the site’s text comes to mentioning him is in an almost comical reference to the “departing Gorshorn [sic] brothers”. Along with ignoring his contributions, they’ve forgotten how to spell his name. Larry’s younger brother, Tim, had joined him in the group around 1977 and they did leave together around 1978. Tim later rejoined for a second stint.

Between PPL and the 1994 opening of a certain bar on Main Street, I have no personal knowledge of Larry’s activities. I heard ads for The Goshorn Brothers Band on radio and I may have even had a beer or two somewhere they were playing but I wasn’t paying attention. When I saw Larry and Tim at what I believe was the opening night for Tommy’s on Main, I was reminded of how much I enjoyed his playing and I’ve not lost sight of him since.

I probably irritated some folks when I said I was never a big fan of PPL. I liked them well enough and I certainly appreciated their talent but they weren’t one of my top tier groups. That tier was filled with the Moody Blues, the E Street Band, Yes, and others. I liked PPL the same way I liked the Eagles and there are more similarities between the two than my level of fandom. Of course, they sound somewhat alike but there was another connection that maybe only I cared about. PPL had sucked up Larry Goshorn; The Eagles had sucked up Joe Walsh. I was much more a fan of the James Gang and Sacred Mushroom than of the Eagles and Pure Prairie League. On one of those very first nights at Tommy’s, I mentioned to Larry that I had thought of his time with PPL as a “day job”. He smiled and said, “Me too.” I don’t know if he meant it the same way I did or if he even meant it at all.

The Tommy’s gig started as an “acoustic” duo then one night ex-PPL drummer Billy Hinds showed up with a snare drum. From there, it wasn’t long until a five piece Goshorn Brothers Band had taken up residency at Tommy’s. Billy was behind a full drum kit with Michael Baney and Steve Schmidt taking care of bass and keyboards. Other top notch musicians would sit in or perform their own shows. Wonderful music poured out of Tommy’s for the next couple of years with GBB typically playing three nights a week and me being there for at least one of those nights more often than not. Tommy’s eventually closed but the Goshorn Brothers rolled on. The lineup wasn’t particularity solid so you were never quite sure who would be backing up the brothers on a band date but you knew they would be good. The two Goshorns could probably make anybody sound good but it’s a plain fact that they attract the best. Many different combinations have appeared as the Goshorn Brothers Band over the years and every one that I’ve heard sounded great.

Larry Goshorn - Cincinnati Summer of Love Reunion 2007Larry Goshorn - Cincinnati Summer of Love Reunion 2008I have no pictures from Tommy’s. Those at left are from the 2007 and 2008 Summer of Love Reunions. A big part of celebrating the Cincinnati music scene of four decades ago was the current Goshorn Brothers Band playing the role and the songs of the Sacred Mushroom. Both years, Mushroom bassist Joe Stewart (in the first picture) was coaxed into performing a couple of those tunes with his old bandmate.

Goshorn Brothers Band - Larry Goshorn Farewell ConcertGoshorn Brothers - Larry Goshorn Farewell ConcertThe photo at the top of this post is from Wednesday’s concert as are the two at right. The evening began with a Larry and Tim acoustic set and ended with the brothers fronting a hard hitting five piece. The time between was filled by the same group minus Larry. Larry broke his ankle early in the year and Tim has been performing without him in a quartet sometimes called Whistle Pig and sometimes called Friends of Lee. Members are Lee Everitt on keys, Bam Powell on drums (yes, his head really does look like a cymbal), and Mike Fletcher on bass. This was the group that filled in the middle and by definition became the Goshorn Brothers Band when Larry joined them.

The music was great and the event well attended. The only surprises were things that didn’t happen. I had expected some comments or jokes about retirement and there was absolutely nothing of the sort from the stage. I had also expected something like an all star jam but, despite there being a number of well known and talented musicians in the house, nothing of that sort happened either. I really shouldn’t have been surprised though. The “we’ll never see Larry again” shock of the first announcement had become a more realistic “we’re going to see Larry less”. The shift was made official with an “or is it?” appearing on posters and tickets. It was a great show and it brought a lot of old (in every sense of the word) friends together. But I think we were all rather relieved to realize that Larry is only mostly retired.

