EXPIRED: 03/04/10 – Lolly Vegas, 70, was lead singer and guitarist for Redbone, a Native American rock band that sold millions with the hit “Come and Get Your Love,” in 1974.
He and his brother Pat, who played bass, were session musicians who performed together in seedy nightclubs in downtown Hollywood. They had changed their last name from Vasquez to Vegas to hide their ethnic background and gain more success and wound up doing session work with Dr. John, Leon Russell, Glen Campbell, Johnny Rivers, and many others.
In 1964 they got a break when they were cast as regulars on the TV variety show “Shindig!” and were soon catching attention of other musicians who liked the brothers as backup musicians. A few years later, one of their songs, “Niki Hoeky,” became a hit single for P.J. Proby. Suddenly, they became popular songwriters for the likes of Bobbie Gentry, Aretha Franklin, and the Righteous Brothers.
But it was Jimi Hendrix who talked to them about embracing their mixed blood ancestry ethnicity and eventually who talked them into forming an all-Native American rock group.
They called themselves the Crazy Cajun Cakewalk Band. Soon after, they added Tony Bellamy, a flamenco guitarist, and Peter De Poe, a drummer whose Cheyenne Indian name was Last Walking Bear. In 1969, they changed their name to Redbone, after a derogatory Indian slang term meaning “half-breed.”
They took back the insult and wore it with pride.
Well, maybe. It got a little hokey. They wore buckskins and moccasins onstage, and even though it was gimmicky – it worked. It got them a record deal at least..
Their debut album came out the same year, followed by the hit single “Maggie” from their second album, Potlatch, in 1970, and “The Witch Queen of New Orleans” in 1971. But it wasn’t until 1974 when everyone finally figured out who Redbone was.
“Come and Get Your Love“, written by Vegas, stayed in the Billboard charts for 24 weeks in 1974 and was the band’s 1st and only gold record.
The group tried following that hit with a tune called “Suzie Girl,” which got limited play at year’s end but did not chart. Later releases reflected their Indian background even more strongly, but still the sales were not there. In 1978, a final comeback attempt fizzled on RCA Records.
The band went through many incarnations after they broke up in the late 70’s. There was even a fake Redbone playing summer fairs and festivals in across the States and in Europe where they went on to have another #1 single “We Were All Wounded At Wounded Knee.”
But it was pretty much over for the band. Lolly had a stroke in 1995 and couldn’t play with his brother pat anymore, who continued to perform under the Redbone name every now and again.
This week he succumbed to lung cancer.