Though both sides of the band's classic blueprint "garage band" single had been comped on BACK FROM THE GRAVE and TEENAGE SHUTDOWN
volumes, little to nothing had been known about The Mods of I Give You An Inch (And You Take A Mile) and You Got Another Think Comin'
fame. Recently, however, bassist Larry Smith has made his presense known in numerous ways, and for the first time has released the
full story of his group to a garage band base that has been more than excited to learn it. Thanks to Larry's efforts, The Mods from
Toledo, Ohio, live on!
An Interview With Larry Smith
Misty Lane (ML): How did you first get interested in music?
Larry Smith (LS): My brother, Terry Smith, and I both became interested in learning to play musical instruments in around 1961. That would have put me at around age 12 and my brother at age 14. Our father played several musical instruments -piano, guitar, and mandolin. Terry asked our father to show him a few chords on the guitar. He then taught the guitar chords to me. Our father also bought an old accordion, which I became interested in learning to play. He showed me a few basics and I learned the rest on my own. Terry bought a harmonica and learned to play that on his own.
ML: Was The Mods your first band?
LS: The Mods was my first band, but "The Mods" was not our first choice of a name for the band. Before we actually had a full band with drums, we only had three guitarists and we called ourselves Terry and The Blasters. When we finally added a drummer, we changed our name to The Imitations and started playing teen-age sock hops for Deejays in the Toledo, Ohio area. In 1966 we recorded our first 45 release and changed our name to The Mods. We continued with that name until 1970. The entire original line-up of the three guitarists were together as The Mods from 1963-1970. The drummer that was with The Mods and appeared on the Peck single was Fred Jablonski and he was in the group from 1965-1969.
ML: Could you please recap the line-up of the group?
LS: The founding members were Terry Smith, Larry Music, and me...
Terry Smith - lead guitar, harp, lead vocals and back-up vocals (1963-1970); Larry Music - rhythm guitar, back-up vocals (1963-1970); Larry Smith - bass guitar, back-up vocals and an occasional lead vocal (1963-1970); Fred Jablonski - drums. Mods Trivia: The Mods had nicknames for each other: Terry Smith aka "Big T" or "Spike"; Larry Smith aka "Sock" and a few other names that we will not mention, heh!; Larry Music aka "Jay R"; and Fred Jablonski aka "Jabo." Other personnel that was in the band for short periods but never appeared on recordings, with the exception of Terry Fitzsimmons, our original drummer when we were known as The Imitations, included Terry Fitzsimmons aka "Fitzy" - drums (1963-1965). He appeared on an A&T 45 unreleased demo; Michael Matoni aka "Fingers Matoni" - Keyboards (1965); and Danny Collins aka "Danny The Drum" (1968-1969).
ML: Who named the band? I know the entire "Mods vs. Greasers" conflict was pretty intense in Ohio in the '60's. Did this play a part in the naming of the band?
LS: I was the one that came up with the name The Mods. I had read in some magazine in the sixties about a conflict in England between a couple of groups - or maybe they were teenage gangs - I am not really sure; it was a long time ago. Anyway, these two groups of young people were always battling with each other in the streets. Those two groups were called The Mods and The Rockers. I thought the name The Mods sounded like a cool name for the band and I suggested the name to the other members of the band and it stuck.
ML: Where did the band typically practice?
LS: We rotated between the homes of each member in the band. We practiced usually in basements, or living rooms and an occasional garage of some friends.
ML: What type of gigs did you typically land?
LS: Early on we played gigs anywhere we could. We played at teen parties, local teen dances held at the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization), teen clubs at a few of the city parks in town, roller skating rinks, high school dances and proms, county fairs, and any gig we could get with any local deelay around Toledo at the radio station sponsored sock-hops. The only rock stations back then were the local AM stations; one was called WOHO and the other WTOD.
ML: What were some of the local Ohio teen clubs that you played at?
LS: We played at a few teen clubs located in the city of Toledo parks. Two of the teen clubs were called Highland Teen-Town and another was at Walbridge Park. These were dances held every weekend. Some of the local pubs or bars in town also held Sunday afternoon dances for the teens in Toledo. We played at many of these. Those were held at bars called The Faba, The Peppermint Lounge, and there was one other that I can't remember the name of. ML: Did The Mods participate in any Battle of the Bands?
