The Lotions Rub It In at Steamboat
Reggae favorites the Lotions get funky for the Steamboat Reunion
By Margaret Moser, 5:24PM, Wed. May. 11, 2011
“We caught absolute hell from critics and purists, but we were packing houses from here to Chicago,” laughs drummer Michael McGeary, as the Lotions prepare for the Steamboat Reunion, Sunday, May 15 at Threadgill’s. “We had invented a new style from old styles plus our own mojo, and we were proud of that.”
“It was a lot more than smoking weed and making girls dance. Reggae is essentially a form of country-folk music and putting the rock to country folk was Austin’s claim to fame. We were just a bunch of guys from different bands – Balcones Fault, Greezy Wheels, Gypsee Eyes – who loved the reggae sound. We gambled that the public would like it, especially mixed with the southern rock feel. Reggae’s roots are in American gospel and country more than the African roots of calypso.”
Indeed, it’s hard to say “hot Austin night in the 1970s” without hearing the Lotions as soundtrack for free-spirited dancing and heartbeat rhythms. For David Roach, John Holston, Allan Monsarrat, Steve Carter, Miguel Pankratz, Steve Lott, and Michael McGeary, those were golden days of playing venues from Steamboat to New Orleans’s Tipitina’s, and opening for the likes of Peter Tosh, Toots & the Maytals, Jimmy Cliff, and The Meters.
In Austin, reggae was a welcome 1970s antidote to tear-in-the-beer country, to relentless rock, to feel-sorry-for-me songwriters, to dusty blues, to the sneering new kid on the block punk. It pulsed with life, throbbed with irresistible beats, and soared with harmonies. McGeary had long been lured by reggae rhythms, both with Jerry Jeff Walker and as singer-drummer with the popular headliners Balcones Fault, found his niche in The Lotions.
“I loved reggae. While playing in Jerry Jeff Walker’s band, the cut ‘Sangria Wine’ on Viva Terlingua (for which I wrote the music) is an early attempt at putting reggae in an American context. I wrote some reggae songs for Balcones Fault, but they were incapable of grasping the feel and rhythm and the versions on Balcones’ record were a great embarrassment. The Lotions got it. Did I mention the sweaty drum pounding part? I looooved that!!”
McGeary points out the times were “non-electronic. No cell phones, no digital cams or recording, no Net. Being in a band then was more hands-on and skill oriented, without so much computer help. The Lotions had a place of their own then as nobody was playing reggae, so our reggae-rock sound was brand new. At the time, there were none except Pat’s Blue Riddim from Milwaukee and Tasmanian Devil in San Francisco. Pressure sprung up after awhile, and then Killer Bees moved here.”
The Lotions join a glittering bill of Steamboat favorites old and new, as befitting the club that was one of the few to support original music on 6th Street. Music kick off around 2:30pm: The Lotions perform after TruePenny and Greezy Wheels. PigGie Hat, Vitera, Vallejo, and Del Castillo close out the evening.
McGeary left the band before they called it quits in 1982. “I slept for two years after the Lotions.”