Before joining the Patti Smith Group, guitarist Ivan Král originally played with the scene’s ne’er-do-wells, Blondie, and codirected the 1976 punk documentary The Blank Generation.
Talent and stage presence are obviously important, but a good manager also goes a long way in building a career. Jane Friedman was a supporter of experimental art within the downtown scene, and she began taking on managerial duties during Patti Smith’s solo performances at the Mercer Arts Center, sometimes supporting the New York Dolls. In late 1973, guitarist Lenny Kaye rejoined Smith for a successful show at the West End Bar, then Friedman secured them a gig opening for protest singer Phil Ochs at Max’s. It was their first residency, two sets a night for six nights, and it led to other opportunities. By this point they had added Richard Sohl on keyboards, allowing the group to segue from Smith’s poems to some musical numbers played on guitar and piano. “Soon enough we started getting a thing together,” Kaye said. “We didn’t start out to have a band. What we wanted was to have a musical element in the performance and we let it grow into the band it would become, so it didn’t sound generic or get too ahead of itself. … After a while, we felt like we needed another instrument because both myself and Richard Sohl, the pianist, were kind of having to do too much work.” After placing an ad in the Village Voice, they found Ivan Kral, who was currently playing guitar for the scene’s ne’er-do-wells, Blondie. After performing as a four piece at CBGB for about seven weeks in early 1975, the Patti Smith Group expanded their lineup to include drummer Jay Dee Daugherty, who jumped ship from Lance Loud’s band the Mumps. “It was allowed to grow very organically,” said Kaye. “So by the time we had a drummer we sounded like ourselves, instead of like every other band.”
From Chapter 31 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore