Dance halls, Amories and Teen Fairs

Written by Don Rogers A History and Discography of Pacific Northwest Rock & Pop Recording Artists of the Fifties and Sixties.

Years of research went into the making of this book, which contains over 60 popular group and solo artist biographies, more than 200 rare photographs, posters and other items of memorabilia, along with a discography that contains over 600 group and solo artist entries – documenting thousands of records created by Pacific Northwest singers and musicians.

Of course one of the featured bands are The Bards, below is an ercept from the book which is still avalible on Amazon or scoure your local thrift store. 

Author’s (Don Rogers) note: In most cases, the information in this book has come from two or more sources. In the case of the Bards I was very lucky in that Mike Balzotti, the group’s keyboard player kept a journal during those years with the group. Mike then used his computer system to type up and print out the following story of The Bards which is complete unto itself and I felt there was nothing for me to add.

Mike’s note: This information was given in 1988 (20 years after-the-fact), but a true account as memory serves! The last paragraph was added by Chuck Warren in 2002 as an update to what The Bards are doing today.


Rock and Roll Questionnaire

Bob Gallaway Drums / Vocals
Chuck Warren Bass Guitar / Vocals
Mardi Sheridan Lead Guitar / Vocals
Mike Balzotti Keyboards / VocalsWHEN: 1961-1969
WHERE: Moses Lake, Washington


The Story of How it All Began

The Bards, not unlike many groups had an evolution. It began with a group known as “The Fabulous Continentals” with Miss Marsha May Covey and John Draney, as lead vocalists. The average age of group members was about 15, but that is not to say that it wasn’t a serious effort. The group played many high school proms and senior parties in just about every little eastern Washington town from Wenatchee to Walla Walla.

The music was the pop music of the late fifties and early 60’s with a lot of variety, as we tried to imitate the top 50 on the record charts. As the group became more popular and the demand for performances on weekends extended from the school gym to the local roller-rink, the band needed to become independent of Ms. Marsha May’s chaperone –her mother! In the wake of the group’s divorce, made official by Marsha’s mother’s announcement in the Moses Lake Daily Herald, the group solidified in its resolve to “make it.” Chuck Warren and Mike Balzotti survived several changes in personnel, masterminding the group’s progress and potential.
The change in personnel was parallel to the changes taking place in the music industry as a whole. The Ventures and their Northwest counterparts, The Wailers, The Dynamics, the Sonics and others, who concentrated on instrumental “riff” music, were upstaged by the British sound and of course, The Beatles. We wanted to “become” the Beatles. We wanted our own identity to be sure, but with the “Mersey beat” and the new emphasis on “group vocals” there was much to learn –now suddenly everyone was a singer and The Beatles were light years ahead of just about everybody else save possibly The Beachboys (and they were becoming “old school”).
The transformation for us required a complete metamorphoses. For beginners, “The Fabulous Continentals” simply would not do as a name. “The Bards” came from a Roget’s Thesaurus –the word “Bard” meaning “a traveling English minstrel; poet” …perfect. We were a traveling group of musicians and we wanted to write our own music like the Beatles did. The reference to England was the clincher.

Next came the custom wardrobe. We turned in our red and blue collarless blazers for tailor-made ruffled shirts, bellbottom suede pants with matching vests and high heeled boots. We invested in a sophisticated portable lighting system with the latest light show breakthrough –strobe lights! We became a foursome when John Draney, our lead singer joined the army. We were then literally forced to learn to sing together –again trying to emulate the “fab four”. Also, since there was no star, no one to focus on, we had to all become stars –a kind of blessing in disguise …instead of John, Paul, George and Ringo, it was Chuck, Mike, Mardi and Bob. We took our respective roles seriously, being isolated in Moses Lake, away from competing artisans and the cynicism of the big cities, we were stuck with each other for better or for worse –which was no doubt the single biggest factor to our regional success –we had what so few rock groups ever enjoy –LONGEVITY! With longevity comes territorial rights of the individual members as each one gravitates to his own unique contribution –call it group chemistry. The collective effort creates a “Group Chemistry” that is an almost magical total greater than the sum of its parts. There is a relatively new word for this phenomenon coined by Buckminister Fuller –it’s called synergism. Anyway, call it what you want, in our isolation we created it and it worked.

