Than Anyone Ever Wanted to Know About My 1960’s
2005 Tor Pinney - All Rights Reserved
out The Chains' CD at the
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down when you get there)
a lot of kids in my generation, I was at first intrigued and
then swept up and away by the early rock-&-roll music.
The Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, The
Ventures, The Big Bopper, Little Richard, the first rock and
soul vocal groups - I used to listen to them all on the
little AM radio in our kitchen.
lived in Larchmont, New York, about 20 miles northeast of
The City. Because both my parents worked, they employed a
governess/maid to help look after the house and us kids.
Marjie was like a second mother to me, a soulful woman who
had half raised me since birth. Sometimes when I tuned in
that rock-&-roll music and no one else was around, she
would start shuffling across the kitchen floor doing some
smooth Negro dance step like the mashed potatoes. I got the
idea that rock music had a physical dimension to it, as if
it went in the ears, jiggled around somewhere in your belly,
slid into your backbone and shimmied out again through your
shoulders and hips and feet and arms. Rock-&-roll was
cool, and early on I knew wanted a piece of it.
started playing guitar when I was 11, because my older
brother did. Roy taught me my first half-dozen chords. After
that I was on my own and I learned progressions and finger
licks from songs on the radio, and from the 45 RPM records
I’d buy with my allowance. To this day, I can’t read
music. I’ve always played by ear.
first rock band was called The Dukes. It was 1960 and I was
making the transition from a sheltered suburban elementary
school into a large public junior high. One day I got a
phone call from Arty Alfieri, one of those tough Italian
kids from Mamaroneck, where I now went to school. Without
preamble he said, “Hey, I heah yous play da’ guitah.”
I said yes, I did a little. “Well, we’h fawmin’ a band
called duh Dukes, and you’re (yaw) gonna’ be ah guitah
playuh.” I understood him well enough to know he was
making me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
I became the guitarist in a tough guy group of Italian kids.
Black stovepipe trousers, pointed shoes, greased hair that
began in a jellyroll and ended in a ducktail. Tony sang,
more or less, Vinnie whacked the drums and Arty played the
accordion. We actually performed at a few little backyard
parties over on that side of town. Everybody was very nice.
Those were the days of C, A-minor, F and G, and people kept
requesting “Angel Baby” and “Donna.” We
actually got paid for one of those gigs, my first time ever!
It was only six dollars each, but it felt like a million.
had learned to play guitar on a steel-string acoustic
Harmony, a low-end but serviceable hand-me-down. To join The
Dukes, however, I needed an electric guitar and, being 12
years old, that meant convincing my parents to buy me one.
Happily, they were up for it (little did they suspect where
it would eventually lead). So one very exciting morning in
1960, my mother drove me, Arty Alfieri, and my best friend,
John Nelson, to the Sears & Roebuck store in New
Rochelle, New York. When we walked out 20 minutes later Mom
was $29 poorer and I was the indescribably proud owner of a
brand new Silvertone cutaway-solid-body, metallic gold
electric guitar with case and shoulder strap.
the years I owned some of the finest production
rock-&-roll guitars of the era, including a Fender
Jazzmaster, a Fender Telecaster, a Guild Chet Atkins Country
Gentleman and, once, three Gibson Les Paul's, two of which
were 1950's vintage with the prized porcelain Humbucking
pickups. That first Silvertone was about as close to those
as a Corvair was to a Corvette, but like his first girl, a
rock musician's first electric guitar will forever remain
peerless in his memory.
and the ...
on any photo to enlarge it
the Dukes came Johnny and the Starfires. Johnny
DiPaolo was round-faced and jolly, with a voice
something like an adolescent Bobby Darin. It was
good, but it wasn’t really rock. Nevertheless we
cut a record, my first, in a small demo studio in
New Rochelle. Johnny was the only one who sang.
record’s A side was a song called “Stingray,” which I
think Johnny wrote even though none of us were old enough to
drive yet. The chorus went, “Go Stingray, go, go, go. Go
Stingray, go, go, go,” and then it repeated. The flip side
of this masterpiece was the first song I ever wrote, called
“No Good,” which it was. The chorus went, “Ain’t
gonna’ do you no good, no good, no good, no good,” and
then it repeated. I was 14 years old and, man, I thought I
must surely be on my way to stardom now. I even signed
on with the songwriter's royalty collection agency, BMI.