LS: Good question. Starting in 1963, The Imitations, as we were then known, found out that there was to be a series of Battles of the Bands to be held at the Toledo Sports Arena, with the chance to win a recording contract. The contests were sponsored by the local area AM radio stations along with the cooperation of the Toledo Sports Arena. The name The Imitations was chosen because we tried our best to perform the latest cover songs of all of the popular big British bands of the early '60's. The Imitations entered the first series of the Battle of the Bands at the Toledo Sports Arena for three years in a row: In 1963, 1964 and 1965. The Imitations did not do very well in the 1963 contest because we had been together only a short time and we needed a lot of practice. The winners that year was a group called The Stingrays and they sounded just like The Beatles if you kept your eyes shut. I was astounded that a local band could sound that good. By 1964, The Imitations had improved so much that we came in second place in the Battle of the Bands contest. I think that the contest that year was won by another great local group from Toledo that billed themselves as The Prophets. The Prophets did great cover songs of The Beatles and The Kinks and a few other groups. In 1965, The Imitations finally won the Toledo area Battle of the Bands. By then we did great covers of just about any British band that had a record out. We had also started to write and record our own songs. I think that is one of the main reasons we won this particular Battle. We had written four original songs that we played in this contest and we included those along with the rest of the cover songs we were playing by the big bands from The British Invasion. The Imitations were rewarded as winners of the Battle of the Bands, with the opportunity to record a 45 record. The record was to be distributed on the Peck record label. The Imitations felt we needed a better name to record under, and chose the name The Mods. The group did not know at the time that there were several other groups in the USA using the same name.
ML: How would you describe the band's sound? What band's influenced you?
LS: At first we were just loud! Later on we were also loud but became very polished as a group. The list of bands that influenced us was very long. At first it was the The Beatles - as it was for most garage groups of that day. Other groups were The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, The Beau Brummels, Chuck Berry and Little Richard, and some of the early stuff of the Bee Gees before they turned their backs on rock and started playing disco stuff. We were also influenced by some of the other garage bands that got onto the nationwide record charts in the sixties. Some of those groups included The 13th Floor Elevators, The Box Tops, The Seeds, The Chambers Brothers, The Syndicate of Sound, The Electric Prunes, Count Five and some I have probably left a lot off the list.
ML: How popular locally did The Mods become?
LS: The Mods became extremely popular in Toledo and our schedule of gigs stayed full. We eventually played gigs in most of Northwest Ohio and some in Southeast Michigan. In 1966 we played for a very large crowd in Battle Creek, Michigan.
ML: How far was the band's "touring" territory?
LS: After we became known as The Mods due to the 1966 Peck recording, we stuck pretty close to playing gigs in the entire Northwest Ohio area and Southeastern Michigan areas. We did not have a manager and booked our own gigs and our record never did become a nationwide hit so there was not much demand for touring long distances from home in Toledo. We played gigs in Toledo at a lot of local nightclubs and became the house band at the Peppermint Lounge in Toledo for a while in 1966 and 1967. The farthest we ever ventured was in 1966 when we drove to Grand Rapids and played for a very large audience. There were so many kids we could not hear ourselves play. The deejay at the concert played our record before we came out to play and gave us a great build up. When we finally came out there were between five to six thousand screaming teens cheering us on. We had our amplifiers miked through the house PA and still could not hear ourselves play because of all of the screaming. I guess that we were Battle Creek, Michigan's version of the Beatles or Stones that night. When we finally closed the concert and came off the stage we were chased by girls ripping at our clothes. That was kind of scary too for someone who had never really had a girlfriend yet.
ML: What other local groups of the era do you especially recall?
LS: There were many other talent groups in Toledo that could have easily made it onto a record label if they had gotten the right breaks. Some of those names were The Stingrays, The Prophets, The Rogues, and J. J. and The Jammers.
ML: Did The Mods have a manager?
LS: Terry handled all of the managerial duties for the band. Sometimes one of the other members would come up with a gig, but mostly it was my brother Terry. He was the one that got us a record deal by talking a label into taking us on in 1966 after the Peck 45. That label was called Impact Records and was owned by Harry Balk of Detroit. Harry had managed and recorded Del Shannon.
ML: So The Mods also recorded for Impact Records?
