The Chargers

The Chargers: Ron Kinscherf, Steve Barone, Curt Dorey, Steve Nelsen and Tony Morgan
From left: Ron Kinscherf, Steve Barone, Curt Dorey, Steve Nelsen and Tony Morgan
Photo from pnwbands.com.

The Chargers came from the central Washington state town of Wenatchee, like Billy and the Kids. Steve Barone was 16 years old when he played lead guitar on the Chargers single on Julian Records, “Taxi” / “I’m So Alone”, released in October 1966. Steve plays some great lead on Steve Nelsen’s original “Taxi” with its super-cool lyrics. The girl’s going to leave so he might as well just call her a taxi and get it over with. “I’m So Alone” is one of the better downer songs of the ’60s, with a neat sliding guitar riff towards the end of the break.

About a year after the single, they recorded three more songs in Spokane that have so far been unreleased. I’ve only heard short excerpts of each. “Need Your Love” sounds a lot like “Taxman” but has its own charms. “You Got a Hold” has a great distorted guitar opening. “In the News” might be my favorite, with it’s heavy tom-tom opening, fine organ playing and interesting rhythm changes. All three of these deserve getting a proper release on CD or vinyl, I hope it happens soon.

Steve Barone wrote to me in detail about the band:

I am the lead guitarist and vocalist for the Chargers. I was born in 1951, and my earliest memories are of watching my dad play with his bands, and by five years old was playing his instrument. In junior high, I had a little group called The Hustlers. One guitar, one drummer, and five singers! We had the chicks screaming when we played Beatles songs at assemblies and dances … how naive they were.

Then I met Ron Kinscherf, Curt Dorey, Tony Morgan and Steve Nelsen. They had a band The Undertakers with Larry Youngblood (passed on) singing, and they were very good; the Hustlers didn’t have a bass man. We did a “battle of the bands” … they even had a coffin to haul equipment in! I was so impressed with them, and they with me, that I quit the Hustlers.

Early lineup of the Chargers, March 1966 L-R, standing: Don Sandstrom, Larry Roller and Curt Dorey; kneeling Tony Morgan and Steve Barone
Early lineup of the Chargers, March 1966
L-R, standing: Don Sandstrom, Larry Roller and Curt Dorey; kneeling Tony Morgan and Steve Barone
Steve and Ron were part of the Undertakers but Tony, Larry, and Curt formed the three-piece Chargers, then I joined. Larry Roller was lead singer in the beginning but he liked ripping off stuff, like other people’s cars, so we axed him. There was also Don Sandstrom, who sang as well.

Don and Larry are both [in the talent show clipping]. That is because Don had just joined the group. He hadn’t been at the talent show but joined before the picture so there he is. Then Ron replaced Larry, then Steve Nelsen joined later on keys.

We actually let Don into the band because he was the only one with a driver’s license and would drive us all around in his mom’s Corvair … and usually with one or two of us in the trunk as that was a very small car! Especially on drive-in nights! One other friend, Phil Dorschak, had a ’58 Chevy with a tri-power 348 and a big trunk. We always gave him a few beers if he would help haul the equipment for us. I don’t know where he is and haven’t seen him since 1968.

Don quit after a couple years, leaving us a five-piece for the duration. Me on my 1963 Tiesco art-deco Japanese guitar and Silvertone twin-twelve amp, playing lead and singing, Ron on his red Lyle guitar and Paul McCartney vocal stylings, Steve Nelsen on the Farfisa keyboard, Curt Dorey on Fender Mustang bass, and Tony Morgan on drums. Toward the end of the band Tony quit, and was replaced by Jerry Riley on drums. He was the absolute best drummer ever.

We played all over, every high and junior high school dance we could handle, plus Yakima, Bridgeport, Spokane, all over except for the Seattle area. We weren’t ready for that yet.

