Interviewer: Jacky Huynh
Interviewee: Roger McCabe
What topic are you investigating? What research have you done so far?
- I am researching into the topic of music, especially during the time of Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969. I am done historical research of the time. I have looked at advertisements of Woodstock during the time to find changes. I have read other interviews of Woodstock attendees. I also have watched the Woodstock documentary made in 1970, and directed by Michael Wadleigh.
What is the connection between your topic and your potential interviewee? How will they help you with your research question(s)?
- I know that Roger McCabe was in a band and that he was asked to play at Woodstock. However, I know no other details of the story. He was alive at the time and questions of politics can help further the interview. I don’t know how Roger will help me with my research questions.
What is the ethos/credibility of the interviewee? What makes them a stakeholder in your topic—and what is their stake?
- I do not know how much I can trust Roger, but if I can find other evidence with his story than it holds a stronger truth. I believe that he would tell me the truth. His stake now is integrity to speak the truth.
Interview with Roger McCabe
Interviewer: Jacky Huynh
Interviewee: Roger McCabe, bass player for Jumping Jax and local musician
Interview Setting: Interview conducted in home of Roger McCabe in Utica, New York. The interview was conducted at 7:10 PM on Wednesday, April 6, 2016.
Affiliation with interviewee: Roger McCabe was introduced to me by Jordan Robinson, my freshman year roommate.
(Start of Interview)
Jacky Huynh: I know you have a lot of stories, but I am going to start of with a few more basic and general questions. Okay, so what was your band called?
Roger McCabe: Umm…well…my last band was called preacher. And the band before that was called Crabs…
Jacky Huynh: When were you in those bands?
Roger McCabe: Well…you wanna start from the beginning, or what?
Jacky Huynh: What ever is easier for you?
Roger McCabe: Do you want me to start back in high school or after high school?
Jacky Huynh: What ever is easier for you; lets start after high school.
Roger McCabe. Well…in high school…I was in several bands. It think that started was 1961, I saw Chubby Checker at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Jacky Huynh: Chubby Checker?
Roger McCabe: Chubby Checker…the black guy that did the twist.
Roger McCabe: And um…I said shit I can do that…I can…twist and sing up there and um…and the freaking girls were screaming. And he was making a lot of money and I thought well I could do that. And thus began a journey to do that. Then I made it my first goal in life…My first goal was to be an actor or a musician. A musician is actually an actor if they’re on stage.
(Switched Recording Media from iPhone to Laptop)
Jacky Huynh: What type of music did you band play? And I am asking by band, I mean the band that was asked to play at Woodstock ’69.
Roger McCabe: We were the Jumpin Jax…and if you would like, I will play you a record.
Jacky Huynh: I would love to listen to the record when we conclude with the interview.
Roger McCabe: The Jumpin Jax recorded the first stereo 45 record made in America.
Jacky Huynh: That is really cool. That is really really cool.
Roger McCabe: Yeah, or that is what the engineer told me. Of course, he also said, “These are John Lennon headphones.” And I says, “Well, give me some that fucking work!”
Jacky Huynh: Where were you and your band located?
Roger McCabe: New York State.
Jacky Huynh: More specifically, where in New York State?
Roger McCabe: The management was based in Utica.
Jacky Huynh: Where did the Jumpin Jax practice together?
Roger McCabe: I would go from Utica to Binghamton to rehearse for months.
Jacky Huynh: Did you go all day?
Roger McCabe: Umm..yeah—I practiced all day with the band.
Jacky Huynh: How did you feel about Woodstock concert as a whole?
Roger McCabe: If I’d play Woodstock, I most likely would’ve been dead—like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, all those others.
Jacky Huynh: That’s how you feel about Woodstock?
Roger McCabe: Or, I could have been a very big star. Like most of them that came out of Woodstock, were all big starts—and/or dead. So, Woodstock made the generation I think musically and culturally.
Roger McCabe: Did you know that at Woodstock people brought top of the shelf L. L. Bean camping equipment? They spent thousands of dollars to camp at Woodstock. When it got some muddy, they said that they didn’t want to clean it. So they just left it there! Tents and camping gear all over Woodstock; and they plowed it all under! They just plowed it under and let the grass grow.
