(File this one under South Bend Power 60s!)
While legendary 60's music scenes in college towns like Austin (the 13th Floor Elevators, Golden Dawn) and Ann Arbor (the Stooges, MC5) have been well documented over the years, the South Bend/Notre Dame music scene of the '60s is not something most people give a lot of thought on even a year-to-year-basis. Listening to Midwestern oldies radio (in the pre-internet era) gave me a start on this arcana and informed me that Junior Walker (of the All Stars) got his start in South Bend bars and Tommy James (of the Shondells) was from nearby Niles. However it was a decade ago with the help the internet that I stumbled upon hints of the Shaggs. Although the Shaggs' "beyond rare" long player Wink has been one of the most coveted private-press "garage" albums in underground '60s record collecting circles and bootlegged countless times, only speculation shrouded the group itself who were often misdescribed as "Prep Rockers from Notre Dame University." Thankfully, Geoff Gillette took some time away from his studio engineering to set the record straight and provide insight into the short saga of the Shaggs and the seminal Notre Dame music scene of the mid-to-late '60s.
(Geoff in turn put me in contact with two others Shaggs: Chuck Perrin and Frank Krakowski and also Gus Duffy of their progenitors, Webster's New Word. Their vital accounts, contributions and photos from Chuck's archives are included below. Special thanks to Dennis Lopez, bass player for Captain Electric, and Bob Ewan, First Friday vocalist, for generously furnishing recordings, context and their perspectives on that groundbreaking era.)
An Interview with Geoff Gillette, Frank Krakowski, and Chuck Perrin.
By Ted Liebler (interview originally appeared on 60sgaragebands.com in 2002)
The fabulous Shaggs from Notre Dame, with their orgy of sound... from the practice sessions three years ago in the Farley Hall basement to their current fame... as the outstanding band on the campus, and in the South Bend area. Finally unleashed... and running wild.
Ted Liebler (TL): How did you first get involved with music? I assume that you have a deep background in music with vocals, guitar and keyboard listed by your name on the back of Wink.
Geoff Gillette (GG): When I saw Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show, I told my parents I wanted to learn how to play the guitar, which showed up as my next birthday present, and I taught myself the guitar which was fairly easy with all the years of piano training I had previously had. Before long, I was teaching guitar to kids after school and formed a high school band called The Ends. That was the first of several bands I would be in.
TL: Did you come from an artistic/musical family?
GG: I did come from a musical family. My mom played the piano and had me in piano lessons from the age of seven. My dad was also an artist, a painter and set designer. My sister and I were raised in the theatre - The Chatham Community Players of Chatham, New Jersey - and performed in many musicals and plays as we were growing up.
TL: You mentioned that you were in a series of bands after The Ends. Do you care to elaborate further on your pre-Shaggs band experience?
GG: Every summer my family went to the Long Beach Island at the Jersey Shore and another band called The Islanders ensued. We used to play surf music and the current Rolling Stones hits at various clubs and yacht club parties around the island. It was a great time... life-guarding, surfing, and playing in a band! What more could you want at the age of 16?
TL: When did The Shaggs first form and did you go through a series of monikers?
GG: Then I went off to college - The University of Notre Dame. Within three weeks, I joined another band called The Shaggs. Frank Krakowski was the leader and founder. The band had already been in existence for one year with a guitar player named John Hall, who left Notre Dame and went on to have a great career with a group called Orleans. (Prior to Orleans, John Hall was in Kangaroo with N.D. Smart post-Remains. They released one album on MGM in 1968]. He wrote a big hit song called Still The One, which years later became a promo theme for ABC-TV (The song was also employed for a Burger King commercial campaign). John can probably retire on the royalties from that. I love it when that happens!
Frank Krakowski (FK): The Shaggs was the first and only name of the group that existed from 1964 to 1968. The name was simply a reference to long hair and its expression then as a sign of rebellion.
TL: How did you come across the other musicians? Were they all Notre Dame students at the time?
GG: Chuck Perrin and I, both in our freshman year, found our way into The Shaggs and we had great success playing at all the Notre Dame parties and rallies. Chuck went to study in Europe for his sophomore year and consequently was not part of the record, Wink. He did, however tell me about another band from Notre Dame called Webster's New Word who had gotten a recording contract with Columbia Records and everyone had quit college and moved to New York to pursue a career in music. Chuck came back to New Jersey with me for Christmas vacation and we went to Greenwich Village to see Webster's perform at the Cafe Wah? That's when I met Gus Duffy, the guitar player in the group. This would be the beginning of a long relationship involved with music that continues to this very day.
