The original line-up included Dancy on vocals and guitar, Duchrow on drums, Craig Fairchild on keyboards, Dave Kuck on guitar and Fred Euler on bass. As their record started to garner all kinds of local airplay in and around the Milwaukee area, selling like hotcakes at all the local record shops, A&M Records out in California took an interest in the band and signed them for a national distribution deal. Despite this sudden attention, "Little By Little" still failed to make the national charts ... although it DID climb to #2 in Milwaukee on WOKY, kept out of the #1 Spot by The Monkees' two-sided hit "Valleri" / "Tapioca Tundra". (Ironically, BOTH records were reviewed the same week in Billboard Magazine as "picks to click"!)
(click photos to enlarge)
The band continued to play to huge crowds in and around the area and, in 1969, recorded their first and ... until VERY recently ... ONLY LP. Later in 1969, Drummer Dennis Duchrow was drafted and sent off to Viet Nam. It was at this point that Lanny Hale entered the picture ... and today, some 40 years later, it is Lanny, Craig and Tony who have reunited as The Tygers to FINALLY record their second album!!!
I asked the guys about the early days ... and wondered how aware Lanny was of the original Tygers prior to joining the band.
KENT KOTAL / FORGOTTEN HITS: Lanny, you weren't in the band at the time of the initial recording ... but certainly you must have been aware of their local success and appeal ... how did you come to know the rest of the guys and what was it like when you were first asked to join the band?
LANNY HALE: In 1966, after finishing high school, my family moved to Milwaukee from Indianapolis. I had been in a typical band of that era and enjoyed it, so I went to work immediately to start a new one in Milwaukee. I found a keyboard guy first, actually a Farfisa player back then, a guitar guy, and, with me playing bass, rounded out with a good little drummer. We went to work as The Rynge. Tony’s Tyger’s, as they were called back then, were one of the hot groups in the area. The Rynge ended up in the same management company as The Tygers and we occasionally opened for them. Due to problems with our drummer’s father sporadically refusing to let his son play gigs, we had to let him go. We began the search for another drummer. During this search period, we were instructed by management that we would have to play a certain job that we clearly weren’t ready for as we had no drummer. This critical piece of information did not restrain their insistence and forced us to go. Since I had fiddled with drums in my bedroom at home in the past, we borrowed one of the interviewee’s drum sets, practiced for a couple of nights and played the job as a three piece, with me singing from behind the drums, not that common in those days. It worked out fairly well and The Rynge became a permanent three piece group. On a subsequent job opening for The Tygers, some of their members approached me, surprised to see that I was now playing drums and singing (they were a heavily vocal group).
KK: And then The Tygers' original drummer, Dennis Duchrow got drafted, right?
LANNY: Right ... and when their drummer subsequently left for Vietnam, I was called to audition for the drummer position in The Tygers. It was very exciting to get the job as I believed this was “the” band in those parts. The big wave from the single had died down and the album didn’t do much so things weren’t as hot as the previous year ... but there was still great enthusiasm for the future.
KK: The official Tygers website (
LANNY: Yes, in early 1971 I got my acceptance into medical school and shortly after that the band split up with Craig and Tony moving to California and continuing their music careers there. Fred went to Chef and Hotel Management training and now runs one of the largest Hyatt Regency Conference and Resort complexes in Florida.
KK: While Tony and Craig stayed involved with the music business in some fashion, you really had a 40 year break in the action in this regard. What was your career during these interim years? And are you still doing that now?
LANNY: Well, eight years after I left the Tygers I graduated from my ophthalmology residency program and started a career as an eye surgeon in Milwaukee and am still practicing there today.
At this point, Tony and Craig also joined in the conversation ...
KK: Who were some of the artists you toured with or appeared with in the late '60's and early '70's? Any shows in particular that really stand out in your mind? Any television appearances we might want to look for?
TONY: OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD, ROY ORBISON, DEL SHANNON, THE MONKEES, TOMMY JAMES ... MAYBE CRAIG AND LANNY CAN REMEMBER MORE. WE APPEARED ON A FEW LOCAL TV SHOWS INCLUDING ONE AMUSING ONE WAS WHERE WE WERE ALL LIP SYNCHING TO “LITTLE BY LITTLE” AND WE ALL SWITCHED INSTRUMENTS. FUNNY TO US, BUT NO ONE ELSE WOULD HAVE KNOWN!
