Saturday, October 24, 2020

Michael Day & His Unreleased Solo Album (1973)

Michael Day was a talented songwriter and musician that is best known as a member of Champaign, a 1980s R&B group that took its name from its hometown of Champaign, Illinois.  The group’s first single “How ‘Bout Us” was a crossover hit that peaked at #4 on the R&B chart and #12 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in June of 1981.  Day recorded four albums with the band between 1981 and 1999.
Day was more than a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter however.  He was also an arranger, engineer and studio owner that was involved in a variety of projects and bands going all the way back to the late 1960s.

While he is often associated with the Champaign-Urbana music scene, Michael’s Day’s music career began in his hometown of Bloomington, Illinois.   Day was performing in local bands as early as eighth grade and by high school was performing across the Midwest, playing keyboards and singing in a group called Backstreet Majority.  Other members of the group included Harry Washburn on bass, Bobby Carlin on drums, and Howard Reeder on guitar.

Michael and James Day, 1969.  Photo courtesy of
The McLean County Museum of History
In the fall of 1969, while still a junior in high school, Day and his younger brother were expelled from Bloomington High School for wearing their hair too long.  In an interview at the time Day said “when people come to see us (the band), they expect to see long hair.”

Their father filed a suit, claiming the dress code violated his sons’ right to an education and denied them their freedom of expression.  The boys, refusing to cut their hair, were kept out of school for months but eventually allowed to return when the courts ruled in their favor.  Michael however would not go on to finish high school but instead focus entirely on his musical career.

In 1969, Champaign-Urbana’s burgeoning music scene made it the place to be for area musicians.  It was a natural fit for Day even if he was a few years younger than most of the other musicians.  In a 1983 interview while reminiscing about those early days, Day said “I was the kid - always the kid.”  

Despite not being old enough to drink, Day had steady work in the bars and parties around the campus of the University of Illinois.  In an interview with Cash Box years later, Day mentions that he was “making $250-$300 a week playing in bands four nights a week.”  He adds, “Champaign was an incredible musical community.”

After Backstreet, Day joined a popular Champaign-Urbana band, Feathertrain.  Other members of the group at that time were Freddie Fletcher, Bruce Hall, Dana Walden, Norman Zeller and Bobby Carlin.  Guitarist Gary Richrath had recently left the group to join REO Speedwagon who had just signed with a major label and was about to release their first album.  

Both Feathertrain and REO were represented by Irving Azoff and Blytham Ltd., a booking agency based in Champaign-Urbana.  Azoff and Blytham’s founder Bob Nutt were the driving force behind Champaign’s thriving music scene and the reason a growing number of talented musicians were starting to gather there.
  
One prime example was a young songwriter and guitar player from Peoria named Dan Fogelberg.   In the early 1970s, Fogelberg was living in Champaign and was being represented by Azoff who quickly recognized his talent.  Fogelberg, like REO Speedwagon before him, soon had a record deal with a major label.   Michael Day would be the third.

At the age of 18, Day signed with Columbia Records as a solo artist based on his talent as a songwriter.  Day would leave Illinois and move to New York for the next few years to work on an album.   

In the summer of 1973, Day along with a few of his old bandmates recorded ten songs at Connecticut Recording Studios, the same studio where REO Speedwagon had recorded their first album.  During the sessions, drummer Bobby Carlin (originally from Pontiac, Illinois) would also play on Harry Chapin’s Short Stories album which was being recorded at the studio at the same time as Day.
Acetates and test pressings of Day’s debut were produced.  The record was starting to be promoted by Columbia but then, for reasons that are unclear, the album was shelved.

While there is a lot we still don’t know about the record, thanks to a photo of the back cover posted on a Facebook tribute page for drummer Bobby Carlin we have the liner notes and credits.

Side I

Million Dollar Movie Star

Let’s Make Music

Shine On

Lead Me Love

Can’t A Little Lovin’ Be Mean?


Side II: 

Doctor Freedmont’s Bone Elixir

Rainy Days

Let A Good Man Be

Why Say Goodbye?

