The cover of the book has, beginning in the upper left hand corner and going clockwise--The Ventures, The Fleetwoods, Ron Holden, Merrilee Rush, The Bards, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Jerry Roslie (Sonics) and Jimmy Hanna (Dynamics)
Author's (Don Rogers) note: In most cases, the information in this book has come from two or more sources. In the case of the Bards I was very lucky in that Mike Balzotti, the group's keyboard player kept a journal during those years with the group. Mike then used his computer system to type up and print out the following story of The Bards which is complete unto itself and I felt there was nothing for me to add.
Mike's note: This information was given in 1988 (20 years after-the-fact), but a true account as memory serves! The last paragraph was added by Chuck Warren in 2002 as an update to what The Bards are doing today.
The music was the pop music of the late fifties and early 60's with a lot of variety, as we tried to imitate the top 50 on the record charts. As the group became more popular and the demand for performances on weekends extended from the school gym to the local roller-rink, the band needed to become independent of Ms. Marsha May's chaperone --her mother! In the wake of the group's divorce, made official by Marsha's mother's announcement in the Moses Lake Daily Herald, the group solidified in its resolve to "make it." Chuck Warren and Mike Balzotti survived several changes in personnel, masterminding the group's progress and potential.
Warren was the 'cool', leader and brilliant arbitrator of all disputes.
With incredible patience he would listen to everyone's point of view and
then synthesize the difference into a compromise everyone could live with
--"win-win." Mike Balzotti and Mardi
Sheridan wrote most of the original music and provided the creative
input, so far as writing and arranging the music. Bob
Gallaway was the heart of the group --funny, always an entertainer
and making friends for us everywhere. We were all interested in promotion.
And we did promote ourselves. We took our own pictures; made our own posters;
tacked up the posters on every telephone pole in the vicinity of our performances;
booked our own dances by renting the hall, hiring a policeman, paying
for radio spots, getting someone to take tickets at the door, etc. We
were, in fact, young entrepreneurs. Four was a good number --besides,
everyone had a window seat in our Cadillac. In order to afford the car,
we decided not to have a roadie like many other groups, which saved us
the cost of both the roadie and a van. To carry our equipment
we had a trailer custom made with a Cadillac
wheel base and Michelin tires, so we could get there fast and safe.
We also learned very quickly that the only way to be safe with long hair
in the 60's in cowboy towns was to feign big money by driving up in a
Cadillac and staying at the nicest motel in town. It served the dual purpose
of survival and "image," or, "winning by intimidation."
Anyway, with our white Caddy convertible, matching white trailer and big
red English type-style letters spelling "THE BARDS", we were
a sight to behold --the circus come to town!
most significantly however, we began writing music and performing our
own songs, mixed with pop tunes at our performances. Soon enough, our
fans began requesting our songs, which was no small thing. Any respectable
dance band knows people won't dance to an unfamiliar beat and a song they
don't recognize from the radio. We kept the beat familiar and they learned
to recognize and enjoy our songs enough to request them. The evolution
was complete. We had an original sound and look, if not original roots.
We were on our way.
ACT'S "BIG" BREAK:
O'Day and Associates were gradually moving into eastern Washington --our
territory. We decided to throw a dance opposite them in Wenatchee, where
we were more popular than their Seattle groups. It worked. Their dance
flopped as ours was successful and suddenly we had a bargaining chip which
got their attention and the opportunity to discuss coastal bookings. That
"little break" gave us exposure to not only larger crowds in
larger cities, but other opportunities as well --recording opportunities.