8 thoughts on “Hats Off to Larry

  1. Hi Denny,

    I appreciate your article on Larry very much as I’ve always enjoyed his work, especially with PPL where he truly showed how versatile he was as a musician/singer/songwriter. A major talent, Larry thrilled country rock fans with his style on lead guitar, in particular his “twin leads” with the phenomenal pedal steel player John David Call. It was a trademark sound of the band, one that still exists today and was unlike others of the genre.

    You did a superb job covering The Sacred Mushroom and Goshorn Brothers parts of Larry’s career. Hopefully I’ll do the same for his Pure Prairie League years.

    As for PPL being his day job, well, I’m not sure where that was meant to go. I will say that during Larry’s tenure with PPL he poured his heart and soul into it for about 6-7 years, performing 200- 250 shows a year. Larry appeared on 5 LP’s during this time, and every one left it‘s mark. It was a grueling effort but one that paid off as the band rose to the top of the country rock genre with Larry’s efforts a huge reason for the success. It took him all over the country in addition to numerous television appearances on every major rock show as well as major variety shows. Larry and PPL’s releases received huge critical acclaim in Rolling Stone, Circus, Billboard and People magazines, in short, many major publications. If that’s a day job, I think most musicians who ever picked a tune in hopes of landing consistent work , much less a recording contract and nationwide touring ,would gladly apply for it.

    One slight correction: Larry did not sing lead on Amie when Craig departed, Mike Reilly did as evident on their live LP Live ! Takin’ The Stage. Larry sang the final Falling In and Out of Love stanza on it . However it was this version and the touring that generated the airplay that Amie received, ultimately forcing RCA to release it as a single and re-sign the band after dropping them at Craig Fuller’s departure.

    As for the official website, all I can say is the bio, at best, is fragmented and does not scratch the surface of the PPL legacy, much less acknowledge the contributions of various band members. I’m told it was chopped up when the site first came up but so far it has not been updated, which is a shame given the legacy and accomplishments of members. Larry was not intentionally snubbed, no more than founding members George Ed Powell or John David Call who receive only one brief passing mention and that from a Phil Stokes quote, a bass player who was in the band for an extremely brief time in their pre recording days. Other members receive no mention, so by no means was a slight to Larry intended. The same can be said for pictures or should I say, lack of them. I provided the site an extremely detailed discography for the site which includes all work of members in and outside of their PPL tenure. I am willing to do the same for a Bio and scrapbook, as I have files of PPL material from their pre PPL days right through the present. Larry is prominent in them. Denny, if you desire any photos of Larry to add to your blog, no problem , drop me a line. Web pages on the internet are generally incorrect and extremely shallow to say the least. In short, inept with little effort behind them. They are not worth reviewing.

    Larry joined PPL in 1973, having played and lived with future PPL members in previous years. Woodstock, NY was called home for awhile. A band named Sawdust comes to mind. Prior to that , Larry lived in the area where PPL was playing at their first steady gig, New Dilly’s in Mt Adams and actually sat in with the band long before joining. The addition of Larry to PPL was a no-brainer: he had long since earned a reputation as one of the premier guitarists in the Cincinnati area, thanks largely to his superb performances with The Sacred Mushroom, the band you covered so well in your article. Their CD is still sought out as a cult classic to this day.

    From the moment he joined PPL, the band hit the road, working on new material with Larry and George doing the bulk of the songwriting . They played material from PPL’s first two LP’s, did some cover tunes in their own unique style ( a rousing bluegrass version of I’ve Just Seen a Face by The Beatles is a fine example) and developed a hard core audience. These concerts led to RCA to re-sign the band as well as release Amie as a single due to the high volume of requests radio stations received. The first two LP’s were also re-released .Larry’s role in the band during this period was pivotal, not to mention the enormous pressure to succeed without Craig Fuller who RCA and fans thought was PPL. Given the immense talents of Craig, I can’t blame anyone for thinking that way ,but fortunately John Call, George Powell, Mike Reilly, Billy Hinds, Mike Connor and Larry all felt there was still much to offer. They were correct.

