The Early Years! When Corky was but a wee round-headed kid!
I grew up on the "West Side" of South Bend, Indiana. This was the BAD side of town! The mixture of nationalities and races was a good experience but it did have it's tension! People seemed to shy away from anything and/or anyone that was not what they were used to seeing. Pretty much the way it is today! There were people from Poland, Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Armenia, France, Eastern Asia, Western Asia, Mexico, America (Native Indians of all sorts), etc. Quite the melting pot! There was also skins of Black, Red, White, Yellow and on...!
As kids, we all just sort of played and mixed together not even noticing anymore than the obvious! I just sort of cruised through the days playing ball and looking at girls eating ice cream and going to the movies and just being a kid! In the news I can remember the "Iron Curtain" and the "Wall" that divided Berlin. Sputnik was soaring over head and people debated the possibility of a man landing on the moon.
I grew up in a home that was full of music from many genres. Since It was the 1950's, and having a sister, Fran, eight years my senior, the first wave of Rock and Roll was ever so present! I heard Elvis (of course; and I even have a photo of me at his house on Audubon St.), and Chuck Berry and Fabian and Dion and on and on! All of the "American Bandstand" staple groups and singers were heard wafting through the air from my sisters corner! She had fan clubs for Elvis and Ricky Nelson and I can't remember who all and she'd have dance parties in our garage with her girlfriends and that was nice! I rather enjoyed the attention I got from all those bobby sockers! I think that may have something to do with why I choose to play music! Like Rock's apostles John and Paul said," That's a good job"!
In my Dad's corner came the sounds of Rockabilly and Country! Not todays Country but the stuff from Bob Wills and Eddy Arnold! Ernest Tubb, Buck Owens, Marty Robbins, those were some of the artists that I was exposed to! Of course, the entire "Hee Haw" bunch! The man I remember most of all, and one that was to reenter my life over and over again through The Beatles and Eric Clapton, was Carl Perkins! His style and his songs played a very important part in shaping country music and in retrospect, my own playing and feel! I can still hear my Dad say,"Man, listen to that picking"!
My Mom was much more of a contemporary and Gospel music lover! The Blackwood Brothers and the Stamps Quartet are two that come to mind! I've got to mention Bing Crosby and (last but not least) Lawrence Welk as Larry's "Champagne Lady" Alice Lon went to school with me Mum and we used to visit her quite often on our many trips to Texas! Being that we went to church several times a week, I got involved with the choir and trumpet there! I got my "musical training" from that institution! I actually took my first guitar lessons from a fellow in the church! I can remember some "All Night Singings" that seemed to take all night!
Little did I know, all of this music came basically from the same place! How about that!
I played the trumpet for three years with the church, school bands and simply because I thought it was just an amazing instrument! To me, Al Hirt was the most! "Flight Of The Bumblebee" hit me where I lived! My Dad would rib me that trumpets weren't cool and that I should play the guitar! This is where I got my formal music education as far as reading and writing music. Scales and all that!
Then came, "THE BEATLES"!!!
I'll take the time now to tell you that I took my first guitar lessons from John Rayburn at the Apostolic Temple and then went to Gene Klosinski's Music Studios in South Bend's notorious "west side"! Kenny Denny was my instructor (several years later we played in bands together) then moved over to Danny Gates and continued lessons from him! From there I got alot of "on the job training"! I did, later, meet and become friends with Wil Sharpe from the band ATLANTIS (later called ETHOS with two albums on Capital Records) out of Fort Wayne, In. He showed me some nice and informative things on the guitar and as I watched him work I picked up more stuff that I still use today! Thanks to all!
Now, back to the story! The Ramrods worked the teen dances and ice cream socials and even some American Legions and V.F.W clubs in the Michiana area for a couple of years. When we played our first gig for money at the Epworth Memorial Church we became "professionals". We taped a television show, "ON THE GO WITH MIKE AND JOE", for WSBT-TV one evening and stayed up all night to watch it at 7:00 AM. When the announcer got to us he said "and here they are, the Roughriders"! WRONG NAME PAL! What a blow to our newly found egos! We also did a spot on the "D.D.DONOVAN SHOW" on WSJV-TV as my Aunt Penny was the sidekick "Tagalong"
As we graduated from grade school to high school things seemed to happen to pull us apart and personnel changes occurred that brought Doug Hoffman in on the bass and Mike Connelly to the drums. We even added Ron Rhoades to play keyboards! He was later to be replaced by Dick Jahnke!
