Zookie & The Potentates

Michigan’s Zookie and The Potentates recorded two singles in the 1960s, and regularly played the teen dances and the Battle of the Bands in or near their home base. Drummer Gary Story filled us in on the band's story…

An Interview With Gary Story

60sgaragebands.com (60s): How did you first get interested in music?

Gary Story (GS): My parents were singers and ever since I can remember I was around music.

60s: Was Zookie and The Potentates your first band?

GS: It was my first band. I had played in a couple of bands filling in on drums and of course school bands. The first Zookie and The Potentates band recorded Telephony, written by the lead guitar player, Mike Snyder. He also wrote the flipside, Bachelors Got It Made. That was in 1964. In 1966, the second or third Zookie and The Potentates band recorded Banana Man and I'm Just A Little Guy. I wrote both of them. We played until about 1968.

60s: When and where was Zookie and The Potentates first formed?

GS: In 1964. I put a band together after I graduated in Flint, Michigan. A guy that worked with my dad had a girlfriend with a brother that was in a guitar class with three of his friends. We (then) hooked up.

60s: Who comprised the band?

GS: I played drums. Dude Lambert and his friend Pete ? (later replaced by Mike Snyder) played guitar and Johnny Esper played bass, 1964-1966. Then (it was) me, George Gillespie and Rod Lester- who played guitar; and Sam Ancera on bass and Romero Daza on organ. This line-up recorded Banana Man.

60s: Who named the band? Does it have any special significance?

GS: We were originally called Gary and The Playboys but, just before one of our biggest gigs, Gary Lewis and The Playboys were on The Ed Sullivan Show doing This Diamond Ring. We had to change our name. My nickname was Zookie; my cousin was watching The Three Stooges and they had a skit with the word "potentate" in it. He said. "That’s it, Zookie…the Potentates." It stuck.

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

GS: We were a rock and roll band with good vocals. We liked The Beatles and a lot of English bands. In 1966, we were more psychedelic.

60s: Where did the band typically play?

GS: We played a lot of teen dances and a lot of school functions. Back then, there were a lot of teen dances going on – at places like the Cloverleaf, the Swingbowl in Durand, Michigan, the Mt Holly Ski Resort in Mt. Holly, Michigan, and the Caseville Skating Arena, etc.

60s: Did Zookie and The Potentates participate in any Battle of the Bands?

GS: Battle of the Bands were real popular. We did that a lot. It seems like if we weren't the featured band then it was a Battle of the Bands gig. I can't remember any of the bands names, but we use to gig with Question Mark and The Mysterians, Dick Wagner and The Frost, Bob Seeger System, etc.

60s: Did Zookie and The Potentates have a manager?

GS: We had two managers; my cousin Max Matthews and a local DJ from WTAC named Jackson Ross. Our first single got air play in Des Moines, Iowa because WTAC had a sister station out there and a DJ named Mike Cavanaugh was playing our songs and they caught on out there. We played there for 15,000 people one time. WTAC was playing our songs and they caught on around the Flint, Saginaw, and Houghton Lake areas.

60s: Fuzz, Acid & Flowers lists several songs that you recorded on acetates – such as She's Not Worth All That, Turn Your Love On Me, and Sugar Cane. Where were these recorded?

GS: We never cut (those songs); I don’t know anything about them. Our tunes were Telephony b/w Bachelors Got It Made and Banana Man b/w I'm Just A Little Guy. Telephony was recorded at United Sound in Detroit and Banana Man was recorded at Paul Potts Studio in Mt. Morris.

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

GS: We played on SWING LIVELY on Channel 6 in Lansing, Michigan. I doubt there is any (surviving) record of it.

60s: When and why did the band call it quits?

GS: I don't remember why the different bands broke up.

60s: How do you best summarize your experiences with Zookie and The Potentates?

GS: I have a copy of the original 45s and a few pictures. Zookie and The Potentates was a good learning experience but one of the best bands I was in was The Plain Brown Wrapper out of Lansing. (The band had) excellent musicians and excellent vocals. We wrote and preformed all of our own music. That was in the early ‘70's.

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