Saturday, September 15, 2012

What's In A Name? (The Ides Of March Weekend - Part One)

This is a song you never hear on the radio, EVER. I was doing some research on his autobiography and found the information on Wiki to be quite interesting. He was quite talented.
Shondell was born and raised in Indiana and was educated at Valparaiso University and Indiana University. He wrote his first song at age 14, which was recorded by Little Anthony & The Imperials. Shondell also learned to play five musical instruments.[5] His professional music career started whilst he was still a teenager. Mercury Records released his first single, "My Hero", from The Chocolate Soldier, which he recorded in 1958 under his real name of Gary Shelton.[1]
He followed the next year with "Kissin' at the Drive-In", a rockabilly song that went on to become a drive-in theater standard. Shondell seemed to be on his way, at least in the Midwest. Chicago's Brass Rail, a major nightclub that usually hosted jazz and blues acts, brought him in for its first foray into rock and roll. The successful gig stretched to 16 weeks.[1] In 1959, Mark Records released "The Trance" and "Goodbye Little Darlin'". These sold well in the Midwest and a few other areas, but neither made it into the Top 40 of the national Billboard record chart. The same year, the singer opened shows on a tour called "Shower of Stars" for such headliners as Chuck Berry, The Impalas, Frankie Ford, Frankie Avalon, and The Skyliners.[1]
The singer cited his father as a major influence, along with Little Richard, Elvis Presley, and Buddy Holly. A song Shondell wrote about his father's death in 1960 from a heart attack, "Still Loving You", became a country hit when it was recorded by Bob Luman. Shondell's father's demise caused a stutter in his career, and he briefly returned to help run the family business.[1]
In April 1961, he recorded "This Time". The record was released during the last week in June on the tiny Gaye label. It was picked up by the small Los Angeles Goldcrest label, and sold ten thousand copies during the first week.[1] Six weeks after being released and played in Chicago, Shondell flew to Los Angeles and signed with Liberty Records. It finally hit the Billboard charts the first week of September, and landed in the Top 10 four weeks later, peaking at number six and staying in the charts for a total of sixteen weeks.[1][3] The track reached #22 in the UK Singles Chart at the end of that year.[4] "Tears From An Angel" was his follow-up recording, released in March 1962. No further chart action was forthcoming, and Shondell quietly slipped away from the music industry the following year, despite his third single "Na-Ne-No", being produced by Phil Spector. However, in 1963, Tommy Jackson changed the name of his high school band from "Tom and the Tornados" to "The Shondells" in honor of Troy Shondell (one of his musical idols).[1] Jackson became "Tommy James" and international fame followed for the act.
In 1968, Shondell became a songwriter for Acuff-Rose Music in Nashville, Tennessee, and the first recording artist for TRX Records, a branch of Hickory Records, for whom Shondell recorded some discs until 1969, when he went into the music publishing field. In October 1969, Shondell was apppointed as Assistant Regional Director for ASCAP's Southern Regional Office in Nashville.[5]
In 2001, Shondell was still performing at nostalgia shows and other events. Along with Jimmy Clanton, Ronnie Dove, and the now deceased Ray Peterson, Shondell was a member of the Masters of Rock 'n' Roll.[1]
On October 2, 2007, Shondell traveled to Collins, Mississippi, to deliver the musical tribute to his fallen rock and roll colleague, Dale Houston, who, with musical partner Grace Broussard, had reached #1 in 1963 with "I'm Leaving It Up to You" as by Dale & Grace.
We've featured "This Time" a few times in Forgotten Hits ... but you're right, you rarely hear it on the radio ... despite a #5 showing in Cash Box Magazine in 1961. (It went all the way to #1 here in Chicago ... where a ten year old Jimmy Peterik fell in love with the name Troy Shondell and later named HIS pre-teen band The Shondells ... a name that stuck until Tommy James used the same name for HIS band up in Niles, Michigan ... and hit the charts with "Hanky Panky", a #1 Record in 1966. By this time, Peterik had changed the name of his band to The Ides Of March ... and was charting as well with their first hit single "You Wouldn't Listen".) That's the story I'VE always heard anyway ... and Peterik's told it for years. In fact, in his autobiography "Me, The Mob And The Music", (which I just reread and was recently voted by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the Top 12 Best Rock and Roll Memoirs Ever!), Tommy James makes absolutely NO mention of "borrowing" the name from Troy Shondell ... or being influenced by it whatsoever ... so once again I think Wikipedia has their "facts" a little mixed up. 

