Though a professional group - they left all the teen gigs for The Troyes! - The Pastels ruled their Southern Michigan stomping grounds
for most of the '60's. Once frontman Carl Parker departed in '64, guitarist Carl Chapman reformed the group, and stayed with them until
his departure in 1968.
Here is his story.
An Interview With Carl Chapman
60sgaragebands.com (60s): How did you first get interested in music?
Carl Chapman (CC): I have always loved music. My dad and brothers played piano and organ just for the fun of it. They also played accordion, and my mother started me playing when I was 6. I didn't care much about the practice part. I wanted to play now! I did find out I had the ability to listen to a song and be able to play it in most cases. I also started collecting records in 1955.
60s: Was the Pastels your first band.
CC: No, I started playing rhythm guitar in a country band. I started working with a guy named Marv Martin; we only played for a year off and on. Marv went on later in the seventies to record in Nashville and cut four singles and one album at Music Mill Studio, on Fox Fire Records but, just as his career was really starting to take off, he got cancer and passed away.
I also met guitarist Don Rogers in the fall of '59. Don had a band called The Nite Rocks. They were a lot like Johnny And The Hurricanes. They were the only rock band in Battle Creek that I knew of at that time. They were breaking up, and Don was in need of a bass player and offered to teach me how to play, so I bought a Danelectro new for $80 and we formed a group called The Del Keys. We played in Jackson Michigan at the Rose Bar three nights a week with a one-hour radio show on Sunday nights. We stayed together until April 1960.
60s: Carl Parker formed The Pastels in 1961. How did you hook up with them?
CC: Don and I had left The Del Keys and were trying to form a new band. We meet Carl at the N.C.O. Club at Fort Custer just outside Battle Creek. Carl had been singing and working in Detroit clubs and was looking to move on. We brought in our drummer from The Del Keys, Dan Bendward, added Dick Dudley from The Nite Rocks on keyboard, and there it was: Carl Parker And The Pastels.
When Carl left we replaced him with Jim Eastwood. Jim had been a member of other local groups, and was a singer with The Nite Rocks. Dan Bendward left and was replaced by Bob Pridgion. Bob was in the Air Force at Fort Custer. Bob was a jazz drummer and one of the best I have ever worked with. He taught me how to work with a drummer.
60s: Once Carl left the band to sign with Decca Records, you took control. Is that correct?
CC: No. When Don left I was left holding the bag. That's when I reformed the band. We always worked as a team, and there had to be someone to be the frontman and deal with the club and bar owners, etc. In early '64 we were playing the Gilbert Lounge (Little Hi Lo of Del Shannon fame). (At that time) Don was leaving to go with Jackey Beavers. Bob was getting transferred out, and Dick Dudley quit. I had become a one-man band. Jim Eastwood also wanted to go to Nashville to write music. There was a local band called Bobby Dee and The Crestliners who were splitting up, so I got Bobby, a guitarist named Benny Cook, a keyboard/sax player named John Anglin and drummer Terry Malard. These people were very talented, so it didn't take long to put things together.
60s: Since the band formed prior to "Beatlemania", do you recall the impact that the Fab Four had on The Pastels?
CC: By the time they were going strong, we were a well-established Top-40s group. So other then playing their songs and letting our hair grow, not a lot. I think it was a boost to most bands; it gave us more to play. We always tried to sound as much like the record as possible.
60s: Where did The Pastels typically practice?
CC: In the beginning, at our houses or garages - but once we started playing six nights a week, we had to do most of our practices in the clubs during the day. Monday was usually our night off and I had deejay friends at WKFR Radio. I would go there and record all the new songs, copy the words and on Wednesday or Thursday the band would learn them. We practiced once a week.
60s: Where did the band typically play?
