Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Ides and Shames Union

Nearly every year since Forgotten Hits began, we have made it a practice to salute The Ides Of March ON The Ides Of March. For the past three years, I've been wanting to do SOME sort of spotlight piece on the short-lived mid-'70's Chicagoland Rock Band, The Ides And Shames Union, a band that evolved out of two of our long-time local heroes bands, The Ides Of March and The Cryan' Shames ... but information has proven to be pretty scarce regarding this brief incarnation of the band.

Even with some of the members of these bands on our mailing list ... and local contacts who are regularly in touch with former members of "The Union", we've had a difficult time assembling enough information to put together an "interesting" piece ... but this year ... thanks to a little help from our friends ... (Marlene O'Malley and Guy Arnston in particular!) ... we've FINALLY got something VERY nice to share with you!

Now, in all fairness, we've certainly given ample time to BOTH of these artists in the past ... in fact, we kicked off this special weekend series with a salute to each of them! As I just mentioned, we have typically saluted The Ides Of March every year on The Ides of March ... and The Cryan' Shames have ALWAYS been one of our favorite local bands ... so we've given them ample space in our Forgotten Hits pages over the years, too. But, quite honestly, I don't EVER recall seeing a significant piece written on the joined forces of these two artists ... so I figured that I may as well just do it myself!!!

For starters, thanks to Guy Arnston, who published "The Illinois Entertainer" back in its hey-day ... and Jeff Lind, who wrote that OUTSTANDING series on "The History Of Chicago Rock" ... ... we were able to put together a little something from that great series to share with you here today. (Sadly, Jeff passed away last year, so he won't even get to see it ... but his series has become the definitive source for the Chicagoland Rock Scene of the '60's and '70's. Guy Arnston is in the process right now of assembling and updating ALL of those pieces to be published in "coffee table" book form as a fitting tribute to the artists and music of this very special era.)

Along with Guy, we've got to tip our hat to Marlene O'Malley (aka "Rock On Chicago") ... and one of "The Shameless Babes" ... who helped put us in contact with some of the principle members of this late '70's version of The Cryan' Shames, lending this whole piece a "We Were There" perspective that we could have otherwise never achieved. (Sadly, we were NOT able to gather ANY perspective from The Ides Of March camp in time for this piece ... hopefully, after they see this posted on the web page, we'll be able to offer follow up comments from the likes of Chuck Soumar and Larry Millas, who were ALSO there at the time!) Hearing from a few of the band members who participated in The Ides - Shames Union REALLY helps to top things off this year ... and, as such, we're able to fill in a few more gaps in the story.

Here Goes ... our Forgotten Hits Tribute to The Ides - Shames Union!!!

(P.S. Efforts to track down ANY recorded material ... live or otherwise ... have failed miserably!!! When all was said and done, we've got exactly ONE track to share with you today ... but even that can be considered a World-Wide Exclusive Premier!!! If ANYONE on the list happens to have access to any other recordings by this version of the band, we'd LOVE to hear them ... perhaps we can do some type of follow-up feature somewhere down the road. In talking with the guys involved in this brief venture, THEY'D like to hear them, too!!! Likewise with photos and memorabilia ... virtually everything you'll see here today comes from The Cryan' Shames' website ... we'd love to share some MORE photos from back in the day if you've got them!)


First up, here's the bulk of Jeff Lind's original History Of Chicago Rock piece (with some current updating by Guy Arnston):

Hey Kent,
I seem to remember you were looking for more info on the Ides-Shames Union, a Seventies band that rose from the ashes of two of Chicago's most beloved groups, the Ides of March and the Cryan' Shames. I found mention of the Union in one of Jeff Lind's original History of Chicago Rock chapters. Here is what he had to say back in August of 1980, with a few alterations:

