In 1971, Rose Colored Glass released its first single, “Can’t Find the Time (To Tell You),” and success appeared to arrive almost overnight; they appeared on American Bandstand, and their second release, “If It’s All Right with You,” entered the charts as well. But, just as suddenly, the group fell apart. The original members left one by one, leaving a lot of questions about what happened — questions that the passing of time have done nothing to clarify. Now, founding members Larry Meletio, Roe Cree, and Bobby Caldwell recount their days with RCG and Bang Records, the success of “Can’t Find the Time,” and the jumble and confusion of rumors about the group that have emerged since then.
REBEAT: Tell me how you guys met and how the group got started.
Larry: I met Roe in high school. He was in the Sensations, and they set the standard for what was going on in the Dallas music scene. At the time I don’t think he was all that interested in anything I was really doing because I was more of a hard rock drummer.
Roe: When the Sensations started, we idolized the Beach Boys and had the same equipment in the mid-’60s until the Beatles invaded. We changed over to Gibson guitars and Vox amps immediately and did covers of their music for years. Then, during my freshman year of college, our drummer enlisted in the Navy and the group disbanded. I was not a happy camper but continued college at Texas Tech University.
Bobby: Mary Owens and I had formed Rose Colored Glass as a folk group in 1969. It was the two of us and Bob Penhall, and we played a lot of coffee houses and places like that. When Bob left the group, we began the search to replace him and found Roe and Larry.
Roe: I met Bobby and he told me he and Mary had been part of a trio but wanted to add more guitar and vocals, and they also needed a drummer. I told him I knew a drummer named Larry Meletio who also sang.
Larry: We decided to get together one evening at Mary’s house, and we sat around and started playing with some harmony pieces — Crosby Still and Nash, the Byrds. Bobby has such a big, deep voice and tremendous range, and Roe is more of a mid-range but has a very definable voice. We played around and knew it sounded good. It’s funny how things work out. You sit around and wait long enough and finally the right people get together, and the chemistry was just phenomenal. We could play just about anything and we could harmonize. And best of all was that we got along like a family. Sometimes we fought like brothers and sisters, too, but we really protected each other.
Roe: After that, we spent six weeks playing at a local spot. The Dobber had the biggest and best burgers in town, and we had a chance to develop our style and three- and four-part harmonies. I think we did Crosby, Stills and Nash as well as anyone, also a few Association songs that no one around would attempt. And Bobby could do Kenny Rogers and Neil Diamond, and it sounded exactly like them.
So, apparently, you decided to keep the name Rose Colored Glass even as a quartet. Where did the name come from?
Bobby: When we had the trio, we got the name from a local record producer named Erroll Sober. Erroll was at my house and he heard us playing and he said, “You know what, I’ve got a perfect name for this band. This band should be called Rose Colored Glass.” And that’s when we adopted the name. Even after Bob left, we kept the name, although adding Roe and Larry took it to a new level.
Roe: Ha! I couldn’t convince the others to spell our name as Roe’s Colored Glass! But, anyway, soon we were on the road doing concerts, clubs and the like.
So how’d you go from small clubs to the recording studio?
Larry: A fellow by the name of Norm Miller was a godsend for us. He took us to an old eight-track studio and said he wanted us to record few things and see how it went. Most of us didn’t know what the inside of a studio even looked like until Norm introduced us to it. This was the real deal. That’s where Jim Long came into it. Jim was using a studio for producing jingles. Norm went to him and said, “I want you to hear this group. We’ve got something extraordinary here.”
Soon, we were playing all over, and everybody loved the way we took cover tunes and turned them into our own by using four-part harmonies. But they got us in the studio to start recording a few things. Remember the group Bread? They were working on a single — it would eventually be their first hit — but they hadn’t released it yet. It was available through a publishing company, and, being in the music business, Jim had access to a lot of material. He brought this song to us and he said, “This is a good fit for you guys; this is what I want you to work on now.”
Was it “Make It With You”? That was Bread’s first hit.
Larry: Yeah, that was it. “Make It With You.” After we’d already done it and Jim was testing it, Bread got wind that we were thinking about making it our first single, and we got a call from David Gates, and he said, “Don’t pursue that song anymore because Bread is going to release it.” So Jim told us we were off that project, but he said, “Here’s a song a guy has written and his group recorded but it just didn’t go anywhere. It needs something else.” We asked who the guy was, and he said his name was [Bruce] Arnold, and he had a band named Orpheus. We’d never heard of him really.
When we heard the song — “Can’t Find the Time (To Tell You)” — we thought it kind of just droned along. One night about 2:30 in the morning, we’d just finished playing at one of the local clubs, and we were asked if we wanted the recording time in the studio. We got in there and started working on “Can’t Find the Time.” Mary was instrumental in a lot of the vocal arrangement — she and Bobby both were — and she came up with some really dynamic ideas. Roe was good with the instrumental tracks and the guitar, and then Bobby with that robust voice of his. It’s funny because Roe had always said, “Larry we need to slow you down,” because I was a rock drummer, but I said the song needed a jump tempo. When it was done, we thought, “You know, we just might have something here.” Norm layered the tracks, saying the way we did it would allow us to reproduce it live. He said we had it and that he wanted Jim to hear it. We thought, great, and went back to the clubs and that was that.
Bobby: That was about September or October, 1970. They shopped the record and Bang decided to release it.
Roe: Lo and behold, as I was driving around Dallas one day, I heard it on the radio and almost ran off the road!
Larry: My sister had the same reaction! We’d heard through the grapevine that maybe our song was going to be played on KLIF, which was a local radio station. My sister called me and said she almost had a wreck! She said, “I just heard ‘Can’t Find the Time’ and you guys sound great!” We hadn’t even had a chance to hear the final cut yet.
[Author’s note: Surprisingly, despite its ubiquity as a song everyone seems to know more than 40 years later, “Can’t Find the Time” peaked at only #54 on the Billboard pop charts in April 1971.]
Just out of curiosity, have you ever talked to Bruce Arnold to see what he thought of your version of his song?
Bobby: Yeah, I have talked to him — or exchanged messages and emails, I should say. Basically, he thinks we made a mockery of his song. He was very protective of his band. You know, later, Hootie and the Blowfish also did a version for the movie “Me, Myself, and Irene.”
Wow, it’s surprising that he felt like that. You guys did such a beautiful version of the song and apparently a lot of people thought so – including Dick Clark. Isn’t this about the time you did American Bandstand?
Larry: We got the call to go to LA to be on American Bandstand, and we were told Dick Clark had requested us because “Can’t Find the Time” had really taken off — it had been in the Top 10 in Chicago for, like, six weeks or something, and people just loved it. We get out there and they met us at the airport in a limo. They took us to the studio and the Jackson 5 was there, as were Paul Revere and the Raiders. They’d shoot, like, three shows on the same day. Dick Clark was really, really wonderful.
Roe: That was my dream come true. Dick had us in his office for lunch and more conversation. He treated us like we were big stars. One of the nicest men I ever met in the music business. He took us to Rodeo Drive for sightseeing and shopping. He took us into a very nice store, and the first thing I see is Ricky Nelson looking at chamois suede pants and a top! I met one of my childhood idols.
Larry: Dick told us, “I want you to know I have a special place in my heart for musicians from Texas and for that Texas sound. When I heard this song, it was very refreshing. It wasn’t a California sound or an East Coast sound, and so I really wanted to have this interview with you and have you on the show.”
Well, at that point, we were on top of the world.