Arthur Pendragon: Jim Morrison’s Doppelganger
“Necessity or chance approach not me; and what I will is fate,” said poet-philosopher John Milton to Longfellow. Milton believed he could defy the wicked Fates spinning the threads of destiny.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow shook his pessimistic head at his friend’s quaint defiance and offered a more realistic response, “Thy is the common fate of all; Into each life some rain must fall.”
In the tales of Jim Morrison’s reluctant doppelganger, it seems Longfellow’s water-philosophy is an absolute truth. No matter how hard Ted Pearson tried — regardless of his musicianship and songwriting skills — he never found a big enough umbrella. It was his fate to exist in the center of an eternal hurricane, water-fed by a Miltoneon belief he could will himself into a Detroit-bred rock ’n’ roll career alongside Ted Nugent, Iggy Pop, Suzi Quatro, and Bob Seger.
It is the fortitude of those who reign defiant against the icy destinies of their frozen lake gravesites fantasized in Dante Alighieri’s ninth circle that led German philosopher, poet and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to ponder, “What is the heart of man? It is a tragic organ that, in seeking fulfillment, destroys itself.”
Arthur Pendragon’s scored-through fulfillments in the wake of the Doors’ legacy began in March 1974 when Capitol Records released Phantom’s Divine Comedy: Part 1, an album recorded by an unidentified lead singer and guitarist, aka the Phantom, along with a drummer, bassist(s), and keyboardist known as “W,” “X,” “Y,” and “Z.”
While the legend of the man — who we thought we knew as Ted Pearson — became trapped in an eternal storm birthed in the pre-Internet years of 1974, the myth of the Phantom we know today — as Arthur Pendragon — is a byproduct of the post-1990s Internet. When his analog endeavors seen a legitimate compact disc reissue in 1993 through CEMA Special Products, his old label’s reissue arm, the tales of the Phantom proliferated as the Internet expanded its reach through its blogs and message boards, its media sharing, social networking, and vanity web sites. The music aficionados and connoisseurs behind those sites exhumed — for better or worse — the tales of the wizard for a new century of music lovers.
In one of Arthur Pendragon’s late seventies, post-Divine Comedy songs with his namesake band, Pendragon, he laments for a wraith-like “queen of air” to deliver his musical salvation. Arthur Pendragon, a mysterious specter to fans of lost and forgotten rock ’n’ roll oddities, is the “king of air” — a rock ’n’ roll sovereign whose ethereal existence survives in that technological enthusiast-cloud consumed with misinformation and half-truths perpetually cut-and-pasted to the point where the vapors and obscurities suspended in the web’s numerous file servers became fact.
It is unfortunate that, in those digital storm clouds, Arthur Pendragon, in his previous life as Ted Pearson, was regarded by music critics of the time as an untalented hack; one so desperate for the empty, soulless pursuits of fame and wealth that he decided to simply mimic — poorly, since he was void of any musical aptitude or creativity — the talents of a venerated rock icon. (How wrong they were!)
Ted Pearson, standing center, in sleeves, with his little league team.
On the team for the Oxford High School Wildcats, he was scouted by the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals. A shoulder injury ended his major league dreams. Already an accomplished musician on guitar and piano and fronting Madrigal at the age of 16, he took up his second love, music, full time.
By the age of 21, he became the Phantom of Detroit.
Through the years audiophiles questioned his 1974 recording as a lost solo album recorded prior to Jim Morrison’s death; others believed the Lizard King was still alive, in hiding and recording music; others believed the album an elaborate hoax — a prefabricated band created by musicians and producers looking to profit on Jim Morrison’s celebrity. Or was SRC — with a new lead singer — behind the hoax?
Who is the Phantom?
Was it Richard Tanquay, a confidant of the Rolling Stones, who “filled in” for an ill Jim Morrison during a Doors and Stones’ European tour? Was it William James Loyer, an Oregon horse rancher? Was it Richard Bowen, a musician who impersonated Jim Morrison’s vocals in Larry Buchanan’s Beyond the Doors? Was it an early work of Noah James who came to work with Ray Manzarek’s Nite City?
Was the Phantom a former Bank of America employee, an American counterspy, or a disillusioned recording artist on the roster of Elektra, Columbia, or Capitol Records? Was he a celebrated musician gone incognito, bestowing his deceased idol the sincerest form of flattery — through imitation? Or was he a forgotten rock musician devoured by the greed of an industry nourishing itself on naive musicians blinded by the rock ’n’ roll dream? Or was the Phantom a prefabricated marketing creation; a rock band born from the culmination of promotional hype and media manipulation practiced by the early Seventies managerial elite of Tony DeFries, Jerry Brandt, and Kim Fowley?