Steve Nelsen and Ron Kinscherf lived on the East side. Me, Tony, Jerry and Curt lived on the West side. When we played at either high school, or junior high, we had fans in either case. The town didn’t matter much to us, but Billy & the Kids were all living with their folks in East Wenatchee so they had a “town loyalty”, as it were. Billy & the Kids didn’t go over that well at Wenatchee High … we ruled there, and played for nearly every dance from 1966-68. Especially after the record came out. But on the East side, Billy & the Kids had the edge. We always enjoyed the competitive nature of it, but were all brothers and respected each other a lot. I do give them credit, they took it a lot further than I ever did, and now Bill and Bob Burns have a group called “The Called”! Christian stuff of course.

The Chargers won a talent show in 1966, first prize being recording time at Julian records. We were excited, to say the least. We packed up the trailer and headed for Spokane one Friday afternoon. We went to some restaurant for dinner and cruised around town for a while, trailer proudly in tow. Nobody knew who we were then … but that was about to change. After settling in at a motel; the band in one room and the manager and his wife in another, we commenced to “hootenanny” and light farts all night long. After they shut the power off, we continued to sing and light farts in the dark!

In the morning, all fucked up from not sleeping, we headed to the other side of town, and pulled in to an unassuming, plain-looking building. Inside were many rooms and corridors, all full of amps, wires, speakers, etc. I was in heaven. We proceeded to lay down all the instruments at once, and got the songs down fast, albeit with a couple small mistakes that we left in just because. Then we went into a booth and did the vocals. All this recorded on reel-to-reel, very primitive even then.

When that hit the street, and went to #3 on the local survey the first week, we were gods. How overwhelming it is to hear your songs on the radio! We played at virtually all the big dances after the record came out.

The Chargers: Curt Dorey, Steve Nelsen and Tony Morgan; seated: Steve Barone and Ron Kinscherf
Standing, from left: Curt Dorey, Steve Nelsen and Tony Morgan; seated: Steve Barone and Ron Kinscherf
Photo courtesy Steve Barone

I have one old picture of the band in our suits, in a frame. We took many poses, in the house, in a tree, on another part of the roof, and gathered around our trailer that had the logo and a crazy horse on the sides. I don’t know where these photos ended up. It must have cost a lot; it was a professional photographer, and we took a LOT of shots.

Chargers Julian 45 TaxiQ. I notice Ron looks to be left handed and playing with a right-handed guitar turned upside down. Is he really left handed, or was this just for the photo?

Ron was intrigued with Hendrix but only for the photo was the guitar reversed unfortunately. That would have been something though! Sorta like I painted the “Vox” logo on my Silvertone/Tiesco guitar. Nobody ever knew but the band.

The story of “I’m So Alone” is a book in itself. I met Carl Hunt in 1963, at Pioneer Junior High. My neighbor, Jerry Highfill and I played guitars together a lot, and thus entered our first talent show playing a couple Ventures songs, and a tune called “Bulldog”. We caused pandemonium; nobody suspected I could really play and was actually “cool”. I looked like Fearless Fly; skinny, horn-rimmed glasses and clothes my mom picked out. But when Jerry and I won that first show, I suddenly had a lot more friends. Carl was way cool, smoking on the corner in his leather jacket, just being next to Carl made you cool.

He had one of those Silvertone guitars with the amp in the case. I never would have dreamed it, but Carl wanted to learn how to play, and all through junior high he was my body guard more or less, in exchange for guitar lessons. I spent the weekend at Carl’s often; his mom always fed us and let us smoke in his room, and occasionally we would smuggle in a few beers too. We had a few tunes down, and were joined by a drummer, Jerry Riley, in 1964. One night at Carl’s house, he said he had a new song, kind of a ballad. Then he started playing the two opening chords to “I’m So Alone” and started the plaintive vocal. I knew he was on to something, and before too long we sounded like the Everly Brothers on the chorus. But then I got asked to join the Chargers, formerly the Undertakers, and I spent a lot less time with Carl. Jerry joined the Chargers as well.

