History of The Berkley Five by William K. Kellogg (drummer - 1965 to 1970)
- Written February 12, 2003
We started in 1965 (I was 13) after our first band containing three of the players (guitar, bass, drums) called The Pacers broke up, and we picked our name from the most happening place on the planet at that time: Berkeley, California. We merely removed a letter! I (drums), Steve Jones (bass), Ronnie Gibson (lead guitar) and David Parsons (rhythm guitar) had Pat Riley (guitar and lead vocals - we all sang back-up) join us later that year playing mostly soul music, and current radio traffic (British Invasion stuff and surf music). Four of us went to Umatilla High School in Florida, and front-man Pat Riley went to school (and played football) in Eustis. We practiced at least 2-3 times a week for almost a year and gained popularity locally, got a manager - Gary Frey from Umatilla at first, then later Doug Clark of Eustis - and started being booked with 'hit' acts as a 'front' band. Our first 'big' gig was fronting for The Standells at the armory in Eustis. We unintentionately opened our set with THEIR hit song, Dirty Water -what a faux pas! We were young and excitedly nervous! A local musician, Mike Newman, wrote a song for us, and we recorded it in 1966 in Miami (or Tampa?) at Criterion Studios on The Boss label. You're Gonna' Cry briefly made #1 on the local Eustis station WLCO and received some minor airplay in the Daytona-Orlando-Jacksonville areas. The flip side was our version of Midnight Hour. Without record company support it quickly faded; but I always thought it had merit, and still enjoy hearing it.
Some of the local bands we shared venues with in those years were The Tropics, The Nation Rockin' Shadows, The Last Knights, The Wrong Numbers, Ron and the Starfires, The Royal Guardsmen, The Allman Joys, and many others. We played the next couple of years in the Southeast United States as the opening act for The Zombies, ? and the Mysterions, Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders, The Troggs, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, Blue Cheer, Wayne Cochran, Billy Joe Royal (with Joe South), The Allman Brothers (then The Allman Joys), Roy Orbison and The Candymen, and The Fortunes. Our regular circuit included The St. Pete Beach Club, The Wedge,The Pier, and The Martinique in Daytona Beach; The New Symrna Beach Surf Club, The Coconut Club in Orlando; Melbourne's Teen Town, and Cocoa Beach's Tiger's Den; The Kitten's Korner and The Comic Book Club in Atlanta; Whisky A-Go-Go and The Dome in Akron (Kent) Ohio; the KA and SAE houses in Tallahassee and Gainesville; The Eustis Civic Center, The Umatilla Teen Club, and The Hurricane Hut in Mt. Dora, Florida.
After attending a couple of live James Brown shows with the entire band, we incorporated a non-stop two hour show right off the Live At The Apollo album, complete with the Flames break song between each song, sequined capes, dancing and screaming (which Pat did really well) - and all the show trimmings - into our performance. We dressed like a band, did steps during songs, and worked up little shows like David doing a dance called 'The Buzzard'; we were 'entertainers' as well as musicians. We were playing the Pier in 1968 with Billy Joe Royal when they filmed the 'documentary' Mondo Daytona (later made into video titled Get Down Grand Funk) focusing on spring break in Florida. We were filmed that weekend, but none of us ever got to know if that film was ever produced or if our footage ever made it into the film. Through the Internet, I found that film on video, and can't wait to receive it and look for us or even the marquis on The Pier which listed Billy Joe Royal and The Berkely Five for Spring Break, 1968!
