Interview With The Magic Tramps
by Ginger Coyote


The Magic Tramps were indeed a magical unit. Punk Globe was lucky enough to chat with Sesu Coleman about that era in his life and how he is helping make their music accessible to the public in memory of his former bandmate Eric Emerson.

Punk Globe: In what year did The Magic Tramps form and tell the readers about the members of the Magic Tramps & some of the band's history?

The "Magic Tramps" have a unique history.
The original Tramps were...
Sesu Coleman-drums--
Lary Chaplan-electric violin--
YoungBlood {AKA-"X"} -guitar
We were called
"Messiah"
and formed in LA around 1968.
We were the house band at a club on "Sunset Blvd."
called
"The Temple of the Rainbow"
playing mostly experimental-original-primal music.

Lary Chaplan was a classically trained violinist who had a
Baroque dark ages-mid evil melodic style & sound.
A wonderful musician and writer.{Capricorn}

Young Blood {AKA "X"} was the cosmic-space man.
Complete with black light-candles-& skull, who played melodic e-minor chord & notes as if he were in a dream state.
Soft spoken & deep.{Cancer}
Then there was me-Sesu-
{Libra with six planets in Scorpio-I was told to read both Horoscopes}
The primitive Indian style of the group,{Mohawk Indian descent}
Feathers in my hair.
Face paint
Leather straps tied in my hair-lights in my drums-
Feathers hanging from my drums and stands.
playing drums like they were logs in the forest,
Like heart beats.

Quite a combination.
We all contributed to the writing of original material
We performed a few classical pieces
William Tell {Lone Ranger}
Chardish {Gypsy}
Flight Of The Bumble Bee...
etc.
A three piece band...
Being the house band we had a unique advantage, as we could set up the stage as a theatrical environment.

We occasionally played in the "Valley"
under the name
"Magic Tramps"
At various blues bars with Lary on Bass to keep our souls honest. A different form of __expression.

Around 1969-Youngblood knew of A perfect fit for the Tramps.
His name was Eric Emerson-Andy Warhol Superstar.
He had met Eric while he was in LA promoting a new movie he'd just finished called "Lonesome Cowboys" for Warhol.
We knew if we wanted a record contract we needed a singer & songs,
not long improvised jams which is what "Messiah" was known for.
We brought him to LA.
It was an instant connection.
We wrote songs for his theatric style-Leather hot pants & leather whip and Yodel.
We had a mid-evil raw sound & we simply combined styles.

After an Earthquake in very early 71-we came to NYC at the suggestion of Eric
knowing a club we could play called
"Max's Kansas City"
& with Andy Warhol's scene-we would have a groove to fit into.
We found there wasn't much of a music scene at the time.
Mostly Broadway-Off Broadway- & -Off-Off Broadway.
But we were versatile and knew the club called "Max's" was hip and a place we could hang out.
A place where the Warhol crowd hung along with other artists-musicians-poets-and cool people in general, and Mickey Ruskin the owner was a friend of Eric's.
We played a R&R showcase upon arrival for Warhol & entourage that seemed to shock the establishment. With Andy's film associate-Paul Morrissey saying soon after "Boy's-R&R will never fly in NYC-It's all about Cabaret"
So-we put together a cabaret show along with our R&R theatrical show and found ourselves being a house band at "Max's"
Playing in exchange for food.
Eventually we combined the two styles and basically confused the media.
An original theatrical band playing originals along with
"Would You Like To Swing On A Star"
&
"William Tell Overture"
With a Warhol Superstar yodeling & doing splits on stage.
Eric was also very commanding of the audience.
He connected & never lost control.
Always in charge of the evening, and making certain everyone was having fun & being entertained
He was a genuine entertainer.

The Rock scene was difficult to get off the ground due to the fact bands weren't really creating a music scene enough that warranted clubs to open,also it lacked a sense of urgency.
So We played upstairs at "Max's" doing cabaret along with originals -bringing up various Warhol Superstars such as Geri Miller singing
"Mama-Look At Me Now"
Other bands started forming and coming around.
After a short period the scene exploded-bands formed & clubs opened.
We actually opened a couple ourselves musically such as the "Mercer Arts Center"-"Coventry"-"Hilly's On The Bowery"-{soon to be called CBGB's}Bands such as the

NY Dolls-Jayne-{Wayne} County-Miamis-Harlots of 42'nd St.-Teenage Lust & the Lustettes-Tuff Darts-Blondie-Sniper-{Joey Ramone-Pre-Ramones}--Wicked Lester{AKA-Kiss}-Patti Smith-Suicide-Lugar-Butch-{Tommy Ramone on guitar-pre Ramones}-Stillettos-{Debbie Harry-pre-Blondie}Street Punk-Canon-Rags-Helen Wheels-The Brats-etc.-etc.-etc.