I Can Feel It


All songs written by Michael Day

Produced by Billy Rose II   


Michael Day - Lead Vocals, Piano, Bass and 12 String Guitar on “Let’s Make Music”
Bobby Carlin - Drums, Conga, Percussion
Doug Mazique - Bass
Norman Zeller - Lead Guitar
Howard Reeder - Guitar
Billy Carmichael - Saxophone
Gary Morgan - Trombone
Fritz Kriedler - Trumpet

Background Vocals: Tomi Lee Bradley, Jeanne French, Vicki Hospedale
Strings arranged by Paul Leka / Strings by Irving Spice String Section

Recording and Mixing Engineer: Billy Rose II / Re-Mix Engineer: Jack Ashkinazy

Recorded at Connecticut Recording Studios Inc.


This Album Is Dedicated To:  909 N Elder, Susan, Trudy, Noreen, Cinnamon


Special Thanks To:  Kip Cohen, Paul Leka, George Brown, Irving Azoff, Bob Nutt,

Ray Smith, Red Lion (Tyke), Jim Corbett, Brian Imhoff


Many Thanks To Our Friends In Champaign, Illinois

Harry Washburn, Dana Walden, Bruce Hall, Barry Fasman, Allen Clark,

Billy Landrus, Bob Bitchin, The Cat, Gale Pelleteer, Bernard Schultz


Cover Design: Karen Lee Grant / Cover Photos: Reanne Rubenstein

All Songs Published By Dramatis Music Corp.

Green Rose Music / Columbia Records 1973


One song (“Let This Good Man Be”) was released on a Columbia promo compilation series in 1973.  In the booklet, Day was erroneously listed as "a Connecticut-based rock and roller."

The rest of the album has gone mostly unheard for the last 47 years... until a recently discovered test pressing:
 
 
Special thanks to John Anderson and Reverberation Vinyl for the discovery and preservation of these rare recordings.

One possible explanation for why the album went unreleased is that Columbia Records was in turmoil in the summer of 1973.  Dealing with multiple scandals involving the misuse of funds and a payola-by-drugs allegation, the label’s president Clive Davis was fired.  It is reasonable to assume that any project approved by Davis was halted.   New artists, such as Day, were likely the first to be dropped from the label as new management took over.  

Whatever the reason, Day left New York in 1974 and returned to Bloomington.  Soon after his return, Day started a recording studio in his parents' garage at 909 N. Elder Street with his former bandmate Harry Washburn.  The next year they moved the studio to Urbana.  

Sunday Studios, located at 705 Western Street, was the only recording studio in operation in Champaign-Urbana at that time.  According to Day from a 1975 article in the Daily Illini, the equipment and construction, including insulation, soundproofing and extensive electrical outfitting cost approximately $11,000.  Soon they were recording local bands such as Coalkitchen, Ginger, Starcastle, Head East and REO Speedwagon.

In 1975, Coalkitchen released their first single on Sunday Records.  Both songs, “Chained To The Train Of Love” and “Bumpin In The Kitchen,” were written by Day.  The record was produced by Day and Washburn.  Members of Coalkitchen at the time included Day’s old bandmate Bobby Carlin as well as Pauli Carmen who would eventually join Day in the group Champaign.

Day would go on to produce and arrange Coalkitchen’s first and only record Thirsty Or Not… Choose Your Flavor which was released in 1977 on Epic Records in conjunction with Irving Azoff’s label Full Moon.  Day also played on the album and co-wrote several of the songs.

In 1975, Day also produced a single by another local group, the Water Brothers Band.  The single included two songs written by Day’s former (and future) bandmate Dana Walden who was a member of the group along with Howard "Leon" Reeder.  

The b-side of the 1975 single was an early version of “How ‘Bout Us.”  While the original went mostly unnoticed, Day, Walden, Reeder and others would re-record the song as Champaign several years later and turn it into an international hit record.

The connections and partnerships that came with having a studio were not only beneficial to Day's career but helped sustain the local music scene.  Sunday Studios paved the way for Creative Audio, which became the place to record in Champaign-Urbana in the 1980s.  Adrian Belew recorded there during his time in central Illinois as well as many local and regional bands.  It was also the home base for the group of studio musicians that became Champaign.

