My name is John Grove. I am a bass player from Pueblo, CO (I say "am" because I still continue to play on a regular basis in an R&B/Blues/Funk band based out of Pueblo called "Little Ricky & the Roosters"). The Bob Yeazel website was looking for stories so I thought I would contribute the following:
Back in 1967 my close friend Tony Spicola had told me that some friends of his had a son that played trumpet and was interested in joining a band. We had a band at the time called "The Hi Blues" and were doing Stax covers. The members of Hi Blues were as follows: Al Volpe/drums, Kent Able/organ (note: you didn't play keyboards back then, you played organ), Pat McCown/guitar, John Grove/bass, Dave Flores/sax, and Tom Bowman/trumpet. When Tom left in the Spring of 1968, we got in touch with Tony and he referred us to Dominick Todero. After rehearsing for a couple of weeks we did our first gig and pulled it off pretty well. The band continued to play clubs around Pueblo and Colorado Springs such as The High Club, The Honey Bucket, The Krazy Kat, etc. etc. Since we were doing absolutely no original music and really just spinning our wheels, it wasn't long before Dominick turned in his resignation saying he had received a phone call from Tony informing him that the Denver band "The Beast" was looking for a trumpet player. (The story I heard was that original bass player, Roger Bryant had quit and Kenny Passarelli was moving over from trumpet to bass and they needed someone to now fill the vacant horn slot.) Anyway, Dominick was now leaving us for the bright lights of Denver. I quit in July of that same year and was replaced by Bob Cordova.
We kept in touch and played with The Beast a few times. One gig I remember playing with them was at the Agriculture Palace at the Colorado State Fair Grounds. This was a Tony Spicola show and it featured our new band....BAND-X, along with another very good local Pueblo Band called WHITE LIGHTNING, and of course, THE BEAST. I am a huge fan of the Hammond B-3 organ (the Roosters haul one around to every single gig to this day) but being such a fan, I remember sitting on stage directly behind Gerry Fike's 147 Leslie and pretty much remaining there the entire performance thinking that I was in heaven listening to the horns and bottom rotor speed up and then slow down. What a great sound!!!
Band-X started in October 1968 with just myself and a guitar player named Bob McConnell, who was attending Southern Colorado State College here in Pueblo. He had gained some local awareness from performing around Pueblo in a Colorado Springs Band named Ginger Blu. (Local DJ Frank Provenza on KDZA radio did some very creative spots using the words Blu, Too, Brew, Zoo - since they were performing at Tony Spicola's local hangout, THE FANTASTIC ZOO). The other members of BAND-X were as follows: Mike (Spike) Webb/organ, Lou Sciortino/drums and vocals, and John Macklem/guitar. They all had come from the local band The Blues Agency, previously named The Lords.
Band-X started off like a rocket. Almost immediately we were doing the best gigs around such as auditioning for Steve Scott Entertainment which was run by Arnold Swack. This audition led to being the opening act for THE FRANTICS at Kelker Junction Concert Hall. For me, this was the big time as I had just seen Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, The Who along with The Beast performing at this venue just a few months earlier and obviously I was now on my way to joining them.
Another local gig I remember well was two days after Christmas in 1968. Tony Spicola had booked the Texas band "FEVER TREE" into a club on Las Vegas St. in Colorado Springs called the "Apple", formerly the "Lady Bug". Fever Tree was riding high (probably very high) on their current national hit "San Francisco Girls" and we were chosen to be the opening act. The show started around seven or eight. (Remember this was a 3.2 club and the music usually stopped around 11:30-11:45 so the club could close by midnight.) Anyway, we played our 45 minute set on Fever Tree's equipment and were informed that we would need to do another one since Fever Tree had performed the previous night in Wyoming and was now snowed in. We performed our second set and were then told about doing a third set while Tony Spicola and co-promoter John Philbin chartered a private plane to pick up the band. We then did a third set and then a fourth set and finally Fever Tree was announced. I believe that somehow Tony had made arrangements with the powers that be for the club to stay open after hours for the music but could not serve any alcohol. I called Tony Spicola to verify this and he said I was right on the money. The one thing he added to this was (this is what makes Rock n Roll stories great!!!) he remembered that the very next day due to the flight in a snowstorm in a small chartered plane, the band Fever Tree broke up!!!
