Together with the Muldaurs, Amos Garrett, Chris Parker, Merle Saunders and John Kahn they rehearse, tour in the late spring through the summer of '72, and then minus, Garrett, and Geoff Muldaur, they record the soundtrack to iconic 1970's counter culture film Steelyard Blues.with Mike Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites. (see blog #53) (The film doesn't do well at the box office, but is notable for the reprising the Fonda-Sutherland pairing. It is still considered an iconic 70's movie, and the soundtrack still holds up very well.)
Rich's participation in Better Days is almost serendipitous in that he is only available to join the band because his current boss takes long vacations. As he recalls, Taj Mahal takes vacations that last for a few months you know, so during one of those times Butter's manager, Albert Grossman, called me to see if I would come to Woodstock to record an album with the new Better Days Band. I said shit yeah! And I was back in Woodstock, N.Y. The band, now officially known as Better Days, is in the studio, working on their song Highway 28 when Rich joins. He will become an important contributor to band's music, in the studio, out on tour, and the choice to have him in the band is welcomed by everyone.
I don't know if anyone thought it was going to work, Rich adds. I think Paul and Geoff and Ronnie knew what they wanted to do, but it just came together. Once we got into the studio and started working stuff out it really started to work well. The band was kind of like a democracy -- everyone wanted to be happy with what we were doing to make it work. Everyone had a lot of input. Billy Rich's sound will prove to be an important addition to the band's music over its two album lifespan.
Bands are easy to assemble, and there is never a shortage of musicians to play in them groups, but building an excellent band requires, talent, vision and leadership. Listening to Paul Butterfield's Better Days over forty years after their birth, it is easy to understand why their music still sounds fresh. Each member has a a unique background of knowledge and style, from Geoff Muldaur's encyclopedic knowledge of music to Amos Garrett's unique string bending technique to Ronnie Barron's vocal range and Chris Parker's use of the snare drum. So much of all this great music is a result of artistic chemistry, and Butterfield's creative vision and leadership skills. It is what makes Better Days, pioneers in Americana, one of the most overlooked bands of the 1970's.