When Day formed the group in the spring of 1979, he was just 26 years old.  He turned to friends, former bandmates, studio partners and people he had worked with on sessions: Pauli Carmen, Dana Walden, Howard “Leon” Reeder, Michael Reed and Rocky Maffit. 

One key addition was singer Rena Jones from Springfield, Illinois.  Jones was working as a speech therapist in Springfield’s school district when she joined the group.  She was a part time singer with a strong gospel background that had come to the studio to sing on a jingle. (Day and Jones would marry in 1987.)

Champaign was signed by Columbia Records (Day’s old label) in early 1980.  The overwhelming success of their first single catapulted the group to a decade long run of albums & singles, tours, tv performances, etc. 
 
While Day was often described as the leader of the group in the early press materials, he did not appear to seek the spotlight.  His life in music it seems was defined mostly by his collaborations and his work behind the scenes.  His unreleased album of 1973 would prove to be his only solo endeavor.  

Day passed away from cancer in 2001 at the age of 48.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Dave Scherer & The Castels, Charles J. Givens and "Sloopy" (Decatur)

Who was Sloopy from "Hang on Sloopy" and what does it have to do with an obscure single released in Decatur, Illinois in 1965?  Below we will try to answer at least one of these questions by untangling decades worth of misinformation and lies.


In early 1965, Dave Scherer and the Castels from Decatur, Illinois released their second single, "Everybody's Doin' It (The Penguin)" b/w "Sloopy Can Penguin" on Loki Records.

Members of the group were:  Dave Scherer (vocals & bass), George Hickman (guitar), Jack Trowbridge (sax), Jim Seitz (sax), Chuck Jordan (drums)  and Dee Brownson (organ).

The single was recorded and produced in Nashville by another Decatur native, Chuck Givens, who ran a studio there.  Despite not being a member of the group, Givens took a writing credit on both songs of the single.  Listen to the b-side "Sloopy Can Penguin" below:

Shorty after the single's release, the Decatur Daily Review ran several articles suggesting that the single was a hit and had already sold over 200,000 copies. 
Decatur Daily Review  Feb. 14, 1965
Mar. 22, 1965
In July of 1965, Scherer and the Castels recorded and released their third and final single, "My Dog Spookie" / "Tell Me Who She Is."   Again, both songs were recorded with Givens in Nashville and again the Decatur Daily Review ran an article suggesting the song was on its way to being a big hit along with other bold claims regarding the records promotion and national distribution. These claims along with those printed about the earlier release seem to be based in pure fantasy.

That same month, the McCoys released their first single "Hang On Sloopy."  The McCoys were originally known as Rick and the Raiders from neighboring Indiana.   Rick Zehringer (who would soon change his last name to Derringer) and his band were invited to record in New York by another group, the Strangeloves, who they had opened for and played with in Ohio.   The Strangeloves it turned out were a group of New York songwriters and producers looking for a group that looked like the Beatles.  They were especially eager to release their re-working of an R&B tune called "My Girl Sloopy" for a white audience with such a group.  
As a result Derringer's lead vocals were added to the Strangeloves' already recorded backing tracks and it was released under the new band name, the McCoys. "Hang On Sloopy," as it was now called, was a number one hit by October of 1965.  

Six months after it went number one, the Decatur Daily Review ran another outrageous article suggesting that "Hang On Sloopy" was based on Scherer's "Sloopy Can Penguin."  The article even claimed that Scherer and the group would be receiving a royalty of a penny per copy on the McCoys' hit single.

Mar. 2, 1966
While it is true that “Sloopy Can Penguin” predates “Hang On Sloopy” by roughly six months, both are obviously based on “My Girl Sloopy” which was written by the New York songwriting duo of Bert Berns and Wes Farrell.  It was recorded and released in early 1964 by the R&B vocal group the Vibrations on Atlantic Records  - a full year before Scherer and the Castels.

The Vibrations even released another song in 1964 called "Sloop Dance" on Okeh Records which bears some resemblance to their earlier "My Girl Sloopy."  It too predates the Scherer single by months.

