Image from Sundazed.com

Album: Truth

Artist: Truth

Record label: People Records: PLP-5002

Year released: 1970

Number of tracks: 12

Genre: Psychedelic Rock & Folk

The purpose of my Album Spotlights is to bring lesser-known albums to your attention, often vintage albums, with backstories you’ll find compelling and music you’ll find enjoyable.

Let me take you back to 1970. Gas cost 0.36 cents per gallon. The average cost of a home was $23,450. The hourly minimum wage was $2.10/hr. A McDonalds hamburger cost less than 20 cents. Some of the top shows on television included Hawaii Five-0, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, The Partridge Family, The Flip Wilson Show, Mary Tyler Moore, and The Wonderful World of Disney. Richard Nixon lowered the voting age to 18. Four students were killed at Kent State University. The Vietnam War entered its 15th year. Apollo 13 returned safely to earth days after an oxygen tank explosion. The Beatles broke up. Star Wars was released. The first Earth Day was held in the US. Elvis died (or did he?). And Truth was released.


Reaching for the Truth: My sealed original copy of “Truth” from 1970. Photo by Peter Skiera.

Truth wasn’t a novel or a movie. It was the debut album by hippy musicians recorded under the same name. Recorded in 1969 and released in 1970, Truth’s members consisted of Micheal DeGreve on guitar and vocals, and Bob Doran and Janice Kerr on vocals (strangely, none of them were identified on the record’s jacket). DeGreve was close friends with Doran and Kerr who were married. The three were backed by select members of The Wrecking Crew, a well-respected group of Los Angeles session players who performed anonymously on hit songs by The Beach Boys, The Monkees, The Byrds, Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Sony & Cher, Simon and Garfunkel, The Mamas and the Papas, and producer Phil Spector. As if that weren’t enough, Truth was produced by three former Motown execs.

Despite all of the enormous talent behind it, the album got little traction. Doran and Kerr split up which effectively killed the group, thus making Truth a one and done release for the promising young trio.


Image from Van Morrison’s official Facebook page.

In all fairness to Truth, it had some pretty stiff competition on the record store shelves in 1970. You might recognize some of the other albums that were released that year: George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, Paul McCartney’s McCartney, The Doors’ Morrison Hotel, Woodstock, John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, Van Morrison’s Moon Dance, Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys, The Beatles’ Let It Be, The Velvet Underground’s Loaded, and Badfinger’s No Dice, just to name a few.


The fact that Truth was released on a small, unknown record label called People Records (not to be confused with James Brown’s People Records from 1971) didn’t help. The newly established label apparently did little to promote the record. People Records’ complete “catalog” included only one other album…Kim Weston’s Big Brass Four Poster, also released in 1970. It’s got some great music, but like Truth, it didn’t make any serious impact. To add insult to injury, various bios of Weston don’t even mention the album. Weston’s husband, William “Mickey” Stevenson, was People Records’ founder and producer. It’s nice to have friends in high places. That aside, People Records disappeared about as quickly and quietly as its only two album titles.


After being out of print for 54 years, Truth was reissued for the first-time last month by Sundazed Records. With song titles like “Far Out”, “Let It Out, Let It In”, “Contributin’”, and a wild song about Lizzie Bordon simply called “Lizzie”, you know you’re listening to something from a different era. Sundazed describes the music on Truth as “sitar head-swirlers, sunny, melodic harmonies and a country folk influence…” I would call it a great trip without the drugs.

Truth be told, Truth was actually issued on CD for the first time back in 2012 by Relics Records, though it was an “unofficial” release. That’s code for saying it was a bootleg. I don’t own a copy of it but I’ve read reviews complaining about the sound quality. So much for Relic’s motto, “Cuts for Connoisseurs”.

Like his personality, DeGreve has a gentle voice, reminiscent of John Denver’s. But paired with Doran and Kerr, the trio sound more than a little like The Mamas and the Papas with some extra spunk. They may have been hippies, but they could harmonize like crazy.

“I would call it a great trip without the drugs.”

Michael DeGreve and his girlfriend, Kris, circa 2021. Photo from DeGreve’s Facebook page.

I tracked down Truth’s vocalist and lead guitarist, Michael DeGreve, and in a lengthy phone interview, I asked him to reflect on this gem of a 1970 musical time capsule along with some of his other memories.

Peter: Were you the guy who was holding on to the Truth tapes?

