Green Tambourine

(from They Came To Play, Stories from the Early Days of Rock by Garret Mathews, which can be ordered from by clicking here.)

In 1961, I got some mates together and formed Ivan and the Sabers. I wrote a song called "Just Let Her Go" that was enough of a hit to enable us to open for the big names that came through Ohio. This was 1964 and the Rolling Stones were making their first American tour. Only 700 people showed up in Dayton, Ohio, in a hall that seated 5,000 and the promoter lost money and almost came to blows with Mick.

We backed up Jan and Dean at the Coconut Lounge in Springfield, Ohio. They were touring alone and depending on the promoter to provide backup bands at each city. We were in the audience one night waiting for them to come on. There was some delay and I went backstage to see what the problem was. The local band must have chickened out because they claimed their sheet music blew out the window. Naturally, Ivan and the Sabers saved the day. We jumped out of the audience and backed up Jan and Dean. After the show, Dean reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out a wad of bills, but we were so blown out by getting to do such a cool thing that we declined the money.

I quit the Sabers and transferred from the University of Cincinnati to the Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where I replaced Tony of Tony and the Bandits. We changed the name to the Lemon Pipers. (I hated that stupid name.)

We opened for groups like the Jefferson Airplane and the Lovin' Spoonful. It wasn't long after we opened for John Sebastian that we signed with his record label, Kama Sutra. I think he was impressed by my rendition of "Louie, Louie" sung as "Mrs. Miller" from the Merv Griffin Show.

By September of 1968 my monthly paycheck was $25. I quit the Lemon Pipers, went back to college, graduated in 1969 and moved to San Francisco. We went from college bar band to No. 1 and back to college band in less than a year.

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