It was Arthur Pendragon’s struggle against that cruel and ignorant critical-storm of assumptions that eventually destroyed him.
He committed suicide in an empty, lonely apartment in the Southern Florida city of Coral Springs, outside of the Fort Lauderdale metro area, on March 28, 1999 — on the 25th anniversary month of the release of his 1974 rock opera: The Divine Comedy by Walpurgis, an album bastardized by record executives as Phantom’s Divine Comedy: Part 1.
Upon the release of Jim Morrison’s “solo album,” the rumors ran wild. The initial speculation was that the Phantom was Jim Morrison incognito and he cut his solo debut in Paris prior to his death — and the album was the famed, lost “Paris Tapes.” Others believed the tapes were cut after Jim “died” and pulled a “Rimbaud” to Africa.
Others speculated it was an Iggy Pop solo album; a demo tape cut with castoffs from the MC5, the Quackenbush brothers from SRC, and other Detroit bands — as Iggy’s bid to be Jim’s replacement in the Doors.
Others believed it was Iggy Pop fronting the Doors, which culminated with one live show by the “Iggy and Manzarek Band” on October 11, 1974, at the Hollywood Palladium before imploding in a glittery death.
Then those analog speculators at the vinyl troughs decided that “W,” “X,” “Y,” and “Z” were Robbie Krieger, John Densmore, and Ray Manzarek of the Doors, along with their longtime session bassist, Doug Lubahn, backing an unknown talent they discovered to take Jim Morrison’s place — and blatantly played into the rumors that Jim was still alive.
Dude, it’s not possible. Jim’s not dead. Densmore said that Jim’s grave was “too short” and that Jim faked his death and split for Africa.
Okay, well then . . . Krieger, Densmore, Manzarek, and Lubahn, along with fellow Doors session player and Elvis Presley’s future bassist, Jerry Scheff (the Phantom band had two bassists, “W” & “Y,” on the album) hooked up with a still-in-hiding Jim to cut an impromptu album, which occurred after the 1972 sessions for the Doors’ final album as a Morrison-less trio, Full Circle.
No way. Sam Bernett, the manager of the Rock ’n’ Roll Circus in Paris, said in his book The End: Jim Morrison that Jim snorted heroine and died in one of the club’s toilet stalls.
. . . So Phantomphiles came to believe it was not Iggy Pop, members of the Doors, or Jim Morrison on the recordings. The acetate and Mylar speculators believed the Phantom was an unknown musician whose (unintentional) Morrisoneque demo tape made the rounds in the Capitol A&R Department and the label took advantage of the mysteries surrounding Jim’s death.
Where have we heard this marketing tactic before?
The same ploy was rolled out with Capitol Records’ “George Harrison and Brian Jones” Lord Sitar project, “The Beatles” reunion of Canada’s Klaatu, and a Beatles-stink bug was squished all over the Knack. This indicates Capitol, and the industry in general, had a penchant during the seventies for rock ’n’ roll hype excesses in marketing. Thus, a label discovering a group of unknowns with an (again, unintentional; not blatant) analogous quality to one of the most controversial musicians of the late sixties, then promoting said musician(s) with a “Jim Morrison solo record/Jim is Alive” marketing plan, is the most logical theory, well . . . truth.
Other musical phantoms: Pat Boone’s “discovery” of Jerry Lott became a phantom Elvis in 1960. Then there was Jimmy “Orion” Ellis as another phantom Elvis in the mid-seventies.
The Masked Marauders were an incognito Beatles and Rolling Stones “supergroup.” The Canadian band Klattu, for a time, were the Beatles.
Images courtesy of Discogs, 45 Cat, and multiple sites.
By the time Ted Pearson’s Madrigal made it to the Valhalla of Detroit gigs: the stage of the Grande Ballroom — as an opening act for a 1971 Halloween Eve appearance by Joe Cocker — Ted Pearson, using the artistic nom de plume of Arthur Pendragon — decided to change the name of his band to Walpurgis.