    They entered the studio in December 1974 a huge question mark. They exited with a country rock classic, Two Lane Highway , a recording acclaimed as one of the all time great country rock releases. Larry responded to the challenge and pressure in glorious fashion, penning five tunes on the album. The LP would go on to be PPL’s highest charting album. Larry would go on to record 4 more acclaimed releases with PPL: If The Shoe Fits, Dance, Live! Takin’ The Stage and Just Fly. Larry’s blues, rock and country influences all blended superbly in PPL’s sound. PPL became one of the most commercially and critically acclaimed bands ever to jump in the country rock waters. After a mid 70’s run of three nights at the famed Bottom Line in New York, the New York Times cited PPL as a band that proved there is more to music than disco, the beast which had permeated clubs and airwaves. This is a paper that was not prone to reviewing country rock music, yet it was indicative of what was happening all across the country. The band produced 6 Top 40 LP’s on Billboard charts and I believe you won’t find another country rock band that can make that claim. Larry was on four of them. The Live album was cited as one of the great all time live recordings. Larry and PPL made their mark and it proved to be an indelible one, a mark that 40 years later still cannot be erased. By the way, Larry was not Larry to PPL fans: he was and still is The Lizard, a moniker that was heard by fans at every show: “ And here’s a new one from the Lizard…”

    In 1978 Larry departed PPL in no small reason due to a lack of support from RCA. “You would open up a PPL album and all this Elvis material would fall out, as if he needed more promotion.” There was always a constant battle as to the direction the band would take, something that existed from day one under RCA. No doubt he was also exhausted from an incredible touring grind in addition to multiple studio sessions. His efforts to help the band change labels did not work out. Perhaps his lyrics in Memories, a terrific tune he did on TLH, sums it up: “ When I think of all the time we had together, Seems like the rain begins to fall, Because in your eyes I see, No hope for you and me, What can we do without memories.” Larry was gone and he took brother Tim with him.

    Tim would return to the band until they called it a day in early 1989. In the mid 80’s they both performed on the PPL release Mementos, a reunion type CD that was intended as both a swan song and a thank you to fans.

    At one point, Larry, while residing in the Bay City area, joined the band Kingfish for a very brief time in the late 80’s after a meeting with Barry Flast, a band member for many years.

    Ultimately the brothers both found their way home to form The Goshorn Brothers , something many felt would happen many years before after originally departing PPL.

    PPL released the CD All In Good Time in the final weeks of 2005 and it received some high critical remarks from many reputable sources. Goldmine magazine went so far as to say it was “ an unlikely but potent candidate for CD of the year.” PPL today still tours, and , as expected, still play several of Larry’s tunes, all of which resonate extremely well with many sold out audiences. After all, he was the Lizard and no one has forgotten. What better testimonial to the man than to have fans requesting his songs 40 years later ?

    Denny, no one will be upset that you were not much into country rock or PPL. It’s OK. Since it’s the holiday season, I’m in a good mood and am willing to make an exception for you since you took the time to post this fine article. However, I will suggest something: it’s never too late to make up for past sins. It’s time Denny. Put down The Moody Blues , Yes and expand your mind the right way, the Pure Prairie League way.

    Larry is not retired ! I agree Denny, he has simply chosen to take a break from loading up the gear a few times a week. He will see his guitar, pick it up and do what he’s always done so well for so many years : bring us something we love, something special which will make us smile and think of the past and look to the future for more.

    All the best Denny, enjoy the holidays, stay well and keep us informed on any Lizard or Tim updates.

    Tom Sheridan
    Floral Park, NY

    • Wonderful. You and I are both talking about a talented musician we both appreciate and I’d basically like to just thank you for filling me and anyone who stumbles by here in on the truly significant years Larry spent with PPL. Nicely done. I’m doubly thankful (and doubly embarrassed) for your info on Reilly doing the vocal on Amie. I was unsure of that when I wrote it, intended to check it before publishing, and inexcusably blew it.

      In the category of updates, I understand that Larry’s done a couple of acoustic gigs with Tim since the “retirement” party and Tim continues to work regularly with Whistle Pig/Friends of Lee.

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  4. Wow, there’s some memories. Why not mention a Sunday afternoon in Eden park with the Mushroom, James Gang, Heywoods and Jerry Rubin wearing a red white n blue shirt screaming into the mic FUCK YOU Cincy. Coghill, Lemmon pipers at Lakeridge hall and Vanilla Fudge at the Black Dome. Thru it all Goshorns were the best. Today is April 19 just found out Timmy Died. Just have to look at the back of the Mushroom album, the Walnut Hills house to bring back a lot of memories. Unless your old enough to remember Hendrix playing with Joey Dee and the Starlighters at Swifton Center or the Isleys at Castle Farms.
    RIP Tim. You will be missed. by many.

    • Thanks for your comment. Seems like I missed some good times in Eden Park:-) Tim’s death was a real shocker and the loss of a great talent. As you say, he will be missed.

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