(I'm still a registered member today.)
never made it into a radio station, but we did, once. By
then we had upgraded our name to Johnny and the Ascots.
(Yes, we actually wore ascots when we performed, red ones.
We thought it was pretty cool and classy to be so
continental.) Our live radio debut was in a small station in
Brewster, New York. The group’s regular rhythm guitar
player, a slender, sensitive kid named Chuck Linter,
wasn’t available for some reason, so my buddy, John
Nelson, sat in with us. We had agreed to play the old rock
standard, “Donna,” live on the air, but Johnny had a
cold. So we quickly rehearsed the song in a lower key to
accommodate his hoarse voice. Of course, we were used to
playing it in the higher key. And we were understandably a
we were, being interviewed live on Brewster Radio, and the
moment came for us to do the song. John started off in one
key and I in the other, and Johnny DiPaolo came in singing
somewhere in between the two. Arrggh! Talk about
embarrassing! We had to stop and confer – still live and
on the air – and start over. Needless to say, the DJ
didn’t ask us to play anything else and, as far as I know,
none of us ever performed live on the air again.
did once play on an outdoor stage at the (New York)
World’s Fair, though, wearing our signature red ascots. I
don't think anyone there was nearly as impressed as we were.
brother, Roy, was one grade ahead of me in school. In the
spring of 1963, when he was finishing the tenth grade and I
the ninth, he formed a new band, The Dolphins. Roy pretty
much decided who would be in the group and what kind of
music we’d play. He was a natural leader and had some
professional experience under his belt from three years as
rhythm guitar player in The Stratatones. In that band he had
been the youngest member and had learned a lot about how a
good band functioned. The Dolphins was his first chance to
be in charge of a rock group and he took to it easily and
switched from Fender Stratocaster to Fender Bass
for The Dolphins, and that remained his instrument
of choice from then on. I played lead guitar. Out
front and cool was Brian Kelly, one of Roy’s
At first, Brian didn’t play an instrument other than
tambourine. He made a slick front man and had a good voice,
but Roy wouldn’t pay him a full share when the band played
paying gigs because he only sang and didn’t play an
instrument. (I wonder if the Rolling Stones ever tried that
with Mick.) So Brian bought an electric organ and learned to
play it, seemingly overnight.
original Dolphins’ drummer was Paul Messing (click on the
photo above-left). The group began as a
quartet, but we soon added another friend of Roy’s, Andy Woll, playing rhythm guitar, and we switched to a different
drummer, a comedic kid in my own grade named Doug Frank.
when the dust settled this was The Dolphins:
bass, lead vocals
keyboard, lead vocals
lead guitar, vocals
rhythm guitar, some vocals
drums & jokes
Peter Burger replaced Doug Frank as our drummer for the
final summer of 1965.)
and Brian were the lead singers. Both possessed strong
voices, perfect pitch, awesome ranges and good looks. I sang
background harmonies, except they’d let me sing the lead
in “Shout” and maybe one other tune. Andy sang a little
background harmony, too, but not much. I don’t think Doug
sang at all, but he was funny as hell.
special strength of The Dolphins was the vocals. Few local
bands in those days had more than one guy that could sing,
if that. We had two very strong lead singers that could
harmonize and blend beautifully, plus two other voices
capable of filling out the backgrounds. And we’d work at
it. We used to rehearse quite a bit, mostly in our living
room or in the basement. We’d get the instrumental parts
down by listening to and playing along with a record, over
and over, but Roy also insisted we focus on the vocals.
