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Song List From Decoys’ Union Catholic Concert Found After 50 Years

decoys song list croppedIn preparation for the upcoming Decoys reunion concert, scheduled to take place on Saturday night November 18, 2017, the various members of The Decoys have been looking through old files and drawers for memorabilia from their history.  In doing so, Jon Kenseth made a remarkable discovery.  He discovered the song list from the Union Catholic show, the show in which they opened for The Who on November 29,1967.

The washed out and barely legible list is revealing to say the least.  The list checks out in that none of the songs were released by their original artists after November of 1967.  Noteworthy is that the band played two songs recorded by the hugely popular but star-crossed local band The Myddle Class – Free as The Wind and Don’t Let Me Sleep Too Long, which also was recorded by the Blues Project as “Wake Me Shake Me.”

At the time of the Union Catholic show, The Decoys were a cover band and indeed all the songs were covers.  The band covered the most that night by The Decoys was The Byrds, with three songs.

The list as best can be deciphered is as follows

  • 1) Don’t Doubt Yourself Babe (Byrds)
  • 2) It’s My Life (Animals)
  • 3) She Don’t Care About Time (Byrds)
  • 4) Hey Joe (Hendrix and others)
  • 5) No Time Like the Right Time (Blues Project)
  • 6) Come On Let’s Go (The McCoys)
  • 7) 3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds – (Jefferson Airplane)
  • 8) Have you Seen Her Face (The Byrds)
  • 9) Crossed out???
  • 10) Sock It To Me (Mitch Ryder)
  • 11) Things I Should Have Said (The Grass Roots)
  • 12) Free as The Wind (Myddle Class)
  • 13) She is Still A Mystery to Me (Lovin’ Spoonful)
  • 14) Gimme Some Lovin’ (Spencer Davis Group)
  • 15) Omaha (Moby Grape)
  • 16) Don’t Let Me Sleep Too Long (Myddle Class, Blues Project)

One large question to be asked is: As a tribute to the band’s history and that historic evening, will The Decoys play any of the songs on the list? I guess we’ll have to be there to find out.

 

 

DECOYS 50th ANNIVERSARY CONCERT

The Decoys, the band that opened for The Who at Union Catholic High School in November of 1967 will be reuniting and performing in concert to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic concert on November 18, 2017.

There had been much talk about whether Union Catholic High School, The Who or anyone for that matter would mark the event during which The Decoys and The Who appeared on the Union Catholic stage in a groundbreaking concert.

It appears that The Decoys have seized the initiative and leapt into action. Fifty years ago, The Decoys were five high school students.  Three of them, Jim McClurken (lead guitar),  Mike Testa (rhythm guitar) and Mike Mazzarisi (drums) were students at New Providence High School.  Bob Gilligan (bass guitar) was a student at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains and Jon Kenseth (lead vocals) a student at Chatham Township High School.  Now they have reunited for the event. Bob Gilligan and Jon Kenseth will be coming from out of state to play with their ex-bandmates.

The concert will take place at Our Lady of Peace Gymnasium in New Providence, New Jersey on November 18, 2017. General admission tickets will be sold at $25 per ticket and the proceeds will go to Catholic School education.

More details to follow as the event nears. In the meantime, mark this on your calendars! Sounds like a can’t miss event.

Decoys reunion poster 001

Per The Who – THE VERDICT IS IN: Who show at Union Catholic – Historic!

At last some recognition from The Who or from those who represent The Who on the band’s official website that they too agree that The Who’s appearance at Union Catholic High School on November 29, 1967 was truly historic and unusual. Historic enough in fact to include a copy of the ticket stub and the page from school’s 1967-1968 yearbook devoted to the concert among a select few photos of The Who from the 1960s. Not only that but on the top row, smack dab in the middle.  Wow! Pretty impressive especially when you consider that the ticket stub is the only live performance flier, poster or ticket among all the photos on the page from the ’60s.  That’s right.  No Marquee Club poster or Fillmore East ticket stub.  Just Union Catholic High School.

Although the credit for posting the ticket stub is given to a Tim W, the ticket stub actually belongs to Nancy Mackow Scalera a freshman at the time who submitted the ticket stub to a Who memorabilia competition earlier in 2015 run through the Who’s website celebrating the band’s 50th anniversary.  Nancy contributed mightily to the finished product of When Stars Were in Reach in many different ways – with photos and tracking down others who eventually were interviewed for the book to name just two.  She checked her copy of the stub and sure enough those stains in the upper left hand corner of the stub are identical to those on her stub. During this internet and social media era, where photos are posted and re-circulated countless times, it’s not surprising that the attribution is incorrect.

