Love montage of photos from CrawdaddyHere’s an overview of early recordings by members of Love, including Arthur Lee, Bryan MacLean and Ken Forssi who have passed away, and Johnny Echols who is thankfully still with us.

Before Love, Arthur Lee and Johnny Echols fronted bands or wrote songs for a series of 45s in a variety of styles, from surf to soul to pop, including a single as Arthur Lee & the LAG’s “The Ninth Wave” / “Rumble-Still-Skins” for Capitol.

Lee wrote the great soul song “My Diary” for Rosa Lee Brooks, recorded in early 1965. The flip is “Utee” an excellent upbeat dance number. This is also an early session for Jimi Hendrix (not his first, which was probably either with the Isley Brothers in early ’64, or with Don Covay in May of ’64).

Lee also wrote “I’ve Been Trying” for Little Ray.

Arthur wrote songs for Ronnie and the Pomona Casuals including “Everybody Do the Jerk” and “Slow Jerk”. He may be singing backup vocals as well. I used to think Arthur was singing lead on these songs, but that was probably mistaken, as lead vocalist Charles Lett was a very talented singer and other people have said he was singing on these tracks. I’ve come to believe Arthur partially modeled his vocal style on Charlie Lett, or at least on Curtis Mayfield.

The American Four just preceded Love’s first incarnation, which was known as the Grass Roots. With typical acerbity, Arthur wrote a dance song named “Luci Baines” after Lyndon Johnson’s homely daughter and called the label Selma. “Soul Food” is Arthur’s take on Booker T. and the MGs; he was born and raised in Memphis, Tennesee, home to Stax.

Following is was a selection of rare tracks by Love, most taken from the great bootleg Last Wall of the Castle. “Gazing” is one of my favorite tracks from the first lp. “It’s the Marlin, Baby” seems to have been recorded around the time of the American Four and was release on a Texas label under the Love name. Release date is uncertain, but it could have been after Love scored a hit with” My Little Red Book”

“7 And 7 Is” required over 80 tracks just to get the backing right! Vocals were recorded later. On these takes you hear the bluesy coda taking form as the band idly jams to relax after frantically tearing through the song. Arthur probably played drums (though some sources say Michael Stuart) on these takes, leaving the guitar to Johnny Echols and Bryan, with Ken Forssi on bass.

An instrumental take of “Your Mind and We Belong Together” showcases Johnny Echol’s lead. Arthur wrote “Feathered Fish” for fellow LA band the Sons of Adam. He recorded his own version in 1994, but it sounds like vintage Love.

Bryan MacLean’s contribution to Love is more important than most know, both in songwriting and in the distinctive sensitivity he brought to the band. There are several fine demos are from 1966, including “Orange Skies” and “Old Man” and strong originals like “Strong Commitment”. There’s also a great version of “Alone Again Or” from 1982. Bryan died in 1998.

Anyone not familiar with the band’s studio lps should definitely check out the first four: Love, Da Capo, Forever Changes, and Four Sail. Out Here and False Start also have good individual tracks, as does Arthur Lee’s solo lp Vindicator. For a different kind of tribute, see my next post on cover versions of Love songs.

The Primates

The Primates, from left: James Hartofilis, Joseph Ferdinando, Barry Bozzone and John Demetrious. Not pictured: Guy Kaselis
The Primates, from left: James Hartofilis, Joseph Ferdinando, Barry Bozzone and John Demetrious. Not pictured: Guy Kaselis. Clipping from Newsday or the NY Post.

The Primates Marko 45 Knock on My DoorI lived in Astoria, New York, in the borough of Queens for three years beginning in 2003. In the mid-60s Astoria was also home to the Primates.

Members were:

John Demetrious – lead vocals and guitar
Gus Kaselis – organ and tambourine
Barry Bozzone – lead guitar
James Hartofilis – bass
Joseph Ferdinando – drums

Prior to the Primates, John Demetrious had been performing by the stage name Johnny Michaels and was on the Ford Startime TV show. Next he formed the Panthers with Jimmy Hartofilis, Joe Ferdinando and Gus Kaselis, all later of the Primates, along with Paul Cavounis on rhythm guitar

Joe Ferdinando told me, “The Panthers never recorded, they were a weeding out process that became the Primates.”

By the time Barry Bozzone joined on lead guitar, they had become the Primates. Members of the band went to William Cullen Bryant High School on 31st Ave and 48th St.

Hy Fenster managed the band; he also ran Universal Rehearsal and Recording studio on 20th Street in Manhattan. Joe commented, “Hy Fenster I believe passed away about three years ago. He was a good manager, got us alot of gigs and wasn’t afraid to invest cash if needed.”

