Inaugurating the section we offer you an exclusive interview with HOWARD "SPEEDY" GARFIN, the creator of "THE GARFIN GATHERING" the second band for which Lynda was part of in her young days as a singer. Nowadays, Speedy lives in Florida and still keeps in business after almost six decades playing music. Recently he was interviewed by E! Entertainment Television for the "E! True Hollywood Story", as suggested by WONDERLAND, and, now, we made a very interesting interview with him, which makes a perfect addition to take a look back at Lynda's younger years, which, by the way, are the less widely known of her career.
Q: We'd like to know about your musical background.
A: "Well, I was inspired by Benny Goodman at nine years old. My folks had an old 78 album, a Benny Goodman Sextet, and I used to fall asleep to it practically every night. The clarinet was my first instrument."
Q: Did you have a band prior to the "GARFIN GATHERING?
A: "Oh Yeah, I've been playing professionally since, well, I joined the union when I was 15 in New York. I had attended high school performing arts and got together with bands, in the summertime we'd go up to the Catskills and play for the summer when I was like 14-15 years old, and, graduating performing arts, I went on the road at 17 with trios and quartets. I got drafted into the army and continued playing through the service when I was in for 2 years, and in fact we won an all-Army entertainment contest with a quintet I was playing with. I was on tour for a year conducting a pit band for a year calling "The Rolling Along Show" in 1958, and it was all army personnel, it was kind of like a broadway show with special lyrics and music. It was put together in New York City, and we took it on the road, and wherever there was an army base, we did one nighters for a year. We did the Ed Sullivan Show, and when I got discharged I went back to work with a Latin Band playing in Brooklyn, New York."
Q: Do you have any favorite musical artists of the present?
A: "Well, when I switched to saxophone, I started listening to jazz artists. My favorite altosax player turned out to be Paul Desmond with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, but I was never really a jazz player, I was always more of a mainsteam player, and entertainer."
Q: How was the "GARFIN GATHERING" started? Was it a jazz or folk band?
A: "It was definitely a show (band), I was playing lounges in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe from 1960. I had come out from New York with Don Rickles to back him. I set my sights on moving out of New York and getting on the Nevada circuit, what they called the "Silver Circle" playing Las Vegas, Reno, Lake Tahoe, and in 1965 I was in a quartet called the "Cary Garfin Four." There was Judy Cary and myself, and we had done the Johnny Carson Show and we were playing the best lounges in Nevada. When that group disbanded after being together for 6 years, I put together the "GARFIN GATHERING" in 1971."
Q: Who were the very first members of the GARFIN GATHERING besides yourself?
A: "The very first members were Lynda Carter, Dennis Bush, (the drummer,) and an organist named Ed Johnson."
Q: What was your role in the band?
A: "I was kind of the quarterback, I did a lot of the vocals, and playing sax, clarinet and flute, and I did most of the arrangements, and Lynda was the featured vocalist."
Q: Can you tell us how and where you met Lynda, and why you decided to include her in the band?
A: "Originally, I was still playing with the "Cary Garfin Four." We were playing at the Sahara Tahoe and Lynda was part of a group called "The Relatives" and they were playing in the lounge and we were off in another lounge, it was a kind of a jazz intimate lounge. Her band and Lynda would come over and listen to us, we were really a polished four part harmony instrumental group, and I was at the time looking for people to start my new band when the "Cary Garfin Four" disbanded. I was interested in the drummer Dennis Bush, and I had talked to Dennis about coming with the band. Dennis was agreeable, he wanted to come with me to start this new group. I wasn't really interested in Lynda at the time because I thought she was just too inexperienced. She was 19 years old then, so I never really approached her about the idea of coming with the band. I had some other girls in mind, and then maybe 5 or 6 months later I was playing down in Phoenix. "The Relatives" was also playing in Phoenix and I went over to see Dennis and I caught the show, and Lynda had improved quite a bit in the six months time. When you're young, you really absorb like a sponge, and if you're working steady, six nights a week, it has to make you improve. You either improve, or find another business."
Q: Was the improvement in her voice quality, her bearing on stage? What do you mean by improvement?
A: "Primarily it was her vocal quality. She was very pretty six months previously, and was very pretty again. I was impressed with her vocal ability, that she would be able to handle some of my material. So I took Lynda out to lunch and talked to her about coming with the band, and she was thrilled, and that was the start of it."
Q: So besides Lynda, Dennis Bush was also a member of "The Relatives" then, too?
A: "Yes. I think when I saw Lynda she was dating the piano player Jack Griffin, and then when she came with my band with Dennis it wasn't too long before Dennis and her formed a relationship."
Q: Where was the debut of the GARFIN GATHERING?
A: "It was in Spokane Washington."
Q: What kind of places did you play?
A: "Wherever the agency threw us. Most of the times we'd be at Holiday Inns, or some supperclub chain, but in those days, in the '70's, there was an abundance of work on the road, you know, nightclubs, supperclubs, this was before comedy stores took over, and before the kareoke places. So quartet and self-contained show were very popular then."
