Doctor Rockit at the Second Office Club. Band members include (I - r) Kenny Blanchet (Scream in' Kenny Bobo), Steve Schmitz (Smitty), Rock Romano (Dr. Rockit), Rich Lay ton
blues band and I knew that I could do it from
the Cat's Pajamas.
KP: Where did you get the name Doctor
RR: It was just something we made up on the
back patio of Anderson Fair one night because
we needed a name. There has been a great tradition of doctors in rock and roll history-Z?0cf0r
John, Doctor Feelgood, Doctor Hook.
KP: Didn't Doctor Bockit start with you and a
RR: Steve Hunter. When I was still in the Natives, Steve Hunter played drums and I played
bass behind Rocky Hill to start the Blue Wednesdays, which was an attempt by Anderson
Fair and Rocky Hill to get a blues night going. I
was looking for people to play the blues with. I
had a bunch of real good songs and I was doing
a single act. Then, I ran into this guy, Bob Fitz-
Simons, from Cleveland, Ohio. He was down
here with Terry Ross, who now heads up Terry
and the Telephones. Bob and I hit a real close
At the same time, I was going to jam with
Mike Knutz and Kenneth Blanchet over at the
Keg, which is a little dive in the Montrose area.
It's a little dive, but it's been written up in Rolling Stone. Kenneth was playing bass for
Michael. Kenneth and I hit a really strong note
when I would go in and sit with them. It turned
out that Kenneth and I and Bob FitzSimons
and Steve Hunter got together. We had the core
of a band and I wanted to play guitar in this
band even though I had been playing bass for
about 10 years. It was something that I wanted
to do with the Smokin' Fitz and I wanted to
play guitar with the Natives. In the original
bands I did play guitar, but it always sounded
better when I played bass. So, I finally got a
bass player that sounded better than me.
KP: When did you pick up Rich Layton, your
RR: Rich called me when he got back from a
vacation saying that Taxi Dancer was breaking
up and he needed a band to go to. I kept him at
arm's length for a while, because I had never
heard him play except with Taxi Dancer and I
did hear him play with Vince Bell. I liked him
better when he played with Vince. I thought he
lent a musical character to Vince's music that
was almost like an orchestra. He still does that
with Doctor Rockit.
KP: Why did Steve Hunter leave the band?
RR: Well, Steve had to leave because he had to
make more money than we were making and
everybody else had something going. I was
painting signs and doing commercial art work
to make an extra buck.
KP: Isn't Bob FitzSimons a carpenter?
RR: Right. He was doing other things to try to
make money and actually everybody, including
myself, was taking other gigs for the first three
months that Doctor Bockit was together, which
was the way it had to be because people had to
make their own living. Rich already has a full-
time job at a place called Media Works. Rich
had time to devote to the band, but not as
much money as Kenneth. Kenneth was ready to
make his survival on it. That's not to say that
Rich isn't involved. He really puts his heart and
soul into the band and shows up for the rehearsals when he can. He's the one with the most
Our new drummer, Smitty (Steve Schmitz),
is in a position like that, too, because he's a carpenter all day long and still plays with the
KP: Didn't Smitty tour a lot at one time?
RR: He did and he doesn't want to tour right
now. He wants to be in a band that plays several nights a week. He's playing with Doctor
Bockit to have fun. That's the main thing that
got everybody together. Kenneth was making a
lot of money playing in disco bands all over the
state. He played with Fever Tree and with
Michael Knutz. He was in demand as a bass
player, because he's so great. He didn't have to
and Bob FitzSimons.
play with Doctor Bockit-nobody did. The important thing was the tunes and the dynamic
way we could put them down. It isn't a nostalgia band. We were playing those songs just like
they were on the radio now. We're playing
songs that we learned a long time ago and we're
rearranging them. Doctor Bockit is not a purist
blues band. It draws from all phases of blues
and rhythm and blues-from Marvin Gaye to
Lightnm' Hopkins. Most blues bands will have
a real stark format that works on the driving
pumping thing. We can play about 150 different songs that aren't ours. We're in the middle
of learning a lot of original stuff which is really
going to be phase three of Doctor Bockit.