That not-so-yellow brick road to the Grande was a three-year quixotic quest as Madrigal shared Detroit stages at the then venerated clubs Something Different, The Hideout, Wamplers Lake Pavilion, and Green’s Pavilion alongside the burgeoning Bob Seger System, the Frost (featuring Dick Wagner, later of Alice Cooper), Popcorn Blizzard (featuring Meatloaf), Wilson Mower Pursuit (featuring Shawn “Stoney” Murphy, later of Bob Seger and Eric Clapton), and Sonny Hugg (featuring Derek St. Holmes, later of Ted Nugent).
Madrigal even made it to the stage of the fabled-coveted Gar Wood Mansion on Greenhaven Island along the Detroit River. From 1968 to 1972 the ramshackle, 46-room estate served as a commune and concert stage to Detroit’s disenfranchised rockers and operated as a post-Grande Ballroom concert hangout for the likes of the Rolling Stones, Cream, and Jethro Tull.
According to the concert database, the Palladium show with SRC occurred on August 19, 1970. The Splatt Gallery determined the Grande Ballroom show occurred on March 31, 1971.
Six years after forming Madrigal, the new and improved version of the band, known as Walpurgis, made it out of the decrepit rehearsal-basement of their Victorian band-home on the Rochester-Troy border and began recording their debut studio record: a rock opera based on Dante’s The Divine Comedy. The recording stemmed from Ted Pearson’s employment on the house-production staff of Ed “Punch” Andrews’s Hideout Productions. During extended periods of downtime during Bob Seger’s 1974 Seven sessions, the owner of Pampa Studios allowed Ted to record his long-gestating rock opera in the paid for, dormant studio.
Walpurgis at Cranbrook Manor in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
From left to right: Ray Campbell (rhythm guitar, keyboards; confirmed in 2023), Harold Breedless (recently confirmed in 2022 as “Beardsley” by keyboard Russ Klatt) on bass, drummer Jim Roland, and Ted Pearson (under his stage name of Arthur Pendragon).
It was at one time believed the gentleman in the red jack was one of the Wells brothers, Russ, on keyboards (at one time both Wells brothers — Russ and Howard — were in the band on bass/keyboards and drums). Another one-time member, keyboardist Chris Ruetenik (he replaced Russ Klatt), confirmed that is wasn’t Russ Wells in the red jacket. He played with both Wells brothers in the band — and he didn’t know who it was in the red jacket.
By the time of their 1974 recording, Ray Campbell was out and Russ Klatt joined on keyboards. A that time Walpurgis was then officially known as Phantom.
By 1975, after the album’s failure, both Wells brothers returned to the band — now known as Pendragon — along with Robert Benoit, on keyboards, replacing Chris Ruetenik. No longer with a label — and the “Jim buzz” ending— Pendragon (name change according to Benoit) did a few shows with the Walpurgis-Phantom era material in Rochester, Southfield, and Utica, Michigan, before disbanding for a final time. (There are no photographs or secondary sources to verify this era of the band.) Benoit earned his first album credit with the Lyman Woodard Organization, which released the instrumental-jazz album, Saturday Night Special, in 1975.
Behind the Shroud of a Detroit Rock ’n’ Roll Mystery: Part 1
The Career of Phantom Keyboardist Russ Klatt: A ninth in a series of interviews with Detroit’s lost rockers
Russ Klatt shares his insights from his tenure as the keyboardist of Phantom, in this 2021, two-part interview.
Once Punch Andrews’ heard those tapes, he devised a plan to pitch the album to Capitol, which recently entered into a new production deal with Hideout Productions to release Seger’s works. And Punch didn’t tell Ted about the “pitch” he devised. And Ted didn’t learn of his new persona until he heard “Calm Before the Storm” air on a local Detroit radio station — back announced as a new song by “Phantom” with an “Is it Jim?” addendum.
Hideout Records’ 7"/45-rpm local release of “Calm Before the Storm” and Capitol’s subsequent national radio promotional, along with two issues of the retail single backed with “Black Magic White Magic.”
Notice the notations of Bob Seger’s publishing arm, “Gear Publishing.”
Images courtesy of Discogs and 45 Cat.
Prior to the Doors’ failed, two-album tenure as a Jim-less trio with Manzarek and Krieger sharing lead vocal duties, they offered the job to British vocalist Terry Reid of the Jayhawks (who toured with Cream and the Rolling Stones) — who subsequently turned them down. Michael J. Stull of Elektra’s the Wackers (part of Bill Siddons’ management stable alongside the Doors) rehearsed with the band. Then the remaining Doors relocated to England to audition British vocalists Howard Werth, Jess Roden, and Kevin Coyne of the bands Audience (signed to Elektra), Bronco, and Siren, respectively.