Q: Did Lynda do any collaborating with the songs, or was she just a vocalist?
A: "No, she was mainly a lead singer. As I recall, she never approached me with anything she had written. Dennis had written a couple of songs, and we included them in the show."
Q: Was there any particular kind of song or songs that she liked to sing then?
A: "Yeah, I think there was a song she used to do called "Too Hot To Handle" and "One Less Bell To Answer" and there was a Beatles song, but it's been too many years for me to remember it."
Q: Was there any "dancing movements" by you or Lynda, moving about on the stage, like today, or did you just stand and sing in place?
A: "Yes, very much so (standing in place.) You know, you did your own movements when you did you sing, but there was no "choreography" like they have now."
Q: Can you recall anything about her in particular in those days, what was her attitude, was she naïve or brash?
A: "Yes, she was naïve, but from early on she had aspirations to be a star."
Q: Have you been in touch with Lynda throughout the years?
A: "No, we had lunch one time when she was married to Ron Samuels. She had come to Lake Tahoe when I was playing there and I was living there with my wife Laura. We had lunch together when she came up to go skiing, and that was really the last time that we have been in touch. There was the age difference, I was 36, Lynda was 19, I was married, and I had a baby son Josh that I was travelling with, so we were kind of in different worlds."
Q: Did your wife travel with you all the time?
A: "Oh yeah, we really didn't have a home, we were on the road most of the time. My son was born in New York, and six weeks after he was born we loaded him up in the car and took off. It was the only way that the family could be a family."
Q: Can you remember who replaced her as the singer in the GARFIN GATHERING?
A: "We were playing in Springfield Illinois, a place called "The Warehouse" and that's where she said she wanted to leave and do something different. I went and I listened to a gal that was recommended to me in the area named Kathy Pappas, and she was 17 years old and she was just marvelous. She just blew me away, and she had been singing with big bands in Chicago when she was 15. Anyway, I listened to Kathy and I told Kathy that she had the job with me if she wanted it and she wanted it. It wasn't too much later when I was into rehearsals with Kathy, while we were phasing out Lynda, that Lynda wanted to come back on the band, but I already committed myself to Kathy. And that was it."
Q: Was Kathy a better singer than Lynda?
A: "Oh yes, in fact Kathy is still active now. She has been the darling of the cruise lines for many, many years."
Q: Did the GARFIN GATHERING ever make any recording with Lynda?
A: "No, we never made any recording for public sale, just for self-improvement."
Q: What has been your own career since the GARFIN GATHERING broke up? Are you still performing?
A: "Well it never ended, I'm still doing it. Sometimes it's called "Speedy Garfin and the GARFIN GATHERING" and sometimes it's called "The Speedy Garfin Show." It's still 3 guys and a girl but at different times I've had quintets, at one time I had sextets with three girls, but for economics sake, it boils down to that a quartet is easier today."
Q: Where do you perform today?
A: "I still do the Nevada Reno-Tahoe area, and I still go back to the Catskills in New York."
Q: "Do you still play the Vegas clubs?"
A: "No that's too many miles from home, and the Vegas lounges are for the most part a thing of the past. Everything there is a theme, and big production shows, rather than a lounge entertainment. In the 60's and the 70's when I was playing the lounges in Las Vegas, the marquees, it was almost like the old vaudeville days, you know when you had ten acts on the bill. And you tried to work yourself up to be number one; it was such a credit on your resume when you were a lounge act if you were playing Las Vegas, if you were playing the Sahara or the Desert Inn, but now it's just a job. There's no difference as far if you're saying you're playing the Hotel Freemont, that you're playing at the Sheraton in Altoona Pennsylvania!"
Q: What do you think of today's music scene?
A: "Well, I've never been a country western fan, but I'm really much happier that my daughter, she's 25 and a schoolteacher, I'm much happier that my daughter got into country music than into rock. At least you know in country music there's a story line, it's not just a beat."
Q: "It's been several years since Lynda has sung, but would you ever think of making a duet with her or singing with her again, hypothetically?"
A: "Sure, I would love it, it would be a lot of fun. My idea of Lynda's vocal ability, even back when she was leaving the band, I suggested to her that I thought her best shot would be for her to go to Nashville! I thought that her vocal ability was best suited for country-western music. She was into more, she wanted to do rock and roll, she wanted to do Broadway shows, and she didn't have the quality or the vocal power, but I thought country music was light enough, and the way she looked, I thought it was a perfect match. I thought that the best show that she did was the one with Kenny Rogers" ("Lynda Carter: Celebration!")
Q: Well, thank you so much for letting us interview you about your career. A: I was happy to do it. Q: We really appreciate your time, and good luck with your singing. I hope you get as much enjoyment out of it as your listeners do. A: Yes, I think I'm going to be the George Burns of the Lounges! Special Thanks to HOWARD "SPEEDY" GARFIN and LAURA GARFIN.
All pictures © 1971-2002 by Howard Garfin. All rights reserved.
Interview © 2002 by WONDERLAND • The Ultimate Wonder Woman Site. All rights reserved.
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