Crossfire formed in January of 1968 when two high school friends, Jack Montgomery and Bobby Bond acquired some very basic musical instruments and began to practice playing tunes from the Beatles, the Turtles and Rolling Stones to name a few. Soon Jack acquired his new Mosrite guitar and Bobby got a set of Slingerland drums. They then found another classmate, Leonard Lehew who played guitar and also wanted to play bass.
The band rehearsed and began to perform small gigs at local church dances, restaurants and teen dances which were held at armories, as well as local swim and country clubs as “The Gross National Product.” After hearing people struggle with their name, they changed it to “Crossfire in 1970.
By early 1970, they were playing weekend gigs at local nite-clubs near the USC campus and travelling to Myrtle Beach, S.C. for weekend gigs at clubs and hotels and many private parties.
While most groups were playing an R&B covers format, there were a small cadre of Columbia bands that embraced the new rock sounds from the west coast and New York. In this musical vacuum there existed a non-competitive, friendly atmosphere between these bands and often one group would go to hear a certain band one night and then that band would reciprocate. The premier psychedelic bands in Columbia were bands with names like Medusa’s Head, Speed Limit 35, and Christopher who actually produced a LP called “Whatcha Gonna Do!”
The social atmosphere in Columbia, S.C. during the late 1960s was difficult at times due to the presence of Fort Jackson Army base, the civil unrest that followed the end of racial segregation, as well an anti-war movement on the USC campus which produced a negative reaction to anything alternative. At an audition in 1969, one local DJ told us in 1969 that “this hard rock stuff is just a flash in the pan; you guys should be playing beach music.” We ignored his advice and soldiered onward. During that time, you had to take care where you booked yourself or you could find yourself facing an angry mob as you left to go home. Crossfire was very lucky in this respect.
The guys in Crossfire soon realized that there was very little money in teen dances and began to focus on playing for private and corporate parties. They also learned what it meant to be economically exploited by bad management, so they went independent in 1970.
In 1971, there was a strike of union musicians and Crossfire, not being unionized, took full advantage of the situation. They played a lot of gigs at Columbia’s hotels for convention groups. With this audience change, they moved away from their original psychedelic format to doing pop and rock covers. On occasion, the sponsoring groups would give them money to purchase matching apparel which they thought was amusing.
In 1971, Crossfire appeared on WNOK, a CBS affiliate for a one hour concert special called “Rock Saturday” which featured our music and every visual effect the studio could muster. It was sponsored by the McDonald’s franchises in Columbia. Later that year, they did a similar 30 minute concert show on WOLO, an ABC affiliate that was sponsored by a local music studio. These events produced a local recognition for the band that we enjoyed. I do not know of another band that received so much local TV air-time during that period. I think Crossfire was not as socially threatening as some of the other “hippie” bands in that we were still high school students.
By June of 1971, Leonard and Jack graduated Irmo High School and Bobby followed in 1972. Their last formal gig was for a banker’s convention in the Sheraton Hotel ballroom in downtown Columbia in December of 1971. Leonard moved to Atlanta, Bobby went to work in corrections and Jack went to Newberry College. In 1973, Jack began to perform in lounges owned by the Best Western hotels in Columbia who shared a stable of performers between them. As “Jack Monty” Jack performed every week for the next three years and then retired from performing in 1976 until he reappeared musically in 2000.