The Pedestrians were widely popular in their hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan as evidenced by their song Think Twice being #1 in the area for the entire year of 1966. The song also hit the top of the charts in Mobile, Alabama and in Orlando, Florida - but unfortunately never made the national charts. The Pedestrians follow-up songs failed to experience the same amount of success as their first song, but that didn’t prevent lead guitarist Kim Weighous from having “more fun than you should be allowed to have” during his time with the band.
An Interview With Kim Weighous
60sgaragebands.com (60s): How did you first get interested in music?
Kim Weighous (KW): My dad did printing work for Roy Middleton who owned Middleton's Music on Plainfield in Grand Rapids, and in partial trade for printing, my dad got me my first guitar - an acoustic with the strings about 1/2 inch off the frets. Like most everybody else back then, I thought The Beatles were cool and wanted to be like them.
60s: Was The Pedestrians your first band?
KW: I played in several other garage bands before The Pedestrians, one called The Secret Agents. We all played though my little 5-watt amplifier, vocals and all. We played in the Northview Middle School cafeteria for a kind of an impromptu assembly/dance, and we thought we were rock stars.
60s: When was The Pedestrians formed?
KW: I got a call in the spring of 1966 from Jay Kilpatrick. He heard about me through Middleton's, and he and Bill DeYoung had been trying to form a band with Mike Burden, another guitar player, who quit to play in a band with his brothers. Jay brought in Tony Cooper and me, and that was the band for the next year. We rehearsed in Jay's basement. The Pedestrians were Tony Cooper, lead vocals and rhythm guitar and some Farfisa organ; Bill DeYoung, bass and background vocals; Jay Kilpatrick, drums; and I on lead guitar and background vocals.
60s: Where did the band typically play?
KW: Mostly teen clubs, and a few high school dances (Union High, Catholic Central).
60s: Which of the local Michigan teen clubs did you play at?
KW: We never played the 48th Street Armory, the forerunner of The Place. During summer and fall of 1966, The Place was definitely the place to be in Grand Rapids. The Beach Bash was the other big Western Michigan teen club. We played at The Platters in Cadillac. That was a big name club back then. The Supremes, Mitch Ryder and Dick Wagner played there. We played at a club in Muskegon that had two stages, one at each end. We played at one end, and Danny Hernandez and The Ones played at the other end. They were a very good band from that era. Back in those days the teen clubs were like a farm system for up and coming bands. Local radio stations used to play local band's records, but that really does not exist today.
We took a trip to Alabama in summer of 1966 and played our song Think Twice live on local TV in Mobile. We also played two teen clubs and a night club down there. After the record became a big hit locally, we played at The Place four or five times - the third time was a week before Christmas in 1966 - our song was #1 in Grand Rapids - and the crowd was I believe the biggest ever in that teen club. At about that same time we played on WZZM TV live on two separate occasions. We played in teen clubs that entire fall and winter all over the Western part of the state - The Beach Bash in Grand Haven and The Chieftain in Big Rapids are a couple I can remember. We appeared on TV four times - two on WZZM, the one in Mobile, and one in Albany, New York. We took a trip to New York to play on THE LLOYD THAXTON SHOW there to promote what we thought would be the national release of the record, which never happened.
60s: Why not? What happened?
KW: After the record was a big local hit, we had several different record companies contact us. Atco was one of them - a big name label at that time. We all got stars in our eyes and signed with Atco, but they just sat on the record and never released it. We thought they would release it shortly after THE LLOYD THAXTON SHOW appearance, but they never did. We finally got up the nerve to call and demand that they release the record, and they sent back our contract. By that time it was too late and interest had waned in the record, and the band was close to splitting up.
60s: How far was the band's normal "touring" territory?
KW: Mostly Western Michigan - pretty close to home.
60s: How would you describe the band's sound? What band's influenced you?
KW: We were somewhere between surf music and British sound; that was all pretty innocent back then. Things really began to change in the spring of 1967 with the San Francisco sound and Jimi Hendrix and Cream. The garage sound was instantly outdated. Many of the garage bands I knew of around town simply quit because they did not have the skill to play these new sounds, or they just weren't interested in the new music.
60s: Did The Pedestrians have a manager?
KW: Jim Kemp was our manager and promoter. We knew him as the manager of The Barons and we asked him to manage us. He is largely responsible for the success of the band. He wanted us to go with a smaller record company who probably would have promoted our record much more actively, but we had stars in our eyes and signed with Atco, who did nothing with the record.
60s: The Pedestrians have the distinction of being the only band to beat The Soulbenders in a Battle of the Bands.
KW: It was kind of like a music football game at The Place with four bands. We were the reigning Grand Rapids band at that time, and The Soulbenders were the up and coming new kids on the block, with lots of firepower with Aris (Hampers) and Dick Steimli. The two other bands in the battle put on a good show, but we knew it would probably come down to us or them. We played our set third, before The Soulbenders played, I think. I used a Fuzz Face fuzz tone for distortion, and if you got it cold, it would quit working. I used to put it under my coat on the way to a gig so it would be warm when I got to the gig. The battle was in the middle of winter in Michigan, and, it got real cold. It quit working and I had to unplug it and play straight into my amp with no effects. This seemed like a big disaster to me, so I thought we would probably lose. The Soul Benders had a good set and I thought they would probably beat us, but the judges (Lynn and The Invaders) thought otherwise. We refused to play battles after that, probably mostly because we didn't think music should be a contest, but that one sure was cool. That was the only battle we every played.