Band-X continued to play other notable gigs such as the Moose Hall in Walsenburg, The Fireman's Ball in Telluride (before it became hip), High School Prom in Salida in which we saw a poster for the event at the local burger hangout that proceeded to tell the general public that we not only featured an organ, but an electric piano as well!! I'm sure that guaranteed us a full capacity audience. We did manage to secure a pretty cool gig at Sam's Place (or Club) on Lookout Mountain. We ran out of gas as we were about to start the climb up the mountain in the Magic Bus, a circa 1948-9 Chevy school bus painted green and yellow with the American flag and flower stickers all over it .
Then, shortly after high school graduation in 1969, we were cruising main and lo and behold here comes this Big Bad Orange American Motors Javelin with Dominick at the wheel. The local "rock star " informed me that Beast had broken up and he was back in Pueblo. In the mean time, Band-X was on it's last leg. We finally called it quits in July 1969.
After the break up of Band-X our drummer Lou Sciortino, and guitar player John Macklem, formed another band with Dominick called Karma. This band focused on playing most of the popular "horn rock" of the day and featured other members, Roger "Quills" Uyeda on keyboards and vocals, Steve Hobson on trombone, and Bob Cordova on bass. Karma lasted one trip to L.A. and broke up.
I then (July 1969) started Joint Session with some very good friends from high school. The original members of Joint Session were Dan Krall, Craig Stilson, Brad Rice, Scott Thomas, and myself. Brad Rice who was and still is like a brother played some pretty hot licks on a red Farfisa combo compact (which came from Fred Brescher of the legendary Pueblo band THE TROLLS) hooked up to a Leslie of some sort that we had brilliantly devised a singer sewing machine pedal to speed up and slow down the horns and rotor. This was done before the combo pre-amp was produced by Donald Leslie, so we were ahead of our time. Craig Stilson played guitar--a 1954 Les Paul Standard. Danny Krall was our very capable frontman. With black hair and blue eyes the girls loved him. He also played a circa '51 or '52 Les Paul standard with the horrible trapeze tailpiece. Danny became a wonderful singer/frontman. I played bass and used a 1957 Precision (which I still have and use often.) I traded an old black guard Telecaster to Van Dorn of the Moonrakers (Thanks Van) for this bass. I played the Fender through three Kustom Amps which consisted of six fifteens and two heads. Scott Thomas filled in the lineup on drums.
Scott Thomas was the first to leave Joint Session and was replaced by Mike Green on drums. Mike was with the band for about six months and was replaced by Murray Watson who originally hailed from Trinidad and played with a very good band from there called "The Fuzz". Murray relocated to Pueblo to play with "Jade" a group which consisted of members of some well known Pueblo bands. Murray joined Joint Session and we stayed together for another six months and finally disbanded due to lack of direction, no goals to shoot for, and just plain musical stagnation. Joint Session started in July 1969 and lasted until April 1971.
I then started a band which lasted for a few months with Brad Rice/B-3, Mike Green/drums, and the great local guitarist Bobby Montoya (who won the Utah Jazz Festival when he was only 13 years old.) I don't even remember the name of that group. I married my wife Patty in Sept 71, didn't play for about six months and then got a call from a local band called "Kemikol." I played in that band for about six months. It was during this period I was able to purchase the Acoustic 360 Bass amp, which along with an Ampeg SVT, I still use to this day.
After leaving Kemikol, I started a very well received band called "STARR ". This band was gonna be the "one". Original members were Rob Pike on guitar/vocals, Scott Thomas from Joint Session on drums/vocals, Bobby Montoya on guitar, and myself on bass. The material was primarily Deep Purple, James Gang, Zeppelin, Uriah Heep and some original. I stayed with Starr for about two years and we started drifting in different musical directions. Bobby Montoya left and was replaced by Gene Schneider on organ, and Steve Meyers on guitar. The band started heading in the more "orchestra rock" direction with songs from artists like Trapeze, Yes, and Gentle Giant. At the same time I was headed in the direction of The Flying Burrito Brothers, Stephen Stills and Manassas, Eagles etc. etc. So I left Starr and formed the Arizona Nightingales. Scott, Rob, Gene, and Steve kept Starr going for another 10 years and recorded an album and a 45.
