The Fugue

The Fugue became the house band for Steve Palmer's The Place, one of Southeast Florida's teen hot spots in the 1960's. They also recorded a single that was, unfortunately, never released. Many members of the group had already been in several earlier bands, so The Fugue could truly be considered a super group of local Florida musicians. Here is their story, from four of the five primary members.

An Interview with Pete Bartels, Bill Cherry, Craig Cherry, and Vince Deegan of The Fugue
Musicians That Made Important Contributions in Florida During the Ď60s

Lance Monthly (LM): How did you first get interested in music?

Pete Bartels (PB): Like most kids who grew up in the '60s, The Beatles and the British Invasion really kicked things off. My best friend, Jim Miller, had started to learn guitar and I followed. We jammed a lot covering The Ventures, and when we were good enough, we formed a band that became The Shades.

Bill Cherry (BC): I started playing guitar at the age of eleven when we lived in Michigan. Elvis Presley, Dion, and other late fifties and early sixties groups were my favorites. I especially like the music of Del Shannon, Duane Eddy, and other guitarists/singers. Ironically, my brother Craig would later tour as a bass player with Dion.

Craig Cherry (CC): Through my brother, Bill Cherry of The Squires V.

Vince Deegan (VD): I used to hum melodies, and tinkered on piano. Listening to music inspired me on. I played saxophone in [a] junior high band.

LM: Is this the correct progression of your '60's bands: Shades - Squires V - Sweet Young Things - Fugue?

PB: Yes. Each one became progressively better and more popular. I must say that The Squires did put out a record locally before I joined, "Bucket Of Tears." Sweet Young Things also had an unreleased (original) demo, "I Remember," which was arranged and engineered by Jim Sessody at Criteria Studios in North Miami. Later, Fred Sams rerecorded and released it in 1994 with his band, The Fog.

BC: [I was in] The Sensations, Squires V, Chymes of London, Heirs of Lorelei, [and] Fugue. After The Fugue, I formed The Still Life.

CC: [I was in] The Shades, The Heirs of Lorelli, and then The Fugue.

VD: [I was in] The Squires V, London Chymes, Clefs of Lavender Hill, and a group with Willie Bravo, but I can't remember the name.

LM: Which members of those earlier groups also became members of The Fugue?

PB: Craig Cherry was bass player in The Shades. Bill Cherry was a founding member of The Squires V, along with Vince Deegan.

LM: So whom all comprised The Fugue?

PB: Pete Bartels, 12-string rhythm; Bill Cherry, lead guitar; Craig Cherry, bass; Lou Kramer, drums; Bob Rose, Hammond B-3; Vince Deegan, lead vocals (replaced by Alpar Zugar, then Vince rejoined after leaving The Clefs of Lavender Hill). After the non-release of The Fugue demo, the band lost the Cherry brothers and Bob Rose. Replacing them were: Howard Hill, lead guitar; John Stasko, bass; and Willy Bravo, Hammond B-3.

LM: Who named the band? For those that don't know, what's a Fugue?

PB: We were searching for an unusual name with reference to a musical term, if possible. We agreed on The Fugue - (pronounced FewwwwGa). Bach made it famous. Itís just the repeating of a melodic line, on top of the same line over and over (similar to "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"). Iím sure a lot of people didnít realize this and they thought we were really trying to get away with "Fug-U!"

LM: Where did the band typically practice?

PB: At the Cherryís garage or at Vince Deeganís house, and my place a couple of times. We also had a few weeks one summer at Lou Kramerís house when his parents went on vacation. That was a blast! When we served our tour as house band at The Place, we were allowed to leave our equipment at the club. We could practice at The Place as long as it was open. Talk about a sound check!

BC: We practiced in the Cherry family garage, plus other living rooms.

CC: Our garage (Cherry family garage) plus other living rooms.

VD: Usually in Bill's garage, sometimes at Lou Kramer's, and sometimes at my place. We may have practiced at Pete Bartel's house, too.

LM: How did The Fugue become the house band for The Place? How often and how long did you play there?

CC: We were one of the best vocal bands and we had a good show. We played there regularly for months.

PB: We just paid our dues, tried to look, and sound the best we could. Since we had the Hammond, and some star bands would make multiple appearances in one night (we did it ourselves), I believe Steve Palmer, the owner, thought it advantageous to let us keep our equipment up. In the summer we would play every night the club was open, at least three times per week. Iíd say the band lasted possibly 15 months.

BC: Steve Palmer stopped using the North Miami Armory and other such venues as the North Miami Beach Auditorium when he built The Place. He liked us because we were good, dependable, and [that we] would also back up the guest recording artists that the record labels would showcase at The Place. He got free acts and the label got exposure. We got a little extra pay.

LM: Did Palmer actually manage the band?

PB: Bill Cherry acted as our booking agent. Vince Deegan was our musical arranger when he was with us. Besides owning teen clubs, Palmer did produce many local records and guided the careers of numerous fine local groups. As house band and up until the recording of the demo, Palmer did periodically offer us advice and business tips.