The Primates Marko 45 Don't Press Your LuckThe Primates waxed two 45s for the Marko label (“The Long Island Sound”), owned by Jack Hansen who is credited with production. His son Mark Hansen was bassist for the Poor Souls. Rick Grande, guitarist for the Poor Souls writes that Mark “joined the Poor Souls and would come to Astoria on weekends for rehearsals. Around that time, Barry joined The Primates and Mark got to know Barry. Mark told his Dad about The Primates and not long after, they landed the recording contract with Marco Records.”

“Knock On My Door” is their first A-side, released in September 1965 with the moody flipside “She”.

Their second was “Don’t Press Your Luck” / “Cathy” released in early ’66. All their songs were written by John Demetrious.

The Primates Marko 45 CathyAt some point the Primates became the People of Thee with some of the same members. Joe Ferdinando eventually formed a group called Pier 86 with Ralph Raiola. Joe said, “Panthers, Primates, & People of Thee [were] basically the same group. Pier 86 [was a] totally diferent group of guys except for me. Pier 86 made an album and then women split us up.” John Demetrious had a later group called Jericho with a 45 on MCA.

Thanks to Lynn for sending the news clipping on the band and to Joe Ferdinando for the images of the band photos and business card.

The Primates Astoria NY business card

The Panthers: Jimmy (?), Jimmy Hartofilis, John Demeteious, Joe Ferdinando and Gus Kaselis bottom: Unidentified, unidentified, Jimmy (?), and Teddy Laselis
Before the Primates a similar lineup was known as the Panthers. From left at top: Jimmy (?), Jimmy Hartofilis, John Demeteious, Joe Ferdinando and Gus Kaselis bottom: Unidentified, unidentified, Jimmy (?), and Teddy Laselis
The Primates at the Astoria Music Store from left: Jim Hartofilis, Gus Kaselis, Barry Bozzone, Joe Ferdinando and John Demetrious
The Primates at the Astoria Music Store from left: Jim Hartofilis, Gus Kaselis, Barry Bozzone, Joe Ferdinando and John Demetrious

The Souls of the Slain

The Souls of the Slain in a New Orleans cemetery, August 1966, left to right: Billy Klause, Carl Flesher, Jim Hutchison, Jerry Heinberg, and Cornel LeBlanc.
The Souls of the Slain in a New Orleans cemetery, August 1966, left to right: Billy Klause, Carl Flesher, Jim Hutchison, Jerry Heinberg, and Cornel LeBlanc.

Souls of the Slain Rickshaw 45 7 And 7 IsThe Souls of the Slain cover two songs by Love on their only 45, released on the Rickshaw label. Besides a great version of “7 and 7 Is”, the flip “Can’t Go On” is their version of “Signed D.C.” with a new title.

“Gigging frequently at the Beaconette on the corner of Napoleon and Claiborne, the Souls of the Slain often squared off against future Radiator Frank Bua’s band and U-Doe recording artists the Palace Guards. Their shining moment was opening for the Blues Magoos at Ched’s on Canal and Claiborne. Jerry would eventually leave the band to be replaced by future Radiator Camille Baudoin, while later members included Richard Rhodes on guitar/sitar and Emile Guest of Roger and the Gypsies fame on guitar.” Quote from the Ponderosa Stomp website.

Carl Flesher wrote to me about the band, listing the original lineup as:

Cornel LeBlanc – lead vocals
Jerry Heinberg – lead guitar
Billy Klause – keyboards
Jim Hutchison- bass
Carl Flesher – drums

The Souls actually started in 1965, our first gig was on Tulane’s campus that year. Three of us, Jerry, Hutch and I were Tulane students. We all dropped out by 1966. Cornel was at LSU and Billy [Klause] was a senior in high school when we started; they were boyhood friends, having lived across the street from one another during their childhood.

Billy was classically trained, I don’t remember if any one else studied music. I did not. Just decided I could teach myself, which I did by watching every drummer in N.O.

The name of the band was Hutch’s decision/recommendation. At the time we decided on the name, Hutch was taking modern poetry in one of his English classes. Our name was the title of a poem he liked.

I left the band in late 67 and returned to New York where my parents lived. I was replaced by Billy Thomason at that time. I returned to N.O. in 68 to get married and finish my degree at Tulane.

The first photo ( a battle of the bands in a downtown hotel ballroom) does depict me; the second could not have been taken in 66 because I was still with the band. I believe that photo was taken in late 67 or early 68. I will search for a photo of the original band. I believe I have an ad depicting us playing at Ched’s on Canal in ’66.