Forced the scene to take a major shift in it's music style.

Around 1972-73 Young Blood {"X"} wanted to explore "Clothing Design" with his then girlfriend "Natasha" who had a boutique on Saint Marks Place in the East Village in NYC-At which time the Tramps added a guitarist named "Kevin Reese" & bass player-"Wayne Harley-Harley".

Around 1974-Eric wanted to continue exploring theater & show concept.
Eric continued to work under a host of names-mostly solo efforts, working with other musicians along with our roadie & sometimes guitarist named Chris Stein {Pre-Blondie}
He also used a name we had performed under for a while called "Star Theater" -but he never played again under the name "Magic Tramps"
Some people get confused because after the Tramps re-formed & Eric went solo.They thought they were seeing the "Magic Tramps" while in actual fact, by then, the Tramps were a totally different band with new members and material-keeping some of the original material from Eric's period.
They were seeing Eric in various projects that unfortunately never took off-He was too much an artist & individual. He never found that commerical musical groove that allowed him to be himself.
I sometimes read about other musicians Eric later worked with-
They just came later in the game with Eric's solo projects.
Lary-YoungBlood & I did revisit Eric and assist him on solo projects with other musicians but never as the Tramps.

By now everyone was in a band looking & basically sounding alike.
Something new was needed from us
Lary Chaplan & I continued the "Magic Tramps" name & tradition & reinvented the Tramps to a harder edge sound with a new singer named
"Jay Mala" from the band "Koala"
{who later went on to sing with the "Joe Perry Project"}
& Steve Caveretta AKA "Flying Fingers" on guitar.
We had a new Magic Tramps with a new direction-
hopefully to appeal to the current record industry.

In 8-74 @ "Barbara Winters" loft {wife of Edgar Winters} in NYC-
YoungBlood {"X"}-Lary & myself {Magic Tramps} got together with Eric along with a bassist named Walter Greenberg {AKA-Alter-Ego} to put together a theatrical show called
"Star Theater"
It was our last effort together to get a record deal
Up until now we turned down 6-8 recording contracts -With Eric
always thinking we could get a better one.
Shortly after arriving in NYC we turned down Seymour Stein-President of Sire Records.

I will never forget
He came to our early shows & loved us.
He had a Dutch group called "Focus" at the time and "Sire"was based in Holland.
He loved our theatrics & the fact Eric yodeled during the "William Tell Overture"
{Lone Ranger Theme}
He said
"I want you to be the first American band on Sire Records in The US.
A perfect match with "Focus."
We asked
"How much ?"
he said
"$10,000 US
& equipment
& advertising
& a West Coast tour
& guaranteed 3 LP's "

We laughed !!!
We thought we were getting offered $250-$500,000.
Man-Were we crazy.
The clincher was he had a stipulation .....
He wanted his partner to produce our first LP/
Richard Gottehrer.....
We flipped out........
"No way-{we said} he produced the "McCoys"
"Hang On Snoopy"
{million seller}
We aren't bubble gum !!!

Well-the rest is history.
He signed the "Ramones" for $5,000
Richard Gottehrer signed "Blondie"-{Private Stock Records}
Sire signed "Madonna"
Etc-etc-etc.

CBGB's became a showcase for him & Sire records
God Bless Him
He's now in the R&R Hall Of Fame....
And here we are...
we always were waiting for the "better deal"
only to see out friends get signed.

Blondie-Ramones-Talking Heads-Suicide-Tuff Darts-Wayne {Jayne} County-NY Dolls-Patti Smith-etc.
Meanwhile during one "Magic Tramps" performance @
Kenny's Castaways" {NYC}
We showcased for {I believe} Atlantic Records.
Eric was doing a dance & whip snap when he did a super split & flew off the stage.
We didn't get the contract & Eric had a double hernia.
He always said privately that he never came back 100% from that.
=========================================================

Punk Globe: Tell us about a typical Magic Tramps Show?

