Archive for the ‘OHIO 70’s BANDS’ Category


Just Sitting Here Missing Michael

January 23, 2012

On Wednesday January 25 it will be three years since many of us here in north-central Ohio lost a good friend, who also happened to be perhaps the most natural-born talented bass player ever. Michael Ervin Johnson, only 48, passed on thanks to heart failure.

Still pisses me off.
Back in the 70’s Michael first picked up a bass and was a natural, instantly. He could listen to a tune once and play the bass lines perfectly. Many musicians back in the day remarked how proficient, how effortlessly, how quick to adapt and learn songs he was. A truly gifted musician. And although he didn’t do it often enough, Michael was one hell of a singer, a talent that he shared with his family.

Michael played in a number of bands in the 70’s in our little region of Ohio. He was also a ready substitute and fill in for various bands and while he shown brightly as a full time member of assorted bands and permutations he probably had the most fun and most recognition as a founding member of Damage, a hard rock band out of Wayne County (primarily Orrville & Wooster musicians) that built a solid and popular reputation during the latter years of the 70’s throughout the Wayne County – Canton – Akron – Mansfield region.

In Damage Michael, a black man, played the heaviest, funkiest, sweatiest, crunchiest rock ‘n roll bass riffs around. He was untouchable, as numerous musicians have stated over the years. Talented, gifted, he could play any style of music proficiently, whether it was rock ‘n roll, R & B, funk, soul, gospel, you name it, if Michael liked it, he could play it. He was the USA answer to Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy.

In Damage Michael was often times ‘the show’. Meaning, if the vibe wasn’t quite right, if the crowd was moody or cranky, Michael would slap the crap out of that bass even more and start working his ‘moves’ on stage that nearly always got the crowd in a more festive, and dancing, mood.  Yes, Michael knew all about ‘the show’ part of show business and the others did their best to emulate him.

                                          DAMAGE taking no prisoners!

Besides Michael, who also contributed back up vocals, Damage consisted of Jerry Kirven and Mark Good on guitars, drummer Tom ‘Bones’ Morrison and singer Rick Thistlethwaite. Rick Gidley joined the band as the light & sound tech (and many other duties).

Beyond the music, just as a person, Michael Johnson was one hell of a good guy. Have so many good and fun memories of him from back in the day, through high school and just beyond a bit. Michael was cool in a variety of ways, chief among his ‘cools’ was he never showed any pressure, anxiety or worry. He was cool, calm & collected.

And funny as hell!

Damn, we had some good times. (And no, I’m not going to share them with you. Unless you were with us at the time! Since the whole band was involved, I may tell the story of the $2,000 bar tab sometime….)

I’ve lost quite a number of friends over the years and it will likely continue, but sitting here tonight planning my week, it just hit me why January 25 was significant. Michael! Too young.

This website owner (far right), Michael & Castle Theatre manager watch Rick Gidley do all the heavy lifting prior to a gig at the Castle Theatre.

I remember going to the services for Michael and the place was absolutely packed, wall to wall people, standing room only! I had to smile. Of course, everyone loved Michael! The hardest part was watching his family, his siblings, send him off. The wonderful Bishop Lottie Smith handled the services with his brother Rev. Jimmy Johnson reading scriptures while his brother Rufus sang. Oh yeah, can Rufus ever sing. Ask around. As good as Michael was on a bass, Rufus is that good with his voice. Another generation of pure talent who performed was Michael’s niece, Tiffany Johnson.

And of course sister Ruth, a friend from high school, was there to comfort their Mother, Mrs. Gertrude Johnson-Howard, a precious, sweet lady who, over the years, never knew a stranger and welcomed any stray (like myself) who wandered into their home with one of her kids. A beautiful lady (and who graciously sent me one of the sweetiest, most cherished letters afterwards).

Michael left behind his wife, Pamela, and children Erica Johnson, Nathan & Nikolas Johnson. And lots and lots of memories that hundreds of people who knew him will not likely forget.

How good was Michael Johnson as a bass player? No less than Kim Simmonds, legendary lead guitarist of the British Blues Band, Savoy Brown, once commented about Michael after watching him perform with Damage: “Why the hell isn’t he in the big time? He’s amazing! That kid can go far, he feels the music. He’s bloody damn well good, he is.”

Yeah, Michael was that good.


EDDIE MARS: Ohio 70’s Bands

May 16, 2011



NOTE: Click on thumbnails to enlarge!