None of it was working.
The Phantom marketing mystique cultivated by the Punch Andrews-Capitol Records brain trust was at fever pitch in the summer of 1974. A light bulb went off. Danny Sugerman (who put Iggy and Manzarek together in the first place in an attempt to save the Doors) placed a call to the Mitten State and tracked down the Phantom of Detroit. Ted Pearson auditioned. He became the new front man of the Doors in June . . . and that new version of the Doors imploded on the Whisky stage on the day of its July 3rd debut on the third anniversary of Jim Morrison’s death.
Danny Sugerman, Ted Pearson, and Ray Manzarek celebrate with Champaign to commemorate the July 3, 1974, debut of the new Doors. Iggy, Ted, and Ray take a break on a sofa in the Whisky’s backstage area. Both photos were taken by Jim Parrett of Demin Delinquent and the photos later appeared in Creem and Goldmine.
James Fortune captures Ted with Alice Cooper, Ray, and Iggy a month prior at a party on June 15, 1974, commemorating Ted officially joining the Doors.
By 1976 Arthur Pendragon published his first batch of post-Walpurgis tunes for his new band, Pendragon. After picking up work as a guitarist in Mitch Ryder’s touring band, whose members comprised an embryonic version of Pendragon, Arthur Pendragon entered the home studio of ex-White Bucks (a keyboard-driven, prog-rock concern formed by ex-Third Power bassist Jem Targel) guitarist Chris Marshall in 1978 and cut his first new songs since the Phantom debacle of 1974.
After four years of bottom-of-the-barrel and off-the-circuit bar dive (and bowling alley) gigs in Detroit and the Great Lakes region, Pendragon made finally made it to the “new” Valhalla-dream for Detroit’s local bands: Harpos, for a series of sold out shows as a headliner; they even opened Harpos shows for the major-label bands that stopped in Detroit (everyone from Huey Lewis and the News to Iron Maiden, from Elektra’s the Shoes to Wishbone Ash). When “Queen of Air” from the ’78 demo tape became a highly requested local hit on Detroit’s dominate rock station, WRIF 101.1 FM, the station booked Pendragon for a gig that every local band in Detroit craved: WRIF’s Live at Hart Plaza concert series — a 1982 series that was recorded and issued by the station as a promotional album.
The Phantom of the mid-seventies became an early eighties Phoenix that melted the icy lake at the center of Dante’s ninth circle; Arthur Pendragon was freed — and the labels noticed. Sadly, off-stage and behind the curtain, the band’s finances were a mess and not translating into “money.” The band began to splinter; Pendragon burnt through a succession of members and the musician-camaraderie that made the band “work” was lost. Then their manager was busted for dealing cocaine. . . .
And it was all over.
Detroit’s Creem Magazine’s nation coverage of Ray Manzarek’s new band, Nite City. The band’s lead singer, Noah James, due his Morrisonesque qualities, was believed to be the mysterious Phantom. Prior to James, many a Phantomphile believed the Phantom to be Richard Bowen and the Source, which recorded the soundtrack to the Larry Buchanan Doors-flick, Down on Us.
Before Manzarek came up with a name for his first post-Doors group outing: A story in the August 1, 1975, edition of the Los Angeles Free Press newspaper in Los Angeles, California, introducing Ray Manzarek’s new, yet unnamed, band which included Plymouth, Michigan, guitarist Paul Warren. Warren, whose first recording session, while still in his teens, was for the Temptations 1972 hit “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” had also appeared on Funkadelic’s classic “Get Off Your Ass and Jam.”
When Motown moved from Detroit to Los Angeles they paid for him to move so they could continue using his services as a session guitar player. He soon after joined the group Rare Earth and is credited as being co-writer on three songs from the “Back to Earth” album.
You’ll notice the newspaper page also lists an upcoming show at the Starwood for the “Ray Manzarek Group” and, incidentally, has Bob Seger playing the Starwood at the time.
Arthur Pendragon, in the yellow shirt, fronting Pendragon for one of their final concerts on July 6, 1982, headlining WRIF 101.1 FM’s Hart Plaza concert series.
Bottom left photo enlargement by Kathy Jones, via Ron Domilici/60s & Early 70s Detroit Rock Scene Facebook; other images on mulitple sites.
