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"THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ROCK 'N ROLL BAND IN THE WORLD"
The Story of Shady Lady, Los Angeles' First Glam Band
by Chuck Nolan - HORIZONTAL ACTION No. 15
In 1970. Shady Lady became Los Angeles' first glam band. and possibly the first glam band in the United States. "It depends on how one would classify Alice Cooper or Iggy and The Stooges" says lead singer Stefen Shady today. Shady Lady had it all - top tier management. limousines, wanton groupies, and an LP produced at the famed Record Plant - until it all came crashing down a mere 3 years later. However, they left an indelible mark as musicians, showmen, and as forerunners of the underground LA music scene. Some even regard them as precursors of the punk movement. In February 2005, Italy's Rave Up Records released an LP of Shady Lady's unreleased 1972 studio work. Stefen Shady's destiny was apparent at the age of 16, when as the bassplayer of a North Florida band, he found out that "these girls from (high) school had created a fan club for me!" Stefen recalls seeing bands like The Left Banke and The Allman Joys (later to become The Allman Brothers) in Jacksonville FL in '66. He already had shoulder length hair and custom made clothes. "I was there jamming and I met some people from NY who looked at me and said 'what are you doing here? Inspired, Stefen migrated to Greenwich Village with his new friends. In NY Stefen met his songwriting partner, guitarist John Christian - a technically excellent player who had been good enough to get on stage at The Scene in Manhattan circa 1968 and jam with Eric Clapton and Alvin Lee. Stefen: "He held his own with these guys!" According to Stefen, John was "a lady's man - he got laid the most! But it might have been due to the fact that he wasn't as (pause) selective as some of us!" (laughter) Stefen also met Shady Lady bassist Gerhard Helmut, who was as Stefen describes "the strong one. We'd get in each others way, but we'd always work things out." Stefen, John, and Gerhard started to play with a jazz drummer who shared practice space with them., but was not a member. The search was on for more personnel, and at one point Stefen approached a very young Johnny Thunders at a Doors concert, who (like Shady Lady) had his trademark staggering / swaggering appearance as early as 1969. Shady Lady needed a second guitarist, but unfortunately at the time Thunders was only playing bass. Stefen: "We were getting really tired of not being able to find the other 2 members we needed for the band. We were thinking of moving to London. Then there were problems that arose with John and some Mafia type guys, who were trying to extort money from him because John and I were running this (popular) clothing store in the Village - we were forced to move." They hightailed it to LA, unable to afford a move to the UK. In LA, Shady Lady found rhythm guitarist Leonard "Bones" Denault, who according to Stefen "was the stable one, he wasn't going to go overboard on drugs, he wasn't going to go on an ego trip, or want to go solo." They also met their drummer (and future Zolar X frontman) George William Myers a.k.a. Billy McCartney. Stefen: "He met us when answering an ad for a drummer. He was trying to pass himself off as Paul McCartney's cousin at the time. He had recently conned some record company into giving him a record deal but they had yanked it when they found out he was full of BS. He had also conned some instrument company into giving him an endorsement for some amps and speakers at the same time. He has this photo he had altered with Paul's arm around his shoulder. he had done a good job doing it, as there wasn't computer stuff back then. Anyway, he had tried selling us that bull as well but we didn't buy into it. When we first went to visit him, his mom, who was manager of the building came over and he told us she was his maid. (laughter) He was a trip! After a couple of weeks hanging with us I had conned him out of his amps and speakers as I traded him a jacket that was once owned by Keith Moon. It really had belonged to Moonie though but wasn't worth the value of the amps back then. The other guys were laughing about it for days! He turned into a hell of a drummer though - Gerhard whipped him into shape!" Shady Lady began playing out in 1970 and according to Stefen became known for "loud music, decadent clothing, makeup, smoke, fire, profanity, drugs and lots and lots of chicks! We never played the same kind of show twice; we always did something different. We would get conga players, sax players, various musicians to sometimes come and play with us." Shady Lady's various outfits were made of velvet, satin, snakeskin and leather. Tops were studded, sequined, beaded, and mostly sleeveless to showoff armbands and silver cuffs. Bracelets, sterling silver jewelry, rings, earrings, crosses, skulls (before skulls and crossbones were popular). wide belts, hats and platform boots and shoes were worn to startling effect. Stefen: "I also wore masks of various types and materials. Masks were sort of a trademark for me on stage." They quickly caught the attention of Robert Fitzpatrick, manager of some well - known musicians. Shady Lady signed with Scepter Records, home of B.J. Thomas and Dionne Warwick. Reaping all the benefits of being in a rock and roll band, Stefen says there were "a lot of decadent scenes in Shady Lady. One night we were out signing contracts with Fitzpatrick, went out, had dinner/drinks, we were out late, and we come home around 2 in the morning. There were these glass doors where you can see out to our sun deck / swimming pool and you could see the Hollywood Hills and city behind it. As we walk in, we can see into the pool, and we see all these bodies in the swimming pool, and we go. 