Alias - Beat Poets
Interview prepared by Didier Julien and Luc Brunot.
Interview realised by Luc Brunot.
Chronology realised by Didier Julien.
Original version of the interview published in Bands Of Dixie #84 (January - February 2012)
In the world of bands having gravitated around Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Alias story is one of the least documented. Having had the opportunity to get in touch with one of its founders, Dorman Cogburn, Bands Of Dixie jumped at the chance to ask him some questions. And Didier Julien took the opportunity to establish a chronology.
it's a real pleasure to have the opportunity of talking with you a little bit. Where are you from?
How did you come to music?
My mother put me on the piano at 3 years old.
What were your musical influences? The artists, bands and guitarists who had an impact on your playing?
Elvis, The Beatles, Dylan, Peter Gabriel and The Stones, with a little Beethoven on the side.
Your name appears on a student list besides Allen Collins. Was he one of your school buddies and did you have the opportunity to play with him?
Allen and I were buddies from the 7th grade until he went to Forrest High School so he could smoke cigarettes and grow his hair long. We would go to his house and play music after school and sometimes Gary was there too. There's a story in Gene Odom's book "Lynyrd Skynyrd-Remembering The Free Birds Of Southern Rock" about this very subject.
Before Alias, did you play in other bands?
Underground Construction, Semi, Alford Borg's Traveling Zoo.
What was the musical style of these bands?
Rolling Stones, Beatles, Yardbirds, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Chuck Berry.
The heart of Alias seemed to be you, Jimmy Dougherty and JoJo Billingsley. How did you meet each other?
Jimmy and I were in the 7th grade would meet at Good Shepherd Church for the Friday night dances. We all had our bands; Jimmy-The Loved Ones; Allen-One Percent; Donnie Van Zant-Son's Of Satan and mine Underground Construction.
And about Jojo, why did you add a female singer while you already had a male singer? It's not a common lineup
It's not a common lineup. After Skynyrd Jojo was available for a project so I added her to the lineup. One of my favorite bands was Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett. Jimmy and Jojo gave me that vocal opportunity.
When did you set Alias up and how did it happen?
Alias was a film project. A black and white film about the rehabilitation and inspiration to put my friends back in the world of music after the tragedy. Jimmy and I had been working on songs since we played with Frampton in 1976. Billy Powell, Tim Ingles and Artimus Pyle sat in on the demo sessions in 1978. That same year a group of us with Gary Rossington and Leon Wilkeson went to a studio in More, North Carolina and left with the song "Wanted Dead Or Alive". The Alias sessions followed in Saint Augustine in the summer of 1978. Mercury Records picked the project up in Jan. 79'. It was recorded at Bee Jay Studios in Orlando, Florida in July. The film was never made.
On your "Contraband" CD, it says the rhythm section for "Wanted Dead Or Alive" was Jimmy Charles and Sonny Clyatt. On this CD, is it this version coming from the North Carolina session or is it another version, recorded in 1980 in the Homestead studios?
The song was created in Carolina with Rossington and Wilkeson but not recorded (and recorded later in 80'). These were the demos for "Rugged Water" and were recorded at Homestead Studios. "Rugged Water" was the working title for the 2nd Alias album. These demos were what the record company Mercury wanted, so I recorded I think 5 demos [Editor's note : "Wanted Dead Or Alive" - "Gator Bait" - "Breakin' Loose" - "How About That" - "Please Call Home". All these songs are included on "Action Figures" and "Alien" by the Beat Poets band, and on the CD Streetfighter release of "Contraband".] which they accepted as tracks for the future album that was never released. I did my work in Florida and the rest of the band was in Atlanta at Apogee Studios.
It seems "Gator Bait" was not recorded during these sessions?
That's right it was recorded at Homestead Studios 1980.
Did you play in the Peter Frampton's band?
No, we opened for him in 1976 on the Frampton Live Tour in Florida.
According to some inquiries, Allen Collins and Gary Rossington were parts of the Alias project before they left it. Can you give us some precision?