Our shows were very colorful-theatrical-original-conceptual-& musical.
I think we were a bit misunderstood as we actually played original music with different time signatures-melodic choruses-lyrics-&-stories.
-------------------------------------------------
"When I watch my reflection-
Together we stand alone...
When I have my selection-
I'd rather be on my own...
To do it my way-
To do as I say-
Cause' it's my life to live & be free.
Not to mention-my Reflection-
Driving hard on my heels after me..."
"In my group of musicians {magicians}
I'm out front & they follow...
If we all are the leaders-The music tends to sound hollow"
So Mr. Sideman-fill in the rhythm
& push me way out front in the lead
Now I'm feeling-so well supported &
The music tends to succeed...
-------------------------------------------------------
{not your typical R&R songs}

Keep in mind that upon arrival to the City -{Early 1971]
There wasn't a big music scene
mostly Theater
with the Warhol folks doing Film &
Off-Broadway & Off-Off-Broadway.
We fit right in as that's the style we were doing in LA.
It's as though the "Velvet Underground" finished the sixties at "Max's" -then there was a "Time-out" in music in NYC. Then we came along with the 70's.Re-Opened "Max's" & the scene.
We always viewed our shows as an experience for one & all.
Everyone was made-up & dressed-up
Clothes Pins on their nipples-Goldfish in their Platforms-anything went. That "Glam period was about show & tell, with audience participation.
Almost like the "Living Theater"-"Cockettes"-"Angels Of Light"
We had visuals-lights-colors-sometimes dry ice for effect. Also we brought up on stage various performers to add variety.
We tried to make the stage an environment & the music interesting enough to have the audience relate to the message.
It was fun & positive.
An experience...

==============================================================
Punk Globe:  Who are some of the bands that the Magic Tramps have played with? Any special show that come to mind that were special?

Sesu:
As I mentioned earlier we played with an assortment of groups

Wicked Lester {to become Kiss}
worked with us @ a club in Queens called "Coventry"
also played there with "Link Wray"
"Sniper"--{Joey Ramone singer prior to the Ramones forming}
"Roy Bucannen"-"Legs"-"Rags"-"Isis"-"Harlots Of 42'nd Street"
"Canon"-"Brats"

Clubs like the "Mercer Arts Center"-"Max's"-CBGB's"
evolved with us playing with
"Butch"-{Tommy Ramone-original Ramones drummer was playing guitar}
"Tuff Darts"-{Rockabilly Robert Gordon was singing-"It's All For The Love Of Rock & Roll"}
"Wayne {Jayne} County & The Miamis"
"Patti Smith"{reciting poetry}
"Lugar" {Ivan Kral-guitarist later played bass with Patti Smith}

"Teenage Lust & The Lustettes"-"Suicide"
"Ruby & The Rednecks"-"Wizz Kids"
We also worked with "Bette Midler"
@ the Continental Baths in NYC.
Warhol's -"Jackie Curtis Review"-"Geri Miller" & the "Manhattan Transfer"
"Satan-The Eternal Fire Eater"
"The Midnight Opera Company"
& many others not to forget of course {the band that opened for the Tramps -}
the "New York Dolls" with Billy Murcia on drums
Pre-Jerry Nolan.
Jerry was in a duo opening for us called "KIX"
& many-many more.
Chris Stein from Blondie was our "roadie" who later sat in on a few gigs with the Tramps.
So as you can tell-this was early on ....

As far as memorable gigs There were a bunch:
I would like to set the record straight on an interview I read-about when the "Dolls" opened up for the "Tramps" at the "Mercer Arts Center"
David Jo. was quoted as saying everyone liked them so much they "Hissed" the "Tramps" off stage so the "Dolls" opened & closed.
The fact is the "Dolls" did open for us & brought their fans with them
They played-we played-Then their fans wanted to hear more-so we let the "Dolls" go back on.
{They were friends & it was no big deal}
-It was in a small video room called the "Kitchen" & we played there often & we were trying to give the "Dolls" a place to play & be seen. I think this was their second gig ever.
But NEVER were the Tramps "Hissed" off stage...
-I became a huge "Dolls" fan-seeing Arthur Kane break a bass string using a beer cap as a PIC. It was beautiful...
Johnny Thunders looking like a R&R troll'
With dolls hanging off him-a beautiful site...
Then later when Jerry joined them on drums it created a new level of energy.
Always a blast seeing their shows.