We’d run through every song several times with just the
voices, no instruments and no reverb on the mikes, so we
could actually hear everyone’s parts and how they were
fitting together. That’s what made us such a tight vocal
group, to the extent that we could pull off full-blown Beach
Boys songs with all those rich harmonies. No other band in
the area could even come close to that.
Dolphins were, first and foremost, Beach Boys wannabee’s.
Like our California role models none of us surfed, but we
dressed like a surfing band and played lots of their
material. We also did plenty of other popular songs by
groups like the Kinks, the Animals, the Beatles, the Stones,
and the Rascals - mostly top 40 stuff with a little Bobby
Blues Bland and Ray Charles thrown into the mix. Our special
talent, if you could call it that, was that we were great
imitators. We could sound just like the record. Our highest
compliments came when people would come into a room where we
were playing and say, “Oh, we thought it was the
County was our home turf. Roy managed The Dolphins, getting
us gigs by calling around, scheduling auditions, and
fielding the calls that came in. He made sure our telephone
number was painted, big and bold, on the face of the bass
drum. In the winter we mostly played school dances and
proms. Summers we did dances for privileged teens at
Westchester’s many beach, yacht and country clubs.
Dolphins recorded and released two singles, four songs
altogether. The first record, “Surfin’ East Coast”
(B-side, “I Should Have Stayed”), we did in the basement
of our producer’s house on Long Island. The second disk,
“Endless” (B-side, “There Was A Time”), was taped in
a small commercial studio out there somewhere.
producer, Cy Levitan, was a middle-aged, mustachioed lawyer
who wanted to break into the music business. I think we
originally met him through a neighbor of ours in Larchmont.
Cy wrote “Surfin’ East Coast” (I wrote all the other
songs The Dolphins recorded), and he had enough mikes,
baffles and tape decks to make decent 4-track recordings.
About the only memory I have of those sessions is an image
of us in a veneer-paneled basement doing the umpteenth take
of “Surfin’ East Coast,” Cy standing on the stairs
chanting OK, guys, one more time. The only thing Brian says
he recalls is that he and Roy almost got killed on his 650cc
Triumph Bonneville motorcycle heading home after one of the
Dolphins released two records on Cy Levitan’s label,
“Surfin’ East Coast” (Cy Levitan)
B-side: “I Should Have Stayed” (Tor Pinney)
“Endless” (Tor Pinney)
B-side: “There Was A Time” (Tor Pinney)
don’t think “Endless” ever made it onto the radio.
“Surfin’ East Coast” did, but the first place that
record got played in public was at the Larchmont Diner.
The Diner was a hangout for us high school kids. It marked
one end of “the strip,” a 3-mile length of the Boston
Post Road, US Route 1. (At the other end was a new, 13¢
hamburger place called McDonalds, near the Mamaroneck Junior
High School.) Somehow “Surfin’ East Coast” got
installed in the Larchmont Diner’s jukebox. After that it
seems like every time one of us would go in for a
cheeseburger and a cherry coke, some kid would drop a dime
and play our record. Then we’d have to pretend like it was
no big deal while inside we’d be bursting with pride. My
ego got a double-boost if someone played the B-side, since I
had written the song.
were all still in high school and only broke out of
Westchester County on a few occasions. When “Surfin’
East Coast” made the top 10 on the charts in Providence,
Rhode Island in the summer of 1965, we drove up there and
opened for the one and only live performance of Napoleon the
14th ("They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Ha”) at the
brand new Braintree (Massachusetts) Coliseum. On another
occasion we played at Palisades Amusement Park in New
Jersey, where we lip-synced “Surfin' East Coast” on an
outdoor stage ahead of Reparata
and the Delrons.
the early fall of 1965, three of The Dolphins’ five
members – Roy, Brian and Andy - went off to college in the
Southwest and the group broke up. I formed a new band, The
Crispy Critters, during my final year in high school. That
included myself on lead guitar and vocals, Don Miceli on
keyboard and vocals, super-cool Frank Mambelli (the high
school music teacher’s son) on bass, and my Dolphins band
Frank, on drums.
early 1966, Roy, Brian and Andy were attending New Mexico
State University in Las Cruces. Roy had already joined a
band called The Wanderers when he first got to college, but
he soon left them because, as he put it, “they sucked.”
