Rickey Moore has had a very varied musical career. While he drummed for two now classic '60's New Orleans garage bands - The Better Half-Dozen and The Zoofs - Moore also played with Bobby Fonscea of The Palace Guards - yet another legendary Louisiana rock band. From his early experiences associating with Elvis, through his experiences of recording with Allen Toussaint, Moore has really done it all. 60sgaragebands.com is very pleased to be able to tell his story.
Rickey Moore Recalls The Better Half-Dozen
When I was growing up, my family was in the radio business, and in that kind of business, you did all of the work yourself. My mother and father worked together. My father ran the business and had other people working under him. In addition to running the business, he also worked in sales and was often a DJ. My mother helped with sales, did the books, and was also sometimes a DJ. One of the problems with the radio business at the time was that our family always had to move to different cities, and our lifestyle was always changing.
We moved almost once a year when I was young, and my father had different responsibilities within the business every time we moved. We lived in Laurel, Mississippi; Canton, Mississippi; Booneville, Mississippi; Galveston, Texas; Clarksville, Tennessee; and many other small towns all over the South. I hated moving around so much, but there were certain perks to being in the radio business.
Radio was done live quite often in those days; and on the weekends, bands would come and play live at the studios where my parents were working. As a kid, I got to sit and listen to all of the bands, which was amazing. They played mostly country and gospel music. It was the 1950s, and rock music was just beginning to surface.
When my family was living in Booneville, my father was the manager of a radio station there. The studio was in a two-story building; the bottom floor was the studio, and the top floor was our house. Booneville is very close to Tupelo, the city where Elvis Presley grew up. When I was about four or five years old, Elvis had moved to Memphis, and was just becoming known. He would drive down to our studio in Booneville and play live on Saturdays. One time, he showed up in one of his infamous Cadillacs. My family relates how he would throw the football with me in the yard of the studio and how I would emulate him. I think this was where my love of music really began. Iíve always remained an Elvis fan.
When I was a kid, I did all of the normal stuff that any kid would do. I played football and other sports. I remember Superman being very big at the time, so kids were playing all kinds of combat games. But I was also a little bit different from the other kids. I would construct guitars and microphones and other gadgets, and I would play the guitar and sing. I always thought music was cool, and I knew from the very beginning that this was what I wanted to do with my life.
In the summer of 1961, my family moved to New Orleans. I was entering the sixth grade in the fall. My father had gotten a job as a DJ at WJMR Radio. The WJMR studio was at the old Jung Hotel on Canal Street. One of my fatherís fellow DJís there was Clarence Hayman, known as "Poppa Stoppa", a very popular local DJ in New Orleans. (Haymanís "Poppa Stoppa" is credited with playing the first rhythm and blues records to which local white kids were exposed, and with playing songs like local singer Clarence Henryís Ainít Got No Home. He also came up with Henryís now famous nickname, "Frogman").
When my father was working for WJMR, I went to work with my dad a lot. I loved to be at the studio and watch all of the things that went on there. I learned how to work all of the machines and basically how to be a DJ. At one point, my father had the opportunity to interview Dion. I got to meet Dion, and he even gave me an autographed LP. This was a big moment for me at that time.
At this point, I knew that when I grew up, I wanted to do something in the music business - whether it had to do with radio, television, or something else. This was my dream, and I knew that it was where I was headed. I always wanted to learn new things about my parentsí business, anything that I thought could help me in my future career. My parents were both very supportive and helped me to acquire many different skills.
When I was in the seventh grade, I received my first ever opportunity to take music classes at my school, Gregory Junior High. I was excited about this, but I wasnít sure what instrument I wanted to play. In one of the previous towns Iíd lived in, my parents had been friends with a couple who had a son named Jeff. Jeff was an incredible drummer, even when we were young kids, and he had once given me a snare drum as a gift. When my music teacher at school asked me what instrument I wanted to play, I immediately thought of Jeff and decided that I wanted to learn to play the drums.
My school music teacherís name was Professor Rudy Valentine. He was a very good teacher and really wanted me to get good at the drums. He told me that if I started taking drum lessons outside of school, I would learn faster. He referred me to Al Doria, a professional jazz drummer who worked for Werleinís, which was the biggest musical instrument dealer in New Orleans in those days.
Doriaís teaching system was to pair two students together for lessons. My partner was Kirt Kelner. His father, Leon Kelner, was the leader of the Blue Room Orchestra at the Roosevelt Hotel. Kirt later went on to become a drummer in his fatherís orchestra in the 1990s. Leon Kelner died in 2000.
I was in the orchestra at Gregory Junior High from the seventh through ninth grades. A few times a year, we would hold these big performances, and I was the Master of Ceremonies. I was also a percussionist in the orchestra at the same time. Being the Master of Ceremonies helped me develop radio skills because DJs need to be able to talk while they are doing other things, such as playing instruments or working with machines.
Some other things I did to help prepare myself for a career in radio/TV were:
1) Oratory Contests - For these competitions, I would have to write a speech on a pressing issue of the day and then give it in front of a whole bunch of people. I was one of the youngest kids competing in one of the competitions, but even so, I won third place.
2) DJ License - When I was around 13 or 14, I got tested for my DJ license from the FCC (the Federal Communications Commission). To become a DJ, you have to take a test and earn a license. I was at the youngest age you could be to get a DJ license.
I could have been a professional DJ at that point, but no one would have hired me because I was underage. I was capable of doing pretty much everything that a DJ needs to be able to do; when I was in the studio, my father would simply sit back and watch me do all of the work. But when youíre a DJ, you have to have "the DJ voice," which is an acquired skill. At that age, my voice wasnít mature enough, and no one wants to hire a DJ who doesnít have "the voice."
When I was in the seventh and eight grades, the song Louie Louie by The Kingmen came out. It was a big smash. The Beatles were also entering the music scene at the time. Music changed drastically during this period. When people heard The Beatles play, they went crazy. All of the girls went absolutely nuts. At Gregory Junior High, a dance was held, and the band playing there was called The Spades. They were a total Beatles imitation. The Beatles had brought in a whole new fashion era, and The Spades wore their hair long like The Beatles did. They looked exactly like The Beatles and covered all of their songs. At that dance, the girls in my junior high went crazy for The Spades, and the members of the band couldnít even get out of the building because of all of the chaos. At that time, I thought it was really cool that one group of guys could have so many girls infatuated with them, and this strengthened my resolve to be in the music industry.
