I said, “Why would I play to people who don’t care about good guitar?”
He said, “If you want to be huge, you gotta be for everybody.”
BILLY: Rod told me to stop writing about stuff I didn’t know about. He said, “Don’t reinvent the wheel. Write about your girl.” Hands down, best career advice I ever got.
KAREN: Rod told me to wear low-cut shirts and I said, “Dream on,” and that was about the end of that.
EDDIE: Rod started getting us gigs all over the East Coast. Florida to Canada.
WARREN: Let me tell you the sweet spot for being in rock ’n’ roll. People think it’s when you’re at the top but no. That’s when you’ve got the pressure and the expectations. What’s good is when everybody thinks you’re headed somewhere fast, when you’re all potential. Potential is pure fuckin’ joy.
GRAHAM: The longer we were out on the road, the wilder we all got. And Billy wasn’t exactly…Look, Billy liked attention. Especially from women. But, at least at that point, that’s all it was. Just attention.
BILLY: It was a lot to balance. Loving somebody back home, being out on the road. Girls were coming backstage and I was the one they wanted to meet. I was…I didn’t know what a relationship was supposed to look like.
CAMILA: We’d started to get into fights, Billy and I. I will admit I wanted something impractical, back then. I wanted to date a rock star but I wanted him available at all times. I’d get mad when he couldn’t do exactly what I wanted. I was young. So was he.
Sometimes it would get so bad that we’d stop talking for a few days. And then one of us would call the other and apologize and things would go back the way they were. I loved him and I knew he loved me. It wasn’t easy. But as my mother used to remind me, “You’ve never been interested in easy.”
GRAHAM: This one night, Billy and I were back home and getting in the van to head out to Tennessee or Kentucky or somewhere. Camila came to see us off. And when Rod pulled up in the van, Billy was saying goodbye.
He moved the hair out of Camila’s face and put his lips on her forehead. I remember that he didn’t even really kiss her. He just held his lips there. And I thought, I’ve never cared about anyone like that.
BILLY: I wrote “Se?ora” for Camila and, let me tell you, people liked that song a lot. Pretty soon, at our best shows, people were getting up out of their seats, starting to dance, singing along.
CAMILA: I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was technically a “se?orita.” I mean, choose your battles. Besides, once I listened to it…“Let me carry you/on my back/the road looks long/and the night looks black/but the two of us are bold explorers/me and my gold se?ora.”
I loved it. I loved that song.
BILLY: We cut a demo of “Se?ora” and “When the Sun Shines on You.”
ROD: My real contacts were all out in L.A. by then. I said to the band, I think it was maybe ’seventy-two…I said, “We gotta go out west.”
EDDIE: California was where the cool shit was happening, you know what I mean?
BILLY: I just thought, There’s something inside me that needs to do this.
WARREN: I was ready to go. I said, “Let’s get in the van.”
BILLY: I went to Camila’s parents’ house and I sat her down on the edge of her bed. I said, “Do you want to come with us?”
She said, “What would I do?”
I said, “I don’t know.”
She said, “You want me to just follow you around?”
I said, “I guess.”
She took a moment and then she said, “No, thank you.”
I asked her if we could stay together and she said, “Are you coming back?” And I told her I didn’t know.
And she said, “Then, no.” And she dumped me.
CAMILA: I got mad. That he was leaving. And I blew up at him. I didn’t know how else to handle it.
KAREN: Camila called me, before we left on tour. Told me she’d broken up with Billy. I said, “I thought you loved him.”
And she said, “He didn’t even try to fight me on it!”
I said to her, “If you love him, you should tell him.”
And she said, “He’s the one leaving! It’s on him to fix this.”
CAMILA: Love and pride don’t mix.
BILLY: What could I do? She didn’t want to come with me and I…I couldn’t stay.
GRAHAM: We packed up and said goodbye to Mom. She’d married the mailman by then. I mean, I know his name was Dave but until the day he died, I called him the mailman because that’s what he was. He delivered the mail at her office. He was the mailman.
Anyway, we left Mom with the mailman and got in the van.
KAREN: We gigged everywhere along the way from Pennsylvania to California.