I hate to complicate this but my wife and I remember another recording (45 rpm). I cannot honestly say if a 45 was released, I don’t remember. What I do remember is the muscle fatigue that comes from repetition while in a studio. I did not play on the recording you have pictured, so it must have been recorded after I left, especially since I do not recall covering those songs.

Carl Flesher

Poem: The Souls of the Slain by Thomas Hardy

Souls of the Slain at the WTIX New Orleans Teen Fair, 1966
Souls of the Slain at the WTIX New Orleans Teen Fair, 1966

Later guitarist Richard Rhode commented below and added some info in an email to me:

I came on after the 45 was released. We made some recordings both locally and at Robin Hood studio in Texas, but none were released. On the local sessions Billy played a great honky-tonk piano part in a song that Hutch wrote called “Minnie, Ms. Minnie”. (It featured a 4-part kazoo middle section. Only in the 60s.) He also played harpsichord on a re-arrangement of the Rolling Stones “Play With Fire”. It had a nice 4-part harmony in the chorus.

It was around that time Billy left the band because during the same set of sessions I played organ, harmonica, acoustic and electric guitar on another song written by Hutch. I don’t remember much about the Robin Hood session, but somewhere around here I might still have a CD (converted from cassettes) of some of the tracks from both sets of sessions. ( I say “might” because Hurricane Katrina intervened). The fidelity wasn’t all that good anyway.

I mentioned that after Billy left I doubled on organ and guitar. I have vivid memories of having to play songs like “Light My Fire” and Vanilla Fudge’s version of “You Keep Me Hanging On”. It was like a juggling act. Cornel was a big help during that time because he was a good rhythm guitar player … he should have played more.

I think there’s a tape/CD of Camille and I jamming for about an hour in his parents’ garage. (But again,Katrina). After I quit the SOS, I majored in classical guitar at Loyola University.

I played in other groups before and after SOS: “The Grendels”, “The Glass Can”, and “Oak Alley”. I quit playing cold-turkey about 14 years ago. Guess playing 15 minute versions of “Color My World” 3 or 4 times a week finally took its toll.

In September 2012, Bob Sehlinger wrote to me about the Robin Gibbs Band, a precursor to the Souls of the Slain:

The Souls of the Slain evolved from a group comprised of Tulane students variously call the Robin Gibbs Band or the Hollow Men. The group was formed by bassist Jim Hutchinson and lead guitar Robin Gibbs and also featured Dave Wadler on rhythm guitar, vocals by Randy Fertita, and later Peggy Hewitt, and myself (Bob Sehlinger) on drums.

At Mardi Gras in 1965 the group was playing at the Red Garter Club Patio on Bourbon Street, and had just lost its lead vocalist. Cornell LeBlanc, then a high school student, came to the club and approached the band during a break asking if he could sing a couple songs. He pretty much knocked everyone out and was subsequently asked to join the group. After the spring semester Robin Gibbs left Tulane and the group broke up. Subsequently Jim Hutchinson and Cornell Le Blanc went on to form the Souls.

Bob Sehlinger

Promo photo, 1966, l-r (corrected, but may still be wrong): Jim Hutchison, Billy Thomaston, Cornel LeBlanc (in front), Jerry Heinberg and Billy Klause.
Promo photo, 1966, l-r (corrected, but may still be wrong): Jim Hutchison, Billy Thomaston, Cornel LeBlanc (in front), Jerry Heinberg and Billy Klause.

Photos below from the Ponderosa Stomp at the Rock ‘n Bowl, on October 1, 2004. Drummer Billy Thomaston wrote: “the only person not playing at Rock-N-Bowl was then organ player Billy Klause, substituted by close & life long friend Sherman Bernard. The other guitar player is Camile Baudoin of the Radiators who joined after Jerry Heinberg left in late 1967.”

Thanks to Billy Thomaston and Carl Flesher for sending in the photos of the band.

Souls of the Slain at the Ponderosa Stomp, 2004

Souls of the Slain at the Ponderosa Stomp, 2004

Souls of the Slain at the Ponderosa Stomp, 2004

Souls of the Slain at the Ponderosa Stomp, 2004

The Wig

The Wig - from left: Jess Yaryan, Rusty Wier, Benny Rowe, Bill Wilmot and Johnny Richardson. Thanks to Liz for the correction.
The Wig – from left: Jess Yaryan, Rusty Wier, Benny Rowe, Bill Wilmot and Johnny Richardson.
Thanks to Liz for the correction.