So he formed a new rock group, "Rasputin and the
Chains." The band included the three former Dolphins,
Roy Pinney, Brian Kelly and Andy Woll. To this core they
added two other university students, Ted Wood on drums and
NMSU football fullback Ron Hillburn on lead guitar.
recalls some details about the formation of that band:
Wood was not our first drummer. First one was a guy named
(why do I remember this?) Daryl Haas. He would not show up
regularly for practice so I booted him. Someone told me
about a guy named Ted, who was on scholarship as a drummer
in the college band and could even read music. I met with
him and liked him so he tried out with us. He
did not have a clue about playing rock. I told him to just
hit the snare drum on beats 2 and 4. Eventually he picked up
continued, "In my first semester at NMSU, I lived in a
dorm room. While I was playing my bass alone one night, a
guy knocked on the door. There stood this very muscular,
shaved-headed guy who spoke with a Southern drawl. He told
me he was at college on a football scholarship, but also
played guitar. He was looking for another way to pay for
school that didn’t include getting the shit kicked out of
him every weekend. That's how we found Ron."
and the Chains was soon playing high school and town dances,
college proms, fraternity parties – whatever came up. They
were even mentioned (along with The Grateful Dead) in a Time
Magazine article about unique band names of the times. Here
is an excerpt:
Time Magazine, Arts and Entertainment, Dec. 16, 1966
ROCK 'N ROLL -
"What Ever Happened to the Andrews Sisters?"
”Nowadays, the proliferating rock 'n' roll groups sing and
look so much alike that only their oddball names give them
any distinction. There are the Beagles and the Roaches, the
Dirty Shames and the Cryan Shames. There are the Gurus, the
Druids, the Rockin' Vicars, the Swinging Saints and the Godz.
And dig the Grateful Dead, the Undertakers, the
Guillo-teens and the Morbids. Or Oedipus and the Mothers,
Sigmund and the Freudian Slips, and Cleopatra and the
Seizures. How about the Virginia Woolves? There are also the
Napoleonic Wars, Rasputin and the Chains, the Driving
Stupid, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Dow Jones
and the Industrials.”
the next year Andy Woll left the group and the rest of the
guys transferred to the University of Texas in El Paso,
shortened the group’s name to The Chains, and recorded and
released their first record, “Ain’t Gonna’ Eat Out My
Heart Anymore.” This song had already been a big hit for
the popular New York group, The Rascals, but had never
gotten much play out west. For the flip side of The
Chains’ first 45, Brian Kelly and Ted Wood composed a
2-minute instrumental number called “Cee C. Roc,” which,
according to my brother, "stood
for Crotch Cannibal Rock, a fitting tribute to a blonde
groupie named Sally."
Gonna’ Eat Out My Heart Anymore” was an instant regional
hit for The Chains and the guys became overnight stars, if
only within a few-hundred-mile range. Talk about big fish in
a small pond! Kids out there would tune in the one or two AM
radio stations available to them in those days that played
rock music, and they’d hear the DJ announce, “This week
in the Number 5 slot is the Rolling Stones’ new release,
‘(such-and-such).’ And in the Number 2 position on the
charts once again are the Beatles with ‘(so-and-so).’
And NUM-BER ONE (echo) for the fifth week in a row-ow-ow-ow,
THE CHAINS-AINS-AINS! Ohhhh, baby! I Ain’t ‘a Gonna’
Eat Out My HEARRRT Anymore-ore-ore-ore!” To those kids in
El Paso, Texas and Albuquerque, New Mexico the Chains were
ahead of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. And besides,
those other bands never came to the Southwest to play… but
The Chains did.
described the group this way: “The
Chains were much more visual than other groups of the time.
