By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
The exposure to Slim's cataclysmic brand of guitar blues was warped further by Terry into a mystic brand of volcanic rock & roll. Don & Dewey's cover of Los Angeles R&B stalwart Joe Liggins' "Pink Champagne" pushed it into such radical spheres that Specialty didn't release it for decades. Their career reached fever pitch as quickly as their music: "We started touring for the Gill Agency, who were located on Western Avenue, and they sent us to the Apollo Theater with Redd Foxx, the Dells, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Moms Mabley and Big Maybelle.
"We did the first concert over in Honolulu, with Chuck Berry and Pat Boone! Pat came in with his little white shoes and his sweaters, very nice man -- very young at the time. But we did those shows, and then my audiences changed -- they were no longer black audiences, they were totally white. Right after the Apollo show, the records started and things changed."
They rocked through the early '60s on bandstands all over the nation, participating in the 1964 second coming of a secular Little Richard, both on the road and on his comeback single, "Bama Lama Bama Loo." It peaked at No. 83 on the Billboard chart, then Don & Dewey, like the Treniers, another gloriously raw, rocking R&B band, began annual lounge engagements in Las Vegas, appearing at the Dunes for five straight years.
After Harris went tripping off with John Mayall and Frank Zappa, Terry saw several of his compositions revived with significant impact: "Farmer John," covered by Chicano rockers the Premiers, became an East Los anthem; the Olympics scored with "Big Boy Pete," and the Righteous Brothers began life as stone Don & Dewey clones, copping the pair's repertoire and stage moves and even charting with two Don & Dewey songs. In 1974, Terry's ballad "Leaving It Up to You" became the BMI-certified most-played song of the year, thanks to covers by R&B's Dale & Grace, pop's Donny & Marie Osmond and country's Freddy Fender. But much of that money went into wily Art Rupe's exploitative coffers; Dewey has fared quite badly, at times, in business -- as did everyone else on Specialty (in the mid-'80s, he joined Little Richard's picket line outside Specialty's Sunset Boulevard offices).
TODAY, DON BATTLES INCREASINGLY POOR HEALTH and Dewey divides his time among European tours, annual romps through the Tahitian Islands, and slaying 'em in the blues clubs and on the retro-rockabilly scene. His stage show is powerful, compelling, those big hands slicing through a thick mass of rhythm and riffs that seem to reach down into the guts, voice wailing as potently as ever. His sound is unbeatable, ringing with soul-deep rock & roll truth.
"See, I met the real people," he says, "the original people. And when I hear people play guitar now, they play a lot of copy stuff -- they've got to understand that the things they're playin' might be faster, they might be a whole lot more melodic, but the old blues things, you could really feel them. That's how I learned. It was just about gettin' the music across. I'm for the art -- and if you can see the art in it, that's my payment."