More Than Vehicles in the Garage…

Johnny-on-the-Spot … by John Foster

Just prior to the start of the British “music invasion” of the United States, there was a music movement in America that was the “garage band” era.

It was a raw and energetic style of music that flourished in the U.S. and Canada.

The “garage band” moniker came from the fact that a lot of these bands rehearsed and played in garages.

Rec rooms, basements, sometimes on the back of flatbed trucks in parks and along city streets, these young, aspiring musicians would ply their trade.

Most bands featured drums, a bass guitar, a lead guitar and sometimes a rhythm guitar with a lead vocalist and the rest of the members doing a little back-up.

It was during this time that I was playing with some guys in our Mansfield, OH neighborhood and we thought we might have the “stuff” to make it big.

There were “Battle of the Bands” at the Mansfield YMCA and places like the Balloon Farm and Snow Trails ski lodge hosted the latest local acts.

The Music Explosion (“Little Bit O’ Soul”) and The Ohio Express (formerly Sir Timothy and the Royals) (“Yummy, Yummy, Yummy”) both had their start in my home town.

The “garage band” style always had driving beats, a solid bass line and great guitar licks.

Ohio claims several “garage bands”, including “The Choir” from Cleveland {“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”) which some music resources cite as the first rock “statutory rape” song.

Cleveland’s “Outsiders”, originally “The Starfires” took the garage band sound to a new level with a horn section.

Although the McCoy’s and “Hang On Sloopy” has roots in Union, City, Indiana, where they started out as “Rick and the Raiders”, the tune became the officials rock song for the Buckeye state.

“TBDBITL” (The Best Damned Band in the Land) as THE Ohio State University marching band is known as, performs “Hang on Sloopy” at games, parades and concerts.

Then there’s the Human Beinz, calling the Youngstown area home.

“Nobody But Me” says “No” at least 100 times and “nobody but me” at least 46 times.

The song, released in 1962 by the Isley Brothers,. also says there are 4 songs nobody can dance to; The Shingaling, The Skate, The Boogaloo and The Philly.

Interestingly enough, the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota area lays claim to the “surf rock band”, The Trashmen, with their hit, “Surfin’ Bird” which connected “The Bird’s the Word” and “Papa Oom-Mow-Mow” into a garage band favorite.

The “Twin Cities” is also home to The Castaways and “Liar, Liar” (“pants on fire”).

A garage band “anthem” of sorts was “Louie, Louie” by the Portland, Oregon Kingsmen. The song was banned Indiana by the governor around “rumors” of obscene lyrics but the mumbled, slurred lyrics on the original recording were due to lousy recording techniques and bad dental work.

The Kingsmen also had a version of “Long, Tall Texan” that several “garage bands” liked to play.

The Troggs (formerly the Troglodytes) offered up “Wild Thing” in 1966 which got tons of attention in the movie “Major League”.

It became the theme music for myopic, fire-balling reliever Rick Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) to be summoned from the bullpen, sporting his black horn-rimmed glasses.

The movie is an annual spring season tradition for this long-suffering Cleveland baseball fan.

We had this next “garage band” classic included in the soundtrack of my Mother’s funeral.

She’d take us to do the laundry and give us money to play the jukebox and this one always got chosen.

We kids called it “The Laundromat Song”.

Most refer to it as “96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians from Saginaw, Michigan.

“?” was the stage name of Rudy Martinez and he claimed the number 96 had a deep, philosophical meaning.

Rudy also wore dark sunglasses all the time.

San Francisco’s contribution to the “garage band” sound came the Beau Brummels with “Laugh, Laugh” which Sylvester Stewart (Sly of Sly and the Family Stone) produced at some of the early recording sessions.

In my high school days, the “garage bands” all seemed to play “Little Black Egg” by The Nightcrawlers. They were out of Daytona Beach and the story is they wrote the song in 1965 to perform as the opening act to a Beach Boys concert.

The Shadows of Knight had another we liked to cover.

“G-L-O-R-I-A (Gloria)” was “just ’bout 5 feet 4, from her head to the ground”.

They were from the Chicago area and and added “Knights” to their name since that was their high school mascot.

Some of the “garage band” sounds were thought to be British music invasion groups.

New Jersey’s The Knickerbockers and “Lies” was often confused as a Beatles tune.

While I’ve mentioned just American bands to this point, you can’t discuss “garage band” sounds without including Ray and Dave Davies and the Kinks.

Their 2 minute 15 second hit, “You Really Got Me” might be one of the shortest tunes ever but it is a giant for the “garage band” feel.

But, I gotta tell you, “Just Like Me” by Paul Revere and the Raiders might be at the top of the list for me.

The sharp Colonial costumes and driving sounds from this Boise, Idaho quintet really exploded after a Dick Clark “American Bandstand appearance.

There are more and this is not meant to be the end-all to the discussion, but suffice it to say, the “garage band” sound made a mark on the music scene.

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