Stokes: Nothing other than the billboard stuff. We did a $10,000 picture-taking session for the first album with Claude Mougin. He had done sessions with Rod Stewart.
Sanford: We didn’t do a lot but we did a showcase down in Cincinnati. Jheryl Busby from Casablanca flew in. When the record company does stuff like that, they contact everybody they can. It was like hundreds of people. We had a record signing and interviews and stuff like that.
Jones: It seems like we did all of that legwork ourselves. I saw very little support from the label itself.
Rutledge: The record company was already going down the tubes so they weren’t really trying to promote anything. They were just signing groups and writing them off the books. Then there were some management issues where we had opportunities to do certain things, we had a chance to go out on the road and promote the album with the Bar-Kays and do 42 dates and it never happened. I’m like, “What the hell’s wrong with this picture?”
Stokes: Once Bruce Bird went into the presidency at Casablanca, we knew that PolyGram had bought Casablanca. It was common knowledge that some changes were being made. I thought, at the time, it worked for us because if Bruce went from Executive Vice President to President, and he was the one that signed us, that should have worked for us but there were some things that happened where there were some bad decisions that were made and some things happened that Bruce wasn’t happy with.
Given that kind of climate, what was the mindset going into the second album, Cherry?
Stokes: The mindset was we had to find a replacement for Larry. We got a gentleman named Jerry Johnstone. Jerry was a fantastic guitar player. He was a young guy at the time. Jerry might have been 19 or 21, somewhere in there, but he was absolutely fabulous on the guitar. He was probably the best replacement for Larry.
Jones: Larry was one of his idols anyway. You hear something that’s reminiscent of the first album on the guitar front.
Rutledge: Regardless, it would never be the same.
How, then, did you decide on the musical direction for the album?
Sanford: We were deciding to change our direction more towards who we really were. That’s when the politics started coming in. Casablanca signed us as record producers, not just artists. The producer controls the budget and controls the project. We had signed a single record deal with an option for four more. It was $2.2 million over five years. Back in ‘79, that’s really good money. The first one was supposed to be a $75,000 budget. The second one was supposed to be $125,000 budget and so on. The record company wanted us to go more towards dance music so they asked if we would be interested in using an outside producer. We were like, “Not really, we want to do our own stuff”. They said, “Well we want to send a guy with some songs and just let you guys take a listen…”
Stokes: …so Art Stewart was brought in. Art Stewart had a couple of songs he did for Marvin Gaye on Motown. I had worked with Art over the years through working with Hal Davis. Art was sometimes the engineer for the sessions that I was doing. Art had produced “Got to Give It Up” for Marvin Gaye.
Sanford: He’s a friend of Marvin’s and Marvin said, “I’m going to give you this tune, you go remix it and we’ll put it out”. That’s how he got his reputation. He brought in like six or eight songs that didn’t even fit the band. They were good songs but they just didn’t fit us. He had three by this guy Gary Taylor, who was kind of a more jazz pianist who played really smooth. It was okay music but it wasn’t us. We haggled back and forth and then we contacted the record company. The bottom line was this, “You’re struggling, the label’s struggling. We need some names, some reputations. You guys are producers but we want to get an outside producer who’s got a name that sold big so we can put his name on there and associate him with you guys”. We agreed to it because we could see that it was going to be that or nothing. Art Stewart had all of these big name session guys, which is good for name-dropping, but he was paying them triple scale. They’d come in early in the day and sit there. He really kind of ate up the budget in a sense. He had three session guys from Los Angeles playing so Jerry ended up just doing the guitar solos. All the chords and all that stuff was done by session guys, which kind of upset Jerry because he just entered our band and he was thinking he could get his name out there.
You didn’t even get your photo on the album cover. There’s a woman on the cover.
Stokes: We had absolutely nothing to do with the second album cover. I never met the woman. That was done by the company. Somebody thought it might have been a good idea to play off of the Ohio Players because they always had women on all of their covers.
Are there any songs you still enjoy hearing from that second album?
Stokes: There’s the title track that was written by Jerry Johnstone. I want to say him and Kerry wrote it. I like that track. There was a tune called “Giving You All My Love” and that was one of the tunes that Art Stewart brought to the album. Kerry is singing the lead on that. That’s one of my favorites. I still enjoying hearing that. “Appreciate Your Love”, I’m singing the lead on that, that’s one of my favorites. Probably the last one would be “You and Me”, which follows “Appreciate Your Love”. Me and Kerry are doing the lead on that.