The Cryan' Shames farewell concert was held at the Cellar in December of 1969 ... Less than six months later, in the summer of 1970, the band got back together for a one-week series of concerts at the urging of WLS Disc Jockey Dex Card, who wanted the band to play at his Wild Goose Productions. It was a memorable week, full of surprises from the group, including a guest appearance from Jim Fairs. After the one week, the Cryan' Shames all went their separate ways. Jim Fairs went back to performing with a band called Cross (aka Hezikiah), who also had J. C.Hooke for awhile. Lenny Kerley and Dennis Conroy were back in their new country band, Possum River. Al Dawson also got into country rock. Toad (Tom Doody) gave up on music completely: "I didn't even listen to the radio." And so it remained for a period of almost four years. Hooke ended up as percussionist in a band called Jotto, while Kerley fronted Goodfoot. Fairs had done session work with Pearls Before Swine and was also a member of a Champaign-based band named Afterbirth. Toad was living in Minnesota when he heard about the breakup of the Ides of March (in November of 1973, leaving a third RCA album unreleased). He relates, "My friend Larry Millas, who was their bass player, gave me a call and we kicked around the idea of putting a band back together. I really felt like I still had talent, and I missed the music scene. We chose the name The Ides - Shames Union because we knew it would get us some better gigs, even though it sounded hokey." Besides Doody and Millas, the group included Chuck Soumar (from the Ides) on drums and trumpet, Don Melton on keyboards (he later played with Steve Dahl in Teenage Radiation), and John Pavletich (formerly with Orphanage) on lead guitar. Besides playing the hits of both bands, the group got into a newer sound that today would be called power pop. After about a year as the Ides - Shames Union, J. C.Hooke was lured away from Jotto, and Fairs from Afterbirth, and the band became the Cryan' Shames. When Chuck Soumar left, Ron Kaplan came in to play drums and Randy Ponetowski was added on keyboards to complete the group. Press coverage of the new group was prolific, but they lived up to their expectations in concert ... For two years, the group played at local clubs and bars, but they broke up for good in 1977. Of course, everybody knows that the Cryan' Shames were revived by Jim (Hooke) Pilster, and are still playing these days. And the Ides also got back together, and are leader Jim Peterik's outlet for songs he's written for the Ides, Survivor, 38 Special, and others.
Guy Arnston in Algonquin

I think Dex Card was more upset about the break-up of the band than WE were! We agreed to do a series of appearances at his Wild Goose clubs as a way of saying goodbye to the fans. He actually cried the last time we performed.
-- Jim Pilster (Hooke) / The Cryan' Shames

Dex Card was the popular WLS afternoon jock who used to countdown the WLS Silver Dollar Survey every afternoon ... he opened up a string of nightclubs where he hosted any number of local talent acts on any given night ... and clearly, The Cryan' Shames were amongst his favorites. (kk)

I was fortunate enough to see The Ides - Shames Union perform at a downtown bar called Rush Up ... the band performed up in the loft for the patrons below. Sadly this was the beginning of The Disco Era ... and fewer and fewer rock bands were getting live performance gigs, having been replaced by deejays and light-up floors!!! Another big peformance for the band took place at B'Ginnings, a club owned at the time by Chicago (as in the BAND Chicago ... get it ... Beginnings?!?!?) Drummer Danny Seraphine. I found these pictures on The Cryan' Shames' website ... ironically from a concert that took place on my birthday back in 1975!!! (kk)

(Very special thanks to Joanie Crear, who took these photos ... and to Pat and Barb Malott, who maintain The Cryan' Shames website.)

I remember Rush Up ... we had to carry this giant Hammond B-3 organ up a floor of stairs in order to get it into this cramped little loft area where we were supposed to perform. The space was so tight we literally couldn't move out of our spots while playing!
-- Jim Pilster (Hooke) / The Cryan' Shames