So here’s the scenario. You grow up in the rock ‘n roll era of the 1960’s & 1970’s with ‘the gift’, a gift of musical talent and you utilize that gift, that passion to become a professional musician, a dream that many had during that time period when everyone wanted to be a rock star. And now, today, all these years later, 35 years later to be exact, not only are you still a working professional but after immersing yourself in all the musical programs offered during your high school years of the 70’s, you are about to return to play for your former classmates. Such is the case of keyboardist Ed ‘Eddie Mars’ Marthey of the small town of Orrville, OH, known far and wide for Smucker’s jelly and (in)famous basketball coach Bobby Knight.

Marthey, a seasoned pro who’s pretty much seen and done it all, is going to do what more than one has thought about over the years, bring his band, Liquid Sky, to play for his former classmates for the 35th class reunion, in this case the Orrville High School (OHS) Class of 1976’s 35th reunion that will be held September 16-17 this year.

Ed Marthey hammering the keys in high school.

“I am totally psyched about playing our reunion,” stated Ed Marthey recently, one of Orrville’s successful and highly talented musical sons. “Playing gigs are about the only thing in this world that don’t make me anxious. I don’t get stage fright. The scariest parts of any club show for me are A) the restroom, and B) getting paid at the end of the night. This is not just another gig, but I have so much confidence in these guys’ ability to rock a place inside-out, playing the gig is the least of my worries.”

Having attended high school with Marthey and watching him perform, especially back in the days of the 70’s and 80’s, it’s always been clear that he has the knowledge, talent and aptitude for all things musicial. His tastes in music, even back then, were varied. He has a true appreciation and vast knowledge for the art. Even back in the 60’s and 70’s I knew that Orrville had produced a lot of many talented musicians, several who went on to become professionals like Ron Jarvis, Jack Schantz, Randy Coole, Marthey and others. Must be something in the water, or maybe in the jelly!

When the 35th Orrville High School Class of 1976 Reunion committee starting planning the reunion for later on this year it was decided that instead of pre-programmed music the reunion should feature what we all grew up with, namely live music. Attending rock concerts and buying albums and 8-Track tapes was the norm back then. Live music flourished then whether it meant attending concerts in Akron, Canton andClevelandto the high school gym to local watering holes and other rented venues. I remember attending more than one concert in farmer’s fields!

Ed "Alice Bowie' Marthey

So it was decided that a live band would be appropriate. After all, we grew up with live music so, at this stage of our lives we might as well rock it one more time before all the rocking we do is in rocking chairs!

And if you’re going to hire a band to play, why not hire a professional one that features a member of your own graduating class? Hence, Liquid Sky, Marthey’s current band based in Akron will be spotlighted at the reunion in September. It seems appropriate.

Liquid Sky is a group of five very talented men who have crafted a show which has something for everyone, particularly those who want to rock. The band specializes in music that most other rock-n-roll bands don’t usually play while keeping it highly danceable. In short, they are rock without apology.

“It feels good!” exclaimed keyboardist Ed Marthey of Liquid Sky, of the prospect of playing in front of his former classmates. “I really think our class will have the funnest reunion ever. We’re the rock ‘n roll generation, the kids today are still listening to music from our time! And we’re playing it and not just the songs every cover band plays, but because of the combined talents of these musicians we can perform songs that will totally rock the joint to smithereens.”

Ed Marthey during his CONTRABAND days

Liquid Sky consists of Marthey, Ben Powers, Brad Johnson, Bruce Lindamood and Chip Maggio.

“This is the most talented bunch of guys I’ve ever worked with,” continued Marthey. “Our bass player is Ben Powers, who is the current drummer for the P-Funk All Stars (formerly Funkadelic) and our singer, Brad Johnson, amazed everyone at the most recent party/jam at the Sportsmen’s Cabin last November by belting out ‘Over the Hills & Far Away’ and ‘The Ocean’ by Led Zeppelin. This band started out as a Dream Theater tribute band, then began to learn big nasty rock songs from the ’70s & ’80s. We do some Yes, some Journey, a bunch of Zeppelin, some Genesis,Styx, Floyd, Rush, Foreigner, Golden Earring, Living Colour.”

“Regarding live music versus someone’s ipod loaded with bubblegum and country, there will be no comparison. I’ve missed some reunions because I knew there would be taped music and probably music that I hate. I’m hoping everyone in our class still alive will show up and groove with us, because I truly believe that this will be our best reunion ever!”