LANNY: I remember a big outdoor show we did in Nashville in the late 60’s that featured Roy Orbison, Bobby Goldsboro, the Classics IV and others. There were a number of small local / regional TV shows that we appeared on, but none that you would be able to find today.
CRAIG: Lanny just described one particularly memorable concert in Nashville and some of the people we played with. That one also came to mind immediately for me. I think Andy Kim was on that bill as well as the other artists Lanny mentioned. We participated in a number of concerts in Nashville, which was a very musically liberal town. They loved good music regardless of the genre. We played with country musicians as well as rock musicians and the crowd response was always great. One of the appeals for me has always been performing before big crowds. Earlier in our history, prior to the release of "Little By Little", we did an outdoor show in Milwaukee that attracted around 20,000. That really felt like the big time, girls going crazy, screaming fans, a crush of people leaving their seats to get closer to the stage. When I think of some of the other artists we performed with, including Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, The New Colony Six, and Del Shannon, we've been pretty lucky to have been in such good company. We did a lot of local television shows, particularly in Nashville and Milwaukee. On one of the tours we stopped in Cleveland to film for the television show, Upbeat. Ironically, I saw very few of the shows I was involved in. I do recall a moment when we got rather casual about the TV thing, It was in Nashville and we were doing a lip-sync thing to our record, so there were no live sounds being produced. We all switched instruments. It was my debut on guitar. It may even have been my left-handed debut.
KK: When we did a profile of The New Colony Six a few years ago, we talked about the big show they did up there in Milwaukee ... it was a virtual Who's Who of Pop Music Stars on the bill that day!
LANNY: Kent, it's funny that you mention the New Colony Six, as we played with them at the Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee in the first "rock" concert ever done in that facility back in the late 60's.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Also on the bill that day Tony's Tygers and The New Colony Six played The Milwaukee Pop Festival at County Stadium, June 22, 1969, were The Classics IV, The Bob Seger System, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, The Cryan' Shames, Tommy James and the Shondells, Andy Kim, The Buckinghams, The Guess Who, The Royal Guardsmen, Eddie Floyd and the Bar-Kays and Freddie and the Freeloaders ... a simply AMAZING line-up and all for a ticket price of $1.50 - $3.50 per ticket!!! The 29,041 that attended that day would most likely agree with that assessment!!!)
KK: After enjoying quite a bit of local success with "Little By Little" on the Teen Town label, A&M Records picked up your record for national distribution ... what was that like when you first found out that A&M Records was taking YOUR record national? Did you get to fly out to the west coast and meet with Herb Alpert at the time? What kind of follow-up strategy was discussed back then?
TONY: WE THOUGHT WE WERE DESTINED FOR STARDOM. WE WERE WRONG. OUR MANAGER, JON HALL, FLEW OUT TO CALIFORNIA TO MEET WITH HERB ALBERT. FOLLOW-UP STRATEGY? WHAT’S THAT?
CRAIG: No wonder we didn't have a follow-up hit! No follow-up strategy! Now you tell us. I think prayer may have been the main strategy - praying that the release number two generated as much excitement as release number one. It was very exciting to be signed to a major label. It was the realization of a dream. Things like that happen so rarely. Our manager represented us in the negotiations with A&M, so we had to experience that moment vicariously, through his description of the event.
After the attention started to dry up locally, Lanny pursued his medical dreams and Craig and Tony moved out to California. Both were fortunate enough to stay in the music business, sometimes even working together on certain projects. In fact, when they first arrived in L.A., the duo landed a gig as staff writers for Wednesday's Child Productions, where they wrote music for nationally known TV shows like "The Brady Bunch" and "The Flintstones". They also really honed their vocal chops, singing background on any number of recording sessions well into the '70's.
