It is a privilege to present this interview with drummer Patrick Shanahan, founding member of Denver’s Soul Survivors, their offshoot, The Poor, and later Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band. He also played drums for New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Patrick has been kind enough to answer my questions and share his memories about his life and career.
What is your musical background ? How did you first get interested in being a drummer?
“My parents were both musicians. My dad was a self taught drummer that played with swing bands before the start of WW2. My mother had been taught piano and she had a good singing voice. She met my father at one of those midwest weekend barn dances where the farm girls came into town to see the farm boys at the big dance.”
Patrick’s father, Marl Shanahan, played drums for the Queen City Jazz Band in Denver for 40 years.
“Anyhow, there were always drums and practice pads etc. available around the house. Also a piano which I spent a lot of time at. As I gravitated more toward the drums, mom and dad sent me to a teacher for formal training to learn to read music. I also studied marimba and vibraphone so I was learning music theory and soon in the school bands (which they actually HAD) back then and performed in school concert, marching, and jazz band. Obviously I was a jazz musician at first but this new rock and roll music was becoming the thing. I thought rock and roll was beneath me as a musician but this guy named Gene Chalk from all the way over in East Denver approached me with the offer of making money playing rock and roll in his band at weekend parties. That was the start.
“My first paid gig was at the Stag Bar on 72nd and Federal in Denver with Rusty Young on pedal steel. We were only 16 or 17 years old at the time so our parents had to accompany us as chaperones.” (Rusty and Patrick were classmates at Lincoln High School in Denver)
How did the Soul Survivors get together?
“The band was called The Esquires at first and we just kept gaining in popularity. We were just a cover band but we were good. It was myself, Gene, Allan Kemp on guitar and Bob Raymond on bass. Everyone sang and we kind of divided up the genres vocally. I did all the Chuck Berry and Dylan stuff. Allan and Gene did ballads and Beatles and so we were versatile to an audience that was taking in everything. Soon we were working the state university functions and getting around.”
The Soul Survivors
L-R: Allen Kemp, Patrick Shanahan, John Day, Bob Raymond and Gene Chalk.
“Colorado had passed a law allowing the sale of 3.2% alcohol to persons 18 and older. 3.2 night clubs flourished. We were top dogs in the state and set up residence at a 3.2 place in Denver called The Galaxy and people came to see us and drink 3.2 beer. That’s when (keyboardist) John Day came along but I don’t remember the actual circumstances of how. We owned Denver, opening up for The Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher (that was a crazy one) and then along comes The Back Porch Majority….”
You wrote a couple of songs for the Soul Survivors that were released on Dot Records: “Can’t Stand To Be In Love With You” and “Snow Man.” “Can’t Stand…” ended up being #1 on KIMN in Denver for four weeks in November 1965. That’s impressive. Any thoughts on that?
“We needed original material to make a record and didn’t have any. I decided to try to come up with something and I wrote those two songs. I wasn’t impressed but the guys went for it. ‘Can’t Stand’ had a unique rhythm change and we used this new toy called a fuzz tone on the guitar like the Stones ‘Satisfaction’. We debated over new names for awhile and I really don’t recall why we picked Soul Survivors. We weren’t a soul group and later a group by the same name came out with a record.”
In the summer of 1966, bassist Bob Raymond left the group and you and Gene Chalk went in search of a replacement at a Battle Of The Bands event in Denver. That’s when you came across Randy Meisner playing with his band The Dynamics. Did you decide right away to ask Randy to join?
“So, as I recall, one night at the Galaxy, coming off stage a couple of guys (and maybe one of the girls) came up and introduced themselves as being with the Back Porch Majority, which was an off shoot of The New Christy Minstrels, put together by Randy Sparks, who had success with The New Christy Minstrels.
“They were playing Taylor’s Supper Club in Denver, had the night off, had heard about us, and came over. We all hit it off right away. We went to see their show and they blew us away. Anyhow, it was Mike Crowley, Mike Clough, Linda Evans, and Karen Brian convinced us that we belonged in Hollywood. Bob Raymond didn’t want to go. We needed a bass player.
“I’m not sure exactly who went to the battle of the bands to look for bass players. It was Gene and I and probably Allen. I remember when I first saw Randy he was singing a song called ‘What’s Your Name’ and I knew right there that he would be perfect. I think Gene was next to me looking at another band and I remember saying ‘check this guy out’ to Gene and it was the same reaction. I don’t remember if we talked to Randy that day or not.”