Much of the misinformation regarding the authorship of "Sloopy" and any connection it might have to Decatur and Scherer's single seems to lead back to one man and it would only get worse as the years went on. 

Charles J. Givens was born in Decatur, Illinois in 1941.   As a teenager he played in a local band known as the Quintones.  By the mid-1960's, Givens had moved to Nashville where he ran a recording studio, booking agency and record label.  During this time he recorded and produced a handful of records including the two singles by Dave Scherer and the Castels as well as other Decatur groups such as the Chosen Few and Eugene and the Fugitives:
 
According to Givens, the recording studio burned down in 1966 which was uninsured and left him broke.  As a result, Givens left the music business and sought his fortune elsewhere. 

Over the course of the next decade, Givens would reportedly make and lose millions of dollars at various business ventures.   By the 1980's however, Givens had become a multi-millionaire by giving motivational lectures and selling personal financial advice.  By the end of the 1980's, Givens had become a get-rich guru and a best-selling author.   He hosted a weekly radio program and was a regular on syndicated daytime talk shows and late night infomercials. 

It was also during this time that Givens began publicly claiming that he had written "Hang On Sloopy."  Sometimes he claimed to have sold the song for next to nothing or even had given it away and other times he claimed to have gotten rich off the royalties.  He would continue to tell a version of this fabrication in interviews throughout the 1980's which were printed in newspapers all over the country.  In a few articles he was even photographed on his sailboat named "Sloopy" of course.



At some point in the late 1980's, Givens' claim was challenged by a lawyer representing Wes Ferrell, one-half of the writing team behind "My Girl Sloopy."  From a Los Angeles Times article dated May 14, 1989:
Confronted with all this by Farrell's lawyer, Givens now claims he  wrote a song called "Sloopy Can Penguin" in the early 1960s that he called in a letter to Farrell's lawyer "a new dance idea that we had almost identical to Hang On Sloopy."  He blames the media for improperly crediting him with writing Farrell's song, even though publicity materials he distributed at the time said he wrote "Hang On Sloopy" and sold the rights "for peanuts."  Just about every article about him at the time also mentioned he wrote the song.
In a  November 7, 1993 article in the Orlando Sentinel, when asked whether or not Givens wrote "Sloopy Can Penguin," Dave Scherer responded this way, "God love him, Chuck's my friend, but Chuck sometimes claims for himself things that other people have done."  Scherer added, "Of course, he promoted my group and produced the record, but he didn't write the song."

With Givens' claims completely refuted, it would seem that any confusion regarding the authorship of "Hang On Sloopy" would be settled.  Yet, in a strange twist of fate it is Rick Derringer that has kept Givens' lie alive.   
In a 2012 interview with Karen Kernan which can be found on YouTube, Derringer innocently mentions an article published in a St. Louis newspaper that someone had sent him where a successful businessmen claimed to have written the song while in high school and sold the rights for next to nothing.  

It is obvious that this article was written about Givens sometime in the 1980's.  Derringer, not realizing that Givens claim had been disproved years earlier, seems to believe it completely.  He even conflates a few of the details and as a result, the idea that "a high school kid from St. Louis" wrote "Hang On Sloopy" persists to this day.   

At the same time, the myth that the McCoys' hit was somehow based on Dave Scherer and the Castels' b-side never went away either as this 1995 article in the Decatur Herald & Review demonstrates:

--
By the early 1990's, Givens' get-rich empire was starting to come apart as he became the target of multiple lawsuits and investigations.  He died from prostate cancer in 1998.

Dave Scherer passed away in 2008.   His obituary read, "Dave was well known throughout Decatur for the past 45 years for his various bands.   He wrote Sloop Quin Penguin in the early 60's which was sold to the McCoys and renamed Hang On Sloopy."  Proof that Decatur newspapers have never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

So who was Sloopy?  


In Ohio "Hang On Sloopy" is the official rock song of the state and is synonymous with many sporting events there, particularly at Ohio State University.  Therefore, many in Ohio claim the song was named after Dorothy Sloop, a New Orleans jazz pianist from the 1930s that was born in Steubenville, Ohio.  For them, it strengthens the state's connection to the song.