Chuck Warren was the ‘cool’, leader and brilliant arbitrator of all disputes. With incredible patience he would listen to everyone’s point of view and then synthesize the difference into a compromise everyone could live with –“win-win.” Mike Balzotti and Mardi Sheridan wrote most of the original music and provided the creative input, so far as writing and arranging the music. Bob Gallaway was the heart of the group –funny, always an entertainer and making friends for us everywhere. We were all interested in promotion. And we did promote ourselves. We took our own pictures; made our own posters; tacked up the posters on every telephone pole in the vicinity of our performances; booked our own dances by renting the hall, hiring a policeman, paying for radio spots, getting someone to take tickets at the door, etc. We were, in fact, young entrepreneurs. Four was a good number –besides, everyone had a window seat in our Cadillac. In order to afford the car, we decided not to have a roadie like many other groups, which saved us the cost of both the roadie and a van. To carry our equipment we had a trailer custom made with a Cadillac wheel base and Michelin tires, so we could get there fast and safe. We also learned very quickly that the only way to be safe with long hair in the 60’s in cowboy towns was to feign big money by driving up in a Cadillac and staying at the nicest motel in town. It served the dual purpose of survival and “image,” or, “winning by intimidation.” Anyway, with our white Caddy convertible, matching white trailer and big red English type-style letters spelling “THE BARDS”, we were a sight to behold –the circus come to town!

Perhaps most significantly however, we began writing music and performing our own songs, mixed with pop tunes at our performances. Soon enough, our fans began requesting our songs, which was no small thing. Any respectable dance band knows people won’t dance to an unfamiliar beat and a song they don’t recognize from the radio. We kept the beat familiar and they learned to recognize and enjoy our songs enough to request them. The evolution was complete. We had an original sound and look, if not original roots. We were on our way.

As many artists know, the so-called “big break” comes after many ‘little breaks” are earned along the way. A significant little break for the Bards was our isolation as mentioned earlier, which allowed us to survive without overexposure. However, in time, small towns in eastern Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho were not enough. We longed for opportunities in Seattle, Spokane and Portland dance halls. The problem was that the ‘big boys” controlled the big markets. Of the big boys, Pat O’Day was the biggest. Not only was he program director for KJR, one of the top ten ‘break out” stations in the country, with sister stations in Spokane and Portland, but he formed Pat O’Day and Associates, which ultimately became Concerts West –a top booking agency in the U .S. Again, the problem was that we were an unknown commodity in the Northwest coastal dance market and subsequently couldn’t get them to hire us. We rose to the challenge.

Pat O’Day and Associates were gradually moving into eastern Washington –our territory. We decided to throw a dance opposite them in Wenatchee, where we were more popular than their Seattle groups. It worked. Their dance flopped as ours was successful and suddenly we had a bargaining chip which got their attention and the opportunity to discuss coastal bookings. That “little break” gave us exposure to not only larger crowds in larger cities, but other opportunities as well –recording opportunities. The “big break” for The Bards came through our recording efforts in Seattle.





Our “big break” as it were, came with the release of the record “NEVER TOO MUCH LOVE”. Ironically, though we were becoming best known for our own music, our biggest claim to fame was an original arrangement of an old Curtis Mayfield tune that was the flip side of an old record. The following is a true story that summarizes much of what The Bards were and much of what is involved behind the scenes in the music business. Chuck Warren’s mother-in-law worked for a radio station in Moses Lake. The way we found “Never Too Much Love” was by searching through the stacks of old records we had access to at the radio station. The Beatles had just released “All You Need is Love” in 1967 and in our own way we wanted to give our “love” message to the world as well. With the war in Vietnam and flower children blooming in San Francisco, the time was ripe. Delusions of grandeur you say? Well, maybe, but read on. The problem was that the song had the message, but lacked “pizzazz.” The group wrote and arranged an instrumental prelude that seemed to fit and certainly had pizzaz, with an up tempo bass line and elbow up and down the chopped down B-3 Hammond organ. It was a slow song with a surprise “how-fast-are-you-going” start. Jerry Dennon –grand daddy of the northwest recording opportunities, of “Louie Louie” fame, agreed to be executive producer. Arrangement credits were given to Gil Bateman, who ultimately became an executive for Elektra records, but at the time of our recording session was preoccupied with throwing darts at a dart board in Kearney Barton’s Fifth Avenue 3 track recording studio in downtown Seattle. In spite of the limitations of 3 track recording, we proceeded to overdub voices, a mandolin and other little doo da’s to further spice up our love song. What evolved on tape seemed to hang together in spite of our trial and error recording technique and virtually no expertise in that art form. As far as we were concerned it was all done with mirrors anyway!