Where to begin?
I had been totally out of music for 3 yrs. I was even living in a different state. I got a call from Dave Remidi and John Galobich. They were both record promotion men from Columbia Records, and old friends. They wanted to know if I would consider getting back into music, with a couple of guys from the Ides of March. After some consideration, I said yes and I moved back to Chicago.
The members from the Ides were: Chuck Soumar on drums and Larry Millas on bass. Chuck is a trumpet player, but he can really play drums, and sings great. Larry was a guitar player, picked up the bass and did a great job with it. A real groove monster, and a super singer. It also helped that these are two of the nicest guys you are ever going to meet.
We added two new members. Don Melton on piano ... good player, good singer, very good song writer and possibly the most musical person I have ever met. We were also lucky to have John Pavletic on guitar. I have been fortunate to play with great guitarists like Jim Fairs, Lenny Kerley and Jeff Rutter. John was their equal, super melodic and he could play riffs faster than anyone I have heard. He also could sing very good and was a prolific and very good song writer.
This was us ... musical, vocal and all original material rock and roll. We came at a time when glam rock and disco were king. Our musical inspiration was from a different generation. We wanted to let people know from where we came. That's why we called ourselves the Ides - Shames Union. We tried to seek a different personality, but this is a hard thing to do when you had success being who you were.
All this said, the band sounded great live. About 10 yrs ago a fan let me hear a recording of the Ides - Shames at a local club ... and I was blown away at how good it sounded.
We added new members. Jim Pilster ... I was always most comfortable with him on stage with me. Chuck left (he needed more stability in his life) and we added Ted Kalamatas, another great jazz style drummer. At this time we added another lead instrument to our group ... Randy Poiniatowski on Hammond Organ. He could really play and the sound of two keyboards was super. John Pavletec took his leave ... too many smokey clubs and not enough recognition. He was replaced by Jim Fairs. I don't have to tell you about Jim's chops. I think at this time we replaced Ted with Ronnie Kaplan. He was the last drummer we had with the Shames. After all these changes we were still sounding great live, but not attracting an audience ... so we disbanded.
Looking back, I am sorry that Don and John did not get the recognition they deserved as song writers ... also that a larger audience was not able to hear the group live. It is hard to catch magic twice. Also, as a lead singer fortunate to have hit records, you are always going to be recognized for that work. I was still able to sing ... I thought pretty good, by the way ... but it was not new or different enough to carry the day. This (and perhaps our lack of real vision) sealed our destiny.
I still like the band ... it sounded great and it had some of the best people I have ever worked with. Hope this helps.
(Tom Doody)
P.S. It looks like you've done your home work! It was a fun band that sounded great live. I enjoyed it, especially the guys I played with. I wish I had some pictures from the group, but I don't. Thanks for the update.
I remember Ron Kaplan ... we used to call him "Ronnie Rent-A-Drummer"!!! He was a fun guy and I've kind of lost touch with him over the years ... actually, I'd love to talk to him again. He was a good drummer but we used to tease him because he would iron his jeans ... actually iron in a crease in his blue jeans ... and we'd say "C'mon, Ronnie, we're a ROCK band!!! You can't iron your jeans!!!"
-- Jim Pilster (Hooke) / The Cryan' Shames

Guy Arnston put me in contact with Ron Kaplan for this series ... little did I know at the time that he was already a Forgotten Hits List Member!!! (lol) Ironically, he now calls HIMSELF "Rent-A-Drummer" and even has his own website. He's still playing music and recording and, thanks to this series, has been back in touch with both Jim Pilster and Tom Doody! (kk)

There was a period 'after the fall' of the 60's scene, when a number of fine musicians and writers simply could not find a 'fit' for there ideas and talents. The private studio scene had yet to truly emerge, there were no niche' labels, no niche' marketing endeavors, etc., ... and the clubs were playing disco, which (in all fairness) eventually paved the way for Dance, House, Dub, Scratch, Rap...and more.
I was asked to join the 'Ides-Shames Union', which consisted of Don Melton, Randy Poniotowsky, Ron Kaplan, Tom Doody, Larry Millas, and Jim Pilster. I would be replacing John Pavletic, who was branching out into the high-end audio installation market.
The group had no real "raison d'etre" ... reason for existence ... but acted as a means for the participants to find their way to the next steps in their lives. There was no real fan base, etc. ... yet high points for me included the groups' performances of my songs "Now You Can Fly", "In This Dream", and "This Life-These Times". I also enjoyed watching Tom Doody re-invent his vocal style to suit the circumstances.
Tom went on to work with Ditech in California ... and to learn the bass!!!
Larry Millas started a number of exceptional recording studios, resumed playing with the (re-formed) Ides of March ... and joined with me in founding IMI Innovations, Inc.
Randy still plays the organ, I believe ... and Larry's in touch with him
Ron Kaplan is still, no doubt, a fine drummer, and lives in Texas
Don Melton (a great guy) is, I'm sure, still writing music
Jim Pilster (always up for a jam session!) went on to form a long-term 'oldies' - based version of the Cryan' Shames.
... and time continues to come down; you've got to take it on yourself.
all the best
Jim Fairs

I felt that with The Ides - Shames Union it seemed as if the band became more of a vehicle, (no pun intended), for Jim Fairs. He sang lead on most of the songs, and it became a night of guitar solos. That's not to say that the solos weren't good, but that's not why people came to see the band. --Ron Kaplan

Hey Kent,
Prior to sending you that Illinois Entertainer piece, I talked to Jeff Lind and he told me that he saw the Ides - Shames Union in early 1974 at Papa Joe's, the former Deep End, in downtown Park Ridge. Tom Doody from the Shames was lead vocalist,with fellow former Shame John Pavletich on lead guitar. Larry Millas (bass) and Chuck Soumar (horns) from the Ides of March were also in the Union. Doody returned to music for this project from his gig as an accountant; Jim Peterik had just broken up the Ides. Jeff didn't remember the other musicians. They played out for a year or so, then the New Cryan' Shames came out. Songs included the usual suspects, like Vehicle, L.A. Goodbye, Sugar and Spice, Up on the Roof, It Could Be We're in Love. That's about it from this end. Can't wait to see what else you come up with. -- Guy in Algonquin

