Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ray Herr ... and The Ides Of March


Today we present a short Chicago Rock Music History Lesson.
VERY special thanks to the late Jeff Lind, who wrote the INCREDIBLE series spotlighting "The History Of Chicago Rock" for The Illinois Entertainer back in the '70's and '80's, to Guy Arnston, Publisher of The Illinois Entertainer for allowing us to run this info on the web page today, and Clark Besch for sharing with us what just may be the RAREST of all of the songs recorded by The Ides Of March ... a Kapp Records release that I've certainly never heard before ... and a pretty good tune at that!
Read on!  (kk)

Hey Kent,
Here is some of the History of Chicago Rock, as penned by the late Jeff Lind, concerning the equally late Ray Herr:

The Ides Of March
"You Wouldn’t Listen” was written and sung by Jimmy Peterik with the others adding harmony vocals on top of a basic rhythm track. The song skyrocketed to #7 in Chicago, and made it as high as #42 nationally. It was an excellent start, but soon a lot of people learned that the group was not from England, but instead from Berwyn! Since it was “in” to be British at the time, the Ides found themselves out on their amps, so to speak. Their second single, “Roller Coaster,” was a tighter, more controlled song than their debut hit, yet it went nowhere, as did their next release, “Sha La La La Lee.” James Michael Peterik was still writing engaging tunes with catchy phrases and memorable melodies, but the public was not buying it. And for that matter, the disc jockeys had stopped playing the Ides. 1967 was the valley between the peaks for the Ides of March. 
Something was missing, as Peterik decided that it was time to diversify the sound, so he added trumpeter Steve Daniels from Lyons in early 1967. Other local groups were using horn accompaniments supplied by studio musicians, but the Ides were the first to incorporate horns into their own group. Their fifth Parrot release “Hole in My Soul” was a catchy Peterik-penned single with Daniels’ trumpet bleating out a Spanish-flavored lead. Yet, as far as the music world was concerned, tis was another bomb. 
At this time, Ray Herr, a folk singer from Arlington Heights who had been gigging with the Legends of Time, joined the Ides as lead singer and rhythm guitarist. This allowed Peterik to expand his scope on lead guitar. Herr’s first recorded effort with the group was “Girls Don’t Grow on Trees,” the flip side of “Hole n My Soul.” 
Parrot dropped the group, though they were quickly picked up by Kapp Records. The first release was “Nobody Loves Me: and highlighted Herr’s lead vocals. Ray’s voice had a whispering smoothness to it, whereas Peterik’s was developing a controlled growl. So Jim handled the up-tempo numbers while Herr took the lead on the ballads. Both were natural showmen,and they slowly began cramping each other’s style. Soon, the two could not get along. The group, however, struggled on, and worked from the professional vein to become a tight unit. 
In late 1969, Steve Daniels left, and horn men John Larsen and Chuck Soumar were added to the lineup. The musical accent moved towards driving brass arrangements, with a stronger emphasis on Peterik’s rough vocals. The group began to fall into the prototype horn band of the era (i.e. Blood, Sweat & Tears). The group left Kapp Records and was looking for another company that would let them record songs done in their new style.  Warner Brothers expressed an interest, and the Ides signed a pact in the early autumn of 1969. This signing was a contract of better things to come for the Ides, even though their first national release since “Roller Coaster” on the WB logo, called “One Woman Man,” was less than a spectacular hit. Yet it set a base for what was to come in the new decade, and set the stage for the big break. 
If ever there was a song that had all the ingredients to hit even before it was released, it was “Vehicle.” It had everything — a concrete constructed metaphor of lyrics by Peterik; a loud, thumping rhythm; a frantic guitar break; and energetic,  belting brass arrangement. In less than a month, “Vehicle” began its meteoric rise to the top of the charts — first #1 in Chicago, then #1 in the nation. It even reached the million-seller mark, and was a hit across the ocean, a development that was a first for a Chicago group, and rather ironic considering their initial British connection. 
Suddenly the Ides were catapulted into superstar status, and were the only Chicago group to be making it at the time. It was a roller coaster ride that they had never dreamed of, and included national tours, the recording of their first LP, and notoriety in major publications. The album Vehicle sold well, and their new single “Superman,” an esoteric version of “Vehicle,” resulted in a successful follow-up hit. 
However, there were several conflicts in the group at the time.  First, the rift between Peterik and Herr had grown out of proportion, causing Herr to leave to pursue a solo career. He later hooked up with guitarist Jeff Stevens, changed his name to Ray Scott, and moved into a country-folk vein. Herr spent a brief stint with Orphanage during that time. Ray Herr (Scott) is now with Calico, a C&W group featuring Cathy Betts, Jeff Stevens, John Wesley, and Tom Schonfeld.
-- From September 1975, Illinois Entertainer