Chargers Julian 45 I'm So AloneWhen the Chargers decided to record our first single, we already had “Taxi” on our playlist. But we needed a “B” side. So I remembered Carl’s song. I played it, and everybody liked it right away … and we ended up recording it. I never gave Carl credit for it though, and always felt a little bad. I didn’t see him much so I never knew if he was upset about me claiming his song. I did refine the lyrics but the music is all Carl.

Around 1976 I spoke with a man who was a former detective, and he said Carl had committed suicide that summer. I had not seen him since 1968.

You can sure tell in “I’m So Alone” that there is a Farfisa screeching away (man I hated that sound). We did an outdoor gig and it got so hot it just freaked out. The notes would go up and down and it finally pooped clear out. We got it fixed and jammed on. Later with Double Image, Steve got a B-3.

Ron Kinscherf, Steve Nelsen and I were always coming up with ideas for songs. Some were ok, most sucked, a lot of them were rip-offs of the Beatles or the Wailers songs, and all were eventually forgotten but for the five recordings. I spent a lot of time at Ron’s house in those days, and we would jam for hours on end.

We released the record, and in early 1968 went back, older and wiser, doing “You Gotta Hold”, “News in General” and “I Need Your Love”. With the three tunes in the can, the band split up before it was pressed. Only the masters and copies remain. By some miracle, of course, as Ron ended up with the masters at first. His stepdad was the manager. He ended up with at least 300 copies of unsold records, and used them for skeet. The rest of us were quite pissed when we found out where all the records went, but it was too late. I do have a copy, one I gave to my mom, and she gave it back to me just before she died. So it is priceless to me now and never sees daylight.

The Chargers, Eagles Hall, 1967 poster
Eagles Hall, 1967 poster
One summer day, Ron and I went to a department store with a friend named Dale. He was, unbeknownst to us, a compulsive kleptomaniac. He would fill his trenchcoat with stuff and go unload it in the car while we were looking around the store. When we discovered how easy it was to rip stuff off, I tried to hork Jimi Hendrix’s first album and got caught by store security. After the cops came, and my folks came to get me from them, my guitar and amp were locked in a closet and I was forbidden to play music until I graduated the following year. This put an end to my membership in the band. They tried to carry on with replacements but it just didn’t work.

After I actually showed some remorse, worked hard at school and for the first time ever, made the honor roll, I got my guitar back. Then I hooked up with Dick and Jerry Riley, Bob Herron and Rick Troppman and formed “Subtle Difference”. We were cutting-edge, with a keyboard (Hammond B-3 and Leslie), two hot guitars and Jerry was one hell of a drummer. Rick was, and is, one of the best bassists I ever knew. We did Vanilla Fudge and all the hot psychedelic stuff.

Too bad it was the time of drugs, partying, Viet Nam and thoughts of marriage … all this combined to send all five of us in different directions. By 1969, the smoldering remains of the Chargers was officially put to rest.

Ron moved to Tacoma to play new wave, Tony and I joined the Army, Steve Nelsen joined “Double Image” with the Burns Brothers in Seattle, Curt Dorey went to work at Alcoa on the night shift. Jerry Riley overdosed on 96% pure heroin (from VietNam) in 1971. RIP old pal.

I moved to Tacoma in 1979, and played with Ron in “Kicker”, a three-guitar and keyboard band that specialized in AC/DC, Molly Hatchet, Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I also did time with Wakefield Manor and No Cheese Please … check them out on pnwbands.com. I left Tacoma in 1982 and never looked back.

Ron and I are the only ones still performing. I am in “Trio Deluxe + 1”, an oldies band ( the +1 is a sax player), “the Steamers” (check ’em out at lakeboys.com) and the church worship team. So I am heavily involved but in Wenatchee, also heavily poor. This town does not have a very supportive music scene, I have to spread it thin to stay working. But I will keep playin’ that rock and roll … until I die.