CC: No, he was not our manager. He was more like an agent that had his own clubs and recording studio.

BC: Steve Palmer was not our manager. He owned the Florida Bandstand and The Place. Also, he had his own recording label and connections with the radio and recording industry, primarily through his original partner, Steve Alaimo.

LM: In addition to The Place, what other local clubs did The Fugue play?

PB: North Miami and North Miami Beach Armories, Surfside Center, Westside Center, Cloverleaf, and the Ft. Lauderdale War Memorial.

BC: Palmer's Florida Bandstand, teen clubs such as Surfside, Cloverleaf, [and] The Place. We also played other assorted private parties and fraternity houses. I can't remember if The Fugue (played many other clubs). Other bands I was in certainly did. Palmer had an "unwritten rule." He would feature your band, IF you did not use the notoriety to play at a competing venue to him on the same night.

VD: [We performed at] teen clubs, North Miami Armory, The Place, Experience, [and] Clover Leaf. There may have been others. I keep remembering playing for a while at the Doral Hotel on the beach; this may have been with The Fugue, or maybe not.

LM: Besides the clubs, where else did the band typically play?

PB: Everywhere and anywhere. We had a big sound with pyrotechnics thrown in, so the big clubs and bandstands were where we performed the best.

LM: How popular locally did The Fugue become?

CC: We became moderately popular.

BC: I thought [we were] very popular. We were working all the time, up to five nights a week.

PB: We had name recognition on the radio through advertising for the teen clubs, and we worked all the time, mostly through word of mouth. We had so many gigs that many times we were double-booked and Bill Cherry would broker them to other bands.

LM: What other local groups of the era do you especially recall?

PB: Shaggs, Razorís Edge, Blue Jam, Kollection, Six Pak, Gas Company, Body Shoppe.

BC: Shaggs, Sun Country, Echoes, Clefs, New Society.

CC: Shaggs, Evil, Intruders.

VD: Blues Image, Kollection, Shaggs, Clefs, Twilites.

LM: How far was the band's "touring" territory?

PB: We went as far north as Gainesville, University of Florida.

BC: Southeast Florida.

CC: I think mostly the Greater Miami area and north to Fort Lauderdale.

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

BC: The Fugue had an eclectic mix of "white soul" music with some British influence. The Hammond organ sound was used by us and many groups to get that unique sound and because this was the "pre-synthesizer" era. Other influences: The Shaggs, Young Rascals, and Vanilla Fudge (Pigeons), with their slow renditions of Sam and Dave songs and extended intros.

CC: British Invasion. I was influenced early by The Beatles, The Who and The Kinks.

VD: Lots of harmony. Big sound. Hollies, Vanilla Fudge, maybe some Cream.

PB: Everyone in the band could sing so we had a wall of voices behind the wall of instruments. We did everything, from Dusty Springfield to Hendrix. With the Hammond, Iíd say we were mostly influenced by The Vanilla Fudge (Pigeons), Young Rascals, and Lee Michaels. We covered his song "Love" on our demo.

LM: In addition to "Love," The Fugue recorded "So Lonely," a Hollies cover, for a proposed single. What do you remember about the recording session?

PB: It was recorded at Dukoff Studios, in back (and part) of Steve Palmerís The Place. It was rushed and hectic since the clock was ticking, as always. Palmer was there handling production. Bill Cherry and myself had recorded before, but it was still an exciting process.

BC: We recorded at Dukoff Recording Studio in the back of The Place.This is the same studio where I recorded "Bucket Of Tears" with The Squires V. Bobby Dukoff, a jazz sax player, I recall, was very proud of his "natural stereo reverb" chamber. The building that housed The Place and Dukoff Studio was a former grocery store. Dukoff had converted two of the walk-in freezers into echo chambers, each with a speaker in one end and a microphone at the other end to pick up the reflected sound!

CC: It was a fun. No problems.

LM: Why was the single never released?

CC: I do not know.

PB: Thatís a great mystery. "So Lonely" and "Love" were the crowdís favorites. Palmer had even decided to make "So Lonely" the A-side and then there were delays after delays in pressing it. Possibly he had other business interests that were more important.

BC: Steve Palmer had other projects he was concentrating on, notably [those of] The Clefs.

LM: Both recorded songs were demos. Did The Fugue write any original songs?

CC: Not that I am aware of.

BC: No.

PB: We might have as original members, and certainly did and recorded in other bands. Original music was a double-edged sword in those days. It was probably better to try out an original as a demo on the radio instead of live. Kids wanted to dance to familiar tunes, and requested them regularly. Thatís why so many bands did covers. Remember, this was not a concert; you were being hired as a dance band. I will say this, the Fudge influenced us heavily, so we were able to satisfy our creative drives by rearranging popular songs and composing very elaborate intros and breaks.

LM: Did the band make any local TV appearances?

PB: Not that I am aware of.

BC: No.

LM: What led to the band's breaking up?

CC: Personal and musical differences.

