The Intruders

Regulars at The Place, George Butticaz's Intruders were just one of the many great local Florida bands from the '60's that unfortunately never recorded. Heroes of Dade and Broward counties, the group was heavily influenced by soul, but also at Butticaz's insistence played the top songs of the day. From The Lovin' Kind to The Intruders and The Fruit Eating Chickens, Butticaz was a major player in the south Florida music scene. Here are his recollections...

AN INTERVIEW WITH GEORGE BUTTICAZ (60s): How did you first get interested in music?

George Butticaz (GB): We were all attending parochial school. Consequently we each had our stint in the boy's choir. Coincidentally with that, we were learning to play an instrument and read music - everything from guitar to accordion. This background gave us our interest in music. We could sing and we could play.

60s: Was the Intruders your first band?

GB: The Intruders was not my first band. My first band was called The Lovin' Kind and we were based in North Miami Beach. We formed in the summer of 1965. Our personnel lineup was; George Fairchild - bass; George Butticaz - lead vocals; Bill Hall - drums; John O'Donnell - lead guitar; and Tommy (Bopper) Tyree - rhythm guitar. We stayed together for about a year and played mostly house parties with some public gigs. Our song list was mostly Top 10 with a lot of soul influence. In '66, George Fairchild was drafted into the Navy and went off to Viet Nam. This was the demise of The Lovin' Kind and we evolved into The Intruders. Sadly, George was killed in an automobile accident in May 1968, while returning home.

60s: How long was it after The Lovin' Kind disbanded that The Intruders were formed?

GB: The Intruders formed about six months or so before The Lovin' Kind. The original members of The Intruders were: Jerry O'Donnell - vocals (older brother of John O'Donnell; The Lovin' Kind, Intruders, Skin, Skin II); Bob Mercogliano - drums; Denny Pence - lead guitar; Donny Borgese - bass guitar; and Larry Ungaro - rhythm guitar. These guys all attended Monsignor Edward Pace (parochial) High School in Opa Locka. The boys were on one side of the campus, girls on the other. It was real tense. They formed around 1964-1965 and played high school dances, house parties, etc. They had a great sound as Jerry O' had a great voice and they had a following locally. Jerry was also an actor playing major parts in the annual high school plays and other major productions. Jerry was also the twin of Mick Jagger, reincarnated.

During the fall of 1966, The Intruders disbanded and were no longer playing. Bob and Donny were looking to keep it going. This is when George Butticaz, Tom Tyree and John O'Donnell from The Lovin' Kind came into the picture. George Fairchild had been killed and The Lovin' Kind had no bassist so we had been on hold. I know this was a difficult time for Bill Hall, drummer for The Lovin' Kind. Bill was a good drummer and good surfer. Bill's Mom had been instrumental in getting us several high visibility gigs. Bill's Dad was our head of transportation and security, the original "Ramigator"! Bill was into the surf sound but the rest of us were into soul as were The Intruders. We felt it best that we go in our direction, leaving Bill to pursue his sound.

60s: Where did the band typically practice?

GB: We practiced wherever we could find a place where we would be undisturbed. This ranged from the Lion's Share on West Dixie Highway to the church hall to the office of Tom's father's business.

60s: Where did the band typically play?

GB: We played everywhere. It started with some school dances but mostly it was private parties. We played some wild frat parties at the University of Miami....and some even wilder house parties. We loved 'em. As time passed we started to play the local clubs - teen and adult - from The Place to the Gold Key to the Copacabana on Miami Beach to Hullaballoo in south Miami.

60s: Many of the Florida bands from the '60's have a soft spot in their hearts for The Place...

GB: Oh yeah. I guess you could say that The Place on Northwest 7th Avenue in North Miami was our largest and longest lasting venue. As we became more popular we became an almost constant fixture. Hell - I had my own parking spot. We played most Friday and Saturday nights there, and Wednesdays during the summer months.

60s: How popular locally would you say The Intruders became?

GB: That's hard to say. We played constantly and chicks followed us around, so I guess you could say we were popular. I don't think it ever occurred to us how popular we were becoming. Heck, I can to this day run into someone who went to The Place at some point during those years and ask them if they remember a group called The Intruders, and they'll say, "Hell yes, they were great".

60s: How far was the band's "touring" territory?

GB: We pretty much stayed in and around Dade and Broward counties. Sometimes we played further north but we were so booked at home we didn't get to travel as much as we would have liked to.

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

GB: Yes, we played in the Battle of the Bands in January 1967 at The Youth Fair held at the south Miami fairgrounds. I recall that we either came in second place, or tied for first place with The Queen's Kids. I think we battled with You Keep Me Hanging On, the Vanilla Fudge arrangement. I believe that Vanilla Fudge was a group formed in Miami, or from Miami, or spent time in Miami.

60s: Did The Intruders have a manager?

GB: Yes. At one time we did have a manager. I think it was late '66 into early '67. His name was Bobby Middendorf. Bobby went on to be a very successful restaurateur, owning the Lion's Share restaurants in north Dade. I believe our influence on Bobby led him to have live music at his location on Highway 441 and 183rd street. It was a jazz club of sorts. He had some great musicians play there, including the great Jaco Pastorius.

