The Concussions

Tom Kirby, our buddy from Tonto & The Renegades, hooked us up with John Robinson, who in the '60's belonged to a local Mighigan band named The Concussions. During the course of our interview, Robinson described the type of music that the Concussions played as "pure garage band music," and a review of the group's playlist amply supports this. Here is the group's story...

An Interview With John Robinson (60s): How did you first get interested in music?

John Robinson (JR): When I was seven years old, a neighbor gave us some 45's that included Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino. That was the first rock and roll record that I ever heard. My older sister's friends also made me aware of Ricky Nelson, as they were the bobbysoxer type. I started listening to the radio regularly somewhere around 1958; my very first favorite song was 26 Miles by the Four Preps.

60s: Was the Concussions your first band?

JR: The Concussions was my first and only band. After a couple of years, when most bands were starting to give themselves really stupid names, we did, too. We re-named ourselves Turkey Foote, which still makes me wince. The peace symbol resembled the footprint of a fowl, so that was our lame excuse. We were together for four years.

60s: What year was it that the band rename themselves Turkey Foote?

JR: I think it was late '68. I'm not sure. I hated that name. "The Concussions" sounds like a typical '60's small town garage band. "Turkey Foote" is just plain mentally deficient.

60s: Where was band formed, what year, and by whom?

JR: We formed in Stockbridge, Michigan in 1966. We began as a three piece band: myself, Mike Lehman and Frank Stephens.

60s: Were there p[ersonnel changes at any time? What were the various line-ups?

JR: John Robinson, bass guitar; Mike Lehman, drum; Frank Stephens, lead guitar; Dennis Jarrell, rhythm guitar (1966-1967); Mike Yancey, rhythm guitar (1967-1968); and Terry Krummery, keyboards (1966-1967).

60s: Where did the Concussions typically practice?

JR: In Frank's living room. Sometimes we practiced at other member's homes, but mostly at Frank's. Occasionally, we got permission to practice in the high school gym.

60s: What type of gigs did you typically line-up?

JR: We played at a few local clubs like The Jackson Armory and Granny's A Go-Go. We turned the Stockbridge Town Hall into a weekend music club called The Factory, which didn't allow anyone over 19 years old in the door. We performed at a lot of after game dances at high schools and some parties. Our first gig was a party in a barn.

60s: Did you have a manager at all during this time?

JR: Frank's dad, Jim, was our manager, and a good one. May he rest in peace...

60s: How popular did you become? What type of following did you have?

JR: In our own home town, we were well-known, but no real "fans" or anything. We were just local boys in a rock and roll group. We got many gigs at the clubs in Jackson and a lot of the high schools hired us, so I guess we did all right.

60s: How would you describe the band's sound? What bands influenced you?

JR: Pure garage band music. We started out playing songs like Gloria, Open Up Your Door, Little Girl, (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone and Dirty Water. Then we started playing Hendrix, Cream, Yardbirds, James Brown, Mothers of Invention and Wilson Pickett.

60s: I find it interesting that you played Open Up Your Door, since radio was primarily regionalized in the '60s. Where did you learn the song? From the radio?

JR: A couple of us had the original Richard & The Young Lions single - I still have mine, with the picture sleeve! - and we learned it from that. I loved playing that bass line! I heard that song on CKLW and WIBM all the time back then. It was a huge, monster hit around here!

60s: Did the Concussions write much original material?

JR: We didn't really write many songs at all. We had a couple of originals that I remember, but I don't think we ever performed them anywhere. One was an instrumental, Watusi Pizza, that I named after something I saw in an Archie's Mad House comic book. Another one I wrote was called Ketchup In The Halls or something stupid like that. I think we did an instrumental whenever we were ready to take a break but, for the life of me, I can't remember if it was original or not.

60s: There are surving recordings, correct? What can you tell me about them?

JR: Going strictly from memory, there's Substitute, The Weight, I Can See For Miles, Kick Out The Jams, If I Needed Someone, N.S.U., Paint It Black, and others I can't remember offhand. These were mostly recorded in Frank's living room using an old reel-to-reel recorder. A few were recorded in the high school gym. These range from 1967-1968.

