'We Gotta Go Now'
Tales of a Forgotten Multi Talented Band
ALEXANDRIA, VA: As mentioned in last month's NEWS & NUGGETS, there is a new book out that every fan and collector of 1960's garage band music will consider a 'must read.' "We Gotta Go Now," by Dennis A. Blackledge, is an entertaining story of 'what might have been' that brings back to life not only the history of a sadly forgotten but multi talented band, but also tales of battles of the bands, house bands, all-powerful DJs, and—most importantly—garage band music.
In Dennis' words, "We Gotta Go Now" tells the story of the Mojo Hands, one of countless American bands trying to make it in the big times during the mid-sixties amidst all things British. In many ways, the Mojo Hands are America's 'Everyband,' or at least every garage band. Their story helps propel the larger tale of the Golden Age of Garage Rock'n'Roll, the mid-sixties mu$ic business, and growing up in small-town America during an incredibly volatile moment in our nation's recent history." For ordering instructions, visit: www.wegottagonow.com - Special thanks to Dennis for sharing his thoughts with "The Lance Monthly."
[Q] What made you decide to write a book about the Mojo Hands?
[A] There are several reasons why I wrote "We Gotta Go Now." First of all, I have always believed that the story behind the Mojo Hands was one that deserved to be told. Plus, I felt that no one had ever truly taken an in-depth look at an important and pivotal part of music history - American born garage rock 'n' roll. On a personal note, the achievements and near-achievements of this little band from small town America proved to me as a kid that I could go on and accomplish far more than anyone was expecting of me. I grew up in an era and in a place where the bar was not set particularly high. The Mojo Hands turned me onto a world that I did not know existed. I became the first in my family to graduate from high school, then college, followed by a career in the performing arts. Currently I am the Director of Production with the National Council for the Traditional Arts, a leading presenter of American roots, heritage and traditional music.
[Q] Please provide some brief background information on the band, including member names and their hometown.
[A] The Mojo Hands were formed during 1964 in the wake of the British Invasion by four best friends from Warren, RI - Peter Cappuccilli (lead singer), Bobby 'Smitty' Smith (drums), Tommy Fisher (bass), and Paul Fisher (lead guitar). The Fisher brothers dropped out in early 1965 allowing the Mojo Hands to add three hot players from East Providence, RI - Brian Azevedo (lead guitar), Dennis Casino (rhythm guitar) and Charles 'Bubby' Duquette (keyboards and spotlight vocals). It is these five blues punks who became the heart and soul of a regional phenomenon known as the Mojo Hands. It should be noted that other talented players joined in 1967 as part of a last ditch effort to keep the band going and to fight off the devastating effects of the Draft and the Vietnam War.
[Q] Did the band ever record?
[A] Yes. Chapter Six from "We Gotta Go Now," entitled "For the Record," takes an in-depth look at the trials and tribulations that many garage bands faced in making records. The Mojo Hands' best effort was recorded at the New England Recording Studio in Providence. The A side, "I Can Only Give You Everything," was a cover of an obscure Them recording, backed with the well-traveled "Little Red Rooster." "We Gotta Go Now" follows the band's journey as they shopped the demo at Atlantic, Bell, and Vanguard, plus their brush with members of the Mob who were more than a little interested in the band's potential.
[Q] How would you describe the band's sound?
[A] The Mojo sound was a hybrid of early Rolling Stones and Animals, anchored by a much harder hitting drummer than either of their British counterparts. Also, the Mojo Hands featured a 'spotlight' second singer in the form of their keyboard player who possessed vocal chops similar to Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers.
[Q] Did the band compose its own material, were they primarily a cover band, or did they do a little of both?
[A] The group worked on a few originals during their time together, but this was not the band's strong suit. They made a career of covering, rearranging, and pumping up obscure material from the blues masters, primitive rock 'n' roll, some lesser known cuts off early British Invasion albums, plus a few garage pounders from their contemporaries. These songs were so unknown, so exotic sounding, and delivered with such personal passion that they may as well have been originals as far as their audience was concerned. Following the break up of the Mojo Hands, several members of the group become prolific songwriters. A look at the collective post Mojo portfolio includes several regional hits and one Billboard Top Ten smash.
