The Omens

The Omens are famous for one of the hottest garage 45s of all time, “Searching,” which was recorded on the Cody label in July 1966 backed with the fine “Girl Get Away”.

The Omens, Searching on Cody

I’ll never forget the insistent fuzz riff and opening lines “Searching… searching for love. I’ve been searching… searching for love” blasting from the old Highs in the Mid 60’s Chicago comp. After just 40 seconds the band has pounded through the opening and the first verse. Frantic screams and it’s right to a tight bubbling organ solo. Then the second verse, even wilder screams and a searing, un-overdubbed guitar solo. If you were looking for an archetypical garage song, you would have a hard time coming up with a better one than “Searching”.

Though long presumed to be a Chicago band, as I heard from one of the Omens’ organ players, Duane O’Donnell, the band more properly came from Hammond, Indiana. As it turns out, Duane played on a now-lost demo recording of “Searchin'”. In June of ’66 he was replaced by Al Patka who plays on the single released on the Cody label.

The Omens’ story in Duane’s own words follows:

The Omens were based in Hammond, Indiana – which borders the South side of Chicago. Tim, the drummer, was from Merriville and Larry, the bass player, was from Gary.

Don Revercomb – main vocal and guitar – age 16 (at time of recording)
Gene Cooper – lead guitar – age 18
Larry Allen – bass guitar – age 19
Tim Jones – drums – age 19
Duane O’Donnell – organ – age 15

I was with the Omens during 1965 and 1966, and had to leave when I contracted mono. In retrospect, it was a great experience. Don’s father was totally set on making his son a rock star, and gave 101% of his time and probably money to make it happen. He had all of us join the American Federation of Musicians (Local 203) to make it legit. I really don’t know if we ever made any money, as Don paid me $15 a gig, and the rest went to the band fund (times haven’t changed).

We recorded ‘Searching’ in the living room of a second floor apartment in East Chicago where some guy had an Ampex reel to reel. That recording is mono, one track, one take, no overdubs. Don played a Fender Mustang into an Ampeg Rocket amp. Gene had a Fender Jazzmaster with a Gibson Maestro Fuzztone into a Fender amp. Larry used an Ampeg bass amp, the kind that stored the head upside down into the speaker cabinet. At the gigs I played a Wurlitzer electric piano into a Kalamazoo amp with two 10″s.

The guy at the ‘studio’ told me to play his Farfisa because the Wurlie was too noisy. It was like going from a Yugo to a Mercedes, since I had paid $100 for my beat up piano, and a Farfisa in 1965 was about $900. My ‘style’ back then was mainly gleaned from listening to an album by the Ventures that had some organ solos.

We performed in Chicago, Blue Island, Calumet City, Hammond, Gary, Portage, Glen Park and Cedar Lake. Since some of us were still in high school, we mainly played on the weekends, and practiced during the week at the Musicians Hall, because it had a stage. Venues were places like American Legions, VFW, Shindig and Hullabaloo teen clubs, and high school sock hops. After the record came out, all of our money went to local DJ Ron Borden, who played Searching nightly on WLTH radio and Gary, promoted our gigs, and appeared at them. One of my most memorable gigs was at the Purple Poodle Teen Club in Hobart, Indiana. We opened for the Troggs and Don made us wear long hair Beatle wigs (I’m chuckling as I write this), announcing to the audience that we were from England! I didn’t lke the wig at all, as it was too hot and really itchy. But old man Revercomb was a real promoter.

Carol, young Don’s lady friend, was 14 or 15, and usually sang a Marianne Faithfull song at our gigs. ‘As Tears Go By’ is the other B side. I missed getting a copy of that last year by a few days. I gave my only remaining copy of the 45 to Al Parka for his 40th birthday in about 1988. He was the original organist with the Omens and played a Lowrey portable. After I got sick, Al rejoined the group, but it broke up shortly thereafter. Tim worked swing shifts at the steel mill and had to make the choice of not calling off anymore or being fired. Gene’s girlfriend got pregnant and he had to get a fulltime job. Then Carol got pregnant and that was the last I heard (in 1968)!

In any case I was lucky to be part of the Omens for a short time. Larry Allen was an accomplished guitar, keyboard, bass and harmonica player and expanded my musical horizons. Being associated with a rock and roll band with a song on the radio had profound influence on the high school girls, putting me on a par with the sport jocks! And it made it possible to dump the Wurlitzer and buy an Imperial Capri (Korg Panther) organ.

