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Story by Tor Pinney                                                                                                                                        Back to List of Tor's Tales

                  

GLORY DAYS

More Than Anyone Ever Wanted to Know About My 1960’s Rock-&-Roll Groups

© 2005 Tor Pinney - All Rights Reserved

 

Check out The Chains' CD at the Music page (scroll down when you get there)

 

Like 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. 

We 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. 

I 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. 

Duh Dukes

My 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. 

So 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.

I 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.  

Over 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.

Johnny and the ...

click on any photo to enlarge it

After 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. 

The 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.)

"Stingray" 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 little nervous. 

There 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. 

We 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. 

The Dolphins 

My 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 efficiently.

The Stratatones->

Roy 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 best buddies. 

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.

The 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.

So, when the dust settled this was The Dolphins:

Roy Pinney            bass, lead vocals
Brian Kelly            keyboard, lead vocals
Tor Pinney            lead guitar, vocals
Andy Woll            rhythm guitar, some vocals
Doug Frank          drums & jokes 

(Later, Peter Burger replaced Doug Frank as our drummer for the final summer of 1965.) 

Roy 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.

The 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. 

The 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 jukebox.”

Westchester 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.

The 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.

Our 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 sessions.

The Dolphins released two records on Cy Levitan’s label, Yorkshire Records:

  1. A-side: “Surfin’ East Coast” (Cy Levitan)
    B-side: “I Should Have Stayed” (Tor Pinney)

  2. A-side: “Endless” (Tor Pinney)
    B-side: “There Was A Time” (Tor Pinney) 

I 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.

We 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.

In 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 mate, Doug Frank, on drums. 

The Chains

In 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.

Roy recalls some details about the formation of that band: "Ted 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 the rest.  

Roy 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."

Rasputin 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.”

During 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."

“Ain’t 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.  

Roy 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 great!

“Ted 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.

“Brian 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.

The 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!”

Lead 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 US.

The 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."

In 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.

 

The Crispy Critters

While 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.

Somehow 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.

Of 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.

After 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 a while. 

The Haymarket Riot

My 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.  

The 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.

By 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 (a) Bust." 

The Chains II

By 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 was fantastic!

Within 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.

           

Our 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. 

We 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. 

In 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.

           

Kids 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.

The 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. 

For 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.

Some 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.

The 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 materialized. 

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):

  1. A-side: “Ain’t Gonna’ Eat Out My Heart Anymore” (P. Sawyer and L. Burton)
    B-side: “Cee C. Roc” (Brian Kelly and Ted Wood)
    Pinpoint Records

  2. A-side: “You’re In Love” (Tor Pinney)
    B-side: “I Should Have Stayed” (Tor Pinney)
    Pinpoint Records

  3. A-side: “It’s A Shame” (Tor Pinney)
    B-side: “Stop The World (I Want to Get Off)” (Tor Pinney)
    Pinpoint Records

In addition, the group cut this never-released record in New York City:

  1. A-side: “How Do You Feel” (Tor Pinney)
    B-side: “Not Gonna’ Do It Tonight” (Tor Pinney)
    White Dove Records 

The 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 Sebastian).  

Check out The Chains' CD at the Music page (scroll down when you get there)

I 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.

Steam

Then 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. 

The 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. 

For 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 audiences.  

We 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. 

We 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.

After 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.

That's 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.  

Being 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.

But 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.  

Would 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. 

 

 

Check out The Chains' CD at the Music page 
                              (scroll down when you get there)                                            

~ End ~

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