Spotlight - Larry Lawson
Q. Tell us about your early days in BC.
A. Between 1949 and 1950, my family moved from Port Arthur to BC when BC wasn’t much more than a fish camp little town. There was no bank, but we had a post office, where JB Scales was the post master. There was only one school on Texas Ave (back then it was called Hwy 87) for all grades, however I did go to Kindergarten, taught by Mrs. Howard, in a little white wooden building near Howard’s Grocery. (Recently, I was in R.C. Slocums (A&M Football Coach) home in College Station and he has a photo on one of his walls of this little school building in BC. RC lived in BC until his family moved to Orange in 1955.) I skipped 1st grade and went directly to 2nd grade, taught by Mrs. Thornton. My parents purchased the old Higgins place and garage on 87 and my Father opened Lawson’s Garage. It kind of reminded me of the Alamo, the way it was shaped and it had one of those old time neon clocks in the arch that became kind of a landmark in BC. It was the only building in BC with an outside clock. A few years later, my Father built the largest commercial building in BC for his new Lawson’s Auto Parts store. He owned and operated Lawson’s garage and auto parts up and until the late 70’s early 80’s. Back in those days, people in BC were either involved with church, school, BO Sparkle club or Bailey’s fish camp. Weekends in BC were buzzin around Joe Bailey’s club down on Cow Bayou, where everyone went swimming, drinking and water skiing. I believe our graduating class had around 70 graduates.
Q. How did you get into music
A. Interesting story...I was crippled as a child and wore leg braces from age 5 (kindergarten) until age 12 (7th grade). Since I was a hyper child, the docs suggested to my parents activities that would keep me inside and off my legs...thus piano lessons at age 5. I gravitated to the piano like a duck to water, especially playing by ear...making up my own songs. I took formal classical music lessons from John Conder (Orange), however, I didn’t appreciate classical music as much as being creative with rock music. I began writing music at an early age and copyrighted my first songs at age 13. Pretty special for a BC kid who had to learn all by himself how to write out the music and get it mailed to Washington, DC. There were no tape cassettes back then. The school had a school band and I started playing the clarinet, then switched to trumpet. My Mother was active with the school and housed the band instruments in our home. There, I would pull out every band instrument and play them. We had everything from drums, flutes, trombones, trumpets, cornets, triangles, bass horns, tubas...everything. I thought this was great. I also played organ for the First Baptist Church. I can remember Reverend Meyers looking over at me while playing organ on Sunday mornings with a mean look on his face because I would jazz up the Hymns with a little rock n roll. He didn’t like that at all. Everyone who knew me throughout junior high and high school knew me for playing music. I also was the lead trumpet player in the HS band known for playing “Sugar Blues” at the football games and assemblies. Music pretty much dominated my life. I would have my Mother and Father take me to Beaumont on Sunday afternoons to be on the Don Mahoney and Jena Clare show. This was a local televised talent show for the local kids. There I met Edgar and Johnny Winter. They would go on the show and sing Everly Brother songs like “Wake Up Lil Suzie” and I would play my piano and sing “Little Darlin” by the Diamonds. We made a pact that we would get together one day and form a band...and we did. I always dreamed of making records, so, at age 13 or 14, after I wrote a few songs, I asked my Father if I could make a record. Being an auto mechanic, he didn’t know where to begin, so I had to put it all together. I found a recording studio (L&F recording studio) in Pt. Arthur, hired a local band (Dwight Perry & the Rockin Knights) to back me up and I cut my first record. We sold all of maybe 20 copies, mostly to me and my family. This was my beginnings into music.
