Vince Martin Got the Asylum back into Criteria Studios

Vince Martin Got the Asylum back into Criteria Studios

excerpt “History of the Groove, drummer’s story” Russell Buddy Helm

©2013 all rights reserved

Vince Martin got us a gig recording a soundtrack for an NBC special on the Everglades. “We care for the Land” It was about the fight to save the Everglades from the airport developers. Joe Broder had a meeting with us in his office in the grove. He was head of “Friends of the Earth” which was one of the original political action groups for saving the environment. I bought new equipment for the band using my father’s inheritance and we had a great time recording background music for the voice overs and the panorama shots of the sawgrass. Vince had a vision and he could translate it to the guys in the Asylum. We all played very well. I used the tympani mallets a lot.

There is a brass plaque on the wall in Criteria Studios; “James Brown recorded ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’ using one microphone in the lobby of Criteria studios”. We had been in Criteria recording demos for every label but nothing was connecting. I had come up with a strategy that seemed to work. At the end of every concert, I announced to the audience that they would have to go to their record stores and ask for our album by name. Each concert I gave out a different record label as the one who was releasing our album. It worked. We got calls from almost every label I had mentioned on stage. They had gotten word from the record stores asking for our album. It was reverse advertising. It would have worked if there had not been other elements at play in our bid for musical immortality.

I turned twenty one in Coconut Grove. My father, Lt. Commander Russell S. Helm, US Naval Intelligence, reached out from beyond the grave and gave me money. Joe Bicycle notarized my trust fund paperwork from Cadwallader, attorneys in Philadelphia. I received a check for a modest amount of inheritance. Like a fool I invested it in Bethlehem Asylum.

The earliest childhood memory I have of my father; I was drowning. I was a baby floating in shallow water, admiring the sunlight filtering down to me through the green liquid. I inhaled and started to black out-then feeling like I was being lifted up by God. My dad saved my life. We were at a summer swimming quarry in rural Pennsylvania.

The second memory of my father is a short snow sled trip down the hill by the barn on our farm in Pennsylvania. It was a gentleman’s farm. Father was a spy, he wasn’t a farmer.

The third memory of my father I was about four.  He was sitting quietly reading the paper in the evening with my mother knitting. I asked him to let me smoke his pipe.

“Take a big breath.” he said. So I did. I got sick and threw up outside the kitchen back porch in mother’s flowerbed. My mother said it was cruel but I remember him saying, “He’ll never smoke again.” He was right. It affected my attitude toward all of the addictions and vices that became available in the sixties. All except women. He couldn’t help me with that one. He died mysteriously when I was four and a half. Women, I would have to deal with using my own limited knowledge.

It might have been assumed by certain people that I would follow in my father’s footsteps and join the company with no name. They sent a cougar with a crazy name down to USF to fetch me. I found myself in Georgetown having Chinese dinner with six operatives and two administrators. I was only nineteen years old.

“You’re really good with those chopsticks.” said the drop dead gorgeous Chinese female operative. She was hitting on me hard.

“I’m a drummer..” I said.

“We know that.” she responded condescendingly.

After questioning me about LSD and the antiwar movement for the next week, they finally realized I was not going to play along with them. I left but you don’t really tell those people to piss off. They don’t forget. From their lights, when I joined Bethlehem Asylum, a flag might have been sent up. Every antiwar rally, every free concert in the park, the fundraising for students to attend the moratorium in Washington DC to protest the war that shut down the capitol for several days. We were possibly on the list. But it was really guilt by association. We were not actively political. We were playing the soundtrack to whatever movie was going on, according to Jim.

Our roadies were in better physical shape than any of us. They turned out to be Co-intel Pro. That was the program run by government agencies to infiltrate antiwar groups. I woke up in the middle of the night in our newly rented coral rock castle on Main Highway next to Ransom School. A new roadie was going through my paper work. Even the groupies were spying on us.

excerpt “History of the Groove, drummer’s story” Russell Buddy Helm

©2013 all rights reserved


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