'what the hell?' (laughter) There are about 6 or 7 naked women in our pool that we've never seen before. We go whoa, okay! We just strip down and jump in with them! Things like that would happen a lot. There were always parties at Shady Lady's house." Stefen: Jim (Iggy Pop) used to hang out at the same places and would show up and come to some of our gigs. I let Sky Saxon of The Seeds stay at one of the houses we lived in for a couple of weeks or so, he and his dog! Well actually I let him sleep in the cabana by the pool. It was nice though, had a fireplace and a shower. David Bowie, as I understand liked us. He came to see us at the Whiskey and it was rumored that he wrote 'Lady Stardust' about that night. He certainly describes the scene there and I did sing "All Night Long", but who knows." In '72, Shady Lady recorded 4 songs at Larabee Sound Studios in Hollywood. After signing the deal with Scepter, they went into the Record Plant and recorded a full LP, which was produced by Shady Lady's personal manager Max Byfuglin (former lead singer of the Frantics) - as well as by Stefen and John Christian. The tracks that have finally surfaced on the 2005 Rave Up release are strong all the way through, with all the elements of a kick-ass early 70's rock LP present. Highlights include the song 'Save me' which uses T-Rex upstrokes, along with screaming slide guitar countered by Stefen's guttural wailing. 'Night Witch' is a 3 minute blues stomp worthy of Exile On Main Street. 'It's No Crime', besides being another in your face barnstormer - showcases John Christian's incendiary lead work. Stefen: "The type of clothes we wore on stage were pretty much the same as what we wore anywhere we went. That was just the way we dressed. I was a little crazy at times though as i might have a dagger stuck in my boot with the handle visible, or on my arm, or in my waist band. Sometimes I was armed with three or four knives and I'm walking into bars, clubs and concerts like this. Sometimes Bones or John had one on them as well. My personal favorite was a stag headed baton that I carried, which was decorated with silver, gold and a small ivory skull. This was sometimes a weapon, but more often than not used as a deterrent to not fuck with me. A swift tap on someone's sternum was all it usually took to persuade. There were always jealous boyfriends, husbands and just plain assholes out there who wanted to start trouble with you. It was usually over a girl. We fucked lots and lots of girls. We dressed a bit femme along with our long hair and makeup, etc. so naturally some fools thought we were easy prey, only to find we were the sharks. We were dressed to KILL." Gradually, things began to unravel. Stefen: "They (Scepter) never heard the recordings we were doing at the Record Plant. What happened was that Scepter Records made a business blunder and invested a whole bunch of money in a "Sha-Na-Na" type of '50's group and they bombed big time! We didn't know about this until Fitzpatrick and Byfuglin told me that Scepter was in financial trouble and were having to file bankruptcy and why." Things went downhill from. John Christian stopped showing up for photo sessions and rehearsals. Stefen: "I came to find out he was strung out on heroin. Billy was daydreaming about being in a space band like Bowie. I think the final straw was when we went to pull out our equipment out of the studio, and found that it was all gone. John had stopped by, either sold it or pawned, we don't know. He took it, paid for his drug habits and a plane ticket to London." Fitzpatrick and Byfuglin tried to convince Stefen to go solo as a Rod Stewart style poster boy, but Stefen wasn't interested, yearning for the camaraderie of a band. After a few half-hearted attempts to rekindle the flame (including one with Leigh Stephens of Blue Cheer and Leonard of Shady Lady) Stefen concentrated on becoming and actor and a career in the clothing industry. Sadly on final attempt to rekindle Shady Lady's fire was also aborted. Stefen: " I had gone back to New York and was hanging out at Max's Kansas City with Johnny Thunders and the other Dolls at the time. I got a number where John was in London from his ex-wife and called him. He came back to LA after I had comeback to Hollywood. He crashed at my place for a few weeks. We worked on some new material but he was just too messed up with alcohol and burnt out from drugs to get it together." Gerhard later formed the punk band Ripper, who issued a rare 45 'Under Der Faust/Trapped Like A Rat." Billy McCartney went on to form legendary space rock band Zolar X, continued to battle with alcohol, and as of 2002, received a 10 year jail sentence due to assault charges. Gerhard lives in Portland, Oregon and still writes music. Leonard lives in Riverside, California, and according to Stefen still dabbles in music here and there." Stefen, judging from recent pictures, still has the look/style worthy of Jeff Beck/Nigel Tufnel rock-godhood, so one might assume that current interest in Shady Lady has rekindled the fire. "I'm working on some new songs, and I'm also attempting to write a book,' says Stefen, but prospects of a Shady Lady reunion are pretty grim, given Billy's incarceration and that John's whereabouts are unknown. However, Stefen remains optimistic, "You never know. I'm not going to say never, you should never say never."