Ray Scott
The career of singer / guitarist Ray Scott has taken on the characteristics of a carnival, complete with roller coaster rides, spook houses and barkers, with Ray himself taking the part of the wandering minstrel.
Concerning the roller coaster, Scott has risen to the heights of being very near to a successful breakthrough  as a recording star, only to see his hopes plummet to obscurity thanks to several unfortunate , although, not unusual circumstances. He has been a member of many musical aggregations during his 13 years as a performer, but his solo career has always been the sustaining factor for him, even more so today than it was in the beginning.
That beginning was a coffeehouse in the basement of the Recreation Park Fieldhouse in Arlington Heights. (Does anybody remember the Uptown Below?) Ray remembers, “Things were really primitive then. I recall one night in particular when I broke two strings on my guitar, and I didn’t have any spares with me. “  He continues, “This girl who was there let me use her $7.95 Kresge nylon string models. I had to tune all the strings up at least three octaves before you could hear the guitar over my voice! It was the closest I’ve ever come to performing an unaccompanied vocal solo!”
From these humble beginnings, Scott worked his way through the usual morass of garage punk bands that were present in the area in the middle 1960s. The first group he was in, he shared guitar duties with John Pavletich, who is now lead guitarist for the Cryan’ Shames.
Now, came short stints with the Legends of Time and the Jaguar.
Then, in 1967, Ray’s cousin, Mike Considine, told him that the Ides of March were looking for another vocalist to compliment Jim Peterik. Considine was managing the Ides at that time, and he felt that Ray’s soft, whispery vocals would be a perfect foil to Peterik’s controlled growl. Scott, who was then known as Ray Herr, jumped at the chance to become a member of an established rock group. (The Ides had already scored with one national hit, “You Wouldn’t Listen,” in 1966.) Scott spent four years with the Ides, and was part of the whirlwind ride in 1970 when the group topped the nation’s charts with “Vehicle” (Scott played bass on the recording). During those days, he either sang lead, or shared the vocal lead on songs like “Nobody Loves Me,” “Hole in My Soul,” “Time for Thinking” and others from  the Vehicle  album.
Scott left the band during the summer of 1970, and it was disheartening to him, but he continued to play solo. By 1971, he had hooked up with an outfit known as Orphanage, a group who cut some commercials as well as some demos for Epic Records. All the demo tunes had been written by Scott, including the classic and somewhat ironically titled “Easy Money,” a country-flavored tune that foreshadowed his later musical efforts in that genre.
The Orphanage deal never really got off the ground, but by this time, Scott was becoming a seasoned solo performer of country and country - rock songs. To add some diversity, he picked up Jeff Stephens, a veteran country performer, to play lead guitar. By 1972, Scott and Stephens, as they called themselves, began building a solid reputation as a country duo. They made a trip to Nashville and cut “Song Our Partner Sang,” an old Carl Davis tune, with the help of some of Nashville’s finest session men, including Grammy Award-winning harmonica player Charlie McCoy.
Ray recalls, somewhat bitterly, the events that followed shortly thereafter, “WJJD began playing the song on the air, and the audience response was enthusiastic. Then, some guy calls the station wanting to find out more about Scott and Stephens. The station checked into it and found out we were from Arlington Heights, and not from Nashville, and almost immediately stopped playing the record.” Scott continues, “It effectively cut off any chances of us recording again. We were reduced to playing bars and clubs.”
In early 1975, the twosome joined up with Stephens’ brother John and singer / songwriter Kathy Betts to form Calico. They eventually added a bass player and drummer to become one of the tightest country bands in the area. Ray occasionally sang, but his role was mainly one of providing instrumental support for Kathy.
The group’s manager, Mike Considine, had begun talks with several labels in Nashville, and demos were cut. It looked like Calico was on the verge, but public indifference to the band finally killed their chances of making it. Disillusioned, Ray left the band to do the thing he knew best, solo performing, and he is still doing it today.
In the manner of all wandering minstrels, he has a large collection of songs (a conservative estimate would be 300) in his repertoire, and he’s adding to them all the time. He is apt to do a full set of country tunes one night, and come back with a Jim Croce medley, or an Eagles medley, the next. Also in the tradition of the roving minstrel, he prefers the intimate atmosphere of a pub to the blaring cacophony of the concert hall. It helps him to establish a more friendly rapport with the audience. But Ray is more than just a singer; he is a consummate performer, and on any given night, he can and has doubled as a comedian. His wry sense of humor has brought laughter from such diverse audiences as those in attendance at the Country Music Inn in Wheeling to those at the Spot in Evanston.
Above all of those things, however, is a firm commitment by Scott to entertain the audience and to play what they want to hear. Because of this, he is able to invest a lot of warmth and sincerity into the songs that he sings.
Of course, there are hassles in the carnival world of Ray Scott. He has to deal with a lot of “barkers” — bar owners, booking agents, and other industry people. And then he has to deal with the spook house — constantly being chased by his musical past, especially his past with the Ides.
It is easy to see why he becomes weary and somewhat miffed when a club owner introduces him as “Ray Scott, formerly with the Ides of March,” or when some intoxicated customer yells in a request for one more chorus of “L.A. Goodbye.” Almost every artist in the business probably shares the feeling that if they are to grow and progress, they must build upon their musical past rather than remain in it, and with Ray, the feeling is no different. Still, it is tough to dodge ghosts all the time, and even the name change from Herr to Scott did not lead Ray completely out of the spook house.
If he had it to do all over again, Scott would probably do it the same way, as a wandering minstrel, roaming from club to pub, charming the ladies, and raising the spirits of the audience through  his own entertaining brand of music.
-- From August 1976, Illinois Entertainer