If there’s one thing I pray to never lose, it is my memory of those crazy times with that first “successful” band. This past October, on the occasion of Curt’s 60th birthday, we all got together, even some of our old “groupies” were there. I brought my Strat and Ron brought his bass and another guitar. We howled at the moon from 3pm until after midnight, and would not have stopped then except the neighbors complained. I still can’t believe we remembered all those old songs. But we are NOT going to get the band back together!

Steve T. Barone aka Bonehead

Thanks to Doug Shirk for his help in making this article possible.

The Chargers: Tony Morgan, Ron Kinscherf, Steve Nelsen, Steve Barone, and Curt Dorey
clockwise from left: Tony Morgan, Ron Kinscherf, Steve Nelsen, Steve Barone, and Curt Dorey (holding Ron’s guitar)
“My guitar is still sunburst … sort of. When I bought this ugly guitar, it had long cutaways which I took off with a hacksaw and made it a teardrop. The edges of the cuts still show raw wood in the pic. Then I painted it Krylon sea blue and hand-painted psychedelic stuff, along with boobs and snatches, all over it. I still have this guitar!”
Photo from the cover of Teenage Shutdown “I’m Down Today”

24 thoughts on “The Chargers”

  1. On behalf of all five surviving “Chargers”, a hearty THANK YOU for giving this band the respect it has deserved for so many years. Steve, Ron, Curt, Tony and I will be eternally grateful, and may God bless.
    STB

  2. I have a reel to reel tape of the three unreleased songs mentioned in this article. (“You Gotta Hold”, “News in General” and “I Need Your Love”). It was in a batch of tapes given to me by Don Bernier, owner of Julian records some years back. I never circulated the tape except to one other collector (a cassette copy). It’s nice to finally have the correct song titles since the tape only had the word “Chargers” written on it, with no other info! I also have the original record master for the “Taxi/I’m So Alone” single as well, also in the batch given to me by Don.

  3. hey man!
    Been busy with school…did I tell you I am back in college at sixty years old? It isn’t as easy as I thought, but I am doing well, studying Industrial Electronics…only two years to go!!!
    Anyway, I wanted to say after reading the message about the masters for the unreleased Chargers songs, I got a little excited and a bit misty eyed…how cool, man. I have them on a really crappy cassette that I got from Steve Nelsen after he sold “Taxi” to the record company. I would love to see those three songs included in the Chargers site, if at all possible. If you need any “permission” to do so, dude, you have it in spades. Show me where to sign.
    I haven’t gotten around to it yet but I want to dig out my old Silvertone guitar and take a few photos. It is buried under my bed and I have to take the whole thing apart to get to it…maybe now that school’s out for summer!
    Other than re-puttying my windows and painting the entire house and gigs every weekend and ….well you know. But ’tis much better to be busy than idle and forgotten, eh? Thanks again old friend.
    STB

  4. Great to see this site Steve. Great times. I have pictures of my 60th birthday bash with all the Chargers present. Would post one if I can figure it out. Great site!

  5. Hey Steve,

    This is Kip Brown..the guy who owns the master tapes to the Chargers single and the unreleased cuts. I have a friend who owns a company that does re-issues of vintage 60’s garage band music. What do you think about doing a re-issue, perhaps a 7 inch EP with a snazzy picture sleeve and the best Chargers cuts on it? I’m thinking maybe colored vinyl with band photos and a brief bio on the back of the sleeve? What you think about that? You can write me off line..Chaz can give you my email address!

  6. Ron Kinscherf is back in town, meaning that all five members of the final unit are alive and well. And in one spot…some small miracle. And every one of us is willing to support this venture…let’s work on it. Thanks a ton, we can’t wait to see this happen.
    Regards,
    STB

  7. Steve sent me photos of his customized guitar as it now looks, with this history:

    It is a 1966 Tiesco, sold by Sears as a Silvertone. Note the head stock with four-and-two keys. It still plays well, but the bogus electrics are a bit scratchy.