The Wig Goyle 45 Drive It HomeUpdated October 9, 2009

The other great Austin, Texas band of the mid-60’s was the Wig: Rusty Wier (drums, vocals), Benny Rowe (lead guitar), John Richardson (guitar), Jess Yaryan (bass) and Billy Wilmont (keyboards).

Benny Rowe had been in an earlier version of the band known as the Wigs that had toured Europe.

The 45 version of “Drive It Home” is phenomenal, but the live version makes the studio cut seem tame in comparison! The live recording was done at the Jade Room, one of their regular spots.

The flipside of the Goyle 45 is “To Have Never Loved at All”, a good ballad I hadn’t paid much attention to until someone requested to hear it so I made a transfer. The Wig released “Drive It Home” / “To Have Never Loved at All” in November 1966.

The Wig Blacknight 45 Crackin' Up“Crackin’ Up” is as exciting as any song cut in the mid-60s. The opening guitar riff is unforgettable for one thing. Rusty Wier’s drumming propels the song, his vocals are confident and Benny Rowe’s guitar solo is intense.

Wier wrote “Crackin’ Up”. The flip is “Bluescene.” It came out on two labels, BlacKnight and Empire. The BlacKnight single is rare enough and came out in May of ’67, but the Empire ones seems even harder to find – one copy I’ve seen was issued on yellow vinyl – anyone have a scan of that?

I don’t have a release date for the Empire version – it may have actually come later than the Blacknight.

There are more live tracks along with both sides of an early unreleased 45, “Little By Little” and “Forever And A Day” that I haven’t heard yet.

After the Wig broke up, Yaryan and Wier formed the Lavender Hill Express, blending country and pop sounds. A lot of information on that group can be found on the Sonobeat site.

I just heard Randy Wier passed away after battling cancer. The Austin360 site had an obituary but it has been taken down. Tommy Taylor had written a comment on an Austin Chronicle article for a personal take on Rusty’s influence on the Austin music scene, but that is now down too. I hope Mr. Taylor does not mind my reproducing his letter here:

Dear Editor,

On reading this week’s article concerning Rusty Wier and his passing, I couldn’t help but make note of the incorrectness of a portion of the story [“Off the Record,” Music, Oct. 16]. Rusty Wier did not join Gary P. Nunn’s Lavender Hill Express. The Lavender Hill Express was formed as a “supergroup” featuring the best guys from many other top local groups. Leonard Arnold from Felicity (Don Henley), Jess Yaryan and Rusty Wier from the Wig, Layton DePenning from Baby Cakes.

Gary P. Nunn was not even in the Lavender Hill Express originally. The original keyboardist was Johnny Schwertner. The group was a year into its tenure before Gary came on the scene. It was Rusty Wier’s Lavender Hill Express from the get-go.

I was disappointed in the size and content of the article. This man was at the very heart and very beginning of everything that this music community now holds dear and prides itself upon. While I realize that the 2002 article pretty much covered the main points [“I Before E,” Music, May 31, 2002], Rusty Wier deserves the cover once again. The passing of these luminaries in our local music community needs top attention, even though they may no longer be at the height of their careers or as popular with the kiddies as the latest flavor of the month.

Rusty Wier was an Austin icon. He had the first major label record contract ever awarded to an Austin artist. He was the first person in Austin to stand out from the crowd of players in bands, to be recognized as an individual, even as a drummer. Rusty Wier and the Wig held the No. 1 slot with their two-sided single “Drive It Home”/”To Have Never Loved at All” for several weeks in 1966-67 on K-NOW, the only radio station in town that played popular music, above groups like the Beatles.

In Austin, Texas, before Rusty Wier, there was nothing.

Tommy Taylor

Rusty Wier’s official site, (now also defunct) had more on his career, and many photos, including some I’ve reproduced here.

The Wig Fantastic Sounds business card

Rusty Wier in 1969, when he was with the Lavender Hill Express. Photo taken by Hilton Puckett and reproduced from Rusty Wier's official site.
Rusty Wier in 1969, when he was with the Lavender Hill Express. Photo taken by Hilton Puckett and reproduced from Rusty Wier’s official site (now defunct)
 I like how the clipping above calls Rusty the "lead drummer"! It also gives a different spelling of his last name.
I like how the clipping above calls Rusty the “lead drummer”! It also gives a different spelling of his last name.

The Wig - Benny Rowe, Rusty Wier, Jess Yaryan, Johnny Richardson and Bill Wilmot

The Mauroks

The Mauroks at Kagnew Station, Ethiopia, 1967
The Mauroks were a psychedelic white group on a label better known for soul and funk. On “Susan” the opening keyboard riff combines with reverbed guitar strumming over deadened strings and a great drum beat to make a instantly arresting groove. A quick, wild chorus with excellent distorted guitar and it’s right back to that fine opening pattern. A great and danceable obscurity, it was written by bassist Tom Kaup and keyboardist Larry Keiser.

