Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Memories (K.O. Recording Studios Inc.)

Wisconsin was home to several great rock and roll groups in the 1960’s. Many local bands were inspired by these groups. The Memories were from Appleton Wisconsin. From 1964-1966 the group performed at various events in Wisconsin. including opening for several national acts including the Turtles. The band was dubbed "Appleton;s own Rolling Stones" in Lost and Found magazine. The Memories released one 45 on the K.O Recording Studios Inc. label in 1966  
 Chuck Reitzner                     Bob Fusfeld                                          Chuck Posniak             George Baer                          




 I was pleasantly surprised when I was contacted by Memories band members Bob Fusfeld and Chuck Posniak. Both shared interesting stories and thoughts about their time with the Memories, of which I feature for you today.

Chuck Posniak
  My older brother was leader of a band (The Catalinas; aka The Golden Catalinas). He was the showman of the family, but I had the voice. I was somewhat shy, but he got me on stage a few times to sing with his group. My friends, Chuck Reitzner and George Baer suggested we start a band; even though none of us had ever had any music training. Reitzner picked up a drum set. Baer picked up an electric guitar. I had a piano at home. I have only one useable hand from birth, so I started learning rhythm piano (just playing chords, no leads). Meanwhile Fuzzy (Bob Fusfeld) had been playing guitar for a few years and followed the Catalinas. The 3 friends met Fuzzy thru my brother. There was also another friend (Dennis Becker) who wanted to play in a band. So we started out as a 5 piece band. Bob didn't have a great voice, but he could carry a tune and was a good front man. George couldn't carry a tune, but we eventually got him to sing a song or two. Dennis had a decent backup voice. Reitzner sang one song (Surfin' Bird). He did a great job on it. I was officially the lead singer. But I was the only one who could sing harmony; and I didn't relish being the center of attention.
  So here we are, a group of untrained musicians, with no experience, limited vocal talent, no uniforms, no choreography; and almost overnight we became a local sensation. This infuriated the real musicians in the area. One day we got a call from a local booking agent. We didn't usually work with him, but he needed someone for that night in northern Wisconsin. We took the job and headed north. We got into town early and so we each took off in a different direction to check out the 3 block long downtown area. In a short time each of us was suddenly being followed by packs of screaming teenagers. They had never seen us. They had never heard of us. But to them we were celebrities. The place we were playing at was an 18 year old beer bar. That night there were more people outside, glaring in than there were people in the tiny bar. Good times.
   After I left the Memories. Doug Yankus asked me to join his group "The Strangers". Instead I suggested to Doug that we start a new band with better music and vocal talent. I knew I had no music talent. Doug was still in High School and I was a few years older; but he was as talented a musician as they come. Not a great singer. He was a big fan of the Memories. We ended out with Private Property of Digel. Not quite the talent either of us was looking for. I was with the group for about 1.5 years. I was 23 and looked like I was seventeen. But I knew I needed to use my brain, not my voice if I was going to do anything with my life. I left the music business and found a computer trainee job in Chicago. I worked full time and went to college at night, finishing in three years.. I am now retired; have 3 daughters and 3 grandchildren.  By the way, I sing karaoke and get standing ovations. My voice has actually improved and I do a great job on the Righeous Brothers and Roy Orbison