Rick Derringer tells a different story.  In that same 2012 interview where he lends credence to Givens' fabrication, Derringer says "(Bert) Berns told me... that he lived for awhile in Cuba.  Sloopy was a colloquialism, he put it, or a nickname for girls in Cuba.  Guys would just go, 'Sloopy how ya doin?'  He said he took that and wrote "Hang On Sloopy."

While this seems to be the most plausible explanation, we will likely never know as Bert Berns died in 1967.  One thing is for certain.  Sloopy wasn't from Decatur and she didn't dance like a penguin.

This article was originally posted on Dec. 30, 2019.   It was updated and re-posted on Oct. 6, 2020.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Canned Heat "Festival" @ The Back Door, Peru, Illinois Aug 1, 1970

On August 1st, 1970 something big was about to happen in the Illinois Valley. At least that is what the organizers of a Canned Heat concert were hoping to convince you of. They promoted the concert as a "gigantic music festival."

Canned Heat was billed as "Stars of Woodstock & Kickapoo Creek Rock Festivals" and several ads included a picture of the traffic jam along the road to Woodstock while mentioning "10 acres of free parking" would be available. These ads, which ran in newspapers across northern and central Illinois, made it seem as though this would be an outdoor festival similar in size and scope to those earlier events.



In truth, the "festival" was just an evening concert being held inside a former roller rink called The Back Door (previously known as Skaters Junction) which was located on Rt.6 at the west end of Peru, Illinois.  In addition to Canned Heat, there were just two local bands on the bill: The Rain and 927 Ya Ha Band.  

Surprisingly, the location (now Steinberg's Furniture) had hosted a big name concert just a few years earlier.  In 1966, when it was still Skaters Junction and under different ownership, the Dave Clark Five gave two performances there on June 19th (3:00 & 7:30).   

The English group, which sold over 100 million records and has since been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, had performed on the Ed Sullivan Show just a week before their stop in Peru.  

How exactly they ended up at Skater's Junction is somewhat of a mystery.  The concert was promoted by a Peoria radio station (over an hour away) and featured three opening groups from the Peoria area: The Friars, The Shillings and The Coachmen (who replaced The Inn Group). 

Whatever the reason, Skaters Junction almost certainly had to be one of the smallest venues that the Dave Clark Five would perform at on any of their American tours in the mid-1960s.  Despite that fact, it has been reported that the concert was not well attended.  If true, that should have been a warning to the organizers of the Canned Heat concert a few years later.

The promotional campaign to cast the Canned Heat concert as a "gigantic rock festival" may not have fooled any concertgoers but it was enough to put fear in the minds of city officials and some residents living on the west end of Peru.  In the weeks before the concert there were several attempts to block the event.

It didn't help the that the local papers had recently reported on the drug-use and perceived lawlessness of the Kickapoo Creek rock festival which had occurred just a few months earlier in central Illinois.  One Illinois legislator referred to that event as "a muddy and obscene haven for dope-users and flower children."

Peru citizens expressed fear that their town would be overrun by a similar crowd.    Nearby taverns and local businesses such as the Igloo Drive-In (still in business) said they would close as a precaution.  

The situation took a turn for the worse when alderman William Roth referred to potential attendees as "rumdums" in a city council meeting.

That set off a series of angry letters published in the open forum column of the local newspaper, The News Tribune:


In the end, the concert could not be stopped.  It was on private property outside the city limits.

