Thursday, November 1, 2012

Jazz Weekends at Veritas Promise Great Bryan-College Station Entertainment

Just another fun night at Veritas, L to R: Karan Chavis, Greg Tivis, and Steve Carr.

When you put Greg Tivis, Karan Chavis and Steve Carr together, there’s no doubt you have an evening of great jazz. Your rushed schedule simply dissolves into a distant memory as you let the music take you away. It’s hard to believe that this hidden treasured trio can be heard often at College Station’s Veritas bistro, and that there are not lines of people waiting to get in to hear them.

Great music and true musical talent for adults who prefer to have their own place is part of the atmosphere carefully cultivated at Veritas, thanks in large measure to musician Greg Tivis, who invites his friends to join him on weekends for some gentle jamming and slow, smooth jazz.

Never mind that Veritas Wine and Bistro is a national treasure, thanks in part to the Food Network’s announcement that Executive Chef Tai Lee had the best food truck in America. At least that is what the dynamo initiative of some devotees of Veritas gathered consensus to prove. And, that’s just the mobile bistro.

If you don’t want to chase the truck, which is always on the move in Bryan-College Station, race no more. Just glide on into the bistro, located in the beautiful University Center location just down the street from Texas A&M. Kick back and hear beautiful music, where you actually know the words to the songs, and your blood pressure is sure to drop 20 points, as you forget whatever was on your mind when you walked in.

Karan Chavis can sing the American songbook and make it look absolutely effortless. Her sultry voice exemplifies her ability to handle any song, classic rock, jazz, blues, soul, and contemporary hits and make it appear entirely effortless.

Greg Tivis and Steve Carr are such gifted musicians that they share the stage generously and know the perfect sound level to play so you actually can enjoy the music, as well as enjoy conversation with your friends when you want it.

Greg has a new CD, “I Got it Bad” that features Kelsey Taylor, part of the Greg Tivis Trio, just released last month. The trio includes Tivis, Taylor and bassist Ron White, a longtime Brazos Valley favorite. Karan Chavis is nearing completion on her next CD as well.

Veritas is a beautiful hidden secret, if you’ve never been there before. But, go there just once for evening jazz, weekends especially, and you’ll start working your schedule around their music, if you’re not already there regularly for the gourmet delicacies.

A note to those watching their wallets: you can afford to enjoy the music here, as there’s no cover charge. Even if you have dined earlier in the evening with commitments elsewhere, you can always stop in for a glass of wine, after dinner drink, or a cappuccino. Dare you to pass up a tempting dessert.

Jazz lovers should keep checking the Veritas web site or call 979-268-3251. Greg Tivis and friends will be there in style. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Musician Marc Balzac surprises The MOB with lost tapes from The Attic

“Good evening and welcome to The Attic. We’re The MOB!” And with those words, the audio recording posted two nights ago by Marc Balzac, a Michigan native and music lover, went live, providing yet the latest in a series of surprises for members of the The MOB, Chicago natives, who’d likely thought they were permanently relegated to backup storage in long-forgotten memories among those who’d heard and seen them.

What Balzac said today, something he didn’t realize initially, was that there’s a group of devoted music lovers, 379 strong on Facebook, who not only keep the music of The MOB alive, they found the video before the band did. It should be noted that the Facebook group and page’s founder, Alan Schrank, had seen the band at least 30 times in the South Dakota area or within a few hours’ driving distance back in the day.[Editor's note, as of Jan. 8, 2017, The MOB Facebook Discussion Group (a public group) page has 740 members today. Visit and join the discussion here].

Schrank and marketing executive Ana Lord began a journey in search of The MOB, having first connected on Joe Accardi’s Club Pop House blog six (long) years ago. Prior stories describe the path to South Dakota, and the induction of The MOB into the South Dakota Music Association’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last April. Marc Balzac was one of those, too, who had been trying to locate Al Herrera, to share the tapes of his dynamic MOB vocals recorded at The Attic with Herrera. Balzac had been searching for Herrera for more than a decade, even checking out the now-famous “Al owns a car dealership in San Diego” myth all over the city, but to no avail. Balzac hadn’t heard of the unofficial detective team of Pytel, Schrank, Lord, and Accardi” just yet.

The Attic was a favorite Milwaukee club for young adults in the late 1960s. It was located at 2nd and Wisconsin, and Balzac had audio gold, tapes of two live shows by this beloved, but almost forgotten, band, presently in the throes of being rediscovered all over again, or so it is hoped by a core group of fans who maintain close contact on Facebook.

The Forgotten Tapes of The MOB, live at The Attic, Milwaukee, 1969 are shared in now four YouTube postings:

The MOB Live #1, opens with “Good evening and welcome to the Attic. We are the MOB,” and just let it play and set your time machine to 1969. It will all come back to you.

The MOB Live #2, begins after a set break, with Bobby Ruffino on the drums and Tony Nedza on the piano, noodling into a sizzling horn and rhythm intro to “We’re Gonna Have a Party” and “Give it to Me.”

The MOB Live #3, begins with “Open the Door to Your Heart,” a signature Al Herrera tune that has the best horn sound, even 43 years later.

The MOB Live #4, begins with Al Herrera singing his soulful, powerful best (“Our Love’s Got to Go Somewhere,” “What Does it Take?” plus “The Worst That Could Happen,” and Jimmy Soul’s own “Turn on Your Love Light” where you should wait for Bobby Ruffino’s drums to start smoking and Jimmy Ford’s triple-tongued trumpet).

Well, 41 minutes later, and some of the best horn-blowing you’ll ever hear, you’ve just had the genuine pleasure of enjoying a MOB set. In your mind, you’ve dance, stomped your feet, swayed, snapped your fingers, clapped and wondered where the time went, 43 years later.

Seems like yesterday, especially to Marc Balzac, whose wisdom at the time to record it and generosity to share it, today, really means something extra special to the band members. Most of those band members still can’t believe that one year ago, they reunited in Sioux Falls, SD, for one special night after being out of regular contact with each other for almost 30 years.

The posters advertising the show notes several facts of historical relevance to 60s music. Aside from the fact that the word “Girls” is printed on the poster six times, just in case the young teenage guys wondered if they’d meet any there, featured in the advertising is that The MOB was arriving “direct from Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas,” then as now a major entertainment showcase for musical talent who’d really “made it” back then. You didn’t play Caesar’s unless you were top drawer, back in the day.

The next noteworthy item included is that the group to follow The MOB was “The Big Thing.” Chicago music lovers know immediately that the band Chicago, of course, went through three name transitions before becoming the multiplatinum hitmakers. During their formative years, playing in clubs around Chicago, the group of guys, many of whom were fellow college students at DePaul University, were called “The Big Thing” and (for a time) managed by Joe DeFrancesco, the same man who would take a turn at managing The MOB and co-producing many of their early single releases.