LS: Terry tried getting us an audition with some record companies in Detroit. Believe it or not, he talked us into an audition with a major label. Terry was the leader of the group and had, excuse the term, "a lot of balls." He cold called a bunch of record companies in Detroit and got us an audition for a label just by talking on the phone. The A&R people of the label we auditioned for liked what they heard and we were signed to a two-year recording contract. The label for that record company was Impact Records. Again, another name change was coming for the group. The record company told us that the name we were using, The Mods, was already being used by another group recording records. So we had to pick a new name quickly to record under. We threw up a bunch of names in the air and came of with the name They (I think because it reminded us of another sixties group, Them). So the name They was the name that we used when we signed with Impact. We were all under eighteen years old so our parents had to sign the contract, too. We were also very excited because we'd be recording at Golden World Studios in Detroit. We finally did record two separate studio sessions there. Those sessions had to have been several hours long. We had a bunch of great material but mostly included just cover songs. In January of 2003 I contacted our former A&R director from Impact Records by e-mail after accidently finding him on the Internet. His name is John Rhys Eddins and he has a cool Internet radio company called bluepower.com. Blue Power's website has lots of pre- recorded radio shows that you can listen to as John plays music and interviews people in the music business. The website has lots of blues information and sixties music conversation in general on the radio shows. On February 1 2003, John finally e-mailed me back and he said that he will look around to see if has any of the tapes we recorded as They. He said that the owner of Impact Records, Harry Balk, is still alive and he will check with him to see if he has any tapes in his possession and then get back to me. Cross your fingers for me! None of these tapes were ever released as records because Terry ended up getting drafted into the armed forces in 1967 or 1968. I would love to hear these tapes again if they still exist. Golden Worlds Studios had recorded a few of the major radio hits during the 1960's. Two of the groups that had recorded there were Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and The Shades of Blue. I remember that The Shades of Blue had a hit song out at that time called, Oh, How Happy. Our recording on the Peck label made us local celebrities in our hometown of Toledo for a while in 1966 through 1967. Altogether The Mods played together from early 1962 through 1970. Our rhythm guitar player and our drummer left the group in early 1969 because they both married and started families. Terry and I kept the group together for about another year into 1970 with another drummer and another guitarist. The group The Mods finally came to an end sometime in late1969 or early 1970 when Terry received his draft notice. That ended our recording contract with Impact Records.
ML: The Mods did release one single: I Give You An Inch (And You Take A Mile) b/w You Got Another Think Comin'.
LS: The 45 single was recorded in 1966 in the south Toledo home of a local audio engineer by the name of "Buzz" Jameison. Mr. Jameison had a studio in his basement and that was where we recorded the single for Peck Records, a local label in Toledo. I remember being very excited along with the rest of the band about our having the opportunity to release a 45 of our band's own songs, which Terry and I co-wrote together. The recording session was actually very easy because we had been playing these songs in our repertoire for quite a few months. I think we only did two takes of I Give You An Inch (And You Take A Mile) and possibly two or three takes on You've Got Another Think Comin'. I did notice that on some of the re-releases of this song they have it listed as You've Got Another Thing Comin', but that is not correct title for the song. The word "Thing" must have been a typo and it should have read "Think." The correct title is You've Got Another Think Comin'; that is the title that we wrote and the title that appears on the 45. Both sides of the 45 were played in heavy rotation on both of the AM radio stations in Toledo and the record was definitely a local hit. I am not aware if the songs were ever played outside of Toledo. I do know that the producer of the record, George Peckinpah, said that he was going to have it placed on several compilations for radio, but I don't know if he ever did. I do think that CKLW in Windsor, Ontario gave the songs some airplay, too, but I can't be sure of that because it was so long ago.
ML: You and Terry co-wrote the single. Did you write many original songs together?
LS: I usually came up with a chord progression and a melody and Terry would add the lead guitar parts. We usually co- wrote the lyrics. I do remember that we co-wrote the lyrics on I Give You An Inch (And You Take A Mile). I do believe that Terry did the majority of the lyrics for You've Got Another Think Comin' but we always shared co-writing credits. For some reason, I was not shown as a co-writer on the label on You've Got Another Think Comin' but I did co-write that song. We did write a few more songs but only two of them were ever recorded.
ML: What can you tell me about these?
