Pete De Poe
The King Kong beat
Pete De Poe, born in 1943, is Redbone's first drummer. He is playing on "Redbone", "Potlatch" and "Message from a Drum". He gives those first albums this incredible rythm that the band honored by the title “Prehistoric Rhythm” on the Redbone album. He is no longer living in the Netherlands but in the US in Kentucky with his new wife, Carol Tetrick DePoe. Pete will soon have some news about his plans to play some limited shows.
A 2008 Interview
I met Pete in 2008 and he accepted to answer a few questions
Chris Staebler : How and when did you meet the Vegas brothers?
Pete DePoe : We met 1968 in Los Angeles. In a house in the Hollywood hills. I went to their house because I wanted to play with them. Lolly and Tony and myself where jamming. And Pat came to the door and waited outside at the door to listen. And then he came in and pointed at me and said that's him. That's the one that I want. That's the one we need. So I was the last one to make the band complete. We changed the name of the band that was "Crazy cajun cake walk band" to "Redbone". This was probably the best band I ever played with in my life. They where the best musicians.
CS : When Redbone started, were you all aware that you would represent a symbol for all the Indian Nation?
PDP : No that was my suggestions. I said we all look like indians so lets act like indians and be like indians.
CS : I'd like to know how Redbone is received amongst the Indian community and also if they feel they brought something to the Indian culture and how it's seen from the outside.
PDP : Redbone as a whole, was received very well in all the indian nations. We gave them something to be proud of as for the culture, we made them proud of who they are, and that is native american. Not just another third world bunch of people, with no future as it was seen from the outside. It made us come together as one. Even for a short time. To be truthful with you I think all in all we played made them proud of who and what they were : native americans…
CS : What about the polemic around the indian origins of all the members of the band? From what tribes are you from?
PDP : I was the only real indian in the band the rest was from Mexican descent. They are Yaqie. I am from Northern Cheyenne, Chippawa, Arapoho, Siletz, Roack River, Tututeny, Irequois and French and German.
CS : The first album is really "roots", you went then to a more "commercial" direction. Was that a natural way or something done on purpose? Has it something to do with the change of drummer?
PDP : It has nothing to do with the change of drummer. I played on all the albums. Exept for the last one and a part of Wovoka. I played on all the big hits like Maggie, The Witch Queen, Come and Get Your Love, Wounded Knee etc. The brothers and the producers thought it was better to change to a more commercial direction. I had nothing to say in this. They cut me from five tracks down to three tracks.
CS : On what album was that and what are the tracks you are on?
PDP : I played on part of Already here. All of Wounded Knee. And none of Beaded Dreams.. The other members of the band were pretty mad at me for leaving the band… The first two I had five tracks on the rest three. Tracks meaning having to do with the sound of the album. That's why the sound from the first albums to Message from a Drum sounds different. There was nothing I could do to change their minds. That's when the trouble started.
CS : What do you think of the song "We Were All Wounded At Wounded Knee"? Do you think it had an influence in the fact the band wasn't mediatized as much afterwards? Was there a kind of censorship involved?
PDP : Yes it was censored : it wasn't released in the USA. CBS would not release that in the USA or Canada, cause Wounded Knee was happening at that time in the USA. The government wouldn't allow that.
I have a cousin who is in prison till this day. His name is Leonord Peltier. He's still in prison for a crime he didn't commit. So the song was very political.
CBS couldn't release it in the USA but they could in Europe so they did.
CS : What I felt about that is that it stopped the whole career of the band. That the censorship was not only for that specific song but "killed" the band for whole it's future. Do you agree with that?
PDP : It did kill our future, when ever you go up against the goverment you can't win. The U.S. Government that is.
CS : How comes that there are no live recordings to find from Redbone.
PDP : Cause we did only make studio recordings. The Vegas brothers didn't want to make live recordings, so it dind't happen.
