Pilgrims Band

WHEN WERE … “DEN & GLENN TOGETHER AGAIN” … in the PAST?
2020: I found … A TAPE FROM 1969 … of a couple of songs done at a gig of a reunited “Pilgrims”. Who? One of Dennis’ early bands made up of fellow childhood chums Ron Harkai, guitarist Glenn Schwartz and bassist Pete Dragas. (GS and PD now of Blessed Memory). They had an offer to be the “first white band signed to Motown”. It wasn’t meant to be … because military duty trumped musical duty. A draft notice was served on guitarist Schwartz … the Air Force got drummer Ron … bandleader Dennis ended up in the Ohio National Guard. (More about that later) Bassist Pete Dragas was deferred.
Back to about the tracks recorded by me. They were from when Dennis and Ron had one of their gigs at LaCave. Since the iconic Cleveland venue was located in what typically was known back in the day as “a changing neighborhood” … (read: white flight) … it drew many lovers of diverse sounds. BTW: I found some very interesting info of an even earlier time … in that ‘hood. It had to do with Dennis’ family tree on the Weill side which included Groucho Marx … and other Vaudevillians … of the-extended-mishpocha-type. Perhaps why Dennis was drawn … to that ever entertaining area … wanting to do gigs there, too. Google … “E 105 & Euclid”. Also at Carlo Wolff’s “Invisible Soul” page … one can find some fun photos. I wish I had taken more pics … but I should be grateful I was given the wherewithal … to capture on cassette … these few tracks.

Speaking of capturing Den & Glenn Together Again … Look up on You Tube … to see and hear … the guys when they performed as “The Schwartz Brothers” band … (with Dennis guesting … hence the D & G together again theme). The group consisted of Glenn’s brother Gene Schwartz aka Geno and Paul O’Brien on drums. DC, GGS, GS playing together again … was special indeed, to say the least. Those reunion gigs seemed to take everyone to “A Higher Place”. Just ask those followers of SB band … OR … you can ask the following club owners of the places where they played … Major Hoopples, Mike’s Barn owner Michael Yates, Beachland Ballroom & Tavern owners Cindy Barber and Nick Amster. Footnote: Dennis would always run into dear Nick at Solon’s Get Go … Nick would retrieve from the trunk of his car… numerous CD recordings (usually of their mutual bandmate … dear Robert Lockwood). When he returned home one of those times … I suggested to Den … the next time he sees Nick … to take Nick up on his offer. (to make CD copies of those nights … I called, “Den & Glenn Together Again” at the Beachland). Den would always forget to ask him for the dubs. Then one time I saw Nick inside Market District … I was about to ask him … but I saw he was busy bagging his groceries … and I thought to myself, “Oh, I’ll catch him another time”. That’s the last time I saw him. Nick passed away recently. But, his memory is a Blessing. Remember … Life is short … Time is fleeting.

Again … go to You Tube and search Glenn Schwartz and Dennis Chandler… see and hear for yourself. It was a great ride while it lasted. Now Nick is there to help Glenn … to Rock on in Heaven.
And the beat will go on for Den … maybe on … Zoom. Yeah, once I teach myself how to … Zoom. Zoom … Zoom is something I used for posts of Den’s classic car cruisin’ gigs. Like when he and Glenn got together again … at Annabelle’s Diner … (but that’s a story for another time).

Speaking of Another Time … Back to the Future

PILGRIMS BAND 1964 PUBLICITY PHOTO DENNIS CHANDLER

PILGRIMS BAND 1964 DENNIS CHANDLER PLYMOUTH ROCK LABEL RECORD

Plymouth Rock

Maudy

From Pioneers To A Pilgrim On The Rocks / But Without The $ Rolls $

While still in Cleveland musician-Dennis and a group of his hometown friends formed a band and called themselves, “The Pilgrims” Perhaps the name was fortuitous for they seemed aptly named. Playing around … those places and in those times… in Detroit’s musical history? It was, “Priceless”, Dennis said. 

