Power Pickers
of the '60's

Musicians of the Flower Generation


Skip Battin And The Dancing Bears

Skip Battin, the Byrds’ bass player from 1970 to 1973, told me this short, punchy (pardon the expression) road story in 1967, when we were putting together the band we co-founded-and Kim Fowley named-Evergreen Blueshoes.

Skip said this took place around 1963-why not?-, when he and then-partner Gary Paxton were touring on the heels of their hit record as Skip and Flip, Cherry Pie.

They were playing the Calgary Stampede, nominally a rodeo in Alberta, Canada, but billed as The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, with some justification, at least then.

It was summer, and they were supposed to come on the stage set up in the huge outdoor arena sometime after a mid-show crowd-refreshment break. They didn’t know exactly when, had been told something like “just be ready” and were killing time smoking and watching the other acts in the spectacular. Sometime in the shank of the afternoon a stage manager told them they’d be on after the next two acts. If the stage manager told them what the second to last act before theirs would be, Skip didn’t tell me. But he remembered what the act just before his and Gary’s supposed entrance was: The Dancing Bears.

So the pre-Bears act goes on, does its thing, exits to a decent round of applause, Skip tells me, and then it’s time for the Dancers. Well, almost time. Because the Dancing Bears are not quite ready to go on. There’s a delay of some sort, no biggie in this kind of grandiose, loose show in front of an enthusiastic, if casual, audience.

But it goes on for awhile, the delay, so the band plays, and the announcer announces, and the band plays some more, and people are starting to get a little antsy, when there’s a commotion at the stadium’s end the Bears are scheduled to come out of. Suddenly, the trainer, in full costume-top hat, red tails, white tights-, comes running, backwards, out of the entry chute, cracking his whip and yelling something at someone, the Bears as it turns out. But they must not be paying attention because right behind the hysterical trainer they come, locked, spoon-style, in romantic ecstasy, somewhere between early penetration and climax.

Skip never mentioned whether it was an oval or circular arena, but I guess it wouldn’t have mattered if it was trapezoidal or star-shaped, because the poor bears aren’t just locked in that embrace, they’re LOCKED, and it is obvious they will keep “dancing,” belly to butt, till they reach sexual nirvana or spontaneous extrication or both.

“The crowd loved it, I bet,” I said.

“They went out of their minds,” Skip said. “The fucking brass band started to play as soon as they figured it out, but it was like they were lip-synching and someone forgot to put the soundtrack on. I never heard an audience that loud. And the band was amplified!” Skip was usually blasé, but now he sounded like he still couldn’t believe what happened. “And the announcer, too, you couldn’t hear him worth shit,” he said. “Listen, Country” (that’s my nickname, short for Country Al) “that was a huge Voice of the Theatre sound system. It was made so you could hear announcers calling out bulldogging times over a hundred thousand screaming people, and you couldn’t hear ANYTHING except that crowd. It was the loudest unamplified sound I ever heard.”

“So…?” I said after a beat or two. It wasn’t a jaded kind of “so,” it was what I usually said when Skip paused in the middle of a story.

“So,” he said, “they went around the arena that way maybe one and a half times before they climaxed-well, before he climaxed, let’s say-and then the trainer and a bunch of stagehands got close enough to them with hoses and buckets of fish or something and I guess distracted them and finally got them back into those cages they use in carnivals. Man!” he said, shaking his head.
I waited again. “So…?” I said. This time there was a purpose to my question, and Skip knew what it was.

“We never went on,” he said, laughing. “No one did, after that. The crowd never settled down again. Would you?” he asked.

“Not a chance in a million,” I said. “But you know me, Skip. I’d be up there in the stands trying to figure out how to make it a part of our act.”

“I think the Stampede people did,” he said.  “Try, I mean. But you know, some things are supposed to only happen once. One First Moonwalk” (which had gone down just a couple days before Skip was telling me this story), “one Genesis” (Skip was a Creationist). “You know what I mean?”

I did know what he meant. Skip was a pro, a real trooper, and when he said it was the one time he didn’t do a show he was being paid to do, I know he was telling the truth. I’m sure you’re only allowed one Dancing Bears story in your lifetime.

This has to be the original “You can’t make this up” story.

One-liner Notes:

A British session drummer to a producer who’d just told him to put more magic in his playing: “Abraca-fuckin’-dabra.”

  1. allan Says:

    Hi, AlexAxe,

    I’m glad you liked the Skip story. I have more about him and other rock n’ folk n’ country players from the ‘Sixties, and I’d like to share them with you. I’m starting to post more often, but it’s hard to keep current and get the old tales told. Tell me what about the ’50’s, ’60’s & ’70’s music scenes you’re interested in and maybe I’ll have something special for you.

    Thanks for commenting.

    Country Al

  2. Power Pickers of the '60's | %postname% Says:

    […] on our bodies.  If you don’t believe me just check out the photos of Skip in this blog when he was Skip and Flip, and later,  on EGBS‘ record […]

  3. Lanny Mathyssen Says:

    If you have a way to put me in touch with Country Al, I would appreciate it. We were in the Blueshoes together.
    Thanx. Lanny Mathyssen, lakewood, CO.
    303 986 7220

  4. Ruben Krzyston Says:

    Hi, awesome web page however there is a issue whereby on occassion I get redirected to the main page whenever I look at different webpages within your page.

  5. allan Says:

    Hi Ruben, Can you give me a link (or page) that does this? I will check the logs.


    Country Al

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