At my church, some of my friends and I were in a band. It was a very large church with a large congregation, so it had all kinds of facilities associated with it, including a gym. Every now and then, the church would hold different programs in the gym for the kids. The church asked my friends and me to put something together to entertain everyone, and we had such a good time with it that we decided to continue. We called ourselves The Blazers. The lead guitarist, George Welch, was older than me and went to Ben Franklin High School, which was then on St. Charles Avenue and Carrollton Avenue. We practiced at his house, which was uptown on Octavia Street near Tulane University.
The Blazers entered a Battle of the Bands competition at Ben Franklin towards the end of the school year, and we came in third place, which was pretty good considering we didnít really practice much. At the Battle of the Bands, I met a few important people. Bill Moody and Art Ducore were both seniors at Ben Franklin, and John Murphy was a senior at John McDonough High School. They had their own band, The Coachmen, and were also competing at the event. Their drummer was going to be leaving the band shortly to go to college, and they needed a new drummer. They saw me play at the Battle of the Bands and thought that I was pretty good, so they asked me to join The Coachmen. We practiced at Artís house, which was in Lake Vista, on Spanish Fort Blvd., near St. Pius X School.
I was only 14-years-old at this point, and all of the other members of The Coachmen had graduated from high school and were attending Tulane University. We were playing at fraternity and sorority parties and other similar functions. I was too young to fit in with the rest of the band, and they fired me after I had been drumming for them for about nine months. They replaced me with a guy named Paul Miller. He worked at Tippettís Music, a music store where all of the big New Orleans bands bought their instruments. It was a pretty popular place at the time. It was tough for me to be rejected by the band, but Paul went to Tulane just like they did, and he was a better drummer than I was anyway.
After I left The Coachmen, they changed their name to Yesterdayís Children. They actually became pretty big in New Orleans. They played mostly psychedelic stuff. They even made two 45s that they released locally. One was Tobacco Road /Go Elsewhere, and the other was Take Your Time / Last Clean Shirt. Tobacco Road got a decent amount of radio play in New Orleans. A guy named Quint Davis later joined the band. All he did was play the tambourine and dance to the music. But later on, he became, and remains to this day, the supervisor of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
When I was playing with The Coachmen, I met two important girls who were friends of the band. They would watch practices and go to our gigs. One of the girls was Debbie, Johnís girlfriend, who would later become his wife. The other girl was Brenda, Debbieís best friend, who I married in 1970.
Brenda was also friends with another band that was in need of a drummer. When I left The Coachmen, Brenda helped to get me an audition with that band, The Avantis. Their keyboard playerís name was Ted Genter, and the band practiced at his house on Bonnabel Street, near I-10. The band liked my audition, and so I joined The Avantis.
The Avantis had changed to this name from The Forces of Evil before I joined, so Iím not sure how that change came about.
The band came together in 1965 as The Forces of Evil. The line-up was as follows: John DíAntoni - bass, vocals; Ted Genter - keyboards; Tommy Hardtegen - drums; Mike "Mange" Mangiapane - lead guitar, vocals; Ed (Eddie) McNamara - rhythm guitar, vocals; Steve Sklamba - lead vocals.
The changes in the line-up were as follows: Me - drums, vocals (Joined in December - March of 1965 - 1966); Frank (Franko) Maier - keyboards, vocals (Joined around the Spring of 1967); Steve Sklamba - lead vocals (Departed in June of 1968).
In the summer of 1966, we changed the name again to The Better Half-Dozen. In those days, there were two different types of bands. There were bands that were a lot like The Beatles, and there were horn bands. There were also a few "surfer bands" here and there, such as The Ventures. The name The Avantis sounded like either a horn band or a surfer band, anything but a Beatles-type band, which is what we were. A lot of the band members didnít like the name because it didnít fit the style of the bandís music very well. Also, our manager at the time, Steve Montagnet, disliked the name The Avantis.
We then changed our name to The Better Half-Dozen because we were "the best" and because there were six (a half-dozen) of us in the band. When Steve Sklamba left the band in 1968, the band only had five members left in it, so we officially changed our name to The Better Half, which was what all of our local fans had nicknamed us anyway.
There werenít really, and still arenít, any teen clubs in New Orleans. There was one in the uptown area for a little while, and The Better Half-Dozen played there a few times, but the club quickly went out of business.
At the time that I joined the band, most of the members were already in college at Loyola, Tulane, and UNO. I was the only one still in high school; I was in the tenth grade. We played at a lot of fraternity and sorority parties for Loyola and Tulane. We also played at a few high schools here and there and at some personal parties, but we mostly played at bars, such as the Beaconette (a really popular bar at the time), Chedís, Pussycat, Sands, the Flower Pot, Experience, and a few others. I wasnít technically allowed to go to the bars because I was underage, so sometimes I had to be careful not to get caught.
In those days, we stacked the amps one of top of the other and basically created a huge wall of amps behind the drum set. When the cops would show up at the bars, I would hide behind this wall of amps until they left.
We would pretty much play for anyone who had the money to pay us. This included personal parties. We actually made a decent bit of money.
The Better Half-Dozen only participated in one Battle of the Bands competition. It was held at John McDonough High School on Esplanade Avenue and North Broad Street. Most of the bands there were what we referred to as "horn bands" and we were the only non-horn (Beatles-type) band there. We ended up in a deadlocked tie with Tommy Dawn and The Sunsets. We had a "play off" to break the tie. The last song we played was the Rolling Stonesí 19th Nervous Breakdown. I was against the idea of playing this song; I thought we needed something more "rock", but the band wouldnít listen to me. After playing that song, we ended up losing.
We played most of our gigs in New Orleans and close to the New Orleans area. We also sometimes played on the Gulf Coast, as far east as Mobile. Other places that we played in Louisiana included Baton Rouge and Alexandria, and we never really went any farther north than that. On a few special occasions, we played at Ole Miss University, which is just south of Memphis.
In those days, there were basically two types of white bands. There were older-style bands that used horns and brass instruments, and there were more modern-style bands, such as The Beatles. The Better Half-Dozen was a more Beatles-type, "British-sounding" band.
We played a lot of covers of songs written by bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, The Byrds, The Doors, The Young Rascals, Paul Revere and The Raiders, etc. The bands that we most frequently covered were The Rolling Stones and The Animals. We also played some R&B music, but instead of using horns, we used an organ. Our blues and rock songs were pretty heavy and very syncopated. They also featured high-octane lead guitar. In the R&B arena, we played a lot of songs written by James Brown, Mitch Rider, Spencer Davis, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Professor Long Hair, The Righteous Brothers, etc. During the "Hippie" era, we also started playing covers by Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Vanilla Fudge, Strawberry Alarm Clock, etc.
