Jerry Smith (The Flock)

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By Joe Gagliardo

Though they did not enjoy the commercial success of their peers Chicago, and Blood, Sweat & Tears – this Chicago based jazz rock band were among the best of their generation, and worthy of reevaluation in the evolution of rock music.

Between 1966-1968, The Flock released multiple singles on the local Destination and USA record labels, and they were favorites on radio and in the teen clubs.

On the first release “Can’t You See,” bassist Jerry Smith was featured on the lead vocal.

“Can’t You See”

That single was followed up by a horn driven rave up “Take Me Back!”

“Take Me Back”

The Flock did not have a full horn section at that time – however by 1969 they added Frank Posa on trumpet, Rick Canoff on saxophone, and Tom Webb on saxophones and flute.

The band also brought in violinist Jerry Goodman – who would go on to greater recognition as a founding member of jazz rock superstars: Mahavishnu Orchestra. On their debut LP The Flock on Columbia records, John Mayall described them as the best band he had heard in America in his liner notes.

One listen to the first LP, and it is evident that the band was pursuing more of a jazz fusion sound, rather than the horn band sound that was popular at that time.  That said, the band rocked!

After a guitar and violin “Introduction”, the song “Clown” kicks off with Jerry’s thumping bass line, followed by a blast of horns that will blow your hair back, leading into lead guitarist, Fred Glickstein’s frenetic vocal, and ends with a soaring unison run up the neck by Jerry on bass, and Jerry Goodman on guitar.

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The Flock’s sophomore on Columbia in 1970, Dinosaur Swamps, followed a similar musical vein as the debut LP. The Flock enjoyed a great run touring the U.S. and Europe, and playing major festivals and shows with The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Frank Zappa, among others.

One of the most memorable gigs was playing in front of 350,000 people at the Rotterdam Pop Festival in 1970. Smith and Goodman’s images are featured on the promotional poster from the movie Stamping Ground.  This was the “European Woodstock” with considerably more people in attendance.

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As with all good things, they don’t last forever, and by 1971 Jerry was playing bass with Aura, and co-producing their debut LP on Mercury records.  Aura was a horn band led by the talented and charismatic lead singer, Al Lathan, and consisted of former members of legendary Chicago bands, including For Days & A Night, The Flock and The Mauds.  The LP was a mix of original songs, with a few cool covers of obscure songs by Richie Havens and Doug Sahm.

After Aura’s run ended, Jerry reunited with Fred Glickstein and Ron Karpman (drums), former founding members of The Flock, and they released the album Inside Out in 1975, which was produced by Felix Pappalardi on Mercury records.

Fast forward to today, and after a six-year stint in the re-formed Mauds, Jerry is part of the band Dinosaur Exhibit, which includes Jerry Goodman on Violin, Mike Flynn on Guitar, Pete Flynn on Drums, Quent Lang on Sax and Flute, and George Barr on Trumpet. The band plays the music of the members’ former bands, The Flock, Aura, The Mauds, as well as Jerry Goodman’s solo work.  A highlight for Dinosaur Exhibit was performing with Steely Dan last year at the Ravinia Fest in Highland Park, IL during Labor Day weekend in front of 43,000 people over two nights.

Jerry’s start as a bass player is like many other bass player stories—he was a guitar player, and the band needed a bassist.  He went through various basses, a Gibson EB-3, a Gibson EBO, a Hofner Beatle Bass that he traded for a Rickenbacker 4001, and by 1968, he had a Pink Paisley Tele Bass, with a matching Tele Guitar.  Jerry can be seen playing that bass on stage in the movie Stamping Ground.  While it would be great if he had the matching Paisley Teles, they are long gone.  Over the years, Jerry has favored Fender Precision Basses, Rickenbackers, and Laklands.  His current go-to bass is a Metallic Blue Lakland, with a Maple Neck, and he has a Copper-colored Fender American Performer with a P/J pickup configuration, as a back-up.

Jerry’s amps over the years have gone from an Ampeg Portaflex, to dual Acoustic 360’s, to dual Sunn Coliseum bass cabinets with 1x18s, driven by a 300 watt head, to a Trace Elliot 600 watt head pushing a Trace Elliot 2×10 and an SWR 4×10, and today a GK MB 800 watt head pushing a GK NEO 2×12 and a GK NEO 1×12.

In terms of Jerry’s playing style, he has always played tastefully, with a lot of improvisational movement, following in the footprints of his influences, Chris Squire, Jack Casady, Jaco Pastorius and Jack Bruce.  On the Flock and Aura LPs, his bass lines propelled many of the songs.  As his playing has progressed, he has become more of a melodic player, creating a pocket by being locked in with the drummer.

Traveling across the USA and Canada a few years ago with Steve Gadd, in his capacity as Director of North American Sales for Zildjian and Vic Firth, Jerry focused on the concept that it is not how many notes he plays, but how he plays the notes, and how to leave space.

You can catch Jerry and Dinosaur Exhibit in clubs and festivals, and check out his playing below:

The Flock “Clown”

The Flock “Crabfoot” (Dinosaur Swamps)

The Flock “My Ok Today”

Aura “No Opportunity Needed, No Experience Necessary”

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