LS: The only two other original songs that we actually got around to placing on a demo 45 record were titled A Place Where Lovers Go and Night After Night. Those two songs were both co-written by Terry Smith and Larry Smith. We recorded these two songs in 1963 at A&T Records in Toledo. I just uncovered this information in February of 2003. I originally thought that the 1963 demo that The Mods recorded at Atilla Records was owned by Johnny Paris of Johnny and The Hurricanes - another Toledo recording group. After doing some research while looking for a master tape in Toledo, I talked to Johnny Paris personally and he said if the label on the demo does not say Atilla Records, then it was not recorded at his studio. We had been told by the recording engineer at the studio while recording this demo that the studio was owned by Atilla Records and that the Atilla label was owned by Johnny Paris of Johnny and The Hurricanes. After talking with Johnny, he asked me, "what does the label say?" I looked at the label and it read A&T Productions, Inc. He then told me that the A&T label was owned by a man named Jim Thompson and another partne; I am sorry, but I don't remember the other guy's name. So there you have it, the 1963 45 demo was recorded at A&T Productions, Inc. in downtown Toledo. These two songs were slow songs and written as love songs to imaginary girls and the demo was never intended to be released as a single, especially with those cuts. We were not very polished in 1963 as a group, but you can definitely see that there was some song writing talent on these two songs. The 1963 demo featured appearances by the three original guitarists in the group: Terry Smith, Larry Smith and Larry Music. The drummer on that 45 demo was Terry Fitzsimmons. Another interesting bit of information is that these two songs were the first time that the group recorded and used the name The Mods on a recording. We had yet to use the name The Mods when we played at our gigs. The name would not be officially used for gigs until 1966 when the Peck record was released. The 1969 45 demo recording was recorded only as a keepsake for the band only and it was never intended to be released to the public. This demo included the same members that appeared on the 1966 Peck single that is now heard around the world courtesy of Crypt Records' Tim Warren. Thanks Tim! The 1969 demo had two cover songs on it - Solitary Man by Neil Diamond, and Good Morning, Good Morning by The Beatles. I almost lost this recording forever but I recently found a copy that I had transferred to cassette back in the 1980's.
ML: Did the band make any local TV appearances?
LS: Now that I think of it, we did have one TV appearance. I think it was in 1964 or 1965. We appeared on a TV show for amateur performers on channel 7, WXYZ-TV in Detroit, Michigan. The TV show was called SATRLITE STAIRWAY. They never declared any winners on the show and sent everyone home with a small trophy with the show's name on it. The show was hosted then by local Detroit TV personality Rita Bell. I remember being at my parent's home around 1969 or 1970 and WXYZ was re-airing some of the past performers from the defunct TV show and all of a sudden there we were on the TV frozen in time. Pretty cool feeling as I remember now. There could be some other footage of film that others may have take of the band, but none that I am aware of.
ML: When did the band break up?
LS: The Mods finally came to an end the way a lot of groups that I know of did: Girlfriends, girlfriends, girlfriends! Both our rhythm guitar player and our drummer left the group in early 1969 because they both married and started families. Terry and I kept the group together for about another year into 1970 with another drummer named Danny Collins and another guitarist. I can't remember his full name but his first name was Jerry and he was also from Toledo. The Mods finally came to an end sometime in late 1969 or early 1970 when Terry got his draft notice. Our recording contract with Impact records had also expired with no releases. The reason for that was problems in the group and members wanting to go their own way and start families and get new jobs to help support the new family members.
ML: Did you join or form any bands after The Mods?
LS: Personally I was never in another band except The Mods. Terry Smith went on to perform with some bands that became a lot better than The Mods, but all they did were cover songs. Terry was a great front-man and lead singer for most any band. The local groups that he sang lead for and played flute, harp and guitar in during the late '60's were as I remember: Orphic - in the very early '70's; Reyvanwood - in the mid to late '70's; and New Renaissance Fair - late '70's and early '80's. Terry laid low in the rock scene in Toledo but rock music was in his blood and he came back and sang lead for a group in the mid '80's called Downtown Brown. Terry was the perpetual front man and showman. He was a powerful lead singer with a great voice. He could imitate other singer's voices very well - as well as showcase his own unique voice - and he was a talented musician on several musical instruments until his untimely death due to surgical error in November of 1999.
ML: The Mods reunited in 1989...