[Q] How popular was the band locally? Did they appear on any local (or national) TV Shows?
[A] The Mojo Hands were capable of headlining and filling clubs with capacities in excess of 2,000. But because of their wild, no-holds-barred reputation and that of their overly enthusiastic fans, none of the area television shows would touch the Mojo Hands.
[Q] Did the band appear with any national bands? What was their best gig?
[A] The Mojo Hands earned the reputation of being a difficult band to follow on stage, of making it hard on the headliners. This did not always endear them to the promoters or to the stars. Although a date with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band was canceled because of a verbal fight backstage between the two groups, the Mojo Hands did open for the Lovin' Spoonful and later for Peter & Gordon. However it was their date with the Young Rascals that was their most successful. The two bands hit it off personally and played well off of each other's energy. It was a case of total Mojo Mania in front of nearly 3,000 concert goers. Following the Rascals' date (May '66), it appeared the Mojo Hands were on their way, rising stars. Chapter Eight of "We Gotta Go Now," entitled "Eight Days a Week," examines the often less than ideal situations that garage bands faced when opening for their major league counterparts.
[Q] Did the Mojo Hands ever come close to "breaking out" to a wider audience? If so, how close?
[A] One of the most interesting subplots in "We Gotta Go Now" is the ongoing rise and fall of the Mojo Hands. In late 1965, a deal with Boston-based producer Bruce Patch fell through. Patch later proved very successful at opening doors for other bands in his stable and he went on to establish the highly respected Spoonfed Record label. In the summer of 1966, the Mojos were scheduled to open for both the Rolling Stones and for the Animals. These plum dates fell into limbo when advance people for both the British groups found the Mojo Hands "too similar" in sound and style to their clients. Later, other major stepping stone dates had to be canceled due to riots and near riot conditions brought on by the Mojos' own fans. "We Gotta Go Now" takes a hard look at the odds facing garage bands chasing that all allusive big break.
[Q] Do you have a favorite Mojo Hand story?
[A] Yes, several - but most are too long to tell here. One "We Gotta Go Now" story in capsule form - The Mojo Hands were playing their regular Friday night gig at a nightclub known as The Accident. Peter Cappuccilli, the band's lead singer and bomb grade plutonium, heaved an oversized paper airplane from the club's stage. Fueled by hot air from the packed room, the craft sailed beautifully across the hall and toward an open window. Pete jumped from the stage and chased the plane across the old ballroom like a wide receiver on a deep route. The plane flew out the window, and much like Superman from the old fifties TV series, so did Peter. Days later he remarked that it wasn't until he was in the air that he remembered the club was located several stories up.
[Q] Why did the group break up?
[A] The beginning of the end came in the form of the Vietnam War. Much of the heart and soul was drafted out of the group. Later versions of the band found it difficult to maintain momentum when club owners and promoters began to shy away from hiring the group based on fear of their fans. Near the end, the Mojo Hands were banned from certain clubs and from entire towns including the City of Newport, RI. To put this 'ban' in perspective, Newport was known as 'the place' where off-duty navy men of the Vietnam War era went when they wanted to "let off a little steam."
[Q] What are the band members doing today?
[A] Where Are They Today? This is an important component of the "We Gotta Go Now" story and one I am somewhat reluctant to talk about. For now, let's just say that all the major players in this sometimes all too wild tale are alive, well, and active participants in the telling of their amazing story. How to order: "We Gotta Go Now" - Send check or money order in the amount of $19.95 plus $5.00 shipping & handling to Windholme Press, PO Box 236, Alexandria, VA 22313. Visa or Master Card accepted. Call toll free 1 (888) 549-3909 or visit their website at: www.wegottagonow.com.
By Mike Dugo - (Lance Monthly staff writer - U.S. '60s Garage Band Columnist - article first printed in "The Lance Monthly" August 2000 issue, Vol 2, No. 6)