Jacky Huynh: Did you go to Woodstock yourself?
Roger McCabe: No.
Jacky Huynh: Because…where you playing somewhere else?
Roger McCabe: Right, the Woodstock story.
Jacky Huynh: What is your Woodstock story?
Roger McCabe: The Jumpin Jax were going on the road—traveling to places in Syracuse, Rochester, Jamestown, whatever. But either way we were on the throughway driving. We saw two guys broken down on the side of the road by the rest stop. So, we felt sorry for ‘em and they looked cool. So we stop to share a beer with them. They…we spent a little time and got to know each other for a little bit by the picnic table. “Oh…you’re in a band.” We said, yeah yeah. They says we’re putting on this festival downstate, (next…I don’t know) next couple of months. And, “Why don’t you come and play?” They told us that they couldn’t pay on that much but we would have a good time and there will be at least 100,000 people there. They were overwhelmed with the turn out at Woodstock. And we said, “No, no—we have another gig at the other end of the state.” It gave us a couple of hundred bucks each. And we wouldn’t have to go set up at a dirty cow pasture and not get paid for it. NO, we were beyond that—we were on our way to stardom; yeah, we were on our way to stardom. Actually we were, the kid had a plan, the guitar player had a plan—we all had a plan.
Jacky Huynh: Did you know the two guys you were talking to?
Roger McCabe: The guy with the curly hair that’s on television. They were the two producers of Woodstock. Well, I don’t know. We didn’t introduce ourselves. We just chilled sitting at a picnic table. Just sat down and they didn’t introduce themselves but they said, we’re putting on this festival and a Woodstock.
Jacky Huynh: What was their hook when inviting your band to play at Woodstock?
Roger McCabe: They asked us to play cause we’re in a band. Probably, they needed some fillers between the Stones and the Joplins, and things like that. And so yeah, they says, “We’ll give you a good time and there will be a lot of people there.”
Jacky Huynh: But they wouldn’t pay you a lot?
Roger McCabe: Yeah.
Jacky Huynh: Back to the Woodstock Story: what was this plan? Did everyone in the group have the same plan?
Roger McCabe: I was working as a computer programmer in 1966, just out of college—kicked out of Utica College because they had a “three cut rule”. If you cut three classes, you’re out.
Jacky Huynh: I guess I would be kicked out of Utica College.
Roger McCabe: So um, some guy called me from an insurance company. And he said, I got your name from your high school principle. And I says, “I don’t wanna buy insurance.” He said no I am offering you a job. So I went down for an interview, because I had nothing else to do. I had to think of making a living all of a sudden. After I left the job, this kid calls me after a couple of years. He calls me and says, “I hear you play bass.” I said yup. He says to me: “I’m starting a band, and we are going to make record and become stars.” And I said, “Okay, okay” So, that was how the Jumpin Jax were formed.
Jacky Huynh: Who were apart of the Jumpin Jax?
Roger McCabe: We had me on bass and this guy on guitar. We had a drummer from Norwich, Peppy. And a girl singer, Francine Ellis from Binghamton. So, we practiced for a few months and started playing out.
Jacky Huynh: When or where did the Jumpin Jax land their first gig?
Roger McCabe: The first couple of months we landed a job in Lake George for the summer. And I says, “This is nice.” Don’t have to set-up the equipment or take it down. And you’re in a resort area. And they’re playing me. So…um, we took it. And that was the summer of love. I called it the summer of love because it was the summer of love—love was in bloom. Peace, love, Volkswagen buses. Ya know? I had a green Volkswagen bus—which is the emblem of the Woodstock era, green Volkswagen bus.
Jacky Huynh: Did you know anyone else who chose not to go to Woodstock, maybe local bands in the area? Or did go?
Roger McCabe: I didn’t know if anybody was asked. I still haven’t talked to anyone that was asked—as far as local bands.
Jacky Huynh: How did you feel about the Vietnam War?
Roger McCabe: I got drafted. I got drafted just out of high school. But then, six or seven of my classmates in high school have been killed.
Jacky Huynh: And this was just after graduation?
