Posts Tagged ‘Orrville High School’



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!


An AMAZING Teacher Calls It A Day

June 1, 2010

Pat Warner & MARK FOWKES are both retiring this week after 36 years at OHS.

I was recently informed that Mark Fowkes is retiring at the conclusion of this school year. I think it will be a sad day for Orrville High School when Mark Fowkes departs as the school district will be losing a fine teacher.

I just want to take this opportunity to acknowledge him being such a terrific teacher to me when I was in high school. Even though he came during my junior year I took several of his (English) classes and can honestly say I learned a tremendous amount. In fact, I remember taking one of his classes (Science Fiction) twice! Although I received no credit for it the second time I still signed up for the enjoyment and debate.

How he put up with all of us longhair, hippie, freak types is beyond me. They surely didn’t pay him enough!

And that was the kicker with Mark Fowkes.  Whether you had long hair (guilty) or short hair, black or white, hippie, jock or redneck, he treated everyone the same, with respect, understanding and lots and lots of patience!

The biggest thing though as I look back was his demeanor. He was always so encouraging, positive and forthright with all of us. As I look back and I had two teachers who made a significant impact on me, one in grade school (Jill Hyde at Apple Creek) and one in high school. Mark Fowkes was the one in high school. I will never forget how encouraging he was to me in my writing and whatever creative binge I happened to be on at the time.

He was only a couple years older than my pals and myself and we all liked him, he was never patronizing. I remember right before school let out in 1975 when myself and a couple others tried, in vain, to talk him into going to see the Rolling Stones at Cleveland Stadium with us. He declined, I like to think reluctantly, and all these years later as I think back it was probably one of the wisest career moves he could have made!  I don’t mean not seeing the Stones, I mean seeing the Stones with us!

I also vaguely recall his reaction (amazement) when my buddy Flash and myself purchased three entire rows of the Richfield Coliseum for the ’76 KISS concert (their Destroyer tour). I think I offered him a ticket and stated that he should feel lucky because the tickets we gave away for free were to ‘foxes’ (that’s 70’s-speak for attractive young ladies) and we were charging the ‘dudes’. He declined again, the reason lost to time and fading memories, but again, retrospectively, a likely wise career move on his part.

Another memory that has never left me was when I submitted a required poem in one of my creative writing classes. The teacher, who didn’t care for me likely because I had longhair and was a smartass, thought I plagiarized it because it was….’good’ (Believe me, I ain’t no poet!). Good ‘ol Mark Fowkes went to bat for me and told her straight out that it was all my work because I had worked on it in his classes and I had him read it several times before I submitted it. The Courier published it!

Even though I never made it to college due primarily to an early marriage and children I was able to pursue a career in writing, public relations, marketing and promotions in motorsports that ultimately saw me inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame in 2006 along with numerous other awards and honors, including Media Member of the Year for five consectutive years by Racing America. I also had the opportunity to write for over a dozen national motorsports publications, write and produce a television show for three years, write, produce and co-host three radio programs with one being “national” and the chance to work with producers for over a year and then appear on a CNN special television program.

I also spent a few years as a features writer and columnist for the old Courier Crescent newspaper (in addition to freelancing to many other mainstream newspapers).

I owe all of this to Mark Fowkes and his encouragement 36 years ago. He was a motivator and always, always, always encouraging! I can sincerely say that my working life would have taken another direction without Mark Fowkes’ influence and encouragement. I have no complaints!

I had been published pre-Fowkes, but as I waffled about whether or not to try and get published in larger publications, he was the kick in the ass I needed at the time. He prodded, cajoled, encouraged and pushed.  Heeding his advice to go for it, in ’75 I became a features writer and columnist for The Journal, a Canadian tabloid devoted to popular culture. It was on after that.

Never one to have much confidence in myself, it was his encouragement and counsel that made me pursue my first love of writing; first in graphics oriented publications and then rock ‘n roll publications in addition to motorsports, which I pursued relentlessly upon getting married and starting a family.

Now ‘retired’, I am currently working on two books. The first has already been accepted. And I truly owe it to the inspiration and encouragement and infusion of confidence of Mark Fowkes all those years ago.