KP: Will you eventually just do your own
RR: Sure-I mean, I don't think we'll ever get
away from playing rhythm and blues songs because we're taking on the character of a dance
band now. Before Doctor Bockit got together, I
was trying to put together the Bayou Bhythm
and Blues Beview. I just wanted to be responsible for it. I was going to call it: Bock Bomano
presents-The Bayou Bhythm and Blues Beview.
This week featuring ... It ail stemmed out of
going to some zydeco dances with a friend of
mine, Clyde Woodward, from Galveston. He
and Patty McQueen took me to some zydeco
dances, which is cajun rhythm and blues music,
you know, like Clifton Chenier and Marcel
Degas and Rockin Doopsie and the Twisters.
KP: Are these dances publicized?
RR: They're not publicized so much, but they
advertise on telephone poles with those classic
big-block-letter-three-color posters and you
won't believe it, they charge $3.50 to walk in
the door. People are selling boudin and selling
food and ribs. There must be six to seven hundred people in this gigantic auditorium. They're
all between 16 and 60 years old. Most of them
are in their forties and everyone is rockin' and
dancin' to this pumpin' zydeco music.
Well, I had a vision at that time. I saw a
place to do what I had been trying to do for 10
or 15 years of putting a blues band together for
people to dance to and, at the same time, I saw
a way to maybe totally bypass the music industry, which has been a goal of mine ever since I
dropped out. So, what I saw was a chance to
charge $3.50 at the door for people to pack in
there and dance and, somehow, someday, make
a record and sell it to RCA and just eliminate
all that crap.
Anyway, I was moved by the blues festivals
the last couple of years in Houston. I started
seeking out the Thunderbirds and bands in
Austin that were blues bands. I used to go and
see Freddie King when I was 15 over on Dowl-
ing Street. I used to talk to him backstage. He'd
show me things. I didn't know him. After he
made his big comeback with Leon Russell, I
tried to talk to him and he would hardly talk to
me. But that was the kind of thing that I was
attracted to in music and the feeling that
people want to dance to that music.
KP: Most of the places that you're playing in
don't have a dance floor, although people are
making room and dancing.
RR: Well, that's because of the limited nature
of the politics that I wanted to be involved with
in the clubs. The Bayou Bhythm and Blues Beview was going to bypass the clubs. It was going
to bypass everything.
KP: Is that what you were trying to do with
the parties at your house?
RR: No. My house was a mini version of that.
We weren't booked anywhere for a couple of
weekends. We had a real hard time getting
booked the first weeks we were together. A
couple of us were starving. I had the most to
gain from what it looked like, because it was
my band in the beginning. I deserved to starve
so everybody else could make money. I had
gotten commitments from everybody and got
them not to book with other bands, except on
very rare occasions, when they let me know
early. In November, we had so many gigs and
we were playing so many nights-and for so
little money, I might add-that I forgot to book
up December. I didn't really forget, I just had
to sleep sometime.
December is a great month for bands. All of
a sudden, my drummer was getting booked up.
I went through three different drummers in
December trying to get someone who was willing to play the blues. About every six gigs, we
were breaking in a new band.
So there were a couple of weekends where
we didn't have anything at all. It was terrible
for the morale of any band trying to feel like
they've got something going. I just said, "Well
let's have a party at my house." I have a big old
house in the Montrose. The party started about
ten o'clock at night. About three or four hundred people came through my house. Not only
did Doctor Bockit play, but Terry and the Telephones, the Hammer Ridge Mountain Boys, the
Michael Knutz Band. Lucinda came by for a
set. A band called Disco-nect (a new-wave band
with tubas) showed up.
We did it again two weeks later because we
didn't have a gig. We played just for the love of
wanting people to dance to us and to try to
prove to people that we didn't want their
money. We wanted their flying feet. The next
time it was bigger. It was insane. Horn players
from Ray Charles were in there jamming. We
just threw two enormous dances which took me
two days to clean up after. I can't do that anymore. But it proved to me that we could throw
a big party. Scott Prescott, of the Urban Animals, picked up on what was happening real
fast and in a way he undercut my efforts.
