Early recordings were done in Seattle at Kearney Barton’s studio under the Monorail on 5th ave.  We had to time it so the train passing overhead didn’t interfere with recording.  And in those days of pre-auto tune and limited tracks to record, the lead and background vocals were done simultaneously and mixed on the go.  In this shot, we’re recording “Jabberwocky.”  Well, in actuality, we were were pretending to record for the shot, but it was in fact the way we recorded in those early days.



If you remember the 60’s,

 you weren’t really there.

 

Early in the 1960s, before the Beatles, about the time that the Wailers and Kingsmen were waking up Seattle and the three chords of Louie Louie were inspiring garage bands along the west coast, The Fabulous Continentals evolved on the other side of Washington State. Consisting mainly of Moses Lake High School music students and one Air Force brat, the Continentals configuration was constantly being shaped by graduation, college, the army draft, and parents.

When the final combination of Mike Balzotti on keyboards, Mardi Sheridan on guitar, Bob Gallaway on drums and Chuck Warren on bass arrived, The Bards  (olde English minstrels who traveled from town to town singing and performing for their bed and board) was born,

Eight years of intense effort took them to every dance hall, armory, roller rink and radio station in the Northwest traveling in the Bardmobile.

As their local acclaim grew, they began sharing the stage with acts like BJ Thomas, the Beau Brummels, The Dave Clark Five, Young Rascals, Animals, The Turtles, the Box Tops and many more.

Legendary Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame DJ and concert promoter Pat O’Day featured them in concert with Tommy Roe, where police had to escort them off stage past a screaming mob of young teens at the Seattle Coliseum.  Their stage garb in tatters and various scrapes and scratches convinced them to cower in the recesses of the Coliseum for over an hour, waiting for the coast to clear so they could escape to their hotel.

 In a documentary on Northwest Rock, O’Day was asked what NW group deserved greater national recognition. – He answered, “The Bards.”

Mike Balzotti

 

The Bards experience ~

In retrospect, my experience as a Bard  was a decades long magical mystery tour with life changing lessons that still show up a half century later!

In terms of artistry, Mardig and I enjoyed writing songs, which often, for me, was a process starting with what I came to call counter-melodic rhythmic piano themes with implied melodies.

If there was a differentiating role for me in developing our group – especially when covering top 40 tunes as a dance band, I had a penchant for pulling the different instrumental parts and harmonies out of the original artists records and translating those parts to the group.

That said, I’m artistically most proud of our original music, with our ability to pull it off at the local dance hall. No small feat! 

Nothing quite like being on the road in a rock ‘n roll band in the 60’s!

Ultimately ‘our’ music was recorded by 2 of the best producers in the industry. That legacy of original music, The Moses Lake Recordings, is the pinnacle of our creative life as a group, archived and available for you to experience on this site!

Moving on ~ 

Transitioning to family man and businessman / educator ~

During that 10-year run as a Bard I got married and started a family. Over the course of 18 years that marriage produced 6 wonderful humans – without a doubt, my best ‘productions’. 

Today the beat goes on, with 8 grandchildren!

As a family man the desire for stability led to playing piano bars in clubs while attending graduate school, ultimately earning Bachelor’s degrees in Music and Philosophy and a Masters in Educational Psychology – Counseling  from the University of Washington. 

I leveraged that education into a successful real estate practice with various roles over the years, including ownership of Balzotti & Company Real Estate Inc. in Seattle.

Today I live in Scottsdale, Arizona and have returned to that educator role – ‘mastery is the art of creating distinctions’ is one of my many mantras. It’s led to creating my Peak Training Series as Director of Education for Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty.

The music gene lives on ~

I’ve continued to compose and record in my home studio for decades. In fact you can find me on Spotify, though I don’t know how they actually acquired my music!

Most currently the focus has been on video production – in particular, something I call Storyography, where I produce 3-minute profile videos – non-scripted stories that are highly produced. 

All of my current activities in work and play can be found on MikeBalzotti.com

Perspective ~

There’s always been that desire to keep the creative juices flowing, first in that traveling rock ’n roll band and finally in the privacy of my home studio. I feel blessed to be born the year the transistor was invented – and now marvel to be living in a time when professional production tools are affordable – something for which we once had to hawk our souls for access. 

