Les Edwins

One thing I’ve never asked the others brothers is who’s the oldest and who’s the youngest?

I’m the youngest. You’ve got Ron as the oldest, then comes my sister Charlene, then comes Jeff, then comes Myron and then comes me.

What year were you born?
I was born in 1960 and I’m 58.

You being the youngest were your brothers playing musical instruments before you started playing the drums.
Well I would imagine that they were doing something because I wasn’t born when they were doing things. According to my mum Ron showed some interest in the drums first, actually Ron wanted to be a drummer first and then wanted to play the trombone next and then he started playing keyboards. I wasn’t pretty fascinated in drums at first because I thought that I wanted to play the trumpet but it was tearing up my lips so I gave it up. Then what I did when I was maybe three or four years old I started beating up on my mums cake cans. I would take a couple of forks and spoons to beat up all her cake cans and she got tired of baking cakes and the bottoms were lumpy. Her and my dad decided to get me a set of drums because they thought that they had a drummer here. They went and bought a toy set of drums, but I tore those things up in about a week because the drum heads are like paper. They weren’t for me. “This kid wants to play drums so we need to get him a real set.” They actually bought me a real set of drums and that’s when it started for me. I was just fascinated on playing the drums and I don’t know where that came from. There was just something about beating on things. That’s how I became a drummer. Then Ron started playing the keyboards. Jeff took after my dad playing guitar and Myron picked up the bass. We started a family band. My dad rehearsed us to death and was kind of compared to the Jacksons father, except he didn’t beat on us. He would certainly make us cry that’s for sure. My dad was a stickler for perfection. We wanted to be outside playing with all the other kids, but we were inside rehearsing. We would cry and say “we want to play,” but our dad would say “no, do it again! Do it again! Do it again!” He just wanted us to be great. He wanted us to perfect our craft. Even though we didn’t agree with it sometimes because at times we didn’t want to be rehearsing. We were kids, we wanted to be out playing with all the other kids and we’re stuck inside rehearsing, but it paid off. My dad wouldn’t have us playing the generation of music that we were growing up with because had us playing his generation of music. Speaking for myself I didn’t really like it because I didn’t like playing jazz, but that’s what my dad would have us play. I wanted to play more stuff that we were familiar with. I think my dad’s point of view was that if you can play jazz or blues you can play any kind of music. That’s how we would have got to playing really through our dad being on us. He was tough. Dad was a perfectionist.

Were you aware of your father being a well-respected musician?
Oh yes. What’s really strangely enough I think we knew that our dad was really respected and that he had records played on RAMO XXXX and he had ‘Bullfight,’ which was the biggest record in our territory. He was a well sort after musician. Everywhere he played he packed the house, no matter where it was. People would drive from hours away just to go and see him. One night when I was six years old my dad was playing in Welling, West Virginia and his drummer got sick. My dad couldn’t find a drummer and he said “I’m just going to have to take my son with me.” Here I am six years old and I’m on stage with my dad’s band playing the drums. These guys were probably twenty two or twenty three, but to me they were like old men. I did that gig for the whole night as his drummer. In between breaks they would send me into the kitchen, back east where we’re from most of the clubs would have kitchens where they would cook chickens. I was happy as a clam because I was sent to the kitchens and the ladies cooking would feed me well. I couldn’t wait to get on a break. I couldn’t wait to get back to the kitchen because they’re going to feed me some more because I couldn’t be in the club. My first real professional gig was with my dad’s band.