For example, Ron sang "I've Been Loving You Too
Long" by Otis Redding. He stood out front without his
guitar, mike in hand. Like southern black singers sometimes
did, about half way through the song Ron would drop to his
knees and plead, "Please, please, don't leave me,
PLEASE" with his head down, one hand covering his eyes,
slowly shaking his head. These kids had never seen a white
boy do this before and they ate it up. Ron, being an
ex-varsity football player, had very muscular thighs. One
night while he was on his knees, his pants split right up
the rear. Everyone thought it was part of the show - it was
played the drums LOUD! He would hold his drum sticks like
clubs, fat end on the skins, and they would break often.
He’d throw the broken sticks out to the crowd and people
would scramble for them like bridesmaids after a corsage.
had more stage presence than any of us. He kept a Playboy
centerfold taped to his organ (pun intended) and the girls
loved him. They would just stare, misty-eyed, as he flipped
his long hair out of his eyes while playing.
group was hooked up with a manager named Fred Mirick
and recorded on his label, Pinpoint Records, but soon their
biggest promoter was the Southwest’s #1 radio disc jockey
at that time, Sonny Melendrez, on KINT Radio. Sonny later
wrote, “The Chains were The Beatles of El Paso. I
remember seeing them for the first time at Cathedral High
School. There was electricity in the air. The kids went
wild for these guys! I talked to their manager and
immediately booked the group for a series of dances... Seeing
the steady stream of headlights winding through the canyon
to attend the dances they played was a real thrill. Those
guys were the bomb!”
singer Brian Kelly recalls, “We played for 1,000 to 1,500
screaming kids every Friday and Saturday night at the big
school auditoriums in El Paso, throughout the Summer of
Love. We had a #1 hit on the radio, lived in cabins in the
Ruidoso Mountains, and commuted for gigs. If any really big
name bands came to town, we’d open for them. One time we
opened at the El Paso Coliseum for The Animals during their
‘Sky Pilot’ tour, and on another occasion for Vanilla
Fudge. Our recording of ‘Ain’t Gonna’ Eat Out My Heart
Anymore’ made the Billboard Top 100.” KELP Radio even
ran a “Win a Date with The Chains” contest that was a
great success. The Chains were hot stuff in the Southwest
Chains played with The Standells at New Mexico State
University in 1966 or ‘67. At the time the Standells had
the classic garage-rock hit record, "(I Love That)
Dirty Water". "They arrived without their
equipment, which had been delayed on the airlines," Roy
recalls, "and so they used ours." Ted Wood
remembers that gig, too. "The drummer, Dick Dodd, who
sang the lead on 'Dirty Water,' had been Mousketeer 'Cubby'
when he was a kid in Disney's original Mickey Mouse Club. He
asked me four times to sell him my 1956 model Ludwig drum
set because of its great sound, but I wouldn't sell."
1967 the Chains were booked into a big auditorium in
Albuquerque, New Mexico to open a show for the Electric
Prunes. At the time the L.A. group had a national hit called
"I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night." What Roy
remembers most about the show was that after the Prunes
performed the crowd was shouting "We want The Chains!
We want The Chains!" over and over.
all this was revving up I was 2,000 miles away finishing
high school in Mamaroneck, New York, playing weekends with
The Crispy Critters. That group never recorded, but we did
have one particularly memorable gig.
we got booked to open for a well-known soul group, Ruby and
the Romantics (“Our Day Will Come”), at a big nightclub
in upstate New York named Three Rivers Inn. It was way out
in the countryside, up towards Syracuse. We were all seniors
in high school then, but managed to take off late on a
Thursday and drive up there for the weekend to do this gig.
Well, just as we arrived that evening it began to snow. And
it snowed. And snowed. It snowed so much it became the worst
blizzard in New York’s history. It was national news.