The yearbook page has been circulating on the internet for years in various places. Several of the photos from the yearbook appear in “When Stars Were in Reach” with greater resolution (especially in the color, Kindle and Nook version of the book).

It is reassuring though to know that after decades have passed and context has become more obvious, that those who viewed the concert at Union Catholic as highly unusual, so unusual as to warrant a book about it, were not off base in the least.

WESTFIELD HISTORICAL SOCIETY FLIER

The time has been set for the presentation of When Stars Were in Reach and the live performance by Boonescuttle5 on Sunday, June 7, 2015. The scheduled time for the presentation is 2PM. The live concert will follow the Q&A, which follows the presentation. Festivities are estimated to go on until 4PM.  Our guess is they will go a bit past the 4PM estimated ending time.

You’ve got to love the art work by a member of the event committee at the Westfield Historical Society named Kerrie. We will work tirelessly until her last name is uncovered so that she receives the accolades due her. Kerrie has not only created a collectable in her own right but she has done so by tipping her cap, so to speak, to the artist of the original Union Catholic Who concert poster. The Westfield event is announced alongside the original poster by replicating the look and style of the original, which has always been so unique and so eye-capturing.

Kudos to Kerri!!

june7

 

WESTFIELD HISTORICAL SOCIETY PRESENTATION NOW OFFICIAL – SUNDAY, JUNE 7, 2015

The Westfield Historical Society is promoting Michael Rosenbloom’s upcoming presentation about The Who, Union Catholic High and When Stars Were in Reach, by creating a flier that replicates the iconic Union Catholic Who poster from 48 years ago. It’s on the home page of the Historical Society and can be accessed by clicking here and should not be missed.

In a twin booking that is truly synergistic, the presentation will be followed by live music by the Boonescuttle5, three members of whom played a not insignificant role in When Stars Were in Reach. Dave Goessling, Kevin Compton and Myke Connell, friends from childhood befriended The Who’s roadies after the Who show at U.C. and helped them load The Who’s equipment onto their tour bus. The three of them formed the basis of one of the side-stories of When Stars Were in Reach that tells about the concert through the eyes of a group of 15 year-olds.

We look forward to seeing you. Remember! You never know whom you’ll see there – musicians, authors and assorted personalities. A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

SAVE THE DATE – JUNE 7, 2015

Who:       Michael Rosenbloom

What:      Presentation – When Stars Were in Reach (The Who, Union Catholic High School)

When:     Sunday, June 7, 2015, afternoon (exact to be determined)

Where:    Westfield Historical Society, 314 Mountain Ave., Westfield, NJ 07090

Why:        Because it’s a cool story.

Q&A and book signing to follow presentation.

Details to follow in the weeks to come.  We look forward to seeing you there.  You never know who else will show up!

 

Holy Grail from U.C. Concert Era Uncovered!

I recently received an email from a former Union Catholic High School student, Frank Diego which caused me great excitement.  While spending a good four years researching how Union Catholic entered the business of staging rock concerts in the late 1960s, I desperately tried to lay my hand on a copy of a contract between the school and the booking agent for one of its concerts.  On December 23, 2014, my wish came true.

Frank’s story

One day while working as a student-janitor at Union Catholic during the summer of 1976 or 1977, helping a teacher clean out some files, Frank came across a copy of a contract signed by the school and Blanche Zeller booking Sly and the Family Stone to appear at Union Catholic on March 5, 1969.  (Never mind for a moment that the concert never took place.  That’s pretty much irrelevant.)  Sensing he was viewing a potentially meaningful document, Frank kept the contract from being lost forever in the trash bin of history, kind of like a teenager stopping his mother from tossing out a 1957 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card in front of his eyes.  The contract is at the end of this post for all to see.

Having read When Stars Were in Reach, the reviews and feedback from former U.C. students, Frank must have felt that now was the right time to at last tell his story and reveal the contract.

Excuse me but at the risk of using excessive hyperbole, what we have here is nothing short of a historic document.  Ok.  I get it!  It’s not an original copy of The Gettysburg Address.  But from so many perspectives – a rock music and a 1960s cultural perspective in general and a UCHS-as-a-rock-concert-venue perspective in particular, the document is truly historic.  And it is pretty old, forty-six years old to be exact.  Moreover, selfishly speaking, it is an affirmation of several key facts of When Stars Were in Reach, upon which I previously had no choice but to rely on memories only (no documentation) when writing the book.  More on that later.

First let’s analyze the contract.  The contract itself is beauty personified in bare-boned simplicity.   I admit I’m not in the rock concert business.  That said, I doubt that a contract drafted today, between a booking agency and a venue to stage a famous rock act, would be worded in such generalities and be only one page long.