Their guitarist Howard G. Salada (“Butch”) was stationed at Kagnew Station, a U.S. military base in Asmara, Ethiopia (now Eritrea) in 1966-67.

On a Kagnew veteran’s website he wrote “I played in several bands at the Top 5 and the Oasis [nightclubs on the base] as well as a few of the clubs downtown. First with the Counts, then the Mauroks and then the Remains. We had a good time. The Mauroks joined together again in ’68 in NYC and made an attempt at the BIG time. The other members of the group were: Larry Keiser (linguist), Tom ‘Tuck’ Kaup (Navy) & Vic D’Amore. Bobby Ward, who was there before me also joined us in NY. Our first drummer was a Navy guy called Willy. The only one I’ve kept in touch with was Tuck. The others are lost in America. Maybe someone knows where they are?”

Howard’s own email address as given on the site is now defunct so I haven’t been able to contact him directly.

The reformed Mauroks in the States, 1969
The photos below show the Counts playing live at the Oasis in 1966 while stationed at Kagnew in Ethiopia. Larry Keiser and Butch Salada played in the Counts before forming the Mauroks.

l-r: Tony from Asmara on sax, Lauren ‘Larry’ Keiser going wild on the keyboards, Daniel Pomerleou on guitar, unknown playing the tambourine, Howard ‘Butch’ Salada playing the left-handed Gibson SG guitar, and Al Trautman is playing bass in the striped shirt on the far right.

Willy is on drums in the back.

Al Trautman played bass guitar for the Counts. He writes:

I heard Jerry Lee Lewis on the Steve allen Show, told Grandmaw that I wanted to play piano and she GAVE me the upright in her living room. Dad put the piano in the shed (was working midnights) and 3 months later the Del Royals were driving down John Lewis Road, heard me and hired me on the spot.

I joined the USAF the day JFK was assassinated. When I got to Asmara, I had the bass guitar and a GOOD amplifier. Larry auditioned me and the following week I was playing. It beat the Nam thing, that is sure.

The guys were GOOD people, great musicians. I was MORE in the Fats Domino/Lil’ Richard/Jerry Lee Lewis vein BUT doing the Beatles, England thing was what the Mauroks was all about.

I volunteered for Asmara, did 6 months and stayed messed up with the VERY cheap beer that was so popular there. Tuck came in right about then, used the bass system and I went back to Turner AFB.

Danny (don’t remember the LAST name) was a great guitarist. Butch has a good technique.

Nov. 22, 1967 I got out, got married to a high-school sweet-heart from the pass and have been married to her 35 years. Damned, how time flies, God bless, please keep in touch…AL

Nowadays Al is busy fixing up his home after Hurricane Rita hit in 2005 and is back to playing his first instrument, the piano. More photos of the Counts and Mauroks are available on the Kagnew Station website.

Thanks to Dirk Sermeels of Belgium for alerting me to the Kagnew Station site.

French sleeve – can anyone give an accurate who’s who in this photo?

The Stains and Five Cards Stud

Updated December, 2008

The Stains came out of Yale University in New Haven. They recorded one 45 in 1966, then disbanded and reformed as the Five Cards Stud.

“Now and Then” is a garage classic, written by Gordon Strickland, Jonathan Coles and Mike Farmer. The actual A-side is a good cover of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind”, done with just a little crunch on the guitar.

Richard Perry produced the Stains 45 as well as their first single as Five Cards Stud, “Everybody Needs Somebody” / “Be-Bop-A-Lula” on Lieber-Stoller’s Red Bird label. Perry would go on to produce Tiny Tim’s and Captain Beefheart’s first LPs. The Five Cards Stud cut another 45 for Smash, “Beg Me” / “Once”, and the A-side became a pick hit on WLOF in Orlando in March of 1967, breaking into the top 20 in April.

Vocalist and rhythm guitarist D. Gordon Strickland spoke to me about his time with the Stains and Five Cards Stud:

I recall hearing “Hearts of Stone” when I was around 8 years old and became very interested in music. When Elvis hit the scene I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. While I liked to sing and play the guitar, I didn’t form a band until 1964, freshman year in college. I had been asked to be the drummer in a band in high school, but I declined since they only played instrumentals. It was also partly because I didn’t know how to play the drums!

