J. Weaver was born on November 22, 1940 in Lethbridge, Alberta (Canada).
He was strumming on his aunt's guitar when he was about 4 years old. Said Derry : 'From grade 1 to 5, I was winning the Alberta music festivals, singing in a high squeaky voice. Then there were church stage shows and finally, we put together a 3-piece band called 'The Rockers'. We ended up playing on TV here in Lethbridge'.
Don Zech, a Canadian researcher on early Rock'n'Roll, told me that he had had some contact with Derry's original band and it is almost certain that the other two guys in 'The Rockers' were Jerry Arnold and Dennis Goshimonn. At least, one well-worn 78 rpm acetate exists of Derry and Jerry doing 'Bye, Bye Love' and 'Mean Woman Blues'. According to Zech, it was recorded at a local record store.
Derry and his band then got to play with Wilf Carter (Montana Slim) : 'We were way under age. To me, it was a look at how the professionals played. Soon after, I was on my way to Hollywood'.
In California, Derry was a contemporary with many other young aspiring singers & musicians such as James Marcus Smith (a vocalist who would become Jett Powers first, then, at Sharon Sheeley's suggestion, P.J. Proby), Bruce Johnston (piano player, later to join The Beach Boys and one half of Bruce & Terry), Larry Taylor (Mel Taylor's brother and later bass player with Canned Heat) and Elliot Ingbar (guitarist, a future member of Frank Zappa's Mothers Of Invention and Captain Beefheart). They soon became friends and began hanging around, playing wherever they could. In 1958, a band called The Moon Dogs was born, featuring Derry, Jett, Elliot, Larry and Marshall Leib (who would soon join The Teddy Bears, with Phil Spector). In the June 1981 issue of Goldmine, it was reported that the quinted dissolved after just six months but after having won some local fame with tunes like 'Moon Dog' and 'Moon Cat'. Were these the prototypes for 'Moon Dawg' and 'Moon Kat' ? More on that in a minute (or two).
As you can see, the mass of burgeoning talent in the Los Angeles area was quite impressive ! Derry happened to be in the right place at the right time. In 1959, he began dating Mary Jo Sheeley, who was none other than Sharon Sheeley's little sister. Hence the famous Eddie Cochran connection which opened many doors to Derry Weaver then - and introduced him to thousands of music lovers later on. It took exactly 26 years and another immaculate RockStar album ('Eddie Cochran - The Hollywood Sessions', RSR-LP 1009), full of alternate takes and unissued cuts, to discover that Derry had shared a recording session with Eddie at Gold Star on August 25th, 1959. Of course, Eddie was on lead guitar, Jim Stivers on piano, Connie 'Guybo' Smith on bass and Gene Riggio at the drumkit. Two tracks appeared on that 1985 LP : 'Bad Baby Doll' and the very rocking 'Itty Bitty Betty' which featured a typically intense solo from Cochran. Both songs were later put onto CD by RockStar ('L.A. Sessions', RSR-CD 003), including the 'Bad Bay Doll' false starts and a bonus third song from the session, 'Lovin' I'm Wastin' (takes1-3). Jerry Capehart produced the session ; said Derry : 'You can tell by Jerry's voice on the out-takes that he pushed us pretty hard. Pissed us off, but got the job done !'
was kind of working for American Music, mailing records on the Silver and Capehart
labels to radio stations. Jerry soon became Derry's manager and Weaver had a
single out on the Capehart label (#5001), his first name being misspelled 'Darry'
: 'Sweet Mary Jo'/'Edge Of Town'. Derry insisted that 'Eddie
Cochran helped me with both these songs as well as other demos'.
The demos in question include : 'In My Rockin' Chair', 'Indian Fighter', 'Empty
Bottles' and 'Street Fight'. Let's clear one thing, though : 'Eddie
did not play on those songs but we used his drummer'.
Eddie's death in England came as a terrible shock : 'I was living with Mrs. Sheeley, Sharon and Mary Jo.  We were all like family before Eddie was gone. Ricky Nelson was always at the house and sometimes his brother, David, too. Eddie helped Sharon write 'Poor Little Fool' for Ricky. They gave her full credit for the writing because it was her idea. Sharon was like my big sister - she looked after everyone !  The phone call came about the accident. Supposedly, Eddie was lying on the road, guitar still in his hand. Sharon's back was broken. We cried and cried. We knew Eddie was gone. We didn't know if Sharon would make it. They didn't tell us if the cab driver or Gene were alive until later. They were running late to make the airport to come home. This whole thing devastated a lot of people forever. When I worked at Capitol, Jerry Capehart would be in the elevator. We would say hello, look at each other and couldn't say anything - just tears'.
had progressed as a guitar player, obviously influenced by Eddie : 'I
loved the basic Blues. I asked Eddie : 'How do you play that ?'. Because if
we had a few beers, we always got to the Blues - BB King, Bobby Bland... You
wouldn't believe how Eddie could play some of this stuff ! He showed me. I still
use some of those same licks to this very day. Eddie said : 'Try not to sound
white. You have to put your heart and soul into it'.
Sometime during 1960, an instrumental single of superb quality and lasting impact was issued on the World Pacific label (# X 815) by The Gamblers : 'Moon Dawg' b/w 'LSD-25'. The group consisted of Derry Weaver (lead guitar), Larry Taylor (bass), Bruce Johnston (piano), Elliot Ingbar (rhythm guitar) and Rod Schaffer (drums). Written by Derry, 'Moon Dawg' was an instant classic - a blasting guitar rocker with a stunning drum intro and some nice dog howls courtesy of Nick Venet who 'arranged & directed' according to what was written on the record label : 'Nicky didn't arrange anything except the deal with World Pacific in exchange for the publishing. We'll let him have that one. He also did the dog howl. Great job. We were all standing around the mike singing 'ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah' and Nick howled. Great overdub ! One take'.