    The case was hand-made by my dad, way before I cut it up and painted it. Since I removed about 1/3 of the body, it slides around in the case. But it does exist, and still works. This guitar was practically new when we recorded those five songs, and Ron used it all the while I was in the Army, then I used it in a country band for a while but bought a 1971 Telecaster, which I still have as well. It sat unused until Brad Ovitt used it in Wayward Youth, a local punk band with my older son on drums. My son Andy now has a band in Oregon called Unicron, “punk rock unicorns from outer space”.


  8. Wow, this site is awesome and it brings back so many memories. I am the sister of Tony Morgan and sometimes the band would practice at our house. It was amazing to say the least. People would be lined up outside listening to their music. I thought I was hot stuff because I knew the band and my brother was the drummer… Thank you for filling in all the blanks and bringing those sweet sounds back.. Love you guys!!
    tml

  9. The Morgan house was indeed the coolest place to be for quite a while. Too bad things always change! And indeed, you WERE hot stuff…I was Fearless Fly with no super powers before the band…then all of a sudden I was SOMEBODY!!! So I know what ya mean!!! Thanks for the kind words. Tony will get some records so hit him up for a free one!!! STB

  10. I am embarrassed to admit I was wrong, wrong, wrong about Larry Youngblood….Ron spoke to him yesterdray on the phone, so he is very MUCH alive and well! Sorry, Larry…some old friend said you were dead; goes to show don’t believe everything you hear.
    STB

  11. I had stated earlier this year that “we will NOT be getting the band back together”…well we had our fourth jam today and we still got it…everyone’s here in town and dead serious about getting it together after 46 years…and it actually sounds good. We Rock!!! SO…be very careful about what you say today…tomorrow it may jump up and bite you right in the ass!!! So I say now, “We ARE getting the band back together”…never thought it would happen but God has “other plans” for us apparently. Jam on!!!! 9/25/2011 12:13 am.

  12. I had also stated in the original post of the site that I was in “Trio Deluxe + 1″…well the drummer quit, and the bass player hooked up with “Velvet Elvis” and I was the last to know. No more Trio…and the Steamers are on hiatus for the winter, leaving me the church worship team and the Chargers…actually this is a good thing…we need work and I love the church so things always work out as they should. No worries. I also found some really old photos; if I can pry them out of Curt’s hands I will scan and send some photos of even earlier stuff…before the Undertakers was “the Techniques” with Ron, Curt, Steve and Larry Youngblood!!! I’m workin’ on it!!!!

  13. This is Tony Morgan , Drummer for the Chargers. I would just like to say THANKS to all my fellow band members for being such good friends!!!!! It’s so great to be back together with all of You!! Steve is very right, WE STILL GOT IT! Very nice to bring back all those sweet memories. What’s really cool, we’re about to make some more. ROCK ON. Love this SITE, would love to have our other songs here to listen to also. THANKS AGAIN ! TGM

  14. Re-Charged and Back in the Saddle…the ORIGINAL Chargers. The band has acquired a good PA, a set of drums, several amps and four guitars, three basses and three mikes..and have had eight rehearsals. We are indeed re-charged and ready for action. Hopefully by early spring, we will be performing again. None of us are Holy Rollers…but Ron got baptised last Sunday and is attending the Baptist church, I as you know am a member (Almost 8 years now) of the Nazarene church, so we do the Celebrate Recovery at Ron’s church Wednesday, the Nazarene CR on Thursday, and I play at both services on Sunday. The trio has an occasional gig as well as the Steamers winery season, So I can’t complain; I do get to play a lot. However…I find myself praying that the record gets pressed, released, becomes a hit and we go on tour next year, when all of us are within a year or less of retirement…and then we get to do what God intended, and we all messed it up, forty years ago. I think after slugging it out in the bars for 45 years, that a big break is well-deserved. We are clean, sober, full of energy and ready for anything that may come our way. It’s never too late, and you’re never too old to rock-n-roll. Amen.

