The Banshees / Ariel / Kensington Forest


The Banshees

Updated August 7, 2008

The Banshees were students at Mills High School in Millbrae, just south of San Francisco. They had started in 1962 as an instrumental group the Black Knights, changing their name to the Banshees when they added a vocalist in ’64. Members were Jack Walters, Chris Guiver and Paul and Dennis Studebaker, and for a short time Bob Morelli.

They released two records on the Solo label including the crude and energetic “They Prefer Blondes” / “Take a Ride with Me”. “They Prefer Blondes” was written by Jack Walters, while “Take a Ride with Me” was by Paul Studebaker, and both songs were arranged by Paul Studebaker. Lou Dorren, a high-school friend of the band produced both of their Solo 45s, and also recorded them in a later incarnation as the Kensington Forest.

With the help of his brother, George Guiver, I’ve heard from founding member of the band Chris Guiver, who kindly gave a detailed history of the band. Jason Sweitzer spoke to the Banshees’ friend and producer Lou Dorren about his early years as a sound engineer. Fascinating in itself, Lou’s story sheds light on the Banshees progression from garage act to professional musicians.

Chris Guiver:

Jack and I knew of each other from Lincoln School kindergarten. They lived within walking distance in old Burlingame. Later, in early high school (1962-63), we became best of friends through music and life. My mom was a great singer and dancer from the 40’s and apparent genetics rubbed off. I elected to learn saxophone in the 4th grade, taking school lessons. Jack was taking guitar lessons from early on too, found surf music an attraction and moved to electric – always a Fender Telecaster.

Paul and Dennis, the Studebaker brothers, were talent and intelligence beyond belief. Paul played lead trumpet in the Mills High band and orchestra. Dennis played tenor sax in the band. Paul, Dennis and I all went crazy for swing and were members of the award-winning jazz band at the high school. The three played in jazz combos, free-lance and otherwise and actually played “gigs” This is also where we connected with Jack Walters, who to this day, is viewed as a genius song writer.

At the end of that freshman year and in summer, the foursome started to play rock together. Songs like “What’d I Say” and “La Bamba” were played over and over at the YMCA dances and eventually at San Jose State frat parties. Many practice hours in the Studebaker basement began to bring proficiency, style and a great joy in music and friendships. And that is when the first recording of “They Prefer Blondes” and “Take A Ride With Me” was recorded in the hall of the Presbyterian Church (couple of mics and shared amplifiers).

Later in the sophomore year (1964), Jack, Paul and Dennis met Bob Morelli who sang like Gerry of Gerry and the Pacemakers. The four of them linked up and established great harmonies together and won the California Band Wars as The Banshees. Shortly after, missing the sax, I was asked to join again. The five-some played together for about 6 months, playing once as a greeting band for “Chad and Jeremy” and “Sonny and Cher”. Bob went his way, leaving the four-some alone as the Banshees.

For the Banshees around these times, four gods began to walk the earth – naming themselves “The Beatles”. Went to both San Francisco concerts.

The original “geek” of the high school, Lou Dorren, heard the group and wished to record them in his garage. That was the beginning onslaught of fantastic original material written by Jack.

Jason Sweitzer notes Lou’s perspective on the first Banshees record:

The SOLO imprint was Lou’s conception. He was 15 when he recorded and produced “They Prefer Blondes” in the Millbrae Presbyterian Church recreation room, with full permission of the priest! Prior to this he hadn’t made any garage recordings of them.

Originally, the song was going to be titled “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” but Marilyn Monroe had recorded a song with that title for a movie of the same name.

Using a Roberts Crossfield 770 reel-to-reel recorder and two cardioid dynamic microphones, which Lou and his friend Don purchased for the occasion from Lafayette Electronics in San Francisco, they recorded five or six takes each of “They Prefer Blondes” and “Take a Ride with Me” until the band got the one they liked.

Lou had the tracks mastered and sent to Monarch Record Mfg Co., Los Angeles. Two thousand copies were pressed circa July 1965 and the majority of them were sold for 99¢ at LeCor Camera & Hi-Fi in Millbrae, where Lou worked a part time after-school job, and at White Front Department Store in Sunnyvale, where Lou’s uncle was manager.

