Bobby Caldwell is a drummer who played with some of the hottest acts of the ’70s. He got his start by joining Johnny Winter And. The Johnny Winter And Live album starts off with Bobby’s drum groove of “Good Morning, School Girl.” The drum groove is very infectious and energetic and sets up a genuinely exciting tone that the whole live album will carry. Bobby’s playing is one of several reasons (not least of which is the excellent guitar playing by Johnny Winter and Rick Derringer) Johnny Winter And Live is considered one of the finest live albums out there. Caldwell would also jam with the Allman Brothers on the live Fillmore shows that appeared on At Fillmore East and Eat A Peach. Caldwell's actual album appearance is on "Drunken Hearted Boy" of The Fillmore Concerts.
After Winter, Bobby would become part of a group whose members consisted of Rod Evans (of Deep Purple), Lee Dorman and Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt (of Iron Butterfly). The combination of all four talents made one of the best cult rock bands out there, Captain Beyond. The debut album is one of this author’s favorite and most-listened to record. The music was unlike what any of the four members did. While it does contain the heaviness of Iron Butterfly and Deep Purple, the music contains a lot of jazz and progressive rock elements, with the lyrics of a sci-fi bent. As with Johnny Winter, Bobby starts off the album with another exciting drum groove of “Dancing Madly Backwards” that will set the tone for the rest of the album. Although Bobby did not appear on the next album, Sufficiently Breathless, he did appear on Rick Derringer’s classic All-American Boy album (containing Rick’s biggest hit “Rock ’n Roll, Hootchie Koo”) and rejoin Captain Beyond on tour, which came to an end when Rod Evans left the band.
Bobby went on to join another band, Armageddon, which was led by the late Keith Relf (of the Yardbirds). Although Armageddon would last only one album, that album remains a cult favorite of ’70s rock. Armageddon is similar to Captain Beyond in that it is progressive and heavy. When Armageddon disbanded, Bobby went on to reform Captain Beyond, with Willy Daffern taking over for vocals. The band would break up shortly only to reform again from 1998 to 2003, with Bobby and Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt the only original members left.
In this candid conversation, we look back at Bobby’s work, including Johnny Winter, The Allman Brothers, Captain Beyond and Armageddon. Bobby is also a metaphysics minster, which we discuss in this interview. I want to thank Kim Reilly of Seaside Music Management for setting up the interview, but most of all I want to thank Bobby.
Bobby Caldwell: Gosh, how did I start playing drums? When I was a child probably around, I wanna say probably 10 or 11 years old is when I had pretty much decided I was gonna play drums. There was other instruments around at the time that were popular. You’re always influenced by, if everybody was playing the kazoo those days, at 14, you go, “Wow, you know, I might play kazoo,” so that’s pretty much how it started and I just had an interest in it. I used to go see all these bands, you know, that were much older than me.
BC: That’s right. That’s right. Well that’s a lot to do with Rick’s guitar playing and that’s also a lot to do with Randy Hobbs’ bass playing and me because Randy Hobbs was a great player. I mean he’s a guy that you wouldn’t even think probably twice about in the pantheon of great bass players but this guy could really play in the groove and so a lot of that is why that – you’re very observant about that and a lot of this is why this came off like that because there was a lot of fire and we could play anything.
Bobby (second to left) in Johnny Winter And
Bobby and Duane Allman
JC: Wow, because I’ve heard live albums and, wow, both would take a lot out of a performer.
BC:So I mean it, just, oh man. I just can’t tell you. It was just phenomenal. And I was just playing percussion as I always did with them and then on a few songs I would play drums on “Midnight Rider,” a few different things.
JC: Ok. Now I guess the question is what happened with the Johnny Winter And Band? Like how could it …?
Captain Beyond (Bobby on Left)
BC: Well the vision of Captain Beyond – odd time signatures, the arranges – most of that stuff was me, because long before, long before, years before I was – and I’ve always been a jazz guy and I remember saying to Butch Trucks one night in Boston or going down to see Elvin Jones or somebody and I said – I was kind of whining about how, “I just want to do some really creative music like you cats are doing. I love playing what we’re doing but …” and he said, “Oh just make all the money you can and then you don’t need to worry about it and you can do whatever you want.” So I had brought all of these ideas I had been sitting on a long time into the band if I could get it together so that’s what happened and then we started experimenting with different things and that’s how it happened. Rod being a superb lyricist. I mean this guy is phenomenal. The only person I know that can write like him is the late Keith Relf from the Yardbirds. It’s just spectacular. Even now when I listen and Rod wrote “Mesmerization Eclipse.” He wrote “Armworth.” He wrote something else I forget so it just started coming together.
JC: Now you went on tour and everything but you wouldn’t be back for the next album. What happened?
Bobby (far left) in Armageddon
JC: But that would only be one album that line-up did.
BC: That’s right.
JC: What happened then? How did that fall apart?
Captain Beyond with Willy Daffern, 1977
Readers who want to know more about upcoming Captain Beyond shows can contact Bobby at his website or Facebook page.
Bobby Caldwell today