I just want to acknowledge the amazing impact and influence Mark Fowkes had on me that has carried through into my ‘old age’. He was always friendly, compassionate, sincere, encouraging and never patronizing to any of us. And I doubt he had a group of students who were as …’rambunctious’… as my pals and I were (it was the 70’s, after all)! I thank him for having patience with us!  Actually, God bless him for having patience with us!

He was not only one of the best damn teachers I ever had, he was also at the time a friend and a mentor. And I am willing to bet there are more of us out there that has similar stories.

Orrville High School is taking a hit, a loss, with his retirement and I regret my five grandsons won’t have the opportunity to learn from him. He is, and was, truly a gifted teacher.

Doc Lehman

Class of 1976

The famed Orrville bridge in ’76 that OHS senior paint each year. It didn’t stay this pristine for long – the graffiti bandits (guilty!) soon attacked!

More Orrville, Ohio and Orrville High School related posts on this website can be found here:

Power To The People, Baby! 

Where’s That Confounded Bridge?

‘Big Time’ Rock N Roll In A Small Town

Big Business Godzillas Local Landmark Theatre

Biology & Rock ‘N Roll ‘Literature’

I Liked Paul Lynde Before I ‘Met’ Him

My Last Rock Concert Promotion

My Mom Was On The Mike Douglas Show

With A Name Like Smucker’s The Beatles Have To Be Good!

DAMAGE: Ohio 70′s Bands


Power To The People, Baby!

October 22, 2008
We were front page news!

We were front page news!

Seeing that Free John Sinclair Rally poster (below) made me think back to a time in high school when many of us, as the hippie activism days began to wane, would get all worked up over perceived injustices. 36 years ago this month (October 1972) a large group of students at Orrville (Ohio) High School (myself included) got fed up with the strict dress code that was enforced at that time. Girls had to wear dresses or skirts, no pants and certainly no jeans. Boys could not have their hair over their collars. You get the picture.


After several of the girls made polite inquires about allowing girls to at least wear pantsuits was denied, one girl, Debbie L., showed up one day in a pair of jeans only to be confronted by the assistant principal. That resulted in Debbie being told by the assistant principal to go home. Word spread quickly throughout the school to all of us ‘hippie-types’ and emotions became heated. At the same time the black kids at the high school wanted a black girl chosen for the homecoming court (believe me, there were plenty of beautiful black girls at OHS then!). Things all came to a head that October day and a walk out (referred to as a ‘riot’ by administrators… it wasn’t) occurred.


Between the two issues that bubbled up that day, and with ‘unofficial coordination’ and inspiration by several young ladies at school (like Cindy M., Debbie L., Kay S., Vicky C., and Gail W., primarily) approximately 60 of us walked out of school and staged a protest in the city park next to the high school. Word quickly made it to the Wayne County Joint Vocational School and many of the Orrville students there left school and came back to town and joined us. Even the local media showed up.

We’ll let my pal, Cindy M., (Cid-Mor) explain, as she was one of the ‘ringleaders’ who had the guts to help initiate things:


“Debbie L., had worn a pair of blue jeans to school and the assistant principal had pulled Deb’s long hair and told her to go change. Well, the rebels that we were, it pissed us off and staged a ‘riot’. Many of us left the school building and went to the pavilion at the park. I guess the ‘joint’ (Wayne County Joint Vocational School) got wind of it and they left school, too. Pretty soon we had a lot of kids there.”


“Well, at that time there was also something else happening at the high school. It was football season and homecoming time. The black kids wanted a black girl on the homecoming court. Well, why not? Seemed it was just a popularity contest as the ‘smart’ rich kids were always on it. Well, they (the black kids) walked out too. In the end we got to wear jeans but they stopped having homecoming after that.”


The next day school administrators met and suspended most of us that participated for four days. Eventually the student council and administrators met, read our ‘demands’ and alterations were made to the dress code. Girls could wear jeans and the guys could grow their hair a bit longer. So, thanks to the initial efforts of Cindy M., Debbie L., Kay S., Vicky C., and Gail W., students at OHS got to dress and look like kids everywhere else.


