If you wouldn't mind, Iíd like it if you would go back to how the Monocles
first formed and go from there.
Robb: When we started the band didnít even have a name for awhile. My cousin Timís Dad was a square dance caller and he liked to play guitar a little bit. I donít think he ever did when he was calling square dances, but just for fun heíd sit around and play guitar. So when we were in high school we would sit around with Timís dad and he would teach us a few things and I learned to play guitar on his guitar. So this was kind of at that time when sitting around playing a few rock and roll songs was fun and just jamming and it seemed pretty appropriate to just get a bunch of guys together that had any kind of music talent at all and jam. We werenít really thinking band at the time but one of our high school buddies had a set of drums in his basement. So my cousin Tim and I would go over to his house after school and just sit down in the basement and make a lot of noise and kind of act like we could play music, you know.
I was a junior in high school. Right in that junior summertime going into the fall senior year. I think this was like summer entertainment. (laughs) Goofing around in those guysí basement, and Rick and I were best friends, you know, we ran around together all the time. So Rick thought heíd like to come and jam with us and he didnít have an instrument. My cousin played lead guitar and I played rhythm guitar and Don Kincade on the drums and so, yeah we needed a bass. Rick goes and buys himself a bass guitar and he joins up with us and we start having a lot more fun, cause now weíre almost a combo. Weíve got everything going for us. It just snowballed from there.Rick: I think it was probably 1963 or 1964--that school year. Robb Casseday, his cousin Tim Casseday, who was an accomplished guitarist, and myself were playing guitar together. Robb's Uncle worked at the Greeley Post Office at the time and got us a job playing at the Postmasterís Banquet in Greeley, Colorado, which was probably for 15 or 17 people. We played 4 or 5 songs and we got applause. Then we got a thank you letter and we thought, ďOh wow! Iím liking this.Ē So it kind of progressed from there.
Robb: I had
an Uncle that was a postman and they had a convention here in Greeley and he was
in charge of getting music for this thing.
He didnít have a clue what he was going to do for music, so he calls me
up and says, "Hey, that little band you got going, you guys want to come and play some songs at our postmenís
And I said, "Yeah, first gig. Letís do it!" I said, "How long do we have to play?"
And he says, "Oh, about an hour."
And I said
"Oh, oh! We only know 2 or 3
songs (laughs) so we canít play an hour, but weíll play at least 15 or 20
So he said,
"All right, youíre hired." So
thatís our first gig. We packed
everything into the trunks of our cars and drove over to wherever it was they
were having this thing; some hall, and hereís this whole room full of postmen
and their wives. Now all of a
sudden weíre starting to get a little nervous.
Oh, man! Weíve got a
crowd. So we set up our one or two amplifiers, which is all we had,
and we played our first gig. We
played our 3 or 4 songs that we knew and we were done.
And my Uncle said, "Well keep going."
We said, "Well we donít have any more music."
"Well play them all again."So we just played our songs all over! That was our first opportunity and that was really kind of fun. We got over our nervousness and we had fun doing it.
Rick: And then we got Jon Floth. He was a year younger than us. He kept bugging me you know, "Gosh, I want to get with the group." He used to play at polka dances with his Uncle Adolph Lesser, who owned a music store in Greeley.
And so I said, "Well, letís see. I donít know. Weíll talk about it." So we went over to his house one day and went down in his basement. He had one of those lap steel guitars, is all he had. Thatís it, and a little bitty Fender amp and so he says, "Well let me play a couple things." And you know Iím looking at this steel guitar goiní I donít think so (laughs) and you know, playing in a polka band Iím already going nah. And then Jon wasnít, letís say, in the mainstream in school. He wasnít athletic. He was an excellent artist. Well, anyway I really had my doubts and he got his little steel guitar out and set it on his lap and played "Pipeline" for me. Changed my whole outlook!