  15. Does anyone from The Undertakers remember playing for the 1969 Crane High School prom? I thought they were the best band I had ever heard, at the time. Was surprised to see a reference to them on this website, after all these years.

  16. There was a comment entered here a while back, referring to the Undertakers playing in 1969 somewhere I had never heard of….sorry, this is NOT the same band…the Wenatchee-area Undertakers were young boys hacking away, and were history by 1965. Sorry.

  17. Steve Nelsen, the keyboard player for the Chargers, left us to join the Lord on August 19, 2012. He died of “natural causes” and heart failure. So now it is just the four of us. Also, another Julian recording star, Frank Cook, passed on in June of this year as well, and on August 20th, another musician passed, Monty Griffith, from the Cadillac Red band;, I was with them for nearly ten years. So press on, friends, and make a joyful noise. We are all headed for another astral plane some day, so be nice to each other.
    STB

  18. Fantastic stuff, really love the Chargers piece…glad these later tracks they did have been been given the honour of a new 7″ release on Get Hip. so great that Steve B took the time out to share the group’s story. Cheers and thanks for being garage hangover – Lenny (the Thanes) Scotland

    1. Thanks, Lenny…I cannot tell you in words how excited the band is about the release of our old stuff. And the Garage Hangover site has actually been seen in Scotland!!!! The record should be out very soon. The “Recharged Chargers” are performing a lot lately, which is good…I was born to make music, even though I just graduated from college last week with a double degree in Industrial and Aerospace Electronics….I am on sabbatical for the summer. It is in God’s hands of course, but we are ready for a world tour.
      STB

  19. It is with great sorrow I must tell the world that the Chargers officially disbanded on June 9, 2015. Steve Nelsen passed away suddenly when we first regrouped, then later my left arm became paralyzed and has since been operated on; Cary Ordway (Formerly with the Aztecs, Waterville WA) took over keys, Curt Dorey quit for health and family reasons, Tony Morgan had a bad accident and broke a leg and a wrist, Ron had high blood pressure, and appendicitis, and had to quit…that left Cary and me…so we decided to retire the group for the sake of our fallen Charger bro’s. thanks for all this, it helped. Goodbye. STB

  20. Hey Steve, Tony, Curt, Cary,and Ron! I moved to arizona in oct. and love it. Marcy and I really miss you guys. If any of you ever get near Kingman let us know. Scott Gillin

  21. Maybe someday, I’ll find a way. maybe it’s true, I still love you…OMG!! I still love (and play) that song. And the Aztecs: World of Woe. What a great song! Time tells what can stand the test of time. These songs stand up to this day for me. I was Googling “Steve (Bad to the Bone) Barone” to see what he is up to, and what do I find; Ron (SuperStar) Kinscherf, Steve (the Bone) Barone, Curt (Mr Music) Dorey, Steve (Hot Keys) Nelsen and Tony (Big Boom) Morgan. Wow! Did I hit pay dirt, or what? I mean fogeddaboutit? SheesH! I am so sorry to hear about Steve. I have a happy story about him when we were kids, still finding our way. I will share sometime. But for now I just want chime in here to say; hello to all you guys!

  22. Very interesting, about Wenatchee garage bands. I was looking up about Jerry Highfill, who was accidentally hit by a baseball during a Wenatchee Chiefs batting practice, and died. Several summers later, I did some yard work for the Highfill family. Mrs H had a pleasant Midwest or Southern accent, but it seemed tinged with sadness over her son’s death.
    A shout-out to Doug Shirk, who helped compile this article. We were in band together, and I think in Wenatchee Youth Circus band (my years: 1968-69, then I juggled, including fire 1970-71).

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