October 1, 2014


The Bonnevilles in their post-45 incarnation, from left: Bill Phipps (bass), Mike Eysie (drums), Joe Serratore (guitar) and Frank Thorpe (guitar). Courtesy of Joe Serratore.

The Bonnevilles hailed from Norwood, Mass., and cut an under-the-radar two-sider back in 1964: the frat-rock call-and response girl putdown "You Just Can't Tell her" ("You can't tell her nothin' / 'cause her head is made of lead!") backed with a nice breezy minor key folk rocker "See If I Care."

In the early 1960s, guitarist Joe Serratore played in an instrumental outfit called the Angels, who released a 45 with the tracks "Angel Express" and "Buck Shot" on the Canton-based Dover label. The band consisted of leader George Meninno on drums, Danny Smith on sax, and Art Dube and a 15-year-old Serratore on guitars.

The Bonnevilles also started off as an instro combo, and like the rest of the country, added vocals to keep up with the trend of the British Invasion. The lineup on the 45 included bassist Bill Phipps, drummer Mike Eysie and guitarists Joe Serratore and Dick Plath. Dick sang lead on "See If I Care" while Bill took vocal duties on "You Just Can't Tell Her" with Dick and Joe handling background duties. Following the release of the 45 in 1964, Dick left the band and was replaced by guitarist Frank Thorpe.

The band played all over Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, with notable gigs such as supporting the Kingsmen at Keene State College in New Hampshire, Freddie "Boom Boom" Cannon at a Pepsi dance party in Revere, Mass., the Dovells at Canobie Lake Park in N.H., and the Four Seasons at Surf Nantasket in Hull, Mass. The band also regularly backed up local singer Diane Lynn at the Holiday Lounge in West Roxbury, Mass., and shared the stage with Boston's own Rockin' Ramrods.

Drummer Mike Eysie recalls one particularly rowdy night: St. John's in South Boston. A fight broke out in the middle of the set. The instruments went flying and a priest had to break it up. Bill was beaten up so badly that they took him to be patched up at the hospital. Mike and Joe drove him home to Holliston (Mass.) and left him on his sofa. A night to remember!

The Bonnevilles stayed together until the fall of 1966, when Serratore enlisted in the Navy. The four members remain good friends to this day, and still get together and play on occasion. Joe Serratore currently plays guitar in a neighborhood band. And sadly, Mike Eysie passed away in 2013.

The lineup on the 45, from left: Dick Plath, Mike Eysie (on drums), Bill Phipps, Joe Serratore.
Swank! From left: Joe Serratore, Bill Phipps, Frank Thorpe, Mike Eysie.
Backing up the lovely Diane Lane: Dick Plath, Mike Eysie and Joe Serratore.

Joe Serratore and myself indulging in some rather large beverages at the German American Club in Pawtucket, R.I., November 2013.

See If I Care / You Just Can't Tell Her
(FL-4551) October 1964

Angel Express / Buck Shot
(DR-828) early 1960s

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