Back in the 1970’s Wayne County, Ohio in general, and Orrville specifically, had an abundance of talented musicians and bands and one of the more memorable groupings was a band called Soily, who soon evolved into Johnny Mirage. Both entities were basically the same musicians and their gigs were very memorable although unfortunately both incarnations didn’t last as long as one would have hoped.
One mainstay in both bands was guitarist Mike Sommers. Sommers was one of the most talented axemen to play back in the day (and still is) and the first time I recall meeting Mike, sometime in the summer of 1972, he had his guitar in hand playing some wicked, right-on Santana licks.
“My first guitar was at age 10 (1964) after being inspired by the Beatles on Ed Sullivan,” recalled Sommers recently. “Played with Bruce Saurer in the south end of Orrville eventually after a junior high band with Bobby Good on drums, Denny Dalessandro on the other guitar with Bob Amstutz on bass, called the KATZ (1967). We played Gloria and Wipeout…that’s it!”
“Then the Cavemen (1968) with Mike Wagner on drums and Randy Yoder on bass, that only lasted two weeks. Got my first official lesson from senior Mark Roup in 9th grade while working at KC’s (Rootbeer Stand).”
“Acoustically and vocally inspired by Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, I finally landed on Arlo Guthrie and played the Orrville High School talent shows with great success. Bruce and I played Down By The River after my version of Coming Into Los Angeles our junior year (1971) and were disqualified for saying the word ‘marijuana’, to open the song like they did on the Woodstock album. Then our senior year (1972), we were disqualified for volume with Dave Evans singing a Uriah Heap song for us!”
“Then Bruce and I moved to Columbus for a few months in ‘73 after my return from KSU on daddy’s dime with a terrible grade card but many, many memories. The concerts and the weed!”
Around 1974 Sommers and a few others got together and Soily was born.
“Soily began slightly after the Band On The Run album was released and I got a hold of a songbook of same name and took it to Rick Thistlethwaite’s apartment behind Buehler’s. We jokingly recorded all the songs with friends singing and me alone strumming guitar. This is what developed into Soily which was an actual title of a Wings song at the time that Rick loved. We completed the cast with Billy Forrer on bass, Bobby Wenger on drums and Jeff Osborne on guitar. We only played a few private parties until the team was reshuffled into another lineup with Dave Stephens replacing Osborne on guitar.”
Sommers also squeezed in additional gigs with another band at that time.
“In ‘75, Daimon, the band featuring friends Bruce Saurer and Scott Daniels, was also reshuffling their lineup and I was asked to learn 37 songs in 2 weeks for a gig at the Hitching Post as their next second guitar man. I jumped at the chance and played with both bands for a while until eventually let go by the Daimon club who decided to downsize and take to the road!”
“Soily then replaced Dave Stevens with Steve Hanna on guitar and Bones Morrison on drums! Off we were again conquering local watering holes like Tally’s in Navarre, the Hitching Post in Creston, the Castle in Millersburg and many private parties which included Mary McGrew’s class’s After Prom at OHS!”
Bass player BILL FORRER
One interesting gig happened in June 1977 when myself and Rick Gidley rented the Sportsman Club and held a ‘party’ for my brother who was graduating from Orrville High School and all his friends. Actually, I think we let all 1977 OHS graduates in free and charged $2 at the door for everyone else (we had to pay the rent, band and buy beer you know!).
Regardless, Soily was smoking that night and had the huge crowd rocking! We even had the honor of Wayne County Sheriff Deputies and other law enforcement officials make an appearance.
“I do remember the party at the Sportsmen’s Cabin when the fuzz showed up and demanded that we cease before all the underage folks were hauled away. It actually hit the Daily Record and we had the article proudly on display at the time clock at the Orrville Post Office where I worked at the time. I challenge you to find that article, Doc!”
(Challenge accepted & met: see below! Click to enlarge)
What happened was the noise level got a bit too loud and with a H-U-G-E crowd the law showed up to try and quiet things down.. However, we had good ‘ol Bug Jones manning the door collecting the $2 entrance fee and when the Deputies showed up Bug tried to collect $2 from each of them before he would allow them entrance. They didn’t see the humor in Bug’s demand, and Bug Jones being Bug Jones, well……The article speaks for itself.