Another gig was thru Warhol -It was a "Hollywood Directors Award" show in NYC.
Awarding the movie director of the year.
The guest speaker was Vincent Price who we backed up as he sang
"You Gotta' Have Heart"
our version was
"You Gotta' Have Guts"......
Playboy Bunnies-Muscle Men in loincloths.
Geri Miller singing
"Mama -Look At Me Now"
A real blast...

Another was backing up "Link Wray" at the Coventry in Queens.
It was a promo week as the Tramps were asked to play and give credibility to a club called the "Popcorn".
A nice Irish bar in Queens that wanted to convert into a "Max's" style club with a live music scene.
We were asked to kick it off-We were also backing up at the time an act called "Satan-The Eternal Fire Eater"
Link Wray was always a childhood idol of mine-- songs like "Rumble-Rawhide-Black Widow-Ace Of Spades"-etc.
He was an Indian from the Southwest.A Rock & Roll kick ass guitarist {& singer}
I used to sneak in at college parties as a kid to listen to him & Bo Diddley play-etc..
So when asked to work with him-it was a huge thrill.
So we put the shows together. The Magic Tramps played first-Eric left the stage then Link Wray came out-turned his amps backwards towards the wall and "R_U_M_B_L_E" came screeching out as we were backing him. Incredible to be playing that song along with others with the Master.
He asked us to return home to Arizona with him to record an LP-with him producing. Again-we turned it down because we were waiting for the Big Deal.!!??
That silent sound is me kicking myself in the ass.
Robert Gordon took him up on it & recorded with him.

Many more..........

=====================================================
Punk Globe:  Your lead singer Eric Emerson was quite a charismatic and handsome Young Man who was taken from this World way to soon. Tell us about Eric?

Sesu:

Eric Emerson-A book unto itself---
Eric was a kind & loving person-a party waiting to happen.
He was sensitive - non confrontational & not a negative person.
Creative-fun-misunderstood. Colorful-magnetic & magical. Life was his stage.
His sign was "Cancer" -{very emotional inside-sometimes like a child.}
Andy Warhol silk-screened a print of him called
"Chelsea Girls"-from a movie he starred in.
Mickey Ruskin-owner of "Max's Kansas City" thought the world of him-As did Lou Reed & almost everyone who knew him.
Eric was like James Dean:
Each living a fast life-to the fullest
Each making three films
Each capturing the eye of Andy Warhol who captured them both in his art work
Each dying young.
Each leaving fans and loved ones wanting more & wondering why they were taken so soon.
each leaving a void that -now- can only be talked about, and reflected upon.

Eric passed on May 28'th-1975 at 31 years old.This year was his 30'th year from this Earth.
I lit a candle-played our music together & said a prayer in private.

James Dean passed on September 30'th 1955 at 24 years old-7 months
{ giving a new meaning to 24/7 }
I went to Fairmount-Indiana September 30'th for his 50'th Memorial service and candlelight walk from the Church-to the Cemetery-down Main Street.

================================================
Punk Globe: Eric was also an Actor what Movies did he appear in?

Sesu-
His three major Warhol films were:

"Lonesome Cowboys"
"Chelsea Girls"
&
"Heat"

============================================================
Punk Globe: Bebe Buell told me she remembered seeing "Magic Tramps" play at Loft Parties. She said Eric who had taken Ballet & would do all these great moves and return to the Mic. She was mesmerized by his performance.

Sesu:
Yes-Eric was quite the dancer
He had poise & could strike a pose on a moments notice.
He was encouraged as a child to take dance lessons to correct being "pigeon toed".
He would dance-strut-do splits-crack whips & Yodel.
Most of the time he returned to the Mic on time
We always had to be prepared as he was quite spontaneous & we sometimes had to fill in the gaps, making our music & show a bit more interesting.

Bebe was quite right with that...
============================================================
Punk Globe: I remember I was young in the Midwest seeing a photo of Eric at Candy Darling's funeral and began reading about him in Rock Scene and Creem Magazine. I always wanted to meet him.