60s: Why didn't the Concussions ever record a single?

JR: We had dreams of doing that, but there were so many other local bands that were much better vocally than we were, it just wasn't pursued. We were approached by a few hucksters looking for us to give them a few bucks to play their songs and possibly record them, but we told them in so many words to fuck off.

60s: What were some of those other local bands that you particularly recall?

JR: Jim Judge & The Jury, House of Lords, The Toad, Merrie Motor Company and others. We played a gig at The Jackson Armory with a local group, Brownsville Station, who became a major rock and roll band, with hits Smokin' In The Boy's Room and Kings Of The Party. Leader Cub Koda became a respected rock journalist and a good friend in later years.

60s: What are your recollections about him?

JR: Cub had a great sense of humor. He and I both enjoyed those crummy Ed Wood movies, Bela Lugosi films, the old Universal horror monster movies and the god-awful recordings of King Uszniewicz & His Uszniewicztones! I tried to get Cub to re-issue Brownsville Station's first chart single, The Red Back Spider, but he was embarrassed by it. He also had in his archives a super-rare tape of early Brownsville Station doing the song Monster Surfer. I saw Brownsville Station do it live in 1969 and I desperately wanted a copy. I don't know if he couldn't find the tape or not. I was totally surprised to hear about his passing back in 2000. I occasionally converse by e-mail with his wife. She's a great lady.

60s: Were you familiar with his earlier group, The Del-Tinos?

JR: Not at the time, as I recall. I don't believe I ever got to see The Del-Tinos, but I do have a CD of their early '60's recordings.

60s: Did you participate in any Battle Of The Bands?

JR: We played at a few Battle Of The Band contests, the most notable one being in Dexter, Michigan where we came in fourth out of nine bands. I don't think we ever fared that well in any other competitions! Some of the bands I remember in those Battles were The Confusions, Sophisti-Cats, Yesterday's Maile and Younger Than Yesterday.

60s: Were you ever able to make any local TV appearances? What about 8mm or 16mm film footage? Does any exist of the band?

JR: No television appearances. An 8mm home film does exist, no sound, but I remember the songs we perform on that film: Open Up Your Door and Just A Little. It was (filmed at) a wedding reception at the town hall in Gregory, Michigan, 1967.

60s: Why did the band break up in 1970?

JR: Mike and I graduated from high school in '69! See ya!

60s: And you didn't join any bands after the Concussions?

JR: Nope, that was it. I still have my bass guitar, a sunburst Gibson EB2 hollow body with fuzz switch.

60s: What about your career today. What keeps you busy?

JR: After the band split up, I worked for a living until I decided I wanted to enjoy what I'm doing for a living. I got into radio (where I still am), was the host of some weekly television shows, wrote a few rock trivia books and I write a couple of music trivia columns for some local newspapers.

60s: What musical endeavors do you have planned for the coming year?

JR: I do some major rock and roll specials on radio: Rolling Stones, One-Hit Wonders, British Invasion, garage bands, etc. I do an annual live Beatles A-Z special that lasts anywhere from 14 to 18 hours straight. This includes many Beatles' interviews, all their songs and some of their solo hits as well. It's a long shift, but it's a lot of fun. Also, I have a rock and roll trivia book that should be published around New Year's, and I'm looking at more once that one's a done deal! (UPDATE: The book is now available online at Search for the word "jukebox" and you'll be able to pull it up!).

60s: Looking back, how would you best summarize your experiences with the Concussions?

JR: I loved doing those high school dances and meeting girls! I hated practice, because there would be arguments among the others and it took up my precious weekend time! Other than being in the band, I had nothing in common with the other members. But I'm glad I had the experience, for it helped me gain some sort of a stage presence, which helps now when I emcee shows and events. I learned a lot of music trivia and became more aware of certain obscure '60's bands and artists that a casual radio listener would not (know). It definitely paved the way for me in Oldies radio. The '60's really were an extraordinary time musically and culturally, and I don't say that just because I grew up's because it really was special.

"Copyrighted and originally printed on by Mike Dugo".
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