First about the band members in “The Pilgrims”: There was the virtuoso guitarist Glenn Schwartz, with whom guitarist-Dennis loved sharing lead solos. Plus pianist-Dennis doubled on organ. Any rhythm chords he added, he said, “was pure pleasure” for the band had an already pulsating rhythm section… what with Ronald Harkai on drums and the late Pete Dragas on bass. (Together they were able to give, what mentor BB King often described to “adopted-son-Dennis” … as that feeling of “what brung ya to the dance”… “music that included… a walkin’ bass with a shufflin’ beat!”) So it was not surprising … once heard … the boys in the band were asked to back up many early rock and rollers. Which was a prediction by promoter Kermit Price. Who? An owner of Ohio clubs i.e., “The Note” in Ruggels Beach, Rathskeller, Erie Inn (Sandusky), etc. Price’s connections helped seal some deals with certain Detroit dudes who had to do with HITSVILLEL USA and MOTOWN RECORDS. Then The Pilgrims became the HOUSEBAND for the legendary powerhouse RADIO STATION “CKLW”. In support of the station’s musical format … there were many various live events and promotions. Musician-Dennis had even more opportunity to play for those diverse audiences. Plus pianist-Dennis also became arranger and accompanist at many after-parties, too. House parties of fond memory include the ones at the residences of Rev. Cecil Franklin (Aretha’s father) and Hank Ballard of “Hank Ballard & The Midnighters”, to name just two. (Talk ‘bout “stand and deliver”!)

But, “the baptism-by-fire” of Dennis was via the originators of rock, the BLUESMASTERS themselves. Hard learned but lovingly taught lessons that included the age-old Oral Tradition of “Good, good. Alrighty, now try it this way”. Those teachings… brought home … from Dennis’ days of playing around the Detroit/ Windsor area… showered him with inspiration. He wanted to learn as much as he could… whenever he would… come across someone who should offer. And they did offer … often … and he learned. (Boy, did Den learn!)   COLLAGE OF DENNIS CHANDLER'S TEACHERS A

Managing some of the band’s bookings was CKLW Program Director Dave Shaffer. He had them backing up many groups LIVE. To list just a few here… The Supremes, Four Tops, Temptations, The Isley Brothers, Mary Wells, Shirley Ellis, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Little Eva, Bobby Vee, Gary “U.S.” Bonds, Ronnie & The Daytonas, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, Bobby Rydell, Bobbie Martin, Del Shannon, Dobie Gray, Freddie Cannon, Chuck Berry, Little Richard. By the way, Detroit is where Dennis first began his fellowship with popular onair personality Larry Morrow (aka “The Duker” on CKLW). When Larry later came to Cleveland … Dennis did more than a couple of music-related “Morrow Happenin’s” (including a Morrow marriage).

Those early days in Detroit made for some of Dennis’ fondest musical memories. Bandleader Chandler will be writing about them in the book he finally has started. It is thanks to the encouragement of a FB friend named Clayton Munsey. He has helped bring about the realization that… LIFE IS SHORT … AND TIME IS FLEETING. How so? Because THIRTY YEARS AGO … we made a pact to write more. To whom? Only the late, great Steve Allen and talented Jayne Meadows. They extracted a promise. How so? Like many of that early television era … we watched their various TV shows … growing up. They came into our respective living rooms … where they seemed to be performing to an audience of just one. We both felt that way. So years later at the 1990 Leukemia Telethon … Steve Allen asked to interview Dennis (the only featured adult survivor). To meet these two cultural iconic characters felt so right. To be in their presence … just like family … was NOT at all intimidating. Even when Steve requested Dennis play the piano (that they were both seated at). Even when SA commended DC’s ability to improvise. Even when SA told DC, “I envy your versatility”. Even when SA told DC that he wished he, “could read music”. Dennis exclaimed, “But, you wrote all those songs! To which Steve Allen replied, “Yes, but I can’t read music”. That’s when Dennis said, “I’ll teach you how to read music!” And Steve shot back, “And I’ll teach you how to write a book!” (About how he came to be such an enigma … liking and making all the music that he loves).

So we returned home to Cleveland … not knowing what Steve had proposed to Dennis … “I’d like to see what you will write” … “God brought you back for a reason!”… “You should be here in L.A.”. Upon returning to normal … Life happened … and we were intimidated by our circumstances (read: obligations post chemo). Only a … novice … novel writer would let that happen. Well, no more. Truth is stranger than fiction. Now we aspire to be expert … at non-fiction (Lord, don’t test us again). We both will keep our pact. Hence, Dennis’ book attempting to explain such “enigmatic entertaining tastes”, (as I call them). After all … a promise made … will be a promise kept … in this lifetime, yet! Better late than never. To be continued …

Back to about how we got a copy of the Pilgrims’ regional hit record, “Plymouth Rock” (written by Chandler and Dragas). It was thanks to Paul Hamann of Suma Recoring Studio. Who? The son of Ken Hamann who recorded the band at Hamann’s Cleveland Recording Studio in 1964. FYI: The flip side of that record has the song titled “Maudy” written by John Lee Hooker and arranged by Glenn Schwartz. In 2011, his son Paul Hamann contacted Dennis via FACE BOOK. He found the original master tapes. He asked Dennis would he “like to have a new mix on CD?” So, thanks to the gracious Hamanns, you will be able to enjoy the song for the first time …  or.. for old times. Scroll back up to the beginning of this page and click to listen to the songs. Oh, about Paul Hamann? He is (pardon the pun), a masterful producer himself … again … like father, like son. Paul owns the renowned Suma Recording Studio in Painesville, Ohio. Check them out.