Sesu:
Eric was a true friend to Candy as all the Warhol characters who frequented the "Factory"
They were an extension of his family.
He loved his children & their Mothers
"Branch Emerson"-& his mother Elda Gentile {singer in the "Stilettos" with Debbie Harry-pre-Blondie}
"Emerson Forth"-& his mother Jane Forth-Warhol Superstar
{It's rumored he fathered others but those two were the ones he spoke of, and I knew.}

Somehow-The Warhol Family had a connection unlike anything.
His interaction with Candy-Holly Woodlawn-Jackie Curtis-Joe Dallesandro-Gerard Malanga-Taylor Mead-& all the others...
Was a true sincere love that was never sarcastic-catty-condescending-or patronizing.
These were his people-his social circle where everyone accepted each other for who & what they were.

Keep in mind when Eric joined the "Magic Tramps" he was never a singer persay-
He was an actor-performer-individual-showman & Warhol Superstar.
We simply added his personality to our music and wrote for him to identify with.
It really was a natural progression.


==========================================================
Punk Globe: Did any of the other band members act as well?

None of us acted at that level-some plays-mostly music.
The Tramps did act together in a film once.
A French film director came to NYC and I believe through Warhol. We were asked to perform a "Dream Sequence"
I forget his name but the movie was to be called
"Wild Orange"
but had some legal issues with the film "Clockwork Orange"
so the title was changed to
"Fender Injun'"
I believe it won awards at an European film festival
We
{Sesu-Lary-Youngblood-Eric}
Were playing a loose---sound effects-dreamy -"Twin Peak'ish"-style music in a dream someone was having.
Where Eric was on his hands & knees licking milk out of a bowl.Very trippy.I actually had a copy of the reel that Eric gave me but lost it in a move.
I do have a color 8"x10" photo though.
One day I hope to locate the film along with other video snippets of us that are out there on space somewhere.


===========================================================
Punk Globe: Eric had a child with Actress Jane Forth. Do you ever see or hear from them?

I haven't been directly in touch with Jane Forth & or Emerson
{Eric's son}
Jane decided to keep a low profile-which I can respect with all the controversy with Eric-etc.
I have been in touch thru a third party.

However I have been in close contact with
Elda Gentile {Mother of Eric's son -Branch-
& former singer with the "Stilettos"
& Branch Emerson {Eric's son}
We are on very good terms & converse often.
They also have quotes on the Tramps website{"Cast" page}
========================================================
Punk Globe: How long did the band continue after Eric's passing?

Sesu:
As I mentioned earlier when Eric was getting more into theater and hooked up with Barbara Winters {Edgar's "X"}
He wanted to move into that direction more & everyone was pulling him in that and other directions.
Barbara was funding the cause and wanted to be involved with the decisions & direction & input.
She brought in the singer of an English band called "Flash" to record us.
She did-he did-we did-but we never heard the tapes,
Again out in space floating around somewhere is more unheard Tramps music.
This was about 1974.

Lary & I who carried the Tramps name wanted to continue to grow with a harder more commercial sound as all our friends were getting signed &
We really wanted to land the big "record deal" & stretch our legs musically.

We played for a couple years with the new band & were getting a lot of positive attention. Thru approx.-1976'ish.
Then our equipment was ripped off while sharing a rehearsal loft with the "Wizz Kids"
That was it -we had no funds -backing or solid record deal
The group broke up {although we are still in touch}

Lary & I continued playing out-forming a couple commercial bands to pay the rent
But that was never our thing. Thur about 78-79'ish.
That is about when the "Magic Tramps" called it a day.

After the Tramps Lary {on bass} & I {Drums} were asked by our old friend Alan Vega from "Suicide"
to record two solo LP's & tour the States & Europe.1981-83'ish.
That was a blast.
We were always friends and fans of "Suicide" from back in the day @ "Mercer"-"Max's"-etc.
The LP's were titled
"Collision Drive" & "Saturn Strip"
{"Saturn Strip" was produced by Ric Ocasek of the "Cars" and he & some of the "Cars" along with members of "Ministry" played on it.}

We toured with the "Pretenders" for a while-toured Europe-TV-Radio
It was a great period.

