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In the 60s, Indiana garages weren’t just for tractors…
Website chronicles local and regional bands from back in the day
By Jim Fester
Fort Wayne Reader
In December of 2012, Frank Gray’s column in The Journal Gazette talked about a 60’s band from Fort Wayne called The Olivers, who recorded an album in 1969, only to have their record company deal fall through and the recording seemingly lost to time…
It was our kind of story — someone had actually mentioned The Olivers to us once upon a time — and we shake our pasty fist at Gray for beating us to it. But one sentence in the piece did cause us to raise our bushy brows in interest: a mention of a guy who runs a blog dedicated to Indiana garage bands from the 60s.
That guy’s name is Tim Cox. He’s a record collector from Columbus, Indiana, and since 2006 has run and maintained the blog “60s Indiana band szene,” detailing the stories and music behind many of the seemingly countless rock n’ roll bands of the era.
And Fort Wayne is well represented, with stories, photographs, and music from bands like the Miles Bluffton Blues Band, The Jersey Chains, The Chessman, The Children, and many others. Some of these bands made a recording or maybe even a 45 or two, some played lots of gigs, but whatever the case, when Cox started posting their stories, he began hearing from people who remembered the band. “I’d hear ‘hey, that’s my dad’ or ‘that’s my grandpa’ or ‘I dated this guy back in the day…’”
Indiana’s “scene” wasn’t as big as some of our neighboring state’s — Michigan, Ohio, and the Chicago area seem fairly bristling with bands — but in the days before DJs and inexpensive sound systems, every dance and party needed a band, and in Indiana there were plenty eager and willing to meet that need. “Look at a Journal Gazette from the 60s,” Cox says. “Literally, every week, there are bands playing. The hard part is finding which ones are from Illinois, which ones from Ohio…”
That can actually get pretty complicated. Cox says he has a whole stack of stuff that he has no clue where it’s from. It might be on an Indiana label, or the band may have played or recorded in Indiana, but finding out where they’re actually from requires a certain amount of diligence.
Cox says he was too young to have heard these bands in their day, but for him, the records are a great snapshot of a time in music before things became “too overdone.” “I don’t want to insult anyone,” he explains. “But as a kid in the 70s, everything was The Eagles, Yes… Things were so horribly complicated you couldn’t play it, much less reproduce it on stage. For me, the music’s ‘real,’ which sounds kind of phony, but it’s a bunch of kids getting together, playing, and this is their little testament to what they did at the time.”
Some of the musicians in these bands went on to have professional music careers, and Cox says he’ll hear from guys who dismiss their early stuff as too primitive or immature. Some others even take exception to the phrase “garage band,” seeing it as somewhat demeaning. “In their own little microcosm they were professional band,” Cox says. “Their intent was to play, make some money, meet girls, have a good time, and many of them thought ‘music could be my life’.”
And as we said, for some of them, music did become their professional life; for many others, music is something they still pursue to some degree, for fun or a hobby. “That’s one of the things that surprised me, what a large percentage of them still play,” Cox says.
Cox and Kim Bowman, a musician from Columbus, recently started a Facebook page on 60s Indiana garage bands, and Cox says he has plenty of stuff to organize and put up on his site — photos, flyers, and lots of records. “Do you want to know a secret about record collecting?” he says. “The ones who bought the records back in the day were all girls. Boys didn’t buy the records. These old 45s, people will write their names on them, and they’re usually all women’s names. They wanted a momento of the show. The boys? For them, the band was their competition. Why would they want a momento of that?”
You can find the 60’s Indiana Band Szene blog at indiana-bands-60s.blogspot.com. Also on Facebook (Indiana 60’s Garage bands).