Then, in walks music producer Jim Guercio, the same ‘kid’ who’d traveled on the same bus tour known as “Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars Bus #2,” and takes over management of The Big Thing, renaming them “Chicago Transit Authority.” After some time and some kerfuffle, their name was shortened to simply “Chicago.” That was the “coming next” group after The MOB appeared at The Attic.

Are you hearing the music in your mind yet? The MOB had every positive thing working for them at the time. They were a performance show band to beat all show bands. But the recordings released were studio cuts and albeit “really good work,” they paled in comparison to the energy of the live show that audiences would, like Alan Shrank, go 30 times to see in person.

If that’s not enough to exemplify the caliber of the show band that once was “all that,” the next photo in the slide show notes that The MOB was then appearing, having come from Las Vegas and the famous Los Angeles club, P.J.’s, where The MOB would play three weeks at a time several times a year. Even more parenthetically, at least one of the band members would meet his future spouse at P.J.’s. Ultimately at least two band members would wind up finding inspiration to write a song that would ultimately land on Billboard’s charts. But that’s another story for another time.

By October 14, 1969, The MOB had gained an opening act, “The Mad Lads,” and the next week, appearing at The Attic would be none other than Count Basie. There was some kind of slamming music happening every week at The Attic in the middle of Milwaukee’s high life. The MOB was indeed living large and in charge at the time. Marc Balzac now lives in California, but during early days in Milwaukee, he had a fascinating career. Some of his activities include air traffic controller, and balloon pilot, which caused quite a stir more than a few times!

For those who’ve had the privilege of hearing it, there’s some funny live coverage of Marc’s piloting of a 60,000 cubic foot, hot air balloon, about seven stories high, which was sent by the Menomenee Falls’ TV6 on its “Roving Cameraman” coverage. The televised spot won a national gold medal for TV promotion. Balzac skillfully navigated that “hot air” team to victory. The news team was said to “go to any heights for a story” and mused that most people would “look up” to TV 6 news. Ultimately Balzac became an air traffic controller and spun airplanes instead of drum sticks, tape reels, or records, but one of his hobbies always remained finding the best music around, and taping it on his trusty Sony tape recorder (see photo inset).

Balzac has loved music ever since second grade. Like Alan Schrank, Balzac is a drummer who’s been playing since he was seven years old. Marc said, “my first ‘public’ band gig I played for was at a party in a garage in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, which I recorded. I was 14 years old. It is the first and oldest recording I have.” It was also the same year that Balzac had his first night club band engagement.

“Playing in bands gave me a lot of extra cash when I was young, to do the things I wanted to do, and it’s the kind of work that permitted me to more or less choose my own hours,” he said. Some of those bands he played in included Bittersweet, The In Crowd and Civil Collision. Civil Collision was managed by Walter Daisy, who also managed Wayne Cochran and the CC Riders. Daisy offered the nine-piece band led by Luther Kent, a chance to go on the road.

And, not unlike the point at which The MOB band members had to make a decision to carry on with their music, or disband and find “day jobs,” Balzac found himself at that same crossroad. Balzac took to the skies and “got his commercial pilot’s license with instrument rating in 1970 and started the Balloon Flight Center, doing balloon promotions and flight instruction. Balzac said, “Luther Kent stayed on the road, and ultimately went on to sing with Blood, Sweat and Tears” for three years in the mid 1970s.

In 1974, Balzac found his skills a perfect fit for a career job with the FAA as an air traffic controller. He went to work in Green Bay, Wisconsin and then relocated to San Diego, California, in 1982. “I worked the control tower in the high desert next to Edwards AFB at Air Force Plant 42, and ultimately I retired after working at the Palm Springs Airport.”

Aviation fans know exactly what Air Force Plant 42 was all about; for those who don’t, two words: Lockheed Skunkworks.

Fast forward to 2012, two weeks ago. Balzac sent private links of the YouTube videos to “Big Al” Herrera, lead singer of The MOB and waited for his reaction. Balzac said that Herrera was most gracious in his response, noting that “they brought back a lot of memories” and that “he had no idea those tapes existed.” Once again, leave it to the true-blue MOB music fans to be in the know first before the band!

Joseph Pytel, who creates and produces custom MOB YouTube videos with his never-ending supply of Internet “finds” and a good number of Alan Schrank custom pictures, discovered Balzac’s first YouTube the day it was posted, six weeks ago, and shared it with the Facebook discussion group.

The group “regulars” were in heaven once again, with an infusion of new memories of the best music they’d heard in 1969. Ana Lord has been working fervently to find the band an opportunity to play in the Bahamas, and given her persuasive skills and dynamo spirit, they’d best be packing and getting their passports in order, because it’s just a matter of time before they have a new gig for the 21st century.

The music that becomes important today is often the music of youth. Now labeled “classic rock,” the music of The MOB at The Attic brings the joy of a band in 1969 to delight audiences yet again today. Music writer Artie Wayne’s favorite handle is “Everything old is news again.”

And so it goes that a Milwaukee music lover and roving reporter with a portable Sony on the table at the club those two great nights, everyone who loved the music of The MOB has one more chance to go back and hear two shows, shows of a lifetime, in fact. Ladies and gentleman, Marc Balzac presents “The MOB, live from The Attic,” and it’s 1969 all over again. Just press “Play.”

Article originally published on where it received

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

CD Review: "The Legendary Demos" by Carole King

The beauty of Carole King’s long-awaited CD, “The Legendary Demos,” released today, is when you unwrap it and push “play,” your every expectation of anticipation and wonderment is met with pure delight and then some. At last, you hear how it was back in the day, the rough studio demo presented to other artists, producers, and label executives for their choosing. And it makes sense why so many people consider her a music genius.

Carole King’s ‘The Legendary Demos’ is a wrap around joy, exceeds expectations

Thirteen songs grace this CD, seven of them chart-topping smashes, and six of them wonderful compositions that are not as easily recognizable, yet they reflect the magic of King’s talent nonetheless. Several of the tunes on this track anchor her life’s story.

In “Pleasant Valley Sunday” I never knew the lyric was: “Creature comfort goals can only numb my soul. I need a change of scenery.” As much as I respect Micky Dolenz’ vocals, with all the musical buildup of the production behind The Monkees’ vocal tracks, I had no earthly idea that this was what he was singing, on another in a series of Carole King and Gerry Goffin compositions for the hitmaker teens of television fame.

At last the lyrics are clear, because Carole is singing them, beautifully, a song beloved for 45 years that is, in fact, the rhythmic anthem of discontent for Gerry Goffin living in a New Jersey suburb, for his family’s sake, when he’d much rather be back in Queens in the middle of the city. The song begins with a guitar, and even has a banjo sound to it. A slightly slower tempo, almost unnoticeable, is found here, vs. The Monkees’ version you’re used to hearing, more frantically paced in the group’s #1 version.

