John Townsend

I first met Dan Toler in Paramus, New Jersey at the Capitol Theater where the Sanford/Townsend Band was opening for Dickey Betts and Great Southern. I had really enjoyed Dickey's songs, "Blue Sky" and "Ramblin' Man" so I went out front after our set to stand by the mixing console to hear Dickey's Band. After two songs I turned to the sound engineer and said, "Jeeezus, who's that guitar player?" He just grinned and said, "That's my boy "Dangerous" Dan Toler. I was a huge fan ever since.
A few years later I ran into Danny again when he was out with Gregg Allman and Friends doing a West Coast tour. They happened to be playing the Greek Theater one night so I did a little detective work and found out where they were staying and showed up, since Gregg had been an old friend of mine as far back as the Rubber Band days. Gregg's band had a day off so I kidnapped Gregg one evening and took him to this studio in Hollywood where I'd been working and he and I wrote the song "Fear Of Falling" that night. There's another story I'll expand on later. I went with them to the Greek that night and Danny amazed me again. Not just his soloing but the way his playing made everything else sound better. I remember thinking he's not just a great player but the ultimate team player. After the concert at the Greek, I wished them safe travels and they went on their way. But I do remember us laughing a lot and Danny and I becoming a bit closer as friends during those couple of days.

Fast forward a few more years. I was sitting at home reading the Calendar section of the L.A. Times one afternoon and noticed that Gregg and Friends were playing at a place called The Country Club in Reseda, CA, just a few miles from my home. So, I hopped in the car and drove over, getting there just in time to see Gregg and the band walking across the parking lot on their way to soundcheck. It was surprisingly like old home week when I was greeted by Danny, Frankie and Gregg like we had been hanging out together for the last few years. Because we were in L.A. the Stars all came out that night to the Country Club. I sat in with the band that evening and after the show there was this reception line that included Cher, Chuck Negron and a host of other film and music related luminaries. It was a big charge for me because I had been pretty idle musically and I got juiced that night and told Gregg as much. Gregg replied with, "you gotta come on up to Novato so we can write some more. I didn't have to think about it. The next week and the following Thanksgiving weekend I flew up to the Bay Area to hang and do some writing.

What I didn't realize at the time was that the band was also flying out to California from Florida to do some gigs. On the day they came, Gregg walked into my room and declared, "oh by the way, you're in the band." Then he walked out just like he'd delivered a pizza. So I spent all that day and way into the next night learning all those great Allman Brothers songs along with "I'm No Angel" and "Demons" from Gregg's solo albums. I have to tell you that Chuck Leavell's solo on "Midnight Rider" is a masterpiece and I'm not sure I even came close but it was fun to try and learn.
We did a few gigs around Northern California; Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Santa Clara and SanJose. I called it the All Saints Tour, although we did play the last show in Reno.
Gregg also invited me out on an East Coast Tour that started in Florida and went through Georgia, The Carolinas, ending in Savannah. I was playing catch up to all these great players but I had just a fucking great time being on stage every night with the "Dangerous" one.
It was on the bus on the way to the airport in Savanna that we all got the word that Gregg was re-joining ABB and we were just kinda cut loose that night with very little warning.
Just before the bus arrived at the Savannah Airport, Danny turned to me and said, "bro, why don't you come back to Florida with us. I have an idea and I think it could work."
That was the beginning of The Townsend/Toler Band. That was actually the name when we started it all. We changed it later to the Toler/Townsend Band for no other reason that it seemed to be easier to pronounce when you're stoned.
When we got to Sarasota, Danny put me up in an upstairs bedroom and he and Debby made me feel right at home. We spent some time out in the garage playing with Frankie Toler on drums and Bruce Weibel on bass. We had been in playing in the afternoon and working on some of my songs. We were having so much fun we didn't realize it was nearly midnight before we took a break. During that break I went back in the house and Danny was on the phone waking somebody up and telling him he needed to get up here. Danny was on the phone with Mark Petty. He looked up from the call and told me who he was speaking with and why. And that the kind of songs I write call for something a little bigger than the four piece blues band and Mark was just the ticket to expand our sound into what he thought it should be. And that was it. We were a 5 piece. Mark drove up from Naples the next day as I remember, and we started right in doing songs like "Full Time Fool". Danny had played me an instrumental he had recorded with Frankie in his garage and I wrote the lyrics to it. That became "Sorry's Not Enough". Danny really liked a song I wrote with blues guitarist Mike Reilly called "Loneliness", so worked on that one. Once Mark and Danny came to terms on where things were going, Mark sat up late one night and sequenced a bunch of stuff to augment the sound. Mark is a tremendous trumpet player and I could look back some times and he's playing keyboards with his left hand and trumpet with his right. The sound we were getting was just killer.
Meanwhile, Danny was behind the scenes talking with our buddy Bud Snyder who was the live sound mixer for Gregg and ABB. Bud was working at Telstar Studio in Sarasota and when he heard what we were doing, he opened the doors to Telstar and invited us in. We recorded 8 songs in two days. On the morning of the 3rd day, I was awakened just before sunup by Danny shaking my leg and half whispering, "Johnny, you need to wake up buddy. There's been huge earthquake in California.

I jumped straight up in bed and reached for the phone to call Jennifer but couldn't get through. I dialed and re-dialed for over an hour and just couldn't get through. Over a hurried breakfast, I was also trying to book flights back to Los Angeles but the airports were all closed. Danny suggested we just go ahead on to the studio and finish up the recording we'd been doing and we could call and book flights from there if we had to. Shortly after we arrived at Telstar, I was able to book a flight while Danny was doing a few guitar overdubs. My flight was about 5 hours away so I had a go at doing some of the vocals. Now, this is something I've always been proud of. I went in with a bottle of water and a cup of hot tea and did all the lead vocals AND all the background vocals on the Toler/Townsend Band album in an hour and a half, loaded my suitcase in Ron Allen's car and took off for the Tampa airport.. And this folks was before Pro Tools and pitch correction and all the grease that's now available for recording vocals. Like I said, I'm still proud of that.

To be continued.



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