Thursday, September 8, 2011

The MOB—From Chicago, IL to Sioux Falls, SD in 30 years or less: Andante

Third in a series of “How The MOB (one of Chicago’s first horn bands) landed in the South Dakota Rock & Roll Hall of Fame” in April 2011.

Andante to allegro

Know this: Ana M. Lord is a one-woman dynamo. A powder keg of excitement, quick mind, strong organizational skills, a sixth sense for timing, true determination. That’s Ana Lord to anyone who has met her, even one time.

Who she is to The MOB, a beloved 1960s R&B/soul/rock horn band, may be best described as the unseen hand of a guardian angel. For over 30 years, her presence escaped the knowledge of seven men from Chicago, who would one day come to know of her gifts and talents in their behalf.

Some 10 months ago, October, 2010, to be precise, James Holvay opened a letter he’d received from Don Fritz, President of the South Dakota Rock & Roll Music Association, informing him that The MOB had been selected to be inducted in their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. A formal ceremony was slated for April, 2011 at the Ramkota Exhibit Hall in Sioux Falls, SD. The Association wanted the band to attend, and perform in a grand finale concert.

Cue theme music: “Gotta get back, back on the road, back on the road again”, a song that is perfect accompaniment, featuring Jimmy Ford’s killer trumpet solos.

Ana Lord presently resides in the Bahamas, an advertising sales agent, who began her professional ad career from 1972 to 1987 in San Antonio, Texas with a group called TMC (Total Marketing), which was affiliated with the famous J. Walter Thompson Agency. Maybe it was there that she learned never to take ‘no’ for an answer.

About her first MOB sighting: “I first saw them perform in 1967, they were a fairly new group (having come from three different groups to form this unique conglomerate). It was in Jacksonville, Florida, where she heard this band, and it literally changed her life forever.

Says Lord, “I’d just turned 15 years old, and they were booked in to this club called The Forum. They were there for a two-week engagement at the Forum and as I had a modeling assignment there (they thought she was older), I fell in love with them, saw them every night. Then they left and I didn’t hear about them for 2 years.”

The next time she saw them was in Miami, when they did an engagement at The Marco Polo Club. “It was amazing. I was then in ‘MOB mania’. I saw them a couple of times but then I was busy and that was it. I didn’t see them again,” until one time later in Washington, DC.

“But off and on I kept thinking about them, wondering where they were”, she explained.

In the 1980s, “I was living in San Antonio where I was an advertising sales agent for this large firm, and a client in San Antonio wanted a really big group (like the Mob) for their special event. I remember trying to track them (The MOB) down. At the time I remember I was told that they had gone their separate ways. Some of them were in LA; they were all over the place. The guy I spoke with wasn’t too friendly and didn’t want to give me too much information.”

It was there her search hit a dead end. “I tried to find them and I couldn’t. We had the Internet back then, but there just wasn’t anything really there”. She had moved to the Bahamas from San Antonio for her career, and at a greater distance, you’d think that would have been the end of it. Nope. “Lo and behold, 2005, I was looking at the Internet trying to find them again”. Determined to find whatever she could find about them she finally hit on something that gave her hope. “I came across Joe Accardi’s Beloit Club Pop House (web) site. He had a whole page dedicated to The MOB with a photo, but he had not heard from any of them in a very long time, either.”

Another guy shared with her that “he’d heard through a friend of Jimmy Ford’s whereabouts, that he might possibly be somewhere in California”. Lord and two of her colleagues who had met her in this endeavor got busy. “We started to post...Alan Schrank and Joe Pytel were there, we started to post on Joe Accardi’s site (Club Pop House), asking ‘please, if anyone had any information on the MOB, please post it.’”

For researchers with doubts, forget it. The web retains virtually everything we post. This case is no exception: ( The picture was posted October 16, 2006, and Accardi had been contacted by Holvay to share the correct ID (and spelling) of the names of his fellow MOBsters. Also on the page are Ana’s posts (see her there as ‘Twiggy’).

That would be the only single valid source for “who are these guys” to be found on the Web for several years. That’s an overwhelming realization when you look at the Internet today...The MOB, The MOB, The MOB everywhere. Well, actually that’s just been in the past two years. And longtime MOB fans have Lord, Schrank, Pytel, and Accardi to thank. Accardi took his collective memories of the best days of music there and published “Beloit’s Club Pop House (Images of America: Wisconsin). It’s available on Amazon.

When I’d noted to Lord, that in my own research 3 years ago, I’d seen her post on Mike Baker’s page as well, she said, “Yes, I posted there”, she laughs, “correct”. “We posted everywhere; it became an obsession with me trying to find the guys.” Dogged pursuit of a relentless researcher; got the visual?