Over the next several years, Tony would work with Ambrosia, El Chicano, Dusty Springfield, Burton Cummings and John Lennon ... a big step up the musical show-biz ladder when compared to the likes of The Brady Bunch and The Flintstones!!! Craig became an engineer at Larrabee Sound Studios in Hollywood, working on recording sessions for Sonny and Cher, Liza Minelli and Johnny Mathis. Tony and Craig even reunited in Milwaukee for a brief period of time, forming the band Quiffy .. but despite a tremendous following, worldwide fame and fortune continued to elude them.
KK: Tell us about some of the artists you worked with during the '70's. What was that like? Again, any stand-out memories you'd care to share?
TONY: A FEW OF THE ARTISTS I WORKED WITH, OR MET ALONG THE WAY INCLUDE: THE BRADY BUNCH, LTD, LARRY CARLTON, LEE RITENAUER, DUSTY SPRINGFIELD, AMBROSIA, EL CHICANO, JIM PHOTOGLO, BURTON CUMMINGS, WILLIE NELSON, JERRY LEE LEWIS, JOHN LENNON, TOM JONES, MICKY DOLENZ ... THERE WERE OTHERS, BUT MEMORY FADES, ESPECIALLY MINE. IT WASN’T UNCOMMON AT THE TIME IN L.A. THAT YOU’D MEET WELL-KNOWN PEOPLE. AT THE TIME, IT SEEMED AS IF THAT’S JUST THE WAY IT WAS, NO BIG DEAL. I HAD LOTS OF FUN, BUT I NEVER TRIED TO PARLAY ANY OF THESE CONTACTS INTO BUSINESS DEALS. LOOKING BACK, I CAN SAY THAT I MISSED A LOT OF OBVIOUS OPPORTUNITIES. THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE A MANAGER BEHIND YOU.
KK: Had all of you guys stayed in touch during the past 30-40 years?
TONY: YES. CRAIG AND I WERE INVOLVED IN SEVERAL OTHER BANDS. LANNY OCCASIONALLY SENT AN EMAIL OR MADE A PHONE CALL. DAVE IS MY COUSIN, SO I SEE HIM OFTEN. I SEE FRED ONCE IN A WHILE, AND THE SAME WITH DENNIS. WHEN I’M IN L.A., I USUALLY AM IN TOUCH WITH JOE.
LANNY: Essentially, yes. Fred moved away, worked his way up the Hyatt Hotel chain and ended up in Florida, and apparently never played again. I was the most removed of the remaining three as Tony and Craig continued to work together on and off during the ensuing year. Craig settled into Milwaukee, Tony rambled the most, playing in different parts of the world. In the 90’s Tony, Craig and I added a fourth voice and started practicing some very difficult Hi-Lo’s and Four Freshman tunes. We never performed them live but recorded a couple of songs in a local studio for fun. Every few years or so, we would have discussions about getting back together but the timing was never right until recently when we were able to put it back together and the new CD is the result.
CRAIG: Sporadically. Tony has usually been the person who has kept us connected through parties at his place. If one of the guys returned to Wisconsin, Tony usually orchestrated the event. Party at Tony's.
KK: Lanny, you had to keep YOUR musical chops up, too, right, in order to sound this good on the new CD!!!
LANNY: I never lost the desire to play but just didn’t have the time to do it. I started acquiring instruments and recording equipment about ten years ago in anticipation of the day it would work out. I would occasionally beat on some silent electronic drums I had, play some bass, and sing along with some tough tunes of the past. I hadn’t been writing songs since the early 70’s and after some rhythm guitar practice, started writing again.
In the late '90's, all the guys found themselves back in Milwaukee ... and soon, up on the stage together again, too.
KK: What first prompted the band to do the 1997 reunion for Maritime Days? Was there talk then about having another go at it musically?
TONY: IT WAS RATHER CASUAL, AND NOT A BIG DEAL. I THINK I WAS THE ONLY ORIGINAL TYGER, MAYBE CRAIG WAS IN THE BAND AT THE TIME. SINCE THIS WASN’T THE ORIGINAL BAND, WE DIDN’T EVEN CONSIDER “ANOTHER GO”. WE GOT TOGETHER TO HAVE FUN AND DO SOME LOCAL COVER BAND GIGS.