It was a shame that we couldnít have written more of our own stuff. In those days, people werenít really interested in listening to much original music. It was all about the imitation. In a lot of our songs, we sang three or five-part harmonies. These harmonies, combined with our use of the organ in blues music, made The Better Half-Dozen something really "different" at the time. We even recorded a 45 in which we used lots of harmonies and different things, but we never ended up releasing it. Itís been lost somewhere now, which is a shame because it was pretty good.
In all of our performances, we always had tons of energy and enthusiasm. Around that time, many famous bands were wearing tuxedo-type ruffled shirts and pinstriped pants and calf-high boots. Some of the bands did choreographed movements when they played (Example: Paul Revere and The Raiders). For a period of about six to nine months, we tried to imitate these other bands, but we eventually stopped doing all of that extra stuff.
Steve Montagnet was our manager. He owned a music corporation called Splendor Enterprises, but he was also in law school at the same time. In those days, music companies would hold dances and put signs up advertising them, and people would just show up. Steve would charge five dollars or so as an entrance fee, and his dances were supposedly "non-alcoholic." A lot of the big New Orleans bands at the time played at those dances.
About two years after he became our manager, Steve graduated from Law School, and he stopped being in the music business and became an attorney. He stopped being our manager at that point, and Steve Sklamba and Eddie McNamara took over the managing position for the band.
We were a really "tight", well-oiled band. We basically hit it every time. We were a diverse, tough-as-nails, powerful, rock, blues and R&B mix. The crowds really liked us because we were different (harmonies, no horns, organ, etc.) and set apart from other local bands.
When we had a gig, we would keep playing until someone fell down, whether it was our audience or us. We were definitely one of the biggest local bands in the New Orleans rock scene for about two or three years.
U-Doe Records released our 45 for us, and Eddie McNamara produced it. We recorded it at Cosimo Matassaís studio on Camp Street. The entire second floor of the studio was a huge open room. At the end of the room, there was a big glass wall through which we could see Cosimo, but we couldnít hear him unless he used microphones to speak to us. Cosimo would sometimes give us lots of direction, and we did a whole lot of retakes. There were different baffles set up all over the room, sort of like cubicles. Different band members were put into different baffles with their instruments. Using this system, Cosimo could separate the different instruments and vocals from one another so that he could later tweak the music to be just the way he wanted it to be.
As I remember it, when we recorded the 45 Iím Gonna Leave You / I Could Have Loved Her, Matassa had this girl working for him, and she basically did all of the work. Iím Gonna Leave You got played every once on a while on WNOE Radio in New Orleans. The song wasnít really all that popular on the radio, but it was very popular with the crowds in concert.
Basically the only two original songs that we wrote were Iím Gonna Leave You and I Could Have Loved Her. Iím Gonna Leave You was written by Steve Sklamba and Mike "Mange" Mangiapane. I Could Have Loved Her was written by Steve Sklamba and Eddie McNamara.
(We also recorded) Mr. Youíre a Better Man Than I, originally by The Yardbirds, and Transparent Day, originally by The West Coast Pop Art Experimental. This 45 was never released. We played the songs and did all of the work that was necessary to release it, but we never actually ended up doing it. It was a shame because it was much better than the 45 that we actually released, and it included some really great harmonies. One of the members of the band should have a copy of this 45, but we unfortunately lost it.
Rickey details his experiences drumming for The Zoofs (Check our Archives for an interview with Mike Presti)
Itís been almost 40 years since I played with The Zoofs, so my memory probably isnít entirely accurate, but this is the best that I can remember. I remember the band not being very good, but the songs themselves were great.
I met Nelson Cologne and one of his friends (I donít remember the friendís first name, but his last name was Scott). I had already run into Nelson at gigs and other functions, and occasionally at Tippettís Music. Nelson and his friend told me about this big important guy, Allen Toussaint, who was offering to produce and distribute a record for their band and about their manager, Billy Holiday, who was supposed to be a pretty big name in the New Orleans area at the time. But in order to record their songs with Allen Toussaint, they needed a new drummer.
When they first told me the name of their band, The Zoofs and all of these elaborate stories about the important people they were working with, I laughed at them, but I soon agreed to meet The Zoofs and audition for them. I went to Mike Prestiís house in Lakeview and met the rest of the band. Mike Presti and Buddy Kenney, two of the other band members, repeated the same story about Allen Toussaint and Billy Holiday until I was finally taking them seriously. At this "audition," Mike played all of his songs for me on his acoustic guitar. He was the one who wrote all of the songs for The Zoofs. They pretty much always played their original music and didnít do many covers. I thought that this was great, because there werenít a lot of bands out there at the time that played original stuff. Mike had also written a whole bunch of songs that the band didnít even play. He was extremely talented. Both his playing and his lyrics were incredible. Unfortunately, the way The Zoofs played didnít do Mikeís songs justice.
While I was at Mikeís house, I agreed to arrange another meeting when I would let the band hear me play my drums, so we all met to practice under a carport at a house on Paris Avenue and Prentiss Street near the Lakefront. We sat down there and practiced and played Mikeís songs, and we sounded pretty good. I was really impressed with Mike, so I agreed to meet their manager, Billy Holiday, and talk to him about joining The Zoofs. At first, I didnít know what had happened to The Zoofsí first drummer, but I later found out that he had skipped town and was never heard from again. Holiday basically wanted to meet me so that he could find out what kind of a person I was and to make sure that I wouldnít disappear the way the first drummer had.
I made an appointment to meet Billy Holiday, who worked with WWL-Radio, at a studio in the Roosevelt Hotel. Apparently, Holiday liked me, and so I decided to join The Zoofs. I wanted to join the band because Mike was an incredible person to work with, because I wanted to record a single with Allen Toussaint, because their manager was such an important guy, and also because the members of The Zoofs were the same age that I was, about 16. I then had to call the guys in The Better Half-Dozen and tell them that I was quitting their band. My last gig with The Better Half-Dozen was on January 27, 1967 at Loyola.
I only practiced with The Zoofs three or four times (either at Mikeís house or under that carport) before we had our recording session. We recorded the single at Cosimo Matassaís Studio on Camp Street, the same studio where The Better Half-Dozen had played. When we first started recording, I was really apprehensive about working with someone as important as Allen Toussaint. He was very intimidating because every time we played, he would talk to us through a huge glass wall, asking a whole lot of questions and giving us suggestions for what we could do better. He finally got so frustrated with me that he sat down at my drums himself and played them to show me what he wanted me to do, and he was a much better drummer than I was! That was a really tough moment for me. Basically though, Toussaint was very nice to me and told me that I was doing fine - to just calm down and play.