Somehow I got connected to Homer Fitterling who would always find me a place to perform at the St. Joseph County Fair! We won some talent shows, and lost some, but we played around for a couple more years until Mike Connelly graduated H.S. and went to college. I tried to keep the Ramrods together with a crew of people that I don't even remember right now, but the quality of the music was never the same! That's when I got a call from the
Enter "THE KNIGHTRAIDERS"
The Knightraiders were am established band in the Michiana area that played every weekend and covered Northern Indiana, Southern Michigan and even Eastern Illinois! Playing Top 40 hits as well as Soul and music from the British Invasion, The Knightraiders seemed a perfect vehicle for the likes of a young Corky! They boasted good musical abilities and were very good in the vocal department using 5 out of 6 of the members on lead! They were: Corky, Joe Talboom, Randy Stahl, Lee Howerton, Jim Gentry and Mike Guljas! We rehearsed regularly and strived to be a good, competent band! My last two years of high school I kept busy learning my craft and earned a paycheck at the same time!
THE Summer of Love "67"
By the summer of 1967, the Knightraiders were older and more savvy! As Joe Talboom's Aunt lived in London, we were exposed to magazines and records of the times! I remember seeing Jeff Beck on the cover of a Yardbirds album with a fringe swede jacket and thinking "that's cool"! We got shirts and trousers that were not even seen in this area! we were so HIP!
The band started playing more cerebral music! PSYCHEDELIA had caught us up and we got into the Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and The Vanilla Fudge! The summer of '68' found us traveling on a tour of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Illinois for the entire summer! Clad in all the hip clothes we worked until the beginning of the school year! That is my Senior year! 1969! I remember walking into school the first day and immediately got cuffed and sent to the office due to the fact that my hair was too long and my clothes didn't conform to school code! Sent home the first half hour of the year! It all seemed so normal to me!
Since my band mates came from different areas of town than I, I pretty much lost contact with my own classmates from the west side of South Bend and once I graduated I never looked back!
Life had its way with me, as it usually does, and I found myself married to Karen (Labis) and my daughter Bridget was born. Being mere teenagers, divorce soon followed! The band played on only to find that Lee and Randy soon left the group and we carried on with four!
Renamed, "The Amusement Company", we really got into the psychedelic times! Our music became harder and louder and we "kicked arse"! This lineup played even larger halls and traveled more with the addition of a 55 passenger bus! We were happening! As time went on, Mike Guljas had to leave to go to college and was replaced by Vince Rizzo! We lost a bit of our edge after Mike left and had to make more changes to get back to a level of music to which we were accustomed! A brainstorm occurred! Let's join forces with the band "The Mystic Love" and that way we'd have horns and lots of vocals!
So, "OCTOPUSS" was born!
Octopuss was an eight piece band! Joe, Jimmy, and myself with our new trumpet player Wayne Kurtz plus Mike Holloway on bass, Gary Smith on guitar and vocals, Bob Blake on piano and trumpet and Bill(Sluggo)Hyde on guitar, sax and flute! What a band! What a full sound! What alot of mouths to feed! It didn't take long before we found out that eight ways is a big split of the monies and we starved ourselves right out of business! Octopuss was rearranged by the draft and other things, but carried on in different forms for some time as a strictly original band! Some with the GURU! I wasn't involved too much!
After a while I wanted to get into a more serious situation! I heard where my friend Randy Berkel's band was looking for a guitar player! So I called him to ask if I could audition for the position and he said, "Let's just start a new group" and we did!