Now about where the Pilgrims performed … back in those Windsor/ Detroit days. They played at WALLED LAKE CASINO. THE MICHIGAN THEATRE, THE TWENTY GRAND, THE ROOSTER TAIL, to name just a very few. Plus at COBO HALL … THE PILGRIMS opened for a sold out ROLLING STONES CONCERT.  On a past road trip to Detroit …  we came across one of the many fun places that the Pilgrims played. Sadly, the nightclub called THE GAY HAVEN wasn’t so … for it was shuttered long ago. (This photo’s from the ’70s). 
PILGRMS BAND COLLAGE CLUB CALLED THE GAY HAVEN IN DEARBORN MICHIGAN DENNIS CHANDLER PILGRIMS BAND COLLAGE CLUB CALLED GAY HAVEN IN DEARBORN MICHIGAN AD
Another fun place was HITSVILLE USA RECORDING STUDIO. That’s where Dennis watched THE SUPREMES RECORD THE VOCAL TRACKS FOR WHAT WOULD LATER BECOME THEIR FIRST HITS. He also recalls another unique HITSVILLE session where he witnessed men … with 2x4s STRAPPED TO THEIR FEET … TAPPING OUT RHYTHM TRACKS THAT WERE USED FOR MANY OTHER MOTOWN HITS, too. Not too many years ago Dennis had the pleasure in reminiscing and recalling even more memories with members of the legendary FUNK BROTHERS. They were down at Cleveland’s AFM Local 4 Union Hall (rehearsing in advance of a Rock Hall concert). Plus he got to catch up with MARY WILSON and other “Girl Group Greats” at a RH Tribute affair. Here are some of the photos from that weekend …ROCK HALL GIRL GROUPS TRIBUTE FAT FISH BLUE DENNIS CHANDLER MARY WILSON JAM 1
ROCK HALL GIRL GROUPS TRIBUTE FAT FISH DENNIS CHANDLER MARY WILSON JAM 2
ROCK HALL GIRL GROUPS TRIBUTE FAT FISH DENNIS CHANDLER MARY WILSON JAM 3
ROCK HALL GIRL GROUPS TRIBUTE FAT FISH DENNIS CHANDLER JAM 4
ROCK HALL GIRL GROUPS TRIBUTE FAT FISH DENNIS CHANDLER JAM 5
ROCK HALL GIRL GROUPS TRIBUTE FAT FISH DENNIS CHANDLER JAM 6
ROCK HALL GIRL GROUPS TRIBUTE FAT FISH DENNIS CHANDLER JAM 7
ROCK HALL GIRL GROUPS TRIBUTE FAT FISH DENNIS CHANDLER JAM 8
ROCK HALL GIRL GROUPS TRIBUTE DENNIS CHANDLER PHOTO MARY WILSON ALAN TOUSSAINT 9
ROCK HALL GIRL GROUP TRIBUTE MARY WILSON LIZ CHANDLER 10
ROCK HALL GIRL GROUPS TRIBUTE FAT FISH DENNIS CHANDLER JAM 12 SECRETS
ROCK HALL GIRL GROUP TRIBUTE SECRETS DENNIS CHANDLER WIFE LIZ