KP: That's when the Urban Animals had their
Winter Solstice Party?
RR: Yes, starring all the same people that
played at my two parties. So, in a sense, he
blew my momentum in terms of me throwing
a dance and Doctor Bockit making all the
money so we could buy equipment instead of
having to scuff along. The thing is, that it
turned out great for Doctor Bockit. We probably didn't sound as clean because of the PA situation and the strange dungeon of a room on the
bayou over there at the Theatre Showcase, but
it was packed.
That was the turn of the worm for Doctor
Bockit-those two parties, and the Urban Animals party where a lot of people saw us in a
context where they could dance. I still see a future for the Bayou Bhythm and Blues Beview,
because since that party, the money that Doctor Bockit has been making and the number of
times we're playing and the kind of clubs, the
size of the club-it's all changing. It's getting a
lot better. We're almost surviving. We're almost
making about half a living now.
KP: How big do you want to get? It seems that
part of your appeal is your intimacy with the
audience. If you start playing bigger places,
won't the atmosphere change?
RR: When you're playing a place like Anderson Fair, which is probably my favorite gig to
be playing, there's not much room to move. We
try to get our point across at bigger places, too.
It's something that I learned over the last 10
years when I had to relate as a single artist and
especially working with Herschel Berry. There's
a communication that has to take place with
the audience. In a big place, like Cooter's or
Whisky River, there's room to move. We jump
and dance and go wild when we get the space.
There's a whole different element that takes
over the band when we're not confined by a
We're a party band. We're playing music for
people to dance to. I've heard some people call
us New Wave because we play hard and we play
rock and roll. I resented being called a rock and
roll band at first, because I thought we were a
blues band first.
KP: Why would you resent being called a rock
and roll band?
RR: Because I wanted to be called a blues
band. I wanted to tap that source of people
who might consider blues and dancing together.
I called it rhythm and blues because we really
play rhythm and blues. Then we started calling
it rockin' rhythm and blues so we could keep
the rock and roll element as a part of our tag.
I resented it because my band was starving to
try to project an image to appeal to blues purists, blues dancers and people who just might be
Now, I feel like we're a rock and roll band,
but we're a blues band, too. The same people
keep coming back to see us and we keep converting new club crowds. I'm really excited
about the future, because I've got two different
people talking to me about recording money.
We're going to have a record of some nature. I
have a feeling that it's going to be half original
and half music that we're playing on stage.
KP: One weekend at Houlahan's, I saw your
son, Steve, acting as emcee. Do you think he
will continue introducing you?
RR: As far as my music is concerned, Steve's
involvement started when I was in the Smokin'
Fitz. Steve and I were together. I was moving
back to Houston and I was on the street, literally. A lot of my friends were letting me crash a
couple of weeks at a time. It was summertime,
so I wasn't worried about Steve being in school.
Steve started hanging out with me at rehearsals.
One day, he started dancing to all the Smokin'
KP: How old was he then?
RR: He was about five. The Smokin' Fitz music was really wierd. It had a lot of breaks and
odd changes because it was a jazz band. Steve
had some very expressive dancing worked out
to it. I used to let him dance at certain places.
Sometimes he'd dance for a couple of sets. He
was part of what made the people think the
band was so unusual. When we started playing
liquor clubs, I didn't want him exposed to that
constantly. It was real hard to break him away
from it. When school starts, kids can't stay out
For a while, he had a band with my piano
player called Due/ling Humans. Steve sings and
co-writes the material with Bob FitzSimons.
Sometimes he'll introduce the band and he'll be
wearing a space helmet or he'll be disguised
someway. One day, he was totally wrapped in
aluminum foil and we played the theme from
Close Encounters of the Third Kind as he approached the stage. He still gets to do that on
some weekend nights when he doesn't have to
go to school. And, I think it's time to pick him
up from school now.