“So Goes Love” is less familiar, but a gentle and pleasant love ballad composed by King and Goffin. Had it been released as a single at the time it was written, circa 1966, it very well could have been a hit, just in how King delivers the message. As becomes clearer in King’s biography, presently at the No. 6 spot on the New York Times’ Best Sellers list, after being out for 2 weeks, for a myriad of reasons, she didn’t see herself as a recording artist, but rather as a songwriter. And that’s what she kept telling herself for the next 10+ years.

In “Take Good Care of My Baby,” sung with feeling, piano chords punctuating the song with charm, you hear the true studio sound. She’s sings “my baby” as though it were her own child. And, she even speaks the end lyrics, as if to make the message even more personal. The piano’s hollow sound in places brings to mind a multistory brick building, indiscriminately placed along rows of hundreds of other buildings in New York. Listening, you believe the only objects in the room were Carole and the piano, and that’s all. And yet, Bobby Vee took this King/Goffin tune and made it his very own. That’s what happens when the right material reaches the right artist: a big hit.

“A Natural Woman” is not only a favorite Aretha Franklin anthem, sung and repeated, wherein all women declare their devotion to their soulmate, but it has to be the highlight of all 13 songs on the CD. To be fair, though, you’ll likely feel that way about each of the tunes before you’re done listening. This song sprang to life as an idea from mega-producer Jerry Wexler, who drove down a street in his town car looking for King and Goffin, who were out walking. Don Kirshner’s Aldon Music-writing stable prizes, must have been predictable at the time. Wexler pulled over, rolled down the car window, and said, “I have an idea for a song for Aretha Franklin. The title is “A Natural Woman.” He then asked the couple a question: “Can you two write that song?”

And then he drove off. You already know the answer. An important reference book to the dynamics of that day and time of King, Goffin, Aldon Music et al. is found in Rich Podolsky’s biography, “Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear.” It’s a view from the other side of the piano that adds important color to the days when these transcendent songs were being created.

“Like Little Children” seems to have a very veiled biographical feel to it; once you read Carole’s biography, then you’ll possibly agree that it could be a Goffin/King song about their real-life relationship. Theirs was a classic love story in many ways between two kids who fell in love but grew up and apart in different displays of their passion and angst. And when they collaborated on a song, others observed and overheard that there were loud conversations and discussions/disagreements before the duo emerged with the final product.

“Crying in the Rain” was written by Carole and Howard Greenfield, a fellow collaborator in the Don Kirshner “brilliant building,” wherein you went to work and were in cubicles nearby your co-workers, most of whom were writing teams, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, Jack Keller and several people, and of course, Goffin and King.

The harmony between Carole and the other female demo singer here embodies the feel of the 60s girl groups’ blending of voices so naturally. The lyrics “...but since we’re not together, I look for stormy weather to hide the tears I hope you never see” are very close to the rhythmic feel of “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” so they have an authentic early 60s feel to them. It has a strong Everly Brothers feel to it as well.

“Way Over Yonder” (Carole King) The solid piano chords, played firmly and with such feeling introduce and hold the feel of this song from the very start. It must be one of her favorites, but it’s not as well known as the others.

“Yours Until Tomorrow” (Carole King/Gerry Goffin) is also a less familiar tune, but not for lack of trying. As respected rock writer, editor and biographer, David Browne, shares in the liner notes that accompany the CD digipak, the song “was recorded by Gene Pitney, Irma Thomas and Cher, among others," and yet it is not one you know. Once you hear it, you will still see why Carole selected it.

“It’s Too Late” (Carole King/Toni Stern), marks the product of Carole’s writing in her home on Wonderland Drive in Laurel Canyon, a new step for her life, having relocated to California so her “Goffin children” as she distinguishes them from her “Larkey children” could be closer to their father.

Toni Stern proved to be an excellent co-writer for Carole, who relished working with a fresh talent during this phase of creating King’s own style of new music. Eventually, Carole would transition back to solo writing, just as she did in her earliest childhood days writing songs for Don Kirshner’s and Al Nevens' Aldon Publishing Company in New York, weekday afternoons after school. But this was the first step along the pathway to finding her own, strong solo voice again.

“Tapestry” (Carole King) represents Carole’s transition from caterpillar to butterfly, with the exceptional producer and label executive, Lou Adler, gently cradling the caterpillar along until she found her way to brilliance. Adler’s best achievement was to preserve every nuance of her songs on that album, including the title track, as Carole herself envisioned them, only better. If ever a verse was characteristic of King’s life, this is an incredibly close encapsulation.

"My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold"

“Just Once in My Life” (Carole King/Gerry Goffin/Phil Spector) is ironic, because you may well have so permanently associated the song as having “belonged” to the Righteous Brothers that it’s virtually impossible to imagine someone else having written it.

The power of that anthem of a man looking for how to hold on to the woman he’s found (“For once in my life, let me get what I want girl, don’t let me down”) just seems to have evolved out of thin air. And yet, Carole King and Gerry Goffin teamed up with Phil Spector and made it dynamic. The “Wall of Sound” feel to the production is powerful, but in fact, Carole’s demo will show, complete with the harmony of her studio singer is every inch the song you heard Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield make it their own.

“You’ve Got a Friend” (Carole King), has become as much a signature of two artists, King and James Taylor, both great friends, both sharing history during troubled times in their lives, as well as overcoming times of despair separately. All these experiences are poured into the tune and woven together most powerfully when they did the song on their successful Troubadour tour.

“The Legendary Demos” is a dynamic, charming revelation of King’s lifelong talent, which she’s worked hard to shape into her imprimatur, a signature of a perfectionist who pours her soul and heart into each of her works until she says, “done.”

Carole King is not as much a legend as she is a young woman who fell in love as a teenager, and stayed there. Her love of Gerry Goffin, of Charlie Larkey, and of life in general because of her music, is ever much who she is, as reflected in her musical biography.

The only thing that makes this any better is to hold her biography, “A Natural Woman: A Memoir” in your hands and read along in your favorite chair, while this is on your CD player.

Comments from original story published on

Richard Podolsky · Author of "Neil Sedaka: Rock 'N'Roll Survivor--The Inside Story of His Incredible Comeback" and "Don Kirshner; The Man With the Golden Ear" at Rich Podolsky Communications

It's a shame more demos weren't included. As it is, you can tell what a strong influence Carole KIng's presentation had on the final recordings. In the case of "One Fine Day," which is not included, they used everything but Carole's voice... By the way, Gerry Goffin was adamant that Phil Spector "didn't write a god dam thing" on "Just Once in My Life," but took a writing credit anyway for giving it his Wall of Sound production.--Rich Podolsky, author of "Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear."

Unlike · Reply · 5 · Apr 25, 2012 7:40am

Richard Podolsky · Author of "Neil Sedaka: Rock 'N'Roll Survivor--The Inside Story of His Incredible Comeback" and "Don Kirshner; The Man With the Golden Ear" at Rich Podolsky Communications

Tell him to compare her "take Good Care of My Baby" to Bobby Vee's version and he'll see why vee had a hit.