Chuck Perrin (CP): When I graduated from high school in 1964, I returned home to Pekin, Illinois for a year to save up money to attend Notre Dame, but I used to go up to ND a couple of times a month on weekends to hang out. On one my first visits, a football Saturday in fall 1964, I walked into the Rathskeller below the student center to find The Shaggs - Frank Krakowski, Ray Wheatley, John Hall and another guy - set up and playing. They blew me away. I had been playing bass in a local central Illinois teen band, Eddie & The Excels, but I went back and started my own version of the Shags - with one "G". They became very popular in the Peoria/Pekin area that year, culminating with a top three finish in the Battle of the Bands at the Illinois State Fair the summer of '65. (NOTE: These Shags went on to record two picture sleeved 45s. Talk To A Sidewalk can be heard on the Every Groovy Day compilation from Misty Lane Records of Italy and all four of their songs can be heard on a reissue released by Craig Moore of Gonn on his CMP imprint). The next year, September of '65, I enrolled at ND and looked up Frank K. It turned out he was in the same hall as me, Farley, and needed a singer since John Hall had left ND (willingly or unwillingly). I was in the real Shaggs and the Sorin Hall porch was now "my domain" on football Saturdays!
TL: Wow! Tell me more about Webster's New Word? From Internet research, I noticed the group had singles on both Columbia and RCA Records. One of the Columbia singles was a cover of Richard Farina's Hard Lovin' Loser. [As previously mentioned, Geoff put me in touch with Gus Duffy who provides his account below.]
Gus Duffy (GD): The whole Webster's New Word thing sprung from The Four Winds - an integrated folk group comprised of some talented musicians that began at Notre Dame probably in 1960. The music was right out of the Chad Mitchell Trio, Bud and Travis, Clancy Brothers, all with jacket and tie. Bookings were good enough to quit school and go pro. We spent a year in San Francisco and worked clubs like Hungry i, Purple Onion, and Mr. Bimbo's 365 club. Bill Cosby and Mort Sahl were openers. I played 12-string guitar, 5-string banjo, and helped with the vocal arrangements.
Skip to NYC 1965: Webster's New Word had done a videotaped audition at the state fair in Indiana; the tape got sent to New York and Webster's New Word was invited to a showcase at Arthur--a discotheque named after Ringo's haircut and owned by Sybil Burton. Webster's New Word had just gone electric, and I had rejoined the band for just this one last gig (I had quit Webster's New Word to play drums with the Signe Anderson-era Jefferson Airplane and even taught Skip Spence how to drum). I got drafted and returned to Notre Dame. It was an amazing performance, and the next day we were signed to Columbia by John Hammond, on the spot, after we auditioned unplugged in his office at Black Rock. By this time we had added Jim Mason [who co-wrote "I Dig Rock 'n' Roll Music"-ed.] From 1965 thru 1967 we toured with the Mamas and the Papas and were produced by Felix Pappalardi. We got fired off the Mamas and Papas tour after a gig at Fordham University where we were at our absolute best and they weren't; Lou Adler canned us on the spot! Webster's also did a Gillette "Heads Up" hair goo commercial but I couldn't participate because my hair was too long. I just did the music track! We also did a commercial for Kohler Distributing - a great track.
TL: Getting back to The Shaggs, what kind(s) of music style(s) did the band first start with?
FK: We mainly looked to the top hits of the day and played cover songs people could dance to at the parties and mixers we were hired to play. We could play more originals when we played on the porch of Sorin Hall on football Saturdays.
TL: Who influenced you?
FK: Geoff brought in a surf influence and John Hall was really into The Beatles. I came from a rhythm and blues and an American rock 'n' roll background. The Kingsmen would be one example of that sound.
TL: How did you describe the music you played at the time?
FK: We were a consistently entertaining and exciting party band. Chuck - being a theater student - was quite the front-man and could turn on the tears when singing to the ladies on the slower numbers.
TL: Where did you typically practice?
GG: I seem to remember some rehearsals in the basement of Farley Hall, which is where Frank and Chuck resided. I was in Sorin Hall until I was thrown off campus. That is another whole story...
