July 5, 2016

THE BLUE MIST (Devon/Milford, CT)

Standing tall in Milford, from left: Steve Brunelle, Dick Brunelle, Nick Demet, Chris Nastu, Steve Murphy, Bob Schwartz. All photos courtesy of Steve Brunelle. Electric Grape poster courtesy of Jamie Barbetti.

The Blue Mist would have been just a fond, fuzzed-out memory of the band members and their Milford-area fans had they not recorded a barely released demo 45 back in 1969.

The young crew's original lineup featured Steve Brunelle (guitar, vocals), Richard Brunelle (bass, vocals), Nick Demet (guitar), Chris Nastu (drums) and Bob Schwartz (lead vocals). They started in late 1967, when Bob Schwartz, Nick Demet and Richard Brunelle were in junior high at Lenox Avenue School, and the rest of the band attended Jonathan Law High School. Guitarist Steve Murphy was brought into the band when Steve Brunelle was briefly hospitalized for an illness, and then they kept him on as 12-string guitarist afterwards.

The band was managed by Dean Bibens and they secured a steady stream of gigs at local dances, nightclubs and events. They also made a television appearance on the Brad Davis Show, and did a “three-state tour” of Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York.

Chris Nastu: “We sure had a big following, and did a lot of free concerts. We were also on TV with the Carpenters, played in front of 1,000 people at Palisades Park in New Jersey, and also the Cheshire Reformatory Prison in Cheshire, Conn. That was scary, and the warden told us we would get booed out like all the other bands, but quite the reverse — a standing ovation, and the inmates that needed their medications wouldn’t leave, they wanted to hear us play.”

Richard Brunelle: “I can remember my brother telling me ‘You're playing bass.’ I didn't want to be left out so my mother bought me my first bass guitar. One of the first gigs was the Essex coffee shop. We played songs like Young Rascals tunes, ‘Hang on Sloopy,’ early 60's stuff. A short time later Steve Murphy joined with the 12 string sound. The more we practiced, and that was a minimum of two nights a week, the better the band got. Dean Bibens opened up his home to us and let us fix up his basement so we had a permanent spot to practice. We were there pretty much every day. It was like a second home to us. ‘Juan Cool’ is what we nicknamed him. He was like a second father to us. He kept us on the straight and narrow, or so he thought. We were not little angels. Once after a gig we played at the Blue Sands night club in Westerly, R.I., we had our own room and the next day it was trashed. I think Juan's statement was, ‘You guys are through.’ But he loved his boys and couldn't let it go down the drain.”

The band played tunes by the Rolling Stones, The Who, The Beatles, Neil Young (“Cowgirl In The Sand,” “Wooden Ships”), Led Zeppelin “Whole Lotta Love,” and when the early Seventies rolled around, Deep Purple “Highway Star.”

Richard: “We were regulars at the Electric Grape in Milford center, which was a psychedelic night club. We played every weekend 52 weeks a year. We were booked months ahead. Sometimes the bookings were a year in advance. We also were regulars at The Adam’s Apple in Milford.”

The Bridgeport Post, April 18, 1969
In April 1969, The Blue Mist set up at Syncron Sound Studios (later Trod Nossel) in Wallingford, Conn., and laid down two tracks for a demo single. A killer two-sider, it's a shame this was never officially released. Bob Schwartz sang lead on “Twice Before The Ministry” while Steve Brunelle sang on “I Can't Find A Place.” Brunelle recalls that he and Murphy wrote the b-side in his bedroom one night after school. “Our manager ran it up to a few record companies but no one was interested in putting us under contract,” Steve Brunelle recalls. Richard adds, “One of them told Dean that the songs were not what they were looking for at the time but if we recorded any other songs that they wanted to get the first shot to listen to them. He was told that we were ahead of our time.”

The band pressed 100 copies of the 45 with blank white labels, with the song titles and band name handwritten by the manager's family (which included two daughters — hence the ornate handwriting gracing some of the labels). Jamie Barbetti, roadie and the band's light-show designer: “I remember the whole family sitting around the dining room table writing song titles on the records.”

When asked if the mysterious song title had anything to do with getting in trouble at a Catholic high school, Steve clarified: “‘Twice before the Ministry’ had to do with being married twice under the thumb of the Catholic way at that time. A couple of us in the band were in families that were dealing with parents being divorced and then remarrying. If it was because of getting in trouble, I'd say it would be more like a COUPLE DOZEN TIMES before the ministry!”

Bob Schwartz and Steve Murphy left the band sometime after the recording and Mike Powers joined on as the new singer. Powers left for a stint with the National Guard and in the meantime was replaced by Eddie Young. The Blue Mist soldiered on until the mid-1970s, with ultimately Richard Brunelle and Chris Nastu the only two original members left.

Steve Brunelle states humbly: “We were just a regular neighborhood band having fun in our teenage years.”

Thanks to Jamie Barbetti for clean rips of the 45 tracks.

The Bridgeport Post, Jan. 11, 1970

The Bridgeport Post, May 10, 1970

Twice Before The Ministry / I Can't Find A Place
no label
April 1969

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