Since hearing from Duane, I have not been able to find any photos of the group or business cards for the band. If anyone has a photo of the group, please get contact me!

A second 45 had a more limited promo release featuring a cover of “As Tears Go By” with an original, “September”. “Searchin'” was written by Larry Allen and Donald Revercomb. “Girl Get Away” is credited to Donald Kenneth Revercomb and Carmen Provenzano, as is “September”.

Gene Cooper wrote to me:

I played in two bands before I started the Omens. I loved playing in the Omens. We had a pretty tight group and all the guys were great. One thing I must say though, the organ player in the group was my best friend by the name of Al Patka, and he is the one who played on the record. We did cut one other 45 at the studio at the same time with the wife of the lead singer singing the songs. One we wrote by the name of “September” and a Mick Jagger tune “As Tears Go By”. Where to find a copy of that one? We had pictures of the band, but I never really had one myself.

Gene added in a comment, below:

Duane O’Donnell was never an official member of this group. I went to Al Patka’s house, my best friend, and asked him if he wanted to be in a band I wanted to get going. He agreed and he was the only organ player in the band until we broke up. He was the organ player on all the 45′s we did in Chicago. Al passed away in August, 2008

Tom Cleary wrote:

We recorded the Omens in Ron Henningsen’s basement, yes, on an reel to reel Ampex. The professional recording was done however at “Onederful Records near 18th Street and Michigan Avenue. Onederful’s claim to fame was they had done “Shake a Tail Feather” by the Five Dutones. My friends, Fred and Ron handled the studio recording. They handed me the tapes of the session, to see what I could do with them.

Later, Duane cleared up this confusion:

I only kept the record as a memento of my time as the organ player for the Omens, from July 1965 to June 1966. While I performed on the demo tape that got the band the contract for the 45, I became ill, had to leave the group, and did not perform on the July 1966 recording.

Organist Al Patka passed on in 2008, and singer Don Revercomb passed in 1994.

Thanks to Tom Cleary for scans and transfers of Carol’s 45.

The 3rd Evolution, and Dawn Records discography

The 3rd Evolution were from the Bronx, NY, beginning as a doo-wop group the Hi-Dells.

Argot Meyer founded the group, singing and managing it. He first found Mike Saglimberi (Mike Henderson) to sing and play rhythm guitar. Mike brought in his good friend from Junior High (PS 98), Manny Colon on drums. Louis Bonilla (bass) and Ron Lupi (lead guitar) joined last.

They began rehearsing in Argot’s basement, then met Phil Rosano, owner of Dawn Records at Music Makers Record shop on Fordham Road, who released two of their records.

The first has both “Gone Gone Gone” with its ripping guitar solo and their most original work, “Don’t Play with Me”. Mike Henderson is given song writing credit on both of these, and R. Miller is credited with A&R. This was one of the first garage 45s I ever bought, for $10.

“Don’t Play With Me” made the local radio charts of WLOF 950.0 AM in Orlando, Florida in 1966. The Third Evolution played at the World’s Fair, and there’s talk of these guys opening for Jay and the Americans.

The second 45 has the weird slow version of “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” which I still find pretty cool, backed with a ballad, “You’re Gonna Lose the Only Love You Ever Had”.

They also have a good demo acetate recorded at Bruno-Dean Recording Studios in New Rochelle, NY, “Help Me” / “Turn Around” that has not yet been released.

Anyone have a photo of the group?

Dawn discography (garage-type 45s only):
Any help with this would be appreciated

Dawn 303 – Derbys ” People Say (She’s No Good” b/w The Bondsmen “Wipeout ’66”
Dawn 306 – 3rd Evolution – Don’t Play With Me / Gone Gone Gone (June 1966)
Dawn 309 – Creation’s Disciple “Psychedelic Retraction” / “I’ll Remember”
Dawn 312 – 3rd Evolution – Everybody Needs Somebody (to Love) / You’re Gonna Lose the Only Love You Ever Had (December ’66)

The Creation’s Disciple had their own unreleased Bruno-Dean acetate, “Strings of Rhyme”

Source: Mike Henderson’s notes in Psychedelic States: New York vol. 1

The Cryan Shames

Chicago’s Cryan Shames found huge success from the A-side of this 45, “Sugar and Spice”, but the flip “Ben Franklin’s Almanac” is their finest garage moment and might surprise you. It has a fantastic guitar break too.

Anyone have a photo of the group?