Frequencies beyond music ~

There’s another parallel track in my life that I’d be remiss not referencing. That would be my life long interest in metaphysics. 

Today I continue to be a student of frequency and ‘energy work’. 

An example and wonderful tie-in with music is binaural beats – embedding brain-entrainment frequencies within soundscapes as a meditative and therapeutic healing technique. 

It’s fascinating to me that the quantum laws of sound, with its inherent harmonics and overtones, scale-to-light in a continuum that ultimately brings us to a fractal universe that is at the core of existence as we know it. 

Heavy, right:) 

On the lighter side ~ 

I love to say only half in jest – the transition from rock ‘n roll to real estate wasn’t really as different as it might sound. After all, you get paid on a performance basis, work evenings and weekends, and it’s always ‘smile and move around’!

My best ‘productions’

One of many happy moments in Maui with my soulmate!

My best ‘productions’

Mardig Sheridan

( Mardi )

I was twelve years old when my US Air Force dad finally relented and bought a beat up acoustic guitar for $3 and handed it to me.  I was thrilled!  I still can remember lying in bed before sleep and strumming the open strings in rhapsody.  My father wasn’t quite as thrilled and suggested I come back when I learned how to play.  So I did.  I devoted myself to learning how to play and I was playing in a band at fourteen.  I loved music.  I loved playing guitar, singing, and performing. To this day, I cherish that time of my life with the Bards.  

 

When the band broke up, Mike and I moved to L.A.  My first wife and I had our daughter Aimee.  I worked at Sound City as a 2nd engineer (nice title for janitor) and my wife Denise was the receptionist.  Mike and I stayed close with Curt who at one time attempted to put together a band with us, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham and Waddy Wachtel.  After that didn’t pan out, we tried with another set of musicians, but it was hell living in L.A. and I wanted out. 

 

I moved back to Ellensburg, WA and completed my Psych degree.  My daughter Heidi was born but soon after, the marriage ended. At the same time, the siren call of music led me to several more years of playing and performing, culminating in a spectacular band of musicians called “Flavour.”  We were a funky, jazz fusion, blues, R&B type group and good enough that other musicians would come to see us. I think we were even more honored that we had black fans come to our gigs.  We were so funky, that ‘Tower of Power’ would demand that we be on the gig when they came to town.  We were ready to break out.  But once again, despite the status we achieved, the band broke up.  That convinced me, at the ripe old age of 25, that putting my life in the hands of eccentric, however talented, musicians had to end.  

 

I began writing and producing advertising music and ultimately founded an advertising agency.  My boutique agency grew, and as it did, I spent more time “parenting” employees than I did creating, so I left it to my partners and struck out on my own again.

 

I formed a production company after spending several years learning my film directing chops at the CBS affiliate in Seattle.  Directing commercials, writing and producing radio and ad music, ultimately led me to developing a movie project which I haven’t given up on!  “Be Bop A Lula, the story of Gene Vincent” is a project I embarked upon with my partner and producer, Ned Neltner (he of Junior Cadillac fame)  and co-writer and producer, Dean Paton.  I still hold out belief and continue to work on getting it made.  When I moved on from advertising I put together a wonderful consortium of contributors and directed and gave away a dramatic little film called The Girl in the Yellow Dress” to benefit Post Polio survivors.  And a few years ago, I directed a dramatic short film about a father and his son who come to crisis in the VietNam era called “The Gift.”  It made the rounds of film festivals around the world and did well. 

  

While developing that project, I attended a personal development course called “The Pursuit of Excellence.”  My generation loved spending our days in self-actualization and in self-contemplation. (Something frankly that I think kids today could benefit from) Ultimately I was trained and began facilitating “The Pursuit” which led me to corporate work, initially at Microsoft.  That opened many doors for me.  I called on my performing acumen, my advertising background and facilitation chops and developed an IP methodology called Strategic Envisioning™.  I lead executive teams in developing their business strategy. I also incorporated an assessment tool called the Harrison Assessment, and helped to design and deliver people dynamics courses which I led for many years.  Happily today I’m in what I call “selective retirement.”  Meaning I don’t have to work anymore, but I like what I do and I’m good at it, so I keep exercising my brain for my established clients…selectively.