Roger McCabe: Umm…yeah. So ummm, I went to Syracuse to take the physical. And, I saw a doctor before because I had problems with my knee, and I had problems with my back. I thought it was safe to tell them what they were getting in for if they took me into the service. They told me that we don’t care about your broken knee or back. We only care that you have a start of an ulcer in your junior year of high school.
Jacky Huynh: An ulcer?
Roger McCabe: Ulcer, in my stomach. And they said that means that you have emotional problems and that you’re crazy. So I said to them, “You don’t want to take crazy people and teach them to kill, but you wanna take sane people and make them crazy.” And they didn’t answer. But, they didn’t take me. To answer your question, I wasn’t going. I said I’ll type, I’ll type; but I wasn’t going to Vietnam. He said, “Okay, you’re crazy…you’re crazyy.” And they classified me for 4F.
Jacky Huynh: What is 4F?
Roger McCabe: 4F, which is a designation that you are physically or mentally incompetent to go into the service.
Jacky Huynh: During this time people were leaving for Canada because of the Vietnam War, how do you feel about that? And did you have people that left for Canada?
Roger McCabe: The politics didn’t play in at the time. You were 18/19, and girls/nurses, drinking, and this and that. I put it on the back tangent about Vietnam and politics.
Jacky Huynh: So, you didn’t think about the politics much?
Roger McCabe: I just didn’t think about it. I really didn’t think about it. We thought about the war a lot, but we didn’t think about the why.
Jacky Huynh: You kind of answer this question already. But, did any of your music talk about the politics, or anything at the time?
Roger McCabe: We ummm, you mean the type of music we played?
Jacky Huynh: Yeah, the genre of music you played.
Roger McCabe: The Jumpin Jax played music that you would hear at a club—we were a club band. Dance, ballads, and we played it all quiet. We played it all quiet as possible; so that, you and your date could talk at a table. Ya know? We basically played popular music of the day: hits—all hits. And if there was a message to some of the songs. I didn’t get lost in the lyrics. If it was catchy and had a beat. And we could do it—nicely. Then we played it.
Jacky Huynh: You said before that the Jumpin Jax had a record and would play it. I would love to listen and record the music.
Roger McCabe: I’ll get it out, but the record player is old—but its functional.
Jacky Huynh: As long as it’s functional.
Roger McCabe: (Brings out old record player, and 45 record of the Jumpin Jax)
Jacky Huynh: Can I take a picture of the record?
Roger McCabe: (Hands Jacky the record, and continues to set-up the old record player)
Roger McCabe: This is a remake of a Beatles’ song. This record was done while we were in Lake George. The Oxford Watch Band was playing up there—a band from Rochester. And they to come in—cause they only doing three sets a night; we’re doing six. And they would come in. We got to know them. They did a set—and anything so we didn’t have to work as hard. Anyway the guitar player said, “You guys should record, you guys should record.” And Bobby said, “Yeah! That’s what we’re planning on doing.” He has a dream—we’re getting girls; we’re putting the band together; and we’re recording and becoming stars. So Brad said, “My brother knows a guy who’s the vice president of Capital Records.” I says, “Why don’t you talk to him?” He says, “Well we’re not ready yet. But you guys sound like you’re ready.” So we went and talked to this guy, and he really did know a guy who was the vice president of Capital Records. And he says, “Yeah, record—come on down with your band and we’ll set you up with studio time.” And the first one we did was a remake of a Beatles’ song. Now this is a stereo recording but it’s also one huge speaker.
Roger McCabe: (Starts stereo recording of the Jumpin Jax’s cover of It Won’t Be Long by the Beatles)
Roger McCabe: This was the type of music that we played. This is just a demo record. The agent was going to take this and shop it around to different companies.
Jacky Huynh: She was really good.
Roger McCabe: (Flips record) But, here’s the one I like.
Roger McCabe: (Plays Love, that’s where it is by the Jumpin Jax)
Jacky Huynh: I like how this record player is Sears.
Roger McCabe: Huh?
Jacky Huynh: It’s Sears, and like they just got rid of the one in the mall.
Jacky Huynh: She’s really good.
Roger McCabe: She was a paranoid schizophrenia.
Jacky Huynh: Who?
Roger McCabe: The singer, it was very interesting.
(End of Interview)