In fact, James says in his book  

"With the new record deal and the new band members, we thought it was time for a name change as well. We had been toying with a name that I had made up the previous year in study hall ... The Shondells. We all liked the way it sounded and the way it looked when you wrote it out. And besides, back then anything with 'ells' on the end was a potential musical brand name. The following week, when we walked into the WNIL studio for our first recording session on Snap Records, we were officially The Shondells." (kk) 

Later that same week, we received THIS interesting email when a brand new reader discovered our website, thanks to one of the many Ides Of March articles published there ...

The Ides Of March Copied Our Name, Too!

I was the drummer for “The Ides of March” in the mid-60’s. We were a Michigan group from Essexville, Michigan. I just saw the above link on the internet, as well as the link to your website.
The IDES OF MARCH, above: From left to right starting in back: Tim Ward, Lead Guitar and vocals, Scott Ebright drummer and vocals, Dennis Orvis Bass Guitar, vocals. Front row L to R: Terry Bladecki, Rhythm Guitar and vocals, Bob Ward, Lead Singer.

I guess I was most surprised by the fact that his email implied that he was first hearing of another group called The Ides Of March thanks to my website piece ... which seemed just a little far-fetched in my mind ... 
Here's a copy of my initial response:

Surely you must be aware of the OTHER Ides Of March ... the "semi-famous" one ... that scored the #2 National Hit "Vehicle", an oldies radio and classic rock radio staple. 

Hailing here from the Chicago suburb of Berwyn, they first hit the charts in 1966 with "You Wouldn't Listen", a Top Ten local hit that just missed The National Top 40. (#42)
In fact, the band still performs to this day (with many of its original members still onboard.)
Lead Singer, Guitarist and Songwriter Jim Peterik not only penned all of The Ides' Hits, but also wrote the #1 Survivor Hit "Eye Of The Tiger" from the hit "Rocky" movie as well as several others for the band. He has also composed several of .38 Special's biggest hits.
This could all make for some pretty interesting conversation, however ... stay tuned to Forgotten Hits and let's see where this takes us!
Thanks for writing!

His response:

Yep, I heard of ‘em. And they heard of us …. we played a circuit of teen nightclubs and performing venues all over Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, and all of these venues used radio advertising that broadcast our band name across the Midwest. Chicago is only about 330 miles from where we were from. We used to hear stories about some band from the Chicago area that was using our band name. From the band name history you give in your write-up, it sounds like Jim Peterik and company tried on a few different names for size before finally settling on “The Ides of March”. 
Our band was defunct once the lead singer graduated from high school in 1967. That’s when our lead guitar player went on to form another band called “The Blues Company”. 

Personally, I moved out to California, and by 1972-’73, I was playing drums with bands in Marin County, just north of San Francisco. It was a fun time to be a rock musician and playing alongside of other musicians like CCR, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Elvin Bishop, Boz Scaggs, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Van Morrison and Carlos Santana. 
However, I did like the business side of band management more than playing and I did a marketing flip against the tide of “hippie bands” and decided to go retro by managing and promoting the first “Oldies” review band in 1975. (I was in the movie “American Graffiti” as an actor/extra, and my own band, “Cruis’n” missed the phone call to perform in the movie by five minutes. So much for the absence of “answering machines” back then! Instead, “Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids” got the movie role to play at the famous high school dance in the movie. 
In 1976, I created the world’s first all Elvis show titled, “Jesse King as Elvis” and we took it on tour mostly in the Southern States and Florida. Within a year we wound up in New York City playing a revue in off Broadway, and Scotty Moore – Elvis’ guitar player - was our lead guitar. I sold out my interests in that band and moved back to LA to accept an offer to co-manage the first ever Elvis singer in Vegas at the Tropicana: Alan: A Tribute to Elvis. Dick Clark was our associate producer and we were in the right place at the right time when Elvis died, because our door take went from $10,000 a week to $100,000 a week overnight! 

