|Camel started out practicing in a store front in west Boone a few doors east of Thompson’s Drug and just across the street from what was Farley’s Tire store. The building had been a clothing store called The PX that catered to teens and college age folks prior to Camel using it for practice. They rented the building from a Mr. Holley for next to nothing. Since he was storing a bunch of stuff in the store, the band practiced just inside the front door, taking up about a 10' by 30' area. At first they faced the front door, but after complaints from the folks across the street they faced the back of the store. Nightly breaks were taken down at Boyd’s Dairy or Thompson’s where they found they were still being heard quite well. The band practiced 3 nights a weekusually Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. They started around 7 p.m. and went until 10 or 10:30.
As winter encroached upon the area it got quite cold at rehearsals as the building was not heated. The band put up a large sheet and brought space heaters, but it was barely comfortable since the ceiling was around 20 feet and the sheet was only about 8. Sometime in early 1973 they moved to the old Downtown Ballroom above what used to be Bill Ross Motors in downtown Boone. This was the second floor of what is now The Livery. It was a huge room as the whole upstairs was at their disposal. It proved ideal to get a feel for what they sounded like in a room similar to those in which they would actually perform.
Originally setting up at the south end of the room, they soon figured out that it would be a lot less distance to walk during a load out if they set up at the north end of the room where the entrance was. (And you thought musicians were smart, didn't you?!) It was here that the band practiced 4 times a week until it's demise. 3 practices were full band rehearsals with Saturday night being a vocals only practice which meant Brent didn't have to show up. Practices still ran from around 7 p.m. to 10 or 10:30. They would have gone longer, but there were apartments in the building adjacent to the east. The usual schedule was to hit 3 or 4 songs they knew well to warm up and then spend the last 2 or 3 hours working on new material, devoting about an hour to each new song.
|While Bob Groves was in the band they worked up songs such as “Rocket Man”/Elton John, “I Talk to the Wind”/King Crimson, “Brighter”/Carole King, “Goin' Mobile”/The Who, “You Can Bet They Do”/ShaNaNa, “Shine On”/Humble Pie, “You Don't Love Me”/Al Kooper & Steve Stills-Supersession version.
When Brent came on board the band added tunes such as “Almost Cut My Hair”/CSN&Y, “Out of Control”/Eagles, “Let's Work Together”/Canned Heat, “Hey Grandma”/Moby Grape, “Mr. Spaceman”/Byrds, “Anyway”, “It Doesn't Matter”/Manassas, “Good Lovin’”/It's A Beautiful Day, “Hoedown”/Poco, “Space Cowboy”/Steve Miller Band, “Parole”/Todd Rundgren, “Payday”/Jesse Winchester, “2000 Light Years From Home”/Rolling Stones, and “The Losing End”/Neil Young. Camel made a conscious effort to do songs that were different from what they heard other bands doing. As an example, while others were doing “Honky Tonk Women”, Camel chose to do “2000 Light Years From Home” by the Stones.
The group also worked up original songs while most groups in the area were still doing only cover tunes. A set list from early 1973 is here.
|Camel played around Central Iowa mostly, but did do some jobs farther awayVermilion, SD; Sioux City, and Guttenburg, IA to name a few.
The weirdest job was perhaps when they were asked to play at a bar and grill in Adel, IA. When the band arrived they found that their equipment alone would practically take up the entire dance floor. It was like being stuck in a closet, so they refused the job.
Funniest job might have been playing for the BoydenHull prom. The “stage” was surrounded by a corral of sorts with a sign posted by the gate in front which read “Don’t Feed the Camels”.
The most unfortunate job was playing at the former Rippey’s Orchard in Ames., IA. The new owner, James “Jolly” Clark, had decided he would not pay the group the contracted amount for the two nights they played at the club. When informed of this on the last night they performed, the band decided to fight for their money. After the bar closed they refused to tear down and move the gear out of the club until they were paid the promised amount. The manager called the Ames police to forcibly remove the band members. After the band showed up in small claims court with a lawyer of their own, the lawyer representing the bar asked for a continuance. At the next court date only the group showed up in court; neither Mr. Clark nor his lawyer were in attendance. Camel was awarded the contracted amount. The only problem was that Mr. Clark refused to pay. After several sheriff’s visits to a bar Mr. Clark owned in Des Moines the money was finally collected. Due to the costs involved each member ended up with $30 a piece instead of the $80 or so they would have gotten. This amount was the least they were paid while making $250 to $300 a night was the most they ever received for a gig.
|The band came to an end in late Spring of 1974. Dave, by this time, was ready to call it quits due to the heavy practice schedule which kept him away from his family much more than he would have liked. Other matters came up also. A meeting was called to discuss some of the things facing them.
Denny had purchased a new van which was being used to carry the band's equipment. He felt he should be paid extra for the vans upkeep. It was argued that no one in the band had asked for him to buy a new van and his request was unreasonable. In retrospect what he was asking for was not out of line. The other item they discussed was the issue of their stage attire. Denny felt they should get some sort of consistent outfit to wear when they played out. The others thought it was unnecessary. An argument ensued with Dave, then Ron, stating they were quitting after the next contracted job, which ended the situation. The last job at Gilbert, IA was not much fun for any of the members.
Brent Espe moved to Texas shortly after the band fell apart. He played in a couple of bands in the Dallas area. One of these bandsThe Duane Medlin Bandreleased a 45 in 1978 which got some airplay in that area. After bumping around the country Brent is currently living in the north Texas area and works in the nursing field.
Dave played in many other bands after Camel, playing in bands with Ron and Denny on different occasions. He is still playing every once in awhile and is retired and living in Boone.
Denny played in many other bands after this also. Cheyenne Wells and the XRays (with Dave) are a couple of the groups he's been in. He also teamed up with Ron in the early 80s to do some recording work at A&R Studios in Ames, IA. He put out a single that got fair airplay at some college stations on the East Coast under the name allen/carlson. It even got on one stations top 20 request list. He currently lives in Texas with his family.
Ron went on to play in a few other bands; Willow (with Dave) and Second Chance to name a couple. He currently lives in Boone, IA with his family and does independent audio production. previous page...
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