The Soul Survivors, with their new bassist Randy Meisner, moved to California and soon changed their name to The Poor. They also added new members Randy Naylor and Veeder Van Dorn. The Poor recorded three singles between 1966 & 1967: “Once Again” on Loma Records and “She’s Got The Time (She’s Got The Changes)” and “My Mind Goes High” on York Records. They spent 1967 playing all the clubs on the Sunset Strip in L.A. By August, they were sent to New York City to play a new club that was opening in Greenwich Village called The Salvation.
The Poor, c.1967
Clockwise from top left: John Day, Allen Kemp, Randy Naylor, Randy Meisner, Patrick Shanahan, and Veeder Van Dorn.
The Poor opened for Jimi Hendrix in New York City in August 1967, during his first tour of America. What are your memories of that gig?
“As I recall we had been performing nightly for several nights when to our surprise we were told that Hendrix was going to do a set. This was news to us, and I had never heard of Jimi Hendrix so when they got on stage and knocked holes in the ceiling tiles etc. it all seemed a bit over the top to this Midwest boy. So I didn’t hang out with them.
“We were living at the Albert Hotel in the village which was famous for its music business clientele. One time we were waiting for an elevator to go up to our room and when the door opened there was Frank Zappa and two other guys. We looked at them and they looked at us. It was this funny smiling nodding exchange of places and the elevator door closed without anyone saying a word. We were looking wide eyed at each other and someone said ‘that was Frank Zappa!’
“Oh, and the cockroaches were so big that you could hear their hard bodies clicking against the wood floors at night!”
You also had a bad case of poison oak.
“I left early for New York because I wanted to stop off in Chicago to see my old girlfriend from Denver who had become an airline stewardess. That’s when I started to break out and by the time I got to Manhattan a couple days later it was out of control. I had to go to the hospital and at emergency I was taken into a room and four doctors came in to see me. They all agreed that it was the worst case of poison oak that they had ever seen even in text books.”
Randy remembered that the band had no money and would steal pastries and milk from a truck that was parked outside of the hotel early in the mornings:
“We worked till 2 am and about 5 the Daitch grocery store truck would drop off the the morning order and put it behind the sliding gate, which we noticed was not locked, …..ever…..so after the truck drove away one of us would slip across the street and relieve them of inventory. Never more than a box of donuts, but yes.”
The Poor performing at Universal Studios, August 1968
Were you disappointed that the single “She’s Got The Time (She’s Got The Changes)” didn’t become a hit?
“I guess we were of course disappointed with no hit. It’s kind of like a musical miscarriage. But it’s no reason to quit.”
Didn’t The Poor do a lot of demo work?
“We used to make money by doing demos for different artists. Label execs wanted rough versions of songs to decide if they liked something. We met up with a guy named Keith Colley. He would pay us to come into studio and knock out 3 songs in 3 hours on a regular basis. The songs were put onto 45 rpm vinyl ‘dubs” and sent to the label.”
You also recorded some songs with the L.A. band, The Millennium.
“Yeah, we hung out with the Millennium and did some tracks. I put a marimba track on one song.”
Patrick and Randy outside of Randy’s house on Stanley Hills Drive near Laurel Canyon, 1967. Photo by Jennifer Meisner.
Patrick: “That’s where I got the poison oak!”
The Poor was managed for a while by Chesley Millikin,1 who decided one day to send the band out to Spahn Ranch, the old movie set which had become the headquarters of the Manson family. Tell that story.
“So one day Chesley suggests that we get out of the city for a couple of days for a change of scene from the east Hollywood place we lived in (almost burned it down). He suggested we drive out to Thousand Oaks to the Spahn ranch. Well, that was the west valley which seemed as far away as Mars but we hopped into the sleazmobile which is what we nicknamed the old rattling early 50’s Chevy or something that got us around when we had gas money.
“There wasn’t much out there but a ranch house and 3 or 4 weathered old shacks. We picked one and threw down our gear. There was only one guy around the place. He was an old fashioned rough gruff old horse wrangler named Shorty Shea. We told him we were from the ‘label’ and he left us alone.