The "big break" for The Bards came through our recording efforts
Our "big break" as it were, came with the release of the record "NEVER TOO MUCH LOVE". Ironically, though we were becoming best known for our own music, our biggest claim to fame was an original arrangement of an old Curtis Mayfield tune that was the flip side of an old record. The following is a true story that summarizes much of what The Bards were and much of what is involved behind the scenes in the music business. Chuck Warren's mother-in-law worked for a radio station in Moses Lake. The way we found "Never Too Much Love" was by searching through the stacks of old records we had access to at the radio station. The Beatles had just released "All You Need is Love" in 1967 and in our own way we wanted to give our "love" message to the world as well. With the war in Vietnam and flower children blooming in San Francisco, the time was ripe. Delusions of grandeur you say? Well, maybe, but read on. The problem was that the song had the message, but lacked "pizzazz." The group wrote and arranged an instrumental prelude that seemed to fit and certainly had pizzaz, with an up tempo bass line and elbow up and down the chopped down B-3 Hammond organ. It was a slow song with a surprise "how-fast-are-you-going" start. Jerry Dennon --grand daddy of the northwest recording opportunities, of "Louie Louie" fame, agreed to be executive producer. Arrangement credits were given to Gil Bateman, who ultimately became an executive for Elektra records, but at the time of our recording session was preoccupied with throwing darts at a dart board in Kearney Barton's Fifth Avenue 3 track recording studio in downtown Seattle. In spite of the limitations of 3 track recording, we proceeded to overdub voices, a mandolin and other little doo da's to further spice up our love song. What evolved on tape seemed to hang together in spite of our trial and error recording technique and virtually no expertise in that art form. As far as we were concerned it was all done with mirrors anyway!
we had copies of the final product we rushed for an audience with the
King-Maker -Pat O'Day at KJR. Pat O'Day by this time had a working relationship
with us, or at least it would be fair to say he knew who we were, as one
of his top 5 groups playing the teen dance circuit (which included Lakehills,
at Crossroads in Bellevue; Parkers on Aurora N.; and The BFD in White
Center, to name a few). So, we had his attention anyway, but as it turned
out he was not impressed. Mr. O'Day put the song on his turntable and
played with the "EQ" levels (sophisticated tone controls) and
told us that the quality of the "high end" was not there --we
had lost too many "generations" in our multi-track recording.
In other words, it was less than Hollywood state-of-the art recording.
Also, he argued that being a top breakout station, getting national attention,
KJR could not afford to patronize a local group, or suffer the consequences
with its' other local groups and the conflict of interest between his
radio programming interests as program manager and his dance band booking
interests. In short, he could not afford to do us any unwarranted favors.
The points were good, but not well taken.
walked away from that confrontation more determined than ever to get a
public hearing. You may recall that we had been intimidated once before
and had risen to the occasion. So, once again we reverted to our "small
town" do-it-yourself mentality which had given us our opportunities
to date. But the problem was enormous. It was a classic vicious circle.
Radio stations won't play records that aren't selling and subsequently
on the pop charts in the stores and stores won't stock records that aren't
being played on the radio stations play list. Catch 22. We had always
done everything ourselves, as mentioned earlier, so becoming record promoters
and distributors seemed like the logical next step.
record had been released in the Northwest on Jerry Dennon's "Piccadilly"
label, but was sold to Capitol Records for national distribution. Record
executives at Capitol told us there was a time lag in the transfer to
Capitol which cost us momentum from the regional to national distribution.
The record had been out for month in the Northwest before it became a
Gavin pick and got attention in other parts of the country. But in spite
of this so-called loss of momentum, "Never Too Much Love" made
it to #67 nationally, as reported in Cash Box (a trade magazine for the
course, it also gave us an open door to subsequent L.A. recording opportunities
and concert tours with headline name acts like the Turtles, The Dave Clark
Five, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Tommy Roe and others. It was glory
road, signing autographs everywhere we went, being carried off stage by
police to protect us from the anxious crowds, immediate recognition in
teen circles, etc. We enjoyed in fact, a taste, a taste of stardom --at
least locally, in the great Northwest. Over the course of 8 years we had
recording contracts with Piccadilly, Jerden, Parrot,
Mercury, Together and Capitol
Records. Of a half dozen or so records, two others received significant
local air play --"Good Time
Charlie's Got the Blues" written by Danny O'Keefe and a Jimmy
Webb tune called "Tunesmith".
height of our success was in 1967 during the reign of "Never Too
Much Love. An irony of this highly successful period was that the opportunity
was never fully realized. Earlier we mentioned the group's isolation as
a major factor in its "longetivity." However perhaps with a
need for a sabatical, or at least some independence from the older members
of the group, a key member, Mardi Sheridan left to go to San Francisco
and join the "movement" there. He was replaced temporarily with
a virtuoso guitarist known as "Apple Andy" and Mark Chelson,
singer and saxophone player from George Washington and the Cherry Bombs.