The Stains were essentially myself, Jon Lippincott on drums, Jonathan Coles on lead guitar, Rick Lander on bass and later Mike Farmer on Farfisa. Jon and Jonathan were roommates of mine and Rick lived across the hall. Mike was a year or two older and we hooked up with him after a few months.

In the beginning, I played rhythm guitar. Jon had never played drums and Rick had never played bass. We were pretty bad for a while. Jonathan played classical guitar having studied with Andres Segovia and cared little for rock and roll but agreed because he thought it would be fun. He never used a pick but played electric guitar with his fingers.

I don’t quite remember how we hooked up with Tom Curtis, also a Yale student, but he became our manager. His grandfather and grand uncle were the Cohn brothers who founded Columbia Pictures so he had a flair for promotion. He actually came up with the name. Initially he wanted it to be Vandal Stains and the Daises but I declined to become Vandal so we settled on the Stains.

The first dance we played at was at the Yale Divinity School. It was actually quite amusing as the crowd was somewhat subdued. I got so worked up on stage dancing around that I kicked the main electric plug out of the wall so we ended a song midway through. The audience thought we were new wave.

There were several bands at Yale at the time. Prince La La was one that was heavy R & B. A local New Haven band called the Shags was popular. The Stains mostly played at colleges in the northeast.

Richard Perry was working for George Goldner when we met George and was also dating his daughter, Linda. George was old school. At one point, I was ad libbing during the fade out of one song we were recording and said Mary Jane. George asked me what that had to do with anything and when I told him it was slang for marijuana, he went back and deleted it. His glory days were behind him and he let Richard be more involved.

We signed with Red Bird but as you’d expect, never saw a dime. The problem was, and may still be, that the real money is in promotion. All we could ever get anyone to do was essentially pay for the session time and mail out some 45s. I remember going to a radio station in Hartford, CT and being shown a room stacked with probably 1000 45s that represented a few weeks of receipts. The station would obviously have slots for new songs by known artists so you were competing for very few openings in the play list. To get a better audience, you needed to spend money which our label never did.

Richard Perry had his “office in the Brill building in NYC. We visited him once and he told us he wanted us to do a cover of “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind” by the Lovin Spoonful. He had us practice it in his office. What he didn’t tell us was that Kama Sutra Records was next door, the Spoonful’s label. They heard us and came over to find out what we were doing. Needless to say they quickly released their version as a single which they hadn’t planned on doing.

Richard Perry is the same guy who produced Streisand, the Pointer Sisters and others. I remember he played me a demo and said that this was going to make him a name. It was an atrocious song but he was right. He had discovered Tiny Tim. I was under whelmed by his musical prowess but shows what I know.

Tom Curtis got us a summer job at Harlow’s in NYC, where the Rascals had recently played. Tom felt that the band members were not sufficiently strong to go “professional” so we held auditions and got three new Yale students and a keyboard player from Upsala College, in essence an entirely new band. The new members were all accomplished musicians but we had to learn a lot of material in a short period of time.

We were at Harlow’s for 10 weeks, playing from 9 – 3 am, half hour on half off, six nights a week. We were reviewed by Variety, again courtesy of Tom’s connections. That summer we also opened for Otis Redding at Central Park. Again, Tom called up and spoke to the President of Rheingold Beer, the sponsor, and talked us on to the show. This was the first time I had seen Otis live and afterwards it made me wonder what I was doing in the business although he said to me as we left the stage, “Not bad, kid”. We also played at Palisades Park on a Cousin Brucie show that included Marvin Gaye.

The last song we recorded was produced by Artie Kornfeld, who later organized Woodstock. That song, “Beg Me”, was a remake of a Chuck Jackson song and had some success, reaching number 2 in Raleigh and number 18 in Orlando. Again we saw no money and there was no effort to promote the song.The way it got to number 2 in Raleigh is that the local radio station was doing a spot for a local band that didn’t have a record so just happened to pull ours from a pile and played it in the background. He started to get calls so started playing the record. He told me it would have reached number 1 but it was based on local record sales and they ran out of copies. We ended up playing before about 10,000 people in Raleigh on a show with the Tams.

I would have continued to pursue music but after college in 1968, I had two choices, get drafted into the Army or volunteer for the Navy. I did the latter and when I got out about three years later, it just seemed too late. I did write a few songs and even had Richard Perry interested in one of them but nothing came of it.

D. Gordon Strickland

Anyone have a photo of the group?