In that first recording session, we finished about four songs. I actually thought that the recordings were pretty good. After the session, Holiday told us that we needed to start touring to promote our music. All of the members of The Zoofs were about 16-years-old at this time, and so Holiday needed to meet with all of our parents so that they could sign contracts, etc. My father, being in the business, knew who Holiday was and knew enough about contracting to be able to check the whole thing out pretty thoroughly. My parents decided to sign for me to go on tour with Holiday and The Zoofs.
While I was with The Zoofs, we released one single under the label Dee-Su Records. This was Allen Toussaintís label, a very big but primarily R&B label. Toussaintís partner was Marshall Sehorn, the guy that discovered The Neville Brothers. The 45 that we released was Get to Know Yourself / Not So Near. Some people around the country were actually listening to our 45, but nobody in the New Orleans area was. We were actually moderately successful, and for a while we thought we were really going places.
There was an interval between the time that we recorded the songs and when we released them. During this time, we played two different gigs in New Orleans. Our first gig was at Blenk, a girlís Junior High School on the West Bank. The girls really liked us, but they were only about 14-years-old, so who knows whether or not we were really good? I personally thought that we sounded pretty bad, but at least the audience liked us. I was used to being with The Better Half-Dozen, and our concerts were always really big (big sound, big concerts, big energy). The Zoofs were so different from The Better Half-Dozen, plus they were much younger, and I didnít think The Zoofs were all that good.
The second gig we played was at a bar on South Claiborne Street near Tulane University. This was almost an audition-type gig for a regular spot as musicians at the bar. We showed up, set up our equipment, and got ready to play. There was basically no one in the bar, just three or four old drunks, considering we were playing there during the day. We played about five songs for them, but either we didnít want to keep playing or they didnít like us. Regardless of what happened, the show didnít go well at all, and we ended up leaving early.
Things started to fall apart when Buddy, our bass player, had to move because his father, who was in the oil or gas business, got transferred. Not long after they moved, Buddyís father got very sick. It was almost as if Buddy had just disappeared. For a while, he was writing letters to Mike to say that he would be coming home soon, but all of a sudden, the letters stopped and we never heard from him again. Then, Nelson left the band to go into the military, and after that, The Zoofs just gradually fell apart. This was the end of all of our plans to tour. Since we had never really toured or sold a lot of 45s, I hadnít made much money with The Zoofs.
After that, I basically crawled back to The Better Half-Dozen. They didnít seem too upset about my quitting though. While I was gone, they had taken in a new drummer, Jay Guernsbacker, but he only played a few gigs with the band before I was back to play with them at the Geraldís Key Club on March 4, 1967. It was very nice of the guys to take me back because they could easily have just kept the other drummer.
I recorded four songs written by Bobby Fonseca, who had previously been the bass player for The Palace Guards. The Palace Guards were on the same label as The Better Half-Dozen, U-Doe Records. They had released four or five singles that became popular in the South but werenít really all that big elsewhere.
When I played with Bobby Fonseca and the rest of the guys, our band didnít really have a name. I recorded these four songs with them in a studio on Metairie Road and Oakridge Avenue. The songs were Take a Number, Working on You, Uptown, and And Her Daddy Wasnít There. None of these songs were ever released, and I never did any gigs with the band. It was strange, because after a while, I lost touch with the band and never heard from Bobby again. The line-up was Bobby Fonseca - keyboards; Mike "Mange" Mangiapane - lead guitar; Me - drums; Owen "Big Daddy O" Tufts - rhythm guitar; Eddie Whiteman (?) - bass.
I graduated from high school in 1968. At that point, the rest of the band members were already in college; in fact, they were about to become seniors in college. This was going to be a really difficult school year for them, and the guys just really needed to focus on school at the time. Itís a lot of hard work to be in a serious band and in college at the same time, and it had gotten to the point where it just wasnít worth it anymore.
After The Better Half-Dozen broke up, I jammed a lot at different bars. I was basically just checking out the scene. I would play with different people just to see if anything would come together, but nothing really big ever did. I was involved in lots of little small groups. I would maybe meet with them and play a little bit, but nothing really ever came of it all.
The most important of the groups that I played with during that time were Mother, Buffalo Chips Breakfast Blue Band, and Island. Mother was a twosome: me and Ron Davis. He played lots of folk music at the Intellect Bar on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. Ron was pretty well known throughout the Quarter. He was absolutely amazing on the guitar. He was really nimble and very inventive. He could make his guitar sound as if three guitars were playing at once. He also had a great singing voice and could really work a crowd. People loved to listen to Ron when we played; even when he wasnít playing, he would tell good jokes or stories. Ron was really something special.
Ron moved over to the Red Bean Bar on North Rampart Street. He sang and played at the bar and was also the manager. After a while, we started jamming together at the Red Bean Bar. We basically became the barís regular band. We played at the bar about three or four times a week for nine months or so. Our sound was a folk and rock mix similar to that of Buffalo Springfield, Stephen Stills, and The Youngbloods. We were also very bluesy, and our blues styles varied. Sometimes we were more of a Delta Blues style, the same style played along the Mississippi Delta, which was blues mixed with a little rock. And at other times, we were more Back Porch Blues, which was an old Southern Blues style, more like folk music, in which we used acoustic guitars.
Ron and I would invite our friends over to the bar to jam with us. Weíd stay at the bar all night long playing. Many bands that had finished their gigs at other bars would come over after work to jam with us.
Around the fall or winter of 1969, Ron quit music. It wasnít worth it for him anymore because he wasnít really making any money. He went into the computer industry. He and his wife Jan then moved back to Memphis, where Ron had grown up.
I met the members of Buffalo Chips Breakfast Blues Band because they were attending UNO with me at the time. The lead guitarist of the band was Mickey Hassell. He had previously played with Local Traffic and released a single with them, Time Gone Waste / Second Century. Mickey had written both of these songs for Local Traffic.
The line-up for Buffalo Chips Breakfast Blue Band was as follows: Me - drums; Mickey Hassell - lead guitar; Mark Boutte - vocals; and Frank "Turtle" Pesche - rhythm guitar. There were a few other people in the band, but I donít remember who they were. The band practiced in a house near Jefferson Highway in Harahan. We covered lots of songs by Dr. John, Zappa, Delta Blues, and many others. We also played some original stuff, written mostly by Mickey. I donít really remember much of what we played because the gigs werenít great at all. We recorded several songs at a studio on Tulane Avenue, but I donít remember anything about them.