Despite being a local success, Lou was unhappy with the sound of SOLO 1 and decided to book time at Coast Recorders at 960 Bush St. in San Francisco to record a follow-up.

At Coast they recorded “Never Said I Loved You” and “So Hard to Bear” on a ½” 3-track vacuum tube recorder. This was Lou’s first shot at mixing, and SOLO 2 was pressed mid-September 1965.

These songs show the band developing their melodic side which they would improve upon in their next incarnation. Both songs were written by Jack Walters and arranged by Paul Studebaker.

With this brief stint at Coast under his belt, Lou begged manager Mel Tanner for a job and began helping out in the studio under the supervision of chief engineer Don Geis. It wasn’t long before Lou made his first master cut of the Beau Brummels “Don’t Talk to Strangers.”

Meanwhile the Banshees continued performing, soon landing their first recording contract.


The Banshees playing in front of the Hyatt Theater, before a Chad & Jeremy and Sonny & Cher concert.


from the 1966 San Francisco yellow pages
The Ariel

In the fall of 1966 the Banshees received a deal with Bob Shad’s Mainstream label, and traveled down to L.A. to record one single, the very beautiful “It Feels Like I’m Crying” b/w “I Love You.”

This 45 was released as “The Ariel” on the Brent label (another company owned by Shad). In sound these songs are a world away from They Prefer Blondes, with excellent harmonies, introspective lyrics and a delicate melodic sense.

The words of “It Feels Like I’m Crying” are agonizing:

Many times I feel like screaming,
Many times I feel like dying,
Cause you you, you you, you you, you …
Lied and it feels like I’m crying, crying, crying.

Never will I show my feelings,
Never will I show the reason,
Why she she, she she, she she, she….
Lied and it feels like I’m crying, crying, crying.

Chris Guiver:

Through ‘65 many concerts and performances with largely original material brought an inquiry by a large record label and the band was asked to “try out” at a studio in the city. One of the other bands had a pretty good singer named Janis Joplin. Both bands were contracted to go to L.A. and record in the same studio the Rolling Stones used. What a difference from the old church recordings. Big Brother and the Holding Company could just go. The Banshees had to get parental approval. The producer then didn’t feel Janis had a present enough voice and, yes, required her to double-track her singing!

Local fame had risen and a highlight moment was a senior dance at the high school. The air was sparked with excitement. Regrettably, Paul took ill and couldn’t perform leaving the 3 to fake it. Paul was a year ahead and had gone off to Berkeley leaving the band without its leader and at the end of the ‘65/’66 year the band dispersed.

Kensington Forest

In early 1967 Jack Walters brought Lou a demo of his new song “Bells.” Lou suggested Jack assemble a band and invited them over to Coast Recorders to record it. The newly named Kensington Forest included Jack Walters, Chris Guiver, Dennis Studebaker and Jack’s sister. As the flip to “Bells,” they recorded another Jack Walters original, “Movin’ On.”

While “Movin’ On” was mixed to mono only, Lou made both stereo and mono mixes of “Bells,” and cut separate master plates for each version himself. One thousand copies were pressed with both sides in mono and another thousand made with the stereo version of “Bells” and the mono version of “Movin’ On.” According to Lou, “Bells” was the first stereo 45 engineered to be fully compatible with a mono cartridge.

Pressed at Monarch in mid-to-late May, 1967, and distributed by Melody Sales of San Francisco, “Bells” was a popular regional hit during the summer.

Lou recalls he was driving down El Camino Real listening to “The Emperor” Gene Nelson on KYA when suddenly “Bells” was introduced. It was the first time he heard the 45 played over the radio and he describes it as a peak experience, having stopped his car mid-road to jump up and down ecstatic. Not far away the rest of the band, driving around together in Jack’s car, were doing the same on California Drive!

“Bells” has a rougher sound than the polish of the Ariel 45, but the harmonies and melodic talent are still there, along with some fine guitar work. “Movin’ On” shows the influence of the early San Francisco ballroom groups like the Charlatans and the Dead. If anyone has a better quality transfer of Bells in stereo, please get in touch.

Kensington Forest – Movin’ On
Kensington Forest – Bells (Mono version)
Kensington Forest – Bells (Stereo version)

Chris Guiver:

Dennis and I went to San Jose State the next year as dorm-mates. We stayed in touch with Jack who went to Berkeley too but dropped out after a short time wishing to continue writing songs. After a short time, Dennis met a yogi and disappeared into the spiritual only reuniting with me at the 20-year high school class reunion.