CRAIG: The Maritime Day gig was a chance to see who was still out there, who remembered, who cared. And we did get a great fan response. Confirmation that we still "had it". At the time, I think we were more focused on the next gig rather than a long future.
KK: Then what prompted this latest reunion? And how did it get to the next level of actually going into the studio and recording some new material after all these years?
TONY: IT GOES BACK TO OUR “IDEA”. THE IDEA IS THAT A GROUP OF GUYS WHO ARE 60 YEARS OLD CAN STILL CREATE A HIT RECORD. WHO SAYS YOU HAVE TO BE 20-SOMETHING TO HAVE A HIT? IT’S JUST BEEN THAT WAY FOR SO LONG THAT IT HAS BECOME CONVENTIONAL WISDOM. LANNY AND I CAME UP WITH THE SAME INSPIRATION INDEPENDENTLY. HE WAS IN SCOTTSDALE, AND I WAS IN ITALY – WHEN WE GOT TOGETHER LATER THAT YEAR WE SHARED OUR IDEAS. THEY WERE THE SAME. WE ARE HOPING TO BRING PEOPLE IN OUR AGE GROUP BACK INTO THE ATTENTION OF THE POP MUSIC INDUSTRY. AFTER ALL, THERE ARE 78 MILLION OF US OUT HERE. LANNY BUILT A STATE OF THE ART STUDIO IN HIS BASEMENT AND LEARNED HOW TO ENGINEER. WE WROTE A BUNCH OF SONGS AND IT WENT ON FROM THERE.
CRAIG: The three of us had stayed in contact over the years, Tony and I actually working together on and off and Lanny keeping in touch via e-mail. After a series of e-mails and phone conversations, we got together one evening at a local bar to kind of check-in and review some thoughts Tony and Lanny had come up with. My view of it is that they independently came to the conclusion that there is no new music currently being created for those who enjoyed vocal music of the 60's and 70's ... and we all agreed that there is a market for it. The question was what we wanted to do about it. The thoughts evolved into something like, Hey, it's not getting any earlier. Let's take another shot at this. While old bands getting together to relive their past is generally not news - lots of bands do that - old bands attempting a serious re-entry is. That's where we think the story is. We mutually believe that we can do this - so that lead to the next steps: putting it all together by writing, recording and ultimately performing.
The quality of the vocals may just be the most impressive thing about the new LP ... they're nothing short of phenomenal. With very strong instrumentation behind them, listening to this LP truly is like taking a step back in time ... yet there's still something incredibly infectious about it all ... and their passion for this music genuinely shines through.
I couldn't help but wonder ... after all this time ...
KK: What kind of rehearsals went into all of this? Was it a "natural" step to start playing music together again? (They say that once you gel musically, it tends to click immediately, even after a 25 or 30 year break in the action. Tommy James recently said that when he got back together with the original Shondells a short while back, it was like no time had ever passed at all! Everybody just instinctively knew their parts without anybody having to say a word!)
TONY: THERE WEREN’T ANY REHERSALS ... WE JUST STARTED WRITING AND RECORDING. THE MOMENT WE STARTED WRITING, IT WAS AS IF NO TIME HAD ELAPSED. TOMMY JAMES IS CORRECT. AS EINSTEIN SAID, “THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE IS ONLY A STUBBORNLY PERSISTENT ILLUSION”.
KK: I think Desmond Hume said something similar on "Lost"!!! (lol)
LANNY: I felt the vocals were surprisingly good after all these years. We always blended well together and that sound was still there. We take pride in the fact that our vocal sound does not reflect our chronologic age.
CRAIG: The key in vocal music is the blend. We just seemed to have it. Like it was never lost. We have a unique sound and we faithfully recreated it after all those years. Feedback on the CD generally includes something that notes how strong the vocals are and how unexpected that is after all these years. It's true that you need to keep up your chops, but I think the experience we've had over the years has actually improved the musicality of the group.
KK: Speaking of that, what has been the reaction to the new CD? I really enjoyed it and that's why I wanted to do this special feature and interview on The Tygers. Are you getting some local air play there in the Milwaukee area? Radio shows? Any new gigs lined up?
