An Interview with Mitch Schecter
Member of a Garage Band, The Legions, That Contributed to Philiadelphia’s ‘60s Garage Scene
Mitch Schecter began his musical career in a Philadelphia garage band known as The Legions. Though they didn't travel outside the Philadelphia area, the group managed to record one single. Now playing guitar for The Rip Chords, Mitch has had a chance to play with some of the biggest names from the 1960s rock and roll era.
[Lance Monthly] How did you first get interested in music?
Mitch Schecter It started in elementary school. I was also a member of the Philadelphia All Boys Choir in 4th grade. Then I saw the Fab Four on Ed Sullivan and that was it.
[Lance Monthly] Was The Legions your first band?
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Mitch Schecter Yes, The Legions were my very first band.
[Lance Monthly] Where and when was the band formed?
Mitch Schecter Jeff Chadrow, our guitarist, and myself formed the Legions in 1965.
[Lance Monthly] Please recap the band line-up for our readers.
Mitch Schecter Mitch Schecter - drums and vocals; Jeff Chadrow - guitar and vocals; Walt Barr - guitar and vocals; Ed Blumenthal - farfisa combo organ; and Ron Gordon - bass. I played drums back then, but now guitar is my main instrument. I still play drums though.
[Lance Monthly] Who named the band? Any reason why?
Mitch Schecter I don't recall who thought of the name--most likely Jeff or myself.
[Lance Monthly] Where did the band typically practice?
Mitch Schecter Jeff's house, Walt's house, and my house.
[Lance Monthly] What type of gigs did you land?
Mitch Schecter Church dances, radio station hops, fire-hall dances, school dances, etc.
[Lance Monthly] Did you play any of the local Philadelphia teen clubs?
Mitch Schecter We were too young to play any clubs, and I don't recall many teen clubs in Philadelphia back then.
[Lance Monthly] How would you describe the band's sound? What bands influenced you?
Mitch Schecter We sounded a bit like the Byrds on a good day, and a typical garage band on an okay day.
[Lance Monthly] Did The Legions have a manager? If so, how active was he in promoting the band?
Mitch Schecter We had a guy named Cliff Epstein for a while, and we thought that was cool because it sounded like Brian Epstein. Our parents also took an active roll in helping the band. They paid for our recording session, so we could record our song, which would then allow us to work with WFIL, the top radio station back then.
[Lance Monthly] How did you become affiliated with WFIL?
Mitch Schecter Through a contest they ran to find the best bands in our area.
[Lance Monthly] What were some of those bands?
Mitch Schecter Thuh Squamps were our toughest competition. They had the best equipment, but we had cooler clothes. Bob Rush from Thuh Squamps plays in The Ripchords with me today!
[Lance Monthly] How popular locally did The Legions become?
Mitch Schecter We were popular among the Junior high students we went to school with. Our popularity grew after we recorded our record and worked with WFIL.
[Lance Monthly] That record was "She's Gone."
Mitch Schecter The flip was a terrible version of the Turtles' "Happy Together." We recorded it at Impact Recording Studio, which was in the basement of a shoe repair shop. The song became a hit within our local area and was played a couple of times on WFIL, which blew us away when we heard it!
[Lance Monthly] Who wrote, "She's Gone?" Did The Legions write many original songs?
Mitch Schecter Jeff Chadrow and I wrote it. That was the only one we ever wrote.
[Lance Monthly] Do other Legions’ recordings exist? Are there any vintage live recordings, or unreleased songs?
Mitch Schecter Just the 45, scratches and all.
[Lance Monthly] Did The Legions participate in any Battle of The Bands?
Mitch Schecter That WFIL competition was the only one. I don't recall the other bands.
[Lance Monthly] Did the band make any local TV appearances?
Mitch Schecter No TV, but there is an 8mm film somewhere of us playing at Rye Valley Country Club. I think Jeff Chadrow's parents have it, although I'm not sure.
[Lance Monthly] How far was the band's "touring" territory?
Mitch Schecter We played only in Philadelphia.
[Lance Monthly] Why did the band break up in the '60s?
Mitch Schecter We just started to grow up and get into different musical things.
[Lance Monthly] What bands have you played in throughout your career?
Mitch Schecter The Legions, Dead Cheese, Medusa, Jellow Buzzard (with future members of The A's). Later I played with some club bands and recorded a few albums with some singer/songwriter types.
[Lance Monthly] What about today? How often and where do you perform?
Mitch Schecter Today I have a Production Company with my wife, Amy Lynne, called Home Room Productions. We have a CD out called Mitch 'n' Amy - Things Left Undone, which is available at CDbaby.com. We also write songs for other artists and occasionally play live.
[Lance Monthly] How did you hook up with The Ripchords?
Mitch Schecter I became involved with The Rip Chords after renewing my friendship with Bob Rush from Thuh Squamps. We got together to play some Beatles' songs and he told me he knew one of the original Rip Chord members. To make a long story short, we all got together to jam and The Ripchords were reborn. Since then, 1996, The Rip Chords have played shows with Al Jardine of The Beach Boys, Hermans Hermits, The Box Tops, Spencer Davis Group, Tommy James, Freddy Cannon, and many more classic '60s stars. It's great to meet all of my heroes after all of these years. Al Jardine has been especially great to us.
[Lance Monthly] How do you best summarize your experiences with The Legions?
Mitch Schecter The Legions were so much fun, and one of the best periods of my life. I can still remember the feeling I had before every rehearsal. It was like I was going to a gig, or I was on The Monkees, or in "A Hard Days Night." I am so fortunate to have these great memories. Thanks for asking!