NOTE (11/04): After we printed guitarist Fred Murphy's recollections, we were contacted by Ron Sims, later guitarist for the band. Ron offered additions and corrections to Fred's statements and we've updated the interview here with that information.
Hard as it may be to believe, there apparently were at least three bands in the 1960's known by the name Mogen David & The Grapes of Wrath. There was a band using that moniker in the Detroit area; another from Barrington, Illinois; and one from Kokomo, Indiana. The Kokomo group is the band most commonly associated with the name, as they are the band that laid down the killer single Little Girl Gone and Don't Want You No More on the Cha Cha label.
An Interview With Fred Murphy (with Comments by Ron Sims)
60sgaragebands.com (60s): How did you first get interested in music?
Fred Murphy (FM): Music was a big part of my family's Saturday night gatherings, so I got interested in guitar by my uncle who taught me the chord G…my first!
60s: Was Mogen David & The Grapes of Wrath your first band?
FM: My first band was The Riddlers. At that time we were very young. I was 14 and the kid of the band and played rhythm guitar -a lefty even! We were together about two years.
60s: Where was Mogen David & The Grapes of Wrath formed, what year, and by whom?
FM: Mogen David and The Grapes of Wrath was formed in Kokomo, Indiana in 1966-1967 by the following members: Steve Fuller - lead singer; Steve Miscoi - drums; Mike Smith - ryhthm/lead guitar; Mike Sommers - bass; and me, Fred Murphy - rhythm/lead guitar.
Ron Sims (RS): I met Steve at The Kokomo Morning Times and found out he could sing. He and I jammed a few times but I couldn't get anybody going quickly. Steve joined another band. I went to hear them and liked the rhythm (Freddie) and Bass (Mike). We jammed a couple times and there was just a natural sound that we all liked. We advertised for a drummer, listened to several and selected Hal Lanseadel (he had played solo in front of the Queen of England while with "the All American High School Band" in Europe.
FM: Ron is correct. Mike Smith left when we were still The Riddlers.
60s: Who named the band - and why? There seems to be more than one band in the '60's with the same moniker?
FM: The band's name was a brainstorm one night by the group, and since we had some well read people in the group and we liked the classic movie THE GRAPES OF WRATH, our lead singer was dubbed "Mogen David." It followed by logic that we call ourselves Mogen David and The Grapes Of Wrath. Just before the record deal we changed drummers and got a new lead guitar player. Our outfits were white Levis and maroon shirts.
RS: I had heard the name before and it did come out in brainstorming. It was never named that until the original members that recorded came together.
60s: Where did the band typically play?
FM: We played mostly at sock hops and parties and at the NCO Club at Grissom Air Force Base, but the big gig was to open for The McCoys of Hang On Sloopy fame at McCormick Place in Chicago - slated for one week after the fire there. Itt didn't come down as planned.
RS: We were big at the NCO and Airmen's Club at Grissom. The bands we were to open for in March of '67 were The Crying Shames and the headliner, The Lovin' Spoonful. I believe (the NCO and Airmen's Club) burned in late February.
60s: Did you play any of the local teen clubs?
FM: We played at the teen clubs Under 21 Club and Can-Teen Club.
RS: We also played a couple of hot rod shows and a club near Indy called Strawtown.
60s: How far was the band's "touring" territory?
FM: The playing radius of the band was about sixty miles.
60s: Did Mogen David & The Grapes of Wrath participate in any Battle Of The Bands?
FM: We won the Battle of the Bands in Kokomo and Tipton and that qualified us for a trip to the Indiana State Fair Battle of The Bands. We took fourth place with the song Eight Miles High. I don't remember the names of the other bands that we played against at that time.
60s: How would you describe the band's sound? What band's influenced you?
FM: Our sound was mainly a mix of rock and roll of the times: Zepplin, Doors, Beatles, Kinks, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, Stones.
60s: Did Mogen David & The Grapes of Wrath have a manager? If so, how active was he/she in promoting the band?
FM: We had a manager who was of the record company and promoted us on our label. I can't remember his name now, but he set up the McCormick gig.