Once we had copies of the final product we rushed for an audience with the King-Maker -Pat O’Day at KJR. Pat O’Day by this time had a working relationship with us, or at least it would be fair to say he knew who we were, as one of his top 5 groups playing the teen dance circuit (which included Lakehills, at Crossroads in Bellevue; Parkers on Aurora N.; and The BFD in White Center, to name a few). So, we had his attention anyway, but as it turned out he was not impressed. Mr. O’Day put the song on his turntable and played with the “EQ” levels (sophisticated tone controls) and told us that the quality of the “high end” was not there –we had lost too many “generations” in our multi-track recording. In other words, it was less than Hollywood state-of-the art recording. Also, he argued that being a top breakout station, getting national attention, KJR could not afford to patronize a local group, or suffer the consequences with its’ other local groups and the conflict of interest between his radio programming interests as program manager and his dance band booking interests. In short, he could not afford to do us any unwarranted favors. The points were good, but not well taken.

We walked away from that confrontation more determined than ever to get a public hearing. You may recall that we had been intimidated once before and had risen to the occasion. So, once again we reverted to our “small town” do-it-yourself mentality which had given us our opportunities to date. But the problem was enormous. It was a classic vicious circle. Radio stations won’t play records that aren’t selling and subsequently on the pop charts in the stores and stores won’t stock records that aren’t being played on the radio stations play list. Catch 22. We had always done everything ourselves, as mentioned earlier, so becoming record promoters and distributors seemed like the logical next step.

We obtained copies of our records. We had a 3 color cardboard standup poster made of our group with a plastic record holder fastened to the front. The idea was simple enough. As we toured our Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Idaho circuit, we would make a point to go to the town’s radio station in Yakima, or wherever we were and introduce ourselves to the disc jockey on duty. He was invariably pleased to meet a known local group and would politely oblige us by playing our record. Our local fan club would then request the record to be played. About the same time we would stop at all the local record stores and leave them an easel poster with a few free records. Kids would buy the records and a legitimate, albeit small demand was set in motion. Finally, after extensive play in eastern Washington, KJRB, KJR’s sister station in Spokane and KISN, KJR’s sister station in Portland, began playing the record. It was well received and became a #1 record in Spokane. Pat O’Day then was willing to play a legitimate local hit, though ironically, his so-called “break-out” station did, of course, miss the first opportunity! It became #1 in Seattle and subsequently in many cities across the country –including top ten status in places like Miami and Honolulu. We even heard reports of airplay in Europe and armed forces radio in Viet Nam (unconfirmed). At the very least, a national hit from a door-to-door effort by a local Northwest group with no management –not bad!

The record had been released in the Northwest on Jerry Dennon’s “Piccadilly” label, but was sold to Capitol Records for national distribution. Record executives at Capitol told us there was a time lag in the transfer to Capitol which cost us momentum from the regional to national distribution. The record had been out for month in the Northwest before it became a Gavin pick and got attention in other parts of the country. But in spite of this so-called loss of momentum, “Never Too Much Love” made it to #67 nationally, as reported in Cash Box (a trade magazine for the record industry).