That's when Zechariah was formed! At first we were three! Randy (drums), myself (guitar) and Kenny Denny (bass)! We found this to be limited in material so we added a keyboard player! Jim Schrop began to play with us and that rounded out the lineup for quite a while! We did 20 weeks at the "111" club and moved over to "Poor Squatsos" for who knows how long! During this time we decided that we wanted to go on the road! Well, this didn't work with Kenny as he had a family and we couldn't make enough to support that situation! So he had to leave! That's when we brought in Dale Voitel on bass!
We landed the "house band" gig at "Shula's Nightclub"! That was a pretty cool gig! We would be the warm up band for road bands and we did five 20 minute sets an night! Six nights a week! Cushy Cushy Cushy! Party Party Party!
One band was called "MS FUNK". I think they were a six piece group and one of the players was Tommy Shaw! He later joined the band "Styx" and we all know that story! Real nice fellow and what a talent!
Another group was "High Voltage". There lineup had a female singer that was awesome! She later changed her name to "Chaka Khan". I'll have to research some facts because some of the other players went on to do some musical stuff too!
Well, I've got to break for now but I will be back with more! Stay Tuned!
"ZECHARIA" Goes to Washington
One of the groups that came into Shula's was called "BLITZ"! They were from Washington D.C. and we became fast friends with them! As it turned out, they invited me/us to come out to the BIG CITY! So, we did! I sold almost everything I had (furniture, records, autos, even the pictures off the walls) and took then wife, Karla, my two dogs and whatever clothes and other bare essentials that would fit in a Chevy van and left South Bend, NEVER TO RETURN! Of course, there was the band! Now made up of myself, Jimmy Gentry, Randy Berkel, Bob Blake and Ron Rutkowski! We were on our way to set the world ablaze!
During the few weeks before we took off, we rehearsed hard to get ready for our trek! We decided to do some more progressive music, i.e., Yes, Genesis, Flock, etc. Songs we were proud to play because they were rather "artsy" for the time (early 70's)! We did one gig at the "ELECTRIC CIRCUS" in Elkhart, IN and split! We didn't even wait for the reviews! I did later hear that we were well thought of but.....We were gone to the CITY! People just sort of said "Hey, what happened to Zechariah"?
We got to Washington D.C. expecting to have eleven weeks of work and found that we had none! That's right readers, zero, zilch, none, as in NO WORK! Ten people in our entourage and no work! We stayed at the home of one of the members of Blitz. It was a five bedroom tri-level on a cul-de-sac with trees and a lawn and all of the bedrooms were already occupied! So we slept on sofas and floors and vans and that lawn under those trees! One night we went to sleep only to be awakened with shotguns in our faces! It was the police! They knew who we were, and that whatever business they were there for, we had nothing to do with! Still, "What A Drag"!
We finally got our first gig but had to travel to Ocean City, Maryland! The Atlantic Ocean! The Boardwalk! Paradise! It was quite expensive and took the rest of our money but we had a great time taking in the culture of "beach living!" It was an eye opener for a long haired kid from Indiana! Sun, sand and East coast girls! We opened a show for the artist Catfish Hodge and went over well with the audience as well as the promoters! I talked with the "promo men" about continuing a tour with Catfish but passed on it due to finances and the fact that I didn't know what I was doing! Things might have been a lot different had I accepted this offer but live and learn!
Meanwhile, back in Washington, we got a weekly gig at a club called "The Act IV". It was every Monday night and was in the area known as "Georgetown"! This was the "hip" part of town where everybody was with the In-crowd! Yeah, right where they filmed "The Exorcist"! Here we got to know some of the local groups and players from Washington that were more than the average guitar slingers! One group called "Boa" were heading for a record contract and were very good players and singers! They recorded and album of really nice original songs that landed them in a debt that made them sell all of there equipment to try and pay back the record company! Lesson one in what to watch out for! We ended up buying their lighting system and never heard from them again! Well, now you could hear us and see us!
We started to get regular work in and around Washington and we got real good and tight as a band! We also got to start eating better! One of our favorite meals was "Corky's Fried Chicken!" That made us all feel better! It was amazing how much better we all felt and worked when we had something good in our bellies!