Like · Reply · May 3, 2012 8:01am

Artie Wayne · H.S. of Music and Art, NYC





"I occasionally baby sit for Carole King, while she’s in the studio doing demos. In return she plays keyboards, arranges, and sings all the background parts on my demos. I remember one day she comes in to play her new song for Donny Kirshner, but he’s still out to lunch. She asks me if I’d like to hear it while she rehearses it.

She sits down at the old upright piano and starts to sing,

“Tonight you’re mine completely, You give your love so sweetly….”.

I sit there as she goes over “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” a few more times, even though I know I won’t be able to write anything of my own for weeks!

Then she’s summoned to Donny’s office. I think he likes it too…I can hear him yelling through the door, “It’s a Smash! It’s a F@#in’ Smash!”.

From Artie Wayne's book,"i DID I IT FOR A SONG" available at AMAZON.COM.

Like · Reply · 6 · Apr 26, 2012 9:19pm

Cal Jennings · Houston, Texas

At least you got to live the dream.

Like · Reply · Apr 26, 2012 9:23pm

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The rock-n-roll side of Rich Podolsky: Sportswriter pens Don Kirshner biography

So, what was it that made Philadelphia-native sportswriter Rich Podolsky want to tell the story of Don Kirshner, also known as “The Man with the Golden Ear” just released by music publisher Hal Leonard Books? Before Podolsky ever thought about writing about the beloved record producer of Brill Building fame, he was waxing some kind of wonderful about the Boston Celtics.

In fact, for over 30 years of his professional career, Podolsky’s journalistic talents have taken him around the sports world—college basketball, college football, golf, and horse racing. His ability to pick winning college football teams found him, as of 2009, with his selections published by ESPN, AOL among others, and his talents didn’t just center on football.

For many years, Podolsky’s sports acumen was an integral part of CBS Sports (working with Jimmy the Greek and Beano Cook),, ESPN Insider, and AOL. Now you know one side to the Podolsky, the journalist.

But, it’s often said that a good writer can write about anything, particularly any subject for which there is passion. His book that was in the making for seven years, “Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear,” really originated in the mind and heart of a young teenager from Philadelphia. So, what is it that made Podolsky jump over to write about rock and roll? One reason: music empresario Don Kirshner was Podolsky’s hero.

Here was a Baby Boomer teenager like any other, listening to his beloved Philco radio in his bedroom, getting ready for school, and when he’d matured to driving age, he’d be found motoring around Philly streets, blasting out the sounds of WIBG (Wibbage) Radio, with DJs Hy Lit and Joe Niagara, New York’s WABC go-to, Cousin Brucie (Bruce Morrow), as well as Jerry Blavat (WHAT). Today, WIBBAGE FM, 94.3 plays a popular 60s and 70s format with DJs like Philly Bill Culp, Jerry Beebe, syndicated favorites including John Records Landecker on Saturday night and Dave the Rave’s Relics and Rarities. Takes you back to ...back in the day, where every song you heard in high school and college had a meaning, had a part of your heart wrapped around it, and therein was the genesis for Richard Podolsky finding a backbeat to his youth.

As he shares, teenage Podolsky was fortunate that his father was a record buyer for Sun Rae, a Philadelphia record store chain. Enthusiastic discussions between father and son led to an early opportunity for Rich to start picking hits (long before he developed a knack for picking winning football teams). In his book’s foreword, he writes that his father had brought home a “pile of 45s that were untried and untested. He didn’t know if any of them were good, and assumed he might not recognize if they were since they weren’t his style.”

Rich’s first freelance discovery was “If I Had a Hammer” by a (then) unknown Peter, Paul, and Mary. Podolsky’s dad listened, and bought copies for the racks of all his stores. Within six weeks, it was a certified Top 10 hit because others discovered it, same as Podolsky. And thus began a lifetime of immersion in the music for young Rich Podolsky. Not long after, in the Spring of 1962, Rich’s dad invited him to attend a dinner sponsored by Cameo Parkway Records where they were introducing Dee Dee Sharp (“Mashed Potato Time”). He was thrilled to meet Chubby Checker that night, never dreaming that some 45 years later, he’d be on a radio program with him, discussing the greatest days of the music. Life’s funny that way.

Podolsky continues, of that night, “And then I saw him—Don Kirshner. There he was, walking toward us, looking larger than life. Kirshner was only twenty-seven then, but his song publishing firm, Aldon Music, was the talk of the business. He had that something that made people want to be around him.”

This biography was not the result of a longtime personal friendship between Podolsky and Kirshner. In fact it would take 40 years before Podolsky would consider writing the book in the first place, and it wasn’t until a long way into researching and interviewing hitmaking, ultratalented songwriters that he could even connect with Kirshner to learn if he would be willing to cooperate in telling his story. Based on reading the book, it’s easy to see that Podolsky’s respect and regard for the “man with the golden ear” is such that he would have written it with or without Kirshner’s help.

And yet, one day, skipping past months of attempts, e-mails, phone calls and messages via friends, and friends of friends, Podolsky’s phone rang, and the voice on the other end was indeed Kirshner’s. After an initial conversation, Kirshner agreed to share his memories with Podolsky. He writes, “Every Sunday morning for six months we’d chat over coffee and bagels, 1,300 miles apart.”

In Hal Leonard Books, Podolsky found a natural publishing partner to tell the story of a beloved man of music who is held in regard, respect, and just plain loved by the luminaries of the soundtrack of your life, if you’re any kind of Baby Boomer at all. Hal Leonard is as well known for music publishing as Campbell’s is for soup.

The list of those whose careers collided and excelled is long and strong. Don Kirshner made such an impact on the music of the 60s, by giving young songwriters their first breaks, their first chances, and fair profits and a nurturing environment in which to be creative. Kirshner partnered in business with a savvy businessman and gentleman, Al Nevins, and together they built an empire of publishing that was fueled and propelled to success by teenage songwriters.

The songwriters’ list is legendary: Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Sedaka, Jack Keller, Howard Greenfield, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Carole Bayer Sager, on and on. The recording artists who were most impacted by Kirshner’s talents include some of Podolsky’s favorites: Connie Francis, The Monkees, The Archies, and Tony Orlando.

Orlando is more than a fan of Kirshner’s; he considers he owes his career to the “man with the golden ear,” a moniker given Kirshner by Time Magazine. Orlando’s foreword for the book notes Kirshner as a gentleman who “opened the door to independent record producers, allowing young record producers to be able to create and sell their works to major record companies.” Of course, fans of Orlando know him as a young demo singer who found a tremendous career that continues today when he was paired with studio singers Joyce Vincent Wilson and Telma Hopkins, better known as Dawn.

Speaking of better known, Podolsky’s book is a compendium of all the songs, songwriters, producers and music that the young man was memorizing alongside college courses, attaining the virtual equivalent of a PhD in rock and roll along the way. In a lovely section of the book, information is shared that perhaps any true 60s fan and proud owner of virtually every song that Podolsky describes, doesn’t realize is there.