Q. How did The Clique get together
A. The Clique came together by way of a phone call. I was working in my Father’s auto parts store while in college when I received a call from a Mr. George Kannesaw, VP of Sabine National bank in Pt. Arthur. He told me he had heard of me and wanted me to listen to his son’s band and give them some tips. I agreed, met them in Groves and was introduced to The Roustabouts. I listened, gave them my opinion and after firing some members and rearranging the members of the band, I joined the band and became their “band leader”. I began to look for additional members to join the group and hired 3 more members. Soon afterwards, we changed our name to The Sandpipers and became the #1 golden triangle band and widely recognized for our music abilities, talent, showmanship and simply great rock music. We played for several area high schools, DERA, teen halls, and clubs. We entered a battle of the bands contest in Houston around 1966 and won first place. From there we were approached by Walt Andrus of Andrus productions in Houston to record a song (Splash 1) written by members of The Thirteenth Floor Elevators. He didn’t have any ideas for a “B” side, so I wrote “Stay By Me” for the “B” side of record. We released the record and it sold more records in Houston and the triangle area than any other record in history. This launched us to national recognition and we were picked up by Scepter Records in NY and Steve Tyrell (who is a huge talent today) was our producer. We recorded additional records for Scepter (Love Ain’t Easy/Gotta Get Away)
Q. What was life on the road like then
A. Life on the road wasn’t all that bad. When you’re young, you can pretty much go with anything and none of us knew what luxury was. The real test about being on the road was all the groupies and people who wanted to associate with the band. We had plenty of opportunities to indulge in different lifestyles and have anything we wanted from drugs to sex. This was clearly an eye opening experience for me. Thanks to being raised correctly, I didn’t fall far from grace. Touring with other bands was a real experience. We toured with groups from Canada, England as well as the U.S. We exchanged music ideas, we jammed, it clearly broadened our horizons personally as well as musically.
Q. The Clique had some hit records. What were they.
A. Our first hit record was our first record - SPLASH 1. I wrote the flip side, STAY BY ME. This record took off like a rocket. We were quickly picked up by Scepter Records of NY, the same label as Dionne Warwick, B.J. Thomas, The Guess Who and the Shirelles. While with Scepter, The Clique recorded LOVE AIN’T EASY and GOTTA GET AWAY. The Clique didn’t hit real pay dirt until the group moved to White Whale Records, CA and released our first (and only) album. The group had 4 National top 100 hits off that album. They were SUGAR ON SUNDAY, SUPERMAN, JUDY, JUDY, JUDY and I’ll HOLD OUT MY HAND. All in all, The Clique sold over 5 million records.
Q. Your band was recently honored by the Texas Music Awards in Austin and possible induction into the Gulf Coast Music Museum. Tell us about that.
A. The Clique was recently honored by the Texas Music Awards in Austin and considered one of Texas’ original Rock Groups. We haven’t been inducted into the Gulf Coast Music Museum as of this day, however, it is in the works. Being recognized and honored 35 years after is humbling. We had no idea that our little group from the Golden Triangle would have left it’s mark in Texas music history. There are groups re-recording our music and that’s special to us. During the honor ceremonies in Austin, a new Texas band named Reddy Freddy has just cut a new album and did a cover of SPLASH 1. Back in the 80’s, REM re-recorded SUPERMAN and actually had a chart buster with their cut. A few years ago, SUPERMAN was featured in an IBM commercial on television.
Q. How has the music industry changed over the years. Is it better off today?
A. There is no question that the music industry has changed over the years and I’ll say for the better. When we were playing, recording and touring, the industry was run by and controlled by a loosely run music mafia. Today, due to an open environment in recording and publishing, talent today has a better chance than did talent of 30 years ago. There were a lot of very good musicians and talent that never made it because they weren’t at the right place, right time. We were lucky. We never really tried to be successful, it just happened. Of course each of us had talent, but luck played a very big part of our limited success.
Q. What are you up to these days?
A. After my brief by fun music career, I entered the medical field and have been in it for 35 years, enjoying every minute of it. I still live in Texas (The Woodlands). I am happily married to Lisa Estep, from Dallas. We live in a golf community on the TPC golf course and enjoy playing golf. I own a cardiology cardiac services company that provides cardiac services to cardiologists, electrophysiologists and internal medicine docs throughout the U.S. I’ve continued writing music and for the past 8-10 years have been writing Contemporary Christian music. I’ve written and recorded a couple CD’s but have done nothing with it, mainly because I’m so busy with my company. Perhaps one day I’ll get around to distributing the music. I have a room full of keyboards that I play, a baby grand piano, a collectible (pristine) Fender Rhodes 88key, and three Yamaha synthesizers. I’m still having a good time. Life has been good.