“Beg Me” at #8 on WKIX’s top 30 in Raleigh NC, May 20, 1967

The Weird Street Carnival

The Weird Street Carnival photo
Weird Street Carnival from left: Bobby Magee (Shelley), Rick Garfinkel and Pete McCormick

The Weird Street Carnival Copra 45 The Subterranean Edible FungusBobby McGee – vocals
Ron Schwalbe – guitar
Rick Garfinkel – guitar
Dave Prop – keyboards
Pete McCormick – bass
Robby Bruno – drums

I really like both sides of this 45. “Subterranean Edible Fungus” is indescribable early psych inspired in equal parts by nursery rhymes and Dylan. “The Inner Truth” starts out like the Animals “It’s My Life” but quickly becomes something completely original. I would guess this 45 to be from about 1968.

The Weird Street Carnival – The Subterranean Edible Fungus
The Weird Street Carnival – The Inner Truth

Production is credited to Thorn Creatives, and the songwriting credits to Shelley (Bobby McGee), Randell (Ron Schwalbe) and Thorn (George Fragos). Other than the Portchester address on the Copra label, I knew very little about the Weird Street Carnival until I received comments from guitarists Ron Schwalbe and Rick Garfinkel.

“Sad Mud Cats (immediate predecessor to Weird Street Carnival): Robbie Bruno (I think), Rick Garfinkel, Bobby Magee, Ronnie Schwalbe (Randell). Photo taken at The Golden Fountain in Pleasantville, NY”

Rick Garfinkel sent in the photos here and wrote to me about the band:

We played together in a bunch of classic 60s garage bands, Weird Street Carnival being the last one. Prior to that, we were “Sad Mud Cats”, “The Cloud Factory”, “The Colonials”, “The Contours” (no not that Contours), “The Impalas”, and more that I have forgotten. Various members came and went along with the names over a period of about 8 years. We were based out of Mt. Kisco, NY, with members from a variety of towns within an hour’s drive; White Plains, Bedford Hills, Ossining, Chappaqua, and others. The band was constantly morphing as members (and musical styles) came and went. Most of us were constant during high school, but became seasonal when I left for college in Ohio. I would come home for Christmas and summer breaks and the band would always kick somebody out so that I could re-join.

Sad Mud Cats was apparently the name of a ragtime band from the 20s that someone Ronnie knew told him about. He insisted we we change our name from The Colonials to Sad Mud Cats, as he was not part of the original Colonials, and we basically didn’t care much what we called ourselves as long as we could play.

The Weird Street Carnival Copra 45 The Inner TruthI was not playing on the record, but was in the studio at the time of the recording. I had just gotten back from Ohio that day and didn’t have time to learn the nuances (ha) of “Subterranean Edible Fungus”. I can’t really recall any of the details of the recording session, even where the studio was. It might have been Portchester, but I couldn’t swear to it. The guitars on the record are Pete (“Limey”) McCormick and Ronnie, and if I remember correctly, Pete overdubbed the bass. Dave Prop was on the Hammond organ, and I don’t remember who was playing drums, probably Robbie Bruno. I just watched from the control room and harassed the rest of the guys that night, but slid back into the group for the rest of my time in NY.

As an interesting side note, we actually had a long debate on whether to call the song or the band Weird Street Carnival until someone, probably Bobby, came up with Subterranean Edible Fungus as an alternative. We unanimously decided that we didn’t want that to be the band name, so it became the song. I read last night on some website, that has another after-the-fact video to the song, that the song was written (and named) as the result of a bad mushroom trip; no truth in that whatsoever. Other than the occasional joint, we were drinkers, not dopers, and certainly not into psychedelics.

We recorded quite a bit during the mid-60’s with various combinations of band members under various names at various studios. The only one I can definitely remember was a session at CBC Studios in NYC with “The Contours”, one of the earlier groups, in 1964. We cut 4 demos, none of which were ever picked up. Later we recorded – and I have no idea where – as The Colonials (after Bobby Magee joined the group, but before Ronnie Schwalbe, with myself and Pete McCormick on guitar, Tom Connolly on bass, and Ray Smith on drums). That record did get pressed on the Tru-Lite label, and was readily found on juke boxes throughout the area at the time. The “A”-side was “Little Miss Muffet”, the flip side was “Do-Pop-Si (Down Down)”. They were of the bubble gum genre and while doing my Google search came across a rip-off version on U-tube; our song, our name, but not us. I have the original 45s of both of the records that were commercially pressed, although after 40+ years, it would take someone with a lot more digital know-how than I to make them sound anything like they used to.