Arthur Pendragon migrated to Florida and, thanks to his audio production skills, forged a new career as a radio broadcaster. He had beautiful children and became a dedicated father. His past was the past. . . .
Then Jim Morrison’s 50th birthday milestone arrived.
Capitol Records, seeing an opportunity to make a buck from the renewed rock press chatter about the Lizard King, reopened the wounds of Arthur’s past by reissuing his nineteen-year-old album to compact disc in 1993.
As with fellow Detroiter Sixto “Sugar Man” Rodriquez’s unknown South African and Australian stardom fueled by the pirate industry, Arthur Pendragon’s unknown, nameless star rose in Italy (then across Europe and into Asia) courtesy of the pirated vinyl versions of Phantom’s Divine Comedy flooding the marketplace in 1989. Then, somehow, the pirates acquired the 1978 demos from his band, Pendragon, and they marketed their vinyl-pirated version of those tapes as the lost “Part II” by “Phantom,” in 1990.
By 1997 the Flash, Ghost, and Radioactive Records impresses flooded the online marketplace with compact disc-pirated copies of both of Arthur Pendragon’s albums. The Internet became the new, ultimate form of communication and his newfound fans began uploading his music to video sharing sites. Everyone was making money off of his music. . . .
To capitalize on his renewed digital fame, Arthur marketed new recordings along with a self-penned screenplay that told the story on how he came to replace Jim Morrison in the Doors — in defiance of Ray Manzarek’s Internet-scoffs regarding their mutual past.
The mutual past of Arthur Pendragon and Ray Manzarek.
The infamous December 1974 issue of Creem that featured the first published photographs of the Phantom, backstage at the Whisky a Go Go. In addition to the Ray Manzarek feature, the Rock ’n’ Roll News section reported on the “super secret” group formed by Iggy Pop and guitarist Dick Wagner . . . was Alice Cooper’s manager, Shep Gordon, behind the Phantom mystique?
Scans and graphic by R.D Francis/Larger images appear at the end of this article.
Arthur Pendragon beat the Fates. He was back. . . .
Then he went through a divorce.
Then . . . his girlfriend died in a car accident; a death he believed would not have happened if he had picked her up from her hospitality-industry job after her car wouldn’t start. His band Lonewolf had just finished a late-night South Florida bar gig. He told her to get a ride with a friend. . . .
He lost his wife, his girlfriend . . . and his music. The labels were biting. The screenplay wasn’t selling. Between Capitol Records and the pirates distributing his music, Arthur Pendragon — at the very least — earned a platinum album in combined total sales. But there were no royalties or platinum albums in reward or appreciation for his hard work.
As with Doug Hopkins of the Gin Blossoms in 1993, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain in 1994, and Jim Ellison of Material Issue in 1996, Arthur Pendragon plunged into a frozen, rock ’n’ roll lake filled with musicians unable to recover from the personal and professional pressures of their careers. Like Doug and Kurt before him, in March 1999 Arthur Pendragon chose a gun as his release from this world — a world where others controlled his fate.
It was King Solomon who opined in the 10th century B.C, in the first verse of the third chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Holy Bible that, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens. . . .”
. . . A tragic organ beats within us all — with a purpose; it is an organ that hides ghosts and, we pray, doesn’t exhume our skeletons. Those organs rest inside the chests of human beings whose goal as spiritual creatures (for our true essence is a soul that inhabits a vessel of flesh) to assuage the aching rhythms of another’s heart; to promote — and not impede — the freewill of the other. . . .
That is man’s purpose under the heavens.
Sadly, so many of us choose to impede our fellow man as the result of greed, envy, pride, and paranoia in our personal and professional lives.
As the three wicked Fates ran out of threads on Arthur Pendragon’s spool, they picked up this writer’s spool and continued weaving. For in those vestment fibers it became this writer’s destiny to break Arthur Pendragon’s doppelganger shackles, to shatter his Phantom-mask, and burn his putrid, yellowish-brown album cover shroud to embers and help him rise to his rightful throne as one of the kings of rock ’n’ roll — 45 years after the release of his debut album.
Note: The photos posted in this article do not appear in this writer’s respective books on the Phantom.
R.D Francis is the writer of The Ghosts of Jim Morrison, the Phantom of Detroit, and the Fates of Rock ’n’ Roll and Tales from a Wizard: The Oral History of Walpurgis. You can find both books on Amazon, Smashwords, and other eRetailers for all eReaders.