Michael: “Mickey Stevenson [Truth’s producer] had them and I don’t think they exist. Mickey Stevenson was the head of A&R at Motown. He put The Funk Brothers together at Motown, he wrote songs like ‘Dancin’ in the Streets’, produced Martha and the Vandellas. I mean, I was 19 years old and I knew who Mickey was…I think [the tapes] are gone. I connected with Mickey but he was so crazy busy. He just gave me a thumb’s-up, go for it, I don’t have them. God bless him. But Jay Millar [the GM] at Sundazed [Records] took a virgin copy of the album and did all that work. It’s never sounded any better. It had never been [officially] on CD before. I had a couple of extra pictures that are on the inside cover of the CD.”


Image from Mickey Stevenson’s official Facebook page.

Peter: Where did the name “Truth” come from?

Michael: “I think it came from Mickey…my best memory. I wasn’t really supposed to be a part of this, though.”

Peter: You kind of came into Truth by accident. Bob Doran, one of the vocalists, asked you to come along and play guitar for the audition and Mickey insisted you be a part of the group.

Michael: “Exactly right. Exactly right. Bob and Janice, my neighbors (laughs), it’s so funny, I had only been playing guitar a couple of years. I was really a basketball player. I had scholarships everywhere…I worked at the LA Times. So anyway, they said, ‘We’ve got this interview with Mickey Stevenson.’ I said ‘really?’ They said, ‘Would you play for us?’ I went, ‘Yeah!’ So, I went over to Mickey’s office and blah, blah, blah, and he said, ‘Well, you’re a part of this, right?’ I said, ‘Mickey, no, man, I’m waiting for my friend. We’re going to do more of a rock ‘n’ roll thing.’ He said, ‘We’re going to use some of The Wrecking Crew, but will you put you band together and do all your guitar parts?’ I said, ‘Yeah, of course.’ We got to the end of the first vocals and I could see him talking through the glass. Janice had said, ‘Hey, Michael’s got a part on this.’ “I was living with [Bob and Janice]. We had been, you know, 3 hippies up in the hills rehearsing all those harmonies. Mickey said, ‘Well, get out there and do it.’ Which is what you did at Motown. So, I did it. I could see him talking through the glass and Mickey said, ‘Get in here’, and I got this 10-minute thing- ‘you gotta be a part of this and whatever you do next is whatever you do next, but please be a part of this.’ You know, this is Mickey Stevenson for God’s sake. I said, ‘Of course, alright, I’ll definitely do it.’ Peter, I’m 19 years old and Tina Turner played with my hair in the studio one night. I met everybody at Motown through Mickey. I wish I would’ve been old enough musically to walk through some of the doors Mickey was trying to open, but it was an amazing influence in my life.”


Image from The Funk Brothers’ official Facebook page.

Peter: John Latini played bass on Truth, but besides him, the three of you, and some unspecified members of The Wrecking Crew, I don’t believe the record identifies anybody else. Do recall any other names?

Michael:Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. My best friend, ‘The Bear’,David [Smith], plays acoustic guitar on [‘Being Farmed’]. I think Jimmy Curtis, my drummer that was in The Lid, my first band, was on it, and of course, I played a lot of the guitars.

“And then the other half of the album was…I was too young to even appreciate it. Trust me when I tell you, I did not know who The Wrecking Crew was. I mean, I should’ve. I just knew Mickey brought all these guys in. One time, one of the guys, I don’t know if he was actually a member of The Wrecking Crew, Jerry Sheff, a bass player, did one of the tracks. Now, I know all their names and got introduced to a bunch of them. There’s a song of mine called ‘Thoughts’…Ben Benay, he plays that sitar part on my song ‘Thoughts’. So, it’s really a mixture, you know. Mickey, he put The Funk Brothers together, the band that did all the Motown hits, Mickey put that band together. He and Clarence Paul and those guys would run the sessions and I put the sessions together that we did. It’s an amalgamation…I haven’t listened to it in years…But I’m just so thankful [the reissue] happened…

“I just sent a long Facebook thing to Gabe and Andy, Bob and Janice’s two boys who were born right at that time…but when all this [publicity] first happened, I left out a lot of that, so I did a kind of Mea Culpa, and said, ‘You know, I didn’t mention Bob and Janice and told some of our story about we lived together, all that stuff. It was great.’”