During the recording of Alias, Allen and Gary were still injured as was Leon and Artimus. They acted as producers for the first time in their careers and with the help of Andy Deganahal and Steve Gibson (Dark Horse - George Harrison's Producer) the album was finished.
Why are Gary and Allen not credited as producers on the LP? Why didn't they play guitar? Because of their injuries?
By the time the Alias project was over a lot of pressure had built up and some of the personalities were clashing so we went to Steve Gibson in Nashville to help finish.
How did you deal with Mercury?
Not very well, Mercury didn't understand the creative process of southern rock n roll musicians or their potential. I'm not some hillbilly with a degree, so it was hard to deal with the suits.
Were you only three in the beginning or did you have other musicians with you, especially for the rhythm section?
Yes, we were only three but everybody else had already signed on to the sessions prior to the deal.
Were Artimus Pyle, Leon Wilkeson, Billy Powell and Barry Lee Harwood with you only to record the LP?
Yes, "Alias - Contraband"
Is Ricky Powell related to Billy Powell?
Leon Wilkeson and Ricky Powell are the two bass players featuring on the LP, but can you tell us on which titles these musicians played on?
Leon: "Dagger In The Night", "Cafe Deluxe".
Ricky played on the rest.
Leon at the time had no extension of his left arm so he had to play with the bass sitting on the floor like an upright. But he still did well.
You recorded in several studios in Orlando and Nashville. Can you tell us about the recording sessions? What were the course and the atmosphere?
Bee Jay Studio - Orlando (Alias musicians commune) using the first Fairlight Digital Console to record. Artimus and Barry's band Studebaker Hawk, as well as all the other musicians, all had group breakfast, lunch and supper. Skated in the parking lot and stayed in houses around Orlando. Quad Studio -Nashville with Stan Dacus doing final mix and mastering but it was still to analog tape and we had recorded in the digital domain at Bee Jay. There was no good analog to digital conversion then so we had to go through some wacky stuff to get the signal to tape so it could be mastered.
You co-wrote all the material with Jimmy Dougherty and usually also with JoJo Billingsley. How did you work?
Jimmy and I wrote all of the material. Jimmy usually wrote the words and I wrote the music and sometimes lyrics too. Jojo was not really a writer on the songs but she added color and presence with her vocals. "Live nobody was better than Jojo". "Dead Giveaway" was written by Jojo and me but was taken off the album [Editor's note: on the CD. The song is on the LP] because of legal issues that came about later.
What was the success of the album?
100,000 or better.
Has the LP been broadcasted on radio?
November 1979 live from the Agora Ballroom in Atlanta, Georgia. [Editor's note: Lately Streetfighter Records offers this concert on disc.]
Did you play a lot of concerts?
No, mostly studio only stuff now.
What was the Alias line-up for these shows?
Jimmy, Jojo, Dorman, Steve Pratt, Chuck Covey, Chuck Hasley and Skip Veahman.
You mentioned on the Web about a film about an Agora Ballroom show in 1979. Was it really filmed?
Yes, it was filmed, I'm looking for Jim Phicken from Jacksonville, Florida in the 70's. He's the one who made the film but I haven't been able to locate him or the film. The recording of the show was done on a radio promo disc. I don't have that either.
Is Mercury still holding the "Contraband" rights?
Analog yes, digital no. I own the digital rights, Streetfighter Music.
In 1998, you released a CD version on your own Streetfighter Records label. We have never heard it but the credits don't mention JoJo Billingsley. Why?
Is it just the name of JoJo which was removed from the credits or did you also remove her singing parts?
Jojo's name was removed from the writer credits after the management made changes and it became a legal issue and I walked with the publishing company.
In 1998 or 1999 was released a digital edition of the album by mp3.com/Jazz DAM. Is there a relationship with your own reissue?
On your website, there is also a picture of a "Gator Bait" CD. Is this again another CD? An anthology with all the Alias stuff?
"Gator Bait" is a reissue of "Alias Contraband" with added demos.
On your Website, (www.streetfightermusic.com
), "Breakin' Loose" and "How 'Bout It" are presented as Alias band demos. When have they been recorded and who are the musicians playing on these titles?