Bobby Magee was a unique character, who modeled himself after Bob Dylan (in a way), and was a pretty creative writer. He lived in Ossining, not far from Sing Sing prison, and we would spend countless hours there listening to him expound on a variety of subjects as we tried to learn his latest songs. As well as writing most of our original stuff, he also played guitar at times, although it inhibited his “emoting” at the microphone, so that was rare, indeed. We were all relatively versatile musicians and often would switch around during a set to play something else. I recall playing the keyboards for our version of “Summer in the City”, and often played bass, sometimes even the drums. We would just rotate around the stage and swap instruments.

The opening chords played behind Bobby’s Dylanesque opening to “Fungus” are, according to him, the chords to the Lord’s Prayer. Bobby was (or perhaps, is) a unique and strange guy; haven’t kept up with him, nor heard from him since 1968. Ronnie, was the real driving force of the band; he arranged for most of the gigs, made sure everyone got there (or if not, that a replacement was), took care of business and was in it for the pure fun of playing. We worked together in White Plains during the daylight hours when I was home from college, and stayed in touch into the early 70s, but after I moved to Florida, we lost touch.

“The Cloud Factory (? – can’t really remember): Ronnie Schwalbe, Rick Garfinkel, Evan Elliott (drums), Donny Connahan, Dave Prop (organ). Ronnie Schwalbe and Donnie Connahan were the Ron and Don of the Rondons.”

Pete McCormick continued to play with anyone he could for as long as I knew. Up until about 15 years ago, my phone would ring in the middle of the night – 2:00 or 3:00 am – and it would be Pete, wanting me to hear the latest thing he was working on, some new digital/electronic guitar, or saying he was on vacation in Ft. Myers (an hour south) and I should drive down and jam with him. It was Pete’s passing that started my whole quest to find these guys. Little by little, I’ve been finding them and will continue until the spark is extinguished.

It was a great time to have a guitar in your hands; a great time for music and living.

Rick Garfinkel

Thank you to Rick for the information and photos.

“Same group as above: Rick Garfinkel, Dave Prop, Evan Elliott. This group was thrown together for a few gigs at about the same time as Weird Street…part of the morphing process.”

The Mods

Mods Revelation VII 45 Go Steinbach's Go Mustang & Satisfaction
Sleeve for their first 45, (click to see back)

Mods Revelation VII 45 Go Steinbach's MustangA sharp 6-piece group from Rumson and Seabright, New Jersey. The Mods often performed in Asbury Park and at Le Teen de Vous in Middletown and The Oaks in McGuire’s Grove, with competition like the Castiles (one of Springsteen’s first bands) and the Inmates.

The original band members were Rich Lillie on vocals and guitar, Phil Watson on lead guitar, Bob Busch on bass and Bruce Cunningham on drums. Soon they added Rich’s brother Bob Lillie and Wally Hageman on guitar.

The band released two 45s on Al Mott’s Revelation VII label, the first a promotion for a local Ford dealer, “Go Steinbach’s Mustang”, written by guitarist Phil Watson. It’s probably based on some other song by Ronny and the Daytonas or the Hondells and clocks in at 1:45. The flip was a pounding cover of “Satisfaction” lasting nearly four minutes without even a guitar break – must have been some workout for vocalist Rich Lillie.

Bruce Lowe (Cunningham) recalled a time when Rich Lillie really did lose his voice, when the band played seventeen shows in two weeks during December of 1964!

The Mods photo

Mods Revelation VII 45 RitualTheir second release has their greatest recorded moment, the fantastic “Ritual”, another original by Phil (impressively rendered Phillips Cromwell Watson on the label). “Ritual” has some of the most misogynistic lyrics of any garage song (which is saying a lot!). There’s no denying the power of the opening riff when the bass and drums kick in. The double-tracked vocals are also unusual.

This release has a good cover of “Everybody Needs Somebody” on the flip. This band had a polished image – short hair, sharp suits, but “Ritual” and these Stones’ covers shows a tougher side – in the right venue they must have been a great group to see live.

“Ritual” appears a second time on the Mod label as the b-side to a song based on the TV show Candid Camera. This was a tie-in to the band’s appearance lip-synching the song on the show.

Mods Revelation VII 45 Everybody Needs SomebodyThe show aired in November of 1966 and led to offers to tour, but by that time the members were attending college. The Mods played occasional shows for years afterwards with changing personnel, but never again strived for national attention.

Mods Mod 45 Candid CameraBruce Lowe used to keep a page on the band online, but I think it’s down now. The photo, article and ‘Go Mustang’ scans were taken from his site.

Article announcing appearance on Soupy Sales show – Rich Lillie not in this photo lineup
Mods promo sheet
Promo sheet announcing their second 45, September 18, 1965 (I’m not sure why it says their first Revelation VII release – this 45 had a label #R 105, while the Mustang promo has #R 104).

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