Jack and I, with another Bob, formed a group after high school. Jack’s originals, including “Oddie the Troll”, were recorded but Bob was an enthusiast of “The Who”, which didn’t always fly even though Jack was competent in the lead guitaring. I played drums. The group did record probably Jack’s greatest work “Wine Flower” for the guy who produced “Go Granny Go!” in L.A. “Wine Flower” included a string section with tremendous arrangement and harmony – along the lines of the Banshees’ “I Love You”. It is a great misfortune that Jack took mentally ill shortly after.

Gypsum Heaps

Paul Rose of Fantasy Records took an interest in “Bells” and introduced Lou to Max Weiss and Saul Zaentz. After hearing “Bells”, Max offered to distribute Lou’s fledgling Bay Sound Productions and gave Lou a job as sound engineer with Fantasy.

In late 1967 Lou placed audition ads in the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner looking for new bands to record for Bay Sound Productions. By the end of the year he began releasing records on his new Onyx label, one 45 each by the Styx (Onyx 2200); the Tears (Onyx 2201); Weird Herald (Onyx 2202); and Gypsum Heaps (Onyx 2203); with Mark Darnell an unconfirmed 5th artist.

Chris Guiver:

I continued in music and minored at San Jose State, studying and playing bass. I hooked up with Rick Quintinel who became a top California drummer. Rick was connected with the East Bay sound and he and I joined together as a funky rhythm section for soul bands. During that time Rick and I played jazz too and hooked up with a group in “the 10th Street House” that was music 24/7. Two cool things transpired.

By chance, I neighbored with Pat Simmons who became the founder of the “Doobie Brothers”. I used to back him up on bass when all he wanted to perform was James Taylor and “would never go electric”. Tommy Johnson, the Doobie’s lead guitar connected with Pat at “the house” and the rest is history (noting Pat did go electric when Tommy’s Chicago Blues-style got him and they wrote songs that produced a lucrative Warner Brother’s deal.)

Wandering through the East Bay sound playing funk, Rick and I formed a band called “Gypsum Heaps”. Full rhythm section, organ and horns. The singers were Rufus Miller, the original lead singer for “Tower of Power” and Rat his gospel cousin. Hot. I wrote a song called “Would You Love”, which was recorded at Fantasy Records – the other side of the record was the Banshees’ “Movin’ On” by Jack Walters. One can easily imagine the song arranged as a “Tower of Power”. The release landed a concert for 20,000 people with “Santana” as the headliner. The Banshees lived on.

The Banshees were a unique bunch with a great love of all types of music, deep friendships and many talents. If an arrangement called for it, one might say to the other – “I think it would be better if I played guitar and you played drums so I can sing easier”. The other would respond – “Sounds good, lets do it”.

It is a great experience and honor to have played with and known The Banshees, The Ariel and Kensington Forest all of whom were the same guys in different musical venues. It is a trip after 40 years to once again hear some of our music through the efforts of Garage Hangover.

Thank you to Dan for the clips of “Never Said I Loved You” and “So Hard to Bear”. Special thanks to George Guiver for the photo of the band playing outside the Hyatt Theater, and for putting us in contact with his brother Chris.

This article written by Chris Bishop and Jason Sweitzer.

22 thoughts on “The Banshees / Ariel / Kensington Forest”

  1. Thanx for the gems from our past. I really think posting all these wonderful tunes is a miracle for everyone to partake in. GRAET STUFF!

  2. I’ve got a tape copy of The Banshee’s 2nd 45. “Never Said I Loved You” is a pretty good beat/folk rock number, while “So Hard To Bear” is moody garage. If you’re interested, I could send you mp3’s of both songs. Love the website….Dan

  3. What a great find and thank you to Jason who posted this on the Burlingame Memories site.

    Yep, Chris Guiver is my big brother. I sent this link over to him and both he and his wife Theresa are “jazzed” about this. Something happened to all our recordings and Chris has probably not heard these tracks in over 3 decades. He and his wife are going to listen to them tonight and feel totally blessed.

