YOU'RE MISSING: Ted Lucas
- Article by: Casey Stohrer
- Posted: 07/26/2012
If you hear the names “The Misty Wizards” and “Boogie Disease” and wonder, “What Tenacious D side projects am I missing out on?” I'm sorry to tell you that you are totally wrong. Those are just a few of the super ‘70s band names of one Ted Lucas, a Motown sitar player and psychedelic singer-songwriter who never really got his dues.
Like many other unsung heroes in music history, Ted Lucas was a session player and sideman. He was Detroit's go-to “exotic string” specialist during the Motown years. He had studied classical guitar at Wayne State University, and went on to study under the likes of Jo Fava and Ravi Shankar. He was proficient in six and twelve-string guitar, sitar, balalaika, and many other strange stringed instruments. He has played on albums by The Temptations, The Supremes, and Stevie Wonder.
After Motown moved to Los Angeles, Ted went on to play in a number of oddly-named bands like The Spike Drivers, The Horny Toads, Ted Lucas & the Phasers, not to mention the loveable Misty Wizards and Boogie Disease. They opened for just about every major ‘70s rock act - Frank Zappa, Yes, The Eagles, and Black Sabbath, to name a few.
Yet Ted Lucas never got past the opening band phase of a musician's career. He released one self-titled solo album of his own material, (nicknamed The OM Album by family and friends), in 1975. It may be his only album, but it's a damned good summation of the man who is Ted Lucas. I chose a song from this album at random, not knowing what to expect. The song I ultimately picked was, “It Is So Nice To Get Stoned.” Heartily agreeing with that sentiment, (and expecting it to be a goofy, overly overdubbed ‘70s rock anthem), I naturally wanted to make sure that my state of mind was properly aligned with Ted’s to prepare for my listening experience. Amidst wisps of smoke in my fittingly hazy room, a sparse, lazy acoustic guitar line started drifting between dreamy, melodic vocals. I was a bit taken aback. The guy was simply singing a little song about how nice it is to lay down and look at the clouds and...well, get high.
If the calming hippie vibes don't sell it to you, Ted Lucas's instrumentation should. His simple, straightforward lyrics are paired with lovely, soothing guitar and sitar, and it's done so tastefully as to give artists like Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell a run for their money. He overdubs -- (more like underdubs) -- some subtle background vocals in “Plain and Sane and Simple Melody” which gives the song a haunting but pleasant tone. (Elliot Smith may have been obsessed with the Beatles, but I wouldn't be surprised if he borrowed some recording ideas from Ted Lucas at some point.) Even in the ‘70s, when popular music was utilizing every new technology and method available, Ted told you what you needed to know with as little frill as possible. A session man with a multitude of experiences and skills under his belt could have gone overboard on a solo album, but Ted Lucas knew exactly how to get to the heart of a song.
Ted Lucas - "Plain and Sane and Simple Melody"