Category Archives: Jerden

The Chessmen (British Columbia)

From left: Bruce Peterson, Larry Borrisoff, Myles Kingan, Terry Jacks and Guy Sobell
This coming January, 2010 will see a CD of British Columbia’s Chessmen re-mastered from the original master tapes under the supervision of Terry Jacks. Besides their eight rare single sides, it will include bonus tracks of the group live at their last concert in 1966 and a previously unreleased demo of ‘You Lost Your Game’. Fans of tough garage sounds will dig the never-before-heard “No Blood in Bone”.

The early roots of The Chessmen began in the late 1950’s with musical influences from the Swedish group The Spotnicks and the English group The Shadows. Guy Sobell was a guitarist in a Vancouver band, The Ken Clark Trio, and while in Europe, he had heard these groups and decided to form his own band when he returned to Canada.

At the same time, a 17 year old named Terry Jacks had put together a “surf” band”, The Sand Dwellers. The group never played live but recorded two unreleased songs including one original penned by Jacks and fellow member John Crowe called “Build Your Castle Higher”. It was later recorded and released by a California group Jerry Cole and The Spacemen with the title changed to “Midnight Surfer”. When the Sand Dwellers folded, some of the members re-formed as The Vancouver Playboys.

Jacks and Sobell were introduced by a mutual friend, Sam Bawlf, who later became the Environment Minister of British Columbia. (Sam,Terry, and Guy all happened to be going to the University of British Columbia at the same time). Guy and Terry teamed up with two other UBC students, Bill Lockie, a guitar player who was learning to play bass, and Erik Kalaidzis, a singer who played chess with Guy. Thus `The Chessmen’. They started out doing gigs at UBC fraternity houses for $40 a night without a drummer. Kalaidzis later left the group because his vocal style was more classical and not geared to what the group was doing at the time. So the band became an instrumental group.

The Chessmen played in the Okanagan (the interior part of British Columbia) in the winter of 1963 and stayed at some strange motels; namely the `Tell-a-Friend’ in Vernon, and ‘The Davy Crockett’ in Kamloops. Lockie recalls Jacks swimming in the motel pool at night while it was snowing and way below freezing. The next day, their newly found drummer, Tom Meikle didn’t show up and they had to play with no drums.

At a gig in Kelowna, Jacks met a guy named Craig McCaw who was played in a band called The Shadracks. He had come to The Chessmen concert with his friend John Tanner (who later went on to become a well known disc jockey in Vancouver). It was a fateful meeting as Craig would later play with Terry in The Poppy Family, an internationally acclaimed group.

Back in Vancouver, The Chessmen got a new drummer, Kenny Moore, who played with them on their first single, “Meadowlands” b/w “Mustang” and a third previously unreleased song called “When I’m Not There”. These were recorded at Robin Spurgin’s Vancouver Recording Studio in 1964.

Red Robinson, a highly acclaimed Vancouver disc jockey who had a lot of connections in the music business passed the tape on to Alice Koury, Vice President of London Records and in December 1964, London released The Chessmen’s first single, “Meadowlands” b/w “Mustang”. It did really well locally and Red Robinson who was undoubtedly instrumental in launching The Chessmen, was credited as the producer of the record. With Red’s help, the single was also released in the U.S. on Jerden Records out of Seattle, with the A-side listed as “Mr.Meadowlands” just to spice it up a bit.

With the success of their first single the band toured, playing roller rinks, high schools and dances across British Columbia throughout the spring of 1965. Terry recalls that because he wasn’t a great guitar player, the other band members were thinking about replacing him in the group. Then, he wrote a song called “The Way You Fell”. Because no one in the group could sing, Terry ended up singing the song and adding his own harmony to it. Up to that point the band had considered other possibilities for a lead singer including adding a female vocalist to their line up. They had tried out a girl named Bonnie Huber, who played some shows with them and even recorded some demos with the band. She was great but the band was too gross for a little girl.

Clockwise from left: Al Wiertz, Bill Lockie, Guy Sobell and Terry Jacks

With Terry now in place as the band’s vocalist, “The Way You Fell” b/w “She Comes By Night” was recorded at Vancouver Recording Studio with their new drummer, Al Wiertz and released on London Records in April 1965. That single ended up being one of The Chessmen’s most successful records, peaking at #4 on the CFUN Top 50 in Vancouver.

1965 was turning out to be a busy year for the group.