The Nightingales consisted of Gary Fowler acoustic guitar/vocals, Ed Murray on guitar, Jerry Christie drums/vocals, Doyle Trantham guitar/fiddle/vocals and myself on bass/vocals. Jerry Christie was replaced by Brodie White who moved from Los Angeles to Pueblo. One of the early jobs was opening up for "Redbone" in Durango which was fun. Doyle was replaced by the fantastic Gary Snyder who literally knew every chord, every word to every rock and country song ever written. Gary Fowler was replaced by Kenny Grimes from Wichita Falls, Texas on pedal steel/guitar/vocals. Brodie White was replaced by Carl Brenner on drums. Carl and I played together for the next 18 years in some very good local bands. Anyway, The Nightingales lasted from 1975 to 1978 and finally gave up the ghost.
I'd also like to mention that I started collecting Vintage Fender guitars in 1968 and started dealing Gibson, Fender, and Martins out of my house in 1972--remember I was married at 19 and would do anything to pay the bills. I owned a store on main street in Pueblo called "Vintage Guitar" from 1975 until 1978 at the same time I was with the Nightingales.
Around the time the Nightingales disbanded, Jan & Dean played Big Mac in Denver along with Chuck Berry in a fifties/sixties oldies show. The story I received was their band had left them high and dry. I called their booking agency in Phoenix and we arranged to become their backing band for a six week tour and we'd see how that would work out. This began in March 1978.
The members of the Jan & Dean backup band for the first six weeks were Gary Snyder guitar/vocals, Carl Brenner drums/vocals, Brad Rice/keys/vocals, and myself on bass/vocals. Brad stayed on board for the first six weeks and decided to return to the family accounting firm. Brad was replaced by Gene Wall from Orange, Texas, and we stayed with that line-up until the gig ended. We ended up on the road with them for about two years playing with the Four Tops, The Ronettes, Skyliners at the Palladium in New York City; Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley in Birmingham, Alabama, etc.
Click here for photos from the Jan and Dean tours.
Gene went on to play with an entirely bogus version of the Grass Roots who had no original members. Gary went on to play with Screamin' Jay Hawkins and stayed with him for a very long time doing quite a few European tours. Carl and I joined "The Rocky Rat Review" out of Canon City. We primarily did "oldies and surf music" we also changed the name to "Aloha". Now that I think about it, I think I liked "Rocky Rat Review" better. Aloha stayed together for five years focusing mainly on Denver, Boulder, and the ski resorts. Aloha or "The Rocky Rat Review" consisted of Steve "Rocky" Mitchell guitar/vocals, Pete "The Reverend Rainard Colt", Carl Brenner drums/vocals, and myself on bass/vocals. Steve and Pete are now in Flash Cadillac, Carl is in Nashville.
I still keep in touch with a lot of the old school players such as Van Dorn and Jerry Krenzer once in a while, Harold and Mick from the Legendary 4-NIKATORS, and so on. All in all it's been a great and exciting career. Most of the bands were local, but we always did very off the wall type tunes that were not the regular top forty stuff. I have continued to play without stopping even after having four children and I do not intend to ever quit playing. In fact, I played this New Year's Eve with Brad and Scott in a reunion of our band "STARR" at the Event Center in the Colorado State Fair Grounds. I played last year at the same venue with the 100% original Joint Session and the 75% original Starr. I am still married to the same woman for going on 33 years, what a saint she is. Anyway, I have really enjoyed the stories on Bob's website as they brought back a lot of memories. My wife and I attended many a Sugarloaf show at Kelker Junction in Colorado Springs and they were always great. Bob, keep up the good work. Thank you for a great site. John Grove
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