Simultaneously we managed RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles. This band performed for Dick Clark’s made-for-TV movie called “The Birth of the Beatles”. Rain has stayed together and toured ever since, although they play mostly in Las Vegas these days. 
On a side note: during the leaner years that came after, I became a DJ for nightclub chains with the Grace Restaurant Company and we opened and operated about 50 nightclubs across Arizona, California and Nevada. I invented a new entertainment sing-along concept called, “AudioSynTrac” and had Numark Electronics build me a prototype tape player / recorder machine to perform recorded music backgrounds while live singers sang in front of audiences. I promoted this equipment at the CES shows in Vegas and Chicago, but then lost out to the Asian market that used a $10 million dollar budget to blow my own company out of existence! No way I could afford the attorneys to fight legal challenges, so to this day, “karaoke” always gets the credit for being INVENTED by the Japanese. 
Now that I’m 61 years old, I’m too old to do anything in the music scene anymore. About 15 years ago, I began writing mystery plays to perform in front of Corporate audiences from the Silicon Valley. I hire other TV and Movie industry actors to go out keep folks entertained as a form of “team building” – and to build morale for many Fortune 500 companies. But even this is beginning to take its wear and tear on me, so I’m preparing to move on to launching a Blog on the internet that deals with controversial conspiracies – such as Paul McCartney’s death in November of 1966. 

(That’s right…don’t buy into the corny ‘false story’ about hidden messages in Beatle recordings or hidden clues on LP covers. I have much inside forensics information direct from Apple Records former management people that all proves the “Faul McCartney” (as in “Faux”) we’ve been handed since 1967 was the replacement. 
I wish you success with your website business.
Best regards,
Scott Ebright

I thought our readers might find it interesting to read some background information on this OTHER band known as The Ides Of March.  (We've certainly given the Berwyn Boys a fair amount of publicity these past fourteen years in FH!!!  And we'll continue to do so tomorrow in Part Two of this special Weekend Series.  But first a closer look at the Michigan version!

Clearly these are VERY rare tracks ... the link above shows a copy of this single recently selling for $500 ... so we have to share with you what can only be described as a rare and precious gift ... which is pretty much exactly the way Scott Ebright describes it!

Your wish has been granted. You have been bestowed with a precious gift …. use kindly or the mountains will begin to rumble …
Scott Ebright

The Ides of March came from Essexville, Michigan, during the years of 1965 - 1968. All of the band members met at Garber High School. The original band started with brothers Bob and Tim Ward (total Rolling Stones fans!) and Mark Pawlak on drums. A few months into their existence, critical feedback from teen nightclub owners told the Ward brothers to develop a fuller sound and add a bass guitarist. Tim Ward approached Scott Ebright to join their band as a drummer and also asked Dennis Orvis to join their band as well. This move dissolved "The Knightmen", a fledgling band of which Ebright and Orvis had recently started.
The band played a heavy rotation of early Stones hits, as well as certain other regional hits from the Midwest. Bob Ward affected the style and mannerisms of Mick Jagger on stage, and behind the scenes, he handled management and bookings. He surprised many doubters with his persuasive salesman style and solid roster of booking engagements all across the state of Michigan. The Ides of March really took off when the won an annual Battle of the Bands contest sponsored by WKNX radio in Saginaw, Michigan. Question Mark and the Mysterians had won this annual event the year before, and within that same year, they recorded their smash, million-seller hit, "96 Tears".

As their popularity grew, The Ides of March opened for acts like "Paul Revere and the Raiders", "The Bossmen", "Bobby Riggs and the Chevelles", and several other headliner bands.

