Following the overnight success of "Mr Tambourine Man", a generation of folk
musicians abandoned the traditional form to follow The Byrds' lead and merge
folk with rock elements. One of the most promising outfits was the little
known, and decidedly short-lived Mastin & Brewer, formed in the spring of
1966 by aspiring singer/songwriters Tom Mastin and Michael Brewer (b. Apr.
14, 1944, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma).
Both had been active on the nation's folk circuit since the early '60s and
had met at the Blind Owl coffeehouse in Kent, Ohio in 1964. With the folk
scene on its last legs, the duo, abetted by Mastin's friend and fellow
singer/songwriter Dave McIntosh, decided to head out to San Francisco the
following year to check out the emerging West Coast scene. Following a brief
spell in the city, Mastin and Brewer parted company with McIntosh and
traveled to Los Angeles to visit some old folk friends working with New
Christy Minstrel Randy Sparks and manager Barry Friedman (later better known
as Frazier Mohawk). While there, they recorded a three-song demo comprising
original compositions "Bound To Fall", "Need You" and "Sideswiped". Suitably
impressed by the quality of the songs, Friedman (who had produced the
recordings) took the demos to Columbia Records, which immediately expressed
an interest in signing the duo.
recording deal in the can, Friedman hastily organized a support band so that
they could take the songs out on the road, and duly drafted in ex-Skip
Battin Group member Billy Mundi (Sept. 25, 1942, San Francisco, California)
and Tim Buckley's friend and bass player Jim Fielder (b. James Thomas
Fielder, Oct. 4, 1947, Denton, Texas).
Interestingly, the quartet's initial rehearsals took place in an apartment
on Hollywood's Fountain Avenue, which also housed like-minded souls Stephen
Stills and Richie Furay, then in the process of forming Buffalo Springfield
with Friedman's assistance. The close relationship between the two groups
was cemented when both outfits provided support for The Byrds and The
Dillards on a six-date tour of southern California in April 1966. During
this period, Mastin & Brewer also played at the popular L.A. haunts, the Ash
Grove and the Whisky-A-Go Go, and for a brief spell also gigged under the
guise of The Elesian Senate.
Sadly, the group's initial promise was undermined by internal problems; Mastin reportedly suffered from severe bouts of depression, and ultimately
walked out of the group during sessions for the band's debut album. With the
group's future in jeopardy, Mundi left to briefly work with rival
folk-rockers The Lamp of Childhood before landing a more prestigious slot in
The Mothers of Invention. Having reunited with Fielder on the sessions for
Tim Buckley's eponymous debut album, he was instrumental in bringing Fielder
into the Mothers later that autumn.
Brewer meanwhile recruited his brother Keith to replace Mastin (who later
committed suicide) and the duo, abetted by Barry Friedman, readied the
Mastin & Brewer single, "Need You/Rainbow" (Columbia 4-43977), for release,
with Keith Brewer's vocals replacing Mastin's. Columbia duly released the
single, albeit in limited numbers, as
Brewer & Brewer that autumn, but it
failed to attract much interest.
Early in the new year, the duo began work on a new batch of material
including "Love, Love", and for a brief period, the brothers called
Chief Waldo and The Potted Mum, although no performances or
recordings took place under this name.
By the summer, Keith had moved on and Mike found work as a songwriter at
Good Sam Music, an affiliation of A&M Records. He was soon joined by another
old friend from the Blind Owl coffeehouse days, Tom Shipley, who had just
arrived in Los Angeles in search of work, and soon afterwards they forged a
new partnership, Brewer & Shipley. Working on fresh material at Leon
Russell's house, the duo also recorded Mike and Keith's "Love, Love" and
Mike's "Truly Right", written about Tom Mastin, both of which subsequently
appeared on the debut Brewer & Shipley album "Down In L.A". The latter,
incidentally, was also recorded by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, while The
Byrds did an instrumental version of Mastin & Brewer's "Bound To Fall" (from
the three-song demo) for their album 'The Notorious Byrd Brothers', but it
was later shelved. However, group member Chris Hillman later revived the
song in Steve Stills' Manassas and Brewer & Shipley eventually recorded
their own version in 1974.
As for Billy Mundi and Jim Fielder; Billy later played in the Elektra band
Rhinoceros, before doing copious sessions, while Fielder worked with Buffalo
Springfield briefly and subsequently found international success with Blood,
Sweat & Tears.
Thanks to Mike Brewer for additional information on the group's career, to
Billy Mundi for use of the Mastin & Brewer photograph and to Carny Corbett
for information on the Brewer and Brewer single.