Iím going, now wait a minute, if this guy can play "Pipeline" on a little lap steel guitar, this kidís got potential! So I said, "Well thereís a possibility weíre going to have some paying jobs coming up, can you play guitar?"
So he says, "Yeah, yeah I can."
His sister had an old Harmony hollow body and there were a couple of strings missing. He ran up and got his sister's guitar. They had a fight upstairs about it and he came down. I'll never forget that day, and here's this guitar with what, three strings. He tuned it and started playing. I forget what he played, and I'm going, this is awesome. The guy's playing "Pipeline" on a lap steel and playing on three strings on a guitar. All right. I wonder how hard it would be for you to get an electric guitar. And I said, "Your uncle owns that music store. Maybe we can go down and talk to him."
I think Jon was only 14, or 15 at the most. We went down and talked to Adolph Lesser and told him about the band. That was really encouraging to him. Jon saw an electric guitar and took his steel guitar and told him he wanted to trade and make payments.
And he said, "Yeah, if you can get Jon a job. Jon's never had a job."
So I said, "OK," and I got Jon a job at Garnsey-Wheeler for a little while washing cars and doing some odd jobs just to show everybody. So his mother came down after we had proven ourselves and signed the agreement with Adolph, and he got his first Fender electric guitar. Then Robb Casseday got a guitar and we were on our way. Note: Robb purchased his Fender Jazzmaster on February 2, 1965.
It took us a long time to come up with the name but Robb was an artist and he drew that little mouse with the top hat and the monocle. It was modeled after the Planters Peanut. It started out with the little mouse and the top hat in this painting and we added the monocle. We decided, "Well, heck thatís so cool. Why donít we call ourselves the Monocles?" You know, because mono meaning one, and we were the only ones (laughs). So there we started. Click here to see the original sketches of the mouse and read how it came about.
Robb: Jon Floth came along and Jon was a good lead guitarist. He was really good. My cousin had to kind of play second fiddle to him. Thatís why he kind of faded out of the picture because Jon came in and blew us all away.
Then the church that Jonís family went to was having a talent show, so Jon Floth signs us up for a gig in this talent show. We had to play two songs. We had to get up and play our first song, and they went through all the talent, and then when they narrowed it down to the finalists, we had to play a second song. So that was great. We knew a couple songs.
Do you remember what the songs were?
I donít remember if they actually introduced us as the Monocles or if they just introduced us as Jon Flothís buddies (laughs) but we won that contest anyway and after that we knew we were going to get serious. We were going to be a band.
Rick: Then we got a drummer named Gary McMahon. He was a cowboy and is now a champion yodeler and cowboy poet.
Robb: Gary McMahon grew up on a farm east of Greeley and he was a cowboy from the word go, but he was a good drummer. He played before Kevin. Gary had a hard time converting to rock and roll cause he was a country and western guy and loved country and western music. He'd come to our gigs in a cowboy hat, cowboy boots and chewing tobacco. We're playing surfer music, you know. We're trying to emulate the Beach Boys out in California. So here we are, we're sitting up there in the bar trying to look like surfers and he's back there at his drums, chewing tobacco and spitting in a beer mug. We did get him to take the cowboy hat off. (laughs)
Rick: We went through a lot of drummers and then we finally got Kevin McIlhenney, and thatís when the group really tied together. We started playing at Teen Club in Greeley, and every other Friday night after the home football games or basketball games. Well Kevinís mother, Tinkerbell, got interested so she came down and heard us. Kevin was living with his Dad, who was an attorney in Denver, and he and Kevinís Mom had divorced. His Mom really missed him, so she really jumped on this idea, Ďwell why donít I manage you?í That way she could see Kevin a lot more. Besides that, she was really good at what she did. We kind of had our doubts at first about her, you know, one of our momís? I donít know, man.
So she managed to talk Ed Weemers to come down and listen to us. He was a big producer in Denver. He owned several clubs eventually, and produced a lot of concerts, so then we got into all the big teen clubs and 3.2 bars in Denver.
