An Interview with Cathy Fissell Rood
Featured Female Lead Guitarist for an Ohio Garage Band During the ‘60s
[Interviewer's Note: The Es-Shades today are remembered for their classic two-sided single, "Without My Love" b/w "Anyday Anywhere." Interestingly-though the band did not market it at the time-they were one of the few '60s garage combos to feature a female guitar player. Cathy Fissell Rood was also instrumental in forming the band and, after The Es-Shades' breakup, has played in numerous other groups. Here is the story of her first rock and roll band.]
[Lance Monthly] Being a "girl" in a male-dominated arena, were you ever discouraged from learning the guitar?
Cathy Fissell Rood No, not at all. I taught myself and was in the band before it ever became an issue. After that I just blew people's minds!
[Lance Monthly] Who or what inspired you to learn the guitar?
Cathy Fissell Rood George Harrison. The Beatles changed my whole life. I didn't even like guitars before they came along.
[Lance Monthly] Was The Es-Shades your first band?
Cathy Fissell Rood Yes, it was my first. I was only thirteen at the very beginning. It was together over four years: 1965-1969.
[Lance Monthly] Where was Es-Shades formed, what year, and by whom?
Cathy Fissell Rood I ended up having to go to a different school for a year and met Sonny at that school. It was Black River District near Homerville, Ohio. I lived in Homerville at the time. Sonny actually lived in another small town nearby, Polk, I think. He found out I played guitar and asked me if I wanted to start a band. Of course, I said yes! We first got together at the very start of '65. The first couple of jobs we played were just the two of us. They were in February, just days before my 14th birthday.
[Lance Monthly] Who all comprised the band that would become known as Es-Shades?
Cathy Fissell Rood Sonny Swinehart - drums; Me - lead guitar/vocals; Mark Lance - bass/lead vocals (Mark actually started out playing rhythm guitar but switched to bass later after we decided we really needed a bass player); Tom Clifford - keyboards/vocals; Pete Todd - rhythm guitar (Pete came in when Mark switched to bass). Then, later: Rick Peters - rhythm guitar; Rick Stuart - keyboards; Richard Carmichael - drums; and Norman Blaha - rhythm guitar.
[Lance Monthly] How did you hook up with Mark Lance, Tom Clifford, and Pete Todd - the original line-up?
Cathy Fissell Rood Sonny knew them all. They lived in his area.
[Lance Monthly] Clifford was an accordion player (!) but switched to keyboards. When he first joined, did he intend to actually play the accordion, or did he have every intention of switching to keyboards?
Cathy Fissell Rood Back in those days, there were few actual keyboard players among teenagers. Tom and Rick Stuart both played the accordion but switched to organ. Accordion just didn't seem right for a rock band! You have to understand that rock bands were a new thing. We were all just learning. We all wanted to be famous rock stars! We were also just kids. Portable electric organs were brand new. They weren't very good sounding, but it's all we had to work with. We couldn't lug around a piano or full sized organ.
[Lance Monthly] Was the fact that the lead guitarist of Es-Shades was a female a drawing point? Did the band market this fact?
Cathy Fissell Rood It was a drawing point but the band never really marketed that fact. You know egos and stuff. I just wanted to fit in. Some clubs and events did use the fact in advertising shows we played. We should have used it but . . . oh well! Word (still) got around.
[Lance Monthly] Where did the band typically play (schools, parties, etc.)?
Cathy Fissell Rood We did a lot of schools, teen clubs, dances, concert clubs, pool parties, and what ever came up.
[Lance Monthly] What were some of the local Ohio teen clubs at which you performed?
Cathy Fissell Rood [We played] in Lodi, Ashland, Spencer, Norwalk, Wooster, Bucyrus . . . all over the state!
[Lance Monthly] What other local groups of the era do you especially recall?
Cathy Fissell Rood Sir Timothy and The Royals, The Wildlife, The Apparitions, The Music Explosion, The Buckles, The City Squires, Erie Beats, Jack and The Beanstalks . . . those are just a few I remember.
[Lance Monthly] Do you recall any other local bands of the time with female members?
Cathy Fissell Rood I don't think any of them had female members. There were a few female singers, but I can't recall any other female musicians. There were a couple of all-girl bands, but no one playing in an otherwise all-male band that I'm aware of.
[Lance Monthly] Did The Es-Shades participate in any Battle Of The Bands?
Cathy Fissell Rood We did a LOT of Battle of the Bands. They were very big back then. Everybody did them. We usually did very well. We took home MANY trophies, (including) several for first place!
[Lance Monthly] How would you describe the band's sound? What bands influenced you?
Cathy Fissell Rood We sounded sort of like The Strawberry Alarm Clock, I guess. We really didn't have a style of our own until we recorded. We all loved The Beatles, Stones, Dave Clark 5 . . . everybody! Music was kind of a big melting pot on the radio those days. We played everything from Bobby Vinton, to Sam and Dave, to The Yardbirds!
[Lance Monthly] What were some of the national bands that The Es-Shades opened for or played with?
Cathy Fissell Rood Let's see . . .The Five Americans, Jon and Robin and The Inn Crowd, The Outsiders, Terry Knight, Lee Rand, SRC, The Rationals, and Sir Timothy and The Royals (The Ohio Express). We did one gig with Patti Quatro's first all girl band, The Pleasure Seekers. Boy, were they bad!
[Lance Monthly] You've listed several Michigan acts. How far was the band's "touring" territory?