Back to the ’60s … Although the pioneering band seemed to have arrived, they did not land one special deal. As mentioned above … a successful studio audition for HITSVILLE’s powers-at-hand brought a dream of an offer. At the same time guitarist GLENN SCHWARTZ missed his swear-in date with a NATIONAL GUARD officer (arranged via ARMY contacts Chandler made serving musical duty for the military). Thus evaporated the band’s “chance at the Big-time”. With those untimely draft notices; A PROMISED CONTRACT FOR THE PILGRIMS “TO BE MOTOWN’S FIRST WHITE GROUP”, WENT UNSIGNED. Speaking of Motown and records…PILGRIMS BAND COLLAGE DENNIS CHANDLER PIC ON THE ROAD
PILGRIMS z BAND COLLAGE DENNIS CHANDLER ARRRAY OF PHOTOS
PILGRIMS BAND 1964 PHOTO COLLAGE SECOND SET
Back home to Ohio for fun gigs in many a ballroom like this one at Geauga Lake Amusement Park. PILGRIMS BAND 1964 GEAUGA LAKE PARK GIG A
Where three of the four Pilgrims did land was in the military. But, before disbanding (pun intended) they also served as the studio band on other recordings, too. Since often times session work was just that (read: work), band members rarely recall details.
However, for Dennis one studio session was made more memorable because he got to incorporate a syncopated guitar riff that BO DIDDLEY taught him. The song? “JUST LIKE ROMEO AND JULIET” by the vocal group called “THE REFLECTIONS”. Dennis said they were a JOY to work with; whether making music with them onstage (as backup) or in the studio (as a per-session scale-pay musician). So whenever fans of that HUGE hit share how much they enjoyed it; Dennis gets to recall the fun of doing it. (Which is good because he said often times one can’t be sure if the tracks that are recorded are the same tracks on the final mix. That happened a lot back in the day!)REFLECTIONS SINGING GROUP PHOTO BY DENNIS CHANDLER BLK WH

All ways A One Night Stand For A Good Backup Man

That band wasn’t the only band he and fellow PILGRIM bandmembers would find themselves “almost making it” with. The next almost-made-it-with-them bands included Cleveland’s TOM KING and THE STARFIRES later known as THE OUTSIDERS. They had the hit record “TIME WON’T LET ME”. Those sessions at KEN HAMANN’S CLEVELAND RECORDING made for some lasting impressions. Or did they? After a falling out, drummer RONALD HARKAI WAS AIR-BRUSHED OFF THE ALBUM COVER. This for him, at the time, must have added insult to injury because it was the drummer’s dad who had paid for that recording session.

Fellow band members later went on to play in many a diverse band or two… too numerous to list now. But, briefly, we mention: the virtuoso guitarist Glenn Schwartz was in “The James Gang” (as was Dennis for a very short stint), then Glenn went with “Pacific East & Electric”. Drummer Ronald Harkai was in “Tom King & The Starfires” (as was Dennis) then “The Outsiders” (as was Dennis for a brief time). A bit more detail about the guys follows…  

Below is courtesy of Nick Blakey. It is an excerpt from liner notes he wrote for his CD titled, “The Schwartz-Fox Blues Crusade featuring Mr. Stress”. BTW: Footnotes and the complete bibliography are are available in the extended liner notes online: http://smogveil.com/FBSCnotes  (Thank you, Nick… for your efforts in support of all the musicians mentioned here, past and present. L.C.)   PILGRIMS BAND REFERENCED IN JAMES GANG BIO
SONNY GERACI DENNIS CHANDLER PAST BANDMATES Feb A
2017… Feb. 5 … Update on Sonny Geraci… Sadly, we learned that dear Sonny passed away. To share about him … we offer this back story of what a Blessing it had been for Dennis to spend time with his former band mate.  First off … Sonny was the singer who recorded the lead vocal on that iconic rock hit (mentioned above) … “Time Won’t Let Me”.  These past few years Dennis was seeing Sonny and enjoying immensely their fellowships. The two had a standing “Smooze Date”. But, it was more of a “Musical Kaffe Klatch” than a “Tuesdays with Morrie” format, (referencing that famous bestseller).

To explain … After Sonny had major brain surgery he was moved back to Ohio… to one of the nursing homes on “Menorah Campus”. It happens that Dennis has been performing there monthly for the last 12 years. Each and every time he played on campus … he would stop in to visit Sonny. Dennis found giving updates on his own gigs helped his former band mate with a form of “music therapy”.  How so? Any news of what Dennis’ current band “The Stratophonics” was doing … and the music they made … brought back musical memories of their days together (in “The Starfires” & “The Outsiders”). Seems Sonny recalled every last lyric he sang in the past … while Dennis recalled all the music he played with him, (from back in the day). It was hoped by both … that … “Time will let them”… make music together again … playing out. It was not meant to be. But, Dennis believed so, as did Sonny. Why? On each and every visit Bandleader-Chandler always got asked about arrangements, key signatures, etc. Oh, the HEALING POWER OF MUSIC. It was a Blessing. Thank you for the memories and the music, too. “Rest in Rock’n’Roll Heaven”, dearest Sonny. 

REFLECTIONS COME TO MIND ART

Perhaps because of the power of rock songs from one’s youth and with the passing of time, there appears to be greater interest in the history of those early bands. So many musicians were involved that memories may seem blurred like through a revolving door. But, Dennis has learned that for many … “It’s fun to get another’s perspective given the distance of time!”

Signed. Liz Chandler
Web Writer