Terry had gone to see Brenda Lee at The Cave Supper Club in Vancouver, wanting her to hear a song he’d written with the hope that she would record it. He ended up becoming good friends with Brenda and her manager, Dub Allbritten who was one of the biggest managers in Nashville. Besides Brenda, he had worked with Red Foley, Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb, and Roy Orbison just to name a few. He also had co-written Brenda’s huge hit “I’m Sorry”. Dub offered to manage The Chessmen and got them a recording contract in the U.S. with Mercury Records. They recorded four songs in Nashville with producer Jerry Kennedy who had produced Roger Miller, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Charlie Rich among many other famous artists.

It was an incredible step forward for the band. It was almost unheard of at the time for a little Canadian band with moderate success going to Nashville to record, and being signed to a major record label with one of the biggest managers and most prominent producers in Nashville.

In September 1965, The Chessmen made their way down to Nashville for a recording session via a Greyhound bus. New drummer Myles Kingan and electric accordion (Chordovox) player Bruce Peterson had since become members of the band.

Bruce Peterson was well known among the other band members for his dry sense of humour and the trip to Nashville was no exception. He had brought along a small box, wrapped up very carefully. As people walked by him on the bus they would ask him what was in the box. He told them that it was his pet aardvark. During the trip, when the bus entered a tunnel somewhere in Colorado, he stood up suddenly and announced loudly that his aardvark had escaped. Astonished passengers on the bus lifted up their feet as he pretended to search the bus for his fictional pet, which of course was never found.

Once in Nashville, the band was put up by the record company at a sleazy motel, where they all had to share a room. The walls in the room were full of holes and huge cockroaches had infested them; so the guys sprayed shaving cream into the holes to prevent the cockroaches from coming out. However, now it turned out even worse. These monster cockroaches would emerge from the walls, covered in shaving cream, and would run around the floor all night long! Guy’s memories in Nashville included buying Beatle boots and striped pants, and visiting Hank Snow’s guitar store.

Mercury had booked the group into Fred Fosters studio, where many famous hits had been recorded including all of Roy Orbison’s records. During the recording session, the group found it amusing that their producer Jerry Kennedy kept going to the vending machine, throughout the session, purchasing peanut butter filled Ritz crackers, which he seemed addicted to.

Following the session on September 16th and 17th, the band returned to a busy schedule in Vancouver. On September 24th they played the The Beach Boys show along with Charlie Rich and The Castaways at the PNE gardens. On November 5th they played with Buddy Knox, then toured the dance halls and high school circuit, and on November 28th ended up doing a show with Roy Orbison at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

The songs they had just recorded on their first trip to Nashville “Love Didn’t Die” b/w “You Lost Your Game” were released in December 1965 on Mercury Records. On December 29th the band played with Gary Lewis and The Playboys in Vancouver.

With new members Al Weirtz and Larry Borisoff.
On February 25th 1966, The Chessmen returned to Nashville for two sessions. This time the record company had booked them a flight to Nashville. Larry Borisoff, a new member on this trip, replaced Bill Lockie on bass guitar and also helped out on vocals.

While waiting for a connecting flight at the airport in Chicago, a drunken Jacks bet the guys he could get a bottle of rum from the bar without being seen. But the bartender spotted him as he swiped the bottle and he fled, running down the wrong way on the escalator to escape. In the parking lot he ditched the booze and jumped into a surprised girl’s car to hide. Although he wasn’t caught, the delay caused the band to miss their connecting flight to Nashville.

When they finally arrived, The Chessmen cut what was to be their last single “What’s Causing This Sensation” b/w “For Running Wild” which was released in April, 1966 on Mercury Records. Prior to the session Guy Sobell had shown up looking a bit pale, he had apparently been hit by a car outside the studio. Although shaken, he wasn’t seriously injured and proceeded to record his solo in “What’s Causing This Sensation”.

On the flight home from Nashville, drummer Miles Kingan passed out having had a bit too much to drink prior to leaving the airport. Terry and Guy remember pulling down his pants and putting his hand down his underwear, then calling the stewardess and complaining that Miles was acting in an obscene manner. The stewardess woke him up and told him to get his act together or she would have to report him to the pilot.

Upon their return, The Chessmen continued touring across British Columbia with their new drummer Duris Maxwell, their fifth and final drummer. Guy recalls the time when someone threw a beer bottle at Duris while the group was playing in Victoria. Duris stopped playing, walked up to the front where Jacks was singing and said “Whoever threw that bottle would you please come up to the stage”. Despite his polite request, he did not look like a guy you would want to mess with and no one responded.