“A couple of days later a brushfire broke out in the area and the flames were getting up to a road that was on the ranch border. We pitched in with shovels up on the fire line to contain the fire, which we did. Shorty liked us after that but when we woke up the next day a couple of the other shacks were occupied. There were a couple of girls laying naked on the grass and a couple of guys walking around. The girls didn’t seem to care about our presence. I recall having a feeling like I didn’t want to get involved with them. There was a group of people that night at the ranch house having a party. We were invited but I stayed away. We went back to Hollywood the next day. During the trial, we found out that the ‘family’ had cut Shorty’s head off.
“Can’t say who it was at the ranch but if I had to bet I’d say it was them, even though I don’t recall seeing a guy that looked like Manson.”
The Poor appeared on a couple of television shows in those days: Ironside and Name of The Game. What was that experience like?
“It was new and exciting the first couple of times but tv and film is always an early call. You have to be on set early and then you end up waiting forever to do 5 minutes. So it can be something quite boring.”
The Poor on the set of Ironside, 1968.
L-R: Randy Naylor, Randy Meisner, Patrick Shanahan, director Richard Colla, Allen Kemp.
How did you come to join Rick Nelson’s band?
“I don’t know exactly how Rick and Randy got together but Rick didn’t have a band and that’s how Allen and I got into that situation. We started out rehearsing in a house in Sherman Oaks that Allen, Richard Schnyder,2 and I rented. But it was in a neighborhood and we had to be careful about noise. But there was this funny little room in the house that was between a closet size and a small bedroom size and we pasted the walls with any kind of sound absorbing material we could get…cardboard, foam, egg cartons. We ate a hell of a lot of eggs back then. And I think, not positive, that that house is where we (Allen, Richard and I) first met Rick. He would always come after dark so as not to be noticed by the neighbors. That was always good for a laugh. And that practice room…
“The practice room turned out to be a soundproof success but at a price. There was no ventilation so we would run through a song or two and have to get out to fresh air. We would come out of there looking like wet cocker spaniels.
“In that house we also got mistakenly raided by the police and also had our guitars and other equipment stolen and then returned.”
Rick Nelson & The Stone Canyon Band
L-R: Randy Meisner, Patrick Shanahan, Rick Nelson, Allen Kemp and Tom Brumley.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Shanahan.
What was it like to tour with Rick?
“The first tour with Rick was like living a dream. I mean, from the sleaze mobile to the 747 lounge. Hmm, what’s not to like?
Do you remember Rick’s brother, David Nelson, being along on that first tour, filming the documentary, Easy To Be Free?
“Yeah, of course I remember doing that tour video. That was a lot of fun because it was like a home made video done by someone who knew how to do it professionally but just didn’t have the ‘stuff.’ I remember David once jury rigged a mirror onto the front of this VW bus, I think, so he could sit shogun and film Rick’s reflection driving in the mirror. We couldn’t drive too far cause you couldnt see out the windshield for the mirror!”
What was playing the Troubadour like?
“Playing the Troubadour was always the same. Playing the Troubadour. Musicians playing for musicians. It was a lot of fun. The ‘Live’ album was memorable. Rick’s friend Kent (Kent McCord from Adam 12) came along and shot photos.
Patrick at the Troubadour. Photo by Kent McCord
I’ve read the European tour with Rick was pretty rough.
“The European tour was a bit tough because we would have to drive long distances to and from bases so it meant for longer days but, heck, it was chauffeured, and we weren’t exactly breaking rocks for a living.”
Patrick and Randy in England, April 1970
Photos courtesy of Patrick Shanahan
Randy left after the European tour. How did his departure affect the Stone Canyon Band?
“When Randy left it was the typical process of finding a replacement except that his high voice was an obvious loss, but people have to do what they want to do.”
Randy & Rick
Photo courtesy of Patrick Shanahan
When was the last time you saw Rick before he passed?
“The last time I saw Rick was in Calgary, Canada at a big music festival when Allen, Steve, and I were with New Riders. David Nelson (of the New Riders) wanted to meet Rick Nelson so invited Rick over to David’s room. Rick offered me a ride on a private plane he had back to L.A. I had a couple more nights to finish out our tour.”
In 1974, you toured with Ike and Tina Turner in Japan. Tina passed away on May 24th. What do you remember about her?