The timing of the book’s release, by sheer happenstance, is made more poignant in last week’s unexpected passing of singer Davy Jones of The Monkees. Kirshner was instrumental in selecting the body of songs that The Monkees would record and perform on their Screen Gems TV Show.

One of the most influential producers Kirshner brought in was the great Jeff Barry, who had a string of hits already to his producer credit (The Crystals, The Shangri-Las, The Ronettes), today a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, but even moreso, Kirshner had access, via Barry, to his friends and colleagues among the best New York studio musicians.

It was just a matter of time before Monkee magic turned into Monkeemania, given the on-camera chemistry and underlying musical talent of Davy, Mickey, Peter, and Mike, which at the onset had not even yet been tapped. Kirshner and his team of creatives provided a springboard from which this group propelled to superstardom, and they’re not alone.

But, as Podolsky describes, Kirshner was not always beloved by the performers, which is entirely understandable, as there is always a chance for newfound stardom to convince a talented person that they could have reached those heights, no matter what. The relationship between Kirshner and The Monkees was not always a lovefest, and emotions run high even this week in the blogworld as to exactly how individual and collective Monkees felt (at different times) about Kirshner as producer. Podolsky shared with me, that when Jones was appearing as the Artful Dodger in “Oliver” on Broadway in 1964, “Don Kirshner had signed Jones” and later “was very influential in choosing Jones during the national casting call for The Monkees.”

Even before there was a Monkee madness, there was much more to Don Kirshner, and his ability to pick out talent by watching performers early on in their careers, foster that talent and put them together with the best writers, producers and arrangers to create vinyl magic for the artists, while Aldon Music published all of them, hitmakers indeed.

Among all the stories Kirshner and his friends share with Podolsky, the most heartwarming surely has to be how Kirshner sat in Kurtzman’s Candy Store in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood. Kirshner’s friend, Natalie, described a friend of hers she was bringing over to meet him, as “the most talented human being she’d ever met.” At first meeting, that friend was a frightning sight of a frail, emotionless young man, who seemed ever older than his years.

He was introduced to “Kirsh,” the new name that the young man would give him, quickly, as Walden Robert Cassotto. After a brief discussion, the three went to Natalie’s house, wherein the man they would come to call Bobby Darin would blow Kirshner off the sofa and into full alert as he watched him play “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” and “Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey.”

As he performed, Kirshner saw “that something special” the young man possessed. The two became enjoined in creating music history, and engendered a lifetime of goodwill and best results for other talents in the music industry, e.g., Connie Francis as a new singer and a girl who’d fall madly in love with Darin, and Artie Wayne as a young songwriter, whom Darin sent to see Kirshner about a job, the first real break of his career. Ron Dante and Toni Wine are two more talents whose voices were part of American life, but not their names, yet who remain steadfast in their acknowledgment of Kirshner as mentor and friend.

It’s all about getting those breaks, those chances, those meetings that turns potential into reality. Listening, hearing, seeing, believing. Never more clear is it, than through this compelling volume is the music industry revealed to be a family with the circle growing smaller and tighter as the intermingling of people, places, faces and spaces intersects time and again to create magic. And there was Don Kirshner in the middle.

Sadly, Kirshner died before the book was published, and he also will miss this year’s planned induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 14th. Life comes full circle and great music always comes back around again. The music his father listened to because son Rich suggested it as a winner has won once again, in the biography of Don Kirshner.

Joyfully, today Rich has 14-year-old twins, whose musical tastes keep him at the top of today’ pop charts. His current favorites? Says Podolsky, “Adele, Taylor Swift and Cee-lo,” but he also confesses to having seen Little Anthony and the Imperials in a perfect show (“they can still hit all the notes”) and he’s delighted Steve Lawrence cut a new album (“I’d go just about anywhere to see him because he still sings lights out”). Talk about things coming back around again, just last night, Podolsky was a guest on Jerry Blavat’s radio program, an anniversary show with Chubby Checker, something that 16-year-old Podolsky would have never imagined happening back in the day.

Good music is timeless. Classic (rock) music is forever. And forever inscribed in the history books of rock and roll will be the name of Don Kirshner, a young man with a dream who lived to make others’ dreams happen alongside his own. Surely, it was the ride of a lifetime for many. And Rich Podolsky lived out his own dream, in writing Kirshner’s story.

Just makes you feel good to think about it. Now, someone turn up that radio, and let’s have a party, up on the roof, one fine day, because we have a groovy kind of love, and love will keep us together. Thank you, Don Kirshner.

Photo: Rich Podolsky is the author of Don Kirshner, The Man with the Golden Ear, Hal Leonard Books, published March, 2012. Review originally published on and registered

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Almost $10,000 raised in 24 hours for Lester Chambers, says nonprofit exec

For classic rock musician Lester Chambers, it only took 24 hours and one picture posted on Facebook to raise almost $10,000 to help a beloved, but almost overlooked, musician with greatly needed funds for living expenses thanks to a nonprofit organization that exists to help musicians across the country.

After just 24 hours of the post going viral across Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, in an exclusive interview today, Rob Max, Executive Director of the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, shared that Lester’s fund received close to $10,000 in just one day, which will go directly to help Chambers with his living and medical expenses.

Max noted that the donations came in from “around the world, including Australia, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.” Several key figures well known in the music world made Lester Chambers’ cause their own, and made early and repeated recent donations to his fund as well. Max said, “We received an e-mail from Yoko Ono’s office this morning, and they were glad to see that the word was getting out and hoped that Lester’s cause would get more attention now” that the message was spreading via Facebook and social media.

The picture (seen left) that struck a chord with so many has a poignant sign, hand-printed in pencil, taped to a RIAA gold record, being held up by a man whose face is unseen. The sign reads:

“I am the former lead singer of a 60’s Band. I performed before thousands at Atlanta Pop 2, Miami Pop, Newport Pop, Atlantic Pop. I did not squander my money on drugs or a fancy home. I went from 1967-1994 before I saw my first royalty check. The music giants I recorded with only paid me for 7 of my albums. I have never seen a penny in royalties from my other 10 albums I recorded. Our hit song was licensed to over 100 films, TV & commercials without our permission. One major TV network used our song for a national commercial and my payment was $625 dollars. I am now 72, trying to live on $1200 a month. Sweet Relief, a music charity is taking donations for me. Only the 1% of artists can afford to sue. I AM THE 99%.”

The photograph has the following Facebook message underneath (sic) by Lester Chambers:

“If you feel moved by this outrage please share this with the world! Its TIME to tell the truth!!! HELP Me make this VIRAL so everyone pays attention to the Artist who bring joy to life...I’m about to be 72.....IT’S TIME!!!”

Underneath the post on my Facebook screen it shows “Artie Wayne and 11,978 others like this.” Additional Facebook details note that the picture has been shared 9,479 times, and there are presently 2,358 comments of encouragement written to and about Lester.