The Chessmen’s final gig was in Ladner, British Columbia on July 15th 1966 where the band was paid $180 to play. Terry and Guy recall that there was a lot of drinking before the performance. Local mobile sound engineer Douglas Gyseman (aka Kurtis Vanel) recorded the last gig. (Two of these tracks plus a bonus track that he recorded appear on the Chessmen Collection CD).

The break-up of The Chessmen occurred after Guy’s father gave him a choice of either going to London University (because Guy was quite “a brilliant guy”) or getting out of the house and continuing music with Jacks. He chose University. Checkmate.

While in England, he met Jimi Hendrix who purchased his white Fender Stratocaster guitar for £80. When asked in a 1966 Chatelaine Magazine interview if success had changed The Chessmen in any way, Jacks replied, “No, we all still eat raw eggs for breakfast!”

The Dynastys on Fan Jr., Coulee and Jerden

Dynastys Coulee 45 Go GorillaOK, it’s not as heavy as the Shandells, but I can’t believe no one ever mentions this version of “Go Gorilla”. The original of the song was done by Chicago r&b group the Ideals in 1963, who had a #3 regional hit with it on KQV in Pittsburgh.

The Dynastys version come out of Wisconsin in September of ’64, followed by the Shandells a few months later. The instrumental flip, “Birmingham”, shows how accomplished a band they were as it really swings. Neither song has been comped before to my knowledge.

The Coulee label was out of La Crosse, Wisconsin, owned by Bill Grafft, who also ran the Boom, Knight and Transaction labels. The Dynasty’s 45 (Coulee 108) comes just before Dee Jay and the Runaways’ “Love Bug Crawl” / “The Pickup” (Coulee 109).

The Dynasty’s definitely honed their skills pre-British Invasion, with large helpings of rockabilly, r&b and even surf and folk music in their sound. They originally came from Oskaloosa, Iowa. Their first 45 came out on the Fan, Jr label in 1964, a cover of the Eldorados’ “I’ll Be Forever Loving You” backed with another cover, Harold Dorman’s “Mountain of Love”, which Johnny Rivers made a hit not long after the Dynasty’s version came out. Production by Orlie Breunig.

As Gary Myers wrote in a comment below, the band came from Milwaukee. Band members were George Shaput (guitar), Duane Schallitz (guitar), Mark Ladish (organ), Dave Maciolek (bass), Jim Serrano (lead guitar) and Kenny Arnold (drums).

Dynastys Jerden 45 Forever and a DayAt the band’s request to play on the West Coast, their manager Lindy Shannon booked them into the Longhorn in Portland, Oregon. Jerry Dennon of Jerden Records saw them there and heard their demos, leading to their final 45 in 1966, “It’s Been a Long, Long Time” / “Forever and a Day”.

On “Forever and a Day” the band manages to create a memorable harmony pop ballad without sacrificing their strong rhythm and drumming.

Not long after this release George Shaput joined the Shades of Blue and then played with Conway Twitty. The band reunited at a La Crosse show to honor Lindy Shannon in 1994.

Anyone have a photo of the group?

The Raymarks

The Raymarks formed in 1962 in Bremerton, Washington, across the Puget Sound from Seattle. They began as the Orbits, changing their name twice, first to the Galaxies, and in 1964 to the Raymarks. They embody the Pacific Northwest sound – playing tough organ-based r&b numbers with a heavy rhythm section with little or no British Invasion influences.

Their first 45 is a stomping version of “Work Song”, my favorite cut by the band. The flip, “Backfire” is a good instrumental. Mike Spotts wrote most of the band originals, including their second 45, the pounding “Louise”, which was mistakenly released under the name the Paymarks.

Their last 45 is another fine garage number, “I Believed”, again written by Spotts. The Raymarks also had several good songs that went unreleased at the time, including “Walking Down the Street”, “Feelin’ No Good”, “Hard Times” (which uses the same rhythm as “I Believed”) and an untitled piece.

Members included Mike Spotts on keyboards, Ken Huff and Chuck Snyder on guitars, Greg Pettit and Terry Carter on saxophone, Larry Trudeau bass, and Terry Selvidge on drums. Like the Wailers (whose live album At the Castle features singer Gail Harris), the Raymarks’ live shows included a female vocalist, Gail Davies, who is not on their studio recordings.

Chuck Snyder went to the Tacoma group the Noblemen in 1964. Ken Huff and Terry Selvidge were drafted in 1966 which spelled the end for the band.

Anyone have a photo of the group?

Sources include: The PNW Bands site.