Friday, December 21, 2012

The Damnation of Adam Blessing -- "Morning Dew" (1969)

Thought I heard a young girl cryin', too
Thought I heard a young girl cryin', too
You didn't hear no young girl cryin'

The Damnation of Adam Blessing was a Cleveland group that formed in 1968 and issued three albums in the next three years.  The band’s frontman was a guy named Bill Constable, who got the name of the band from a 1961 Vin Packer mystery titled The Damnation of Adam Blessing.  (I don't think Constable ever read the book.  Apparently he just saw the name in an advertisement in the back of a different paperback.)

(Vin Packer was actually one of several pseudonyms used by author Marijane Meaker, who wrote the very popular lesbian pulp novel Spring Fire in 1952, and later wrote several nonfiction books about gay men and lesbians.)

The group was a very popular live act in Cleveland, and once headlined at the Whiskey a Go Go in Los Angeles.  They opened for a number of legendary rock-and-rollers (Eric Clapton, Janis Joplin, Traffic, Grand Funk, and Alice Cooper –and their fellow Clevelanders, the James Gang), but none of their albums was a commercial success.  The group changed their name to Glory, released one more album, and broke up in 1973.

The band’s music is usually described as psychedelic or acid rock, but they weren’t exactly consistent when it came to musical style.  Allmusic compares them to the Yardbirds, Amboy Dukes, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Moby Grape, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. 

The cover of The Damnation of Adam Blessing (1969)
Most of the songs that The Damnation of Adam Blessing recorded were originals, but they did some covers as well – including a rather odd “Last Train to Clarksville” and a version of “Morning Dew” that sounds nothing like Bonnie Dobson’s original.  (Both songs are on the group's eponymous debut album, which was released in 1969.)

Their "Morning Dew" does sound quite a bit like the Jeff Beck Group’s version, which had been released the year before.  (I actually like Adam Blessing’s vocal better than Rod Stewart’s.)

Ray Benich takes a solo in 1970
In 1972, when the group was playing at a club in Ft. Lauderdale, a “dark-haired beauty from Delaware” named Sarah caught the eye of the band’s bass player, Ray Benich.  I’ll let Ray tell you what happened next.

After our last set of the night, [which ended] around 4 a.m., as the night owls drift[ed] their separate ways, I saw Sarah standing on the dance floor talking to her girlfriend.  I approached her from behind, and without saying a word, I gently placed my hands on her hips and drew her body next to mine.  As the contours of our bodies met I could feel the energy flow.  For a few seconds she hesitated, then turned to me and said, "Do you always introduce yourself like that?”  Sheepishly I confessed, "No, I'm sorry, you just looked soooo beautiful, I lost control."

After returning to Cleveland, Ray got a call from Sarah.  At that point, things began to get complicated.

When Sarah came to Cleveland, several weeks later (having phoned from Lauderdale to say, "I'm on my way to New York, on a fashion assignment, I was wondering if I could stop over in Cleveland to see you"?) it was inevitable that this situation would be viewed in a dim light by my first wife Sue. 

Hold the phone -- so Ray was married?  Don't you love the way he slips that fact in?  ("Viewed in a dim light by my wife"?  That may the understatement of all understatements.)

Sue and her family hated my career and almost everything it brought me into contact with, other than the money. They tried their best to talk me into giving up music and going to work for her father, who was an executive at the Ford plant in Cleveland.  This very issue had a great deal to do with exactly why I was "playing around" on Sue.  When I met Sarah I was in fact looking for a friend, a lover that would accept me for what I was.  When both girls started showing up at the bands gigs in the Cleveland, area, it presented some very sensitive situations, that the other band members found quite amusing.

But the eventual outcome of Ray’s affair with Sarah was far from amusing.

I had fallen so deeply in lust with this girl, how could I have ever imagined, in my wildest dreams, that one day she would silently stand by and watch as an attempt was made to murder me.  And when that failed, she would lie under oath in a court of law, to help insure my conviction to charges that would equal more than a life sentence.

A Delaware prison
Ray’s account of what happened next is somewhat unclear.  What is clear is that he was involved in “a crime of passion” – a shooting.  Ray is at pains to point out that “no one was permanently injured,” which I take to mean that someone was injured.  

In spite of having no prior criminal record “except for that Glory album” – give Ray credit for maintaining a sense of humor – Benich was sentenced to 27 years in prison.  He ended up serving 17 years and 10 months in Delaware prisons.

After his release in 2000, Ray Benich briefly reunited with his The Damnation of Adam Blessing bandmates for a reunion concert at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Benich after his release from prison
Ray Benich has written a book about his experiences titled Illusions of Justice.  I don’t think it has been published, but you can click here if you'd like to read some excerpts from it on Ray’s website.

Here's an excerpt from a lecture Ray Benich gave to a sociology class at the University of Tennessee after he was released from prison:

Here's Damnation of Adam Blessing's cover of "Morning Dew":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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