|I wrote about the Impression label back in 2006, but at the time I didn’t know the full story behind the Intercoms record, and had not yet heard the Mark Five or C-Minors 45s. As it turns out, the Mark V of Redlands, California was responsible for all three of these releases, and a few members also backed Jimmy Robins (aka Jimmy Robbins) on his soul classic, “I Just Can’t Please You”.
The Intercoms’ “Unabridged, Unadulterated, Unextraordinary, Ordinary, Mediocre Unoriginality Blues” (Impression 107) is a cynical parody of protest songs, and one of my favorite Dylan send-ups. Opening verse: “Well I sit right down to write myself a protest song/and I try to think about something particularly wrong/but I couldn’t think of nothing that hadn’t already been said/ I couldn’t get the Siamese cats out of my head.” It was written by Danny Faragher of the Mark Five and M. Fouch. The flipside, Please Try And Understand was written by Dave Kelliher.
I asked guitarist and vocalist Dave Roberts (Dave Kelliher) of the Mark V about the band:
The Mark V (Redlands, CA) was basically a dance combo (piano, drums, bass, trombone, sax, and trumpet) but we dabbled in guitars, harmonicas, and tambourines. The Mark V band members were:
l-r: Dick, Steve, Brad, Dave, Danny & Jimmy
Three of us did play on “I Just Can’t Please You” by Jimmy Robins: Dick Owens (drums), Danny Faragher (trombone), Dave Kelliher (trumpet). Jimmy Robins is on keyboards and that string-stretching is Sonny Jones on guitar. It was originally on the Impression label.
“About a month into our new name on a big photo shoot at Knott’s Berry Farm. These handsome lads are (l-r): Danny Faragher, Dave Kelliher (Roberts), Brad Madson, Dick Owens, Jimmy Faragher, Steve Hauser.”
We signed with Valiant, recorded at Moonglow studios, and did get some serious airplay with “Lollipop Train” (P.F. Sloan/Steve Barri; Grassroots had done it on one of their albums) in September of 1966.
In August of 2009 Danny Faragher wrote to Garage Hangover:
|Thanks to Mop Top Mike for mp3 of the Intercoms ‘Please Try and Understand’, and special thanks to Dave Roberts for his history of the band and mp3s of their songs. Dave has his own voiceover business, www.DaveRobertsVoiceover.com. Also thanks to Danny Faragher for adding more to the story – check out his site, www.dannyfaragher.com/markv as there’s a lot more information there.|
The Ruins, 1968, l to r: Paul Turchetta, Paul Ferda, John Menadrysa on drums, and Dennis Girard.
The Coachmen on Jim Wood’s TV show.
l-r: Bob Starnes, Wayne Rickman, Bill Elliott, Mark Wright and Steve Chase.
The Coachmen of Sherman, Texas existed from 1964-1966. They were composed of Wayne Rickman (lead guitar, vocals), Mark Wright (rhythm guitar, vocals), Bob Starnes (bass, vocals), Steve Chase (keyboard), and Bill Elliott (drums).
During this period of the British Invasion, The Coachmen performed extensively throughout North Texas and Southern Oklahoma. Their song list was composed of the leading songs of the day, but leaned toward R & B, as interpreted by the British groups.
Wayne Rickman’s brother was manager of The Five Americans. We would go to Dallas occasionally and watch them practice in a house in an older part of Dallas. Man, those guys could play! Wow. What an impression that made on us.
Among the venues for The Coachmen during their era were high school proms and dances in Sherman, TX, Gainesville, TX, Bonham, TX, Greenville, TX, and Durant, OK, VFW & Knights of Columbus halls all over, local conventions, courthouse lawns, etc. The Coachmen played extensively in the German communities west of Sherman, TX in Muenster, Texas. The Coachmen was the first rock n’ roll band to perform for a Sherman High School assembly, which produce excitement and controversy at the time.
We did not record on record, a great regret, but we did have some tapes, but no one can find them. Also, we were the house band for the Sherman TV station equivalent of American Bandstand televised on Saturday afternoon hosted by Jim Wood, local DJ, but no one kept a tape. Also, we did not have the money, being from a small town.