The Destination label was also home to the Boyz excellent pop 45 “Come With Me”.

Interestingly the schedule for Mother Duck, below, shows there was a band by the name Ben Franklin’s Almanac playing around Chicago in 1969.


with Grope at Mother Duck, November 22, 1968


with the Good Earth at the Jaguar, April 3, 1968

The Delights

The Delights from Chicago cut this excellent cover of the Kingsmen’s “Long Green” that surpasses the original in energy and excitement, The Delaware label released it backed with “Find Me a Woman”.

The Delights were Gregory Grimes, Vincent Schraub, Norbert Soltysiak, Robert A. Bluff, and Louis Sanjurio.

They followed up with a cover of the Zombies’ “Just Out of Reach” backed with “Every Minute, Every Hour, Every Moment” on Smash, then disbanded.

Norbert (Norb) Soltysiak later joined the Hardy Boys, a band that released two lps on RCA as a tie-in to the TV show of the same name. The Delaware label also released A.J. and the Savages organ-groover “Long Long Time”.


Allyn Ferguson

Here’s an oddity – not garage but a gonzo 60’s instrumental with horns, twangy guitar line and all.

“Your Red Watermelon” is catchy and funky, and was well received when I spun it at Shakey’s Night Owl Record Fair this past Tuesday.

Allyn Ferguson was best known as the band leader on the Andy Williams Show. In the late ’50s his Chamber Jazz Sextet had an LP on Cadence as well as backing Kenneth Patchen on his LP for the same label, and in the ’70s he co-wrote the theme to the Barney Miller TV show.

Update: I’m sorry to report that Allyn Ferguson passed away on June 23, 2010, he was 85 years old. A full obit is here

The äva label also released a fine 45 by the Pace-Setters that I’ve covered on this site.

The Tasmanians

The Tasmanians photo
The Tasmanians, clockwise from left: Gypsy (Mike) Carns, Woody Pollard, Craig Davis, Greg Brunt and Robbin Thompson
Tasmanians Conda 45 Baby
The Tasmanians first 45 “Baby”

The Tasmanians ruled West Palm Beach, Florida in 1966-67. The group’s members came out of Melbourne High, Cocoa High, Satellite High, Merritt Island High and Brevard Junior College. Released on the local Conda label, “Baby” is a garage classic. Despite being a rare 45, it’s found its way onto many garage comps over the years. The flip side is a great pop song, “Love, Love, Love”.

Members were:

Mike (Gypsy) Carns – lead guitar and vocals
Robbin Thompson – lead vocals and acoustic guitar
Craig Davis – keyboards
Woody Pollard – bass and vocals
Greg Brunt – drums

Robbin Thompson’s site also mentions Steve Bland and Ronnie Cable as later members.

Thompson and Carns wrote three of the four songs released, with Woody Pollard’s help on “I Can’t Explain This Feeling”. Robbin’s name is spelled ‘Robin Thompson’ on the Conda labels and Mike Carns last name is spelled ‘Carnes’ on both.

 Robbin Thompson and Mike (Gypsy) Carns of the Tasmanians
Robbin Thompson and Mike (Gypsy) Carns
 Gypsy and Craig of the Tasmanians
Gypsy and Craig, dig the Canadian Rogues’ drum kit in the background.

Gypsy Carns wrote to me:

Robbin Thompson had a band called The Fab Gents – I joined that band and from there we formed the Tasmanians. He knew a couple of guys and I knew a couple of guys and we jammed with different people then we settled on this line up.

I’ll have to get with Robbin on how we met Bud Blount, but he was THE MAN without question and ruled the band with an iron hand. He was law enforcement in West Palm Beach Florida and an ex-Green Beret – so he had control of the band. We grew to be very popular in Florida and the south – had out the records and were by all accounts an energetic – rock till you drop – sort of with reckless abandon – type of band. You can hear it on BABY…the first single.

Robbin related this info to Jeff Lemlich:

“Baby” was written by me and Mike Carnes, now known as Gypsy Carns. “Baby” and “Love, Love, Love” were produced by a guy named Bud Blount, who was our manager at the time and also a cop in Boca Raton. I think a guy named Dave Hieronymus [drummer of the R-Dells/American Beetles/Razor’s Edge, later producer, engineer, and studio owner] had something to do with it from the production side also. He was a writer from Nashville who wrote the “b” side of a second 45.