Of course, it also gave us an open door to subsequent L.A. recording opportunities and concert tours with headline name acts like the Turtles, The Dave Clark Five, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Tommy Roe and others. It was glory road, signing autographs everywhere we went, being carried off stage by police to protect us from the anxious crowds, immediate recognition in teen circles, etc. We enjoyed in fact, a taste, a taste of stardom –at least locally, in the great Northwest. Over the course of 8 years we had recording contracts with Piccadilly, Jerden, Parrot, Mercury, Together and Capitol Records. Of a half dozen or so records, two others received significant local air play –“Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues” written by Danny O’Keefe and a Jimmy Webb tune called “Tunesmith”.

The height of our success was in 1967 during the reign of “Never Too Much Love. An irony of this highly successful period was that the opportunity was never fully realized. Earlier we mentioned the group’s isolation as a major factor in its “longetivity.” However perhaps with a need for a sabatical, or at least some independence from the older members of the group, a key member, Mardi Sheridan left to go to San Francisco and join the “movement” there. He was replaced temporarily with a virtuoso guitarist known as “Apple Andy” and Mark Chelson, singer and saxophone player from George Washington and the Cherry Bombs. During this period the group was booked solid with advance bookings but at modest fees. The group enjoyed large audiences everywhere we went, which prompted promoters on a few occasions to pay us unsolicited bonuses. Clearly we were underpaid and ill-prepared for our sudden notoriety with our hit record and revamped group.

Mardi Sheridan returned to the group after “Never Too Much Love” had pretty much run its course. The Bards regrouped around our original English poet and minstrel theme and decided we would literally put poetry to music. Armed with a “garage” tape of our current efforts, it was off to Hollywood to find a producer and a new beginning. While in an elevator between executive suites we met Curt Boetcher. Curt Boetcher and Keith Olsen produced The Association’s Along Comes Mary, ‘Wendy’, and a host of other hits (like Tommy Roe’s “Hello, Sweet Pea” and “Hurray for Hazel”). Curt and Keith liked the group and its originality and were interested in making a studio quality group out of live entertainers used to singing at 125 decibels (very loud) and therefore not accustomed to the finesse and sophistication of 16 track latest state-of-the-art facilities and techniques. To make a long story short, the group broke under the strain, but did create, during its last years (1969) an album never-to-be-released, containing all original songs inspired from the words of other more famous “bards” like T.S. Elliot and others.

It was an expensive and grand effort, using creative innovations in a narrative spoken through a moog synthesize, when synthesizers were still a mystery to most artists. Keith Olsen, who later went on to produce an album with Fleetwood Mac, was co-producer with Curt Boetcher. Together they combined brilliant studio and vocal arrangement wizardry. We learned much, but were awed and ill-prepared for such an intense effort. In the end, after the completion of the album, Curt offered to come back to the Northwest and sign with the group. Mardi Sheridan and Mike Balzotti were delighted with the opportunity to continue our growth with our Hollywood mentor. However, Chuck Warren and Bob Gallaway were more interested in returning to our old money making circuit and preserving our autonomy. That decision was the end of The Bards. Mike and Mardi left the group on that turn of events and ultimately moved to L.A. to pursue their writing and recording careers. Bob and Chuck regrouped and carried on with the name for a time before disbanding. It was over.

Mardi and Mike brought in Michael Langdon, a local Seattle singer song-writer extraordinaire and continued for a year or so, recording and regrouping toward a new recording / performing tour group. The effort produced some good music and hard times as we tried to adapt to the change from the beautiful Northwest and notoriety to the accelerated pace of smog city. Being just another no-name group starving it out on promises was not sufficient. We wanted to go home.

Michael Balzotti and Michael Langdon got back together as a duo called “The Michaels”, playing local Seattle clubs at night, while going to college in the daytime. Mardi Sheridan and Bob Gallaway also got respective groups together for a time, but these efforts were relatively short-lived means to independent ends. We had had a taste of the big time and knew of the sacrifices necessary to sustain that intense of an effort. After a kind of marriage for 8 years and the interdependency of’ ‘Group Life’, it is interesting to note that all of the original Bards have chosen careers outside of the music business per se, with perhaps their one common denominator ironically being positions of relative independence and autonomy. There would be no denying those 8 years together was an incredibly unique and priceless education in business, interpersonal and communicative skills.

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