She set it up where he was going to give us some pointers, and we set up and
started playing for this guy. When
we first started playing none of us were all that good of vocalists so weíd
sing through a reverb (laughs) and I can remember this guy telling us, "You guys have got to shut that reverb off."
He said, "Youíre good enough singers.
Get rid of that thing. Itís
nothing but a crutch." He said,
"You will sound ten times better." So he listened to us play a few times
without the thing and he said, "All right, now keep practicing and go do
something with yourself." That was Tinkerbell's kind of claim
to fame because she obviously had some contacts and was able to get things
rolling for us. So she started booking us in dances in schools mostly.
None of us were old enough to drink yet.
None of us were 18.
Robb: She set it up where he was going to give us some pointers, and we set up and started playing for this guy. When we first started playing none of us were all that good of vocalists so weíd sing through a reverb (laughs) and I can remember this guy telling us, "You guys have got to shut that reverb off." He said, "Youíre good enough singers. Get rid of that thing. Itís nothing but a crutch." He said, "You will sound ten times better." So he listened to us play a few times without the thing and he said, "All right, now keep practicing and go do something with yourself." That was Tinkerbell's kind of claim to fame because she obviously had some contacts and was able to get things rolling for us. So she started booking us in dances in schools mostly. None of us were old enough to drink yet. None of us were 18.
The bars obviously were the places to play and they were starting to ask for us. Our first bar gig was a little bar out here on the edge of LaSalle and this place was a dive. It was a 3.2 bar. This was back in the days of 3.2 beer and weíre all booked to play at this bar. Well, I come home from school after about the second day of trying to tell my parents, you know, we got us a gig and weíre going to get lodged there. My parents tell me thereís no way youíre playing in a bar. Youíre not old enough to drink. None of our relatives would even think of a relative of theirs being in a rock and roll band in a bar. No way! (laughs) All of a sudden itís a parent meeting of the band members, and everybodyís sitting around trying to convince my parents cause all the other guys parents had bought into the idea. Tinkerbell was going to be there to supervise us, and she was Kevinís Mom, and she was going to make sure we stayed out of trouble and didnít drink and didnít do anything that our parents would be upset about. My parents just couldnít accept that. They wouldnít buy into it so we argued and argued and argued with my parents, and I tell you, you had to have known my Mom to appreciate this. She was stubborn and there was no way you were going to change her mind once her mind was made up about something. So they left that night not buying into the whole deal and when I all but begged them to let me do this, they kind of said, well you do whatever you want to do but you play in this bar and youíre not coming home. (laughs)
That could be appealing to a person that age.
Robb: Yeah, well and thatís why it was a dilemma because I thought well maybe thatís not all bad, but I donít want to make my parents mad. So the first night that they played down there I didnít play. I couldnít decide that I was ready to just turn on my parents. They played without me. That next week we went through the same struggle and after those guys had played one gig without me, that made me want to play even more. So Tinkerbell had one more discussion with my parents and they just kind of accepted the fact that it was either going to be that, or I was going to be running away from home. I started playing bars and finally I turned 18. This was after high school. My birthday was in May so I had to go into the first year or maybe two years of playing in the band and not being old enough to even be drinking. That didnít stop us after awhile. (laughs) Colorado used to have a 3.2 beer law and for hard liquor you had to be 21, but for beer you had to be 18. We played at these bars that just served beer to 18 year olds and older.
The other thing my parents wouldn't let me do was grow my hair out long. The Beatle cut was already starting to get popular with musicians but that was it, I mean the rest of the high school crowd was short cropped hair so I started growing my hair out and my parents just went off on that too. They got all upset about my hair being all the way down to my ears. So you know what I did? I went to a barber shop that made wigs and I bought a wig so on the weekends when we played music, I wore a wig. (laughing) Nobody ever even knew it. It was so funny. Finally I got so tired of putting that stupid wig on and by then my parents were already pretty numb to what was going on, I just grew my hair out.
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