An Interview with John Mascaro and Dewey Bond Of The Modds
A Florida Garage Band Standout of the '60s
"Someone broke into his apartment, slit the baby's bed sheets with a knife, and poured chicken blood or something to that effect all over the crib. Doc [Morton Downey Jr.] quit the station the next day and I never saw him again."
GEAR FAB'S "Psychedelic States" CD series has, to date, released three outstanding volumes of Florida garage band singles and demos. The series has consistently highlighted the best rock groups that the state had to offer in the '60's, including the Modds. The following interview is with guitarist John Mascaro and drummer Dewey Bond who give us detailed recollections of their adventures with the Modds along with the story of how their demo finally received an official release more than 35 years after it was recorded. Additional information on the Modds can be found at: www.skywebsite.com/themodds/themoddsofficialfanclubsite
(This interview is dedicated to the memory of BOBBY NIMER.)
[Lance Monthly] How did you first get interested in music?
[John Mascaro] I would have to say it was when I was growing up as a kid in upstate N.Y. (Rochester). We lived directly across a restaurant/dance club called "Goo-Goos" and during the summer months, we'd sit out on our front porch and listen to the bands that played there. It seemed that for the most part they were mostly jazz and big band stuff. As for Rock and Roll and R & B, I'd have to credit my older sisters for buying early Elvis 45's and playing the radio tuned to the Top 40 songs of the day - 1950's stuff, of course.
When our family moved to Miami in 1958, I made friends with several neighborhood kids, whom in a few years would form a band called The Catalinas. By 1962, I was 16 and in Florida then, one got their full driving privileges. I couldn't wait until I could drive to the teen dances, especially where my friends were playing. One day, I got bold enough to ask if I could watch them practice. When the reply was "sure," in a short time I knew I had to buy a guitar. I didn't make much money from my newspaper route job, so my dad bought me a cheap jumbo acoustic guitar in October 1962 at a pawn shop in downtown Miami. With perseverance, I eventually got an inexpensive electric guitar and amp and formed a short-lived band in April, 1963 called The Crystals, whom never got past practicing. However, by late Summer, I found myself in a band called The Surfin' Vibrations whom had quite a few teen dance hall gigs. Then this was followed by a band the lead singer of the Surfin' Vibrations, Chuck Guy, & I put together called The Intruders. Neither band recorded any demos, but we (The Intruders) did make a demo of cover songs on reel-reel tape but I do not know [of] its whereabouts. This leads up to Don (bass player) and I leaving those bands in that order and joining The Deltonas. So, interestingly, Don Ricketts & I would play in FOUR bands together: The Surfin' Vibrations, The Intruders, The Deltonas and The Modds!
[Dewey Bond] I started playing drums in elementary school, then in my Jr. High marching band. We formed The Deltona's, our first band in early '61 and played songs from The Ventures and other instrumental bands of that period (pre-Beatles).
[Lance Monthly] So immediately prior to the Modds, you both were in the Deltonas. What can you tell me about that band?
[John Mascaro] The Deltonas were a band prior to my joining it. They previously consisted of Craig Caraglior (who later changed his last name to Curtis), lead guitar and vocals; Austin Huewn (Sp?), rhythm guitar; Don Ricketts, bass; and Dewey Bond, drums. The later two, of course, would become members of The Modds by early 1965. Greg Shaw (not the editor of Bomp) would replace Dewey Bond on drums sometime later. The Deltonas were in some ways similar to The Modds in that we were primarily a Top 40 cover band with a strong liking for songs coming out of England (The British Invasion). We recorded two songs I wrote: "The Unlucky Man" b/w "Lisa" as an (unreleased) demo at Criteria Recording Studio in North Miami. We performed one or both of these songs on a local TV show called Saturday Hop, I think, hosted by Rick Shaw who is a stalwart even today for WMXJ-FM Oldies radio station in Miami.
[Dewey Bond] The Deltonas were me on drums, Craig Caraglior on vocals and lead guitar, and Austin Huhn on rhythm guitar. We got the name because Craig's Mom worked for a development company that was building a new community in Northern Florida by the name of Deltona. We played for their Christmas party and they had the drum head painted with the band's name, "The Deltonas." I still have a picture of the three of us standing behind the bass drum with our red sparkle jackets on. Don Ricketts was added on bass some time later. I left the group to play for the Voyagers and Mascaro was added to The Deltonas some time after that. The Deltonas never recorded while I was in the group but did release a single recorded in the original Criteria recording studio in North Miami.
[Lance Monthly] What led to the formation of the Modds?
[John Mascaro] The Deltonas broke up shortly after Christmas, 1964 when the drummer announced that he was quitting the band to focus on his studies. I think at that time, he had just entered the University of Miami. He would return to the music scene about a year or so later with Crag "Curtis" forming the very popular Shaggs (Miami). In the meantime, I had missed playing in a band and all the fun at the gigs, and Don Ricketts (who lived right next door to me) recruited Dewey, Dean Laipis and Bob Nimer to form The Modds. The name was derived from the "Mods and Rockers" thing in England except, of course, spelled with two "D"'s.
[Dewey Bond] As more bands started to emerge from the Miami scene, new alliances were formed and personalities and tastes in music took precedence over friendships. I don't remember exactly who called me to join The Modds but I am pretty sure it was Don Ricketts. I did not know Mascaro at that time.
[Lance Monthly] Where did the band typically practice?
[Dewey Bond] At John's house and my house. John's parents were real nice and supported his music and my Mom was the greatest. She would never say no to us practicing and would tolerate a lot of bad chords and missed vocals! I can still hear her asking me "does it have to be so loud?" I miss her.
[John Mascaro] At my house - or Dewey's - as the other guys's parents were not very supportive of providing a place to practice, although they were supportive of what we were trying to accomplish. I always got a kick out of my mom and dad "reviewing" our practice sessions with me after everybody left. They would say, "I don't think so and so sings his harmony part very well," or "I really liked that song. Was that a Beatles' song?" etc. My parents, who both were into their mid-50's at the time, really got to like The Beatles' music and nearly all the other British Invasion stuff I'd put on my dinky $40 turntable. Probably our best critic was my brother Nick who was two-years-younger than me at the time and was also an aspiring musician. He nearly always had something to say after a practice session such as, "I think you ought to drop that song as it's too hard for you guys and besides, it has an organ player and you'd sound empty." At the next session, I'd tell the guys, "Hey, I think we should drop this one and get another song." It was not usually a problem to replace songs on our growing list.
[Lance Monthly] How would you describe the band's sound? What bands influenced you?
[John Mascaro] I think what I liked best about our band was the enthusiasm and dedication all of us had, and the good sense to know if we were covering a song well or not. We were often our own harshest critics. We would not mince words if we felt like something sounded like shit. Also, although we did songs by British groups, we never tried to lay on a fake British accent like some of our other local competitors. We also did a fair share of American-based rock and R & B, covering such artists as James Brown ("I Go Crazy") to Sam Cooke's "Bring it on Home." I was always a strong fan of harmony-oriented groups such as The Beach Boys and Four Seasons and would push all members of the group to contribute to the vocals. I think one of my personal biggest thrills was to see The Rolling Stones debut "Satisfaction" on the Ed Sullivan show in the Summer of 1965. We were all rehearsing at Dewey's house but stopped long enough to watch that part. I was holding my guitar while watching and began to work out the opening riff. I told the guys "We're going to add that to our list. I'll buy the record and we'll be the first band to play that one out." Indeed, we WERE the first band to play it as we played with a lot of other bands in those days and the others had not yet worked it out. The fans thought we were GOD!
[Dewey Bond] Although the band had what was described by several D.J.'s and record people as a "heavy surfer beat" (I played real loud!), we liked the British music the best. I had a life changing experience after seeing The Beatles for the first time on The Ed Sullivan Show. I knew I had met my destiny.
[Lance Monthly] What types of gigs was the band landing around this time? Schools?
[Dewey Bond] Frat parties, local dance halls, any one who would listen. We averaged $3.00 to $10.00 per member per night, but would always jump at the chance to perform, even if it was for free. Remember, it was all about the music and girls back then.
[John Mascaro] Not so much at schools but certainly for school-age kids; teens mostly. I don't think we EVER played in a bar, although I'm sure we were all over 18 by then. One thing that is important to note is that back in the early '60's (and I'm sure before then as well), we had a lot of venues to choose from. However, in less than 5 years after the band broke up, new bands found themselves more limited access to venues when the "teen dance hall" thing ended mostly due to increasing use of drugs and booze and problems with police. I think our best gigs were at a place called PAL (Police Athletic League) because it was large enough to host several bands and it was close to the schools we all went to. We got a lot of fan support from that.
[Lance Monthly] What kind of following did the Modds have?
[John Mascaro] Well, as stated earlier, mostly from high school kids we grew up with. Since members of the band went to different high schools and their friends were from different neighborhoods our base was larger than it normally would be. It also helped to get a manager who later got us gigs at fancy hotels on Miami Beach such as The Americana and Deuville - the later of which The Beatles themselves stayed at during their Ed Sullivan appearance in 1964!
[Dewey Bond] Girls, lots of them! That's what it was all about. Dean Lapis, the lead singer, was a real lady killer.
[Lance Monthly] Your group released "Don't Be Late" b/w "So In Love." Where was the 45 recorded? What do you remember about the recording session?
[John Mascaro] We recorded the songs at Dukoff Recording Studio in Miami. It was all done live, i.e. no overdubbing like they do today. I don't remember how many takes it took, but I don't believe it was more than two or three at the most. Any musician or band will tell you that hearing your own recording on the radio for the very first time is just absolutely thrilling! You really get excited and it motivates you to want to move forward full steam. Although the songs were not played again (the program was just for "local shots" and each week they would present more newer songs), we knew we had to secure a record deal, hopefully with a well-known label. The story is well told in the liner notes in how close we came to a deal with Columbia! The immediate effect, however, was that we were now able to add this accomplishment to our flyers and resume. We noticed a significant interest in the group at subsequent gigs in turnout as well as more pretty girls closer to the front of the stage!
[Dewey Bond] We recorded at Bobby Dukoff's studio in South Miami. One room, one take, lots of reverb (very important in those days). Remember, we only had two track recorders. Everyone played and sang on one take. No overdubbing! Bobby's was one of the first studios in Miami. He was very well known as a sax player - and for the Bobby Dukoff sax mouth piece - which is still produced today.
[Lance Monthly] Morton Downey Jr., who was a big time D.J. in Florida in the '60's, played a role in the single receiving airplay. What do you recall about Morton? Was he anything like his '80's TV talk show persona?
[John Mascaro] First of all, I believe he only played the A-side: "Don't be Late." I only knew Morton Downey as "Doc Downey," the WFUN-AM radio (Miami) DJ. I never met him and never followed his career when he did his TV talk show thing. I was not aware for example of the alleged "payola scandal" as is mentioned in some books and reports about his life.
[Dewey Bond] Our Science teacher, Ray Scopp was our manager and somehow got us hooked up with Doc. Doc Downey was the # 1 D.J. on WFUN. His arch rival was Charlie Murdock on WQAM. They were both AM stations. Remember, this was the '60s. Yeah, Doc was crazy. He would do stuff like telling his listeners to turn their car radios down, count to ten, then turn it full up. He would then play a recording of a police siren. He called it Doc's "GET YOU OUTTA' TRAFFIC QUICK" segment. One afternoon he said "boys and girls, get your pencils and paper ready cause after the next song I'm going to give you the direct hotline number to The Rolling Stones!!!" He then proceeded to give out Charlie Murdock's home phone number and - to make things worse - Charlie's wife had a bad heart and almost went into cardiac arrest when the phone started ringing off the hook. He was full of crazy stuff like that.
After the Gig for Columbia Records at the Fountain Bleau Hotel, we were supposed to go back to Doc's place and celebrate. Doc had a wife and baby. Someone broke into his apartment, slit the baby's bed sheets with a knife, and poured chicken blood or something to that effect all over the crib. Doc quit the station the next day and I never saw him again. Needless to say, the Modds record went straight in the dumper. Payola was very much a part of a band's success back then and without Doc's influence, we didn't stand a chance.
[Lance Monthly] The Modds performed at that Columbia Records convention along with the Byrds, Paul Revere & The Raiders, and others. What do you recall about this convention?
[John Mascaro] Our manager, Ray Skopp (S.W. Miami High School teacher), would get us this gig and to this day, I give him much credit in trying to make a dream come true for all involved. What I remember was that we opened up for the Cristy Minstrels of whom I do not recall if Kenny Rogers was at that time a member (July, 1965). We did not play on the indoor stage along with the other major Columbia artists, but in an adjacent outside patio. What I thought was so cool, and to be quite honest, made me VERY nervous, was when we all spotted members of The Byrds taking a seat at a table nearby and "checking us out." They stayed seated throughout our two original songs, but as soon as we began to do cover songs, they got up and left. We never actually got to meet and talk with them as of course they had to get ready for their own performance inside in which, fortunately, we DID get to see and were, shall I say, "blown away!" It just made us all the more determined to continue with our music goals.
[Dewey Bond] We were very nervous because the Byrds were sitting in the front row watching us. I remember David Crosby sitting there and smiling at me. Craig, Austin, and I used to meet up with David and a folk singer by the name of Ozz back at the local Royal Castle hamburger joint after our weekend gigs. We would sit on the hood of the car and play and sing for hours. David was playing at The Flick Coffee House in Coral Gables back then. Ozz went on to form Spanky & Our Gang. The record company really liked us and we found out later they were ready to sign us. John getting drafted and Dean joining the Air Force put an end to the group as Dean and John were the main singers. John had a very high and strong voice.
[Lance Monthly] So there was a real possibility of being signed by Columbia--whether before or after the convention appearance?
[John Mascaro] I doubt if they were interested in "before" our appearance, but certainly AFTER. This is elaborated upon quite well in the liner notes on the CD. As noted in the liner notes, they wanted us to re-record the songs using additional musical instruments, namely a keyboard (organ). It was unclear at the time if they were planning on providing a studio and recording time. Oddly, this being in mid-July, I often think what went down in the next 3 1/2 months before our demise. Certainly, there was plenty of time to re-record and to jump on the implied offer from Columbia. Perhaps it was a managerial decision. Also, I know for sure we were VERY worried that we did not have any additional originals to offer them. I'm sure that had to have been brought up. These days, of course, bands get songs from other mostly professional song-writers. I was shocked for example to learn that the huge country music artist, Tim McGraw, does not write his own songs and instead relies heavily on other writers!
[Lance Monthly] Do any (other) '60's Modds recordings exist? Are there any vintage live recordings?
[Dewey Bond] "Don't Be Late" and the flip side were the band's only studio recordings. We used to record at practices and parties but those tapes are long gone.
[John Mascaro] It makes me sad and perhaps a bit angry that we did not make much of an effort to record ourselves at gigs let alone record additional original songs. I personally did not have additional material written at the time and I'm not sure if others had. It is the same with photos. Very few photos exist of the band. You've got to remember the mind set of a teenager, thinking we have a full lifetime ahead to worry about doing that stuff; let's just enjoy the "here and now" and we'll do that stuff "later." Well, it was not too much "later" that most of us received draft notices due to the Vietnam War!
[Lance Monthly] Did the Modds compete in any Battle Of The Bands?
[Dewey Bond] Battle Of The Bands hadn't emerged yet but there was very stiff competition between the various local bands.
[John Mascaro] No, but we had our competitors at the time. Rumor had it that The Montells were bad-mouthing us and telling everyone THEY were better than us. You will see a photo of a flyer in Jeff's book. The flyer says, "Her Majesty's Subjects" with a small tombstone at the bottom with the words "Modds R.I.P."
[Lance Monthly] What do you recall about the Montells?
[John Mascaro] The Montells were from the same high school as [the] members of The Modds and also lived in Southwest Miami, playing at some of the same places as The Modds. I went to see them a couple of times and rather liked their rough/wild "bad boy" sound. They reminded me of early Yardbirds, Pretty Things and The Rolling Stones - whom they borrowed heavily from; perhaps a hint of the early Who as well. I think each group(s) certainly tried to get the coveted gigs and it was not unusual to seek out the same venues - mostly fraternity and sorority parties when there wasn't the teen dance gigs available. You've got to remember, there were LOTS of bands in Miami during that period ALL competing to get the gigs. If you haven't already read Jeff Lemlich's book "Savage Lost-Florida Garage Bands in the 60's" and you do, you will certainly agree. Jeff has a special liking for The Montells as revealed in his book. I think The Montells saw us play and decided the stuff we played was "not their cup of tea" and the feeling was mutual. Our band focused on harmonies and clean-sounding guitars. The Montells were, in one word, wild. I guess one or more members felt that they were better than us and perhaps they thought they were better than a lot of other bands as well.
[Dewey Bond] We hated them!. We were the "cool guys" and they tried to dress, act, and sound like The Stones. The R.I.P. thing really got to us. I liked to fight back then and remember wanting to "cold cock" Carter Ragsdale, their lead singer.
[Lance Monthly] Did you join any bands after the Modds?
[Dewey Bond] I played in numerous local bands while perusing a degree in music at The University of Miami. After graduation I formed a group called Asbury Park with four of my college class mates. We toured and released two albums. I also did a lot of studio and session work. I was honored to receive an endorsement from The Ludwig Drum Company and appeared in several national/world wide add campaigns. I also did clinics and N.A.M.M. demos for the company.
[John Mascaro] After my three years in the Army, about eight months after I had been back home and confident I was doing OK with my college studies, I again started up a Top 40 rock band called The John Mace Group. Sad but true, NO recordings and very few photos during their two years existence!
[Lance Monthly] What keeps you busy today?
[John Mascaro] Mostly my job as an Office Technician doing quality control for a survey company located in Pompano Beach, Florida that specializes in mortgage and closing surveys. I'm also more into computers. As for music, I have been a long-time member of the South Florida Folk Club and Everglades Bluegrass Music Association, who have monthly meetings. Due to a kidney transplant I had in January 1999, I am often running around to one doctor's appointment after another (despite that I am doing just fine) and the bills require that I stay fully employed and accept all the overtime I can get to keep up. It's a bit depressing not to have the time anymore for rock music. I have not picked up my electric guitar for example in over a year.
[Dewey Bond] I don't play professionally anymore but still have my last Ludwig kit and enjoy thrashing about from time to time. I still own and operate Allstar Lighting & Sound located in Orlando, Florida. I collect, restore, and ride my vintage British Motorcycles (38 at last count. A man can never have too many motorcycles) and I'm editor of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America's Florida Chapter's newsletter. My wife, Sandy, runs our powder coating business, and our daughter, Step, is a producer for G&S at Nicolodean Studios.
[Lance Monthly] Do you keep in touch with any of the other Modds?
[John Mascaro] Mostly Dewey, who lives near Orlando which is also where Gear Fab Records is located. I have met on occasion Don Ricketts, former bass player who still lives in Miami. I have not seen Dean Laipis since March, 1981. He may have moved back to his home state of Ohio. Bob Nimer passed away tragically in the early 1970's. I recently made contact with his brother Richard who lives in Tallahassee, Florida. A "reunion" of sorts is planned sometime this month or next with me, Dewey, Bob's brother Richard and hopefully Don Ricketts - who is in ill health.
[Dewey Bond] Only John Mascaro and Bobby's family. I understand Don Ricketts still lives in Miami. John contacted him about the CD project and, from what I understand, he said "I'm not putting any money out for it." Hey Don, no one EVER asked you to!!!
[Lance Monthly] How did the demo for "Don't Be Late" end up on Gear Fab's "Psychedelic States" CD series?
[John Mascaro] The idea of trying to get a decades old record released I think was born out of the project and later release of Jeff Lemlich's book "Savage Lost: Florida Garage bands in the 60's." Jeff had contacted me and I provided several photos for the book and gave him a cassette of The Modds' two songs. In turn he gave me a cassette of some local Miami groups' songs of the same era. I really enjoyed helping out Jeff and attended his book release party in February, 1992 at Yesterday & Today Records in Miami. I met two members of The Shaggs and one member of Evil and other groups and took some photos and swapped stories. I was emotionally touched by this "reunion of sorts" and only regretted the absence of many other former band members I would have loved to see again, especially former members of The Modds. However, in a few months, I would be off to work in Colorado for six months and the following year my mom would pass away making it all the more difficult to pursue any ideas of musical reunions or releases. One year later, in 1994, we would sell our house in Miami of 36 years and I would move to Colorado and live for nearly 3* years before moving back in December, 1997.
In November, 1999 I bought a new computer system and hooked up to the Internet for the very first time. Soon after, I heard of http://www.eyeqradio.com in which Jeff was a DJ hosting a '60's nostalgic show. Not long afterwards, I received an email from "Misty Lane", a fan magazine in Italy, inquiring about The Modds. Apparently, Jeff had played the songs I had given to him on his radio show and someone with an MP3 CD burner copied the song and released it without my permission, of course, on a bootleg release out of Italy. For all I know it could have been the same person(s) sending me the email, but he disavows any involvement. This is when I began to think of an "official" release and contacted Jeff with some advice. He gave me two references: Gear Fab and Sundazed Records out of New York, with Sundazed having the larger exposure of the two.
For several months in the Summer of 2000, I tried to negotiate a deal with Sundazed and had everything 99% in place for a picture sleeve cover 45 release. However, as they often say, everything fell apart in the "details" of the contract. After about six months or so, I thought about Gear Fab and again contacted Jeff who sent me the link. From there on, things went at breakneck speed with Roger Maglio and I frantically working out a deal to get the song on the CD which was scheduled for release a mere month after my initial contact with Gear Fab.
[Dewey Bond] First of all, let me say that from the beginning - approximately two years ago - when John Mascaro contacted me about Sundazed Records wanting to release The Modds "Don't Be Late," my intentions were to honor the memory of guitar player and co-writer, Bobby Nimer. Bobby took his life in 1973 while despondent over the break up with his girl friend. Bobby was a dear friend and came from a wonderful family. Money was never an issue in me persuing this project - only making this come full circle for Bobby and his family. It seemed things got a bit out of hand with Sundazed, and the deal was "blown" over John worrying about royalties and some "name artist" stealing the song. After the Sundazed deal fell through, John knew I was really pissed because I had already contacted the Nimer family and told them what was about to happen. I think Jeff Lemlich turned John on to Gear Fab. At this point I was out of the loop. I am disappointed the songs could not have been released as a single as originally planned and somehow John let the dedication to Bobby slip by. But I am very grateful to Gear Fab for salvaging the project. Again, from the beginning, this was not supposed to be about money. Fortunately, a company in Orlando, Florida, has released it on a compilation disc. It's not as good as the Sundazed deal (would have been), which would have released both sides as a single with a dedication to Bobby's memory, but at least it has come full circle after forty something years. I plan to meet with Bobby's Mom, sister, & brother in Miami in the next few weeks and present them with an original undigitized version and the new compilation disc version along with a photo album of pictures and memorabilia of the band. I will then take a CD and place it on Bobby's grave. Full Circle.
SOME THINGS IN LIFE ARE NOT ABOUT MONEY.