Cathy Fissell Rood All over Northern Ohio and Lower Michigan.
[Lance Monthly] The Es-Shades were managed by Sonny's uncle, Don Esbenshade (where you also got your name). How active was he in promoting the band?
Cathy Fissell Rood He pretty much did everything. All the booking, promoting . . . you name it! He drove us to all the gigs, too.
[Lance Monthly] How popular locally did The Es-Shades become?
Cathy Fissell Rood I'd say we did all right locally. We never landed that big recording contract, but we played a LOT! We got both of our records played on the radio. WWST, WLS, and a couple of other stations (played them).
[Lance Monthly] At one time, The Es-Shades had ten different costumes that you performed in . . .
Cathy Fissell Rood We had many different outfits over the years. I don't remember how many. Mark's Mother made several of them. We always dressed alike. Our manager found some of the stuff for us, like those gold jackets.
[Lance Monthly] Your group released "Good Lovin'" and "Never Met a Girl Like You Before" in 1966. Where was the 45 recorded?
Cathy Fissell Rood It was recorded in the studio at WWST radio station in Wooster, Ohio. My Dad was there. It was fun.
[Lance Monthly] Were the songs actually recorded live?
Cathy Fissell Rood They weren't recorded live, per say. The vocals were done separately. The crowd noise was added on later.
[Lance Monthly] The band recorded four more songs in 1967, two of which became the classic "Without My Love" b/w "Anyday Anywhere" single. Where were these songs recorded?
Cathy Fissell Rood These songs were recorded in a studio in Athens, Ohio.
[Lance Monthly] What were the names of the other two songs recorded during the Athens session? Have they survived?
Cathy Fissell Rood The other songs were "Backstreets" and "Still You Say It's All Right." I believe I have the only copy. I'm not sure if anyone else has it. They are on a four-song demo EP.
[Lance Monthly] Apparently, the band made several "publicity tapes" for WWST Radio in Wooster prior to recording the first single. Do you recall how many or which songs were recorded?
Cathy Fissell Rood All we did at WWST was record our first single there: "Never Met a Girl Like You Before" and "Good Lovin'." We played several events hosted by WWST.
[Lance Monthly] Did The Es-Shades write many original songs?
Cathy Fissell Rood Mark wrote a few songs, [including] the ones we recorded. We also had a couple of silly little instrumentals.
[Lance Monthly] Do any other '60's Es-Shades recordings exist? Are there any vintage live recordings?
Cathy Fissell Rood Those are the only recordings. I wish I had some live stuff, but I don't think we ever recorded any.
[Lance Monthly] Did the band make any local TV appearances?
Cathy Fissell Rood No.
[Lance Monthly] Tom, Sonny and Pete all left the band. Why?
Cathy Fissell Rood Tom left to pursue academics and sports. Sonny quit . . . I can't remember why! Pete got engaged and the "Mrs." made him quit! Sonny and Mark knew the other guys. It wasn't hard to find people to replace them.
[Lance Monthly] Your sister, Connie, filled in occasionally on drums. Did she play with any bands during this time?
Cathy Fissell Rood No, she didn't. She never tried to find a band. I guess she just didn't know how to go about it. She was pretty good!
[Lance Monthly] Why did the band officially break up? Was it in 1968?
Cathy Fissell Rood Actually, it was March 1969. I quit the band because our musical tastes were growing apart. I was into blues then. Mark had some trouble, and we all went our separate ways.
[Lance Monthly] Did you join or form any bands after The Es-Shades?
Cathy Fissell Rood Wow! There have been a lot of bands! Let's see . . . in order: Simon Legree, Caesar's Children (in Biloxi, Mississippi), Harem (an all-girl band-we traveled all over the country), The Saxons (New Orleans), Troppo, Mongoose, Cat, Harlow, Steeplechase, Threshold (all back in Ohio), Secrets (Michigan), Apple Viper (all female in Toronto, Canada), Lane King and The Fire Eaters, and Lestat (Sacramento, California)! I think I got them all!
[Lance Monthly] What about today? How often, and where, do you perform (if at all)? If not, what keeps you busy?
Cathy Fissell Rood The last band I was in was a year and a half ago (Lestat)-a classic rock band. I'm not out playing now. For the last few years I have been recording at home and have released two all-instrumental CDs of guitar rock that you can buy online. Check out my website: www.cat-rood.com . I'm married for the second time. I also have done some writing and recording for some short movies and an upcoming full length film for a company in Florida. I hope to do more of that. I'm actually looking for another band right now; maybe a blues band. I don't have a lot of time. I work at a TV station full time. I go to concerts and take care of my cat.
[Lance Monthly] When did you first become aware of the newfound interest in The Es-Shades?
Cathy Fissell Rood I found out just about a year ago. An old friend of mine back in Ohio holds a festival each year (Inferno Fest) for '60s Ohio bands. She told me. Several people interested in our recordings have since contacted me.
[Lance Monthly] How do you best summarize your experiences with The Es-Shades?
Cathy Fissell Rood It was Fantastic! I wouldn't trade it for the world. I feel so lucky I got to do it. It was just something I fell into and am VERY proud of! I'm glad other people are discovering (us). I'm shocked, but very glad! They were a great bunch of guys. What an experience! I got to travel all over, stay out late, and rock and roll! What could have been better that that?
For more on The Es-Shades, check out the band's excellent website at www.es-shades.com.