TONY: SO FAR IT’S BEEN GREAT! WE ARE GETTING SOME AIRPLAY ON THE INTERNET, AND ARE WORKING ON GETTING PLAYED ON LOCAL MILWAUKEE STATIONS. NOW AND THEN “LITTLE BY LITTLE” IS STILL PLAYED LOCALLY. WE ARE ACCUMULATING FANS ALL OVER THE WORLD, AND ARE LINING UP GIGS FOR THE SUMMER.
LANNY: The early reviews have been very favorable. We have gotten a limited amount of local and even international airplay but it’s tough nowadays to break into the serious radio lineup. We know we speak to a certain segment of the population and we just want to reach them and see if they enjoy this neo-retro style that we seem to have created.
CRAIG: The reaction has been great. People like the tunes, the performance both vocally and instrumentally, and the arrangements. Unlike the old days when radio was the way to get your music out there, the internet, which has been our primary venue, has been a great way of getting heard. People from all over the world have commented on our music. It's amazing.
KK: What are the future plans for The Tygers? (Here in Chicago, most of our "local heroes" play all summer and then go back to their "real" jobs for the remainder of the year!) What can we look forward to down the road ... more concerts? Another LP, perhaps ... hopefully NOT 40 years in the future!!! (lol)
TONY: THE PLAN IS TO GET A HIT RECORD. WE AREN’T EXACTLY LOOKING TO BE LOCAL HEROES, BUT RATHER AIMING AT NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS. WE WILL BE MAKING MORE RECORDS, AND WILL BE AT IT THIS SUMMER. IF THIS ENDEAVOR IS SUCCESSFUL, WE PLAN TO START A PRODUCTION COMPANY THAT IS FOCUSED ON ARTISTS OF OUR GENERATION. EVERY U.S. CITY HAS DOZENS OF GUYS WHO HAD LOCAL SUCCESS BUT NEVER BROKE NATIONALLY – WE HOPE TO HELP GIVE THEM ANOTHER CHANCE.
LANNY: We face some new long-distance logistics issues at the moment but all of these are solvable with the right amount of enthusiasm. We have new material already forming on the sidelines and another CD is easily done if we sense that people understand this one and enjoy the feel as much as we do.
CRAIG: The plan is a hit record. Then we hit the road and reap the socioeconomic rewards - fame, fortune, freedom. Ideally the only "real" would be the music thing.
KK: What's it like running into people who saw the band 40 years ago at some of your new concerts? What has the reaction been to you guys getting back together again?
TONY: I DON’T KNOW YET. STAY IN TOUCH!
LANNY: We're hoping that we can answer that question more accurately in the very near future.
CRAIG: The fans - I can't believe how old they've gotten! Just kidding! They're all still as young on the inside as they were 40 years ago. They're still cheering, drinking and staying out late. Having performed with Wisconsin groups over the last 28 years, I've been in front of some of those former Tyger fans rather continuously, so regarding their perception of me, the ravages of time have been gradual and less startling. Those who love vocal music are very enthusiastic about our getting together. I don't have women camped out on my front door as in the past - not that kind of enthusiasm - but then again, who knows, a hit record could change everything.
KK: Well, if the new shows bring you out Chicago-way, be sure to ring me up ... I'd love to come out and see you guys! Before we wrap things up here, anything special that you'd like to say to the fans out there?
CRAIG: It's never too late to rock.
LANNY: Turn the volume up a bit, sit back with a glass of wine, listen to the CD and hopefully you’ll sense something familiar and new at the same time. Then pass it on.
TONY: YES. YOU ARE NEVER TOO OLD TO FULFILL YOUR DREAMS. NEVER GIVE UP. IT’S NEVER TOO LATE. OH, AND … “WE’RE BACK”!
KK: Thanks Guys ... hopefully we can help to get the word out to a few more fans through The Forgotten Hits Website!
LANNY: Thanks Kent and Forgotten Hits!
Please check out our website: www.thetygers.com ... for song samples and ordering info. And check back often as we may have some exciting news any day now regarding a break out performance. On behalf of Craig and Tony and The Tygers, thanks again!
Tony's Tygers First LP (Circa 1969)