We {Lary & I } in the 80's
also played on a 45 RPM single with a NYC friend named "SuperDude"
It was called
"The Stonemen"
We had a full page in "Punk Magazine"
in an early edition
"A Hit-With A Bullet"
I spoke to Dude recently about putting it on a compilation CD on my label sometime & he was very cool with the idea.Also it was great seeing him again.

================================================================
Punk Globe: Has the band reunited or do you have the website for the band as posterity sake and a memorial to Eric?

Sesu:
All the above
Originally I created the website to fill in some blanks in Rock & Roll history
So many stories were being told incorrectly inaccurately & inconsistently & incomplete.
I wanted to tell some stories about the history of the "Magic Tramps" -share some of my personal music collection of original photos-flyers-music-reviews-articles-etc.

Also to resurrect Eric's memory & pay respect to a unique individual who I really loved & believe paved the way to much of what was to follow.
His life & death had so much controversy & I wanted to focus on his life-not on his death.
I knew it would draw controversy.
Also to give mention to the bands who didn't get signed or got lost in the shuffle.
I put out a compilation CD on the Tramps website drawing bizarre attention-Everything from "The sound quality sucks"-to-"I wrote the words to that song"-to-"Thanks for sharing this music & reviving a period that was so important to the evolution of music."
The picture on the CD { "Kickin' Up Moonlight Dust" } is me in my Indian garb in 1970-It was to be used on an LP prior to Eric joining us.
It's intent was to have people connect it with the website which is full of history-photos-& stories of the Tramps.
Some didn't get it & some did.
It should be interesting because I have three full length Cd's in the can for future release from three lineups
One from LA -Circa 1970 with Eric
One from NYC -early 70's with Eric
One in NYC with Jay Mala on vocals mid-70's

I'm shopping them now with labels for future release.
To release the compilation CD
I Trademarked and designed my own Record Label called
"Moonlight Dust Music"
I hope in the near future to record & release obscure music & bands
perhaps a compilation of the
"Tramps"-"TeenageLust & The Lustettes"-"Rags"-"Brats"-"Rick Rivets"-"Ruby & The Rednecks"-"Tuff Darts"-Etc.
Who knows what the future will bring...........?

Then without intent the original Magic Tramps {AKA Messiah}
{Sesu-Lary-Youngblood}
Got together in NYC recently after over 30 years & spent nearly a week together & put together nearly two hours of music with video together.
7 or 8 video "pieces" of music & video of abstract form. Each about 15 minutes long. Like being in a "lava lamp" while watching "Twin Peaks"
Very natural-raw-real....No edits-no studio -one take.
Currently we are setting up another session to continue this new direction of Warhol style audio-video.

The future is coming......
===============================================================
Punk Globe; Are you in contact with the other band members?

Sesu:

Yes--

I still converse with Lary Chaplan of course as we are like brothers and will always be connected musically.
Along with Young Blood - AKA "X"
Jay Mala vocalist who is in LA now being a successful film executive,
Also Steve "Flying Fingers" Caveretta who is in NY
We talk of various combinations for the future-but the original Tramps {Messiah} have been together recently & I am enjoying the ride ...

=================================================================
Punk Globe: Any final words for the readers?

I want to that you for taking the time to travel down memory lane & ask your readers to check out the Magic Tramps website
{ www.magictramps.com }

& Cd titled
"Kickin' Up Moonlight Dust"

As it is packed with history-music & memories along with an interesting array of people on the "Cast Of Characters" page.
I want to keep the site diverse and involve others,and continue to grow-
Like a "Time machine"
The scene wasn't a walk-in scene. We had to create one.
This is what we've always done.
I strongly encourage all artistic people to find your true groove and create a new genre.
The industry currently isn't promoting creativity & as a result everything seems so sterile. Bands sounding like each other-looking like each other etc.
Try to create your own thing and pave the way to a fresh movement.
This is not about rebelling-This is about creating and reaching in and finding and believing in yourself.
Let's stop giving music "Titles" & recognize music has been evolving from the beginning of time.
Each heartbeat is a beat in a song-each step is a rhythm-each word connects with a thought-each breath has a unique sound & feel to it. Simply listen to all these things-let your mind connect them to your soul & create your own sound & __expression.
My very best to everyone-past & present who helped make the scene a wonderful experience & place to be.
Believe in yourself & remember Music soothes the Soul.
Our window in Time is short-Make it count.......

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