Peter: You mentioned all of the incredible talent behind Truth including yourself and Mickey. So, you must have been surprised when the album got out there and sort of disappeared?

Michael: “I was. I was. Especially because it was Mickey. I don’t know if it was that just people didn’t exactly know what to make of it or what. Mickey and I were really close in the studio. We did some social things. He opened the door, like me meeting some of the people that were my legends…Stevie Wonder, I mean, God, I didn’t know him, I just got to meet him. It was a label [Mickey] just put together. Other than Kim Weston, his lady, we were the only other thing on it. So, I never really understood what the business thing was. I know people have gotten a hold of me over the years in places in Europe and things saying they had it and they loved it. I think it was called in those days, Peter, rack jobbing, or something. Whatever they didn’t sell they went out, you know, you’d see [records] in grocery stores in those days or whatever. Somehow, he did that. Yeah, I think I was a little disappointed about that time.” 

Peter: Since Truth wasn’t exactly a huge hit, did you ever see any royalty checks?

Michael: “Never received any royalties! Bummer!”

Peter: Is there any standout memory you have from Truth’s recording sessions?

Michael: “Lots of them. I guess the first one, of course, the one I told you about, Mickey actually wanting me to do it. Right when we were doing it, I had a fire. I was living up on Sunset and there was a fire in the middle of the early morning. The firemen broke down the door and got me out of there alive. I had nothing in the world except one pair of pants that were too short…my guitars were burned, and Mickey took me shopping to get a beautifully built 12-string.

“My memories are, we used to record in the evenings. That’s how that Tina Turner story happened. One night we got there and Mickey said, ‘Michael, I’m so sorry, can we do this tomorrow night? I promised Ike and Tina [Turner] could do vocals.’ And I [said], ‘Yeah, can we stay?’ (laughs)

“My memories are of my very first lead guitar solo ever, is the last thing on the album. Ah, pretty primitive. I go, ‘Oh, man, I hope my real lead guitar player, Bob, doesn’t hear this’ (laughs).


Image from Johnnynash.com

“What it was for me, it was being around, if my memory serves, I know he was in the studio with us, Johnny Nash, the guy that wrote ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ and having a real cool conversation with Johnny about, he was also a vegetarian, which I’d just recently become in ’68, and I think he sang back-up a little bit.

“Everybody came in and did stuff. Mickey’s on ‘Anybody Here Know How to Pray’ and a couple of other things. What was fun for me and what I remember about the most was the collaborative experience of all of us when we rehearsed, and did the album, and wrote all the harmony parts, and being in the studio in that environment with Mickey Stevenson and Jim Saunders and the great engineers. It was just an amazing experience. Lots of memories doing the sessions. I can look back and remember looking through the glass and being in the room and watching the guys from The Wrecking Crew go, see my friend John Latini. I still keep in touch with John, not in a few years, but I used to. He’s on that Bob Smith Visit album along with Jimmy Curtis, my drummer for years who I’m still in touch with…”

Peter: So, do you have a favorite track from Truth?

Michael: “Yeah, I have two. It’s the one Mickey loved the most. It’s the first one on the album. One of my very first records, a little bit of my Justin Hayward/Moody Blues influence, called ‘Have you Forgotten’. I also love the song ‘Let It Out, Let It In’. I thought that was just really well done. The harmonies are beautiful. But you know, I’m liking it more now, Peter.

“I quit listening to it. Life just got busy. Susan and I met and that part of my life started. Then I went out and did a two-year gig in Milwaukee, then went back. My agent called me and said, “What do you think about Cheyanne?” And I said, “I don’t. Where is it?” I went out there for two weeks and stayed 6 nights a week, 11 shows per week, on a handshake, for 30 years.”

Peter: Well, I love “Far Out” because I think it’s so emblematic of the time, but I also love the harmonies.

Michael: “You know, that’s what was fun about it, the three of us sitting around with a glass of wine and a joint, working out those three-part harmonies. That’s one of Bob’s songs, and of course, it was the hippie expression, ‘Hey, man, far out!’ (laughs). Bob wrote it. Cool! (laughs) I love that you love that one. I’m going to send Bob some spiritual vibes wherever he is in the cosmos. It would just make him smile so much.”

Peter: And what was the deal with “Lizzie”? A song about Lizzie Bordon!

Michael: “When you find that out, tell me” (Peter laughs).