Singles from Alias 2, "Rugged Water". Musicians Sonny Clyatt [Editor's note: on bass] and Jimmy Charles [Editor's note: on bass] with me.
Were it from the 1980 sessions at the Homestead studios in Jacksonville?
You were in the process of recording a new LP? Why was it abandoned?
It was abandoned by the management
On your website, also appears a sample of the title "Laid On The Wing" sung by Jimmy Dougherty. When had it been recorded? and do you have some others unreleased tracks of these sessions, or from others sessions?
The original sessions for Alias "Contraband" were held in Saint Augustine the summer of 78' at Hansford Studio. That's where "Laid On The Wing", "Streetfighter" and "Holiday" all were born. Original demo from Saint Augustine were with Jimmy, Dorman Artimus Billy and Tim.
Do you have some others unreleased tracks from these sessions, or from others sessions?
On "Action Figures" [Editor's note: Beat Poets album with Dorman Cogburn and Jimmy Dougherty], "Devil's Bride" and "Child Of Fortune" are alternate versions from the BJ sessions in Orlando, FL.
How long the adventure did last and why did the band split?
Summer of 78'-81' then jimmy joined Allen Collins Band and Jojo got married and had a child. After legal matters concerning a flashlight and a policeman in Savannah. an incident that happened in Savannah, GA. Jojo ended up in the hospital and couldn't continue the tour so the last few dates Jimmy was without Jojo.
How old were you during the Alias era?
Allen Collins never asked you to sit in the Allan Collins Band?
Allen would ask me to come up with solos for his Horsepower sessions, being a friend we all help each other and Allen had been my friend since the 7th grade. He sat behind me in junior high. He always knew I was an original but, Randall Hall and Barry Harwood were Allen's guitar players. So that was 3 guitar players and they didn't need another one.
Southern rock fans lost you then. What did you do afterwards?
Jimmy and I got back together in 88' and recorded, Action Figures, Alien Beat Poets, Beat Poets Marx Brothers albums. We finished in 95' as the market crumbled. But the songs keep coming and are available now on www.cdbaby.com
search Dorman Cogburn.
What is the style of these records?
There are a lot of different styles, kind of music soup du jour.
You're working on a new CD, "Cerebral Worms". Could you tell us about it?
Bari Crook and I are working on new tunes at Jamie DeFrates studio in Saint Augustine.
Reading your website, it seems you pretty well knew Jimmy Dougherty. We would also like to get some information about his history. What was his musical history before Alias?
Jimmy and I were childhood buddies. He went to John Gorrie and Lee High School in Jacksonville, Florida. He was the son of a blind baker on I-95 where the trucks turn around. We were musically connected from the beginning, as was Allen and I. From the Comic Book Club to the Jacksonville Coliseum we played them all. From Jimmy Hendrix to the Rolling Stones, we saw them all. Our lives are in our songs.
I've got a copy of a record titled "Gun Ga Din", but without any cover, booklet or credits, supposedly including Jimmy Dougherty. I can hear his voice only one time. I've read that he was the drummer of this band. Were you in this band too? Could you shed us light on it?
Jimmy plays drums on the CD and sings "Common Man" and that's it, I don't know any more info. Other than Jimmy's drums were covered in Scottish "plaid".
Working sessions at More studios in North Carolina with: Dorman Cogburn (guitar and vocals), Billy Powell (piano and organ), Tim Ingles (bass), Artimus Pyle (drums).
Leon Wilkeson is present alongside the band as Gary Rossington who co-wrote with Dorman Cogburn the songs "Gator Bait", "Wanted Dead Or Alive" and "Pease Come Home".
June: demos recordings at Hansford studios in St. Augustine, Florida by Ken Martin and Rich Panken with: Jimmy Dougherty (vocals), Dorman Cogburn (guitar), Billy Powell (piano and organ), Tim Ingles (bass), Artimus Pyle (battery).
The song "Laid On The Wing" will be included on the Alias "Contaband" reissue in June 1998.
January: contract signing with Mercury Records.
