Later in the summer I was approached by the lead guitarist and vocalist of the fairly popular "Dubanets" to join their group. This was the kid who saw my group at the recreation center dance. I jumped at the chance! They had hired a new rhythm guitarist who also played alto sax and was a good lead vocalist. I was invited to see the group perform at a cabin and lake resort about 45 minutes south of home. I was so impressed with the group that I snapped this picture of them to show my parents.

click here to see the original photo before retouching (this is really cool)

They added me as a 6th member later that year. The spelling of the group's name was changed to "The Dubonnets" which was also the name of a popular wine back then. This did not make our parents happy, but we kept the spelling anyway. The most unique part of this group was its' average age. At the time of that resort engagement, four of the members were 13 years old. The other member was 15 years old. When I joined the band, I was also 15 years old. We were the youngest band in the community. The one advantage we had over every other local group at the time was vocal strength. Our ages made us seem like vocal virtuosos. The truth was, the other older member and I had had professional musical training so large vocal arrangements were easy. With 6-part vocals, there was plenty of material we could do well that other bands could not even consider.

By the spring of 1967, "The Dubonnets" had become very popular. We performed at many school, church and youth organization dances. We were too young to play in nightclubs. We also played a local, youth-oriented TV show that was the area's version of Dick Clark's American Bandstand. It was called "Dance Party with Jerry Razor". We appeared on this show several times, playing with groups like The Strawberry Alarm Clock, ("Incense & Peppermints"), The Lemon Pipers. ("Green Tambourine") and The First Edition featuring Kenny Rogers, ("Just Dropped In", "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town") among many others.

After doing that show with Kenny Rogers, he invited us across the street to a local club where his group was going to play that night! We joined Kenny and two other members of his group, Terry Williams and Mickey Jones, in a small jam session for about two hours. It was the first time we were ever in a nightclub. What a thrill to be performing with true recording artists even if it was during the day and the club had not yet opened for business that day.

That summer we entered a 'battle of the bands' that was being sponsored by the largest shopping mall in town. This was a battle of local bands restricted to "nonprofessional" musicians. If you were in the musicians' union, you were considered professional. The entire 2-day event was recorded by a local studio and was even given attention by the local news media. It was a big deal for us. The exposure for the group was immeasurable.

Ultimately, we came in second in the competition but we were almost given 1st Place because it was learned that the winning band had a bass player who was in the union. In the end, the judges voted 2-1 to give the group the number one slot because the bass player was a very recent addition and since the rest of the group was nonunion, it really did mean they were a "nonprofessional" band. As far as I was concerned, they deserved to win. They were very unique and far more creative than we were, although I probably would not have admitted it at the time. The recordings of that event became a two album set known as "The 1967 Northland Battle Of The Bands". I have a news article from the mid 80's that states there is an overseas collector that would pay hundreds of dollars for a copy of the album. Sorry, mine is not for sale.

By winter of '67 we'd been working Friday and Saturday nights very regularly all over the state. We started picking up gigs at fraternities and sororities at local and nearby colleges. We thought this was very cool since none of us were even old enough to be in college. We were still doing the YMCA dances around the state as well as the many school dances and private parties. One memorable night, we played at the Zanesville, Ohio YMCA Dance. The opening act for that dance was a great trio (guitar, bass and drums) whose name may have been, "The Measles." I'm not positive of that. The group's members were a few years older than us. I do recall the guitarist being very unique, using a "slide" on his strings to create a very different lead guitar sound. I learned many years later the guitarist was Joe Walsh (The James Gang, The Eagles)

In the spring of 1968, some of the group members were starting to think about other things like furthering their education beyond high school and how being in a band that worked a lot would interfere with their studies.

 

We had been approached by some regional talent agencies about reworking the group, doing some recording and possibly changing the name of the group. One of the names I remember being thrown around was "The Fun Company". We all thought the name was a bit silly but it turns out that the agent who came up with this marketing idea was the same agent who took a band called "Sir Timothy & The Royals" and turned them into "The Ohio Express." This would have meant keeping the original membership intact because our age was going to be our marketing appeal.

 

Our parents were not about to let some agent take their high school kids away from their studies.

 

 

By the summer of 1968, three of the original members had been replaced. We continued as "Dubonnets" playing many of the same venues as before and even doing the summer version of "Dance Party" called "Splash Party with Jerry Razor". The local TV show was broadcast live each week throughout the summer months at a local swimming pool. As the year came to an end, the group was trying to shake it's adolescent image and start playing more mature venues. This was not an easy task with two members still in high school.