Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chessmen - Ft. Wayne

John Finchum, drummer of the Chessmen, tells the tale of the band.
"Me and Steve Griebel , started the group in "62". We added Steve's friend Phil Motley, then Chuck Weick, and played as a 4 piece almost 2 years before adding Kevin Evans on keyboards. Kevin didn't know how to play keys but learned fast. Steve and I did 99% of the lead singing. The last couple of years together I stood up playing drums and play standing up full time today. I got it from the drummer for the McCoys (Hang on Sloopy). In 66, the draft took 3 of the guys, so there was a couple of member changes. Mike Geise on bass and Al Crow on rhythm. Mike and I went on to form Faith then on to The Peace and Love, Snake and the
Armpits 50's floor show which took us all over the country in the 70's. In '66 when the Chessmen were going really good, I got a call from Phalanx. I really don't know if one of the other Ft.Wayne bands gave them our name or if the record company happened to notice all the bands that were available to solicit to ,but we jumped at the chance of being "recording stars"! We pretty much had to promote them ourselves, but we did get an interview on WGL with Al Russell one night.
We wrote both songs on the record. A little side note about "You can't catch me"..... The original words in one line in the song was "You chase MY ASS all over town". They insisted we change it to you chase me "round" all over town,because they said the radio station wouldn't play it. My how times have changed!!!!!!!!!!

We pretty much stuck to cover songs from the top forty for awhile. Our first year was pretty much instrumental songs,though, like from the Ventures, Astronauts, Pyramids, Sandy Nelson and others. Then THE BEATLES CAME!!!!!!!!!!!!! We along with so any other bands, felt the enormous influence that is still a part of my music today. The whole British Invasion back then influenced so many bands way of playing and also their way of dressing and their lists of songs. The invasion was kind of like Woodstock was later.There will never be another one like it! When the stones came in shortly after the question came up that to this day is asked of people when talking about the British bands. "You like the Beatles or Stones better? Well for the rest of the band they were pretty much Beatles fans. I myself liked the "bad boy, rebellious image the Stones had. I tended to dress more like them when I could. (Got me sent to the Deans office in South Side a couple of times too! Ha Ha) We did songs from both. Although they both influenced and continue to influence my music, one band that influenced my showmanship very much was Paul Revere and the Raiders! When I first saw them on Dick Clark's "Where the action is" I said to myself "that's what I want to do! I want to play my music and move around and act crazy while I'm doing it. That's another reason why I continue to play drums standing up,to this day.It helped me alot in showmanship when I got into the Peace and Love Band. Tom O'Brian can attest to that.

As far as our worst gig, we were so new and so into playing back then just about all of our gigs were good, but one that we kind of dreaded, although kept playing it, was at a place called Covington Downs, a few miles out of Fort Wayne on Covington Rd. For one thing, it was a big hall, so it was our first experience with an echo sound and how it can really screw up your sound. Then there was the fact that we played only on Sunday nights, and with all of us having school the next day, we were would be draggin' in school. Also for that same reason, we never had more than 8 or 10 people show up. We made very little money and just didn't have too good of time, but we kept playing it, even against our parents wishes. We alternated Sundays with a group called The Ravens. The cool thing I remember about that great bunch of guys was every Beatle song they did, they sounded like them so much it was awesome!

One of my favorite "gigs" if you can call it that,was when we were on Channel 21 on a show called "21 A-GO-GO", a local show that promoted the local bands. We taped the show on a Weds. night and got to sit home with our friends and relatives and watch it on the following Saturday afternoon. What a thrill! After we taped it on Wednesday we were able to go into another room and watch it right away. My first experience with video tape. I thought that was amazing! We played 3 songs on that show. "The Climb" by the Kingsmen, "Money",by the Kingsmen,and "Get off of my cloud" by The Stones. I developed an enormous crush on one of the dancers
on that show named Sue. Oh well that's another story,ha ha. I sure wish I could get a copy of that video tape but I doubt if channel 21 has a video archive of something as minor as that that far back. If you ever find out let me know. (Don't worry, I will!!! - Tim)

As far as Peace and Love and our alter ego "Snake an The Armpits", we put out 2 records. Nothing that was ever put on the charts though. We we simply a show lounge act with a lot of comedy that did Top 40 dance sets too. Our main moneymaker was the Snake and the Armpits floor show act. It was like Sha Na Na with twice the comedy and energy.We were together from 1970 to 1977. Played the "Cats Meow" to a packed house standing room only crowd many times. Our very last gig together was New Years Eve at Eli's in Fort Wayne when it was out in industrial park. Undoubtedly and to this day the best group I have ever been in."

Many thanks to John for taking the time to "fill in the blanks"

And now some music!

You Can't Catch Me

Mr. X


Stay tuned for the next round of 60's Indiana Band Szene. Keep the comments coming, the bands will know you care!

4 comments:

Kurt said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Tim, you are doing awesome work on this site. These are the kinds of things the internet was created for! I visit monthly to keep up and I'm always thrilled when I see updates and new content. So, to the bands and to the site, I say Thank You! Someone does care!

Briguy said...

If you could, please post the video of the chessmen playing 21 A-Go-Go, my dad is Phil Motley (Rythem Guitar player), and it would be awesome if you could find this, thanks so much.

Gina said...

Al Russell is my father. I'm glad you have fond memories of him. :-)

Mark said...

I remember seeing a band return for their last set as "Snake & The Armpits" when I was a kid. Would have been around 1977 in Caruthersville, MO. Was that the same guys? Anyone know?