Blades Of Grass

Cherry Hill Records ( has recently released a CD comprising the complete recordings by Jubliee recording artists the Blades Of Grass. In order to commemorate this event, we contacted member Marc Black to get his recollections on the band.

An Interview With Marc Black (60s): How did you first get interested in music? Marc Black (MB): When I was about five years old I heard a record by a piano player named Crazy Otto. He made me feel very happy. I then heard Elvis on the radio when I was a bit older and I was truly stunned by the force of the sound.

60s: Was the Blades Of Grass your first band?

MB: I had bands from when I was about 14...(first) the Toasters and then the Furnace Men. We were called than because we did shows in a store's basement in Maplewood, New Jersey and we set up in an old coal bin. When we got our record deal, the producers changed our name from the Furnace Men to the Blades Of Grass to cash in on the interest in psychedelics.

60s: What year would this have been in?

MB: 1967.

60s: Other than you, who else comprised the band?

MB: Bruce Ames, guitar and vocals; David Gordon, drums and organ; and Frank DiChiara, bass and vocals.

60s: Where did the band typically practice?

MB: In Dave Gordon's basement.

60s: What type of gigs did the band initially land?

MB: School dances, and dances at the Jewish temple in town. By the time we were seniors, we would just rent a hall and lots of kids would show up.

60s: How popular locally did the Blades Of Grass become?

MB: We were the most popular band in the area for our last several years in high school. We could get several hundred kids out to a dance.

60s: Did you have a manager at this time?

MB: Yes…Frank Latagona and Walter Gollander. (They were) very helpful (in promoting the band). They got us linked up with the record company and got us free equipment from Vox and Ampeg. Walter went on the road with us.

60s: The Blades Of Grass eventually signed with Jubilee Records, where you released many singles. How did you land at Jubilee, which was best known for its Doo Wop records?

MB: Our managers hooked us up. (Jubilee) was changing along with most of the rest of the industry. I think they had put out the Left Banke, who had released Walk Away Renee and Pretty Ballerina, and the Fifth Estate, who had Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead.

60s: How would you describe the band's sound?

MB: Smooth. We lived and died on the vocal arrangements...kind of like the Association or that band that did Mr. Diengly Sad (The Critters).

60s: Today, you're classified as a "sunshine pop" group. Was there a conscious effort on the part of the band to record music in this vein?

MB: No.

60s: Were you directed in this area?

MB: No.

60s: The Blades Of Grass recorded and released two singles that had to compete against versions by other well know '60's bands: Happy by the Sunshine Company, and I Love You Alice B. Toklas by Harper's Bizarre. What were the band's thoughts at the time, knowing that your singles might not sell as much as they would if there weren't simultaneously competing versions?

MB: It sucked. Happy especially took us all by surprise. We ended up splitting the country with the Sunshine Company so neither of us got the power from the records that we might have. Being Top Ten in half the country is good but doesn't get you in the Top Ten on BILLBOARD. I think we topped out at number forty-something nationally.

60s: You also recorded A Way You'll Never Be, which was an unreleased country song by label mates the Fifth Estate. What do you recall about them?

MB: I remember them hanging around the studio but we never hung out too often.

60s: The Blades Of Grass released an album, ...Are Not For Smoking in 1967. What do you recall about the sessions?

MB: It was recorded at the studio on Broadway just North of 57th Street where Jubilee's offices were. We'd come in from Jersey and record mostly in the evening from about 7pm to 12 midnight or so. We were extremely green and there was relatively little experimentation. Bill and Steve Jerome (the producers) ran a fairly tight ship.

60s: You indicated that there was little room for experimentation yet your version of I Love You Alice B. Toklas includes some cool phasing and other effects. Do you recall who was responsible for that?

MB: I don't really recall. It's been years since I've heard it. It probably was just spontaneous in the studio, although the band was always quite well rehearsed.

60s: Obviously, the title of the album is a not so veiled reference to drugs. Did the band partake in any substances at the time?

MB: No.

60s: Who were the band's primary songwriters? Did you have internal songwriters, or did you record mostly songs provided by outside sources?

MB: Most of the songs on the album were provided by outside songwriters. I was the main songwriter for our band's shows. By the time I was twenty I had already written over 100 songs. I also got us suspended from high school by singing a song that I dedicated to the high school faculty at the talent show: I Can't Stand To Look At Your Ugly Face.

60s: Were you able to finish playing, or did the faculty yank you off before you finished!?

MB: Yes, we finished - but everyone was shocked.

60s: Did you ever wind up recording the song?

MB: We never recorded it, but I probably should. It kind of pre-dates punk.

60s: Are there any unreleased Blades Of Grass songs that survived?

MB: Not that I remember.

60s: Do you recall whose idea it was to record versions of Help and Walk Away Renee for the album?

MB: No.

60s: What is your favorite song on the album?

MB: Happy or Satin Slipper.

60s: Did the band make any local TV appearances?

MB: The JOE FRANKLIN SHOW. We also went to Cleveland and did UPBEAT, which was a big national show at the time.

60s: What were some of the "national" acts that you either opened for or played with?

MB: The Doors, Neil Diamond, Dave Clark Five, Van Morrison, and the Fifth Dimension.

60s: How far was the band's "touring" territory?

MB: South to Washington DC, and West to Ohio.

60s: After the release of the album, did the size and frequency of your gigs increase?

MB: We went to college and the band pretty much broke up.

60s: Why?

MB: We had separate interests…regular growing up and changing stuff.

60s: You're still playing in a band. What can you tell me about it?

MB: I'm currently with the Funky Sex Gods out of Woodstock, New York. The band includes Michael Esposito from the original Blues Magoos and Eric Parker from the Steve Winwood and Joe Cocker bands.

60s: How often, and where, do you perform?

MB: I perform several times a month in the Northeast (emanating from Woodstock). We played in Berkley, California for the opening of a film we scored on October 27th.

60s: What film?

MB: It's a documentary about homeless people living in the landfill near Berkley. It's called BUM'S PARADISE and was directed by Tomas McCabe.

60s: Have you scored any films that were box office hits?

MB: Not yet, although I've won international awards for scores of commercials and for producing and writing a children's album that featured Richie Havens, Taj Mahal, Peter Schikele, Rick Danko, John Sebastion and others.

60s: What are your plans musically for 2002 and beyond?

MB: More recording with the Sex Gods, and more scoring of films and commercials.

60s: Cherry Hill Records out of the UK has released a CD comprising the ...Are Not For Smoking album and all the group's singles. Your thoughts?

MB: I'll be glad to have a clean copy of the audio for my library. I'm pleasantly surprised that any one else cared to put this together. For more on Marc Black, check out his website at

"Copyrighted and originally printed on by Mike Dugo".
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