How long after this did it take you to perform with the rest of your brothers and your father after this?
We have such a long history with all that, so I’ll try and shorten it up as much as I can. My brothers and I went around the neighbourhood Half xxxxx, back east back home we have these places that are known as Half xxxxx, where they serve like a buffet type of thing and then they have a bar also. When we had enough sense to go out there with the little bitty instruments that we had to our neighbourhoods half xxxx and play three or four songs. We’d get tipped like something like five dollars and we were like “we’re rich!” We’d split it up and go to get candy. We could get 10 candy bars for five dollars, two bars each. That was kind of our first thing together with the brothers and me.
With our dad as far as performing with him as a band that didn’t happen until we got out here to California. I’ll take that back. We actually playing some places like we did a cruise on the Allegheny River, Pittsburgh. We lived in Canonsburg, which was about twenty five miles away, we used to play the Gateway Clipper. This was a cruise for proms and they always hired us to play. Our dad was playing with us back then. I can’t remember a lot of gigs until we got out here in California.
When we got out to California we actually ended up playing on the streets first. When we got out here we had a brand new 1970 van and we worked out that we could make money performing on the streets. Originally our father was on vacation for two weeks but we ended up staying here. Our father brought us out here because he believed that it would give us a better opportunity musically rather than back east. It was hard to make it as a band back east, it was very hard. There wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity especially where we’re from. We came to California originally to see what it was like and to get a taste for it. We ended up staying. We drove out here in a new van and when we got out here my father was making payments for the van. Our father had paid two payments in advance but we didn’t know that there had been a mail strike in Pennsylvania, so the van company never got the cheques. We were playing on the streets one day and when we came back the van was gone. That brought up a really hard situation for us. Here we are walking down the streets with our drums. We only used drums back then. Our father played cowbells, Ron did Moroccos and my other brothers did a dance. We were very very popular in San Francisco. We ended up losing our van and sleeping on the street for a few weeks, the whole family. We had nowhere to go until we raised enough money on the street to go to a motel room. Once we did that and we continued playing on the street for a further six to eight months we were then able to get a house. From there we were able to re-establish performing as a band. We would play the streets sometimes and then my father would book some gigs too so we would play with him. We were playing on the streets and some clubs. That’s when we really started playing as The Edwards Generation.

Somewhere around that time my brothers decided to do somethings on our own and experience other parts of the world. We called ourselves Genius and toured Japan, Europe and all these different places for a long time. We played with our dad for quite a long time.

Before you went to LA you had a trip to New York, can you remember much about that?
I was fairly young when we went to New York, I was probably about eight years old when we went there. We went to New York to get a record deal with Ghetto Records, who released our first single ‘School Is In’ and ‘Someone Like You.’ Nothing really happened with that. We were kids at the time and the best thing we did was get out of that contract at the time because it didn’t go nowhere. There were some promises made and they weren’t kept. The typical record company thing back in the 70s was to make promises that a lot of time didn’t happen.

Did you perform in New York during that trip?
We actually performed at the Lincoln Centre and opened for the Rolling Stones. It was a blur to me and I’m not sure whether that was put together by Ghetto Records or not.
You ended up over in the west coast and the first studio you recorded in belonged to Barry White, can you remember how that happened?
I think somehow we got an audition for him. I would imagine that our father had made the contact, he liked us and put us into the studio. My recollection is that it was just a bad deal that was offered. We recorded the songs first and then we went into his office to talk about the record deal. Our father knowing what he knew meant that we turned it down because the paperwork just wasn’t good. My brothers and I have had several recording contracts that we’ve turned down either by ourselves or through an attorney because the business of the business wasn’t right. It’s ok to have a song that somebody likes, but if the paper work’s not good it becomes no deal. That’s pretty much the history on why we never signed over to somebody and that’s because my dad had been through his experiences. He’d always told us about these things and they were true. You either signed yourself away and you got five to eight years tied up to a record label. Then you’re not getting your royalties and you’re not getting paid.

Do you remember recording the ‘Street Thang’ album?
The whole album was done in in the garage at our house. The way that I look at it is like this that album is still selling today in certain places like Japan. I don’t think either one of us in the family knew the significance of what we did back then. I would look at the album as being a very very collectable album based on where we were in the 70s. We even did the Mike Douglas Show, which was a big show back then. In 1974 we ended up being on his show which was a big syndicated show that was broadcasted around the world. Mike Douglas would go to New York for two weeks, LA for two weeks, San Francisco for two weeks and he was doing all these outdoor events. Then his producer saw us performing at the Wharf, introduced himself and said “hey, Mike Douglas would like to have you on his show.” That’s how we got on the show and then we did the ‘Street Thang’ afterwards. The cover of the album is photo of us performing on the Mike Douglas Show.

Do you remember who was on the show at the same time?
There was the Crosby’s, but not Bing, although we played for Bing Crosby at his house. We did a private party for him at his house. His son Harry and his wife Katherine Crosby were on the show, but I’m not sure that I can remember who else was on the show apart from them.

Do you remember what other acts you supported over the years?
We opened for War, The Intruders, Confunkshun, MC Hammer and a lot of others. We’ve done so much over the years. Those are some of the few that I remember.