Chambers’ wife Lola (who lives separately from Lester) was the one who’d initially contacted the organization on his behalf to share Lester’s situation with them for consideration. They were indeed receptive.

“When I first got in touch with him two years ago, he was living in a house that someone gave him to stay in, but it was under construction and it had no roof, so there he was, 70 years old, sleeping on an air mattress in a house up north of San Francisco,” laments Max.

He continues, “My original goal is that I wanted to build a fund that would support Lester’s living expenses for 5-10 years. But I want to make it clear that our organization pays bills directly for the artist. We pay rent, we pay hospital bills and for medicines, we pay for surgery; we are a good steward with the monies that come in.”

During the 60s, Chambers had made many friends in the music business, including John Lennon and Yoko Ono, as well as Shep Gordon, who Chambers personally introduced to singer Alice Cooper in the 70s. Gordon has been Cooper’s manager ever since. Max noted that Yoko Ono “was the one who originally gave us $20,000 to help get Lester’s fund started” two years ago.

Gordon and Cooper also “made a contribution two years ago, and we rented a nice house for Lester, used the funds for his medical treatment and we got him on his feet again,” said Max.

Things were going well for a while, and because Chambers didn’t feel comfortable relying on charity support, he tried to get back into the music game himself, when some folks came along and wanted to bring Lester back out into the music world. As Max explains, after five months their abilities didn’t match their intentions, and “there wasn’t enough money left at the end of a few gigs to help Lester pay medical bills much less living expenses.” Then Sweet Relief Musicians Fund stepped back into the picture to help.

Fortunately, today, Lester can still sing, and although he performs in select engagements and benefits when possible, it’s still hard for him to get to shows. As Max explains, when they first met almost two years ago, Lester “had cancer three different times, he was on the verge of losing his eyesight; he had cataracts and desperately needed treatment that was beyond what Medicare was offering, and he’d actually become homeless.”

Today, Lester’s son Dylan lives with him and is his primary caregiver, an indication of the love behind people who want to help the one they love. Max expresses great admiration for Lester Chambers: “Here’s a man whose music career has been now going on for 60 years; he started singing gospel when he was 9 years old, and there’s not many people alive with a music career like Lester Chambers.”

In the past 24 hours following Chambers’ post, many others active in the music industry are sharing Lester’s story with all of their Facebook friends, responding to Chambers' requests to “help me go viral.”

Musician Julian Lennon also made the cause his own on his Facebook page, posting today, “some things never change” along with Chambers' picture.

Music industry former executive Artie Wayne, whose own public battle for royalties is well known across social media, knows well what it means to “go viral.” Wayne took personal interest in Chambers’ cause and devoted his blog post to it yesterday, titled, “Hang On Lester Chambers...Help is On the Way.” Surely we are, like the song by songwriters Alan O’Day, Artie Wayne and Sally Stevens says, livin’ in a Facebook world.

Max noted that in the beginning of their nonprofit, the record labels were most generous among the donors to care for musicians. The mission of the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund “provides financial assistance to all types of career musicians who are struggling to make ends meet while facing illness, disability, or age-related problems. In other words, Healing Musicians in Need. We all have received so much out of music. It’s time to give a little back!”

One important distinction should be made, lest people who see the Facebook picture think that Sweet Relief Musicians Fund is an organization waving a flag and carrying a sword against the music labels. That is absolutely not the case. “We are not involved in any way with what Lester is trying to do with his royalties, but we wish him all the success, always.” says Max.

The music for which Lester Chambers has become known and ‘almost famous’ in the past 40 years especially began with a song recorded by the Chambers Brothers in 1966, which reached new heights in 1968, “Time Has Come Today.” Credited on the label as co-written by Chambers’ brothers Joe and Willie, the second verse is the one that proved prophetically autobiographical:

“The rules have changed today; I have no place to stay, I’m thinking about the subway; My love has flown away; My tears have come and gone; Oh my Lord I have to roam.”

Thanks to Bill Bennett, Rob Max and the team at Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, plus the generous donations of celebrity friends and strangers, Lester Chambers roams no more; today he has a safe, warm place to live.

The journey for funds, though, is not over. At age 72, Lester can still anticipate needing funds for medical bills and costly prescriptions that his social security simply cannot cover. If you’ve ever loved the music of the 60s; if you’ve ever hit a cowbell and sung along with Lester, on “Time Has Come Today” on your radio; if you’ve ever known what it’s like to have more bills than income, any donation in any amount will be welcomed. The direct link to Lester’s fund is .

A fitting soundtrack is in the accompanying video from The Chambers Brothers’ 1965 appearance on the old “Shindig” TV show doing Curtis Mayfield’s song, “People Get Ready.” Thanks to Facebook, thanks to Lester Chambers’ courage in sharing his situation, thanks to the generosity of Yoko Ono, Julian Lennon, Shep Gordon, Alice Cooper and the thousands of people who gave from the heart, the train continues rolling down the track, for Lester’s sake.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

DVD review: Musical reunion of The MOB, April 2011 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Here we review the DVD that resulted from the induction of the Chicago-originated horn band, The MOB, into the South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association Hall of Fame, in a concert filmed April 16, 2011. The Music Association, now just its fourth year, has managed to honor and reinvigorate many great bands of the midwest in a very short time.

For The MOB, these musicians faced a daunting challenge and price to pay to gather together and accept this very special honor. Doubts abounded, silently if not aloud. Would ‘the magic’ still be there after three decades had elapsed? Could they all still play like they had back in the day? Would they all still remember how the once perfectly memorized tunes were arranged to be played? And could they rehearse in 3 days’ time and make it sound just like it had before?

More questions than answers accompanied that unforgettable night in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association wisely videotaped the entire night’s performances, of which The MOB’s was just one. But because their music undergirded the country’s (then) burgeoning interest in a show band, a horn band, and a fun band from 1966–1980, this single DVD is the only subject of this review.

As Doug Lund, the MC and a director of the South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association board, announced the final performers for the evening: he shared some facts: The MOB was formed in Chicago in the mid-60s, the first band to boast a full horn section. They toured the country in a series of endless one-nighters, honing their craft. Original members included ‘Little’ Artie Herrera, Jimmy ‘Ford’ Franz, Mike ‘Paris’ Sistak, ‘Big Al’ Herrera, Gary ‘Stevens’ Beisbier, Jimmy ‘Soul’ Holvay, Tony ‘Roman’ Nedza, and Bobby ‘The Cheese’ Ruffino.

This perfect combination was the resultant amalgam of Jimmy Ford and the Executives (Bands #1 and 2), who’d been part of the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars tours, with musicians who’d also been part of the band The Chicagoans, and, before that, The Maybees, who then invited Artie and Al Herrera (Little Artie and the Pharaohs), to join them. The new formation would up leaving some players out in the cold, but not to worry; some castoffs wound up being part of recording gold in the band Chicago Transit Authority. But that’s another story.