LS: We reunited as a band in 1989 mainly because our former drummer, Fred Jablonski, who had not lived in the Toledo area for years, had moved back to the area in 1988. He did leave again and moved back to Arizona a year or two later. But in 1988 when he had moved back to Toledo, he became involved with a local group of guys that had been Vietnam Veterans during the 1960's. Fred told them he used to be in a 1960's band in Toledo during the sixties. The Vietnam Vets told Fred that they were holding a benefit concert called the 1989 Vietnam Vets Jam in early February of 1989 and it would be great if he could get his old group The Mods to reunite and play at the concert. Fred called all of the former members of the band and told us about the event. We all got together at Larry Music's home for a practice session and to renew our friendships. We all decided that the idea of a twenty-something reunion of The Mods sounded like a great idea. We practiced for four months and did perform a 45-minute set at the concert along with several other area bands from the 1989 era. We were the only 1960's style band to play at the Jam concert and the Vietnam Vets' simply loved our music. It turned out to be a great reunion for us as The Mods and a great concert for the Vietnam Vets of Toledo.
ML: What about today? How often, and where, do you perform?
LS: In 1990 I went back to church after getting out of a bad divorce situation. I was left raising two small boys on my own (six and eight years old) and I started going to church and I re-dedicated my life to Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. In 1993 I met a lovely lady who is really the best thing that ever happened to me and I got married again. In the early 1990's I had performed some congregational singing in my home church in the Toledo area. I sang quite a bit of Southern Gospel Music and Contemporary Christian Music. In 1997 I recorded and released my first Southern Gospel cassette and CD of ten classic gospel songs due to many requests for a recording. From 1997 until 2002, I have been busy traveling and singing at churches sharing my testimony of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for me in my life. Since 1997 I have performed in eight states of the U.S. in churches of all denominations. In 2002 I cut back on my traveling, but I still accept bookings if the distance is not too far of a drive. I am now 53 years old, and I still sing solos at my local home church. I feel that this is the best time of my life and I am looking forward to many more years of performing gospel music. If it is only local, that is fine with me. If the Lord wants to open my music to a larger audience I am ready to go through that door, too. As far as I know, the remaining two members of The Mods that are still alive and kicking are not involved in music.
ML: Looking back, how do you best summarize your experiences with The Mods?
LS: I am proud that I personally had the opportunity to be in a great local rock n' roll band from Toledo, Ohio. I have fond memories of being in a band that felt more like a bunch of brothers than just mere friends. The Mods did not make it to the top of the record charts in rock music, and we only had a local hit record here in Toledo in 1966. I am happy to say that I think - in the year 2003 - that The Mods that played together as a band in 1966 recorded one of the greatest two-sided 45 rock 'n' roll records of garage band music that the world has ever heard. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that The Mods were the best garage band around in the sixties. I am saying that we were one of the best that had not been discovered by the rest of the world until 1993 when Tim Warren of Crypt Records first heard our Peck Record release from 1966 on a compilation called The Chosen Few Volume 1 (LP). Thanks to Tim for sharing The Mods' music with the rest of the world. We were just a forgotten teenage band, (but Tim) put our music in the hands of garage band fans all over the world! I do personally think that the 45 that we recorded could have easily gone way up the record charts in 1966, had we met the right people in the music business or had the right breaks. I am 53-years old and am more proud now in 2003 than ever of the group's music; more than I was in 1966. I am also proud that I was a co-writer of these songs with my brother Terry in 1966 and I stand by the Peck Records release as a release of two great songs. Terry passed away at the age of 52 and is sadly missed by the remainder of his family. I could not have asked for a better brother to share most of my life with and I am so happy we were able to leave a couple of songs that we co-wrote, to share with the rest of the garage band fans around the world. The Mods have become - in 2003 - a small part of rock n' roll history due to the re-releases on Crypt Records. R.I.P. Terry. I hope to see you again someday soon. No one apparently in the rest of the world knew any history of The Mods from Toledo, Ohio. They had only heard the 45 songs. I am glad I could help fill you in with some of the details behind the band known as The Mods.
Many thanks, too, to people from all over the world who have e-mailed me since I put up the website for The Mods in January of 2003. A link to the website for anyone who would like to visit the tribute website for The Mods of Toledo, Ohio 1963-1970 is http://www.geocities.com/themods1966