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

GB: John O'Donnell was very much into soul so I guess you could say that was the heaviest influence. Don't get me wrong, I loved soul and still do, but being the "practical" guy in the group I always pushed for Top 10 cover tunes, knowing that this was what the people were dancing to, and would get us the most gigs. We loved Sam and Dave, Smokey Robinson, and Wayne Cochran and the CC Riders. But we also liked the Hollies, the Who, Them, etc. Consequently, our repertoire was all over the place. Ooh Baby, Baby was our signature tune. Billy and I singing strong two-part harmonies. The chicks' eyes rolled up in their heads. However, in late 1967 we heard two bands which blew our musical minds. The Allman Brothers, which we first saw play on the bay side at Haulover. The two drummers which blew us away. It was chest-pounding percussion. Then there was this little group from Tampa called Blues Image. We were totally taken back by the sound, and all the original songs. Mike Pinera and all the guys in The Blues Image were unbelievable. It was at this point that we got the "blues". Mike and I are still in touch and I go to see his Classic Rock All-Stars group whenever they're in town.

60s: What other local groups of the era do you especially recall?

GB: Of course I'd have to say The Montells, The Shaggs, Kollektion, and so many more than we could possibly list here. I don't know what it was about south Florida, maybe it was the water. The whole damn music scene was packed with great musicians. It was truly a mecca.

60s: Did the Intruders write any original songs?

GB: The Intruders never wrote any original songs. However, when I left the band to form The Fruit Eating Chickens (FEC) with Danny Murphy (from The Montells), The Intruders changed their name to Blue Jam and Mark Watson (Heirs of Lorelei, Shaggs, among others) joined them at that point. Mark has a long list of originals he has written including Smokey Woods, Mean Mother Trucker and others. Mark was, and still is, a prolific writer. Blue Jam went on to be called Skin.

60s: What about recordings? Are there any survining vintage Intruders tapes?

GB: Sadly, to my knowledge there are no '60's recordings still around. However, I have an extensive library of various recording of Skin (aka Blue Jam), and several studio recordings of Mark Watson doing his originals. We had an Intruders reunion in 1987 and 1988. We have minute by minute video and audio recordings of these "adventures".

60s: Did the band make any local TV appearances?

GB: No, we didn't do any local TV appearances but Bill Hall, Tom Tyree and myself did one lip sync tune for Rick Shaw's early morning show. I can't remember the song but we filmed it in Greynolds Park. There is also a 30 second 8mm clip which has since been transferred to video tape of a couple of the guys clowning around, ala Monkees style. It's cool.

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

GB: As I mentioned earlier, although I loved soul music, I was the practical one and wanted to stay mostly Top 10. The guys were so into soul, and then into blues that we kind of said; "O.K., we'll just part ways and we'll do what we love and you do what's best for you." Looking back I admit my motives were of a financial nature and the rest of the guys were truly pure of heart. I've learned my lesson.

60s: What year did you part with The Intruders?

GB: I left The Intruders in the summer of 1968. I had been close friends with Danny Murphy, the bassist from The Montells. Of course, The Montells were the premiere south Florida act and heavily influenced by the English sound. This sound was very popular locally, not to mention nationally. Danny had left The Montells - I can't remember why. Anyway, we were sitting around one evening discussing whether we should put together a new group. Danny knew these two guys from south Miami: Pedro (I can't remember his last name, but I know he was born in Cuba), and Greg (again my memory fails me for his last name). Greg used to go by the nickname "Snort" (I really don't know why). To make a long story short, we were discussing what would we call this group. I liked the name The Chickens. What the hell, it was different. Danny hated it. Later, after a case of Colt 45, somehow we came up with The Fruit Eating Chickens, aka FEC. It stuck.

Greg played drums (double bass like Ginger Baker) and Pedro played lead. Danny played bass and I sang lead vocals. Everybody sang back-up harmonies. We played Top 10 English chart tunes. We were tight and this kid Pedro had licks like Jimmy Hendrix. Hed had a big old Vox amp and Danny had his Hofner bass. We became an instant fixture at The Place. I left FEC in January 1969 to pursue a career and full time employment. I believe FEC continued to play for some time, with some of the guys from Evil later joining the group.

60s: What about today. Do you still perform at all? If not, what keeps you busy?

GB: Picking up from the previous answer…a career lasting 33 years, 8 months and 10 days with a large regional Bell operating company concluded last September when I retired. I don't perform anymore, at least on a stage or in public. I do have an extensive musically oriented audio and video library and I am slowly cataloging and getting ready to burn some DVDs to save all of this musical heritage.

My wife and I also enjoy garden railroading. These are large scale electric trains that you run outdoors. My favorite railroad name? FEC, of course.

Best of all, we have two grandchildren Zachary and Helen, and they are my best legacy.

Of course, Billy DeMoya is still in the business full-time and some of the other guys, off and on.

60s: How do you best summarize your experiences with The Intruders?

GB: Being a part of The Intruders was truly a magnificent part of my life. The friendships we formed go much deeper than just being friends. We are "brothers" to this day. We see each other or call each other regularly. In a small way, we made our "mark" on the world. If I was magically whisked back to that time, I'd do it all again, exactly the same way, except I'd also buy a thousand shares of Apple Computer.

The Intruders (1965-1966):
Jerry O'Donnell -Lead Vocals
Bob Mercogliano -Drums
Denny Pence -Lead Guitar
Donny Borgese -Bass Guitar
Larry Ungaro -Rhythm Guitar

The Intruders (1966-1968; during the reforming):
George Butticaz -Lead Vocals
Bob Mercogliano -Drums
Donny Borgese -Bass Guitar
John O'Donnell -Lead Guitar (younger brother of Jerry)
Tom Tyree -Rhythm Guitar

The Intruders (Mid-1968):
George Butticaz -Lead Vocals
Bob Mercogliano -Drums
Donny Borgese -Bass Guitar
John O'Donnell -Lead Guitar (younger brother of Jerry)
Tom Tyree -Rhythm Guitar
Billy DeMoya -Drums, percussion, lead and back-up vocals

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