During high school Marthey played and participated in all the musicial entities offered by the school, learning musical technique, theory and exploring the musical worlds of not only rock ‘n roll but classical music, jazz, the list goes on. His tastes are wide and varied and he knows what he likes. And doesn’t. And he has never been afraid to express his opinions.

He may not remember but I can recall once telling him about the virtues of one of my all time favorite bands, Mott The Hoople back then, and Ian Hunter when he went solo after Mott split. Marthey would have none of that as I recall him stating they were average at best. I was shocked and dismayed! Marthey liked bands like Yes, I liked Mott The Hoople. But even though they still remain one of my all time favorites, one couldn’t help but respect what Marthey had to say because he had the training, knowledge and gift of being able to play music. Any type of music.

Ed Marthey (far left) & Roger 'Mouse' Greegor laying it down

Other than fiddling around with a bass guitar and being in a short-lived rock band called the Poorboys (with a tip of the hat to John Fogerty) in junior high at John R.Lea Intermediate School, the only musical talent I have ever had was playing a jukebox. And try finding one of those these days!

“Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendricks,” were the names Marthey offered when asked who had inspired him outside of high school. He was also quick to point out the fellow musicians, his peers, who inspired him in high school.  “Jack Schantz, Chris Conway, Mouse Greegor, Randy Coole.”

Marthey also retains many special memories of the OHS music programs he was involved in.

“Every year on the last day of summer marching band pracitice, one team of us would grab band director Don Carpenter, walk him up to the pool and throw him in,” recalled Marthey. “While another crack team of commandos would break into his VW van and push it somewhere several blocks away and hide it. One time they wedged it between two trees.”

“My favorite teacher: the late Perry Hosmer, our jazz band director and teacher of music history and music theory. He inspired generations of OHS musicians with his knowledge, humor & stories. He once played in the Kay Kaiser band in the ’40s.”


As was pretty much the case at every high school around the country during the 70’s Marthey was in his share of bands with fellow Orrville and Wayne County musicians, of which there was an enormous talent pool at the time.

“In 1973 I joined Magwich Applebee, a band that practiced on (Bob) Shiflett’s front porch on Crown Hill Road in Orrville,” remembered Marthey. “Bob Shiflett on rhythm guitar, Marty Wilson on drums, Steve Hanna on bass, and Jerry Kirven and a drifter/hippie from out of town named Detroit Buchanan on dual lead guitars, and Johnny Kirvin singing. Oh yeah, Bob Weygant ran around in a sparkly shirt and played tamborine. We played Orr Park after the fireworks in ’73 until about 1:00 AM on the main diamond to a huge crowd.”

“Magwich Applebee was around for a couple years. We played several times at that crazy bar inMassillon, and of course a bunch of parties. I think it broke up when lead guitarist Detroit Buchanan took off drifting again. He had ass-length hair, one pair of holy jeans, and a psychedelically painted Gibson SG with strings so old they were rusty. He was very charismatic and fun to hang out with.”


“We also played a few times at Kimpean’s Cafe inMassillon. By that time Billy Hendricks was on drums. I think Billy and I were 16 and they let us drink there. Billy would order about nine kinds of booze in the same glass and one night mid-song he turned around and puked a torrent of red stuff all over our cases. That place was a trip, complete with real prostitutes.”

“I think the next band that actually played gigs was The Winged Spaniel Threat. Later on it became Contraband which that was ’78 – ’79. It was a horn band that did lots of weird stuff like ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Time’ by Floyd, Brian Auger, ‘Earache My Eye’ by Cheech and Chong, ‘I’m The Slime’ by Zappa. We played Columb’s, the Red Baron, Sportsmen’s Cabin, a bunch of parties. Mike Sommers on guitar, Henry Bevins on bass,  Mouse Greegor on drums, Dean Lambert on trumpet, Danny Sauers & Steve Barkey on saxes.”

From then on Marthey was in a succession of bands, nearly everyone remembered to this day by those who appreciated live music.

CONTRABAND in action!

“The next band I was in started in ’79, Transit, with Billy on drums, Phil Dalessandro on guitar, Vinnie Carpenter on bass and the late Dean Lambert on lead vocals,” revealed Marthey. “We played at Columb’s, Wilmot Tavern, bunches of parties. We did Floyd, Hendrix, Tull, Jeff Beck, and a lot of obscure songs by Free, Spooky Tooth, Nils Lofgren. This band actually played Caskey’s for your brother’s birthday party, a B.O.T. production!”