Baker’s site is an excellent source of info for MOB aficionados, complete with some old press photos and some helpful timelines for who came into the band when and stayed for how long. It will be noted later, but it’s poignant to note that “Little Artie” Herrera was an original founding member of The MOB, with a powerful voice and great performing style. Yet, service to his country came first, and he left the band early, drafted to serve during the Vietnam war. The good news is he made it home, and the better news is that he made it to South Dakota. More on that later.

Lord continues, “In 2006 we were still posting, ‘where are the guys?’ We had some hopeful contacts”, but none of their leads turned out. One red herring was that Al Herrera was in San Diego with a car dealership, but when Ana checked that out, that went nowhere. It almost looked like the end of the line. “We couldn’t find them”, she stated.

In 2007 the 20th post on Accardi’s site read:

“Ana... Says:

November 29th, 2007 at 7:42 pm I have asked this before but got no reply. Does anyone know where any of the members of the Mob are today and how to get in touch with them? It would be so great if we could organize a MOB reunion. I would willingly contribute whatever it takes to make it happen.”

Then in early 2010, Lord received a post from a gentleman in Austin, Texas. “Ana, I know that you are looking for the MOB”, and he suggested a web site where to look. She continues, ”I went in there (to the site), and saw a post that referred to Al Herrera. It read, ‘Al is doing well, he’s in Chicago and he might be on Facebook’ and that was all it took.”

Immediately, Lord picked up the phone and called Alan Schrank, sharing, “I believe I found the first good lead”. Alan was on his way home and Lord recalled, “I think he almost had a heart attack” with that news. “By the time Alan got home, I had already gone on Facebook and started looking for Al”. Keep in mind it had been 40 years since she’d seen Herrera’s face and a fast Internet search notes there are 443 people named Al Herrera on one search site. Yes, it was going to be a long night for Lord.

“Facebook had a whole bunch of Herrera’s—I went through every one of them,” looking for the man belovedly known as Big Al. It took forever, but then she spotted it, a 1960s photo of a man sitting on a couch. “I clicked on it and lo and behold, it was Al Herrera.” “Oh my God,” she exclaimed.

“In the meantime, I’d already put feelers out to find Mike (Sistak). And next, I get this e-mail saying Mike Sistak is somewhere in Oregon”. I called Alan back and said, “Alan, I’ve found the guys; let’s go and start creating commotion on FB (Facebook).” Understatement of the year, 2010, grand prize winner.

Lord said, “I contacted Al Herrera. He was shocked, simply shocked to hear from me”, and then Alan Schrank came on board with gusto.

Ana explains, “You know, Alan who is a person who has loved The MOB even more than I do, and that is almost impossible. This man had every old photo, every cassette you could imagine, then he had tapes, every song that he could have found somewhere, anywhere. I have no idea where he found some of the songs, and he had a huge collection.” Lou Rawls once told Holvay that “in order to have a hit record you have to have all the stars in the sky line up in just the right way.” Something like that was going on for Messers Holvay, Sistak, Ford, Herrera, Herrera, Beisbier and, ultimately, Maligmat and McCabe.

Schrank said, “Ana, I am going to do a MOB (Facebook) site.” She replied, “Go for it,” and they were off. Lord said, “Then we learned that, wait a minute, South Dakota is having a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. Let’s start a campaign to get the MOB in there.”

From there on it was smooth sailing. “After we found out (about the award process), Mike (Sistak) came on board. From there we learned where Bobby (Ruffino) was, tracked him down, then we learned where Jimmy Soul was, tracked him down, then we learned where Jimmy Ford was, and, of course, tracked him down”. So, the order of discovery was Al Herrera, Mike Sistak, Bobby Ruffino, James Holvay, and Jimmy Ford. Reminds you of the classic movie, “With Six You Get Egg Roll”. Well, in fact, a new movie that could be written, “With Seven (plus Lord, Schrank and Pytel), you get to South Dakota.”

“You can imagine our joy, and if you go back to FB you can see our early posts from 2010. Photos were being put on there from everywhere. Songs were being plastered all over YouTube (thanks to Joe Pytel, see Part V of this series). Between Joe (Pytel) and Al (Schrank), it was amazing the things they did on YouTube”, Lord says.

“Next, we started in on Facebook. We were saying, ‘Okay we’ve got to get the guys back together again. We’ve got to get the guys inducted’. And we put out messages: “MOB Fans: this is what you need to do, you need to call Don Fritz (SD R&R Music Association President) and Terry Tausz (Treasurer), and let’s start a campaign to have them included for the induction for their 2011 group.”

You can then imagine the process wherein she and her well-organized team began an intelligent campaign of letters supporting the nomination packet, noting facts, figures, and relevant information. There’d be exhibits, photographs, press clippings. Clearly, the SD R&R Music Association had likely never seen anything like that before.