 

Most importantly, I found the love of my life with my wife, Stacey.  We’re on our way to 40 years together and I keep hoping she won’t wake up one day, slap herself in the head and wonder, “what was I thinking?”  We are blessed to have homes in Seattle and Puerto Vallarta, and for whatever time is left to me, I know that every day is a gift, and that my life has happily been a joyful journey.  I have no regrets, although I probably owe a lot of people an apology.

 

 

 

I tell my grandkids, don’t get all stressed out because you don’t know what you’ll be doing the rest of your life.  Trust me, it will change.  After the Bards I built a boutique ad agency, was a writer-director of radio/TV commercials, personal development facilitator, a workshop facilitator, designer and a corporate strategist wearing, god help us, a suit!  I was thrilled to direct a dramatic short that made the rounds of various festivals and best of all, premiered at the Seattle Film Festival…and I’m not dead yet!  When I’m asked, “when will you really retire?” -my answer is simple.  When I don’t love what I’m doing…or…

“If you believe in forever,
Then life is just a one-night stand.
If there’s a rock and roll heaven,
Well you know they’ve got a hell of a band.”

Chuck Warren

The 1960s was a magical time for music and for me as a musician.  I would not trade the eight years from 1962 to 1970 that I spent on the road with the Bards for anything. It was an absolutely amazing, wonderful adventure!

But in 1970, I woke up one morning and on impulse, notified all concerned that I was going back to college to complete the degree in architecture that I had not finished during my musician years. I had a wife and two children at home, and life on the road had become less appealing as a way of making a living. It was in the middle of a semester at college, so I was going to relax for a month or two.  The next day, I really slept in!!  Then I aired up the tires on an old bicycle I had and rode around Moses Lake for a day. The next morning, I discovered that just doing nothing was not possible! I went to the employment office and said I just needed something to do until the next school semester started. They sent me to Lad Irrigation, a company that designs, sells, and installs agricultural irrigation equipment. I fell in love with the company and the work and stayed there for the next forty-two years!  I received a fantastic education. The on-the-job experience in all areas of construction, excavation, concrete, welding, electrical, heavy equipment, troubleshooting, were some of my favorite years.  Eventually, moving into management and being in the middle of customer needs, salesmen’s deadlines, and promises with employees’ workload and issues made for never a dull or boring moment and a celebration whenever a plan came together!

I had so burned out on music that I literally quit playing my bass for almost all the years I worked at Lad.   I had many interests and enjoyed weekends and holidays, hunting artifacts along the Columbia River, or backpacking in the Cascade Mountains.  I built a house and learned to build and fly radio-controlled airplanes.  Art projects, sculpting, drawing, photography, and geology were all interests that I pursued with passion when I could find the time.

My son, Justin, who was born about the time I quit playing (1969), found my bass one day and wanted to know what it was.  I showed him the three chords and eight notes of Louie Loue, and he took it to his room. Within a few years, he was playing at a level far above what I had ever played. 

In 1983, after my first marriage of 18 years had ended, I married Dede, a friend I had known for years. Our daughter, Chazz was born in 1990 and once again, my child finding my bass and asking questions got her started and she has since studied with Edgar Meyer and John Clayton.

I retired when I turned 65 and found myself with time to think about music again. I had been watching Chazz, and my desire to play returned. I borrowed one of Chazz’s uprights and got together with some local musicians. One of them had been the director of music at our local community college so I was embarrassed to have to ask him the names of the strings on the bass. True story!! You can forget a lot in 40 years.

I started having so much fun and for the next six or seven years found myself playing in a nice list of groups: The Grant County Centennial Band, Night Shift, Time Flyer, Cover Story, What, A jazz trio. Playing at many local events and venues! So much fun, so many friends made, so much loving the joy of making music.