The contract has some key elements in it.  It confirms the booking agent, the date and location of the show and who signed the contract on behalf of the school.  Lastly, it documents the price of booking a top-tier rock act at the height of its popularity.

 

A 1960s Rock and Cultural Perspective – Sly and the Family Stone

Years before Sly Stone and his brother Freddie formed Sly and the Family Stone in 1967, Sly was active on the burgeoning rock music scene in the San Francisco bay area as a musician, disc jockey and producer.  Sly and the Family Stone’s first hit was Dance to the Music, released in February of 1968, peaking at #8 nationally and #3 on the WMCA charts in NYC for the week of April 3, 1968.

They released a follow-up single in late 1968 called Everyday People.  The single began to climb the charts nationally and locally in December of 1968, eventually reaching #1 in both places.  Locally on the WMCA charts, it reached # 1 for the week of January 22, 1969 and stayed in the top ten all the way through the week the band was scheduled to play at Union Catholic.

The scheduled date of March 5, 1969 places the band about five months before their landmark performance at The Woodstock Music and Arts Fair in August of 1969, in which they stole the Saturday night proceedings from such venerable bands as The Who and Crosby Stills and Nash.

In the early ’70s, they went on to have another #1 hit with Family Affair and scored several top-ten albums during their career as well.  Eventually in the mid-70s, the band fell apart due to drug problems and personality differences.  But make no mistake.  When the school booked the band, they were in the prime of their career or close to reaching it.

The band changed the face of soul music by adding a funkier more psychedelic sound.  Socially, Sly and the Family Stone were a groundbreaking band too.  They were one of the first bands to have an integrated lineup.

 

An Affirmation of Key Points of When Stars Were in Reach

As mentioned above, while researching the Who concert at UCHS, I was dying to get my hands on a document such as this which could confirm the price the school paid to book The Who, as well as other details.  Despite managing to actually locate Blanche Zeller herself, I drew blanks.  But this contract does confirm two facts mentioned in the book:

First, the contract is on Blanche Zeller letterhead and signed by Blanche.  With The Who as well, Blanche was purportedly the booking agent as detailed in WSWIR.  But until now there was never any documentary evidence to prove that the school worked with Blanche.  Now we know this is a fact and not hearsay, that indeed the school was booking rock acts through Blanche Zeller.

Second, when booking The Who, former Brother Joseph McMorrow took credit for signing the contract on behalf of the school with The Blanche Zeller Agency.  With nothing else to contradict the story, I went with it.  Sure enough the same individual, Brother Joseph McMorrow signed the Sly and the Family Stone contract on behalf of the school.

 

Legacy

If and when Union Catholic decides to devote a display case or more to exhibit the memorabilia documenting the rock n’ roll chapter of its history, this contract should be prominently displayed along with concert posters, tickets, and open yearbook pages showing photos of the famous concerts held at U.C.  The blanks filled in by a typewriter serve to highlight even more the sense that the document hails from a more innocent, bygone era, a sentiment which I tried hard to convey in WSWIR. Sometimes a simple one-page piece of paper succeeds in conveying such a sentiment far better than words ever can.

 

Unanswered Questions and a Final Point

Two points related to the contract are still unclear:  the fee paid to the band and the reason for the cancellation of the show.  The price to be paid to Blanche Zeller was $5,500.  But notice that the price includes insurance to be paid by the Blanche Zeller Agency.  Blanche said that her fee was 10% of what was paid to the band.  Without knowing how much of the $5,500 made up the insurance it’s impossible to calculate how much the band received. Although we can figure out an upper limit if there was no insurance – $4,950.

As far as the reason for the show’s cancellation, there are three names on the contract:  Blanche Zeller, Joe McMorrow and Jack Tarantin.  Blanche of course was the booking agent. But she is too old to remember such details, being in her mid-90s.  I contacted Jack Tarantin, who according to the contract was the “Chairman of the Committee,” i.e. the concert committee.  Jack was the Student Class President at the time.  As of this writing, Jack has not returned my call.  I was successful in reaching out to Joe McMorrow, a former faculty member at Union Catholic High School, now living in Canada.  Joe is a true gentleman, never turning down a request for information and reliably answering my emails.  Unfortunately, Joe could not shed any light on the question of why the show was canceled.  Joe writes:  “I’m afraid I will not be of much value to you on this question.. I have no memory of Sly and the Family Stone.  All the bands that were discussed for booking were unknown names to me and to most people at that time…”

Meanwhile, Frank Diego, who revealed the contract last week, said that rumor had it that Sly backed out of the contract after hearing that there were only a handful of black students at U.C. at the time.  I welcome anyone’s comments who was in the know.