The most incredible reality is that none of the MOB members were doing any of this, to try to seek any honor for themselves. They were likely as overwhelmed by their newfound appreciative audience as one could envision. A few band members scrambled to find some pictures, but the music came from Joseph Pytel sitting on the computer and purchasing CDs, mp3s, and he was a four-star eBay watcher. It was truly a 100% fan-driven effort, which makes it all the more priceless.

When asked if she’d ever been to the famed Mocamba Club in South Dakota, where The MOB had set attendance records in their heyday of the 70s, Lord replied “No”, but that she’d heard stories about it, how wonderful the club was. She did, however, refer to an audio CD of a live show recorded in 1969 at South Dakota’s Mocamba Club that “Jimmy Soul” (Holvay) had sent her as a gift.

The last time Lord had heard the band was in Washington DC, in the 1970s. She didn’t ever live in South Dakota. She’d never been to the state to know of their significant place in musical history for live music and particularly dynamic show bands. Boggles the mind.

Have you ever imagined an advocate for a cause dear to your heart more passionate, more determined, more devoted? Likely the answer is ‘no’. So anyway, that’s how it all came about. Lord says of what happened next, “From that point forward, it became mayhem, because we were all so excited”. It’s additionally poignant that two of the MOBsters, the dynamic writing duo of James Holvay and Gary Beisbier would compose a song that would never see the light of day (released to the public) at the time, and yet, today, it almost seems custom-written for Ms. Lord. The song? “All I Need”:

“...I’ve been lonely so long; I thought I’d never see the light.

Until you came along, I was always so uptight.

You opened my mind, set it free; it’s meant a lot.

Won’t you to listen to me?”

All I need is someone to love me like you, girl”. © Holvay/Beisbier (see related video)

The song was previously unreleased and stored away in a vault for years. But it did make it onto a special CD, “The MOB: The Heritage Sessions” (released 1995, Sequel Records). Naturally, Joseph Pytel found this track, and created another of his signature custom videos. Great music stands the test of time, no matter how long it has remained undiscovered.

The excitement in her voice some two years later still contains the inherent joy in Lord’s discovering something that had been a goal of hers for over 20 years. The subject of her search had been imprinted on her spirit ever since she was a young model. You never forget who, and what, is important to you during the development and maturity processes of your life.

And often, those who are inspirations of and to the hearts of music fans are entirely oblivious of the impact their work product, their talents, and their gifts to audiences can truly have.

Make no mistake. Lord is not a fan/groupie/fanatic/zealot to be dismissed or dumped into a category that is anything other than exemplary, stellar, and accomplished. It’s easy for perjorative thoughts to arise, particularly for female fans of music bands. Ana Lord is a lady, a gentlewoman, an educated person who simply refused to give up on a dream she believed in. Fortunately for the young men from Chicago, her faith in them, and her resolution that they were deserving of being lifted up and honored was far stronger than even their own self-image could possibly contain, and it remained thus for over 30 years.

Let’s be frank. Musicians have egos, if not pride. And thank goodness for that. If musicians don’t believe in themselves, you wouldn’t want to buy a ticket to hear a group of people standing there with instruments going, “uh...we’re not very good; you really don’t want to hear us, do you?” That said, musicians are often the most vulnerable and hardest on themselves when the applause dies down and the fans go away. If they have a life outside the music, they’re fortunate. Jim Holvay, today a successful Los Angeles-based business executive, has been known to say, “in life, wouldn’t it be great if everyone worked in an office where your boss came in at the end of the day and had everyone give you a standing ovation?” Imagine how people would feel about their jobs.

Ana Lord did just that, through her intelligence, her dedication, determination, and her indefatigable spirit, and the love of pursuing a mystery. Among other things, Ms. Lord is a modern-day Nancy Drew. It’s easy to see her in mind’s eye, driving the pathway in her sporty roadster, on a conference call with Alan Schrank, Joseph Pytel, and Mike Sistak about “wouldn’t it be great--if?”

The only sad note in this musical montage is that Ms. Lord was in the Bahamas on business the night of the induction ceremony and could not attend the very event that she had such an integral role in creating. If you’re wondering, she is safe from Hurricane Irene, and you can be sure that if The MOB is ever given another honor, or chance to perform for an audience, the band will have reserved front row, center, for Ms. Lord and her chosen guests. You can count on it. The story continues on the road to South Dakota.

Next...The Screaming Wildman, and his friend Joseph Pytel, work behind the scenes as, one more time, impresario Carl Bonafede helps make magic happen. That’s Part IV of “The MOB—From Chicago to Sioux Falls, SD in 30 years or less.” And remember the words of Alan Schrank, “The party’s not quite over.”

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