Fate had other plans however.   Just days before the concert, the organizers received a telegram from Canned Heat's management informing them that the group would have to cancel.  The telegram, which would be published in the News Tribune, read:

THIS SHALL ACT AS OFFICIAL NOTIFICATION OF CANCELLATION OF THE CANNED HEAT ENGAGEMENT TO BE PLAYED THE WEEKEND OF JULY 31 - AUG 2.  ALAN WILSON SINGER-GUITAR PLAYER OF THE GROUP HAS BEEN HOSPITALIZED FOR THE PAST TWO WEEKS FOLLOWING A SERIOUS AUTO ACCIDENT.  HE IS STILL UNABLE TO LEAVE THE HOSPITAL AND IS UNABLE TO PERFORM ANY ENGAGEMENT UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE FROM HIS DOCTOR.  A LETTER FROM HIS DOCTOR AND CANNED HEAT INC IS FORTHCOMING TO YOU.  WE ARE EXTREMELY SORRY THAT WE MUST CANCEL THIS ENGAGEMENT CORDIALLY = SKIP TAYLOR, PRESIDENT CANNED HEAT INC

Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson's auto accident was believed to be a suicide attempt.  Sadly, he would die just over a month later (September 3, 1970) from what was ruled an accidental overdose.  

Music Festival Still Goes On!  

The concert promoters were able to salvage the event by quickly booking Poco, which featured Richard Furay and Jim Messina of Buffalo Springfield, as a replacement. An additional band, the One-Eyed Jacks from Champaign-Urbana, was also added to the bill.

Without Canned Heat however, the concert had little chance of living up to the hype.  Advanced ticket sales were already below expectations before Canned Heat had cancelled and their departure from the bill all but guaranteed a low turn out.  

Still, rumors circulated that thousands of advanced tickets had been sold and that hordes of hippies were camped out west of Peru.   

Come the night of the concert, several neighboring towns sent police officers and squad cars to help patrol the area.  The Illinois State Police was also out in force while several units of the LaSalle County civil defense group were put on standby.

In the end, however, just 1,412 people attended the concert, mostly kids between the ages of 15-18.  The event went off without incident.  

The biggest issue that the police had to deal with was the traffic of curious residents, which was bumper to bumper for miles.  It was even reported that around 200 people stood across the road from The Back Door hoping to see something happen.  They would be disappointed.  

Inside however the crowd of young people enjoyed four hours of music on a hot and muggy Saturday night.  

Local group 927 Ya Ha Band performed first.  Next was local group The Rain which included members Dick Verucchi, Les Lockridge, Dick Hally and John Mark Edmunds. (The group would record a single for RCA as Stronghold about a year after this concert.   Later several members would form the group Buckacre.)

 

The third act to perform was the One-Eyed Jacks from Champaign-Urbana.  The group had been around for several years and had gone through several lineup changes.  At the time of the Peru concert, the group was led by Mike Murphy who would go on to play with REO Speedwagon for several years.  The group had several singles including two released on Roulette Records.

 

Poco would close the show which lasted until midnight.  (Ironically Poco's next gig was at an actual festival, a three day event near Galena, Illinois that was scheduled that same weekend.)

According to the News Tribune, reactions of local residents to the concert ranged from "I knew everything would be okay" and "I'm glad nothing happened" to "It's a good thing the police were so well-prepared."  

In the week after the concert, the paper continued to publish letters to the open forum, mostly denouncing the fear and close-mindedness that had surrounded the event.



Yet one local citizen warned, "This first concert is just a front, just wait until the next one."  He or she was correct in that there were more concerts to come but none created the controversy that surrounded the first one.

Anyone that remembers the event or attended the concert is encouraged to leave a comment below.  If you want to contact me directly you can do so at:  downstatesounds@gmail.com

Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Mod 4 (Aledo)

Billed as the youngest all-girl combo in the country, the Mod 4 from Aledo, Illinois were still in 8th grade when the four friends decided to form a rock & roll group in the late summer of 1966.

Alice Appleton (organ)
Nellie Hastings (lead guitar)
Barb Stutsman (bass guitar)
Kathy Talkin (drums)
 


In a 1969 newspaper article, guitarist Nellie Hastings told how the group got its start.  “We were sitting around one afternoon bored with our lives.  I said, ‘Let’s start a rock and roll group.’  It was a joke at first, but once we realized we could all play instruments we got so excited over the idea.   Our parents liked the idea and gave us the necessary encouragement, that’s how it happened.”  

The girls indeed had the support of their parents, none more so than Kathy’s dad, Robert “Tab” Talkin, who became the band’s manager, agent, promoter, chauffeur and stage hand.