Got that? The MOB indeed. The name came from the clever mind and deadpan sense of humor of songwriter Jim Holvay, who was tuned to a late-night crime movie on TV in 1966. Hailing from Chicago, well, you know where the carnations and pin stripe suits ideas sprang up. But it worked. For 14 years they worked, as The MOB, week after week, night after night, mostly on the road all over the United States and Canada.

Although much of fame and fortune eluded them, in comparison to Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears, The Buckinghams, Chase, etc. in the Chicago pop rock horn sound identity, no question that The MOB was the very first ‘show band’ to put their full efforts into pleasing a live adult (vs. teenage) audience in clubs and upscale bars.

The other groups were more directed at teenagers listening to transistor radios in the 60s. So, it’s comparing apples and oranges to put The MOB into a category other than Chicago showband who made their mark in the Midwest, New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and parts of Canada, and of course, the Mocamba Club in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, three to four times a year.

What took place in South Dakota was only 1/8th devoted to The MOB (the full evening was preserved and pressed onto four separate CDs), but they were the group who closed the evening’s program.

After the introduction of the band and a brief history, the Sioux Falls induction DVD opens onto the faces of the principles, as lit up with megawatt excitement after being gone from the public eye some 30 years. One can only imagine what was going through their heads as Jimmy “Soul” Holvay counted off. Mike Sistak “Paris” joined him in guitar, as “Little Albert” Maligmat on bass and Bobby “The Cheese” Ruffino began the vamp that led into the horn intro to one of the favorites, Darrell Banks’ “Open the Door to Your Heart.”

John Mogen on Hammond B-3 (a member of the South Dakota R&R Music Association board) was clearly delighted to share the stage. Mogen did Tony “Roman” Nedza proud, as the horn section waited for their cue and Jimmy “Ford” Franz’s trumpet and Larry “Lone Bone” McCabe’s trombone found home base, as the evening’s final act started swinging and didn’t stop for over an hour.

As Big Al sang his first notes, 2,000 people knew that ‘this man still had it.’ Herrera took each line, ‘Walk right on in, stretch out your arms, let your love light shine on my soul baby,’ delivered in a 24-karat style, and held the audience in the palm of his hand. And he didn’t let go for a full hour.

Next, Herrera called on Holvay to join him in one of their former favorite duets, ‘Who’s Makin Love (to your old lady)’, as Bobby Ruffino precisely delivered the magic backbeat, fresh from Las Vegas special delivery to Sioux Falls. The camaraderie between the two men was evident, as was the fun they were having interacting with the audience.

A highlight of the even was the introduction of ‘Little Artie’ Herrera, who’d joined the MOB during its formative first year 1966-1967, but who’d been called by Uncle Sam into military service. Artie never got to sing with the band after that. So, after a 44-year absence from performing with them, Holvay gave Artie his signature song, ‘Turn on Your Love Light,’ and Artie Herrera breathed such passion into that tune as he danced onstage like a Broadway pro, that you would have sworn that he’d been singing it every day of his life, all of his life.

Jimmy Ford (falling right back into his familiar emcee role), introduced the Sioux Falls natives who’d joined The MOB on stage. Ford explained that there were 14 people on the stage ‘because they wanted the best show for the audience’ (including Rich Hastings, Ryan Staley, James Dittman, Gavin Wiig, and, Ken Hoyng, who’d rehearsed the group). Ford next introduced trombonist Larry McCabe (who’d toured with Ruffino and Holvay as well as the Maynard Ferguson Band), and then he introduced his longtime friend Mike Sistak.

Sistak, clearly a crowd sentimental favorite, offered a gentle tenor on ‘The Worst That Could Happen,’ made famous by Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge. Sistak sang under the watchful regard and affection of Al and Artie Herrera and Albert Maligmat, who were pleased to sing background for him.

As Al Herrera took the mike again, The MOB blew the roof off the place in a rousing rendition of ‘Disappear’ by Holvay and Beisbier (Mercury Records). The powerful and moving anthem was perfect as Herrera’s voice and Ruffino’s drums called and answered echoed, a crowd-favorite, a kiss-off song following a broken love (I think you’d better get up and go, hit the road, baby”). When Al sang softly into his swelling ‘ohhhhhhh’ echoed by his brother and Maligmat, it was time for goosebumps.

Albert Maligmat, who flew in from Hawaii (where he’s a fulltime entertainer as well as respected Christian gospel artist) owned ‘Savin’ My Love for You,’ with Jimmy Ford pounding the conga drums like there was no tomorrow, and Bobby Ruffino in the pocket. As the horns punctuated the chorus, Maligmat ran a bass clinic during the song and surprised the audience with a batch of scat singing that had Artie Herrera glowing with pride. While Sistak and Holvay nodded and grooved with the horn section, Ford’s congas owned the middle of the song. The horns and drums came back up loud and proud and Maligmat found a new octave that he probably didn’t even have in the 80s.

As Big Al took the audience back into his focus, he held forth ‘I Dig Everything About You,’ it was poignant to watch Maligmat smile as the mutual pride was clear between the two singers. You had to wonder what it was like for Holvay to step up to the mike and sing backup on a song he’d written 45 years earlier that had found its way into the memories of DJs across the country. Even syndicated oldies DJ, Scott Shannon, has said that ‘I Dig Everything About You’ was one of his favorite songs ever, but the reality is that it remains a well-kept secret in terms of commercial success.

As the crowd sang their part ‘answers’ to “I dig everything about ya” back to Big Al, the horn section hit it perfectly. Ruffino clapped the drumsticks together as the band put down their instruments and made their way off the stage.

Poignantly some of the band members watched the audience for a reaction, and the horn section began chanting “gotta get back, back on the raod, back on the road again,” as The MOB came back to the stage for their encore.

And what an encore it was. One of Herrera’s signature songs on stage has always been, and will always be, his dramatic encore number. Before he began singing, he shared thanks to God, and remembered one of two missing MOBsters, Tony Roman (Nedza), who passed away but whose absence was marked by a full-color poster on an easel onstage. Beisbier (Gary Stevens) was not named during the show (nor was his picture displayed), but some of his best work was performed that night.

Herrera continued his prayer with, ‘life is short, you never know.’ Taking on a slightly more serious tone, Big Al encouraged the audience to ‘love their neighbors, be kind, ask what you can do for one another.’ It was a perfect entrĂ©e to the song (au. H. Woods, J. Campbell, and R. Connelly) recorded by so many artists. For one night in South Dakota, Big Al added his imprimatur. The Holvay-Beisbier arrangement of the oft-recorded song took on its own, best, life that night in Sioux Falls, even better than the superb Joe DeFrancesco production of The MOB on Twinight Records ‘back in the day,’ as they say.

In perfect sync with Ruffino’s drums, by the time Al was down to his tuxedo vest, repeating ‘try a little tenderness,’ the horns filled the air with unforgettable notes. The crowd responded by yelling ‘Big Alllll, Big Alllll’ and called for one more song.