As far as I know, 'Moon Dawg' has never appeared in stereo on later compilations such as the brilliant Japanese 'Golden Summer -Vol. 2' (CP32-5877) and it has always been credited to Derry Weaver except on The Beach Boys' 'Surfin' Safari' LP (Capitol LP T/ST 1808) where the writer credits went to... Nick Venet ! The excellent flip, co-written by Weaver and Taylor, was a moody, bluesier affair : 'Yes, it was about a drug that made mice chase cats. It was being experimented with at some universities. It was made from rye bread. I never got into any drugs'.
Strangely enough, the record was a hit only in L.A. and elsewhere in Southern California.
Echoes of 'Moon Dawg' are all over 'Wipe Out' for example and the tune was covered by countless bands. The Beach Boys were the first to do it but there were other versions by The Challengers (Vault #902), The Tornadoes (Aertaun #102 & Josie LP 4005), The Rhythm Rockers (Challenge LP 617), The Staccato's (Kandy Cane #1004), The Surfaris (Decca LP DL-74487) and The Arrows (Tower #133, where it became 'Moon Dawg '65'). Derry, still in the process of collecting all due royalties, says that there have been over 25 different recordings of 'Moon Dawg'.
The Gamblers had a follow-up single in 1961, on the Last Chance label (#2, then reissued as #108) : 'Teen Machine' b/w 'Tonky'. This time, Derry, Larry and Elliot were still present but Howard Hirsch played keyboards and the drummer was Larry's brother, Mel Taylor (a soon-to-be member of The Ventures). 'Teen Machine' is an organ dominated piece but with some pretty strong guitar once more.
At around the same time, a group by the name of The Hollywood Gamblers had a single out on the Don label (#201), featuring the Weaver/Taylor-penned 'Moon Kat'. Of course, most of the above gang was on it.
It seems also that Derry was involved in one way or another with The Teen Beats who recorded for Original Sound. One of their singles (OS #16) featured Derry's 'Night Surfin'.
In fact, it's very hard to follow Derry during this period because he was busy on all fronts. Besides those bands, he was cutting demos in studios around Hollywood ('for $5 each !) and he was largely involved with The Hollywood Argyles - at least, the touring group. They were hot with 'Alley-Oop' (Lute #5905), cut at a drunken session featuring Sandy Nelson on drums & screams while Gary Paxton and Dallas Frazier shared the vocals. The Argyles appeared on the Dick Clark Show (see picture at left, courtesy of Lauryl McMullin) and did a four-and-a-half month tour for that one : Gary Paxton was on vocals, Derry played guitar, Marshall Leib was on piano, Bobby Rey played sax and Gary Webb drummed.
It is unclear if Derry played on the ensuing Hollywood Argyles album on Lute (#9001) or on subsequent Gary Paxton productions.
the release of 'Street Fight'/'Miss Muffett' on the Vee-Jay label (#374) by
a certain... Barry Weaver. Yes, for the second time, Derry's name was spelled
wrong on a record : 'A friend of mine worked for Conrad
Music.  Well, I ended up being the first white kid on Vee-Jay. I was not happy.
Somebody picked the wrong tapes and released unfinished demos on me. I was ticked
off.  What you hear on that record is Larry Taylor on bass and Sandy Nelson
on drums. I put it all together and did all the overdubs at American Recording
Studio. That's where most everything was
done - even 'Alley-Oop'.
His next recording venture would yield another surf-style platter : 'Acapulco Run' by The Ascots on Dual-Tone 1119/20 is a highly sought after piece by collectors of the genre. Rare & nice, it is, but don't expect any sort of reverb guitar twanger ! Trumpet and organ are the main instruments here, along with some electric piano, the guitar being barely audible after the short intro. The label credits read 'Produced by John L. Williams' ; 'Acapulco Run' was written by Derry Weaver while the other side - 'The Gladiator', a forgettable effort to plagiarize 'The Lonely Bull' -was penned by a certain James Abbott.
Sometime during 1962, Nick Venet hired Derry to work with him at Capitol Records ; Nick was A&R man and Derry assisted him for about four years, working with The Beach Boys, Glen Campbell, Lou Rawls... Once again, he has never confirmed that he played on some of the early Beach Boys tracks which would appear on the 'Surfin' Safari' LP. What happened afterwards ? 'Never did stop. Always doing sessions from Portland to Seattle to Prince George. Became a cement finisher and spent many years in mining exploration'. Steve Scott, Derry's old friend, said that Derry sometimes played with a local band in Kelowna, British Columbia, named 'Special Blend'. Those close to him panicked years ago when it was announced, during a re-run of the Dick Clark Show featuring The Hollywood Argyles, that he had died in a car accident in Canada. Not so !! In September 2000, Derry told me that he was putting together a new 'Gamblers' group and working on a new CD, tentatively called 'The Don't Pass Line'. From what I heard on a cassette-tape he sent me at the time, yes, the band could blow the doors off the wall !
As far as I know, nothing has since materialized. I lost contact with him in 2001 but I'm very grateful for his time and input - his untold story is stunning, indeed !
Copyright Paul Vidal * Privas, France * May 2008
POSTSCRIPT : Derry passed away in Grand Forks on August 23, 2013, from a heart attack consecutive to pulmonary problems.