Jones: Cherry was a bit more polished than the first album. We grew as musicians. You can tell the musicianship is a lot better on the second album. We weren’t the producer but we actually did a lot of co-production. We knew about being in the control room and we had learned to understand about how that goes. That’s an ongoing process. When you love something like that, you grasp at it and catch onto it really quickly. I liked “Ice Cream Delight”. That was one of my songs. It had a walking bass in it, almost kind of a jazzy interlude in the middle of a dance tune. That one I’d record over because it was a little bit too fast. If we did things too fast, we’d kind of lose the groove of it.
Sanford: A lot of the songs on there were danceable but they were a little sophisticated. Art brought six songs and one of them was like a flat-out B.B. King-type blues song, which was just so not us. There was a real clash on that album. There were songs that were us trying to be us, us trying to please the record company, and then some that Art brought. We knew what we wanted to sound like and we were constantly bickering with the producer: “That’s too R&B for us. We don’t sound like an R&B band. We’re a progressive rock band”. We were sounding more like an R&B blues band that my dad probably played in. That kind of us beat down.
Cherry was the last album you recorded. What happened to your deal with Casablanca?
Sanford: They decided to drop us because Cherry sold less than the first one. With no promotion, it didn’t sell like it should have. Gigs fizzled out. We were calling and asking for support and stuff like that. It just wasn’t happening. We were sitting idle for a long time. We were back in Dayton. Everybody was still working on songs and trying to get the project going but it was falling apart. We had equipment and we had rehearsal space and we had a band and a crew but no gigs. The record company was like, “The record’s not selling so no promoters are calling us”.
What contributed to the band members going their separate ways?
Stokes: I guess people not being able to see eye to eye on things, which happens with a lot of groups, and certain people wanting to do things their way and other people not agreeing with them. That’s probably the best explanation.
Jones: I used to always call it the battle for power that was going on between Arthur and Kerry. They battled out for leadership of the band. Anytime we would get together to have a meeting, it would always end in argument between those two. Curtis would always fall asleep and I’d just be sitting there going, “Oh God, not again”. It was the same old thing every time. Whenever a meeting was called, Curtis and I dreaded it. He’d fall asleep and I’d be bored to tears. The argument would always ensue. We just decided to call it a day because we just couldn’t come together on ideas of what we wanted to do as far as moving forward with the band.
Sanford: We could holler and scream at each other but never a fistfight. Never. We never had that problem. We would bitch each other out and it would be done. The thing about Larry is he was such a peacekeeper. There were two factions in the band. There was the band—Lloyd, Larry, and me—and then the singers, which was Kerry and Arthur. Usually when the two sides argued, Larry would always come up with a good solution. After he passed, we didn’t have that peacekeeper. It could get really hairy, still no fistfights, but we couldn’t come together on things.
Rutledge: I wanted to go in another direction. After we did the Cherry album, music had changed again and my attitude was, Look what we need to do is try to come up with something even funkier. We took about a 30-day period to just write something to come up with something and I never will forget this: when we all got back together, I had some ideas. Me and the new guitar player put some ideas together in his basement on a four-track cassette. At that point, nobody had any ideas but they didn’t like my ideas so I chose to leave the band. I guess I’m the guy that disbanded.
Sanford: It wasn’t like we had a meeting to say we were going to disband. Everybody just naturally fell apart. I started playing with some local bands, just to make money. Kerry was still working songs and he was recording here and there. Arthur was lining up some business stuff and he was calling record companies.
Rutledge: We just ended up not being able to get a deal anymore. I moved on. Me and Jerry went down to Counter Part Studio in Cincinnati and cut a demo. I got three calls in one day. I got a call from a label in New York. I got a call from somebody in California and ended up with Ken Cayre of Salsoul. I started “Jakky Boy and the Bad Bunch”, which we did on Salsoul/RCA. That did its thing and then we ended up in ‘85 releasing another album on Atlantic under the same brand. Now, I’m working with Zye Music, which is my business in Atlanta. I got a couple of subsidiaries, one is called GetItVille Entertainment. I got a studio here. We got a rap group called All-Black that we’re developing right now. It features Buck Johnson and Andre Da Giant. We’re also looking into doing soundtracks with Goliath Promotions.