Island was a blues/jazz/folk/rock band. We played in bars in the Quarter and Uptown. One of the bars we played at a lot was A Pigís Eye. The line-up for Island was: Me - bongos; J.R. Brewer - lead guitar, vocals; Marc "Chops" Funderburk - harp and flute; and Owen "Big Daddy O" Tufts - guitar and back-up vocals. Using the bongos made us a pretty "different" band in those days.
J.R. Brewer had written some songs with a band in New Orleans called The Knowbody Else. All of the members of the band were from Arkansas. They went up to Memphis to record a record, and they released their LP in 1969. After they came back to New Orleans from Memphis, they started getting pretty big, and they wanted to move to Los Angeles to pursue bigger things. J.R. moved to Los Angeles with them, but he eventually got tired of the type of life The Knowbody Else was living, and he quit the band and moved back to New Orleans. After The Knowbody Else moved to California, they changed their name to Black Oak Arkansas, and they became really huge! It was only after all of this happened that J.R. started playing with Island. He wrote some really great songs with us, but when he quit Island, he moved back to Arkansas.
Owen Tufts had played with me in the Bobby Fonseca band as well as with Island, and he had also jammed with me and Ron Davis a lot during my Mother days, so I knew Owen pretty well at this point. Owen went on to become a recording artist under the name "Big Daddy ĎOí." He has released two CDs: Thatís How Strong My Love Is in 2002, and Deranged Covers in 2004. His music is very bluesy, and he uses a lot of acoustic guitar. He also has a great singing voice.
Eventually, my interest in becoming a drummer/musician faded. Ron Davis was one of my best friends in the business and also one of my biggest influences during that period of time. So when Ron quit music, I started thinking about doing the same. It was during that same time that I was getting ready to marry Brenda. I was 19-years-old, preparing for marriage, going to school, and playing music all at the same time. I was changing as a person, and my priorities were also changing. Brenda and I were thinking about having kids and about money. In order to accomplish my goals for my family and a future career, I was going to have to make some serious lifestyle changes.
I started to think about the music business as something of a "lottery." The entertainment industry isnít all about talent all the time. Luck and opportunity also has a lot to do with it. Being talented doesnít necessarily guarantee you success, and people become successful in the business even though they arenít talented. For example, there was a band touring the world at the time with a song called The Letter. They had this one song that was absolutely terrible, but I guess they just knew the right people, and they were really successful. I also thought about my old drum teacher, Al Doria. He had a job 9 to 5 every day and played gigs at night and also taught private lessons on the side to make some extra money. Al also had a family and kids, and all of this was taking up his entire life, and he still wasnít making any real money. I didnít want to live the Al Doria life, working so hard and still not making any money.
I also considered doing something in the radio/TV business, but there were the same issues in that arena. In order to be successful, I would have had to move to lots of big cities and totally change my lifestyle because no one in New Orleans was making any real money in the business. I remember watching my dad trying to get his own radio station while I was growing up. It took him over six years to accomplish his goal, and he had to go through huge changes to get to where he was. He finally got his own station in about 1970, and he had spent most of his life up until then having little money. I finalized realized what a huge gamble the entire entertainment industry really is and that I wasnít going to make much money in either music or radio or TV, so I needed to find another career. At that point, I quit playing music.
I married Brenda in 1970 just before I turned 20. At that age, I didnít really know what I wanted to do in school. I was the first person in my family to go to college, and I was pretty confused about what to do with my life, so I changed my major several times. At one point, I was majoring in music, but in order to do this, you had to know how to play jazz and all kinds of classical styles of music. I quit my music major because I would basically have had to start learning to play the drums again from scratch in order to be on the same page with the other students. If I didnít go to school for music, all I could have done that involved music was to teach lessons, and I absolutely didnít want to do that. I then changed my major for the last time to accounting/finance.
I graduated in 1974 and became a CPA. After that, Brenda and I started having kids. I then spent most of my time dealing with my business and watching my two sons, Ryan and Justin, grow up. I played a lot of football with my boys and coached their baseball teams. That was basically all I did then, work and spend time with my family. I spent hours and hours with the kids practicing "pop-ups" and "fly balls." We often practiced until it was too dark for us to see the ball anymore. I love my kids, and this time I got to spend with them while they were growing up is very special to me.
We had a Better Half-Dozen reunion on August 23, 1991. We called it "Splendor in the Surf Ď91" after our manager, Steve Montagnetís company. We held it at the Pontchartrain Surf Club on West End Boulevard. We invited 200-or-so people to come and see the reunion. The band had about three or four practices before we played together for the reunion. I had still been playing the drums at home for fun during those years, so I wasnít completely rusty. The TV news showed up at the performance, and we taped the show for posterity. There was also an article in the newspaper about our reunion. The reunion wasnít very good musically, but we had a fabulous time, and it was wonderful. It was a really great time for the band, and I think the crowd had a pretty good time as well. I really treasure my memories of that reunion.
As a CPA, I did a lot of lectures on taxation and financial planning. I was recognized as one of the Top 200 Financial Planners in the country in Worth Magazine in 1996. I was happy with my family and my job when it all suddenly came to a halt when I had a stroke on February 11, 1997. It was Mardi Gras Day. Both of my boys were in town, and a friend of mine wanted me to ride on a float in a parade with him, but I really didnít want to because I wanted to spent time with my kids. Itís a good thing that I didnít, because if I had ridden in the parade, I probably would have died because I wouldnít have been able to get to help fast enough.
The stroke has left me with "aphasia," a communication impairment that affects my ability to speak, read, and write. This stroke has opened up another chapter of my life. One of the positive aspects of my stroke is that I now have time to do a lot of the things that I enjoy, particularly music. Four years ago, I went to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. I had been to the Jazz Fest a few times before, but I had never previously had as much available time to spend there as I did this time. Ever since then, Iíve gone to the festival every year from the time the gates open until they close for the full seven or eight days that it lasts. For the past few years, Iíve done reviews on each of the musical acts that I see and e-mailed them to my friends. I am now also starting to learn to play the drums again through private lessons.
