THE CAVEMEN (Leominster, MA)

The primitives in red suede with leopardskin collars. From left: Renato Mascitti, Pete “Mongo Lloyd” Schumann, Paul Salvatore, Nunzio “Nunz” Nano, Mike Cannavino. All photos courtesy of Nunzio Nano.

Sometimes rock and roll fame never reaches beyond the town lines, or in this case, the local bowling alley. Such was The Cavemen from Leominster, Mass., who cut a catchy pair of crudely recorded tunes back in 1965. Founding members included Nunzio “Nunz” Nano (guitar, vocals), Pete “Mongo Lloyd” (!!!) Schumann (guitar, vocals), Mike Cannavino (guitar, vocals), Eddie “Zing” Hendershaw (bass) and Paul Salvatore (drums). Hendershaw left to further music studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston and was replaced by Renato Mascitti prior to the recording.

The Cavemen were “older” at the time, meaning members ranged 18-20 years old and were out of high school. Nunz described the group as basically a Beatles cover band, with many originals as well as Roy Orbison, Gerry & The Pacemakers and various other popular bands of the time thrown in. To reinforce the Caveman theme, these Neanderthals even donned custom-made leopardskin outfits! Says Nunz, “Those suits you see [above] are the red suede with leopardskin collars. We also designed complete leopardskin, collarless jackets [below]. A local, very talented Italian seamstress named Lena made all of the jackets to our specifications.” But despite the outward connotation of primal thunk, these Flintstonian fellows worked the pop end of the spectrum (i.e., no Stones, Animals, etc.).

Perhaps fittingly, the band's sole record sounds like it was literally recorded in a cave. A high school English teacher, Don Malley, and his partner decided to cash in on the new rock and roll craze and release a single by Leominster's hot local band. In August 1965, they brought reel-to-reel recording equipment to Mason’s Bowling Alley, where the Cavemen played every Thursday (in their brand-new red suede jackets). Tracks were laid down amongst the spares, strikes and gutterballs, and then vocals were recorded in a garage and even inside a Volkswagon!

Excerpt from The Sound Track by
Evelyn Piano, Fitchburg Sentinel,
Sept. 8, 1965
Nunz recalls: “As for the 45 rpm record … it is not a very good, representative recording. Unfortunately, the recording equipment was primitive, the guys that did the engineering were school teachers, it was done at a bowling alley and in a construction garage (vocals done in a Volkswagen bug!!), and the company that pressed the records wasn't exactly top shelf.”

The a-side was written by Mike Proietti, who was 13-14 years old at the time and in a band with Paul Salvatore's younger brother. Paul would hear them practicing "Sandy" and liked it so much that he brought it to the Cavemen, who started playing it at all their gigs. The flip side is spelled incorrectly on the record label: the correct title is “Postpone Arrangements.” (Side note: On the record label, the band gave a songwriting credit to their pal J. Moore [Johnny Moore], member of the other big local act, The Del-Mars — who were later hired to become Michael And The Messengers in Chicago. Johnny contributed to the outro.) Nunz sang lead on both tracks, with Mike Cannavino providing backup harmonies.

Mike Proietti: “I used to play in a band with Paul Salvatore's (Cavemen drummer) younger brother Marty and we used to play the song Sandy. I was like 13 or 14 at the time and Paul who was 5 or 6 years older would hear us practicing and say, ‘What's that song you guys are playing?’ and Marty would tell him it's a song that Mike wrote. Well I guess he liked it cause they started playing it at all their gigs and then ending up recording it. It was a lot of fun and The Cavemen were a great bunch of guys.”

The record was sold at gigs and at the one record store in town, Metro Music, that Paul Salvatore managed — no doubt guaranteeing prime exposure.

The Cavemen wrote more originals which were slated for release, but nothing ever materialized.

Eventually … Nunz, Pete Schumann and Renato Mascitti left the band, with John Tata, Lenny Bisceglia and Dennis Mazzafero stepping in. (The last picture below is taken from the late Mike Cannavino's memorial page.) No recordings were made by this second-generation lineup.

Former Cavemen Nunzio and Paul Salvatore currently play in a band with two other lifetime rockers under the name The Relaxatives. Their motto? “Join the movement, and enjoy the moment.” (All puns intended.) Mike Proietti still writes and records music under the name Mike Jons, which can be found on his YouTube channel JamZorro. Ed Hendershaw joined Tower Of Power as a studio musician for a couple of years after Berklee. Mike Cannavino passed away in 2014.

Nunz sums up his Cro-Magnon experience: “We had a dynamic, crisp sound and had quite a large local following back in the day. I miss those days in a big way. Best years of my life!”

Troglodyte chic! From left: Nunzio Nano, Paul Salvatore, Pete Schumann, Eddie Hendershaw, Mike Cannavino

From left: Paul Salvatore, Eddie Hendershaw, Nunzio Nano, Pete Schumann, Mike Cannavino

Fitchburg Sentinel, July 20, 1965




THE CAVEMEN
Sandy / Postponed Arrangements
Micro
(no catalog number)
October 1965


1 comment:

  1. Great history Nunz. I first saw the group at some barn like place in Gardner, MA. They seemed very professional in their leopard skin Beatle jackets. They seemed to have a great group sense of humor going among them. When we went over to talk with them they were plotting a band trip to England. It seemed very glam. I was very honored to be asked to join when Pete left. P.S.: I think Renato's bass is the one I still use.

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