During this period the group was booked solid with advance bookings but
at modest fees. The group enjoyed large audiences everywhere we went,
which prompted promoters on a few occasions to pay us unsolicited bonuses.
Clearly we were underpaid and ill-prepared for our sudden notoriety with
our hit record and revamped group.
Mardi Sheridan returned to the group after "Never Too Much Love" had pretty much run its course. The Bards regrouped around our original English poet and minstrel theme and decided we would literally put poetry to music. Armed with a "garage" tape of our current efforts, it was off to Hollywood to find a producer and a new beginning. While in an elevator between executive suites we met Curt Boetcher. Curt Boetcher and Keith Olsen produced The Association's Along Comes Mary, 'Wendy', and a host of other hits (like Tommy Roe's "Hello, Sweet Pea" and "Hurray for Hazel"). Curt and Keith liked the group and its originality and were interested in making a studio quality group out of live entertainers used to singing at 125 decibels (very loud) and therefore not accustomed to the finesse and sophistication of 16 track latest state-of-the-art facilities and techniques. To make a long story short, the group broke under the strain, but did create, during its last years (1969) an album never-to-be-released, containing all original songs inspired from the words of other more famous "bards" like T.S. Elliot and others.
was an expensive and grand effort, using creative innovations in a narrative
spoken through a moog synthesize, when synthesizers were still a mystery
to most artists. Keith Olsen, who later went on to produce an album with
Fleetwood Mac, was co-producer with Curt Boetcher. Together they combined
brilliant studio and vocal arrangement wizardry. We learned much, but
were awed and ill-prepared for such an intense effort. In the end, after
the completion of the album, Curt offered to come back to the Northwest
and sign with the group. Mardi Sheridan and Mike Balzotti were delighted
with the opportunity to continue our growth with our Hollywood mentor.
However, Chuck Warren and Bob Gallaway were more interested in returning
to our old money making circuit and preserving our autonomy. That decision
was the end of The Bards. Mike and Mardi left the group on that turn of
events and ultimately moved to L.A. to pursue their writing and recording
careers. Bob and Chuck regrouped and carried on with the name for a time
before disbanding. It was over.
and Mike brought in Michael Langdon, a local Seattle singer song-writer
extraordinaire and continued for a year or so, recording and regrouping
toward a new recording / performing tour group. The effort produced some
good music and hard times as we tried to adapt to the change from the
beautiful Northwest and notoriety to the accelerated pace of smog city.
Being just another no-name group starving it out on promises was not sufficient.
We wanted to go home.
Balzotti and Michael Langdon got back together as a duo called "The
Michaels", playing local Seattle clubs at night, while going to college
in the daytime. Mardi Sheridan and Bob Gallaway also got respective groups
together for a time, but these efforts were relatively short-lived means
to independent ends. We had had a taste of the big time and knew of the
sacrifices necessary to sustain that intense of an effort. After a kind
of marriage for 8 years and the interdependency of' 'Group Life', it is
interesting to note that all of the original Bards have chosen careers
outside of the music business per se, with perhaps their one common denominator
ironically being positions of relative independence and autonomy. There
would be no denying those 8 years together was an incredibly unique and
priceless education in business, interpersonal and communicative skills.
Today, Mardi Sheridan is still active in many aspects of the entertainment business in Seattle; Chuck Warren is a manager at Lad Irrigation in Moses Lake; and Mike Balzotti is busy creating web sites, music and conducting business in the real estate field in Scottsdale Arizona. Bob Gallaway passed away in 1994 in Spokane. Today you can still hear "Never Too Much Love" when they play the "Oldies-but-goodies" on KJR and other Northwest radio stations. ROCK'N ROLL FOREVER. Back