Itís amazing how you go through different phases in your life. Radio/TV, playing music, being in business as a CPA, and my stroke are all different chapters of my life, but I didnít even realize that I was shifting into another one when I was. It just sort of happens to you like that. All parts of my life have had good parts and bad parts to them. When one door closes, another one opens. When I was a CPA, I really enjoyed doing that. Now I canít do that anymore, but I have much more time to do other things that I enjoy. I believe in a quote by Rabbi Harold Kushner: "I think of life as a good book. The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense."
I spent all of my high school years with The Better Half-Dozen. During high school, some things seem so important at certain times, and later you realize how trivial those things really were. I was constantly moving on to bigger and better interests all the time. High schools kids live at two opposite extremes. When things are good, they are amazing, and when things are bad, they are terrible. Things move really fast in high school, and it was quite tumultuous. But looking back on my high school experience, I donít even remember the bad things, and if I do remember them, they donít seem to be that all important. The good things are the things that I choose to remember, and I often miss the "good old days."
Basically, all I did in high school was music. I didnít do all of the normal high school stuff because I was constantly with the band. This was a totally different atmosphere compared to most kidsí high school experiences. I can barely even picture my high school, and I donít remember a whole lot of my classmates. I grew up really fast in those five years that I spent with The Better-Half Dozen. I didnít take a whole lot of time with my childhood and didnít get a lot of chances to do normal high school things. I basically went straight from junior high into college. But all in all, I loved my experiences with The Better Half-Dozen. Those days were wonderful, and I loved every minute of it.
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Rickey Mooreís recollections provide an excellent and very informative history of his time with The Better Half-Dozen. While Rickey can be considered the bandís historian, keyboardist Frank Maier's and vocalist Steve Sklamba's recollections provide additional details in many other areas - and are written in a spirit that neatly and concisely summarize what true rock and roll is aboutÖ
Frank Maier Recalls The Better Half-Dozen
I've always loved (needed!) music. I can't remember a time when I wasn't listening to something. I need a soundtrack to my life. Right now I'm remodeling a bathroom in our house and I have the CD-player loaded with tunes to set my remodeling rhythm. Yep. I have it turned up LOUD.
My folks were into the big band sound of their generation. I still like some of that; although I hate the "crooner" thing. Frank Sinatra-types make me wanna plug my ears and/or shoot somebody. Elvis Presley was a white country schmuck covering black artists' work poorly. I'd heard many of the originals and listening to him mutilate 'em really bothered me. I like Fred Astaire movies, SINGING IN THE RAIN, etc. I like most classical composers, with a nod to the Russians. If I had to name a favorite classical piece, it'd be "Fortuna, Imperatrix Mundi" from Orff's "Carmina Burana". On my own, I discovered blues and R&B. I remember being blown away the first time I heard Ď50's (black) gospel. Wow! That wasn't how we sang in my white suburban Catholic church! As a kid, I took piano lessons; but was not amused by endless, monotonous practice of boring student pieces. I wanted to be Ray Charles, Doctor Professor Longhair, Huey Piano Smith, you know...
Speaking of which, it still pisses me off when the local (Seattle) "classic rock" radio station plays fucking Johnny Rivers' "cover" of Huey Smith's "Rockin' Pneumonia" where all they did was replace Huey's vocal track. That's Huey's work, except for Johnny's inferior vocals. Then the DJ sez, "That was the great classic by Johnny Rivers." Man! I always call 'em and tell how wrong they are.
Before the Better Half-Dozen formed, Eddie and John were buddies and used to play together. Steve, Mike, and I would play together casually sometimes. Steve and I did some folk music - stuff like that. When the band formed, I was pretty time-constrained because I was on the gymnastics team in school and we traveled most weekends. But even before I replaced Fred (Ted Genter) on keyboards, I'd be with the band singing backup, when I was free. After high school, the guys were pretty ready to let Fred go, and I was ready to spend more time doing music; so that's when I became the keyboard guy.
Band names are like underwear. Ya gotta change 'em once in a while, before they get too ripe. Ok, seriously, personnel changes inspire the desire to have a new name. Also, style changes, focus changes, social context. There were lotsa reasons (why we changed from The Forces of Evil to The Avantis to The Better Half-Dozen).
(Weíd play for whoever) would write us a check. I remember playing nasty, drunken-orgy frat parties (think ANIMAL HOUSE toga party) and elegant high school proms in downtown hotels (Okay, I admit it; the nasty frat orgies were more fun!). We probably statistically played mostly at clubs.
One thing I haven't seen mentioned is our sheer volume. There were a couple of times (maybe more than a couple) when the person in charge insisted that we turn down. They usually had to come back and ask us several times cuz we never did. I seem to remember at least one time where they literally pulled the plug during the first set and we left without finishing the gig. We coulda called ourselves The Louder Half-Dozen.
Mike and Eddie had that typical guitar competition thing going on. Mike was lead guitar; but he didn't have much money. Eddie was wealthy; so he'd always be showing up with a new (bigger) amp. So Mike would find the money to buy an even bigger amp. And on and on it went. Our version of "the wall of sound" consisted of a literal wall of amps and speakers. It was difficult for us to fit onto most stages, especially at smaller clubs.
I almost choked to death laughing when we did our reunion gig in '91. We got together at the club the afternoon of the gig. We set everything up. We did a sound check. Then we broke for dinner. When we returned for the actual gig, Mike had an extra amp which he added to his gear at the last minute; thus ensuring his ability to trump Eddie's volume. Even more than 20 years later, they were still at it. It cracked me up!
There's the band's sound; and then there's what influenced me. As others have said, this started just-post-British-invasion. Historically, local "rock" bands were "horn bands." We were "new school." That mostly meant British; but we did have some inclination in the group for blues and R&B.
My memory/opinion (not to be confused with "fact" or "reality") is that Eddie and John would have been happy to be "The Young Caucasians." They favored covering groups like Jay and The Americans and others like that and were resistant to Hendrix, et al. In contrast, of course, Mike loved Hendrix and wouldn't shit on Jay and The Americans if he had a choice of where to shit. He did a swell job on the guitar on Hendrix songs, if I might add that opinion. I was in Mike's camp and I'd say Rickey was, too. We usually wound up compromising toward a Top-40ish general selection with one Hendrix or "hard" song for every "soft" song. Objectively, it was probably a good thing to have that balance; everybody needs to slow dance sometimes. And that's where we could do more harmonies, which people did seem to appreciate. Subjective opinion but I'd hafta say that we were the best vocal group in New Orleans in those days. In that sense, Eddie gets the nod for insisting on songs like The Association's "No Fair At All" with its four-part major seventh harmonies. It was indeed a crowd pleaser.