BILLY: Camila made her choice and there was a big part of me that felt like, All right, I’ll be single then. See if she likes that.
GRAHAM: Billy straight up lost his mind on that trip.
ROD: It wasn’t the women I was worried about, with Billy. Although there were a lot of women. But Billy would get so messed up after shows that I’d have to wake him up the next afternoon by slapping him across the face, he was that far gone.
CAMILA: I was sick to my stomach without him. I was…kicking myself. Every day. Waking up in tears. My mom kept telling me to track him down. To take it back. But it felt like it was too late. He’d gone on without me. To make his dreams come true. As he should have.
WARREN: When we got to L.A., Rod hooked us up with a few rooms at the Hyatt House.
GREG MCGUINNESS (former concierge, the Continental Hyatt House): Ah, man, I’d love to tell you that I remember The Six coming in and staying with us. But I don’t. There was so much going on, so many bands back then. It was hard to keep track, I remember meeting Billy Dunne and Warren Rhodes later, but back then, no.
WARREN: Rod called in his favors. We started playing bigger gigs.
EDDIE: L.A. was a trip. Everywhere you looked, you were surrounded by people who loved playing music, who liked to party. I thought, Why the hell didn’t we come here sooner? The girls were gorgeous. The drugs were cheap.
BILLY: We played a few shows around Hollywood. At the Whisky, the Roxy, P.J.’s. I had just written a new song called “Farther from You.” It was all about how much I missed Camila, how far I felt from her.
When we hit the Strip, that felt like we were really coming into our own.
GRAHAM: All of us started to dress a bit better. You really had to step up your game in L.A. I started wearing my shirts unbuttoned halfway down my chest. I thought I was sexy as hell.
BILLY: That was about when I got really into…what is it that people call it now? A Canadian tuxedo? I was wearing a denim shirt with my jeans, pretty much every day.
KAREN: I felt like I couldn’t focus on playing if I dressed in miniskirts and boots and all that. I mean, I liked that look, but I wore high-waisted jeans and turtlenecks most of the time.
GRAHAM: Karen was so fucking sexy in those turtlenecks.
ROD: Once they were starting to get some good attention, I set up a show for them at the Troubadour.
GRAHAM: “Farther from You” was a great song. And you could tell Billy felt it. Billy couldn’t fake anything. When he was in pain or when he was joyful, you could feel it.
That show at the Troubadour that night, as we were playing, I looked over at Karen and she was in it, you know? And then I looked at Billy, and he’s singing his heart out and I thought, This is our best show yet.
ROD: I saw Teddy Price standing in the back, listening. I hadn’t met him before but I knew he was a producer with Runner Records. We had a few friends in common. After the show, he came up and found me, said, “My assistant heard you guys at P.J.’s. I told him I would come listen.”
BILLY: We get offstage and Rod comes up to me with this real tall, fat guy in a suit and he says, “Billy, I want you to meet Teddy Price.”
First thing Teddy says is—and you have to remember he had this real thick upper-crust British accent—“You’ve got a hell of a talent for writing about that girl.”
KAREN: Watching Billy, it felt a little bit like watching a dog find a master. He wanted to please him, wanted the record deal. You could feel it dripping off him.
WARREN: Teddy Price was ugly as sin. A face only a mother could love. [Laughs] I’m just messing around. He was ugly, though. I liked that he didn’t seem to care.
KAREN: That’s the glory of being a man. An ugly face isn’t the end of you.
BILLY: I shook Teddy’s hand and he asked me if I had any more songs like the ones he’d heard. I said, “Yes, sir.”
He said, “Where do you see this band in five years? Ten years?”
And I said, “We’ll be the biggest band in the world.”
WARREN: I signed my first pair of tits that night. This girl comes up to me and unbuttons her shirt and says, “Sign me.” So I signed her. Let me tell you, that’s a memory you have for a lifetime.
* * *
The following week, Teddy visited the band at a rehearsal space in the San Fernando Valley and listened to the seven songs they had prepared. Shortly after, they were invited to the Runner Records offices, introduced to CEO Rich Palentino, and offered a recording and publishing deal. Teddy Price, personally, would be producing their album.