A real highlight of that time was in 2016 when Mardig had a 50-year class reunion in Moses Lake and my band, Cover Story played for it.  Mardig came to Moses Lake, and we rehearsed together so he could play with us.  We learned Never Too Much Love, The Owl and the Pussycat, Jabberwocky and others. It was so fantastic after fifty years to be playing Bard music with Mardig live for people dancing and singing along!

I had a health scare in 2015 that made me want to complete adventures on my ‘someday’ list while I still had the health to do it and I embarked on travels to see the world. I was able to visit all seven continents including  both the Arctic and Antarctic circles so now have a pretty good idea of what a lot of the globe looks like!

I love watching Justin and Chazz and a grandson, Jerrick Crites who is a fantastic guitar player (Odyssey, in Spokane) and recently saw Paul McCartney in Spokane. The Beatles were such gods to me as a young musician and I never got to see them live.  Paul made up for that!   The Rolling Stones are playing in Seattle!  May have to go!  WOW!  Sixties music. Magical and timeless!!



Bob Gallaway

Bob Gallaway:  Bob passed away in 1994.  Much too soon.  From his son, Robert, we got this condensed version of his journey after the Bards:

He showed Arabian horses for years.  He worked for Tsubota steel in Seattle and was general business manager for Dimensional Engineering. He later worked for BMC West in Spokane until he passed in 1994.  He raised me and my step brother Tom, who took our last name and he was a great drummer.

I want to add that Bob was like my older brother.  He taught me lessons, some of which became clear to me years after the band broke up.  But when we were together, and when I unfortunately behaved like an entitled Rock star, he would confront me.  Several times he literally slapped me upside the head, and even though I resented it at the time, I knew he was right.  But he always did it with love and caring.  For that I am grateful.

Bob was also one of the funniest people I’ve ever known, and he would make up phrases in his own invented language, one of which reminds me to this day of his “down to earth” style.  One day he jumped into the Bardmobile as we were setting off for our weekend gigs, and mentioned something that he had quit doing or eating…I can’t really remember.  But when asked why, he responded with “la cote ote lagote.”  (Pron: The last three words rhyme with oat.)

 When we were done laughing, Chuck asked, what does that mean?  He replied with a straight face, “The cost takes away the taste.”  I can’t tell you how many times in my life since then I’ve muttered to myself, la cote ote lagote.  

When Chuck, Mike and I get together, we spend hours regaling stories of Bob (some of which we will reveal on the Stories page in time) and laughing out loud remembering.

 

I miss him.  – Mardig



 

Curated Cool

 

Hipsters, flipsters and finger poppin’ daddies… lend me your ears!   Or in this case, your eyes.  Everybody loves a cool story. 

We be sharing ours hoping you’ll be entertained, not just because they are Bard escapades, but because they’re interesting stories.  At least we’re entertained in the retelling.  Let us know! (contact info below)  Or, if you have one about us (because it’s always about us you know), please share it and we’ll post it, unless it’s X-rated, in which case we’ll regale ourselves with it.  

Never Too Much Love baby!



Anteaters and Early Mornings

Anteaters and Early Mornings

Anteaters and Early Mornings Curt & memorable moments went together. One day we returned to Curt's house after one of our LA adventures &I sat on his couch to relax. His pet miniature anteater, that had managed to claw a hole completely through a solid wooden...

Desert Hot Springs

Desert Hot Springs

Desert Hot Springs After weeks of recording, Curt decided that a break for rejuvenation was required & we all packed into his tiny Toyota & headed for Desert Hot Springs. On the way, we stopped at a tram that went to the top of a mountain in the Jacinto...

Dance Halls Armoires and Teen Fairs

Dance Halls Armoires and Teen Fairs

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 recordscreated by Pacific Northwest singers and musicians

Reunion

The last time all 4 Bards were together was the occasion of Mike’s 40’th birthday in 1987. Their “pose” mirrors an original promotional picture that was used on a surprise release of some of the Bards recordings.

The ‘surprise’ was that none of the members of the band were aware of the compilation or release. Mike discovered the album on a casual look through a “NW Artists” music section at Peaches–a record store in the University District, Seattle.  What wasn’t a surprise is that they didn’t receive a dime of residuals.