If I had to narrow it down to one group, I'd say we were mostly Stones-ish. But we were eclectic. When we hit a funky R&B riff, we were fucking funky! Believe that shit! For a buncha white guys, our James Brown covers were pretty damned tight. Our "Harlem Shuffle" was righteous. I remember when The Stones covered that song and I remember thinking, "Shit! Our version was nastier than that!" It was probably an inaccurate thought; but it was real to me.
(We were popular but that is) pretty subjective, and difficult to quantify. I'll just throw out my opinion and you can take it with as much or as little salt as you want. We were pretty popular. We had an aggressive and loyal following. I'd say that we were very popular with audiences. Perhaps we'd hit a snag or two with organizers or check-writers. Maybe the people in the next building couldn't hear themselves think and put The Better Half-Dozen on their shit list. Other bands' members might be snippy when we were at parties together. I remember Les Grey (I think he was with The Palace Guard at the time) being miffed one particular night over an impromptu version of "Hot Nuts" with verses about him. (Well, maybe he deserved to be a little pissed...)
But the crowds listening to us were sweatin' and dancin' and havin' one helluva good time. We energized a room. Somebody mentioned that we lost a Battle of the Bands. What they didn't mention was that, even though the administrators hired the winners, the kids got together separately and arranged to hire us. We were definitely crowd pleasers. People went home tired after a night with The Better Half-Dozen; and they were eager to have an opportunity for a return engagement.
We covered (songs) by others, except nobody mentioned "Take A Number" which we never did; but which was a lot of fun. My memeory sez Mike did most of the work on that one. It was a fun pseudo-country (think Stones "Honky Tonk Women") anti-draft song where you had to "take a number, stand in line until I call for you. Can't you see that there is no escape from me?" It was topical, political, and still fun. Now, that's protest rock!
I remember some big dance up in Alexandria (or Nachitoches?). That one stands out for me cuz we slept at somebody's friend's house and Eddie and I flipped a coin to see who got to sleep with (okay, share the bed with) the guy's attractive sister. I won; so I remember that one fondly. I remember one time (maybe in Mobile? Springhill College?) playing along and suddenly being without a beat cuz Rickey was so loaded he fell over and was lying on his back playing the air, having failed to realize that he was no longer vertical!
Then, there's the nasty Gulf Coast thing. I think that place was called "Under The Bridge." Appropriate name cuz it was inhabited by trolls - hookers you just knew had every disease known to modern medical science plus a coupla new ones! Shudder! I tell my Seattle friends New Orleans stories sometimes and they laugh that laugh which says, "Oh, sure. You didn't hafta exaggerate that much just for our sake." They don't realize I'm telling the simple, unvarnished truth. Like the time we were in the Quarter and some guys followed us and shot (at) Mike... But that's another story.
(One of the reasons we broke up was over) "creative differences." We may have been popular locally, but we definitely weren't gonna hit it big-time. Throw in a little Yoko-Ono-factor, and "real life" staring at those of us who were coming to the end of college and you get your basic "Things fall apart. The center cannot hold."
I was with The Leaves of Grass for a little while after The Better Half-Dozen. But then "real life" took over when I got a fulltime job (as a librarian). Then I moved to Seattle. Thereís an active music scene here, certainly; but I was busy doing the "real life" deal.
Nowadays I mostly perform alone in my basement using headphones, except sometimes when my daughters (10 and 12) want me to play some guitar and sing for them. We like to make up songs. For instance, when the movie JURASSIC PARK came out, I put them to bed one night by singing a song about Jurassic Park to a reggae beat/chord-change. It has become a household classic with new verses to fit current situations/activities. Back in the early Ď80's, I worked at a publishing house peopled by interesting characters; so I wrote a derivative rock opera about it. Lately, I've been doing kendo (Japanese swordfighting with bamboo swords), which often leaves you black and blue; so my latest song is "The Kendo Black-and-Blues." Stuff like that. Self-amusement, not to be confused with self-abuse. Okay, maybe somewhat similar to self-abuse. Itís Onanistic to an extent.
Both my girls have inherited my love of listening to music loud, whether it's Bach or Snoop Dawg (or whatever his name is now). We love to rattle the windows.
What keeps me busy is my kids and my wife. I retired from Microsoft in Ď95. I still take an occasional consulting job; but mostly I'm a fulltime dad and husband. We home school the girls and therefore are free to travel while everybody else is chained to the school calendar. For example, this past spring we spent three months camping and hiking in the Southwest. The desert in bloom is a beautiful sight, the weather is temperate, and the campgrounds are not crowded. My life is full, varied, and very pleasant. Itís not perfect - what is? - But itís pretty damned good.
Our Better Half-Dozen reunion in '91 was a fabulous experience. Man! I wanna do that again before one of us croaks. Unfortunately, that seems unlikely. But ya never know...
Our initial experiences in high school were fulfilling for me in two ways. Socially, I had only a coupla friends and they were the guys I was fooling around with doing music. Plus, music itself, as I said initially, has always been a huge component of my basic self. So expressing that was satisfying. There was the pleasure and satisfaction of doing something I loved with people I liked. That alone is pretty significant.
Then, ya throw in the factor of public performance. There's a line in one of the BLUES BROTHERS movies where Dan Akroyd is talking about the feeling you get when the band hits the groove. That it's better than any pharmaceutical. It's true. The feeling of being in the groove with the band, with the crowd responding to it... Man! I dunno if it's adrenalin, or endorphins, or some-as-yet-undiscovered-biochemical; but whatever it is, it is completely fucking awesome! There is literally nothing like it.
Parenthetical comparison: As I mentioned, I was once a gymnast. I was the first person in the world to do a double front somersault over the vaulting horse in competition. Now, thatís an impressive thing. It's significant. And it felt really cool. But those feelings pale in comparison to a moderate groove on an average night at a typical gig. So imagine the feeling of a really spectacular groove, on a special night, at a major gig. It's incomparable.
Giving that up was difficult. Recapturing it, when we did our '91 reunion, was amazing. Steve e-mailed me recently and I commented to him that it was one of the great events of that decade for me. That's a decade which included my marriage, my retirement, and the birth of both my daughters; so I guess that's saying a lot. It was surprising to me how strong those feelings were. I expected to enjoy that experience. I hoped to really enjoy it. I didn't expect it to be as intense as it was.
I'd do it again in a heartbeat. But no soft shit! Ok, maybe a coupla slow songs, just so we and the audience can catch our collective breath and be ready for the next round of hard rockin'.