Sanford: I played in a lot of bands. I put bands together, trying to get record deals. I had this one band that was amazing. It was a local band. Guys from the Prince/Time camp came to check us out and they actually loved the band. They were going to try to bring some of the guys from The Time. They were trying to get Jam & Lewis to see the band but the band split up before that could happen. I tried a few other projects and I went to Canada. I played with other bands. I ended up joining Heatwave. I wasn’t in the band. I was their sound man. I went in the front of the house and mixed for them. I did that for about a year. I came off that. Currently, I’m playing drums with The Deal, which is the band L.A. Reid and Babyface were in.
Stokes: Once the group broke up, I pursued working with myself and my sister. My sister was Diane Stokes and I’ve been known as Arthur “Hakim” Stokes for years. I ended up recording with Curb Records and I did a project with my sister, Hakim with Lady Diana. We did a few things with them and then when that went south, I did jingles and played with area groups and that type of thing. I was blessed a couple of years ago to start working with Spectra Entertainment, a production company out of Dayton that books over 100 festivals, fairs, corporate, casinos, college, and theater dates a year. I’m also a member of Touch, which is a Motown tribute act and my production company is called MoSound Music.
Jones: I went on the road for awhile and started playing with a rock and roll band. They found me through the musicians’ union. They were coming through town and their bass player was quitting or fired or whatever the deal was. They were doing the Holiday Inn circuit. I toured with them for about eight months or so working every week on the road. That got me going pretty good. I bought some good equipment and came back to Dayton and shortly after that, about ‘86, I got married and started my own band. That band lasted about ten years. It was called Two Below. They were very successful. We worked every week. We did a lot of NBA functions and NFL stuff for the Indiana Pacers and the Indianapolis Colts. We were doing really good. Everybody in town wanted to be in my band because I was able to keep the core of the band together for about ten years. We worked every week. It was a really good run. I actually wanted to try to get back into the recording thing with that act but some drugs reared their ugly head and pretty much ripped the band apart. It got to a point where my lead singer would be forgetting the words. It was starting to give the band a bad name. That was ultimately the reason why I decided to let it go and move out to Las Vegas because I had made some really good contacts. I’m a person who believes in never burning bridges. You never know where that person might be able to help you out with something else later on down the line. I had a bad taste in my mouth after ten years of doing one band and doing everything yourself. I did 90% of the bookings, made sure the band had somewhere to rehearse with equipment. Everything. It wears you down after awhile. I just wanted to get a break from it but I love music so much I’m at that point where I’m ready to do it again now.
What is your proudest moment in Platypus?
Rutledge: There were a lot of them. I guess the first time we ever performed in 30,000-seat arena and it was full and everybody knew the songs. You start doing your shit and everybody’s singing your songs in the crowd. That’s the proudest moment. The first time that ever happened.
Stokes: The proudest moment is probably putting out our very first album. That was a milestone. It was such a long journey to get to that point and for us to actually accomplish it and then to hear music on the radio.
Sanford: Personally, for me, it was when we recorded the first album. We got a call from the guy that was our keyboard player and he quit. We were in the studio and we were waiting on him. We were stuck. The keyboard player knew all the songs and we’d have to teach another one all these songs. We didn’t know how long that would take but I knew the songs. I could throw chords together and I went in and recorded it. When a lot of people hear the record, and it has a list of what instruments I play, they’re looking at me like, “Wow man you did all of that?” I’m like yeah but you would not believe it. It took awhile to do. We did it and the end result was an album. For me personally, that was one of my proudest moments.
Jones: Just the actual completing of the albums and them being out on the market. That was an accomplishment in itself. I was always proud of the band, internally, because we always knew what we could do. Even to this day, I’m proud of those albums. The more people that can be familiar with them, the better. I always saw it as really valid music that can stand the test of time. Some of those songs are really good stuff. Who knows? It might kick it off again in the direction it should have been going in to begin with. You never know. Somebody might be interested them, and might want to re-record them. The door is always open.
How do you think it would sound, 30 years later, if you guys came back together? Would you be able to pick up from where you left off?
Stokes: I think we could. It’s just a matter of doing it. We probably would have to brush up on a couple of things but once we got started I think we could.
Jones: I don’t know what the venue would be but maybe just to get together to re-record some stuff. Being in that band, I really learned a lot about vocals and it helped me to this day. I’m always the guy arranging the vocals for whatever act I’m working with. I’m not even the singer but I know about vocals and I know how they’re supposed to sound and what you’re supposed to be doing from being with those guys. Their vocals were incredible. For awhile there were some…as with any family, you always have this bickering that goes on. There was a little bit of that going on for a while, which was one of the things that created a little distance. At this point, I honestly think all of that is gone. I think it would really be a cool thing to reunite. That would be some fun right there.