I think all four songs were recorded at the same time at Criteria Studios in Miami. the band was “discovered” by the manager and father of a member of the band “Count Five” the one-hit wonders of the song “Psychotic Reaction”. They introduced Bud to us. Bud was a part-time concert promoter.

Robbin wrote to me recently:

We were introduced to our manager, Bud Blunt by the manager and father of the singer of the Count Five (“Psychotic Reaction”). The interesting part of that story is that when we played with the Count Five we were a whole different band called the Fab Gents. The band broke up for various reasons. We re-formed, called Bud and didn’t tell him we were really not the band that was seen by the manager of Count 5 except for me and Mike Carns. Bud’s younger brother, Glen Blount was also in the mix of all of this.

The Tasmanians broke up after Craig Davis, the keyboard player got busted for smoking pot. He was set up by one of his high school teachers. She convinced him she wanted to try it and he went over to her house with a couple of joints. When he lit one up cops came from out of the woodwork and arrested him. He got off due to entrapment but we were all smokin’ by then and having a cop for a manager was a bit awkward so we parted ways. By that time Bud was a detective for the Boca Raton Police Dept. We kept up with him for a bit but he found another group to work with, the name escapes me but they were a straight laced kind of a pop band.

The Fab Gents and Tasmanians were regulars at the Melbourne Teen town which was at the Civic Center there. Between the two bands we opened for bands such as the Beau Brummels (they practiced in our living room before the gig), the Mind Benders, the Lemon Pipers, the Bitter End (a band with Allman Bros drummer Butch Trucks). We also opened (in other places) for the Turtles, Blue Cheer, Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts, Mamie Van Doren, Wayne Cochran and a group called The Seven of Us which later became NRBQ.

“Baby” and “Love,Love Love” were recorded in one session. “Can’t Explain this Feeling” and “If I Don’t” were recorded in different sessions at Criteria Studios in Miami by then novice engineer Ron Albert. At that time there was only one hit record on the wall there, James Brown’s “Please, Please, Please”, as I recall.

The only members still living in the original band are me and Mike (Gypsy) Carns. Craig Davis died several years ago.

Years went by and I searched Bud out. Gypsy Carns, Bud and I reconnected and have been keeping in touch for many years now.

The Tasmanians 2nd 45, "I Can't Explain This Feeling"
The Tasmanians 2nd 45, “I Can’t Explain This Feeling”

For their second and last 45, the Tasmanians adopted a much more English feel – “I Can’t Explain This Feeling” is as good as some of the top UK freakbeat of the time. It’s b-side “If I Don’t” is competent if unspectacular Beatles-influenced pop. It’s released on the Power label, or Flower Power if you take the picture into account.

Gypsy Carns:

The manager agreed to cut this track [“If I Don’t”] – written by producer Dave Hieryonmous – ‘to get a better deal on the studio.’ The band hated this song and looked at it like a ‘sell out’. The track turned out great in retrospect but the band never played this song live.

Once the band splintered Robbin got some other guys together as the Taz but that was short lived and did not have the charisma the original band had. It was an awesome experience. Robbin and I are very close to this day.

After the Tasmanians broke up, Robbin Thompson joined the Blues People, Transcontinental Mercy Flight, Steel Mill and others.

Check out Gypsy Carns’s website www.gypsycarns.com.

Robbin Thompson’s website is www.robbinthompson.com.

Robbin Thompson wrote “Woody (Callis Woodson Pollard III) died of drug overdose in the early 70’s or earlier.” Gypsy Carnes tells me that Greg Brunt has also passed away.

Special thanks to Gypsy Carns for the photos of the band. News clipping and some info from the Limestone Lounge.

Greg Brunt of the Tasmanians
“Greg was the dynamic drummer for the band. Loved to wear leather and suede – a great drummer and friend. He has passed on.” – Gypsy
 Woody and Robbin of the Tasmanians
Woody and Robbin
Craig Davis of the Tasmanians
“Craig was the keyboardist for the band. As you can tell he would rock the house. He very rarely played the keys standing still. He would rock the organ back n forth or take it off the stand and parade around the stage like he’s doing here.” – Gypsy Carns
 Craig and Woody of the Tasmanians at Melbourne Civic Center.
Craig and Woody hanging in the dressing room – Melbourne Civic Center.
Gypsy Carns and Greg Brunt of the Tasmanians
Gypsy on guitar with Greg behind him. “The Tasmanians held their record release party on the beach in West Palm. It was a wild affair!”
Greg Brundt with Gypsy in front. Dig the two-tone jeans!
 Gypsy Carns
Gypsy Carns
 Gypsy and Robbin of the Tasmanians
Gypsy and Robbin
 Robbin, Woody and Gypsy of the Tasmanians
Robbin and Woody jamming, Gypsy to the left. Rocking in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
The Tasmanians on stage
“On the ground was a big part of the band’s show. Whether Gypsy was hanging off the stage blowing harmonica or Robbin working the crowd. In this photo Woody and Gyp were both getting feedback from the back line.” – Gypsy
The Tasmanians with Bill Vermillion, the Weird Beard
Bill Vermillion, the Weird Beard with a later six member lineup – can anyone give a who’s who in this one?