Steve Sklamba Recalls The Better Half-Dozen
The Avantis formed in 1965 after a sweet sixteen party held at Ed McNamara's home located in the lakefront area of New Orleans, just a few blocks from Pontchartrain Beach. Ed and John D'Antoni had teamed up before the party and they played dynamite Ventures instrumentals. I don't remember why I ended up at the party. Mike Mangiapane and Frank Maier were classmates and I believe we were all there and played a few songs with Ed and John. There was a guy there who is now a professor at the University of New Orleans who was playing drums. His name was Ivan Meistovitch.
John, Ed, Mike, Frank and I decided to set up another session. We needed a drummer. For some reason, Ivan wasn't available. After a few practices, we auditioned a drummer in the garage of Richard Arceneaux. He lived in Metairie and was a friend of mine from the Boy Scouts. The drummer we auditioned was Tommy Hartdegen. Tom was a few years older than the rest of us and at first he really wasn't crazy about the British sound. He did like one song we did at the time and told us later that our version of Not Too Long Ago sold him on our sound.
Mike had an old grammar school buddy who played piano. His name was Ted Genter. Mike convinced him to buy an amp and a new Farfisa. The Avantis were born! Our business card featured the name of the band in large red script. It was a great design created by Ed and John. After passing out cards, we finally played our first gig at a CYO dance at St. Christopher in Metairie. I believe we were paid $40 for our first performance. Other jobs followed at CYO dances and parties.
During the 1966 Mardi Gras, Tom Hartdegen secured a job for us at a dive in the French Quarter called "The Cage". The bar had an under age crowd and it was a wild place for guys and girls 16 and 17 to hang out. Ed and John could not play that weekend, but Tom, Mike, Ted, Frank and I under the name The Forces of Evil had a most memorable Mardi Gras. The police eventually busted the bar and the owner lost his liquor license.
Tom was already out of high school and the rest of us graduated in 1966. I needed a car for college and my father arranged for me to work on a navy ship operated by the MSTS (Military Sea Transport Service). Off to San Pedro, California I flew to board my home for the summer, The Point Barrow. My days at sea were without music. No Stones, Animals, Beatles, Turtles, Byrds, Yardbirds or Dylan. From San Pedro to the Canal Zone and then to Honolulu. Finally, I got to hear a band at the Hawaii State Fair.
Back to L.A. It was a three hour bus ride to Sunset Blvd. The Turtles were playing at Whiskey A-Go-Go. The Doors were the house band. This was before the release of Light My Fire. It was worth the bus ride. On another night The Stones were at the Hollywood Bowl. A scalper offered me a ticket for $50. I couldn't afford it. I ended up at a place called Pandora's Box. The band was called World War III. The singer had a sore throat and was having a rough night. I asked if I could sit in and sang one song We Gotta Get Out Of This Place. It was a great feeling to be back on stage.
Finally, in August I was back in New Orleans and ready to start college and play music on the side. Along comes a promoter named Steve Montagnet who was a Loyola law student at the time. Steve had been putting on dances at F&M Patio and other venues under the name Splendor. I can't remember where we met him. It may have been Beaconette. We were still playing under the name The Avantis. I remember sitting in his parents' home with the other guys trying to come up with a new name. We had all decided that car names for bands were no longer in vogue. We needed something different. We finally decided on The Better Half-Dozen.
Next it was off to Cosimo's Studio to record a 45 on the U-Doe label. Steve Montagnet paid for the recording costs. Ed McNamara and I came up with I Could Have Loved Her and Mike and I collaborated on Gonna Leave.
As to replacements, Richard Moore took over on drums. Tom Hartdegen went on to play with a group called The Other Side. It was a good move for both the band and Tommy. The Other Side included Ed and Camille later with The Radiators and a bass player named Ed Whiteman whose brother Stark Whiteman had a hit called Graduation Day which is still played on the radio here every May and June. Rick fit in with the rest of us and we had a compatible group for a while.
Frank replaced Ted on organ. Ted was a great musician. He was with us at Cosimo's and played organ at the session. After he left the band, I lost all contact with him.
We were all in college and continued to play frat parties, sorority dances, ring dances and proms. We continued to play at Beaconette and Gerald's Key Club. We also played at a club on the lakefront next to the seafood restaurants. It was called Le Club Pussycat. We played in Baton Rouge at LSU and at Spring Hill College in Mobile.
One of my favorite performances was at a downtown New Orleans hotel for a high school prom where we played a double bill with The Basement Wall. We had also played a Splendor dance with these guys. They were definitely one of Louisiana's best, if not the best. Some of the sorority and frat parties were also memorable. I will never forget one New Years Eve party held in a garage behind a Texaco station in uptown New Orleans. The girls' long dresses were covered with dirt and grease by the end of the night. These were definitely two of our best performances.
By the summer of 1968, I started to lose interest in The Better Half-Dozen. I had been accepted to Tulane Law School and had met the girl I intended to marry. (I did marry her in 1969 and we still are together. We live about two blocks from where Ed, John, Frank, Mike and I had our first session at the sweet sixteen party). I left the band in the middle of a gig at a summer dance in a school gym. I was not giving 100% and it was time to move on.
Having started with guitar lessons and music theory at the age of eight, my music era was over. I went to work for a bank while in law school and eventually clerked for a downtown firm. I stayed in New Orleans after graduation and still practice law here.
Only Rick and I still live in the New Orleans area and The Better Half-Dozen has only had one reunion. It was in 1991. Some of the guys hadn't seen each other since the sixties. We practiced for a couple of days in the garage of Frank's friend who lived off of Esplanade Ave. in New Orleans.
We invited friends and family to a club on the lakefront not far from Le Club Pussycat which had burned down years ago. My daughter who was at LSU at the time drove in with her college friends. When we opened with "Satisfaction"; I think they were all impressed with the sound. I will never forget the surprised looks on their faces. It was vintage Better Half-Dozen. Mike and Ed were fabulous on the guitars. The music took us all back to four brief years in the sixties from 1965 to 1968 when The Avantis and later The Better Half-Dozen entertained themselves and a few thousand high school and college kids with the British sound.
In closing, we recently received an invitation to play Rock & Bowl in New Orleans with ? and The Mysterians and a few garage bands from the sixties. Unfortunately, we could not make the scene. Mike lives in Connecticut, Ed in Florida, Frank in Seattle and John in Texas. I plan to be in the audience, as I live only ten minutes from Rock & Bowl.
I enjoyed Rick's interview. It's always great to hear about The Better Half-Dozen and other groups who played in New Orleans during the sixties.
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