According to Myron and Ron you fired you dad as a manager! Do you remember that decision process?
I wouldn’t exactly put it so much as fired. I wouldn’t put it to that extent as funny as it may sound. The way that I look at it, and I’m speaking for myself, at the time that we were teenagers we were in High School and there were Battle Of The Bands. There were guys of our age group doing gigs that we would have liked to have done. Our dad was booking us at one point in places that I would say weren’t suitable for the kind of generation that we were in. These were older people, these were XXXXX as I would call them bars. I don’t think that our dad was looking for the spaces that we really needed to be playing in. We still playing at the Wharf then. We were teenagers, I was like fifteen going into sixteen years old and at that point in time when you start growing up and you feel like that you start to need to do things for yourself. As a group we would rather be playing the hotels and some of the really cool clubs that some of the other bands of our generation were playing. Even though we were young those other bands were getting booked to places that were over 21 years old and that’s still closer to our generation. Our dad when he was playing with us was booking us for nights with people similar to his age, which was people in their 50s and 60s. It just wasn’t happening anymore. As bad as we felt it was just a move that we had to make otherwise we’d get stuck. I don’t think that our dad had that drive and at that point in time. Our dad was comfortable playing at the Wharf at that time, but my brothers and I said “we’re not going to do it anymore.’ We didn’t want to play in the street. We didn’t want to be buskers. I was ten years old when we got here and up to when I was sixteen years old we were playing on the street. Then the little clubs that our dad would book for us were just not hip. I think that our dad was comfortable because he didn’t want to do anything with record companies. He wasn’t really trying to go out there and pursue that. We were young kids pursuing maybe that big hit record or trying to travel around the world doing hipper music. Our dad was getting us to learn and rehearse songs that were not hip for our generation. In order for us to do what we wanted to do we just had to say “we need to do our own thing.”
Then when we did that came the Holiday Inns, the Frenchies club, Orphan Annies and a load of other clubs, but these were the hip clubs back then. We wanted to be part. I wouldn’t exactly say that we fired him, but it was a decision that we had to make in order to move away from being under his wings and doing the things that we wanted to do. When we did that started to play songs like ‘Brick House’ and all the seventies songs of the time, then the booking agencies got to learn about who we were started to book us here and booking us there. We started playing the really cool clubs and then came the offer to play overseas. We became a hugely popular band until I got hurt, which caused me to be out of the game for eight years. In 2002 I got rammed into and I was thrown out of my car. In 2002 we were still a highly popular band and still playing as Movement, everybody came to see us no matter we played it was a packed house. Then I had the car accident and I almost died, I basically died but I came back. My dad passed in 2001 and I got hurt in 2002 which was really a shame because as I was dying on the ground with both my femur’s broken in half, I had a brain injury and multiple soft tissue injuries. It took me eight years to walk and I’ve got metal rods in my legs today from the car accident. I’ve got rods down my fingers. I’ve had eight surgeries and I had to do almost nine months of cognitive brain treatment because I had a brain injury. That is the reason why my brothers and I couldn’t play because I got hurt. They had to start using different drummers because I couldn’t play. I was laid up in my house for two and a half years before I could get outside, that’s what the demise of us as a band. I think after eight years of being away things change. I had people calling me and saying that “the band’s cool and that but it’s not the same without you being there.” By the time I recovered the whole scene had changed. In that process, because I wasn’t there, I think that something happened along the way that the whole thing with music in clubs just died. So I had to try and do something different.