I got connected with a booking agency called DOMESTIC SOUNDS in Falls Church, VA around this time and they started to get us a few bookings! They also told me that as good of a band that we had we would still only get the "scraps" of the bookings unless we started to learn and play "Top 40" music! So I bought a half dozen tunes and we learned them! Shazam, we started to work steady! Every weekend! We even had to play two, and once, three gigs in the same day! Things were going well, so we thought, when drummer Randy Berkel had to leave the group due to personal and financial reasons! It was a sad day when he had to leave but we were determined to trudge on! We auditioned and listened to several drummers but couldn't find what we needed! We'd work with this one and that one just to keep playing but things just weren't the same! We did, finally, pick one Jack Nash who was another South Bend player and we trudged on!
It was also about this time that we started to open for some "National Acts" in concert situations and with personnel changes going on, we weren't prepared with much "original" music! I've always felt that if we would have been ready with some of our own material our paths would have gone in a different direction! I'll never forget the first time I played a real concert with a professional sound system and lights and all! We opened with the song "The Story In Your Eyes" by the Moody Blues! The sound was so big on stage and the energy was very high and we sounded so powerful and strong! I stepped up to the microphone to sing and this huge blast of my own voice hit my ears and it startled me to the point that I almost forgot to keep singing! I wasn't accustomed to "stage monitors"! I mean to say it was wonderful and it actually made me have more confidence and we just continued to "kick out the jams" the rest of the show! What a great feeling! What a Rush! What a good job! That was opening for the band "Looking Glass"! Very nice dudes and I found out real fast that that was unusual for the "headliner" band to be nice!
The booking agency called one day to say they had a gig every Wednesday night at a club called Pier 9. We loaded up and went to play and the first thing that Bob Blake saw when he walked in was two guys kissing! Welcome to the gay community, culture shock for five lads from the Midwest! Well, we played and went over very well with the gay community and had another steady gig! Two nights every week we knew we had work!
From meeting people there we got to know others from the "hip" section of Georgetown and got our foot in the door of several Georgetown clubs! There was the "Crazy Horse" with the stage behind the bar, the "M Club" home of a band called Daddy Warbucks (later to be Angel of Casablanca Label). Angel were supposed to be the opposite of Kiss all in white and everything pristine), the "Bayou" (where I first saw Kiss as they were putting their act together!)
People came and went during this period and the name of the band changed to "Squeeze"! Enter Michael James, drummer extraordinare and all around good friend! Micheal, now residing in Burbank, California and working for Paul Reiser as his assistant, Tom McCarthy, last known working for a record company, and Tim Ford, just play the white keys, plus Jimmy and Corky was the new line up!
We became a regular mainstay in the "Georgetown scene"! You could find us at the "M Club" quite often, playing Monday through Saturday! On Wednesday nights the club would put out a spread of food for the students of Gauludette College! This is a huge college for the deaf! These students would come in and chow down and boogie the night away! This lead to our playing at their school! At first it seemed absurd, but as we learned, these students ALL took music appreciation and they turned out to be one of our best audiences! They kept telling us to "turn it up"! They would feel the vibrations of the music and really let loose! Another bit of education for this green kid from Indiana! I'll never forget them and the wonderful times I had performing for them! Thanks kids! For those of you who can dig this, I used a 200 watt Marshall with a 55 watt Fender Bassman as a preamp! That was LOUD!
I remember another gig at Fairfax High School! It seems that their school had won some sort of an award for scholastic achievement and as a reward they hired us to play! We set up early in the morning in th auditorium and a special assembly was called! As the kids came in there was a giant movie screen hanging at the front of the stage where they proceeded to show a football reel! After about ten minutes of this we clicked off our first song and the screen was rolled up and the whole place just roared! The students were stunned beyond their senses and started to dance and sing and had a wonderful time! Afterwards they fed us (again, we had breakfast too) and we actually signed autographs and went on as we were real STARS! It was pretty cool! I actually ran into people later in my career that were there and they still talked about that happening!
Over the next couple of years the band just kept plugging away and members came and went, and we eventually ended up with the line up of myself, Michael, Jimmy, Timmy, and Ken Gillenwater on bass! We worked under the name Squeeze for some time until we met and worked under the management of Bill "Ziggy" Zeigman who took the band and put us in suits and other matching uniform type outfits and groomed us as the band "Buster Brown"! This is when things really started to take off and we got an education from Zig that we would probably never have gotten had he not come along!