60s: How popular locally did The Pedestrians become?
KW: To have a huge local hit - #1 for the entire year of 1966 - back in those days when music was so popular was pretty heady for four high school kids.
60s: What do you remember about Dave Kalmbach and Fenton Records?
KW: Dave had the Sparta Recording Studio, an old theater with a studio set up in it. It was pretty primitive but I think that was part of the sound of those old records. Dave sat through about 50 takes of Think Twice before we finally got one we were all happy with. Dave was a big help and very patient with us. I remember he came out of the booth after we finally got a good take, held up his hands and yelled "do we have a hit?" and everybody cracked up. As it turned out, we did. We went back and recorded It's Too Late as a follow up to Think Twice, but it never got much air time partly due to inability to decide which was the "A" side - It's Too Late or My Little Girl. I sang My Little Girl with a really flaming head cold, and it didn't sound too great. Back in those days, you had to do it all in one take, so I could not go back when I felt better and track over the bad vocal.
60s: Think Twice was released in two different versions - the latter featuring bells and strings. The song was widely popular in Grand Rapids. Whose idea was it to reissue the second version? Why?
KW: Tony Cooper wanted to re-release the song in spring of 1967, under a different label, so we all got back together with Dave Kalmbach in Sparta for a recording session, but we never got a better take in that session, so Tony dubbed in bells to compliment the kind of chiming guitar part I played and strings to give the song more of a sad feel. This version was released in Mobile, Alabama, where it went to #1, and Orlando Florida, where it went to #1, so the song had some potential. Yeah, it was a sappy love song - as I have heard it criticized - but it had lots of hooks in it.
60s: Who was the band's primary songwriter?
KW: Tony wrote Think Twice and It’s Too Late. Jay wrote Snyder's Swamp and She's Fine. I wrote My Little Girl. We wrote several other original songs we never recorded.
60s: Do you remember any of them?
KW: I can't remember any of the other songs we wrote, but I remember trying to write a couple of uptempo rockers to counter the ballad image we were getting with Think Twice.
60s: Was The Unpredictable Miss Kinsey written about anybody in particular? What about Snyder's Swamp?
KW: Unpredictable was written after I left the band, when the band was Tony, Jay and Dave Rutkowski on keyboards. I think it got very little air play time, as I remember. This version of the band was together for the summer of 1967. I played briefly with Dave before Bill and I left the band. Jay originally wrote a surf tune called She's Fine, and some of the first pressings of Think Twice have this as a “B” side. We decided that was a weak “B” side, so we changed it to Snyder's Swamp, which was a humorous bit written by Jay. The whole title was I Lost My Love in Snyder's Swamp. The lyrics were probably even more ridiculous than you would imagine - like "honey, lets go walk in the muck a little."
60s: Which of the band's songs is your favorite?
KW: Probably It’s Too Late. The psychedelic feel and sound are classic. Funny that at the time it was not a conscious effort to get that sound, it just came out that way. It is a combination of style, equipment and recording techniques. It is like a little time warp encapsulation back to that era.
60s: Do any other Pedestrians recordings exist? Are there any vintage live recordings, or unreleased songs?
KW: None that I have. I wish I did; that would be fun. Tony or Jim Kemp may have some, but I haven't kept in touch with those guys since I left Michigan in the late 1970’s.
60s: Why did the band break up?
KW: We took on a sort of a "co-manager" who had lots of big ideas for the band and brought in a pro song writer, wanted to do lots of choreography, and change our sound and image. He drilled us real hard on our vocals, which was good, but the band got to be no fun and was more like a job. Bill and I split away to form a new band and Tony formed many incarnations of The Pedestrians over the next three years.
60s: Which band did you form with Tony?
KW: Bill and I left the band in the split up, but the band we formed never got far enough to have a name. Bill quit playing shortly after that. I played a high school dance a couple of years later with Jay and his brother Guy on keyboards, and that was the last time I played with anyone from The Pedestrians.
I was the only band member who stuck with music for a while and went on to be a professional musician. I played with the power trio Milkweed, the comedy band Dog Breath, then the club band Flyin' Home for three years with Fergie Fredricksen, later with Toto. I played with Don Henke at Turk Lake in Greenville for a couple of years until moving to California and doing a long tour of the West Coast and Alaska with another club band, Sizzle, then got into the optical business at age 25. I played classical guitar for about another ten years after that, playing occasional restaurant and other solo gigs.
60s: What about today. How often, and where, do you perform?
KW: I recently bought a Fender Stratocaster and a new amp, so I am playing for the first time in twenty years, and its lots of fun again. I jammed with some of my friends in Michigan at Christmastime last year, and I think I stunk up the place pretty bad, but I'll keep practicing. I am a small business owner and work from home. I have three little boys.
60s: How do you best summarize your experiences with The Pedestrians?
KW: The music business is rough and tumble, but in that innocent time it was more fun than you should be allowed to have - more fun and excitement than I can imagine having in this more serious day and age.
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