RS: We had a manager from Logansport, a DJ for WSAL radio station there named Mike. I can't remember his last name. He got us some gigs and the contract, worked with DonDel for McCormick Place, and supposedly had a tentative (gig lined up for us) on THE TONIGHT SHOW with Johnny Carson. There was a singer friend of mine from Kokomo (Johnny O'Bannion, from Hog Honda) that was being mentored by "Doc" Severinsen of the NBC Tonight Show Orchestra and Mike was working with them on that.
60s: How popular locally did Mogen David & The Grapes of Wrath become?
FM: Locally we were a very popular band and got bookings almost every Friday and Saturday night. Some were good - and some not so good.
RS: Our record was on all the local juke boxes and it came on regularly at pool halls and bowling alleys.
60s: What other local groups of the area do you especially recall?
FM: Other bands of the area were The Minutemen, The Henchmen, and The Poorboys to name a few.
RS: Johny O'Bannion came from Hog Honda and The Chainguards before he went solo. The Fireflys also cut a record.
60s: Where was the Mogen David 45 recorded?
FM: We recorded Little Girl Gone and Don't Want You No More in Chicago at Don Del Records in the days before air conditioning. It was hot and humid. After the session we ate at the Revolving Restaurant atop the Holiday Inn on Lakeshore Drive. It was coat and tie only; boy, did we scramble around to get dressed! Our two songs were also played on WLS 89 Chicago radio and "picked to click" by the disc jockey's program of that name.
RS: The first (recording) trip we unloaded everything at the studio, realized the equipment trailer had been broken into and the padlock cut. The only thing missing was my Fender Jaguar guitar. We were all heartbroken, and no "loaner" could be located. We had to come back two weeks later for the recording session.
60s: How did the single come about? What were the circumstances that led to the band recording?
FM: We met the agent at a local club for an audition and from there it developed into a record deal. The initial press was 500 copies.
60s: The band had some personnel changes prior to recording the single. Why?
FM: To refine our sound. We added Ron Sims on guitar and Hal Lansedal on drums.
RS: We were both original to Mogen David.
FM: That is correct. This is when The Riddlers ceased to exist and Mogen David was born.
60s: Did Mogen David & The Grapes of Wrath write many original songs?
FM: The only originals we got to record were the two (songs on the single). We didn't have time to do any more.
60s: Do any other Mogen David & The Grapes of Wrath recordings exist? Are there any vintage live recordings, or unreleased songs?
RS: We also recorded Jack and Jill, Too Young To Love, our Intro and covered Hang on Sloopy.
FM: That is correct. We did it all in one session.
60s: Norton Records is currently preparing a Cha Cha Records CD compilation and they've informed us that they have located four unreleased songs by Mogen David & The Grapes of Wrath. All four songs were on the same session reel as your two 45 songs, so odds are they're by your band. The four unissued songs are Jack and Jill, Too Young To Love, Introduction, and a cover of Hang On Sloopy. Do these titles ring a bell at all?
FM: Jack and Jill does ring a bell. I can't remember anything about Introduction and Hang On Sloopy was a remake of the famous song, now that you mention it. (If I could hear the songs) then perhaps I would be sure (the songs were recorded by my band). It was a very hot day in there.
RS: They were all recorded by us at the only session we ever did!
60s: What about local TV appearances? Did the band make any?
FM: There is no live footage of the band, nor live recordings - or TV footage either.
RS: Later on, when I had rejoined the group and Steve Miscoi was the drummer, Trina's uncle recorded us on multi-track tape in Miscoi's garage. (There were) about 6-8 other songs - some original.
60s: When and why did the band break up?
FM: The band broke up in mid 1969 when the service and marriage got in the way for the guys.
60s: Did you join or form any bands after Mogen David & The Grapes of Wrath?
FM: For me there were no more bands from then on. However, I did audition for Crystal Gayle's band but didn't hook up with them.
60s: What about today? What keeps you busy?
FM: I am a tool and die welder by trade and that keeps me busy pretty much. Sometimes I play with my cousin in Columbus, Ohio at a lounge two or three times a year where they nicknamed me The Kokomo Kid.
60s: How do you best summarize your experiences with Mogen David & The Grapes of Wrath?
FM: All in all it was a great learning experience from my youthful days and in the time of the greatest music culture change in the world. The sixties were it man!
"Copyrighted and originally printed on www.60sgaragebands.com