I was reminded this past weekend, by a friend, of a time in College Park, Maryland, when we started the stage curtains on fire! It wasn't a real bad fire but all the same it could have been a horrible experience! George Thorogood was there but I don't remember what part he had in starting the fire! He was playing around the corner and we would go see him on our breaks and he would come see us on his breaks! As I remember more I'll let you know!
Next time, How Mike lost his shoes!
We travelled up and down Rt. 95 from Dover, Del. to Columbus, Ga. for a few years and it got rather tedious and boring! On the road for weeks and come home long enough to mow lawns and fix windows and such....then "On The Road Again"! Eventually, I grew tired of it and chucked it all only to return to South Bend, Indiana! (I'll NEVER go back to South Bend" I once said! My only regret was leaving Michael James behind as he didn't want to leave the city! And so it goes!
Welcome back to the land of taxes! (circa 1980)
I brought with me Jimmy Gentry, Ken Gillen, Cindy Joes (nee Davis) and Tom Biller. We joined up with Randy Berkel on drums and set forth to have a rockin' band! We named it "BUSTER"!
BUSTER made a change early as it just wasn't working for Randy.....so he left and was replaced by Paul Risler.....a good solid drummer!
Thinking we would take the area by storm turmed out to be an eye opener and I found out that...at the time.....clubowner's were quite loyal to the bands that were working for them and it took a while for us to break into the circuit!
We landed a gig at "Mario's", just north of the Michigan State Line, and used it as a showcase. Inviting several clubowner's to see and hear the band! It worked! Bob Cole and J.W. Toad stopped in and booked the band into the "Cole Mine" in Walkerton, In. and J.W. Toads in South Bend, In. This was to be the catalyst of getting Buster off the ground! The word got around and we were booking every week! At the time it was Wednesday, Friday & Saturday! Some places even Thursday! We played all around the Michiana area for many years playing to mostly packed rooms! Life was good and we rocked and partied hardy! Some of the rooms we played.....Pardner's Night Club, Shula's, J.W. Toad's, The Cole Mine, Red Door Lounge, The Headquarter's, 2nd Edition, The Turning Point, Mario's and many more that I will add as my memory wakes up!
Over a period of around 5 years, BUSTER made a handful of personel changes! Tommy Basano and Jerry Gushwa came in on drums; Oliver (?), Jon Lee, Danny (?) and Dana Bare played keyboards; Tom Biller, Ben Bowman and Cindy (Davis) Jones handled the soundboard! We were best known for artist such as The Beatles, Pink Floyd, ELO, Steely Dan, The Cars, Bob Seger....oh the list goes on!
In 1984, while in the middle of a week long gig in Fort Wayne, In, we experience the worst! A fire occured in the middle of the night destroying thousands of dollars of equipment! What a nightmare it was! We fixed and cleaned and borrowed a scant amount of equipment to get us through our next engagements......trying to rebuild what was lost! For two years we tried to put the circus back together! Finally, in 1985, we threw in the towel! It was a sad breakup but we just couldn't recoup!
It was a very good band and it is nice that BUSTER is remembered still today by many people that come up and say nice things about the era! Thank you folks for making it possible! Our final gig was Christmas week 1985! New Year's Eve, I was onstage with a new group........"CORCHESTRA" was born!
"CORCHESTRA" was put together at "Brother's Night Club" in Bremen, In. as the house band! Playing for Art and Al Bustamante was great while it lasted! It was a short lived gig due to some "out of control" circumstance!
The band was Corky, Kenny Denny, Dana Bare and Cory Kiser! It was a fun time and we played tunes for dancing and just having fun! Kenny was replaced by Paul Stokes who added and edge that was missing! We were at "Brothers" for about 6 months when, sadly, the bar had to close! So, we took it on the road.......to "BROTHERS II" in Plymouth, In. as well as many other venues in the surrounding area! South Bend, Mishawaka, Elkhart, Goshen, LaPorte, Walkerton Rochester and so forth! About this time Cory was replaced with Art Bustamante! The beat was stong and we carried on!