Finally, notice that towards the bottom of the contract it states that “if any of the above acts or bands shall be unable to appear, the Blanche Zeller Agency agrees to replace them with acts or bands of equal merit.”  On March 25, 1969 Blood Sweat and Tears appeared in place of Sly and the Family Stone as the replacement band of equal merit.  I leave it to you the reader to decide if the two bands were of equal merit at the time, if one can even measure such a thing.  You may be able to guess how I feel, at least in retrospect.sly contract

Mystery Solved in Fanwood!

A packed room of close to 40 Who fans and curious baby boomers crowded the Fanwood Memorial Library to see Michael Rosenbloom’s Power Point presentation of “When Stars Were in Reach,” the book that documents how Union Catholic High School entered the rock concert business in November of 1967 by booking an on-the-rise British rock band – The Who.Michael explained the motivation for the school’s foray into the rock concert endeavor and took the audience step-by-step through the machinations that ultimately led to a historic concert being given by a band that would soon reach legendary status in the U.S.A lively Q&A followed the presentation as Michael was peppered with questions mostly about The Who but also about Union Catholic High School and himself.

As predicted, individuals of stature were in the audience. Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens was there, and asked some very good questions after the presentation.  Also present was Susan Dyckman, Director of Development of Union Catholic High School.  Author Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta, who wrote her own book about rock music – “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist,” was in attendance as well with her husband.

Judging by the facial expressions of the audience, the Facebook comments afterwards and by the applause at the end of the presentation, the audience left satisfied. And why not? The mystery of why a Catholic High School in New Jersey decided to enter the rock music business in the height of Rock’s golden era was at last solved.

front back 2

 

Fanwood Memorial Library Appearance and Book Signing – October 21st

What could possibly have possessed a Catholic High School in Scotch Plains to enter the rock concert business in 1967, the height of rock’s golden era? Find out a week from today, October 21, 2014 at 7 PM as author Michael Rosenbloom will be giving a presentation at the Fanwood Memorial Library, 5 Forest Road, Fanwood, NJ 07023 at 7 PM. You heard the rumors about Union Catholic High School going back to the ’60s.  Isn’t it time you finally learned the inside story?
Some new slides have been added which are sure to be of interest to the audience.  Besides who knows who will show up?  Don’t miss it!  Three cheers for The Fanwood Memorial Library’s promo on its web page. Check out The Who paraphernalia on the promo banner. If the appearance is anything like the one at the Cranford Library, a fun time will be had by all.

“It transports the reader back in time to a specific moment when rock music was young and exciting, the world was changing, and possibilities seemed endless.”

So writes Drew Athans in his book review of “When Stars Were in Reach” on his blog The Rock and Roll Chemist.

Drew Athans is a blogger who writes about a variety of subjects, including music.  His blog averages about 4,000 – 7,000 hits per month and is growing daily.  Mr. Athans has written two books about the rock band Blur.

Some of the books Mr. Athans has reviewed are:

  • Man On the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s by Tom Doyle
  • The Beatles: BBC Archives by Kevin Howlett
  • Jim Morrison: Friends Gathered Together by Frank Lisciandro
  • The Beatles: All These Years, Vol 1: Tune In by Mark Lewisohn
  • George Harrison: Behind That Locked Door by Graeme Thomson
  • The Beatles: Solo by Mat Snow
  • The Beatles in 100 Objects by Brian Southall
  • Autobiography by Morrissey
  • Jimmy Page: Magus, Musician, Man by George Case
  • The Beatles Day by Day by Terry Burrows
  • God Save the Kinks by Rob Jovanovic
  • Raisin’ Cain: The Wild and Raucous Story of Johnny Winter by Mary Lou Sullivan
  • The Beatle Who Vanished by Jim Berkenstadt
  • Northern Songs; The Beatles Songwriting Empire by Brian Southall
  • Fab Gear: The Beatles and Fashion by Paolo Hewitt
  • Perfect Circle: The Story of REM by Tony Fletcher
  • Paul McCartney Recording Sessions by Luca Perasi
  • Americana by Ray Davies
  • A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of the Smiths by Tony Fletcher
  • A Rock n’ Roll Autobiography by Bobby Whitlock
  • The John Lennon Letters edited by Hunter Davies
  • Starting at Zero: His Own Story by Jimi Hendrix
  • One Way Out: The Inside Story of the Allman Brothers Band by Alan Paul
  • Beatles Memorabilia: The Julian Lennon Collection
  • The Beatles at Shea Stadium by Dave Schwensen

…and now “When Stars Were in Reach.”  When Stars Were in Reach is proud to be in such illustrious company.  We welcome you to read Mr. Athans’ review and explore The Rock and Roll Chemist blog here