CC: We played all over Southern Michigan - mostly clubs and bars. Kalamazoo and Lansing were college towns and we played there often. We also played benefits and state homes for the kids. We did very few parties. It's hard to play six nights a week and do parties. We did do a couple on Tom Johnson's boat in Saugatuck. We had a lot of fun doing jam sessions. When in B.C. we would get together with Jr. Walker and other bands after hours at Antonyo's Pizza and play. We also did a lot of jamming at The Bellman and Waiters Club. At that time, Battle Creek had 19 bars and clubs with entertainment four to six nights a week.
60s: What about teen clubs?
CC: We did once in awhile, but we were not a teen band. At that time there were only one or two teen clubs in this area: Teens Inc. and Eddy's. The Troyes played those venues.
60s: So…no Battle Of The Bands, either?
60s: Other than The Troyes, what other local groups of the era do you especially recall?
CC: One of my early favorites was The White Bucks from W.M.S.U. in Kalamazoo. They recorded for Dot Records and had a song called Get That Fly. I found out later that the keyboard player was Max Crook who recorded Runaway with Del Shannon. When Del was in town he would come and set in with us at the Gilbert Lounge.
Other groups I recall include Jackey Beavers And The Continentals. I did a Beach Boys show with his band in '66. Would you believe I never got any pictures or autographs? Jim Head and The Headlyters was another good band. We tried something with them and The Jacky Beavers Band one winter while we were playing The King's Inn in Kalamazoo. Ken Newbe owned The Kings on the east side and the Wayside on the west side. All three bands were to play both places the same night. While one band played each place, the third band would travel across town to relieve a band so they could do the same. It was called a GO GO Marathon, and I'm sitting here looking at the ad for that event hanging on my wall. I would also include Jr. Walker And the All-Stars. We had a lot of fun jamming with that group, and Me & Dem Guys, too. Can't get better.
60s: How would you describe the bands sound?
CC: Tight. We always played large clubs - 200 to 600 people. The music was not as loud as it is today. We tried to get a lot of bottom into our sound so you felt it as much as you heard it. Like I said before, people wanted to hear the songs sound like the records they were hearing on the radio, and that's what we tried to do. If we were doing a Stones number we sounded like the Stones.
60s: Did the Pastels ever have a manager?
CC: No. We had a lot of people who wanted to be, but we had no trouble in getting jobs so we managed ourselves. We did work with a few agents that would book up special gigs for us.
60s: How popular locally were you able to become?
CC: We became well known throughout Southern Michigan. We would draw from all over. When we left one place, South Haven for instance, people would follow us to the next place. Back then there were a lot of good bands, like there is now, and if you could get a following you would stay on top.
60s: The Pastels released one single: Cause I Love You b/w Don't Ya Know.
CC: We recorded in June of 1966 at Cap Studios in Portage, Michigan. It was released soon after on Phalanx Records. Three hundred records were sent to the east and west coasts, to as many radio stations we could. I made the rounds of the stations in Southern Michigan. I also started getting them to the record stores and jukebox distributors. Benny and I started writing Cause I Love You in '65. We wanted it to have a different sound to it, so one thing we did was run the guitar through the Lesley speaker of the organ and ran the Lesley on high spin. We worked on that song for months trying it out in the clubs we were playing. The day we recorded it we had it in two takes.
We never did think of what was going to be on the flip side. It took us about 10 minutes to come up with Don't Ya Know. Play it hard and yell a lot, just have fun. Welln needless to say, Don't Ya Know was the one that made to the charts. Locally it did well. I don't think we ever thought it would be a hit, and I really feel Cause I Love You had a better chance.
60s: Do any other Pastels recordings exist, or are there any live vintage recordings?
CC: Not on vinyl. But there is some tape I have that is not the best quality, but does give you an idea of what the band could do. I have also received some tapes of the band playing their last two nights together in about 1972 I would guess. At that time there was seven or eight members in the band. Benny and Rex Buckner were the only members left that played when I was in the group. Rex came into the band in late '65 to take Terry Malard's place playing drums. We also replaced John Anglin with Bob Edwards on organ and sax. Bob also played flute. Terry left for the military, and John left to play in Jackey Beaver's group.
