The Shays in 1963 photo, from left: Steve Naylor, Denis Ahlborn, Jim Harvey, Ken Heinrich and George Mattson

The Shays

The Shays in 1963 photo, from left: Steve Naylor, Denis Ahlborn, Jim Harvey, Ken Heinrich and George Mattson
The Shays in 1963, from left: Steve Naylor, Denis Ahlborn, Jim Harvey, Ken Heinrich and George Mattson

Updated June, 2016

The Shays came from Mount Prospect, Illinois, northwest of Chicago, and released one 45 on Astra, “People’ve Been Sayin'” / “Tell Me Where”. These two tracks feature basic but solid two-guitar instrumental backing for the vocalist.

Members were:

Ken Heinrich – lead vocals
Denis Ahlborn – lead guitar
George Mattson – rhythm guitar & backup vocals
Steve Naylor – bass
Jim Harvey – drums

Both songs were written by George Mattson, who contacted me about the band:

Jack Schapps owned three music stores in shopping centers in suburban Chicago and Astra Records was kind of a sideline business of his. The Shays’ bass player, Steve Naylor, and myself worked at his music store at Randhurst Shopping Center in Mt. Prospect and Jack agreed to record our band on his label. I understand that he had worked for RCA records before going into retail, therefore we recorded at the RCA studios in Chicago (somewhere near Navy Pier) around 1965. We did get airplay on WCFL-AM for “Tell Me Where”, which is what we considered the A side. Originally the playing time was almost 3 minutes. WLS told us that was too long to get airplay on their station. At that point, Jack had the 2nd verse removed to reduce the playing time. WLS still wouldn’t play it. 😉

While checking out your website, I discovered the pics of “The Mouse Trap” club in Vernon Hills. The Shays played there regularly in the mid-60s and I still remember The Riddles as another regular band from there. It was another flashback to see the photo of Phil Metzler there. I believe Phil was the guy who started the rumor that burned through the NW suburbs that The Beatles might make a stop at the Mouse Trap after their concert at Comiskey Park in 1965. That night the club was the most crowded that I ever remember. (Phil was a real promoter.)

George Mattson

As George added in a comment below, “we basically were busted up by the Viet Nam draft around 1966-67.”

This group was not connected to the Shays from Canada who had a couple 45s on Roman Records.

Astra Records were part of the Nova Corporation in Hillside, Illinois. Their RCA account number was 806N, with original songs (such as the Shays and Bobby Stanton Sextet) published through Randhurst Music, BMI. There about five other Astra labels from the ’60s including the the reissue label from Pittsburgh and one from Detroit specializing in doo-wop and r&b.

Astra Records discography:

Astra 300: Bobby Angel and the Hilltoppers “Submarine Races” / “Heartbreak Hotel” (instrumental) (N8OW-7560/1, 1962)
Astra 301: Bobby Stanton Sextet Scree….Aghh” / “Scree….Aghh’s Gone” (1963)
Astra 302: Tommy Johnson & Bobby Stanton Quintet “Do You Mean What You Say” / “Coolin’ My Heels” (both by Emme Mullis & Ruth Kling, P3KM-8119/20)
Astra 303: ?
Astra 304: ?
Astra 305: The Shays “People’ve Been Sayin'” / “Tell Me Where” (1965, SK3M-1475/6)

Thank you to George Mattson for the photo and information on the band, and to Gary Cease for providing the photo of the label.

6 thoughts on “The Shays”

  1. Very interesting to see this 50 years later. I was in “The Shays” playing rhythm guitar and wrote the two songs on the record. We recorded it in 1965 and the song “Tell Me Where” got some airplay on WCFL-AM radio. The Shays were a garage band formed at Prospect High School in Mt. Prospect, IL in 1962 just as we were figuring out how to play our
    instruments. The band included Denis Ahlborn (lead guitar), Jim Harvey (drums), Ken Heinrich (vocals), Steve Naylor (bass) and myself, George Mattson (rhythm guitar & backup vocals). We played local clubs mostly in the NW suburbs of Chicago and we basically were busted up by the Viet Nam draft around 1966-67. Astra Records was owned by Jack Schapps who owned a few music stores in Hillside, Randhurst & Old Orchard Shopping Centers around Chicago.

  2. I caught the Shays on a number of occasions at the Almanac in Des Plaines, IL, which was located in a vacant church behind the movie theater and had originally opened as a folk club. As the Shays’ teen/rock club it lasted maybe 2/3 of a summer before the police shut it down as too rowdy a hangout–it was. It reopened later as The Hut run by high school teachers, one of whom was my senior homeroom warden, a business ed teacher by trade. The Shays then opened their own club, The Blue Umbrella in Mount Prospect, which enjoyed a year or so of success with Kenny singing Coca-Cola and Red Ball Jets (sneakers) commercials between songs. When it closed, it was reopened by”Teenage Night Clubs Inc.” as The Other Place (to distinguish it from The New Place in Algonquin), a membership only venue with a strict “no greasers” rule. I met Kenny while attending Wright Jr. College (now known as Wilbur Wright College) in Chicago through classmate Ralph Mullen of the Medallions–try to find a copy of “Leave Me Alone” by the Medallions on the Warped Records label–yes, really! After he dropped out, I saw Ken occasionally at that Randhurst (Rand Rd. & Elmhurst Rd.) record store along with other Shays employed there. His dropping out concerned me–not to mention him–since the local draft boards were breathing down all of our necks in those days. He was an exceptional, to put it mildly, singer with an extraordinary vocal range who should have pursued a successful musical career. Pompadours, however, had fallen out of fashion in the music business since the Beatles hit, and bands sporting the look were derogatorily labeled “greasers” by the “longhairs,” no matter how well they played. Notice how quickly the Pulsations and the Centuries brushed their hair down when they became the Buckinghams . Even a lot of “soul” music was verboten as far as these fashion conscious “hipsters” were concerned, and I found myself railing at more than a few of them, “What’s the matter with you??!! You don’t like the Righteous Brothers???!!!” I never understood this style conflict. The original rockers all wore their hair in slicked-back waves, and I expected the “greasers,” who prided themselves on being rebellious, would adopt the Beatles/Stones hairstyles–not the “collegiates.” I went from a pompadour, jackshirts and Italian pointed toe shoes to the Carnaby Street “mod” look and the long tresses, scratching my downbrushed hair at this perplexing adolescent class war! I still wonder whatever happened to the Shays–did any of them avoid the draft, did those drafted survive Vietnam, and are there any more recordings out there of Ken’s terrific voice? As I recall, he could do both of the Righteous Brothers proud!

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