Everything shut down. And there we were, literally trapped
in this sprawling country inn with Ruby and the Romantics
and a troop of go-go girls that had been bussed up from New
York City for the big weekend.
course, the performances were cancelled – no one would
drive in or out of this place for the next 5 days, until the
snow plows finally made it out that far. So we just hunkered
down and made the best of the situation. We scrounged food
from a small diner across the road, raided the club’s
liquor bar, had snowball fights, jumped off the roof into
20’ snowdrifts, jammed with these really cool black
musicians (the Romantics), and flirted with the go-go girls.
These streetwise young women were mini-skirted pros, on
stage and off. A few of them thought we were cute. When the
snowplows finally dug us out of the Three Rivers Inn and we
were able to go home, two of the guys had the clap.
high school I went to Syracuse University, where I briefly
formed a group called Grief with drummer Peter Burger, a
wild-eyed pianist named Harry Meyer, and a singer/bassist,
Mike somebody, who used to jump off his tall amplifier, land
in a full split on the floor and come up smiling. It was a
lively but short-lived band. By the end of the first
semester I dropped out of college and took off traveling for
next group was The Haymarket Riot, in early 1967. This band
included Crispy Critter’s funky bass player, Frank
Mambelli, an outstanding organist and singer named Savas,
veteran drummer Peter Burger, and a young Larchmont cop (no
kidding!) named Reed Hiles who sang lead and was crazier
than all the rest of us put together.
Haymarket Riot was
soon performing in New York City's hip nightclubs.
Meanwhile, I had my own publisher in Manhattan and was
cutting songwriter demos left and right. Some English singer
recorded a fully orchestrated master session with one of my
songs, and Elvis Himself was considering another of my tunes
for his next album. My hair was getting long and as Bob
Dylan sang, the times they were a changin'. I was at the
heart of the New York music and hippie scene and
experimenting with everything. It got pretty wild - a little
too wild - and it became evident to me that I had better
distance myself from it a bit.
then The Haymarket Riot
was the house band at the popular Peppermint Lounge on West
45th Street. We were playing long hours – 6
sets a night! - and I was getting strung out. Of course,
I’d been hearing from my brother about how well The Chains
were doing in the Southwest, and one evening in a moment of
clarity and self-preservation I called him, told him I had
to get out of New York, and asked if he could fit another
guitarist into his group. He said sure, come on out, and
within a week I hopped into my old, convertible Corvair,
tossed my amp and guitar in the back, and headed west with a
little banner flying from the antenna that said “Texas or
the time I joined the Chains they were already enormously
popular. It was like stepping into a dream. Chains dances
were famous and huge. The group had recorded a few more of
my songs and those records were hitting the top 10 on the
radio station charts, if only in west Texas and some of the
contiguous states. Kids would stop us on the street to ask
for our autographs, and groupies would climb through windows
to get at us at home. I was 19 and life was good. Hell, life
a month or two after I arrived in El Paso, Roy decided to
get out of groups for a while and I inherited The Chains.
Ron Hillburn switched from guitar to bass to fill the gap
left by Roy’s departure. Ron also sang harmonies and a few
lead vocals. Brian Kelly remained on the keyboard and sang
the most lead vocals now that Roy was gone, Ted Wood played
drums, and I played guitar and sang more and more, my voice
having improved some since the early Dolphins.
road manager, a guy named Pete Hutchinson, was The
Chains’ “5th link.” Pete
hand-built our portable light show, fixed anything
that broke (including our cars), helped set up and
tear down the equipment for every gig, mixed our
sound, and generally made himself invaluable in a
hundred ways behind the scenes.
also had a local roadie, a big, easy-going Tex-Mex kid named
Albert, who was always hanging around, ready, willing and
able to hump our big amps and oversized PA system in and out
of another auditorium.
the summer of 1968, The Chains hooked up with a wacky,
seat-of-the-pants promoter who signed us for a 40-day tour
of the Western states. It included all the “big” venues,
too. Laramie, Wyoming, for example (oh, boy), and Santa Fe,
which at that time was little more than an adobe cow town.
But these hamlets came alive when The Chains came to town!