After regular practice sessions at the Talkin household, the group had developed a repertoire of a dozen or so songs.  The group’s first gig was in December of 1966 at a cafeteria dance after a high school basketball game.  Soon the group was playing other dances and local events.  
In the early summer of 1967, before entering high school, the four girls went into the Fredlo Recording Studios in nearby Davenport, Iowa and recorded their first single.


A cover of Wilson Pickett’s “Midnight Hour” was sung by Kathy Talkin while the flipside featured Nellie Hastings singing a version of Bobby Goldsboro’s “See The Funny Little Clown.”  The record was released in early July of 1967.
  
The combo continued to perform live at teen clubs, high schools, colleges and county fairs around western Illinois and eastern Iowa, though appearances were limited to a 100-mile radius during the school year.    Despite their busy schedule, the girls were all honor students in high school.
 
The group returned to Fredlo Recording Studios in the late spring of 1968.  This time they recorded two original tunes, both written and arranged by guitarist Nellie Hastings: "Open Up Your Mind" & "Puppet."


In the summer of 1968, the Mod 4 performed at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield.  (The same year as the Who and the Association.)  By 1969, the group was performing twice a week on average.  According to an article in the Quad-City Times, “the Mod 4 carry more than $9,000 worth of sound and musical equipment with them in their personal van and the girls have 10 outfit changes in their stage wardrobe.”  According to Tab Talkin their gear included “echo chambers, strobe lights and other ‘blow your mind’ equipment.”

As the Mod 4 stage show grew, so did their setlist.   In a 2004 interview with Mike Markesich for his book TeenBeat Mayhem!, Nellie mentions that at one point they had up to 57 different numbers in their repertoire. Examples include “Hang On Sloopy”, “White Rabbit”, “Good Lovin”, “For What It Is Worth”, “You Keep Me Hangin On”, “Sgt Pepper”, “Purple Haze” and “Respect.” In 1969 the group told the Quad City Times, “We play a lot of Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles.”

The Mod 4’s biggest performance came in early 1969 when they were selected to be on the rock variety show Happening, an ABC-TV program produced by Dick Clark and hosted by Paul Revere and the Raiders.  In January, the girls along with Kathy’s parents flew to Los Angeles for the taping.  The group lip-synced to a taped version of “Midnight Hour” which they had submitted as part of a “Battle of the Bands” portion of the show.  

Because the show did tapings for the whole month in one day, the girls were able to see and meet several famous groups such as Tommy James & The Shondells, Canned Heat, Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, Gary Lewis, Keith Allison, Gary Puckett & The Union Gap as well as the hosts of the show, Mark Lindsay and Paul Revere.  

“We were thrilled to pieces when Paul Revere recognized our name and said he had heard of us when he was in the Quad-Cities for a performance last year,” Nellie told the Quad-City Times after returning home from the taping.  She added, “I only wish we could have stayed in Hollywood a while longer.  We would have met so many more groups.”

The show aired in February but unfortunately the Mod 4 did not win the contest.   Instead first prize went to a group of young kids, ages seven through 13, known as Paula & The Pipsqueaks.  As a consolation prize, the girls each received a Waltham wristwatch.  “I still have mine and it still works,” Nellie told Mike Markesich in 2004.

While in California, two talent agents showed interest in the group for a possible U.S. tour during the summer.   “We haven’t decided anything definite yet but the possibility is there.  If they can line up enough shows to make it financially beneficial for us, we’ll go,” Kathy told the Quad-City Times in January of 1969.  Obviously the tour never materialized.  The group continued to perform around western Illinois.

During the last year or so of the group’s existence, they were joined by a fifth member, Trisha Meacham.  By fall of 1970 however the girls were busy with their senior year of high school and the live performances began to slow down.  The group’s last gig was October 30-31,1970 at a club in Kewanee, Illinois.   

After graduating high school, the four girls went their separate ways to attend different colleges.  Officially, however, the group never broke up.  They remain in contact to this day.


This post was updated on Sept 17, 2020.   An earlier version was posted on Sept 4, 2019.  Special thanks to Kathy Talkin.