I have other tapes of local groups. Don Rogers played with Me & Dem Guys 1969-1972 and gave me some tapes. I also taped them when they were in Battle Creek playing at the Nightbeat.
60s: Did the band make any local TV appearances, or is there any film of the band?
CC: Not that I know of. There was some news tape done at Gilmore's Dept. Store in Kalamazoo when we did a fashion show there. There was also some 8mm film taken while we were on the road, but I don't know where it is.
60s: The Pastels toured the Midwest in '67. What cities and states did you perform in?
CC: From Indiana to Oklahoma, Fort Wayne to Tulsa. We were booking through Hal Marcus Agency in New York. We followed Groups like Mitch Ryder, Jerry Lee Lewis, and The Newbeats. What happens to a band when they play locally for long periods of time is they burn out. That is what happened to us. Times were changing and we needed to move on.
60s: You left the band in'68. Why?
CC: Well…1) to try and save a marriage. Being on the road is not what my wife wanted; 2) Burn out. I was just getting tired of living in motels; 3) I really felt I had gone as far as I could with this band; and 4) Like George says, "Get a hair cut and find a good job. PS - I didn't save the marriage.
60s: The Pastels continued on without you…
CC: Benny had taken over while on the road, and we had left Hal Marcus or - should I say - he left us. We joined Artist Corp. of America and they started us at the bottom. We had gigs from hell. I left soon after. Bobby Dee (Robert Ressman) left at that time, too. Mike Peck took my place. I soon lost track of the band after that. I did know they were playing all over the 48 states. The last place they played was The Green Onion in Indianapolis, Indiana. They backed Freddy Cannon for two nights there. There were at least seven members in the band at that time. This was in 1972.
60s: Did you join or form any bands after you left The Pastels?
CC: Sure. I worked with Bobby Wayne Loftis, a well-known singer/keyboardist from Battle Creek, for about six months. Bob went to Nashville and cut four or five singles on Lucky Seven Records. Some did quite well. These were country records before country was cool.
I then joined Vern Gorham and The Crosswinds. We played old standards and swing more than rock. I stopped playing in '72 when I went to work for the Hospital as a Resp. Tech. I did keep a hand in music. My record collection had grown. I also started playing keyboard. In '79 Rex Buckner had moved back to Battle Creek so we put a good little band together just to play for the fun of it, mostly at my house one or two nights a week. It ended up being a jam with as many as15 people playing. We did this for almost two years until three of the five regulars moved out of town. I treed to keep it going, but couldn't find anyone that wanted to play just for the fun of it.
60s: What about today? What keeps you busy?
CC: I've retired from the hospital. I still play bass once in awhile. I've got a keyboard (PSR 8000) and a few others and I play mostly for my own enjoyment. I have done a couple of '50s and '60s shows with my good friend, John Anglin, and I'm trying to find a guitarist to work with at fairs and car shows. I like country and wouldn't mind playing bass in a good country band.
60s: How do you best summarize your experiences with The Pastels?
CC: Benny and Bobby have both passed away and I miss them. I hadn't seen Bobby since we left the band. He moved to Florida and quit playing. Benny would come and go. He sold cars and did other things, but never played much after the '70's. Carl Parker is back in Detroit and still playing. I'm trying to get him to come to Battle Creek and we will put on a show. He still has fans here. Don's in Florida. He comes up to Michigan in the summer to play the Jazz Festival in Muskegon. He sells cars most of the time. Most of the other guys that left never went back playing.
I thought I was getting to old to play anymore until I went out to see Dick Wagner the other night. This guy hasn't slowed down at all. He just needs a little help getting down off the tables now and then. I'm glad I can say I got to play with a few big stars, and never used drugs. And when I listen to those tapes of the band's last days, I'm proud to say, "Man, that was one hell of a band!"
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