One memory of that incident was once they put Bug in the back of the Deputy’s car I went to the other side and let him out. As he was sneaking off to the woods another deputy stopped him, handcuffed him this time, and put him back in the cruiser. Hey, I tried!
About 3:00 Am we bailed him out!
“Hanna was eventually replaced with Barry Jenkins on guitar and we morphed into Johnny Mirage. Bones actually came up with the name in an early morning card game where he had exceptional luck and boasted, “Don’t F**K with Johnny Mirage! It stuck and although none of us were actually Johnny Mirage, Johnny Mirage did actually exist as the whole of our players! The name just rocked!”
”I loved playing with those guys and was always having a great time until finally we fired Barry Jenkins. We tried to put things back together with Mark Good but I became too cranky to try to do it all over again and left the band in ‘77. I sat in a few times at Groucho’s with the new lineup, now featuring Jerry Kervin and Mike Johnson.”
This line-up/incarnation became Damage. (For more on Damage CLICK HERE).
“Rick (Thistlethwaite) did an incredible Jagger and Bones always pumped out a great solo during the Johnny Mirage gigs. Both of them were a thrill to play with and they really got the crowd rockin’! Favorite tunes from back then were all Stones, Tie Your Mother Down and White Punks On Dope along with the Jailbreak/Tush/Let Me Roll It staples of our day!”
“The Castle was a great place to play and I took Bones on the ride of his life home one night from there in the black ‘78 Special Edition Trans Am (BANDIT STYLE) and he swears we were airborne most of the way!”
Another Johnny Mirage gig that Sommers fondly remembers was a night at the Hitchin’ Post in Creston, OH when the place was jam packed and a group of us from Orrville we politely asked by the local law enforcement to leave town and never return. About ten of us barely made it out of town without being arrested.
“I got busted with an open container of beer loading equipment in the back alley the night all you guys were thrown out of Creston but was taken to jail across the street and somehow escaped, never to return, in that band anyway! No charges filed and no beer spilt!”
“Loved playing the Hitching Post in Creston with the stage actually in the balcony over the bar with Daimon but was a real bitch getting Scott’s 400 pound Hammond B3 Organ up those stairs.”
“Then Mouse (Roger Greegor), Ed Marthey, Dave Morrison, Steve Barkey and Danny Saurers came calling and we were soon putting together the Winged Spaniel Threat which became CONTRABAND.”
Sommers is quick to admit that the Orrville, Ohio area back in the late 60’s & 70’s had an abundance of talented musicians. “I always admired Chris Conway and Jack Schantz as local jazz experts and have recorded with both over the years,” related Sommers. “They are quite exceptional players!”
I always really respected the Conway/Schantz/Greegor jazz legends trained by Perry Hosmer and was actually asked by Perry to join that troupe at OHS just before they went to Europe but I could not read music. I just felt it and didn’t think I would fit in with those younger guys , who were a year younger (laughs)!”
“So I have always been very, very jealous of those guys including Danny & Bernie & Marthey of that era that learned the right way, opposed to playing by ear, like me, or by heart!”
Since those Soily/Johnny Mirage days Sommers kept jamming.
”A few years in a row at the park for the July 4th gig with Eric Tipton, Scott Daniels, Bones, Jimmy Williams and The Barkey Brothers on saxes for a Blues Brother style band called the BluesBusters. The Theatrical lounge was a favorite place of ours back then!”
“Then finally an all Beatles band called the Traveling Pillsburys for the July 4th gig one year only. Then just about four Christmases in a row at Jerry’s with Gary Bays from Wayne College and Scottie Daniels on keys for a 3 piece-oldies show.”
“Now just many memories!”
”Now fat & sassy with two new Gibsons from the Tennessee shop bought five years ago on vacation!”
NOTE: If anyone has any SOILY or JOHNNY MIRAGE photos, or photos from any Orrville or Wayne County bands from the 60’s or 70’s please email them and we’ll post ‘em!