At one point, Dana discovered he had a heart problem and had to leave the band! We added Ron Warner on guitar and I had to take over some of the keyboard work! Did I really play with mittens on? It probably sounded like it at times!
As time passed, Paul was replaced by Rick Mays and Ron was replaced by Frank Hunter! The beat went on!
As I was owner (by proxy) of the BREMEN HOTEL in Bremen, In. and caring for the 10 acre farm, I didn't have time to put into a band and gave my notice to the others! They could have replaced me and carried on, but they chose to pack it in!
The first Friday night that I didn't have to play I remember standing out in the fields thinking "I don't have to be anywhere! This is wonderful"! Life was quite different for a while! Living with Marla and her children was a change for me! I raised cows and goats and chickens as well as 120 tomato plants! I had no idea how many tomatoes that would yield! I was no farmer!
About 4 months later, standing in the same field, I was thinking "I should be somewhere else" and that is when I decided to put together a small trio to play now and then! I had that itch! Small clubs with small equipment and little production......Yeah!
"Mother Goose Band" was born with myself, Rick Mayes and Paul Riser! We played one gig in North Liberty, In. Cold! No rehearsals and it was horrible! That was the end of that lineup! I recruited Garry Daniels (drums) and Ben Bowman (bass) and started to rehearse in the loft of my barn! Again, we were terrible!
We rehearsed for several weeks and it actually began to come together some and we started thinking about taking it out to the bars! I booked us into a club in North Webster, In. one month away! We rehearsed a set a week to get it together! Three weeks, three sets! Cool! On our fourth week, Sam, the club owner called and said his band didn't show and would we be able to play that night! Well, we gathered our equipment and off we went to debut the "Mother Goose Band"
The first three sets were fine only we had to do a fourth and....well......it all fell apart! It is quite funny in retrospect! The people were buzzed and never knew a thing! Good old alcohol!
So we carried on and got our chops together and started playing other locations. We began to play every weekend and got to be pretty good! We could hold our own! Even in downtown "South Bend"! The BIG city! Whoa!
People would come up to me and say, "we know you but we didn't know who the Mother Goose Band was"! So.......I changed the name of the band to "Corky and the MGB" and we played and played!
An unexpected turn came to pass and I'll just say a personel change occured and the lineup changed to Dennis Clemens (bass) and Joe (drums) from the band "Northside Station"! We would play my gigs as Corky and the MGB and their gigs as "Northside Station" as well! This was a short lived situation! I had to put an end to it!
Recruiting again! This time, Garry came back to drum and an old friend Kelly Guin (bass)! Kelly had just returned from playing with Davey Jones of "The Monkees" and wanted to do something small and quaint! It was good for us all and off we went a-rockin'! Actually.......country was making it's mark and we had to pick up some of those diddy's to vie for a spot in most venues! It was comical to my Rock and Roll friends!
The ball started rolling and we were playing every weekend, however, another chance in the lineup occurred! Garry was replaced with Art Bustamante and the beat went on! This change made the rhythm section strong and powerful! Phones were ringing and busy got busier! Too good to be true............Yes, another change!
As it turned out, we were playing too much for Kelly and he had to leave the group! At this time a first happened to me! Kelly had a replacement! Next up......."Dr. Dave" enters the line up!
Welcome aboard David!
David started playing and it was such a smooth transition! The ball kept rollin' along! Hard to believe that was 17 years ago! We had a great run and played nearly every weekend as well as many Sundays ....and even some Thursdays!
David had a high range so he got stuck with all of the "bitch" parts! I found him a song by "The Police" to sing the lead to (Every Breath You Take) and he had such fun that he asked me to find him another! No problem! He began singing leads to songs and has turned out to be a fine singer!
We played and played and the years went by.......and we are still playing!
Well De De......I've addeed a little but as always......I have to run!
Hi kids!!!!!!! It's now 9/4/2010 and all I can say is that I'll be back soon to tell you more!