    Chris left the music scene and since the early 70’s has worked in and around Silicon Valley. He is now a consultant in semiconductors and travels the world doing what consultants do…which I guess is consult.

    He has lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains since the early 70’s.

    I do have a photo I sent Jason of the band playing along side the old Hyatt Theater. If you’d like an image, please let me know via email.

    Take care and thank you so much,

    George Guiver
    Chandler, Arizona

  4. Hello Mr.Frank my name is Daniel Guiver. My father was in these bands his name is Harold Chris Guiver. He is the second guy from the left. When my dad sall this it put a spark in his eye that mybrothers and I have not seen in a long time. If you have any more of there music please email it to me (dguiver78@rock.com) . The hole family loves it. It even made him bring out his old sax and clean it up.

  5. I caught “Bells” on an oldies show one night on a station I could barely make out. I never knew the name of the song but I did hear it was by Kensington Forest. Great fuzz! I have looked for it for 30 years since, more recently plugging the words into Google and Allmusic every now and then. You have made me very happy.

  6. If there’s one thing I like its copies of Beatles songs and NEVER SAID I LOVED YOU is a pretty good copy of LOVE ME DO

  7. Memory lane on this for me! I went to Mills 1964-1968 and was friends with Bob Morelli. Mostly remember the Burlingame Rec. dances. Remember “The Primates”? Another group of Mills boys. I am still very good friends with one of the members of that group. We both live in Seattle area now. Was Mike Hoogner ever involved in the groups you are talking about? I am really interested also in finding out what ever happened to Rich Garneau. He went to Burlingame Intermediate and than to BHS but was in the music scene with his harp playing and guitar as I remember. I was his girlfriend in 7th-he in 8th grade! Woah! a really long time ago! Thanks for the really great history of the bands. I will share with my “Primate” friend this weekend! Also…
    I was at the Chad & Jeremy concert at the Hyatt. Got to meet them up close and personal! I went to the concert with M. Hoogner and Bob Riggs. Great memories of being a teen in the scene! Thanks and Best Wishes, Jill

    1. Hi, Jill —

      Looking at clues in your post, I’m betting you’re Mike Hoogner’s “Jill” from those days he was a Senior. I considered Mike my best friend our Senior year when it was all about the music and his band, The Avengers, with Morellie, Riggs, Dexter Leland, and Caroline Kelly (a neighbor of yours, I believe).

      I received a Classmates.com message last night and searched for Hoogner on Google. Sadly, the only credible lead was a Marysville newspaper posting that Mike and his wife, Melanie, were found dead in a motel on March 31, 2010. Murder-suicide, evidently. Remember, Mike’s birthday was April 1! Some postings speculate health problems, some speculate financial difficulties. How sad…..

    2. Jill Needham? Brad’s sister? My God, it’s been a lifetime! Just stumbled on to this site and posted a follow up. When I saw your comments, I felt compelled to make contact with you. Hope all is well with you.
      Bob Morelli

  8. Dear Jill,

    It is interesting how many people remember the music and bands from the MHS and BHS days in the 60’s.

    I was asked to write a brief, which is included on the Banshee’s website and mention Jack Walters “Wine Flower and Ofetee the Troll. These were excellent songs and, believe it or not, Bob Rigss was in the group with Jack and me. We recorded both songs in Hollywood and they were produced by the guy who wrote “Little Old Lady from Pasedena”. What a trip it was. If Jack were on his feet I am sure they would have “made it”.

    Mike Hoogner was in and out when I played and Bob Morelli was there with some frequency. Don’t know what happened with them though.

    The Primates were an excellent group as I remember and Jack played with them briefly. They didn’t do much original material but were great musicians and had a great Stones color.

    Hope this is of interest and that all is well with you.

    Best regards,
    Chris Guver

    PS If OK, let me know your last name (or maiden name) to see if I recognize you.

  9. I was in that band….had a lot of good times…we did end up recording originals at Golden State Recorders with Leo Kulka, who was a wonderful man..Original band had Mike Dunn (from Wm. Penn) playing guitar, then Mike left….we played a ton down at the old Pub Soho in downtown Burlingame….

    good times….

