October 28, 2014

THE SPECTERS (Worcester, MA)

The Prozac-free crew in 1967, clockwise from top: Ron Hadley (organ), Jack Pezanelli (lead guitar, vocals), Dave Galli (bass) and Paul Odgren (drums).

Back in early 1966, the Specters from Worcester, Mass., cut an interesting moody 45 called "Depression" featuring memorable guitar lines from future Berklee College of Music professor Jack Pezanelli. Nearly thirty years later, in 1995, the track appeared on the "Teenage Shutdown Vol. 6: I'm Down Today" LP on Crypt Records. And now, nearly twenty years after that, drummer Paul Odgren fills us in on the complete Specters history:

The Specters (Ron Hadley, organ; Jack Pezanelli, lead guitar; Dave Galli, rhythm guitar, bass; Paul Odgren, drums) were born in Worcester in 1966 after re-organization of the Dischords. The Dischords, started in the fall of '64 / early '65, were Hadley and Odgren, plus Denny Lindell (lead guitar) and Tim Ferrie (rhythm guitar and lead vocals). The Dischords played regularly at WPI’s fraternity, SAE, and other local spots - other WPI frats, high school dances, Greendale Y mixers. The Specters did the same in 1966 and ’67.

The 45 was recorded in Worcester in February 1966. It was recorded in a living room studio (the engineer, Harold Hills' house) with no sound booths, so I had to stuff pillows into my bass drum and could only play at a very soft level to keep from bleeding into the other tracks. Randy Price (bass) was a one-time band member only for the recording session. Jack and Ron did the vocals. It was originally supposed to be called "A Place for Sin," but the producer was worried that it sounded like an invitation to a whorehouse. So Jack, in a sardonic mood, instead re-wrote it into a brooding teen downer piece. "Depression" was exactly the same song, even many of the lyrics, as "A Place for Sin." It's a little amusing now to see how people take the song as a glimpse into the dark soul of alienated teens when really, it was a bit tongue-in-cheek. I guess it sounded too sincere...

The Melbourne label was based in Manchester, N.H., and the producer [James N. Parks] had produced Paul Anka's first big hit, "Diana." To our young eyes, it looked impressive to see the gold record on his wall, but really it was kind of a scam. We paid for the recording and for the pressing out of pocket and there was no effort by the "label" to market it whatsoever. Its airplay was largely limited to Worcester's rock 'n roll AM station, WORC.

Hadley went to Dartmouth College in the fall of '66 and the band played a number of gigs there, too. For the summer of ’67, the band moved to Wiers Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee in NH, mainly because Hadley’s girlfriend spent summers there.

That summer was a mix of feast or famine, with the band occasionally resorting to shoplifting to avoid starvation. They opened for Teddy and the Pandas (“Groovy Kind of Love”) at the Big Venue in the area, Irwin’s Winnipesaukee Gardens. At that time, there was a pretty popular band in the area of southern NH and Massachusetts’ north shore called the Spectras. To avoid confusion, the Specters changed their name again, this time to The Wednesday Review. The late Kevin Falvey, trumpet, vocals, and assorted other instruments, joined the band for several months, including at the Wiers Beach. Kevin later went on to play with Worcester-based American Standard and had a successful career on the road, including with that band backing up Joe Cocker for a number of years. The Wednesday Review for a part of that summer rented a small hall in Sunapee, NH, named it “The Tumbling Sun,” and played some concerts/dances there.

The kindly owners of the Langley Cove Cottages where the band was staying, knowing that money was often in very short supply, waived the rent in exchange for some outdoor concerts. Local newspapers picked up on them, and the locale picked up some free publicity. There were late-night rides home from venues around New Hampshire, sometimes running out of gas in the middle of nowhere and having to hitchhike to the only 24-hour gas station in the state in Concord. When the band had some gig money, it was standard to head to Paul's Diner in Laconia for a late night treat watching the local legend short order cook, "Spider" Osgood, perform his magic behind the counter. After a 1960 Ford falcon engine blew in the cheap band car, they picked up a '55 Caddy hearse to travel around in. Got around 8 miles a gallon, but who cared, then? Gas was $0.27 a gallon.

In late ’67 and into ’68, the band added female lead vocalist, Marion “Yuye” Fernandes, from Marion, MA. They also got connected with an agent in Boston just out of Ivy League business school named Watson James. Watson booked the band in some memorable gigs, including opening a concert at the old Boston Arena for UMass, Boston, that featured some big name acts – The Chambers Brothers, Strawberry Alarm Clock, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Falvey left the band and tenor player Tom Herbert joined for a time.

Fernandes decided to go to Northeastern U. full-time, and Renatha Saunders who hailed from northern NJ via Gddard College in VT joined as lead vocalist for a short time. The band’s demise came about when a rehearsal hall in Boston was broken into and thieves left with Hadley’s brand new Fender Rhodes electric piano, two new high-end Fender amps, and other pieces of equipment, all uninsured. Luckily for Odgren, no one touched his new Ludwig drum set, most of which he has to this day.

With exception of the two female vocalists and Odgren, who was from Auburn, all the band’s members were Worcester natives.

Specters follow-up
Jack Pezanelli has had a nice career as a guitarist. Jack is the nephew of the late Worcester guitarist Pete Clemente whose studio trained generations of local musicians, including Pete's son and namesake, who carries on the family name and traditions. Jack left the Worcester area in the late’60’s, played in Florida, where he was hired by rocker Wayne Cochran to join his C.C. Riders. He toured with them for a few years in the ‘70’s and enabled other area musicians to later join that band, including tenor sax player Tom Herbert and alto player Jim Odgren. Jack then played with Sammy Davis, Jr., did some musicals, and studied and played with jazz great Jimmy Giuffre. He has released several small group and solo CD’s. He lives in Northampton and has been commuting to Boston to teach part-time at Berklee for several years.

Ron Hadley (organ) returned after a hiatus to finish his studies at Dartmouth College and had a successful business in Japanese-English translation. He also has posted several original recordings of jazz with an Asian flair.

Dave Galli (bass, rhythm guitar) was last seen managing a horse farm in California in the 1980’s. Jack had tracked him down, and Dave spotted him, he walked wordlessly into the house, appeared with is guitar in hand, and handed it to Jack.

Paul Odgren (drums) went on to study with Alan Dawson, and played in many local bands in central and eastern Massachusetts into the early 1990’s, including several with his musician brothers, Dick (piano) and Jim (alto sax), both of whom have had successful careers as jazz musicians and teachers. Paul earned a PhD at UMass Medical School in Worcester and has spent time since as a faculty member and biomedical researcher there.

—Paul Odgren, August 2014

Depression / 8 2/3
 (3230 • MB-01-45 / MB-02-45 • T4KM-4261/62)
February 1966

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