Not one to disappoint, the band delivered their encore to the audience with ‘Let the Good Times Roll.’ Each MOB member took a turn at the verse, as the band came together on the chorus...’Hey everybody, tell everybody The MOB is back in town.’ Yeah, that’s clear.

Odds are better than even that the folks of Sioux Falls will invite this band back. For all of the band members, they’ve moved on with their lives, beautifully, since dissolving their musical entity. As South Dakota music historian Alan Schrank said (and the slogan permanently on the T-shirts prepared for the evening, ‘The Party’s not quite over.’ The best way to truly appreciate the power of this band is to order the DVD for your own collection.

The only aspect of excellence lacking from this performance is that Gary Beisbier was not in attendance for the honors ceremony and performance. Beisbier was, and remains, a talented songwriter, arranger and sax player, even if press coverage is sometimes lacking and his name is misspelled (even on the record labels). But when you move on to careers that don’t involve music, life and schedules are not always that flexible, and choices are made. There is no question that Beisbier’s songwriting skills and his understated but dynamic saxophone talent remain as much a part of the reunion weekend in both song and love of the craft. Many people have remarked how they ‘missed seeing Gary.’

Dennis Holvay remembers that Beisbier ‘could play two saxophones at one time while Jimmy Ford was triple-tonguing the trumpet.’ With Herrera’s voice and the wicked dance steps of all the guys, added to Holvay’s gymnastic splits of the late 60s and 70s, it’s really the stuff of legend until you see it for yourself.

But, you have to be patient and work hard to find it. It’s out there, thanks to Joseph Pytel, Chicago music historian and Joe Accardi (Beloit Pop House fame). These two men are the core talent to assure that fans will not forget the best music of The MOB back in the day. Pytel has created over 33 videos on YouTube directly featuring The MOB and its members, including the Herrera Brothers (Little Artie and the Pharaohs, Kane and Abel), Holvay, Beisbier, et al. For 30 years, Accardi’s book, “Beloit’s Club Pop House” had the only photo of The MOB in print. But it was that photo that connected Ana Lord to Accardi’s web site, where Joe Pytel also posted, as had Dennis Holvay (Jim’s brother), looking for video footage from days gone by.

Because The MOB has been essentially inactive as a performing band, one has only Internet resources to refer to if you’re looking to know more about who was really influential in creating the band. Beisbier, and Holvay for that matter, are known for their work with The MOB but they are better known as the songwriting duo behind ‘Hey Baby, They’re Playing Our Song,’ ‘Susan,’ and ‘Don’t You Care,’ the first two songs also credited with Jim Guercio as co-writer.

Holvay, of course, wrote ‘Kind of a Drag.’ Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna credit and identify Holvay’s and Beisbier’s songwriting talents in concerts as they introduce their songs to audiences around the country. Poignantly, few people know the songwriting duo for The MOB but they certainly do for the music of The Buckinghams.Funny how life turns out.

The MOB’s songs, written by Holvay and Beisbier, were so strong in their arrangements that they literally demanded to be ‘seen’ in addition to being ‘heard,’ much the way of the big bands traveling college campuses in the 40s, and show bands traveling in the 50s and early 60s. Commercial radio in the 60s may have not been ready to appreciate the true shining light that was, and is, The MOB, to the extent of having someone run to the record store to get their latest release.

Instead, The MOB really was a performing phenomenon that people ran to the box office to get tickets before shows sold out. Thanks to the South Dakota Rock & Roll Music Association, wait no longer. Two thousand people jammed into the Ramkota Exhibit Hall on April 16th 2011, and multiple video cameras captured the memories that those men had waited some 30 years to ever dream of, and realize coming true.

In addition to The MOB, other The SDRR Music Association inducted 7 other outstanding bands with rich heritages, strong fan bases, and local popularity. These bands include: The Torres, The X-Men, The Pilgrims, Don Robar & the Monarchs, Chateaux/Shattoes, DD & the Fayrohs, Steve Ellis & the Starfires as well. A full four-disk set of DVDs of the full induction evening can be ordered together, or individually at their online store:

Programs, t-shirts, and other memorabilia are also available. You’ll be surprised, and pleased, by how reasonable the prices are and how fast the orders are filled when these volunteers act! All proceeds sustain the operations of the association in recognizing and keeping great music alive for future generations to know and understand how important these artists were to South Dakota.

The Board of Directors of the South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association includes Chair, Don Fritz, Treasurer, Terry Tausz, Doug Lund, Myron Lee, John Mogen, Mark Aspaas, and Rick Knobe. Hats off to the board, for their recognition of one of Chicago’s best and brightest groups, men who have matured today into even greater musicians today than they were back in the day.

In life, with experience comes wisdom, and an implied understanding of how life on the road can be costly, yet precious. Simultaneously, those were days they wouldn’t trade for the world. They were truly a band of brothers, and when the call came out from South Dakota’s Rock and Roll Music Association, you can hear them all saying it. You know you can. ‘Hey, we’re getting the band back together!’

Whatever happens in the future, from 1966–1980, a love of music and for one another as brothers kept them together. Faith brought them back together and faith led them into prayers of thanks and prayers for one another during the weekend, which spilled over into worship services the next day where Willie Bertsch had invited Albert Maligmat and Big Al Herrera to sing at his church (about 5 hours after the induction ceremony ended). Hope brings them discussions of ‘what next’ could be around the corner for them to return to South Dakota one day down the road. The Bible chapter of 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, ‘Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.’ South Dakota loves The MOB and clearly, The MOB loves South Dakota.

The 4th class of the Sioux Falls Hall of Fame has been announced. The induction ceremony will again be at the Ramkota Exhibit Hall, April 21, 2012. The bands to be inducted include: The Bleach Boys (Sioux Falls); Jay-Bee and the Kats (Mitchell-Huron), Gordon Bird and the Sting Rays/Original Stingrays (Madison); Gemini 6 (Flandreau); Kenny Miller (Deadwood); Chevelles (Aberdeen); Scotty Lee and the Stingrays (Volga); DJ and the Cats (Presho-Brookings); John McCormick and Something New (Salem); DJ and the Ruanways (Spirit Lake); and, the Gestures (Mankato).

Thanks to the SDRRHF Board of Directors, many of whom shared their time and background for the interviews in this series, their first-rate organizational skills (Terry Tausz) and the heartfelt passion for the best music of the 1960s (Don Fritz), as well as their musical talents on stage (John Mogen) when asked to step up and stand in place of a beloved keyboardist and MOBster.

Call (605) 362-1223 or visit to order last year’s DVD or for more information tickets to this year’s induction ceremony. The journey that began because Ana M. Lord was on a mission to revive the music that resonated within her heart from childhood may have taken four years to come to fruition, but along the way, she met and made many wonderful new friends who will last a lifetime: Alan Schrank, Joe Accardi, Joseph Pytel, and of course, Mike Sistak. As Alan Schrank so poignantly summed up the entire experience: ‘The party’s not quite over.’ Truer words were never spoken.