CS : Strangely I can't find any bootlegs either. That's what I feel a mess. Can you explain what makes your specificity as a drummer?
PDP : I knew I was going to be a drummer when I was 4 years old. Living a the Neah Bay reservation.
I started playing when I was 11 and started practicing until I was 19. And the beats I made up was The King Kong Beat. I was the first drummer that played a 16th note rythm pattern on the high hat and snare drums that was ever recorded by anny other drummer. And that is on the first Redbone album. If you listen, you will hear. Listen to Things go better, Jambone and Sweet Mode. And you will hear the beat that I play.
CS : What were you doing in the last 30 years ? Is there a discography existing?
PDP : I moved back to Seattle and played arround there. And sometimes go to Los Angeles and play there with Tony Bellamy. I do not have a discography from those years listed yet. David Garribaldi gave me the credit of inventing the King Kong Beat in his book "The fucky Beat".
CS : What made you come to live in Europe? How do you feel the differences between the two continents?
PDP : I did what Jim Pepper did. I came to Europe, because I couldn't find any work in the USA. And I would like to stay in Europe and never go back to the USA if I can find some serious musicians that want to play. I don't know the differents yet I have been here to short time. But the Dutch language is very hard. And I think I'll be never be able to speak it. And don't try to learn to speak French either couse I will not be be able to learn that either (Joke).
CS : What kind of music or band would you be interested to play with?
PDP : Just good players, good musicians. They can contact me on my email.
CS : Thank you so much Pete, for answering all those questions with great sincerity…
End of october 2008 I went for one day to the Netherlands where I met Pete and his friend, Ellen, for a fantastic day of talking, sharing good time, seeing old images, videos and a good meal on the seafront. Pete chose to live in Europe to join his love.
It's something incredible to be able to meet people one has adulate for years. It's even more fantastic to discover these people are even much more interesting that you had imagined. And the best of all is to find out that they are just like you and me, and that they could have been our friends, had we met in other circumstances.
I had this feeling a few times in my life with great people (I'm thinking of some of the Gentle Giant musicians, Peter Hammill, and some comic book illustrators, and finally some of them became friends).
The day with Pete DePoe was a moment like these. This guy is a wonderful musician, an incredible drummer, but overall a fantastic man.
Pete showed me some videos of Redbone's gig in Los Angeles in 2003, a strange one, with Tony Bellamy doing lead vocals because Pat Vegas couldn't attempt the show in time. A very nice set, unusual, and therefore much more interesting. I hope we will see a DVD come out, one of these days with all those videos, recent and old ones.
Sharing old memories was a supreme time for me. Pete told me he was in the same school then Jimmy Hendrix in Seattle. It was Jimmy Hendrix who talked the musicians into forming an all-Native American rock group way back in 1969. During the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970, Jimmy proposed to the Redbone members they could do something together. But Jimmy died 3 weeks later in London! Pete told me that Jimmy never took hard drugs or shoots. Strange to me also, that Morrison, Joplin and Hendrix disappeared within a few months. They were taking too much importance in the younger people's minds. The US government did much worse things at that time (just think of all what happened in South America) so why let a few young rock singers spoil the youth's spirits!? This may sound unreal and I'm not a big fan of all these big plots theories, but who knows.
Pete also remembered their first arrival in London in 1971 with all the fans waiting at the airport. Something they never lived in the States where, as Native Americans, they were not considered as they were in Europe. Racism was still very present in the seventies, Obama was far away, I was also amused by the anecdote of the Gold Record that Redbone received for "Come and get your Love". Pete decided he wanted to listen to the record to see if the quality of it would be different then on a vinyl. What a surprise for him when he, unexpected, heard the Monkeys sing one of their own hits. The same gold record was certainly given out to all Gold Record Artists!!! Pete throw all the gold records away that day!
After these talks and meal and some nice photos I then had to return back to my daughter's place. Pete and Ellen brought me to the train station and that's why I will always remember them there, waving goodby!