Caskey’s Family Campground & RecreationCenteris where the OHS Class of ’76 35th reunion will take place.

“In ’80 I joined up with Rick Ciconnetti, Matt Chastain, Henry Bevins and a female lead singer whose name i can almost remember, we were called Crossfire,” Marthey continued. “We did Genesis, Yes, Tubes, Police, Lover Boy, Men At Work, and even ‘Blinded By Science’ by Thomas Dolby. We played the Theatrical inWoostera few times, some roadhouse down by Loudonville called something like the Wagon Wheel, parties of course, and some clubs I can’t quite remember!”

“From ’81 – ’83 I managed Groucho’s in Orrville and wasn’t in any bands. In ’84 Ron Jarvis came by the bar one night and mentioned that the reggae band he was in needed a keyboard player. I auditioned a few days later and got the gig. We rehearsed in Bob the Conga Player’s basement in Shaker. I often stayed for days with two of the guys just off Coventry. We decided to call the band First Light, and for the next 14 years it was a full-time job.”

“Carlos Jones, now of the PLUS Band, sang lead and wrote most of the songs, probably upwards of 100 in all. Chopper played guitar & bass; Gino Long played bass & guitar; Bob Caruso on congas & percussion; and Rod Reisman (now with the Prayer Warriors & Outlaws I&I) on drums. At first we had a trumpet player named Steve Maurer, when he left we hired Rob Williams, now of the Afro-Cleveland Orchestra & Ernie Krivda Trio, on saxes & flute.”

With First Light Marthey was living the dream as a musician, playing gigs at high profile establishments all over northeastOhio, going on the road and making recordings.


“We played an average of 250 dates a year, mostly on the road,” explained Marthey. “We played from Michigan down toSouth Carolina and over to the East Coast from the Carolinas up toMaine. In Cleveland our home base was Peabody’s in Cleveland Heights and we held the attendance record at Peabody’s DownUnder in the Flats for years. Until we broke it again. We did Tommy’s inRocky River, Quinn’s Live on the extreme east side, Cheers, Hank’s and The Phantasy inLakewood.”

“In the Flats we played Biggie’s The Basement, Fagan’s, Downunder, Splash, the Nautica, Shooters and a lot of colleges. We were big in Bowling Green, Athens, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Kalamazoo and so many other places I can’t remember.”

The band also played gigs with some national and internationally known bands and performers. The list is impressive to say the least.

“We opened for The Clash, The Wailers, Eek-A-Mouse, Augustus Pablo, Steel Pulse, Taylor Dayne, Meatloaf, Ziggy Marley, Yellowman,Third World, Aswad, Al Stewart, Donovan, Toots & The Maytals, Burning Spear and others,” said Marthey.

Ed 'Eddie Mars' Marthey

The band also spent considerable time in the studio.

“We did five recordings,” stated Marthey. “A vinyl EP called ‘Musical Uprising’ in ’85, a CD titled ‘Meltdown!’ in ’87. We also recorded and released two cassette albums, ‘The Official Bootleg’ and ‘Live At The Empire. In ’94 we released ‘Groove Telepathy’, which had two songs of mine on it and I designed the cover.”

“We broke up in ’98. During this time I was also writing and performing songs with Chris Conway in the Visitors. We played OrrPark on July 4 a few times, Rehm Pavilion and some other places and parties.”

One of Marthey’s fondest memories of that time was when the band opened for The Clash at Cleveland Public Hall.

Marthey then pursued a solo career as well.

“I began to play solo after that,” said Marthey. “I’d been playing weddings since high school.”

In fact, he played at  my brother’s first wedding.

“I had a regular Saturday night gig at the Clarion River Lodge inCook Forest,Pennsylvaniafor over a year,” continued Marthey. “I also played Woogel’s in Woosterand the Starboard Side in Orrville.”

“I moved to Boulder with my then-wife for six years starting in 2000, right after I recorded my first solo CD, ‘Springtime On Mars’. I played solo, worked in three different bands, and had a job at Kinko’s out there.”

“We moved back here in ’06, and I was immediately beseiged with offers to join bands. I got my solo sets up and running and began playing at the Montavino in Wooster regularly.”

Lost Highway

“Soon after that I joined Lost Highwaywith Chris Conway on bass, Mojo Edwards on guitar, Ben Powers on drums and George Bersch on lead vocals, harp & acoustic. We didn’t play very often because we were all so busy. The last time that band played out was last August (2010) at the Orrville Rib Cookoff.

“When Mojo left the band, Ben said he was in a great prog band that needed keyboards. I joined (Liquid Sky) after one rehearsal. Ben Powers on bass, Bruce Lindamood on guitar, Chip Maggio on drums, and Brad Johnson on lead vocals. We’ve rehearsed for a year and a half, and the crowd at the Tap House loves us. We’re talking with an agent now, with the intent to break into Cleveland & beyond.”

For the past year or two, Marthey has been a busy man on a mission.

“Last winter i got a call from Gino Long, from First Light, with an offer to play with him and Chopper in a reggae/rock band called Outlaws I & I  featuring Butch Buchanan on lead vocals and Spanky Carter on drums,” explained Marthey. “We’ve played clubs all over Cleveland. Recently Spanky left and we put in Rod Reisman of First Light on drums. Recently we did our first show with Rod, and it was so slammin’ I thought the Maple Grove would implode. Our next gig is May 28 at some club inMadisonand May 30 at WhiskeyIsland, the club, not the island!”

Recently Marthey made a musical connection with yet another Orrville talent, a generation younger, but an exceptional talent.

“About three months ago I got a call from Gretchen Pleuss to play in her band,” commented Marthey. “I jumped at the opportunity. She writes her own songs and has a strikingly beautiful voice. We’ve rehearsed twice a week since then , and recorded a demo. We had some bookings, but yesterday Gretchen called a meeting and put the band on hiatus while she figures out what she wants to do in life. She’s 20 and just finished school. Hopefully before too long we’ll take up again. Until then she’s playing solo, with me doing duets with her occasionally.”

“Which brings us right up to today. The Visitors are getting back together, we’ll play the Orr Rib-off an August 12. Chris is releasing a new Visitors recording soon. The first since the cassette album we recorded in ’87. I’m doing the CD cover for that and there is a host of unbelievably good players contributing their talents on it.”

So in addition to the busy schedule of gigs with current band Liquid Sky, Marthey has a full plate of gigs that will keep him busy this year. He joined Liquid Sky a year and a half ago and hasn’t looked back. “Like I said, this is the most talented bunch of guys I’ve ever worked with.”

The Orrville High School Class of 1976 will be holding their 35th Class of ’76 Reunion on September 16-17, 2011. The activities will kick off on Friday evening September 16 at Orrville High School prior to the annual Homecoming Football game for a tailgate party and will continue on Saturday September 17 with an all day and evening gathering at Caskey’s Campground & Recreation Center located northeast of Orrville where OHS Class of ’76 alum Ed Marthey & Liquid Sky will be performing.

For more information on Liquid Sky visit their Facebook page at: LIQUID SKY

For more information on the OHS Class of ’76 35th Reunion visit the reunion website at: OHS Class of ’76 Reunion

NOTE: LIQUID SKY will be performing at Ripper Owens’ The Tap House in Akron on June 11, 2011!

(c) 2011 Bangagong/Doc Lehman



July 1, 2010

Mike Sommers

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!”
These days?
”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!


A Blast From The Past

September 22, 2008

A ‘vintage’ flyer for the rock band SMOKE N ASH, a 70’s rock band based in the Orrville-Canal Fulton, Ohio area. Courtesy Cid-Mor. See the previous entry on SMOKE N ASH for more details on the band.


DAMAGE: Ohio 70’s Bands

March 12, 2008

The band Damage, based primarily in Orrville, OH, was a great hard rock band that I spent time with, mainly as a roadie and some PR. They had a great following and all of the members knew how to rock, believe me!
If memory serves in 1978 the band rose out of the ashes of a band called Soily that Rick Thistlethwaite was in with Bill Forrer and Mike Sommers. After some slight adjustments they settled on a line-up consisting of guitarists Jerry Kirven (Fat Taxi) and Mark Good, drummer Tom ‘Bones’ Morrison, bassist Michael Johnson and singer Rick Thistlethwaite. Rick Gidley joined the band as the light and sound technician.
The band played primarily hard rock in the J. Geils Band-ZZ Top-Thin Lizzy vein and within a year had a large following. In addition to covers the band played several originals and soon was playing throughout the Wayne-Holmes-Ashland-Stark-Summit county areas in clubs and bars including the Hitchin’ Post, Columbo’s/Grouchos, Fort Fizzle and many others. Some of the theatres/clubs they played included the Castle Theatre in Millersburg, OH (where they set subsequent attendance records) and the Theatrical in Wooster and some Canton venues. They also played venues like the Sportsman Club and various outdoor events including support for Savoy Brown/Kim Simmonds at Wayne County Speedway.
A great, tight sound, stage presence and one hell of a following, when the music stopped the D-A-M-A-G-E was done!
Unfortunately on January 24, 2008 Michael Johnson, Damage’s bass player who Kim Simmonds remarked could go to the “big time”, passed away at age 48.
Below are photos of Damage in action from December 31, 1978 at the Castle Theatre. Photos were taken by Gary Fulmer.

Rick Thistlethwaite, Bones Morrison, Jerry Kirven 

The great one: Michael Johnson



Rick Thistlethwaite



Rick Gidley, theatre mgmt., Michael Johnson, Doc Lehman



 Doc & Bones

Doc can be contacted at:  


Mistreater: Ohio 70’s Bands

March 9, 2008

Mistreater was a band that was formed towards the latter part of the 70’s with primarily Wayne County band members. The original line-up included Larry Nottingham – guitar; Ronnie Wilmoth – guitar; Kurt Luedy – singer; Donnie Frase – drummer and Tom Piarowski – bass. You could consider them a hard rock band but I’d have to say they leaned more towards the heavy metal side. It wasn’t long before they started playing gigs all around north central Ohio including gigs in Wooster, Creston, Burbank, Medina, Orrville, Millersburg and elsewhere. They soon became one of the top ‘local’ bands in terms of talent and popularity.
“A co-worker from Frito-Lay, Paul Leatherman, told me of two friends of his (both guitarists) who were looking for a bass player,” related bass player Tom Piarowski recently on the formation of Mistreater. Piarowski was in the band Red Dog prior to Mistreater. “He took me and my equipment to meet up with these two in one of their mobile homes. I got there and these guys sat on the couch and one would play a crunchy metal rhythm pattern while the other did this mind blowing lead, then they would switch…. then they progressed to dual leads. Meanwhile my jaw fell to the floor. I had never seen anything like these guys – at least in a mobile home in Wayne County!”
”Larry Nottingham and Ronnie Wilmoth were their names and I joined them and singer Kurt Luedy and drummer Donnie Frase to form Mistreater. We did mostly originals with a few covers like some early UFO and we even did Stranglehold by Nugent. Larry did the entire song’s leads note for note. We practiced and performed at a place called Strip’s Party Barn in Burbank. It was the upstairs of a garage/barn that some friends turned into a club. We did monthly keg parties there and finally ‘progressed’ to playing the Hitching Post in Creston.”
“We ended up gaining the reputation as the loudest and heaviest band to ever play there and even broke the highest attendance records set there by a local band named WR Gas every time we played there. We played local parties and stuff like that. My last gig with Mistreater was a big outdoor event at Strip’s place outside.”
“We were headliners with a really great band from Cleveland warming us up. Typical interpersonal differences, to be polite, caused Ronnie Wilmoth and me to break from the band and go on to something new after that outdoor gig. Larry continued Mistreater with a new bassist as a foursome and put out a couple recordings that as I have read are early metal jems that are collectable now.”
After Piarowski and Wilmoth left to form Toprow with Steve Hanna (guitarist) and Jerry Shell (drummer), Steve Walker joined Mistreater as the new bass player and in the early 80’s the band released the HELL’S FIRE album in 1981. A half dozen years later they released their second and final album, SWAMI before disbanding altogether.


Smoke ‘N Ash: Ohio 70’s Bands

March 9, 2008


Smoke ‘N Ash photo by Cid-Mor

Smoke ‘N Ash was a band that was formed circa 1974 with Scott Miller of Orrville; Dave Bennett of Canal Fulton and Jeff Nichols of Massillon. They lasted until the latter part of 1977. I don’t have any notes left from back in the day and a cloudy memory hampers me but I do remember them being a tight hard rock band that played covers and some originals. I can say without hesitation that they played one of the best versions of Train Kept ‘a Rollin’ that I have ever heard. It burned!


Among the many venues Smoke ‘N Ash played over the years was the Thrillseeker in Rittman, Massillon Legion, the 9th Street Union Hall in Massillon, the Moose and Columbo’s in Orrville and various other clubs and outdoor events throughout Wayne, Stark, Holmes and Medina counties.

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