The bad part of it was homecoming being cancelled from that point on because school officials feared a ‘race riot’ which was ludicrous because at that time in particular almost all of the black and white kids got along great. Hell, they all grew up together and any issues were usually personality driven, not race driven. Remember, there was still the buzz of peace, love & understanding in the air at that time and we were all ‘brothers and sisters’.


As for consequences at home, my parents weren’t too happy but I was never ‘punished’. Caught some hell for a few minutes but that was about it. Cindy M.’s parents never found out at the time. As she explains:


“I got up and acted like I went to school along with some buds and one of my friends stayed home and of course in the mail came the suspension notices for our parents. My friend got in my mailbox and got mine before my parents could see it. What a great friend (Kay S.)! My parents never knew until about 10 years ago (laughing)!”


By the time I got out of high school four years later I believe I may have had the longest hair in the high school and everyone pretty much wore what we wanted.

In the words of my pal Cindy M: “What a long strange trip it’s been….”


Biology & Rock ‘N Roll ‘Literature’

February 14, 2008

Way, way, way back in the early 1970’s when I attended Orrville High School I had a pretty good time (more on ‘good times’ another time soon) and for the most part the academic end of the high school experience came somewhat easy for me considering I never took a book home after my freshman year. I got decent grades, in some classes damn good grades, but there were two subjects that I just couldn’t get into no matter how hard I tried.




One was math, and the other biology. During my sophomore year biology was a required course and the lecture part of the class was taught by John Wiant who was a brilliant and extremely intelligent teacher but I just could not get into it.




After the first couple weeks it became obvious that I’d rather read my rock n roll magazines during class than listen to Mr. Wiant and take notes. A buddy of mine, who sat to the left of me, was Bug Jones and he shared my apathy for the subject.




To the right of me was a girl named Brenda S., a very pretty cheerleader who was pretty hip, too. She got Bug and myself through that course.



You see, why we laid back and read the newest issues of Circus, Creem, Rolling Stone, Rock Scene, Scene and the rest she was busy taking notes and when quiz time came around would pass her paper over to us to copy. Of course, we’d always miss a couple to get that ‘C’ grade as Brenda always got ‘A’s’.




The lecture class was held in the school auditorium and we sat back far enough that Mr. Wiant never realized, or let on, that while the majority of the class was doing the right thing (once we set a chair on fire, nevermind…..), Bug and I were reading about the latest exploits of Led Zep, Mott The Hoople, T.Rex, Rolling Stones, Montrose, David Bowie and the Spiders, Alice Cooper, Slade and all the rest.




We made it through the whole year reading rock n’ roll magazines and I passed with a ‘C’ on the year….thanks to Brenda S.!





I recall a lot of people used to borrow my rock magazines especially in study hall (hello Beth C.!). I tried to use study halls to do whatever homework was required for the following day because when that final bell rang for the day school never entered my mind until the next morning.





Throughout the 1970’s, until the end of the decade, I had complete 1970 runs of Circus, Creem and Rolling Stone with stacks and stacks of Hit Parader, Rock Scene, Crawdaddy and any others that came along that featured hard rock. Including stacks from the mid-to-late 1960’s.





I also purchased, when I was able and could find them, music newspapers/magazines from England like Melody Maker and New Musical Express, among others. Those two were, and probably still are, the top music rags in Britain and the newsstand store at Rolling Acres Mall in Akron back in the 70’s carried imported magazines including NME and MM, among the occasional other rock publication from the UK which I dutifully would buy.





I devoured all of those magazines from both sides of the pond and I think it was a huge influence after high school when I published Bangagong Magazine.




There were places around Orrville to buy the magazines, like Buehler’s grocery store, Bigler’s, and Dick Zarle’s drug store uptown (good ‘ol Dick once told me, I swear to God (!), “Hey, kid, this ain’t no library!”) and it seemed like the magazine rack at the Three Sisters Restaurant always had a good selection and often got them sooner than the other places in town, plus they were always open for breakfast as I headed for school (and sometimes stopped for breakfast, too).



Wish I still had all of them!


And rest in peace Lester Bangs!



Welcome To The Club

February 14, 2008

Welcome to my time traveling adventures.

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