At the local junior college, some guys sit around a table in the student center. They’re long-haired and scruffy and talking about rock ‘n roll. It’s the late 1960s and they’re still hung over from the British Invasion of a few years earlier. John, Paul, George and Ringo changed the trajectory of popular music, and these guys wanted to get on board. Deep in their souls, they know they’re rockers and they’ve been honing their musical chops for years.
Now, they’re searching for a name for the band they’ve put together. Drummer Rory Knapton, guitarist Bob Herrin, along with bassist and vocalist Don Berg, and keyboard player Mark Martin bounce around a few possibilities. Knapton says, " We wanted a new name for a new time and new musicians." The band decided to name the group Flood.
And so begins a remarkable and tortuous journey in which these local boys set their sights on stardom, and almost … almost … almost make it to the big-time. They’re all eager and enthusiastic, but Knapton, is the driving force. “Rory, back then he was crazy and wild,” Herrin says. “He’s the one who had the big stars in this eyes. But you’ve got to dream to make things happen.” Flood hangs around town for a while, taking whatever gigs that come along, but they know they’re bound for bigger things so they head north toward Atlanta.
In July 1970, they wind up in a small town called Byron up near Macon, the site of Alex Cooley’s Second Atlanta International Pop Festival, and they play the free stage for a week, entertaining the crews that are setting up for the headliners, Jimi Hendrix and an upstart southern group called the Allman Brothers Band.
After the festival, they follow the Brothers to Love Valley, N.C., for another festival that draws 50,000 (200,000 had showed up at Byron). They hang out with the Brothers, Duane and Gregg, Jaimoe, Butch Trucks and Berry Oakley, and Duane gives Herrin one of the Coricidin bottles he uses when he’s playing slide on his Les Paul Goldtop. Around that time, Martin packs up his Hammond B3 organ and heads back down to the coast.
So they recruit another guy from home named Jay Wetzel, the son of a preacher, and he gives the band a new sound. His synthesizers and keyboards, Herrin’s and Berg’s vocal harmonies and Knapton’s frenetic drumming make Flood unique, at least in this part of the country.
Flood composed a rock opera Dear Little Man that they performed as a theatrical event at the Jekyll Island Amphitheater. The event sold out for three nights.
They play some venues in Atlanta -- the General Store, the Twelfth Gate, the Candy Store -- and their popularity grows. “We would literally sell out Chastain Park with three day’s publicity,” Knapton says. “We were that popular. We had an entourage of eight to 12 school buses full of hippies that would follow us everywhere we went.”
There was a guy in Atlanta around that time who was starting up a brand-new record label called GRC Records and he strikes a deal with Flood. At GRC, they made a soundtrack Blood of the Dragon, a movie produced by William Diehl, of Sharkey's Machine fame. Flood was recognized with great reviews in The Hollywood Review and other movie magazines. The band rehearses, writes, and gets ready to record their first album. They’re about to board a flight to Jamaica, where they have booked studio time, when the bottom falls out. GRC founder Mike Thevis, also one of the biggest porn distributors on the East Coast, is arrested for murder.
And that’s where Flood’s ascendancy ends.
But not the dream … and not the music.
Knapton, Herrin and Knapton’s brother, Ricky, record a critically acclaimed album called Robert, Rory and Ricky that’s pressed in blue transparent vinyl.
Later, Knapton leads a group called Midnight Clear to a win on the CBS Morning Show’s Battle of the Bands.
They all keep on playing, together and apart.
After years away, Knapton, Herrin and Berg have reunited on St. Simons Island, (Wetzel is ensconced in the Florida Keys) and they’re playing some of their old songs, and some new ones. They are once again a band.
They’ve enjoyed successful careers in and outside of music, raised families, survived life-threatening illnesses, and through it all, they’ve kept the dream alive.