After Guy put us in contact with latter-day Ides - Shames Union Drummer Ron Kaplan, he came up with a copy of the set list that the band performed at The Thirsty Whale back in 1977:
In This Dream
Waiting For You
Easy Money
Take That Ride
It Could Be We're In Love
You Can Fly
Hot Water
We All Need Someone To Love (Toad sang this one)
Natures.... (Can't figure out what song this is, but Toad's singing it as well)
--- BREAK ---
In This Dream (For the second time, so I'm not sure where we are in the evening at this point)
Some Jazzy sounding song that I don't recall, but Toad sounds great on it
Long Goodbye
A pseudo funk latin version of Sugar and Spice (I kid you not!)
On The River
Love Song (A really great song, which as fate would have it, I got to play drums on when I was asked to replace a track on a demo version)
Tobacco Road (drat, a drum solo)
Let It Roll
Obviously, It Could Be We're in Love and Sugar and Spice are Shames tunes, and Hot Water is a single from the Ides album Midnight Oil. None of the other songs are on the Shames albums. Maybe Toad remembers where they came from.
-- Ron Kaplan

I showed this set list to Toad (Tom Doody) to see what HE remembered ... and this is what he had to say. (Personally, I thought that there was a surprising lack of well-known Cryan' Shames and Ides of March songs on the list ... material that the audience most certainly would have identified with. Perhaps this was intentional and the band was trying to forge a new identity, circa 1977??? Earlier comments indicate that they went with the "Ides - Shames" name to capitalize on familiarity and have a greater ease in securing bookings ... and Tom tells me that the band's 1975-1977 line-up excelled in song-writing. The mention of a "demo" session prompts me again to ask, "Is there ANY recorded material floating around out there by this version of the band???" Ron Kaplan has a VERY poor quality cassette recording of the above show ... and Toad mentioned hearing a tape shared by a fan ten years ago that impressed him as to just how good the band sounded live on stage. Surely SOMEONE out there must have SOMETHING to share???)

This was a set list towards the end of the group. We had really changed things by then. I believe when we started we did L.A. Goodbye, Hot Water and Vehicle by the Ides and we did Sugar and Spice, Up on the Roof, and It Could Be We're in Love by the Shames. The rest of the early group set were songs written by John Pavletic, and Don Melton. Dancing Shoes, California Triptic and a bunch of others, the names of which I can't remember by John. 76 and again a bunch of others whose names escape me by Don. It is interesting ... I still remember the melodies of all of there songs. They really were quite good.

When I saw The Ides - Shames Union perform at Rush Up, "Vehicle" and "Up On The Roof" were concert highlights ... incredibly, I still remember that night! (kk)

Meanwhile, Drummer Ron Kaplan had a few OTHER memories to share with us:

This is what I remember of the Ides / Shames Union.
I was playing with Redwood Landing and came home late one night to find a message from Jim Fairs. He said to call him no matter how late it was, which I did — at about 2 am, probably lunch time for Jim — and he asked me if I would be interested in joining the Ides / Shames Union. I had seen the band a few times, and thought this might be a good fit for me musically. While Redwood was a great band, and I had reservations about abandoning my good friend, and Redwood guitarist, Bobby Diamond, not everyone was putting the best interests of the band first, and it seemed like the right time to find something else to do. I rehearsed with the I / S Union for a couple of weeks in the basement of a house in Hinsdale, which could have been Hooke's, and my first gig with the band was at the Thirsty Whale on May 7, 1977. I have a live recording from this night, which has the date on the cassette case. The band members included Hooke and Jim Fairs from the Shames, Larry Millas from the Ides of March, keyboard player Don Melton, guitarist John Pavletic (I think), and, of course, Toad, who, for some reason, at first I couldn't recall being in the band. I recently listened to the tape to see if it would bring back any memories. I could hear Toad's distinctive voice singing harmony in the very first song, so I guess he was in the band after all. Too bad it wasn't until the fifth song of the first set, "It Could Be We're In Love", where he finally sang lead. I listened to the entire tape and out of 15 songs, Toad sang lead on only five of them. And only two of these were Cryan Shames originals. Is it any wonder that I didn't remember him being in the band? To me, that was the main problem with the Ides / Shames concept. I think that most people would assume it was not only a combination of players from both bands, but the songs from each group as well. The tape I have may be missing a song or two from that evening's performance, and while I vaguely remember that we did learn an Ides song, or possibly two, it seemed as if the band became a vehicle, (no pun intended), for Jim Fairs. He sang lead on most of the songs, and it became a night of guitar solos. That's not to say that the solos weren't good, but that's not why people — and in the case of that particular evening it sounded like there were all of five of them in the audience — came to see the band. What amazes me about that night's performance is how tight the band played, especially since it was my first gig with them. And while I was certain that I had escaped having to play the obligatory drum solo, as luck would have it, there it was during a completely unrecognizable version of "Tobacco Road." Oh, well. As for the harmonies, let's just say it was probably an off night and leave it at that. (NOTE: A list of songs, in the order they appear on the tape, appears earlier in this article.)
There's very little talking between songs, or whomever was running the tape was stopping and starting it, but at one point Hooke mentions that there would be three sets. I think it's the first and second sets that were recorded.
The only other job that comes to mind is a night that we played at a club in Aurora, and the PA system didn't show up. Luckily Redwood Landing used to rehearse at Pan PA, so I knew someone who might be able to help us. We contacted Ken Gorz, the owner of Pan, and he brought his system to the club as a last minute replacement. It's been such a long time that I don't really remember the reason I stopped playing with the band. It's possible that Toad left at some point, but considering the fact that I couldn't even remember him being in the band in the first place, I'm not sure if that means much. :-)

Ron DID send me a copy of one of the songs from that live Thirsty Whale tape. It's a VERY interesting cut called "Long Goodbye" ... which sounds like absolutely NOTHING either of these bands did on their own. Perhaps we're right ... using the familiar names got them their initial bookings ... but then they tried to forge their own musical identity. All I know is that this one sounds pretty good to me ... especially for a live cut ... and they don't come much rarer than this!!! (Thanks to ALL the guys for letting us "World Premier" this cut here in Forgotten Hits!!!)

Jim Pilster of The Cryan' Shames told us another interesting story:
Ask Tom if he remembers the time we performed as "Lemlow Phrultzb"!!! We were supposed to do a gig at The Aragon Ballroom with Gary Wright and Peter Frampton ... this was right around the time that "Frampton Comes Alive" hit the charts ... and it was a monster!!! ... and The Cryan' Shames were booked as the opening act. We're backstage and we're thinking that we're never going to go over with this crowd ... they weren't here to hear OUR music ... so we came up with the idea to go on as Lemlow Phrultzb ... that way if we died, nobody would know it was us ... and, if the audience didn't know it was us, they'd have no pre-conceived notion of what we were supposed to sound like and judge us for what we actually played instead. It was the one and only appearance of Lemlow Phrultzb!
-- Jim Pilster (Hooke) / The Cryan' Shames

The general feeling I got from all the guys I talked to is that the timing just wasn't right for this venture to succeed ... disco was at its peak and live bands in clubs were being replaced by disc jockeys and light-up floors. The punk scene was in its infancy ... and not enough time had passed yet for Chicagoland heroes like The Cryan' Shames and The Ides Of March to make us wax nostalgic about the good old days and the feel-good music they brought us. Yet every single one of them to a man wishes that there was more of a committment and focus to see things through. Unfortunately, when bookings fell off, they became discouraged and slowly started to fall apart. Fortunately, today we're often treated to ALL of the Chicago bands performing on the Summer Suburb Circuit ... and quite honestly The Ides Of March and The Cryan' Shames sound just as good ... or even better ... then they did back in the '60's and '70's.

We're STILL hoping to hear at least SOMETHING from Ides members Larry Millas and/or Chuck Soumar to give The Ides' perspective on this brief incarnation of the band. (Maybe once they see this, they'll feel inspired to get in touch ... stay tuned for more developments, IF they respond!!!)

Meanwhile, thanks to all of you for all your help in putting this piece together ... I really appreciate it. After three years' research, I'm giving you everything I've got!!! (lol) Well, at least I'm persistant!!!

REMINDER: Guy Arnston is still in the process of putting together the ULTIMATE Coffee Table Book spotlighting The History Of Chicago Rock ... if ANYBODY on the list would like to talk to him about this project ... was a member of these bands ... or knows where we might find some of the members of these bands ... please contact Guy Arnston at: