The Redcoats Are Coming!
Part One: Beginnings
Thanks to Steven Rappaport, The Lance Monthly was able to contact the Redcoats' rhythm guitarist, Zack Bocelle. Although he was originally approached to participate in an email interview, Zack's first submission was so interesting and entertaining that we thought it best to print it exactly as written. Zack's fascinating account will be told in nine monthly installments, and it's a story you're not going to want to miss. Meet the Redcoats - FINALLY!
My brother Randy and I were pretty much born into music. Dad, (Tony Bocelle,) played piano and sang. He even recorded a couple of 78's that he still has around. He used to do minstrel shows for the church, and he wanted us to be exposed to music - all kinds of music. From Classical to Rock, there was always music in the Bocelle household. I used to sing along with everything.
When I was 7, and Randy was 5, our mother (Doris) talked us into taking, now don't laugh, tap dancing lessons. I still don't know how she managed that one, but mothers can talk their children into doing a lot of horrible things. Homework . . . eating spinach . . . you know . . . Anyway, that was or introduction to show business. The dance teacher heard me singing one day and made me sing at our little recitals. It was all very cute and very innocent.
In 1960, at the age of 10, before it was fashionable, Randy decided that he wanted to take guitar lessons. I still think he did it just to get out of tap dancing, but he still won't admit to that. He was dedicated to that instrument. He would practice from the time he got up in the morning until he couldn't stay awake any longer. And before too long, he became quite the virtuoso. Seriously . . . he was great. He still is.
In the meantime, I had become the lead vocalist in the school choir. All that meant was that I was allowed to stay up late on Christmas Eve to sing the "Ave Maria" at Midnight Mass. In my freshman year in highschool, I was in the school play, and was invited to do a year of summer stock theater.
On February 9, 1964 Randy and I were glued to the television set. The Beatles were to appear on the Ed Sullivan show. And that's how it started. I asked Randy to teach me how to play the guitar. What could he say? I mean--if he didn't--I'd have told Mom about the time he . . . well . . . never mind.
So there we were . . . everyday. I played rhythm and he played lead. Then we started singing together. Mostly Everly Brothers and Beatles songs. We decided to put a little band together. We found a keyboard player, and a drummer. We called the band the Tantrums. We weren't very good, except for the vocal harmony and Randy's guitar playing. But we managed to get a summer job in a bar in Atlantic City. We were underage of course, but it was a different world back then, and Dad always went with us, so it was okay. We worked with a band who called themselves the Rondells. These guys would actually go on to become the Cyrkle, and tour with the Beatles.
The only reason I tell you all of this is because while we were growing and learning in Absecon, New Jersey, about thirty miles away, in Wildwood, New Jersey, a young man by the name of John Spirt, and a friend of his named Mike Burke, were doing the exact same thing. John Spirt had a dream. And that dream would soon bring the four of us together.
Dad came down to the basement one day and told us he'd seen an ad in the newspaper. Someone was holding auditions in Atlantic City. They were looking for singers and musicians, but you had to be 18. We reminded him that we were too young, but he said, "I know when your birthdays are, now come on. It'll be good experience. It'll be fun." So we went.
There were a lot of people there in this club, sitting around and listening to the other performers. All of a sudden they called on my brother and me. We went up and did an Everly Brothers' tune, and it went over pretty well. Then somebody yelled out, "Do you know any Beatle songs?" "Well o' course we do," I said. "Whaddya think . . . we live in the woods?" Actually, Absecon is in the woods, but hey - they didn't know that. So we did "I Saw Her Standing There," and this guy flipped out. He came over to us with this other guy, and said he wanted to talk to us. They didn't even bother to audition themselves. So Dad, who had just gotten hollered at because we were too young, gave 'em our phone number, and we went home.
John Spirt and Mike Burke came to our house that night, and so the dream began. He told us that he and his cousin, Steven Rappaport had a record out called, "The Martian Hop." He told us, "The Beatles are four English guys trying to sound American. What I want to do is find four American kids who can sound English. We'll be called the Redcoats. They can promote us by saying the Redcoats are coming."
They wanted to pick us up Fridays after school, and take us to John's parents' house in Wildwood. We would stay there on the weekends and practice. They'd take care of us like family, and return us unharmed Sunday nights, so we could go to school on Mondays. He called his folks, and let them talk to our parents. The Spirts didn't sound like cannibals or anything, so we were allowed to go - cool.
Thus began an adventure that would take four young men through the joys of heaven, and eventually the bowels of hell together. (to be continued)
THE REDCOATS ARE COMING! To experience a bit of Redcoatmania yourself, pick up "Meet The Redcoats - Finally" on Dionysus Records - http://www.dionysusrecords.com