Interestingly, to me at least, is that small towns recruited their live music from a larger town in the area. Sherman, being 30,000 persons, was where smaller towns in the North Texas area went to get their music. We were the dominant band at the time. Not that many in smaller towns had the resources to get a Dallas band, unless it was particular special.
The military draft and college took their toll and led to the disbandment of the band in 1966. After The Coachmen disbanded, they were succeeded by The Upper Level and The Marquees as the leading bands in Sherman, Texas.
1965, l-r: Mark Wright, Bob Starnes, Bill Elliott, Steve Chase, and Wayne Rickman
The 40 Fingers began playing in the middle sixties in Springfield, New Jersey. The original group consisted of Teddy O’Connell, lead vocals and keyboard, Bruce Colandrea, lead and background vocals, lead and rhythm guitar, Bruce Gerstein (officially called the Slug), bass guitar, and background vocals, and Wayne Massiello, drums and background vocals.
The 40 Fingers appeared on such TV shows such as Clay Cole, and Zacherley, along with appearing [billed as the Forty Fingers] at Summit High School with Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground and the Myddle Class.
On or around 1968, the group decided to add high school friend Al Fridkis on B3 Hammond organ, and have Ted O’Connell on stand up vocals. Al does not appear on this 45 for the Venture label. The single has the 40 Fingers version of the Myddle Class and Blues Project’s “Don’t Let Me Sleep Too Long”. The flip “Low Sunday” has a “Stormy Monday” kind of thing Bruce put lyrics to.
Thanks to Arnold for sending in the sound clips, scans and history of the band, co-written with Lenny.
|This is a classic garage LP, even though it’s a real mixed-bag of styles and quality. All the bands culled from Westchester County and the northern Bronx. Judging from the songs the bands cover it probably dates to sometime in 1967. A note on the back cover says the label auditioned over 100 groups. Jimmy Carpenito of the Mystics tells me Renvell’s studio was next to Gun Town on Central Ave in White Plains.
I thought it was likely Ren-Vell advertised for bands then asked them to put up some dollars to get their cut on the album. However, since first posting about this record, a sibling of one of the members of “The” wrote to me: “there definitely was a Battle of the Bands in Westchester County to compete for participation in the album. The guys didn’t pay to have their song on the album.”The best song on the record is undoubtedly the Traits’ “High on a Cloud”, an antisocial ode to chemical escape written by their singer, Mike Carrol.
I got a nickel bag, my eyes are drooping, they’re starting to sag
Well you left me girl, with two feet down on the ground
Cause I’m high on a cloud, high on a cloud,
With lyrics like those, it would be no wonder that Ren Vell buried it at the end of the second side, but the band said they chose to be last on the album. I wonder how many listeners made it all the way through the LP! About the time this album was cut, the Traits appeared on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour (taped at CBS studios on Broadway – sponsored by Geritol!) doing Paul Revere & the Raiders’ “Just Like Me”. Mack introduces them as “high school students and a machinist from Pelham, NY!” In 1969, they recorded “Nobody Loves the Hulk”, an interesting attempt to capitalize on the Marvel Comics hero that I’ll feature soon.
The other great original is the Henchmen’s “Say,” written by their guitarist and vocalist John Wallin. The drummer bashes away behind a leaden fuzz riff, segueing to a relatively complex bridge. Andy Porter lays down a good, crude solo, with nice tremolo at the end.
The Henchmen also cut a number of demos at Bruno-Dean Recording Studios in New Rochelle and at United Recording including “Strangers”, “Jack of All Trades”, “Walk With Me Baby”, “Sad Clown” and “Stepping Stone”. Hear some of these on the new comp “I’ve Had Enough!” on Norton.
Of the cover songs, my favorite is “Respect” by “The”, followed by the Gyration’s take on “Stepping Stone” and the Night Rider’s version of “Jenny Take a Ride”.
Raunch’s version of “Hungry” is good, but my copy has a skip in it. Their bassist Frank Taxiera told me, “Joe Renda asked us to submit a song from about fifteen that we recorded at his studio between ’66 and ’67.” I’ve since posted more on Raunch here.
As for the rest, there are a couple light pop numbers, like “Lolly Pop Train” by the Mystics and “The Glass Toy” by the Reptiles, but they’re not bad. The most out of touch with the times is “Angel Baby” by the Vectors of the Bronx, where Carol Pecchio’s fine vocal performance is buried in echo behind the drums and bass. Some of the covers are unremarkable, but the Orphans out-of-tune vocals on the Byrds’ “Feel a Whole Lot Better” dooms that cut despite good instrumental playing.
I spent far too much time typing out the credits in the interests of ah, history. What follows is a complete list of songs and band members on the album, and links to a few of the better songs.
A1. Hungry – Raunch, from Ossining and Briarcliff Manor
A2. Jenny Take a Ride – The Night Riders, Portchester
A3. Angel Baby – The Vectors, Bronx
A4. Out of Sight – The Night Crawlers, White Plains
A5. The Glass Toy – The Reptiles, Ossining
A6. Say – The Henchmen, Pleasantville
B1. (I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone – The Gyrations, Yonkers
B2. Lolly Pop Train – Tne Mystics, Valhalla or White Plains
B3. Didn’t Want to Have to Do It – The Hangmen, Eastchester
B4. Respect – “The”, Yonkers
B5. Feel a Whole Lot Better – The Orphans, White Plains
B6. High On A Cloud – The Traits, Pelham
Recording engineer: Ernie Rivellino
There are also at least two singles on Ren-Vell, best of which may be the Mystics (covered here):
RV-318 The Sherwoods – Third Summer (That I Loved You) (by Joe Lanza) / Lonely for You, supervised by Ken Luttman.
RV-320 The Mystics – This Is What I Was Made For / Ride My Pony (Come) – not the Lee Dorsey song but an original by James Carpenito and B. Fresta
Since writing this I’ve heard from Vinnie Leonardis of the Orphans:
Doug LoPresti wrote to me with some info about the Vectors:
Thanks to Rockin’ Rex for info on the Ren-Vell 45s and Raunch single.
The Traits on the Amateur Hour
“Kaiser” Frank Maier
A young Ed McNamara learned to play guitar when his family moved to Holland for a time, having no American TV to distract him. After returning to New Orleans, in 1965 he and bassist John D’Antoni were playing a set of surf instrumentals at a sweet sixteen party when they met vocalist Steve Sklamba, lead guitarist Mike “Mange” Mangiapane and keyboard player Frank Maier. Together they formed the Avantis, soon finding Tommy Hartdegen to play drums.
Since Frank couldn’t play with the group full-time due to high school commitments, Ted Genter joined on Farfisa. The band started rehearsing at Ted’s house on Bonnabel Street. By December of ’65, Rickey Moore replaced Tommy Hartdegen on drums. Rickey had been with the Coachmen, who later became Yesterday’s Children.
Ed describes the Better Half dozen as “a horn band without the horns!” They played live shows all over the area, including frat parties and socials, but more usually at clubs, with regular gigs at the Beaconette and at Gerald’s Key Club on St. Charles. Known for playing at extremely loud volumes, they inspired a dedicated following.
The band would buy instruments on layaway from Tippet’s Music, which allowed the band to take the instruments for the weekend, but they had to return them the following Monday until their balance was paid off. Ed played a Gibson ES 335, with Fender Dual 12″ Twin Reverb and Dual Showman amps.
Required to join the musicians’ union, one rule was ten union members had to be employed when playing the ballrooms in the big hotels. For rock bands without horn sections this was an antiquated regulation dating back to a time before amplified music. To skirt the rule, any band without a gig on a particular night would have some of its members attend another group’s live show. If a union rep showed up there’d be ten guys there able to present union cards.
Another way to make up the union numbers was to hire a second band to play during the headliner’s breaks. The Basement Wall (who Steve Sklamba considered to be one of the best groups in Louisiana at the time) hired the Better Half Dozen to play the breaks at a formal; the Better Half took the opportunity to steal the show! Ed remembers Barrie Edgar of the Basement Wall coming up to congratulate them afterwards.
In August of 1966 they met Steve Montagnet, a law student who was promoting live shows under the name Splendor Enterprises. The band had changed their name to the Forces of Evil early on, but at this point were still called the Avantis, a name out of touch with the times. According to Ed, Steve came up with the name the Better Half Dozen.
The band recorded four songs at Cosimo Matassa’s Camp Street studio, two originals that were part of their live set, and two covers. Steve Montagnet financed the session, and the group produced it with Cosimo engineering.