Which one came first the tour of Japan or Scandinavia?
Japan came first in 1980.
How did that happen?
We were playing at a place called the Belmont Holiday Inn. The booking agent John Verratini XXXXXX and this guy named Gig was the booking agent working for John verratini that was booking us. Bsck in the eighties American bands were hot commodities in Japan. There was Japanese booking agents or talent scouts that would fly over to America and go to different states just to look at bands to bring over. We were one of them. Gig had brought some Japanese fellas, probably scouts, to see us, they liked what we did and they said that “we want to book them.” That’s how we got that tour. Then we went back in 1981.
What were your impressions of Japan?
I loved Japan because the people are more receptive than I would say over here. We were playing at a club that would pack at least 1,000 to 1,500 people. We were playing six nights per week and twice on Saturday. We would come on at 2.30 on Saturday until 4.30pm and then we’d come back and play from 8.00pm we wouldn’t get out of there until like 4.30 in the morning. We would play one hour sets and then break for an hour. It was a long night. That went on for six nights per week for six months. We had Sunday off. I’m going to tell you right now every night that place was packed. That was a hard gig. That was our first time out of the country and we were not actually prepared for what that tour was about. Back in the eighties for bands it was all about suiting up. We had tailor made suits and jump suits with rhinestones and all that stuff. That’s what I miss about bands today, nobody dresses up. Back in the late 70s and the early 80s all the bands were about image as well as talent. We went to Japan we had the whole thing together and had all our songs down to a tee. We had all our uniforms for every night. The problem was that the songs we had were ballads. We didn’t know that all the Japanese wanted was fast songs. For me as a drummer it was good for me because I wasn’t prepared to play for an hour with no breaks in the songs. When we went over to the club and started playing a ballad one of the managers said that “we don’t want no ballads. We want all fast songs with no stops.” We were like “what!” we had never done that. We would always one or two songs together, then stop and say a little something before starting again but never would we play one song after another continuous for an hour. Even in between songs I had to keep going to segue way into the next song. That went on for three months. There were a lot of bands that got fired because they couldn’t handle that regime. Five sets, one hour each, by the time you’d get to your third set you’d be like “oh my god!” We were what I believe the first band from the bay area that went to Japan. I forgot to mention that they required us to rehearse four days per week within the contract on top of playing six nights per week. The manager or whoever they sent would sit on rehearsals and watch you. The second time was a bit easier and that’s when the Scandinavia tour came next, which was through the same booking agency. We went from Germany to Norway and we finished up in Switzerland. I liked the Scandinavia tours too, except that it was snowing. That was a bit of a challenge for us. The company that booked us owned a music store and they gave us a big Mercedes van to drive around in. They said here’s your map, here’s your itinerary go and do your tour. Once we were out on the road we had to make sure that we went from point A to point B on time. We were supposed to play in XXXX but it got snowed off. That was the only change on to that tour.

Two people that we haven’t covered are your mother Irene and your sister. What were there involvement with the group?
My mum’s involvement in the group was more on the recording level and she was never really on a live stage with us. She was more when we needed her to sing we would have her sing background or stuff like that. That’s the same for our sister. Our father and my brothers were the nucleus of the group. It was very rare for our mother and sister to be with us. Our mum can definitely sing. I’m not sure if it’s something that they didn’t want to do.

The songs that Cordial are releasing are of a high quality. Do you have any idea on why they never got released?
We recorded so many songs back in the time and to be honest you haven’t heard nothing. Me personally I’ve got hundreds of songs. We’re all songwriters. We were recording so much but we weren’t thinking about releasing them we were just recording songs. We were just jamming. “That sounds good.” “How about this?” We’d record as much as we could, but it would get packed away and we’d get busy out there playing. We’ve been on the road to a lot of places. Most of our career has been on the road. We split up after the 1983 tour because we just got burned out. We were on the road for so much. We just got burned out. My recollections is that Ron and Jeff got burned out and they didn’t want to do it anymore.
I started another band and went back on the road with Bobby Freeman. I was his drummer for a while. What happened with him was that we were in Canada and I was getting $375 per week. We were doing two shows per night and he was a strange guy to work with. You never saw Bobby until he was on stage. I got a sniff that the money thing was getting funny and this one particular place that we were playing at I went to the owner and said “let me ask you something how are you paying Bobby?” “I’m paying him in American money.” I said “really, ok.” I went back to the band and said “I knew that there was something funny that Bobby was paying us in Canadian dollars and he’s being paid in American dollars.” The exchange rate was 3.75 Canadian to 2 something American dollars. I told the band right there “the dude’s ripping us off. He’s been paying us the whole time in Canadian money but getting paid in American dollars. After this gig in Lake Tahoe I’m quitting.” He was keeping the difference to himself. What I said to the band was that when we could get our own band together. There was two white guys and two black guys in the band. I suggested that we called ourselves The Mixx. We all knew booking agents from all our prior bands, we could get on the phone to make bookings and after that gig in Lake Tahoe we would booked as The Mixx without Bobby. So that’s what we did the whole band quit. Then I did around six more years on the road with my own band The Mixx and I got burnt out just like my brothers. From 1983 until six years later I didn’t have a break, it was continuous. I said to the other guys that you can continue and use the name The Mixx, but I can’t do the road anymore.
At that time my brother Jeff had started Movin’, which guess after about three years of actually not doing nothing. Then it was him by himself with other musicians and then after a while Myron joined Jeff. Then after I got off the road I asked him “if something happens to your drummer I’m ready. I’d rather be playing with my brothers than anybody else.” Maybe a month later Jeff called me and asked me whether I wanted to do a gig with Movin.’ I did the gig and ended up staying with him. Then the next thing you know Ron joined in keyboards and we were back together again. That’s what we all did until I got hurt. We were very popular. We packed clubs all over the pace.