Things are shaping inside my head, I can’t explain this feeling
My mind is warping, my nerves are damp, it keeps me on the ceiling
I see a blur and I hear a shot, I can’t explain this feeling
I think my mind is gone to pot, it keeps me on the ceiling
People start to stop and stare, they can’t explain me sitting there
In a corner dark and damp, staring at a broken lamp
The crowd gets bigger the days go by, they’re wondering when I’m gonna die,
someone grabs me and pulls me down…
I feel an object but it isn’t there, I can’t explain this feeling
They say I’m wrong but it isn’t there, it keeps me on the ceiling
People start to stop and stare, they can’t explain me sitting there
In a corner dark and damp, staring at a broken lamp
The crowd gets bigger the days go by, they’re wondering when I’m gonna die,
someone grabs me and pulls me down…

The Tasmanians “I Can’t Explain this Feeling” by Carns, Pollard and Thompson

The Cowsills – in memory of Barry Cowsill

Barry Cowsill, the group’s bassist, had been missing in New Orleans since the hurricane in September, but this week his body was identified.

I originally posted this record a while back – by odd coincidence I found this 45 in New Orleans last year. I’ll repeat it in his memory, especially as these are rare tracks never put on any Cowsills cd that I know of.

The first incarnation of the Cowsills consisted of four brothers, Bill, Bob, Barry and John, from Rhode Island, managed by their dad.

“All I Really Wanta Be Is Me” / “And the Next Day Too” was their first 45, very fine folky teen garage, released on Johnny Nash’s Joda label. Supposedly it was the only record on which they played the instruments instead of studio musicians until they recorded their “In Concert” lp in 1969.

When this 45 was recorded in 1965, Barry would have been only 10 or 11 years old. Within a couple of years the Cowsills went pop with their mom Barbara and sister Susan singing along.

C.C. & the Chasers

CC and the Chasers Photo
C.C. and the Chasers, from left: Charles Currie Wicker, Ted Demos, Joe Castagno, Jack Bruno and Richard Barnaby
C.C. & the Chasers have just this one 45 on the Cori label from 1967, “Hey, Put the Clock Back on the Wall” / “Two and Twenty”

C.C. was Charles Currie Wicker, lead vocalist for this group from Boston. Both songs are by Gary Bonner. “Put the Clock Back on the Wall” is more famously done by the E-Types. The flip, “Two and Twenty” is well-turned twee pop.

It was recorded at Continental Studios in Framingham, MA, the same studio used by the Rising Storm. Dan Flynn ran both the studios and the Cori label.

Richard Barnaby wrote to me about the band, and Jack Bruno sent me scans of the two photos seen here. I will have a fuller story soon but for now here is a little info from Richard:

Members:

Charles Currie (CC) Wicker – lead vocals
Ted Demos – lead guitar, vocals
Richard Barnaby – bass guitar, vocals
Joe Castagno – rhythm guitar, vocals
Jack Bruno – drums, vocals

We switched from Bonner and Gordon, done largely with George Papadopolous’s (Unicorn) input to a more psychedelic format called “The Sacred Mushroom”, and then went to New York. After that we changed to Applepie Motherhood Band without Currie, and taking on Ann Tansey. After Applepie, the group went in many directions. Jack and I went to Florida and played with The Second Coming, and shared a house in Jacksonville with the Allman Brothers. Then Jack went with Shakey Legs Blues Band with Ted, and then Jack went with Tina Turner, and was her drummer for 15 or more years, and then he went with Elton John for about 2 years.

Thank you to Jack Bruno and Richard Barnaby for the photos and info about the band.

C.C. and the Chasers Photo
C.C. and the Chasers, from left: Charles Currie Wicker, Joe Castagno, Jack Bruno, Richard Barnaby and Ted Demos

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