“I’m Gonna Leave You,” written by Steve Sklamba and Mike Mangiapane is an unrelenting two minutes of garage. “I Could Have Loved Her”, an original by Steve and Eddie, starts out slow before revving up, with fine harmonies over the driving rhythm.
The other two songs recorded at the session were covers of “Mister, You’re a Better Man Than I” and, interestingly, the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band’s “Transparent Day”, featuring the group’s harmonies. These were never released, though an acetate of the songs may exist.
The 45 was released on the U-Doe label, run by Frank Uddo, who wasn’t much older than the band. Ed estimates they pressed up maybe 500 copies, and for the most part gave them away. Except for a little play on WNOE the single received almost no radio exposure, though I’m Gonna Leave You was a popular song at their live shows.
Ted Genter played organ on the session, but eventually left the band and Frank Maier became the full-time keyboardist. In January of 1967, Rickey Moore left to join the Zoofs, recording a 45 produced by Allen Toussaint, “Get to Know Yourself” / “Not So Near”, both originals by Mike Presti. The Better Half Dozen found a new drummer, Jay Guernsbacker, but when the Zoofs fell apart soon after the single was released, they took Rickey back into the band.
In 1968 Steve Sklamba left the band during a set break. The remaining five continued as the Better Half, but pressures of work, military service and college eventually finished off the band. Mike Mangiapane and Rickey Moore went on to record with Bobby Fonseca of the Palace Guard.
When the Better Half Dozen reunited in 1991, hundreds of people showed up. There was talk of them reuniting again for a gig at Ponderosa Stomp, but that hasn’t happened yet.
I recommend checking out the excellent interviews with Rickey Moore, Frank Maier and Steve Sklamba. Additional sources include my interview with Ed McNamara from July, 2007; photos from Brown Paper Sack, and 45 transfers by bosshoss and Don Julio.
Mike Lewis and Craig Weidenheimer had been playing with a largely instrumental group at their high school in Monroeville, Alabama, a town about halfway between Mobile and Montgomery. Mike was lead guitarist and Craig played bass and sang. When the older members graduated, Mike and Craig brought in friends Lee Howington (keyboards), Jim Harper (rhythm guitar and sax), and Mike McMillon (drums) and started playing Beatles-influenced rock, first as Robin and His hoods and then as the Seeds of Time.
At shows they played alongside the Rubber Band, the K-Otics, the Phaetons and the Rockin’ Gibralters. Although they gigged regularly, without a manager or and ties to promoters, the band never had a footing in radio or large club bookings. In an interview with Mike Dugo, Craig Weidenheimer spoke about live shows: “We played fraternity parties, bars (even though we were under age), and school dances but mostly we went from town to town with our record and paid the local DJ’s to play our record. To get them to do it sometimes we would go in and play live to help promote the record. It was something to get on the radio and then everyone wanted to hear live bands. So we would rent an Armory or VFW hall and put up posters that we were coming to town (like the circus) and sometimes we could get large crowds. There was not much else to do. We were referred to as The Seeds by most people, so when the band called The Seeds came out with Pushin’ Too Hard there was some confusion. We actually played the song, so as not to disappoint.”
In 1966 they went into a studio in Montgomery usually used for recording jingles. The band cut two original songs by Mike Lewis, recording live with two vocal mics and doing about three takes for each song. The sound is primitive but each instrument can be heard, if distantly and with some distortion on the vocals. “She’s Been Travelin’ ‘Round the World” is the standout due to Mike McMillon’s quick drum beats, thumping bass playing from Craig, Mike Lewis frantically bending the guitar strings into odd note combinations, and a queasy organ sound. Shouting the lyrics in unison, the vocals drive the needles into the red and make it hard to decipher the lyrics.
The flip, “Gina” has a melancholy quality from the organ and the distant vocals that has grown on me. The next year the band recorded a second 45 at a studio in New Orleans that I haven’t heard: “Twelfth’s Night Indication” / “Shadow In My Mind”, two more originals by Mike Lewis. Other demos cut at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals have been lost. By this time they had added Mike Tatum on trumpet.