July: Recordings at Bee Jay studios in Orlando, Florida by Andy DeGanahl. Mixing at Quadraphonic studios in Nashville, Tennessee by Rich Schirmer and at Masterfonics studios in Nashville, Tennessee by Glen Meadows with: Jimmy Dougherty (vocals), JoJo Billingsley (background vocals and lead vocals on "Dead Giveaway on"), Dorman Cogburn (guitar), Barry Harwood (guitar), Billy Powell (keyboards), Ricky Powell (bass), Leon Wilkeson (bass on "Dagger in The Night" and "Cafe Deluxe"), Artimus Pyle (drums).
Songs: Streetfighter - Dagger In The Night - Holiday - True Love - Devil's Bride - Can't Dry Up - Cafe Deluxe - Dead Giveaway - Child Of Fortune.
November: Alias band's "Contraband" release.
November 24: Concert at the Agora Ballroom, Atlanta, Georgia with: Jimmy Dougherty (vocals), JoJo Billingsley (vocals), Dorman Cogburn (guitar), Skip Veahman (lead guitar), Chuck Hasley (keyboards), Steve Pratt (bass), Chuck Colby (drums).
Songs: Cafe Deluxe - Dagger In The Night - Holiday - Devil's Bride - Can't Dry Up - Dead Giveaway - True Love-Child Of Fortune - Streetfighter - True Love (*).
(*) The "True Love" song was played twice, because it was at that time the album .
January: demos recordings at studios Homestead, Jacksonville, Florida by Rick Grant and Bob Lies. These five tracks prefigured the second Alias album to be called "Rugged Water", before the label eventually gives up the project.
With: Dorman Cogburn (guitar and vocals), Sonny Clyatt (bass), Jimmy Charles (drums).
Songs: Gator Bait (released in 1998) - Wanted Dead Or Alive (released in 1998) - Breakin' 'Loose (released in 2000) - How' Bout That (released in 2000) - Please Come Home (released in 2003).
June: remastering at Captured Live studios, Galveston,Texas by David Morgan and Hanz Reich and "Contraband - Gatorbait" release (Streetfighter).
With eight of the nine tracks from the November 1979 album ("Dead Giveaway" is missing) and three unreleased tracks: "Gator Bait" (recorded January 1980), "Wanted Dead Or Alive" (recorded January 1980), "Laid On The Wing" (recorded June 1978).
Alias "Contraband" unofficial reissue (mp3.com/Jazz Dam).
The "Dead Giveaway" and "Cafe Deluxe" songs are missing on this release, while the "Can't Dry Up" composition is included twice, once with the name "Cafe Deluxe". The "Child Of Fortune" song is renamed "Fallen Angels" and the two bonus tracks are "Gator Bait" and "Wanted Dead Or Alive", both recorded in January 1980.
"Action Figures" (Auto production) by the Beat Poets band with: Jimmy Dougherty (vocals), Dorman Cogburn (guitar and vocals), Stuart Ott (keyboards and slide guitar), Rick Bernheimer (bass), Ed Richardson (bass), Scott Edelman (drums)."The album was reissued in August 2011 (Streefighter) with the Alias songs "Breakin 'Loose", "How About That", and different versions of "Devil's Bride" and "Fallen Angels (Child Of Fortune)".
The latter two tracks are alternate takes from the July 1979 sessions.
"Alien" release (Auto production) by the Beat Poets band with the same musicians.
The album was reissued in November 2011 (Streetfighter) with the "Please Come Home" Alias song.
"Beat Poets 3" release (Auto production) ) by the Beat Poets band with the same musicians.
The album was reissued in October 2011 (Streetfighter).
July: Alias "Contraband" reissue (Streetfighter).
With eight of the nine tracks from the November 1979 album ("Dead Giveaway" is missing) and three unreleased tracks: "Gator Bait" (recorded January 1980), "Wanted Dead Or Alive" (recorded January 1980) and "Laid On The Wing" (recorded June 1978).
August: Alias "Contraband" reissue (Crossroad).
This time, the nine tracks of the original album are present.
December: Release of "Live Agora 1979" (Streetfighter) by Alias.
Note that the second version of "True Love" is missing on this release, whereas it was played during the show.