TL: Did the band have a manager?
CP: The Shaggs manager was really Frank. He had a knack for corralling the class and hall social directors and the manager of the student center into gigs.
FK: I was leader of the band and had the name, the P.A. and the hearse. We came close to a democracy after we finished fighting over direction of the band.
TL: Where did the band play live? Dorms? Dances? Campus Halls? South Bend bars? Chicago?
CP: The main other campus band from our freshman year (1965-66) were The Shamrocks. They were our competition for all the frat parties that were held almost every weekend at a place called the Laurel Club on the other side of town. It was far enough away from campus that the junior and senior class social organizations could rent it out, a floor for each class, and have bands, dancing and booze. It was a wild scene, great parties, girls dancing on the tables, guys doing the alligator on the floor. I had this 50-foot mic cord and I would wander the room and dance floor during certain songs. We had no cars at one point, so The Shaggs would take two cabs there and back. Frank had it all worked out so all the equipment would fit in one cab and the two trunks, including his drums and the PA, and we would all cram into the other cab.
GG: We mainly played campus parties, "mixers" with St. Mary's College, rallies and a few in-town club gigs. We didn't travel too far away as I recall, but I do remember that Frank had an old hearse that when we did venture out that's how we showed up equipment and all of us. It was pretty outrageous! I recall carting around a Hammond B3 organ with a Leslie tremolo and I think a Wurlitzer electric piano that I played. The Shaggs pretty much had the market cornered in the Michiana area during that year, 1966.
FK: We played a few bars and clubs in the South Bend area. I also remember playing a class event at the Indiana Dunes and even one time playing on a train. The train was full of students bound for West Lafayette, IN for the Notre Dame-Purdue football game.
TL: Do you recall what kind of instruments (make and model) that the other Shaggs played?
GG: I'm pretty sure there were some Fender amps and guitars involved. I know that Ray (Wheatley) played through a Fender Bassman amplifier. I was more of a Gibson guy when it came to guitars. I have that guitar in my possession today.
TL: What was the farthest gig from South Bend that The Shaggs played?
FK: I seem to recall some clubs and bars around the Chicago area.
TL: Tell us more about the Kingsmen show...
FK: They were only a few years older than us. They were so open and helpful with their tips. Their drummer showed me how to get a good punchy sound out of my drums.
TL: Did The Shaggs ever open up for any other "name" '60's groups?
The head security guard where I work, Dennis Miccolis, was the original keyboard player for The Buckinghams and can be heard on the worldwide smash/oldies staple Kind Of A Drag. He said he played South Bend in the '60s.
TL: Did any other bands come through the city? I have heard that Jr. Walker and the All-Stars got their start in South Bend and I know The Riverias (of California Sun fame) were from the Michiana area.
CP: When Stepan Center was built on campus, we became one of the main openers for concerts there. The Kingsmen (Frank's dream come true) were one and I remember we also opened for The Supremes there.
FK: We were not aware that Jr. Walker was from the area until years later. The Riverias were really before our time. We also opened for Bob Seger and the Last Heard, The Buckinghams, The Mob (from Chicago) and that band that had the one big hit, The American Breed.
TL: How did the Wink LP recording come about? Please tell us more about the MCM record label? Who is the "winker" on the front cover? I like the two originals and the upbeat cover of the Searchers' (or the Cryan' Shames') Sugar and Spice - plus the well chosen Beatles covers, If I Needed Someone and The Night Before.
FK: MCM was derived from the last name of Bryan McMahon. He was a major "Type-A personality" from the business college. He thought he was going to make a lot money from the project. We just went along for the ride knowing that he was taking all the risks. McMahon probably booked us at International Recording Studio in Chicago because it was cut-rate cheap. We really did record it all in 20 hours straight as the back of the album states. The most takes we did of any one song was around 20. Brian ended up trying to sell the album door-to-door on campus and lost a lot of money on the whole deal.
GG: We were mainly a cover band, even though we had the two originals on the record. We took the opportunity to squeeze a couple in, but mainly we chose songs of the day that we liked, generally tunes that had lots of background vocals (because we could), and of course the usual Beatles and Stones covers. By the way, the "winker" on the cover is me. I can't remember why!
TL: Was the title of the album inspired in any way by the grapefruit soda-pop from Canada Dry named Wink? I noticed from a vintage ad that the Wink soft-drink logo and the Wink font that appeared on the album are somewhat similar.