This crazy promoter would have each new place all keyed up
for us by the time we arrived - posters everywhere, ads on
the local radio stations, our records on the charts.
Sometimes there’d even be a huge “Welcome Chains”
banner strung across Main Street.
poured in from miles around. Many of them had never even
seen a strobe light before, let alone a band like us playing
live in their town. We blew them away night after night.
tour was non-stop and grueling - forty one-night stands in
forty different towns, from Albuquerque, New Mexico to
Butte, Montana, without a single night off. We had no
roadies with us other than our road manager, Pete, so we had
to set up and tear down every single one of those
back-to-back gigs ourselves. Still, we had a blast. The
money was decent, the audiences were appreciative, and the
groupies were downright heartwarming.
a grand finale, right after the 40th show we
packed up and drove
18 hours through the Rocky Mountains, from Butte to Denver,
to catch Jimi Hendrix live at the Red Rock Amphitheater.
Originally, we had been invited to be his opening act for
that show, but when the promoters found out we’d be coming
from Montana they didn’t believe we could make it in time
and booked another band instead. Too bad. Still, we got to
see Jimi perform and that’s something I’ll never forget.
record company in Dallas offered the Chains a contract and
we went there to put it together. The deal stalled, then
died, and for a week we literally starved in some motel on
the outskirts of town until we found a gig as the house band
for a big nightclub called Lou Anne’s. A few months later
we moved to New York City in search of a real record deal.
Chains morphed several times in New York. Ron
Hillburn left and my brother, Roy, rejoined us for
a while. Ted Wood left and Peter Burger came in on
drums. Roy left and we found Don Bosson, a punchy
bass player with an incredible voice. We played
clubs all over the New York area, cutting the
occasional demo record while we strived for that
elusive record deal that almost but never quite
At some point in
1969 I just grew weary of playing in nightclubs. I left The
Chains and the group split up for good. In the course
of its 3-year career, The
Chains recorded and released three 45 RPM records
that got a lot of airplay and made the charts in the
Southwest (but nowhere else):
“Ain’t Gonna’ Eat Out My Heart Anymore” (P.
Sawyer and L. Burton)
B-side: “Cee C. Roc” (Brian Kelly and Ted Wood)
“You’re In Love” (Tor Pinney)
B-side: “I Should Have Stayed” (Tor Pinney)
“It’s A Shame” (Tor Pinney)
B-side: “Stop The World (I Want to Get Off)” (Tor
addition, the group cut this never-released record in New
“How Do You
Feel” (Tor Pinney)
Gonna’ Do It Tonight” (Tor Pinney)
White Dove Records
Chains also cut a number of demo records, including “Has
Anybody Seen My Friend” (Tor Pinney), “A Walk in the
Woods” (Tor Pinney), “She’s Still a Mystery to Me”
(John Sebastian) and “Do You Believe in Magic” (John
out The Chains' CD at the
Music page (scroll
down when you get there)
hung around New York City. Tried my hand at Madison Avenue
jingle writing, gave guitar lessons to actor Dustin Hoffman
for a movie he was shooting, peddled Navajo Indian jewelry,
sold some pot - did whatever came up while I was looking for
the next good thing.
one day my manager, Joe Messina, called me with a
proposition. "Tor," he said, "you know that
new record on the radio called 'Na Na Hey Hey Kiss 'Em
Goodbye?" Well, of course I did. It was a huge, number
one smash hit all over the United States and around the
world. To this day, kids still chant the chorus at school
football games. Joe went on to explain that the record had
been a studio creation and that there was really no such
group as Steam, the band credited with the recording. Now
that the record had taken off, the producer, Paul Leka, was
being bombarded with requests for the non-existent stars to
perform at concerts, college homecomings and rock festivals
coast to coast, and was actually booking the band's first
national tour. Now he and Mercury Records desperately needed
a group that could perform that song convincingly along with
enough other material for a 45-minute show, and my manager
was offering me the job of putting that band together.