With members going to college the Seeds of Time broke up. Craig Weidenheimer and Mike McMillon had a college band called Mfinger with Jere Ellis of the Rubber Band. Mike Lewis stayed in the music business for good. After college he moved to Atlanta and formed Brick Wall, with one 45 on Capitol, “Poor Mary Has Drowned,” then joined the Devil’s Brigade (one 45 on Mainstream) and moved to LA. Dick Dodd asked him to form a band to tour as the Standells opening for the Grassroots. When that ended, the band, without Dodd evolved into Joshua (an LP on AVI). He started subbing for Nicky Hopkins in Quicksilver Messenger Service, joining the band full time in 1972. Later on he produced successful disco records and soundtracks.
Morgan discography (incomplete – any help with this would be appreciated)
Morgan 674H-3947 – Kavaliers – Get Your Feet Off Me / If You Loved Her (SK4M-3947) (1965)
Morgan HV-? – Kavaliers – Hey Baby / Gotcha (?) (TK4M-?) (1966)
Morgan 5965 – Doug Hughes – Reno Blues / Two People I Know (need confirmation of this one)
Morgan HV-9040 – Rockin’ Gibraltars – Go With Me / Signed, Sealed and Delivered
Morgan HV-9047 – Fabulous Checkmates – Safari “Jungle Trip” / My Sin and My Pride (TK4M-5244)
Morgan HV-9060 – The Seeds of Time – She’s Been Travelin’ ‘Round the World / Gina (TK4M -9675)
The Kavaliers were Wayne Neuendorf, Jack Boutwell, Mike Morris, Larry Hughes, Tim Nix and Mike Walters.
The Balladeers were from Woonsockett, Rhode Island. In the summer of 1965 they traveled twenty miles north to Framingham, Massachusetts to record this 45 at Continental Recording Studios. It appears to have been the first record released on studio owner Tom Flynn’s Cori label.
“Words I Want to Hear” is an original by Robert Allen, who may have been in the group. The song starts with a subdued atmosphere of just acoustic guitar, percussion and solo voice. Bass and harmonies add momentum until the cathartic moment when the guitarist breaks into the chorded solo.
“High Flying Bird” is one of those songs that bridged the transition from folk to rock, like “House of the Rising Sun” and “Hey Joe”. Written by Billy Ed Wheeler and originally recorded by Judy Henske, it was covered by many groups, including We Five, the Jefferson Airplane and the Canadian band the Plague, who do a great psychedelicized version. The Balladeers take is as excellent as any of these.
Over a year later, the Balladeers released one additional 45 on the Seven Seas label, “Used to Be” / “Goin’ Out of My Head”, which I haven’t heard, but is considered light vocal pop.
Sources include: Aram Heller’s “Til the Stroke of Dawn”.
Gary Stites was a pop idol in the ’50s but is best known as the first manager of the Birdwatchers. He started the Living Legend and Legend labels, the “Legend” refering to himself, naturally!
The Birdwatchers at this point were Dave Chiodo guitar, Bobby Puccetti keys, Jim Tolliver bass, and Eddie Martinez drums and were based near Ft. Lauderdale. They had already released three 45s on the Tara label, the second and third of which list Stites as producer.
For some reason Gary decided to try his hand at singing again, with the Birdwatchers backing him up. “Real Appeal” is good uptempo ’50s-ish rock, with an uncredited girl chorus. The flip, “While I’m Gone” is kind of a poor man’s Roy Orbison. This 45 did better than any of the early Birdwatchers records, peaking at #22 on WQAM in August ’65.
In early ’66 the Birdwatchers dramatically changed their lineup and relocated to Miami. Chiodo and Tolliver left, to be replaced by Joey Murcia on guitar and Jerry Schils (formerly of the Canadian Legends) on bass. Sammy Hall, vocalist with the Mor-Loks, who were also managed by Stites early on, completed this second phase of the Birdwatchers. This lineup went on to some national success with “Girl I’ve Got News For You” and “I’m Gonna Love You Anyway”.
A year later, Tommy Strand & the Upper Hand remade “Real Appeal” for their 45 on Living Legend. Stites also reused the flip, “While I’m Gone” for the b-side of a 45 by the Legendary Street Singers (actually the Gents Five).
Sources include: Jeff Lemlich’s history of the Birdwatchers.