PB: The final break-up occurred because Lou Kramer was getting married and I was going away to Florida State University. We mutually agreed to retire The Fugue on top. Funny enough, I ended up rooming with Bill Cherry, at FSU. He also left The Still Life, his post-Fugue band, to further his education.

BC: I always liked to play a variety of places, clubs, parties, etc. It really didn't matter to me. I was playing music! In my time playing with groups, I had performed at clubs, parties, fashion shows, pool side, and other different places. I especially liked to back up other bands. At The Place, we would have 15 minutes to learn a song without sheet music and only a scratchy 45 record to hear the tune. There was always the back-up, "Land of a Thousand Dances" (one chord), if all else failed. Other members wanted to just play The Place and not do other gigs such as parties (which paid a lot more).

LM: Have you been in any other bands besides The Fugue?

PB: I have been in no other bands.

BC: After The Fugue [there were] other short lived bands such as Apple and The Sound System. The last band I formed was The Still Life. The last time I performed was December 1969 at the Orange Bowl Parade in Miami. Because of a recording with The Still Life, we were selected through an agency, by Pepsi Cola to do "The Pepsi Song" on their float at the parade. We had to rent another portable organ because the portable generator on the float would not provide enough stable power for the Hammond Organ to work properly. Behind us in the parade, doing the "Coca-Cola Song" on another float, was Ike and Tina Turner. After the Orange Bowl Parade, we performed at a private party that same night. A week later, on January 1970, I was at Florida State University completing my last two years for my college degree. I sold all my guitars, amps and other equipment prior to leaving for FSU. I have not played professionally since.

CC: I was the bass player for Apple, Still Life, Rufus, Bible, Dion, Cokk, Cherry, Smile, Angel Brothers, Silver Magic, Tinsel Swain, Cyrene, Paragon, Hornets, and many other jam bands along the way. I do only studio work now in my home studio. I enjoy writing songs using real instruments, midi-tone generators, loop samples, and computer software.

VD: Copeland Davis Trio (in Boca Raton and, I think, Ft. Lauderdale). Occasionally in the FAU jazz orchestra (bass, and messed with jazz flute); a Christian group with Adam Zaslavsky (amazing drummer/composer), and Jack Sieloff (amazing jazz flutist/saxophonist/composer). I can't remember the name of [the] group, but we cut a single. I played bass, sang, composed, and sometimes [did] keyboards.

LM: What about today? What keeps you busy?

PB: I am a creative writer in the advertising profession and have written six screenplays that have been optioned by Hollywood producers . . . none turned into movies, yet! I still play guitar a little bit, but plan to relearn old and new styles in hopes of an eventual reunion for fun. Hear that guys!?

VD: I have been a computer programmer, and anything else I can find while in between jobs since the layoffs have been horrendous since 9/11. I haven't been in music for [more than] 15 years. I still have my bass and a Yamaha electric piano. I would enjoy tinkering with some composing using digital technology and a MIDI interface, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. I love to listen to classical music and some older smooth-jazz groups like Spyra Gyra and Weather Report, the group Jaco was in. I aso enjoy Yanni and John Tesh's piano recordings.

LM: How do you best summarize your experiences with The Fugue?

CC: I learned a lot musically and we really put on a great show.

VD: Enjoyable, fun. Everybody seemed to get along and were equally enthusiastic. There wasn't a lot of pressure, and we were free to experiment with new ideas.

BC: Things I remember about The Fugue and The Place: Of all the bands I was in, The Fugue was the most rewarding musically and the most varied. The variety of songs [and] the talent of the performers and venue at The Place all combined to create an energy that I loved. Remember, this was just before large mixing P.A. systems were used at our level. The stage sound WAS the sound. This was even pre-mellotron! Synthesizer? What was that!

1) The house P.A. used at The Place was the Bogen, 60-watt tube P.A. with four small columns once owned by The Squires V. No monitors. 2) Steve Palmer's son, Vince, was an acoustic engineer. He designed the Place's layout. 3) The memory of the smell of The Place is still with me (and with anyone else who ever performed there). Vince Palmer had used "smoked cork" insulation, used as a packing material, as inexpensive sound insulation on the back walls. To this day, whenever I catch a whiff of the stuff, it sends me back. 4) One notable memory: At The Place, Palmer would showcase new acts that came into town to promote their recordings, usually through his connections with WFUN radio. One new performer had just completed his song. He was a single artist, playing an acoustic guitar and wearing a cowboy fringe jacket and hat. He was not received well, as there were boos as he left the stage. As he was exiting the stage, I said that I liked his song (I did like it as I had previously heard it on the radio). He just shook his head and said "tough crowd." It was Neil Diamond with his first hit, "Solitary Man."

PB: It was one of the best times of my life. There were no deejays then. If you wanted dance music you needed a live band, and we were popular. I loved to perform, and the biggest high was learning and playing a song, giving it our spin, then performing it tightly and enthusiastically. If the crowd danced and clapped . . . wow, a natural high!

"Copyrighted and originally printed on The Lance Monthly by Mike Dugo".
"Listen live, online to their music at Beyond The Beat Generation, 60's garage and psychedelia".