The birth of a new band
from 1970 to 1972
The Decision to go back to the roots
Pat remembers: "Lolly and I decided we were going to get back to our roots. Everybody said 'No, man, that ain't gonna make it, that ain't gonna happen. Indians don't sing.' I stopped talking to people because they were trying to talk me out of it. But we took Tony Bellamy from Gazzarri's, moved into a house and rehearsed for one year straight."
"We found a drummer called Wayne Bibbey," recalls again Pat, "but Bobby Womack, who was an old friend of ours, heard that we were putting together a Native American rock group. He said 'Man, I got the perfect drummer for you. He's a guy by the name of Pete "Last Walking Bear" DePoe." ' DePoe was a Cheyenne ceremonial drummer from an Indian reservation at Neah Bay near Seattle, Washington. "Bobby said 'I'll give you my drummer and you give me yours,' " laughs Pat. "Sure enough we switched drummers and that was the beginning of Redbone".
First album: a double one in 1970
Signed to CBS's Epic subsidiary in 1969, the band took its name from the Cajun epithet "Rehbon", meaning half-breed, and its self-titled debut album Redbone, released in 1970, was an extraordinary affair. Think of it: an unknown band producing its first record and releasing a double album. Redbone played primarily rock music with R&B, Cajun, Jazz, tribal, and Latin roots. This first album was released as a double album in North America. In Europe it was released both as a double (EPC 67242) and as a single album (BN 26280) on the Epic label.
1970 saw the coming out of "Potlach" containing their first hit "Maggie. The album stayed in the Billboard charts for four months, while "Maggie" pointed the way to approaching international success.
Lolly was one of the first guitarists to make extensive use of the distinctive Leslie rotating speaker effect in his electric guitar amplification set-up. Vegas played improvised, jazz-influenced guitar. Drummer Peter DePoe (born 1943, Neah Bay, Washington) is credited with pioneering the "King Kong" style of drumming, which features sharply accented polyrhythms involving the bass and snare drums and is similar to funk styles of drumming. The band referred to DePoe's "King Kong Beat" in their lyrics to the song "Prehistoric Rhythm" on their debut album. Pat Vegas' style of bass playing is still coveted by bass players in the world, even taught in college courses of music. The level of creativity each member held on his own instrument added to the power of the band.
Potlatch also featured the song "Alcatraz," which dealt with the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz Island by Native Americans. It marks the first attempt to political implications in the Redbone songs.
In 1971 the band's third album, Message from a Drum. The album featured the Cajun-swamp rocker "Witch Queen of New Orleans," the second hit for the band, which bore a lyrical and musical resemblance to the swamp-rock songs of Creedence Clearwater Revival. While the song was a success in the United States, it was a monster hit in the United Kingdom, propelling the band to tour as an opening act for such groups as Traffic, Alice Cooper, and the Faces. Message from a Drum was released in Europe (except Spain) with the title The Witch Queen of New Orleans and different cover than the one released in the U.S. and Canada.
The death of DePoe's father prompted the drummer to quit the band. "He couldn't stay with us because his family was dependent on him," Pat recalls. Pete DePoe was replaced by Arturo Perez in 1972.