“Tina was quiet, polite, unassuming, and liked to get back to her knitting when not performing. What a great lady and a real pro!”
Patrick with Ike, Tina, and the Ikettes in Japan.
You replaced drummer Spencer Dryden in New Riders Of The Purple Sage in 1977. How did that happen?
“I took Spencer’s place in New Riders because they weren’t happy with their management and decided that Spencer would be a better agent for the band. They were quite popular after several hit songs an we often opened for the Grateful Dead because of the relationship between Jerry Garcia and John Dawson, founder of the New Riders. I was with them for four years along with Steve Love and Allen Kemp. I met my wife at during that time and eventually chose to quit touring and settle down.”
Back cover of Marin County Line by New Riders Of The Purple Sage
Patrick wrote the song “Echoes”
Patrick with New Riders, 1977
Any other memorable moments you’d like to share?
“You asked about memorable moments and I guess this is maybe my most memorable moment in my career. It was with New Riders. We were playing a big outdoor concert in Englishtown, New Jersey. There were multiple acts playing and since 124,000 people showed up for the concert the country lanes around the event were snarled with traffic and pedestrians so they had a helicopter that would fly back and forth from the hotel parking lot to the backstaging area of the venue every 10 minutes. Well, with sound checks etc. I found myself going back and forth from the hotel to the gig quite regularly and I got to know the pilot a bit and was telling him about how my father (who had a private pilots license ) and used to let me fly the single engine Cessna once we were safely at altitude. So one trip I was the only passenger and the pilot said, ‘come sit in the co-pilot seat.’ So I sat next to him and when we got up he asked me if I would like to fly the copter. Well, I was shocked but he said ‘nothin to it.’ So, he kept control of the rudders with his feet and I took the stick. It was a 2-3 minute ride and I was banking left and right after a bit of practice and it was really fun. So, here we are on stage finishing our set and as I get up from the drums, Bernie, my drum tech throws a towel that had been in ice water over my head to cool me down and I was walking down the stairs from the stage and I see this tv film crew with cameras etc. filming us as we left stage. I was first down the stairs and three of us headed for the copter to go back to the room to shower and change clothes. I think it was John and Allen with me and the pilot told me to get in the copilot seat and the other two to get in back. As we lift off the pilot looks at me and nods toward the stick with a grin on his face and I picked up on it, took the stick, turned around to the guys and said ‘I’ll have you at the hotel in just a minute,’ and off I flew. You should have seen their faces. Widest eyes I ever saw. Jaws in their laps and white as a sheet!
“Oh, we laughed about that. Anyway, I’m getting out of the shower and getting dressed to go back to the gig and I turned on the tv just to see what was on while I was getting ready and it was a local news station and the announcer was saying” and now we take you to the big concert in Englishtown which caught my ear and I looked and here on the screen was ME walking down the stairs of the stage! With the towel over my head!”
Giants Stadium in New York, September 1978
“Bernie Granat, my drum tech, took this shot from sitting on the Grateful Dead drum set on one of the occasions that we opened for them.”
L-R: David Nelson, Patrick, John Dawson, Allen Kemp.
I hear your sons are carrying on the Shanahan family’s musical legacy.
“Ryan is a Grammy winning engineer and Dean is a famous drummer who has played for many artists. Morrissey, Ben Harper and more. Currently with Good Charlotte and Sugar Ray. Dean was the band leader on the Hollywood Game Night show. Lots of musicians in the family going back to mom and dad. But the boys have really done it. They both have platinum all over the house!”
When was the last time you saw Randy?
“The last time I saw Randy, was at his house in Studio City I don’t know how many Christmases ago. Joey and Takako Stec, my wife and I, and son Ryan went to visit he and Lana.”
Patrick Shanahan today.
Once again, I want to express my deep appreciation to Patrick for taking the time to answer my questions. His warmth, kindness and generosity will not be forgotten. It has been an honor to interview such a legend.
1Chesley Millikin, along with Barry Friedman, also managed Kaleidoscope. Millikin had a teen nightclub in Studio City called The Magic Mushroom, where The Poor appeared in 1967.
2Patrick and Allen met Richard Schnyder through Randy’s cousin, Tony Meininger. Richard later became road manager for Rick Nelson.