GG: There was no reference to the Canada Dry product called Wink. It was just an idea we had.
TL: What were your impressions after recently re-listening to the album?
GG: The Wink CD-R was interesting, yet somewhat painful, to hear after all these years. There were definitely some good moments and surprisingly good, thick background vocals.
FK: While I have not listened to record in over 30 years, as soon as I heard it I didn't think the sound was good at all. It sounded okay in the studio, but the record was very underdeveloped and didn't capture any of our live energy at all. The bass shows up as non-existent and I would have put the drums deeper into the mix. Who knows what it would have sounded like if we had more studio time?
TL: Were there any other recordings that never made it to the album?
CP: We recorded two songs in nearby Elkhart, IN. The songs were Farmer John (mp3), one of our big crowd pleasers, and Too Dark For Day (mp3), a song Geoff and I wrote. I have a copy of the acetate, which used to get quite a few plays on WSND [campus radio station] and the Huddle [a campus snack bar/hang-out] jukebox.
TL: When did The Shaggs break up and why?
FK: I really don't have clear answer on this. We used to put the band on hiatus each summer. Our bass player Ray Wheatley graduated in that spring of '68. In addition, the style of music we played had been fraying for the past couple of years. Fortunately, we were able to continue making some serious money with the live gigs before calling it a day. The administration was probably glad as they hated us for a variety of reasons. Looking back, it really was a fertile time with lots of talent coming through the band. We really had access and opportunities that are non-existent for a band today. I would hate to be 20 years old now and try to make it in the current atmosphere.
TL: What other bands did you play in after The Shaggs?
FK: I drummed in a Supremes-like group called Red Top and the Young Family that was based out of Northern Ohio and toured the "black & tan" clubs of the Midwest.
GG: Shortly after making Wink, I heard that things had not materialized for Webster's and that Gus was back at Notre Dame - after doing a brief stint playing drums with a group called Jefferson Airplane! I slipped a note to Gus at the architecture building asking him if he felt like playing some music. He called me back and said he was interested and that was the beginning of Captain Electric and the Flying Lapels. I had become close friends with Dennis Lopez, a bass player in another Notre Dame band called The Plague. He was interested in being part of a new band with Gus and I and signed on. We had seen a South Bend local guy play drums and Barney Shultz came aboard to round out the quartet. The first time we all got together and played, something magical happened and we knew the chemistry was something special. It was almost scary!
TL: Did Captain Electric record?
GG: In 1968, my junior year, Captain Electric decided to make a record of a rock opera we had put together based on Beethoven's Ninth Symphony Ode to Joy movement. This was before anybody, The Who or Procol Harem, had done anything like this. We recorded it at a studio in the middle of a cornfield in Pekin, Illinois. The next summer, Dennis and I started shopping it around in New York and somehow got a meeting with a producer named Tom Wilson. When we walked into the Record Plant Studio, Tom was in the middle of a recording session but he immediately put our tape on and after listening to the first three minutes of The Symphony, he stopped it and said, "Boys, step into my office." On the spot, he signed us to ABC Dunhill where he had a deal to produce seven albums in a year, and wrote us a check of $10,000 to cover our costs of making the record with enough left over to go back and polish it up! Also, (he asked us to) get ready to go on the road to promote the record. Well, I went back to the Jersey Shore with the news and my parents had mixed feelings about me dropping out of college, but were happy for me as far as getting the recording contract. The rest of that summer was great; I was going to be a rock star!
CP: One interesting sidelight to all of this is Golden Voice Recording Studios, operated by my friend Jerry Milam. Everything recorded during this period on my Webster's Last Word Record label was done there - The early Chuck & Mary stuff, The Shags [Pekin] recorded their 45 there. Dan Fogelberg did some of his first demos there. And I brought a lot of groups from ND back home to record there, including Captain Electric's Symphony, and one other great ND rock group from '68-'69, First Friday. I produced their now much sought after LP and released it on Webster's Last Word.
TL: Would you be able to tell us more about The Delphic Oracle? Supposedly, it was the first psychedelic nightclub in the Midwest! I have heard bits and pieces about it over the years.