tour sounded like a blast and the money was good, so I
called the best guys I knew and overnight the road group Steam
came together. It was me on guitar, Peter Burger on drums,
wild Chris Robison (ex Harry Meyer) on keyboard and Don Bosson on bass. We were all seasoned rock musicians by then
and we had all developed strong voices. Three of us were
prolific songwriters. The group promised to be awesome. We
went into an insane rehearsal schedule and ten days later
our fledgling quartet went on tour as Steam.
the next year, we Na-Na-Hey-Hey'ed our way all across the
country, signing autographs, dodging the rednecks and loving
the groupies. Best of all, we got to perform all original
material (with the exception of our bubblegum headline
song), and we invariably surprised the hell out of our
also recorded a new Steam single, "Don't Stop
Lovin' Me" (B-side: "Do Unto
Others"), at Mercury Records. Both tunes were
composed by the same guys that had written "Na
Na Hey Hey Kiss 'Em Goodbye," Dale Frasheur, G.
DeCarlo, and producer Paul Leka. We put some effort
into promoting this new release - radio interviews,
TV appearances, stuff like that.
even plastered most of Manhattan with bright green
"Don't Stop Lovin' Me" stickers, octagon-shaped
like little stop signs, but the record never took off. Steam
was destined to remain a one hit wonder.
a year or so of being a mini rock star, I left Steam. It had
been a fun fling, but I wanted to write and record my own
music. I sold a song, “Let Your Love Be Free,” to
Columbia Records, who said they wanted it for their
superstar group, Three Dog Night. Next came a stint as a
songwriter for an Atlanta-based record company that actually
paid me a steady retainer for a while. We cut a lot of demos
and a few master sessions, but no hits. Then I got the part
of Judas in the rock opera, "Jesus Christ
Superstar," the Atlanta production. Finally, I produced
the first multi-media stage production of the Who’s rock
opera, “Tommy.” I turned 23 that year.
when I left the music business to pursue a life of sailing
and adventuring, and I never looked back. I continued to
write songs for years afterwards, though, and occasionally
played acoustic gigs for fun and pocket money, but I never
joined another rock-&-roll band.
a star, even in a small way, was enormously uplifting. I
liked it, we all did. It was easy to meet people, easy to be
popular, easy to get girls. I felt like I was always in the
most happening place in town because we were the most
happening thing in town. That’s why everybody was
paying to come see us, right? Because we were where it was happenin’!
It was fun to be cool. I admit it.
there was more than that going on. Playing rock music with a
group of friends can be a magical experience. Each one draws
from the other and gives it back again, enhanced. When a
group gets into a groove, even in rehearsal, there’s a
blending of minds and spirits as well as instruments and
voices. You musicians know what I’m talking about. The
energy is amplified exponentially so that the whole becomes
greater than the sum of the parts. And when a good band
plays to a live audience that energy exchange is multiplied
a hundredfold. We’d project our excitement, our vibrant
energy out from the stage and the audience would pick it up
and whip it around and boomerang it back up to us times 10,
and we’d take it in and blast it back out to them again
redoubled, and so on, so that everyone got higher and
higher. This is what was really happening when it was good.
This was the real high of the times, even more than the
drugs (although they were fun, too.) This was
rock-&-roll at its best in a 1960’s garage band.
I do it again if I could? In a heartbeat, although
I’d do some of it differently. I'd practice
guitar scales every day, jump around and dance
more on stage, be looser, get crazier, write and
play cooler music, (wear earplugs), take it all
(and myself) a lot less seriously. But yeah, I’d
do it again, for sure. Not that I haven’t had a
lot of fun in my life since then. I have, an
incredible amount, actually. The thing is, we were
all teenagers just once, and it happened to be at
the most amazing time in modern history for the
evolution of music and of our society, together.
There was never anything like it before or since,
and may never be again. I am forever glad and
grateful I was there and got to be a part of it.
out The Chains' CD at the
(scroll down when you get there)
to List of Tor's Tales