JEFF & DANE
I've referred to this duo on a few occasions over the last 20+ years so I think it's time to fill in some gaps on how two students at Ohio State University and a third person (me), who happened to know one of them since high school and the other by a chance meeting, ended up creating a one-of-a-kind musical duo in 1970.
Sometime early in 1970, Dane Donohue ran into Jeff Fenholt, who was two years younger than him, somewhere on Ohio State's campus. I was not in school at the time, but instead, was working as a sound man for a company that did sound for many well-known groups such as Jethro Tull, Chicago, Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, Blind Faith, Three Dog Night, The Fifth Dimension, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Bob Seger, etc. Jeff and I were the same age.
My first memory of us "hanging out" was at Dane's apartment in north Columbus, near Upper Arlington. It was one of only two times I ever smoked marijuana. They started jamming on their guitars, playing around with some originals and covers, and I just listened in awe. Their voices blended so well. It was as if they had been a duo for years. The harmonies were effortless and spot-on.
As the year progressed, they decided to put together a song list and get in front of some audiences. But they needed a PA and they wanted someone to run it because they knew absolutely nothing about sound, other than what came out of their mouths and their guitars.
Jeff's girlfriend's father came through with a Shure 6-Channel Vocal Master Column PA with built-in reverb. It was considered a top-of-the-line PA for its time. He also threw in a couple of Shure Microphones. We were all set, except for how to transport it from their house to the other side of town.
Dane owned a Triumph TR-6 so he couldn't pick it up.
I don't remember what Jeff was driving then, but he couldn't pick it up either. So that left me, and since I had Pontiac Catalina 4-Door Sedan, we were able to get everything in it.
Thus began my role in this duo as their "Co-Pilot." The very first thing I realized about this "top-of-the-line" PA: it did not have nearly enough power. Regardless of where the volumes were set on their microphones (there were no gain controls on these systems back then), either of their voices could easily send the PA into distortion. But such were the times, and we did the best with what we had.
SEARCHING FOR A GUITAR - PART ONE
One of the most memorable times we had was in the summer of 1970. Dane decided he wanted a 1957 Cherry Sunburst Les Paul guitar and said we should go on a road trip.
He started making calls to everyone he knew, including some people in Kentucky. He had relatives there and thought it might be worth the trip to go down and check things out. Because there were three of us, my car was used for the trip.
We made a few different stops in Kentucky, including one in Hazard, where Dane's distant uncle lived. He and his wife were very hospitable and after a quick early lunch, he took us to his "stash" which was across from his house, in a small opening under the edge of a cliff. (How I wish we had a camera!)
The man got on his knees at the edge of this cliff, reached down under the edge, and pulled out one of several mason jars that contained moonshine. He said that before we go, we had to take a sip of his latest "blend."
I think my tongue still has a scar from the burn it received after tasting that stuff. That's all I'll say about it.
NEARLY SHOT AT McDONALD'S
After we left the uncle's home, we made a couple of other stops in the area, checked out some guitars, but no one had what Dane wanted. It was now dinner time so we stopped at a McDonald's just off I-64, outside of Lexington. We decided it would be better if we ate in the car rather than go inside because back then, long-haired, hippie-types like us were not treated very kindly in Kentucky. (According to some of my black friends at the time, we took the heat off of them.) We were able to park away from other cars, towards the back of the parking lot. We went inside, purchased our food (no drive-thru back then) and promptly went back to the car to eat. We assumed we could eat our meal in peace. And we would have been able to... if I had kept my big mouth shut.
But nooo, not me.
I noticed a man and a woman in a car to my left, parked a few spaces down from us, staring at us with looks of pure hatred. It started bothering me and finally, I couldn't take it anymore. I was going to let them know it was not polite to stare at others.
I rolled my window down, looked straight over at them and said, "Would you PLEASE stop staring at us. THANK YOU!" I then rolled my window back up and went back to my sandwich.
Dane was sitting in the front passenger seat and Jeff was sitting in the rear seat, behind me. As I was taking my next bite, Jeff said, "KONTRAS! THAT GUY HAS A GUN POINTED RIGHT AT YOUR HEAD!"
Dane looked over, saw the gun, and with a calm voice (unlike Jeff's) said, "Don't look over at him. Start the car, back out slowly, and drive away." I was able to peak out the corner of my left eye as I was backing out, and saw a very large revolver, aimed squarely at my head, with its barrel even with the woman's nose.
"Do not look at him no matter what! He will not hesitate to shoot and believe me, he'll get away with it!" warned Dane. Knowing Dane knew this part of the country better than either Jeff or me, I did exactly as he said. We drove slowly out of the lot and up the road to I-64. We were sure he would follow us, but thankfully, he didn't.
SEARCHING FOR A GUITAR - PART TWO
Now that we had survived a meal like no other, we decided to make one last stop. I don't remember the town, but I do remember it was very small, and poor. The neighborhood was filled with small, run-down houses with lots of stuff on the porches, etc. It was dark now, and we were fortunate that Dane had received good instructions on where we had to go to see this guitar. We had little hope that it would be what Dane was looking for, but it was worth a shot. We would head home to Columbus after this stop - with or without a guitar.
We pulled up into the gravel driveway, and Jeff and I stayed in the car while Dane went up on the porch and knocked on the door. A young man came out, greeted Dane warmly and said that Jeff and I could come in if we'd like. We couldn't get out of the car fast enough. After all, we nearly died in it a couple of hours before.
The young man opened the door to a small closet and pulled out a guitar that was not even in a case. He showed it to Dane, who knew exactly at that moment that he had found what he was looking for. The young man told Dane that it had been in the closet for a long time, but he did take it out once to show it to Jimmy Hendrix after a concert, back at Hendrix's hotel room. Naturally, we didn't believe him, until he pulled out an 8x10, black and white, glossy photograph of Hendrix playing the guitar while sitting on the side of a bed.
JEFF AND DANE - LIVE AT THE GALLERY
Now that I've given you a story or two about our escapades, I'll move on to the duo itself. Not many bookings came their way until they found a home at a small place called "The Gallery Restaurant" in downtown Columbus. This was an unexpected surprise because, well, let's face it, these were a couple of long-haired guys playing guitars and singing to a suit-and-tie business crowd. But once they started performing, the jackets and ties came off and the drinking began, or maybe it was the other way around. Either way, Jeff & Dane made a home for themselves and became very popular late in 1970.
When Dane and I reconnected in June of 2022, I learned that he had a reel-to-reel tape of a recording I made of them at The Gallery on December 19, 1970. He asked if I could digitize it, and I obviously jumped at the chance. The tape was in remarkably good condition and held up well through the conversion. I've put together some excerpts from this performance. You'll note that I am mentioned a couple different times on the recording.
In mid 1971, Dane landed the role of Jesus in the National Rock Opera's Jesus Christ-Superstar Tour. At about the same time, Jeff landed the same role in the Robert Stigwood Organization's Jesus Christ-Superstar Tour, which ultimately put him on Broadway and on the cover of Time Magazine. I ended up going on the National Rock Opera's Tour as one of three sound and light men.