Black Pearl earned their place in rock immortality when, in 1980’s The Rolling Stone Illustrated History Of Rock and Roll, legendary rock scribe Lester Bangs coined the phrase “Heavy Metal” when he wrote, “In the primordial tar pits of 1968, early flurries of heavy metal mutation appeared out of California! Blue Cheer, Iron Butterfly and Black Pearl prophesied the worldwide madness to come.”
Black Pearl formed when three Boston bands — the Tallysmen, the Vikings and the Barbarians — all lent members to play a two-week gig in Aspen, Colorado, in 1967 opening for Cream and Big Brother and the Holding Company. The band — Bernie “B.B” Fieldings (vocals), Bruce Benson (guitar), Tom Mulcahy (guitar), Jerry Causi (bass), Geoff Morris (lead guitar), Oak O’Connor (drums) — moved out west and gigged around Colorado before eventually winding their way to San Francisco, where they opened for West Coast royalty like the Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac and the Mothers of Invention before scoring a record deal with Atlantic. Their self-titled album was released in 1969; a live record, recorded at the Fillmore West, was released a year later.
The fast rise to fame caught up with the band, which had broken up by the time Black Pearl — Live was released. The original duo of Morris and O’Connor plus Mulcahy returned to Aspen with the name Black Pearl, played as a power trio for a while and then added a few new members (the gravelly voiced Bobby Mason, harmonica player and singer Tom Becker and bass player E. Rodney Jones) playing another eight years as Black Pearl finally disbanding in 1978. Black Pearl played reunion shows in Aspen in 1988, 1996 and a 1999, selling out local venues and reminding several generations of the power of rock and roll.
(by Stephen Haag and Oak O’Connor)
Published on December 28, 2012