Peter: You all kind of crack up or go a bit bonkers towards the end of that song, so it sounded like you had some fun doing it anyway.

Michael: “I think so.”


The naked Truth?

Peter: Maybe you don’t remember, but that great black and white picture on the back cover of Truth- were the three of you topless or naked?

Michael: “I think we were topless, but…I know we were topless, even Janice, but I don’t know if we….I don’t know. I think we had pants on.”

Peter: It’s my perverse curiosity. I can’t help it.

Michael: “No, no, I don’t mind visiting any of these things. If I knew the answer for sure I’d say, yeah, we were. Nudity was not much of a thing back then, brother. I thought it was a beautiful picture.”

Peter: It was! You look very Christ-like.

Michael:“Well, thank you. I wish (laughs), it’s an aspiration (laughs). Not sure I’ve lived up to that, especially when I was into rock ‘n’ roll and all of that. Trust me. But I never did anything past a brief psychedelic era, and then I smoked pot daily for 20 years. I’ve been battling cancer the last two years so I don’t even do that anymore. I don’t even drink.”    

Peter: One thing I wanted to ask about is there’s not a lot out there as far as photos of Truth or the sessions.

Michael: “There isn’t. There isn’t. No. That’s it. Jay [from Sundazed Records] wanted more too, but I gave him the two [pictures] that are on the CD. But that’s it. I have no other pictures of Truth…we just didn’t; it wasn’t a big thing, or, I don’t know. I thought, ‘Why isn’t anybody taking pictures’, you know?

“That’s kind of the same thing about Gypsy’s Lament [DeGreve’s solo album]. Why do I not have pictures of the first session when I walked in. I had Leeland Sklar [bass] on one side of me, David Lindley [guitar, violin] on the other, and I looked around and went, ’Oh God, please freeze frame this. I just want to do this.’ And the whole thing with [Graham] Nash and I. There’s no pictures of all that stuff…I wish there was. With all my heart I wish there was.”

Peter: I know the other two vocalists on Truth, Bob and Janice, were married. They divorced shortly after Truth came out and that pretty much ended the group?

Michael: “Yeah, that was certainly a part of it.”

Peter: Did Bob or Janice go on to do anything else musically or was that pretty much it for them?

Michael: “Ah, that was pretty much it for them. Janice sang a little bit of vocals in a cover band. I was already on the road by then…but [Janice] sang with Bob’s cover band right after The Lid broke up…he had a band like we all [did] trying to make a living playing. She sang and she had two kids and Bob had gone back to Florida, what little I know. I really don’t know much after that. We had a really good mutual friend that I’m in touch with and he said Bob was living with one of the soap opera stars on one of them deals, and Janice raised her kids and moved to New Jersey…”

To Be Continued

That concludes Part 1. Come back here next month for Part 2 of my interview with Michael DeGreve and find out what it was like to be a hippie, the big names in music who performed on his solo album, and what DeGreve is cooking up these days.



Trivia: On June 21, 1967, 75,000-100,000 hippies converged on San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district to celebrate peace, love, and freedom. It became known as the summer of love.

Trivia (from udiscovermusic.com): “During the 60s and 70s, Los Angeles producers needed reliable standby musicians who could be counted on to contribute to records in a variety of styles and deliver hits on short order. The Wrecking Crew were musically versatile performers who were usually brilliant at sight-reading. Their contributions feature in pop songs, television music, theme songs, film scores, and advert music. The reason The Wrecking Crew’s contributions to so many hit recordings went unnoticed at the time was that record labels wanted to keep it that way, maintaining the illusion that famous bands, such as The Monkees, always played their own instrumental parts.”

Trivia (from nbcnews.com, Nov. 2004): A man who placed a lava lamp on a hot stove top was killed when it exploded and sent a shard of glass into his heart, police said. Philip Quinn, 24, was found dead in his trailer home Sunday night by his parents. ‘Why on earth he was heating a lava lamp on the stove, we don’t know,’ Kent Police spokesman Paul Petersen said Monday. After the lamp exploded, Quinn apparently stumbled into his bedroom, where he died Sunday afternoon, authorities said. Police found no evidence of drug or alcohol use.”

Links:

Michael DeGreve

Sundazed

Enjoyed this article? Become a Patreon supporter today for as little as $1, or make a one-time PayPal contribution. If you buy anything I promote in any of my articles I do not earn a commission.