 A few months after they won the battle of bands, The Ides of March were now very popular and it was time to record their first record, "Life Has Been So Good", and "Playthings 5 X 5" on the "B" side. Many fans and radio stations preferred the "B" side, even though it was a "quick, thrown-together jam" of a swingy blues progression. The "Ides" recorded their record in the same studio as Question Mark did, and the total cost of the session was $27.50 - including the acetate master. Drummer Ebright was frustrated that the drum licks did not come through so crisp or clean, but the old time sound engineer, Robert Shields was a retired sound engineer from the Lawrence Welk era and he refused to let any young rock and roll band play too loud - lest they blow the sensitive carbon-ribbon mics that he used for the recording session. There is one obvious error on each side of this generic record (It was released in such a hurry, there was no time to get a record company to distribute it - hence the blank top half of the 45 record.) The error on "Life Has Been So Good" is the simple fact that the band could not quite sync their chorus vocals with the beat of the record (studio monitors were too soft), and on the B side, Scott Ebright laments that he lost his grip on the drum stick working the hi-hat cymbals during the soft jam near the end of the record, so a full beat or two completely missed the cymbal and there is a bare hole for a half-second. Also, Ebright's lone voice can be heard on the very last utterance of "Shake, Baby Shake" ... an error he wanted to have faded out, but the rest of the band laughingly voted to keep it in the final master.
The band broke up when lead singer, Bob Ward graduated from High School and attended college. Tim Ward went on to form a power trio called The Blues Company, and Scott Ebright became lead singer in a band called "The Ellison Scott Feeling" - a name which Terry Bladecki suggested, even though he was not in the band. Bassist Dennis Orvis never again played with any bands and about a year and a half after he graduated from High School and got married, he died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage. In the winter of 2004, Terry Bladecki was killed when he hit a tree while skiing in Colorado. Tim Ward has continued to record several more songs and albums over the years and also works as a design engineer. Bob Ward spent the early part of his career as a TV News anchor on the East Coast and in recent years he has been a successful sales and PR rep in the mortuary business. Scott Ebright moved to California in 1970 and played with several bands and appeared with many name bands and actors throughout his career. 

I wondered if Scott kept in touch with any of his old bandmates over all these years. (Chicago's Ides Of March has been performing for nearly fifty years with many of the original members still intact!) 

Here's what he told me ...

Yes, as a matter of fact, I recently phoned and emailed Tim Ward, the lead guitarist of the band (his older brother Bob was our manager and lead singer). He wrote me back an informative email about his internet dealings with selling his later songs and recordings. I know that he would probably enjoy talking to anyone that is interested about the Ides, or his later band, The Blues Company, or his solo work after that. 
Check out what he wrote me about 9 days ago:

I have always been interested in the destiny of the so called great bands from Michigan. However even the Beatles can't fetch $700.00 to over $1000.00 for a 33 1/3 LP that my album "Strange But True" has. Even the re-release of the album in 1997 from Rockadelic records located in Texas gets $30.00 to $80.00 from the collectors. I was paid a rather large amount of money from that company to license. I found out later that all of the new pressings had been sold before they started pressing them. I was then approached from a record company from Chicago named The Numero Group, and they paid another fairly large amount of money for one song off the "Strange But True" album called "Good Mourning". The record company made a lot of money off that CD and I still get royalty checks every three months. I have three CD's available on CDBABY and they are still selling downloads and again I get royalty checks every six months.
I consider our band "THE IDES OF MARCH" one of the greatest things I have ever done. The reason I say that is when you're 15 years old in 1965 and the local popular radio station is playing your record and telling their listeners that you will be performing at the DOUBLE O7 teen night club at 8:00 tonight, there is no way you can top that. I consider myself as a totally successful Michigan rock star. No money of course.

Another thought: Tim’s brother, Bob would probably be good to talk with on the phone as well. You could always ask Tim for Bob’s number – they live within three miles of each other.
I am enclosing a better photo of our band that was repaired with Photoshop since there was a tear in the center of the original photo. Just for laughs, I also included some other career photos.
Scott Ebright

I asked Dave the Rave if he might be interested in having a couple of you guys on his "Relics And Rarities" program but never heard back. Dave is quite the record collector ... I wonder if HE has a copy of your rare and hard-to-find single up in his No Static Attic. If we ever hear back from him, I'll let you know. Heck, he could put together a pretty interesting program featuring music from BOTH Ides Of March ... and we can probably get a representative from each band to call in for an interview on the show!!! (kk)