  10. What fun to find this. Google is an amazing thing. I knew Chris Guiver and his drummer, Rick, very well in the late 60’s in San Jose and I remember him deciding to name the band Kensington Forest because it had the right number of syllables for bands that were popular at the time. We spent a lot of time at the OLD original Filmore ($4 on Thursday nights) and lots of time at the San Francisco Zoo (it was free) and a lot of time at Fantasy Recording Studios in San Franciso. Thanks for the page.

  11. I remember going to see my brother in San Jose (hadn’t seen him for awhile) and somehow found an apt. where Barbara was living. If my memory serves me well, she was very gracious and talked quite a bit about the band…I remember when I left I had a very difficult time finding my way home!

  12. Hey George… Met up with Linda Kislingbury this past weekend and she sent me this site. I was a true youngster when my sister Allene would babysit me and have the Banshees either play in our garage or take me to their concerts. Then I let Deedar (Linda) know that I used to hang with you and Mr. Bob McPhee. Anyways… love the story, hope all is well and thought I would send you a hello again message.

  13. I’m 29 and I just stumbled upon the Banshees video for “They prefer blondes” (awesome song),
    and looking for the lyrics in google I found this page. Awesome music man!

    Truly
    New Fan

    Awesome work man!

  14. Hi George, What a treat seeing this article and hearing the music that Chris and i did. Major flashback. i would love to contact chris. Let him know I am still playing and my life is good. Hoping to hear from you.
    Rick

    1. Hello Rick:

      I was googling your name and found many of the groups you have played with. I am glad to contact you. Just so happened to return to this site and found you on it.

      Hope all is well – let me know how you are.

      Chris

  15. Just stumbled across this page again. Hello, Rick! I remember you well, beating out drum patterns on a textbook late into the night to get through yet another music course at San Jose. Glad you are still doing music … best to you and yours.

  16. Just stumbled on to this site and, wow did it bring back memories! Yeah, I was one of the members of the Banshees for awhile and was on the recording of “Take a Ride With Me” and “They Prefer Blondes”. After the Banshees, I joined Mike Hoogner, Bob Riggs, Dexter Leland, and Clare Cruz ( later replaced by Jack Walters) in the Avengers. After that band broke up, I knocked around playing music in San Francisco and joined the Air Force in 1967. After serving some time in South East Asia, I moved to Eureka, CA where I attended Humboldt State University and upon graduation, worked my way up the ladder to become the Executive Director of the Housing Authorities of the City of Eureka and County of Humboldt for over 30 years. All that time, I continued to play in local bands and have had a wonderful life enjoying family, work and music. I am now retired and am still playing music with “veterans” of the local rock and roll scene. I still remember the days at Mills High and the music scene of that time with great fondness, although I was saddened to hear about Mike Hoogner and Jack Walters. To all of you who were there in the 60’s and were fans of the bands, all my best to you.
    Bob Morelli

    1. I always thought the Avengers were among the best of the local bands. Remember featuring Caroline Kelly on drums at Mills High dance, a roaring performance at College of San Mateo, and a bold appearance on the same stage with the Vejtables at the San Mateo County Fair.
      I now live in Florida but am seriously considering the 50th high school reunion next summer. I went to the 35th and was not disappointed.
      My best to you, Robert.
      Bob Milo

      1. I remember you too, Bob. Yes, we had a lot of fun in that band. I’ve never been to a class reunion, but it would be nice to reconnect with some of my old classmates. Didn’t you at one time play bass with the Avengers? I seem to remember you did before I was asked to join them.
        Take Care,
        Bob

        1. It’s nice to be remembered….
          I sat in on many Avenger rehearsals and played with the band if a piano or other keyboard instrument was available. I had too much goin’ with full-time college and a part-time job to devote what it would take. A fleeting moment of fame: playing on stage with the Avengers at the San Mateo County Fair. It was a night that DJ “Big Daddy” Tom Donahue was forming Autumn Records and had signed the Vejtables. To promote them, he rented a stage full of equipment for the fair and let local bands have at it for about fifteen minutes each. We played “96 Tears” by Question Mark and the Mysterians and “You Tell Me Why” by the Beau Brummels (another one of his bands). I really loved the Avengers’ sound, heavily influenced by The Who and The Kinks. Those were some of your best covers. I stayed friends with Mike for a number of years after that. He got into gunsmithing and photography and even did the wedding album for my marriage in ’71.

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