The Factory
The Uptown Below, a coffeehouse located in the basement of the Recreation Park field house in Arlington Heights, was the launching pad for the careers of many local musicians. Even years after they had left and gone on to better things, old folkies could still be seen jamming in “Wreck” Park, as it was lovingly called.  Many times, they would congregate to sing songs that they could not normally do within the framework of their then-current musical situations. Several of these sessions led to the formation of the Factory, a supergroup of sorts.
Ray Herr, singer and guitarist, remembers how  it all came together in 1969: “There were a bunch of us that liked to meet up in the park and play old rock & roll. We thought it might be fun to do it on record.” All were involved in other musical projects, so Factory was just a name that they took to record. Herr was with the Ides of March in 1969, and that band was beginning its ascent to the top. Drummer Bill Mooney was with another well-known area band, the Little Boy Blues, while bassist Rocky Hughes played for a band called Wild Honey. Marty Wallace was summoned in to play lead guitar, and Jeff Milne rounded out the band as lead singer.
Milne was a songwriter as well, having written “Give Your Mind Wings” for the Ides in addition to releasing his own record prior to the formation of the Factory. It was Milne’s idea to record Huey “Piano” Smith’s rock standard, “High Blood Pressure.” After waxing their frenetic, raving version of that classic, the group also worked up an original, “Lonely Path,” for the flip side.
After this, the guys smiled at each other, packed up their gear, and went about their own respective businesses. The song never became a hit, but they didn’t care; they had had a good time recording it, and that is the essence of rock & roll.
By the way, Ray Herr, now known as Ray Scott, was seen performing at the Ground Round in Hoffman Estates not too long ago. It’s no doubt better than playing in a factory.
High Blood Pressure/Lonely Path U.S.A. 922 1969
-- From August 1979, Illinois Entertainer

A typical Ides set during this period was more than just a re-hash of album music. The group also did a fine version of Buffalo Springfield’s “Bluebird,” which segued into an old rock & roll medley with Peterik ducktailing his hair in a parody of Elvis Presley. Other cover versions included Traffic’s “Feelin’ Alright” and BS&T’s “More and More.”
Peterik even wrote a song that lampooned another popular trend of the day‚ bubblegum music. After a mock-flamenco intro to “Julie Do Ya Love Me,” Jim went into his “Bit O’Honey” routine, sample lyric: “If you got one mouth, she lasts all day ... rumor has it that for a little bit o’ money, a little bit o’ honey goes a long, long way ...”
With an entertaining show such as this, the Ides knew that they were ready to take their show on the road. The itinerary included stops in both Florida and California, but the whole thing was almost aborted when Herr departed suddenly.
There are two versions to the story surrounding his departure. As Herr told me in 1970, “We were in Florida when I got my draft notice. I had to go back to Chicago to investigate my status with the draft board. The last thing on my mind was playing in a band. About a week later, I get a call from one of the guys saying that I’m kicked out of the band. I was pissed off!!”
Peterik tells it slightly differently. “Ray left us hanging in the middle of the tour. He just up and left without telling any of us. But, we found out that we could get by without him, so nobody ever really got back to him to say he was out for leaving; it was more or less assumed. There were a lot of hard feelings at this point, and it seemed like a better idea to let it pass.”
Ray Herr played some solo gigs following his 1970 exit from the Ides. By 1971, he was fronting a band called Orphanage, who also included guitarist Don Paveletich, later the lead guitarist for the Ides - Shames Union! Herr then teamed up with guitar picker Geoff Stevens to form Scott & Stevens. They went to Nashville in 1972 to record “Song Our Partner Sang” with Charlie McCoy and some of the other Nashville heavies of the group Area Code 615. The song did well until WJJD jocks discovered that the duo was local, at which time they stopped plugging the record.
Scott & Stevens later became Callico, which recorded some songs with Mike Considine, who tried to land a deal with MCA in Nashville, but  it fell through. Herr played solo again until 1978, when he became lead singer in the Ron Showboat Band (now Showboat). Herr is currently fronting a trio based in the Chicago suburbs, and as always, has a knack for total entertainment that harkens back to his Ides days.
-- From October 1980, Illinois Entertainer
submitted by Guy Arnston in Algonquin

When I met Jim Peterik in 2006, we spoke backstage and I asked him about the Ides' Kapp single, "Nobody Loves Me," and said I loved that song although he did not sing it. 
He corrected me and started singing the part he sang and I was thinking Ray Herr sang the main lead.  The song remains the only Ides 60's 45 not on CD and remains one of my faves (also, Jim P wrote it!).  It was great that Jim remembered it!  Anyway, I think Jim's music is amazing and his memory is too.  You might ask Jim if my memory is correct?? 
Clark Besch
Pretty song ... I've never heard this one before.  (And it's been stuck in my head for DAYS now!!!  lol)  
Maybe Jimbo will see this and fill us in on some of the details.  
Thanks, Clark.  (kk)