GG: This is a very interesting story... Right after Captain Electric formed, my roommate, Eddie Kurtz, had the bright idea of creating a club for our new band to play at. We all thought it was a good idea and we got 20 of our friends to take out $100.00 loans from the Notre Dame Credit Union, and with $2000.00 we took over a recently defunct Italian restaurant and proceeded to build a club. We did everything by the book, getting all the proper permits and doing everything necessary to meet the local codes. It was an incredible club once we got done with it, complete with an amazing light show and a "head shop" in the back. I think that was the thing that got us into trouble...
The first weekend the club was opened, it was a huge success - and packed. We were able to pay back all the original investors! The second weekend, the band went out and bought all new equipment from the proceeds. In the meantime, The Delphic Oracle had become the talk of the town. We were the subjects of every radio/TV show in South Bend. It was like fervor! They hated us! There were all these innuendos about it being a drug haven, which wasn't the case at all. We just wanted a place to play. We couldn't be responsible for what went on among the locals, but on the third weekend, it was pure profit - we were putting the money in our pockets! On the fourth weekend, however, we noticed that our rent-a-cops didn't show up and before long, a SWAT team showed up and shut the evening down taking a few of us to jail, specifically Eddie Kurtz and Dennis Lopez. There were some trumped-up charges about de-facing the American flag. There was a poster of the American flag with flowers on it on the wall, and some charge about cow manure in the streets that dated back to 1890. It was totally bogus. At any rate, that was the end of The Delphic Oracle. South Bend was not ready for us!
TL: After the record was tied up in record company politics (and never released) I have read that that Captain Electric moved out to California around 1970. I found it very interesting that you rented a band house in Laurel Canyon from landlord Fred MacMurray! However, it sounds like things never really got off the Western ground musically with the commerce-minded music industry looking for cookie-cutter groups at that time and Captain Electric being outside the pre-fab mold. What did you do musically in the wake of Captain Electric?
GG: Eventually, we decided to throw in the towel. Dennis went back to Notre Dame to finish his last semester, Gus started doing architecture, Barney moved to Florida where his Mom had moved to and I had a few more adventures as a musician. I auditioned for, and got the gig working for a guy named Mac Davis as a Hammond organ player. I think I lasted for two gigs when I quit, not only hating the music, but also not really clicking with Mac! I then joined one more band with an artist named Tim Rose. Do you remember him? He did a slow tempo version of Hey Joe that inspired Hendrix and wrote Morning Dew that The Grateful Dead recorded. The guitar player in this band was a guy named Andy Summers. A few years later I picked up the first Police record and there he was. Anyway, Tim Rose had had a serious drinking problem, and even though he was sober when I was with him,he unfortunately couldn't get arrested by any of the record companies because of his reputation. I guess he had been seen sloshed at the Troubadour too many nights in the past. Too bad, because he was really talented and we had a great thing going.
TL: From research on Google and allmusic.com, I know that you are a recording engineer and worked with legends like Lamont Dozier and Sergio Mendes. How did you make the transition from stage to behind the scenes?
GG: After that band fell apart, I sat around for a month trying to decide what to do. I almost went to the airport everyday to fly back East. Then, a light bulb went on and I got the idea of becoming a sound engineer. I knew I loved being involved with music, and I also knew I wasn't an exceptional musician or song-writer, so I called Peter Granite - the engineer who had done our record and asked him how would I go about becoming a sound engineer. He mentioned he had heard about a guy in Burbank that was just getting ready to build a new studio, and maybe I could get in on the ground floor. So I went over there and made a proposition that I would give him a good deal as a carpenter to help build the studio and when it was completed, they would train me to be an engineer. That's exactly what happened. I spent the next six months of my life building this studio and one day, I put the hammer down and the first client to come in to check this new studio out was Stevie Wonder. He put a tape on and liked the way it sounded in there and my apprenticeship was a year with Stevie Wonder. Go to the head of the class! The record was Songs In The Key Life. For the next five years, I worked at that studio, called Kendun Recorders, which became the hottest place in town. I got to work with everybody from Frank Sinatra, David Bowie, George Harrison, Billy Preston, Mick Jagger, Bad Company, Lamont Dozier, and Fleetwood Mac - just to name a few. It's also when I met Sergio Mendes who I went on to have a 23-year working relationship with. The rest is history. Now it's 30 years later and I'm still here and have been fortunate enough to parlay this into an ongoing career. I think this is what I want to do when I grow up!
The Shaggs - Wink (1967)