15 September, 2011
Today marks the anniversary of the death of Darren ‘Lucky’ Lee Spears, lead vocalist and guitarist of Go Cat Go. Sadly, just as the band was hitting their peak Darren was tragically killed, cutting short the career of a band that was sure to really go places.
In memory of Darren and the fantastic music he and Go Cat Go created, I thought I would introduce you all to their fantastic sound.
After a chance meeting in a junk yard some two years earlier, Darren Spears and drummer Lance LeBeau exchanged numbers and finally began jamming in Lance’s basement in the summer of 1988. With Paul Turley on bass guitar and some high school friends to fill out the empty spots, a long afternoon of song experimentation ensued. Lance and Darren finally got the boys to agree to run through Gene Vincent’s ‘Baby Blue’ and the spark was tangible.
After a year of fooling around, Lance, Darren and Paul regrouped with Darren’s neighbour Bill Hull adding another guitar to the mix. This time there was no denying these boys had something. Practicing in the front of their garage, neighbours began bringing chairs to watch the boys play. Knowing they had something, the guys needed a name. Deciding on Bill’s licence plate ‘GOCATGO’, they agreed on the nod to Carl Perkins.
After touring the local circuit in the summer of 1989, Go Cat Go were starting to earn a reputation for high energy and skilfully delivered performances. In January of 1990 Brian Freeman, at just 16 years old, used his passion for rockabilly and the licks to prove it to score his first gig with Go Cat Go. The boys never looked back.
The boys worked hard on some of Darren’s original songs and in March released a self-produced cassette tape called ‘Out of Control’. Featuring six of Darren’s songs ‘Who Was That Cat’, ‘Forever’s Much Too Long’, ‘Time to Rock’, ‘Please Mama Please’, ‘Till the Cool Cats Cry’ and ‘10 Ways to Rock’ next on the agenda was a vinyl record.
In mid-1991 Go Cat Go recorded six more originals for the Rock-A-Billy Records Company in Denver, Colorado. Their first 10-inch release was on purple vinyl and included ‘Little Baby Doll’, ‘I've Got My Eyes on You’, ‘Can't Tie Me Down’, ‘Big Train’, ‘Other Side of Town’ and ‘Lonesome Road’. The success of the record and overwhelming encouragement from fellow musicians saw the band tour in 1992 in a rented cargo van. With only two seats, the boys took turns in driving while the others suffered in the third and fourth ‘seats’: a turned over five-gallon bucket and a rolled out sleeping bag.
Just two days into the trip they decided they simply couldn’t pass through Memphis without visiting and recording at Sun Records. They were in luck with studio time available that evening and stranger still, a camera crew for national TV news show 48 Hours showed up and recorded their entire session. Once in Texas, they played shows throughout Austin and Dallas for the next week before returning home tired but triumphant.
They spent the next year working as often as they could and began planning a tour of California in July 1993. Touring cross-country in a more comfortable mini-van, they started out in Hollywood and performed their way back up the coast to San Francisco. The tour culminated in a huge, hot warehouse where they unveiled the dark and sultry ‘Kiss Me Baby’, their newest song. “Kiss Me Baby’ defined the Go Cat Go sound and marked their musical direction. Sadly, it was never recorded by the whole band.
Returning home in August, the boys were ready to quit their full-time jobs and turn their attention to recording and touring. Go Cat Go were poised to tour Europe in the summer of 1994 however sadly, on September 14 1993, just a month after returning from California, Darren was shot without warning by three teenagers trying to steal his hunting rifle.
On September 15, Darren died from his wounds.
The teenagers were caught the next day as they got on their buses to go to school. One got life + 99 years, the second got life in prison and the third, got five years.
Go Cat Go had been on the rise. The loss of Darren was and remains a devastation. The surviving members of Go Cat Go agreed that no one could take Darren's place and decided to go their separate ways.
Brian went on to finish school after taking a few years off, Bill quit rockabilly altogether, but continues to play guitar in another genre and Lance plays drums with the Flea Bops and the Twilite Ramblers.