In the summer of 1969 we went to Kent, Ohio and looked for work in the Akron-Cleveland area (why and how I don't recall!). First, we had to join the Musician's Union (something we never ran into in Florida)! I was the only one who hadn't turned 17 yet, and had to lie about my age. We then were booked at the Whisky-A-Go-Go in Akron where the booking agent for The Dome - the local large college bar for Kent University - saw us and booked us as the house band for that summer. Cool bar: Go-Go cages with girls in them and a huge disco ball dance floor! We returned there in 1970 as the house band again; but right after 'the massacre'; the place sure did change! In 1969, staying in Akron with a very nice family (I will remember their name sooner or later), the husband (a local singer) acted as our manager while we were in that area. In 1970 we stayed with 'Dave' the manager of the bar (and a bartender), but our local Manager got us in touch with Capitol Records in Detroit (or Cleveland). We did a TV show broadcast live from Cayahoga Falls Amusement Park called Chippewa Action (a local show similar to Where The Action Is) were we played (lip-synched) our song (we were 'The up and coming band'), and Blue Cheer was the 'Star' band that evening. We never got to see that show because we left town before it aired (anyone ever see that? Anyone know where one could get a copy of that show?). Later that summer Capitol Records, through contact with our local agent, sent us a song to record. We were very excited! We went to the Capitol Record recording studio (Cleveland or Detroit- I can't remember which. We drove around that area a lot for those two summers) and studied the song they wanted us to record. It was titled Groovy Is The Word For Davy and was a song about Davy Jones of The Monkees, whose popularity was peaking from their TV show. So here we are, in a huge strange town, five young white 'cracker' musicians, trying to record a song praising a person who sings with a group of " fake TV musicians" (or at least, then, we thought) doing music we were totally unfamiliar with (it was not our style and none of us read music well at that time) for the record company of our dreams! This was the break we had worked so hard for....but THIS song? Please...anything but this! Don't you have a song about James Brown, or Otis, or Wilson? Needless to say, try as we might (and we did!) the song came out badly as did our relationship with Capitol. But it was a memorable trip and probably the closest we ever got to our 'shot' for the big time.
After returning that summer, Ronnie and David got married, Pat went to Vietnam, and Steve and I went to Lake Sumter Junior College in Leesburg. The band broke up and we all went our separate ways. David was killed in a car accident around 1974; Pat, after seeing a lot of combat in Vietnam, died in about 1980 of a debilitating hereditary disease; Ronnie still lives in Umatilla with his wife Debbie (I heard he's a man of the cloth); Steve went on to FSU and majored in music (guitar). I went to UF as a psychology major in Gainesville, Florida.
I have continued to dabble in professional music to this day. I play currently with a group called The Gonzo Gators (http://www.geocities.com/gatormann7355/band.html) doing mostly classic '60's rock and some eclectic show pieces. Steve resides in San Francisco and still plays guitar (he plays amazing classical stuff) and recently played at his brothers' son's wedding here in Florida, and we got to visit. I haven't had any contact with Ronnie in quite sometime, although I hope to soon. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't remember how great those days were. We felt like musical heroes locally, and everyone knew us. We were all close friends and stayed together for over five years. We traveled together (in a 1965 Dodge Van with our name on it), flew together (it was hard for all four of us to take off from school because the teachers and principal took notice, so one person, along with Pat from Eustis, would skip school and drive the van to Atlanta on Friday, and the other three of us would drive to Orlando after school and hop a jet where the drivers would pick us up at Hartsfield, and then we would all go set up! AND after paying for three plane tickets, gas for the van, and hotels rooms for two nights, we all came home with money. We did well for 'kids' in those days) and lived in hotel rooms together. It was truly a memorable and positive experience; one that sometimes I wished would have never ended. If only we had that 'hit' or that 'break' that may have enabled us to play music the rest of our lives. But I still manage to play out frequently, and still play the 1967 Champagne Sparkle Ludwig Hollywoods that I purchased new, and they still sound great.
I encourage anyone that now plays music to always continue; to grow; to practice; and if you have dreams that include music, follow them. Never give them up. If anyone has memories, pictures, recordings, personal stories or movies of our band, please contact me through this website, or at email@example.com or at one of the links. I would love to hear what you have to say. It was a wonderful time to be doing what we were lucky enough to experience; a wonderful coming-of-age; I can't watch the movie That Thing You Do without getting a little misty and reminiscing...if only our record had been backed by a large recording company...maybe 'there go we'. That movie truly reflects how things went during those years in the music industry, and the excitment of performing, recording, and then hearing your song on the radio. Thank you Tom Hanks (Anyone interested in discussing a movie or a book on this band please contact me!). Thanks to all the people who allowed us to touch their lives, and who helped or touched ours. And thanks to all our friends, roadies, classmates, musical peers, and our parents, who supported us in our 'far out' endeavors. It was truly magical and unforgettable. Thanks again to all my friends, living and gone, in the band; we were truly a band of brothers; and one swinging, soulful, kick-ass '60's show band, if I do say so myself. You can get a CD containing You're Gonna' Cry from Borderline Books (www.borderlinebooks.com) by Gear Fab (or via the label at www.swiftsite.com/gearfab); it's the second song on the first CD of a three CD set entitled Psychedelic States -Florida that has many local bands' music from the '60's including our friends The Tropics and Ron and The Starfires. Check it out! These recollections are strictly my own, and as accurate as what brain cells I have left allow me to remember. I hope you have enjoyed them.
- William K. Kellogg, Drummer, The Berkley Five
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