DAY ONE: Kingtones Memoirs
February 6, 1964 (Thursday)
In our quest for national recognition and in fulfilling our contractual recording agreement with Cadet Distributing of Detroit, the Kingtone’s met at the Our Theater in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to finish up our next record release. Dave Kalmbach, owner and recording engineer of Fenton Records, met us there at 6:00 am. We were so excited about going to Ft. Lauderdale , that it was hard to stay focused on the recording session. We just had to do a couple more recordings before we could leave. We were all packed and ready to go. At 8:30 am , we were finished with the recordings and thus our journey to Fort Lauderdale began.
Pete Mervenne (Lead singer – age 20), Mike King (drummer – age 18) and I (Bruce Snoap – Keyboards, age 20; turned 21 Feb. 13), drove The Kingtone’s van with the band equipment in it. Phil Roberts (Lead guitar – age 20), followed in his 1955 yucky gold Thunderbird; Bob Major (bass player – age 20), drove his 1957 “cherry condition” silver convertible Oldsmobile 98.
Our excitement was soon squelched by the long monotonous drive, the rain that lasted all day, no sunshine to lift our spirits and a series of problems, and mishaps, mistakes, etc. that we encountered. Making a right turn instead of a left and going 22 miles out of the way, was just the beginning. Although most of us thought this to be a little funny, Bob was angry; After all, he had to pay for his own gas. As we proceeded, Phil got a flat tire, had an oil leak and his windshield wipers broke. Pete, who was driving the van, laughed so hard about Phil’s car problems, he missed his cut off. Upon realizing this, he stopped the van to turn around and got stuck in the soft shoulder mud. Bob, with his big Oldsmobile, pushed the van out. Mike, Pete and I pushed on the side of the van so it wouldn’t tip over. Although Major (Bob’s last name), was able to push the van out, he managed to put a nice dent in the back of it
Financing for this wild and crazy adventure was basically “every man for himself.” We did have a “kitty” that Phil was in charge of that everyone had to put in $40.00 to start with. This money would be used to pay for gas, oil, groceries, rent, etc., that involved an expense for the entire band. Other than that, you were on your own.
Not having a lot of money, my mother packed a box full of “Grandma’s Fried Chicken” for all of us to eat. Continuing on our journey, we finished the chicken and threw the box out the window to make more room in the cramped van. Somehow, one of my shoes got in the chicken box. When we finally realized that we threw one of my shoes out the window, we were a couple hundred miles down the road; we weren’t going back in hopes of finding it.
Rotating drivers to help ward off fatigue was working fine and kept us moving towards our destination. Mike, nicknamed “Clod” because of all the times he hurt himself, broke things, screwed things up etc., took over driving for Phil. Mike wanted to impress Pete and me by showing how fast he could take off with Phil’s car. He temporarily broke Phil’s gas pedal. To add to our frustration, we lost Bob Major for about half an hour because we took a wrong road while Bob took the correct one.
At 7:00 pm we stopped for dinner. The food was absolutely terrible. I got sick because of it. Since we had so little money, we decided to “put the pedal to the metal” and drive straight through to Florida to save on one nights lodging. So Pete (alias Mario Andretti) in the Kingtone’s van, Phil (alias A.J. Foyt) driving his “cool” T-Bird and Mike (alias Richard Petty) driving Bob’s “OLDS 98”, took the wheel and we were off like jets. It wasn’t long before a red flashing light was seen in the rear view mirror. All three drivers were pulled over and given tickets. The “sheriff” made us all follow him to the Justice of the Peace house to pay the fines. They wouldn’t let us go until we came up with the money. Each “race driver” had to pay $17.50 each. This left Pete with $9.00 to his name to survive in Florida. Our first day’s experience on the road seemed like the longest day and night in the history of travel.