Bob Fusfeld
  Appleton was a pretty interesting music spot back then, it produced some great bands and musicians. Doug Yankus probably became the most well known , performing in Tracy Nelson's and John Hiatt's groups. He was the leader, guitarist, and writer for Soup which performed at the Fillmore. Al Posniak’s band the Catalinas were my idols, they were absolutely fabulous. I sang “I fought the law” with the Catalinas one night. I met Al Posniak's brother, Chuck. and started hanging out. The Catalinas had this old bus, Dennis Becker who was the original Memories bassist, George Baer and Chuck Reitzner who were Chuck's neighbors would also sit in the bus and sing songs. One night I brought my guitar at Chuck Reitzner insistence. I was the only one who could play even a modest guitar.  We started singing folk songs but the Beatles were supreme and the Stones performed in Hollywood. George Baer decided to learn guitar and he truly became a very accomplished player with the help of Harry Wheelock the Catalinas guitar player. Harry was truly unknown and quite underrated, besides his guitar ability, he was one fine voice and human being. Eventually we formed the group. George did not want to play initially, so Vic Wendt's music store Concerto Music. brought us Tom Noffke. The group started with Dennis Becker (Bass), Chuck Posniak (Piano), Chuck Reitzner (Drums), Tom Noffke (Lead), and myself (rhythm). 
  We began building a repertoire consisting of 50's rock tunes and current 60's stuff. We started playing in the late spring at parties The group  really hit their stride in front of my dad's store during a sidewalk sale, that lead to another sidewalk sale performance in Menasha and some more parties. Then the biggy, our first engagement at Xavier High School. W rocked it and we got a return, like this was great. The Appleton School District really helped us out by showing us the door because of our hair. Chuck Reitzner had the longest and his photo sitting in a barber's chair being shorn made us a "talent”, this type of publicity really did us well. Tom Noffke had to leave the group and George Baer was now ready to play and he joined the band. It was the fall of 64 and we started getting gigs all over playing at high schools and beer bars.
  The group wore uniforms until the riot at the Wbay Auditorium..We did some silly shows within the show. One of them for fun I put on a dress and we did a song called Go Gorilla, well they shut the show down, the girls went ballistic. I recall someone flattened our tires. We  really had a strong Green Bay following. At another venue, the beach dances, a group of jealous men threatened us and the police were called to escort off the property,we did have a look. The group really flourished . 
  We had many musical disagreements, George was into the Searchers and Beatles, the Chucks and I were the Stones. Chuck Posniak and myself did most of the booking and song selection. Like I said George was really into the Searchers and so we did a lot of their material. Chuck Reitzner would do songs like the Kingsmens and Surfin Bird stuff. We had no real harmony so we could not do justice to the Beatles and the surf groups. In other words, once you got beyond our appeal we stunk. We played constantly out of tune but we flourished. When we got to graduation in the summer of 65, sadly George left the Memories for a group called Terry Lee and the Sonics. Though George did not like me, I was devastated, he really was a very good guitar player. Kip Krutz joined the group and The Memories continued to have fan appeal and set records for crowds but it was not the same group. When Dennis Becker left to go to college at UW-Madison, Al Posniak thought we should be a 4 piece band and I switched to bass, I stunk but we continued on. Finally when we hit the road playing nightclubs for the Al Schultz Organization. The writing was on the wall. The Memories had no business ever being a nightclub type of group, we were doomed. We played the entire summer to no one from Waukegan to Duluth, it was a horrible experience. The Memories were not a suit and tie group, we were pretty scruffy. 
  I left the Memories  for a brief period of time to joined a very good band, The Flamin' Coals, they were exceptional. I was a big fan of Gary Laabs and he liked my stage presence . I left the Flamin’ Coals and went back to the Memories which was a big mistake musically, you can never look back, The Memories were not the same, The members of the group at the time of recording session were Kip Krutz , Chuck Reitzner , Chuck Posniak and myself. The recording for the 45 was made on a cheap reel to reel tape machine. There was no booth or board, It was recorded in a bar room backroom in Kaukauna,Wisconsin. This was not even low tech, There were no individual mikes and no editing, it is what it is. The 45 receive some air play but The Memories died in in September 1966. The Gary Meyer books has some good background on the group. All the Post Crescent News accounts of the bands battle with the Appleton School Board is pretty well documented.  Al Posniak who was K.O. records which later turned into Target records. We created a nice stir in the eastern and central part of Wisconsin, it was our hair and attitude, and it was fun while it lasted.
  Where ever you may be Chuck Reitzner may you still have that incredible wit and smile, I think of you and your brother often and miss you both.  It was good to hear Chuck Posniak's voice. George Baer, I trust you are well and happy. I have no clue where Dennis Becker may be, though a very good bass player and voice, he never seemed to fit the look. He was bright and received an Evans scholarship. I would imagine he is quite successful.  I have no clue where Tom Noffke or Kip may be. As far as myself,once the Memories were done, I played with other Appleton groups and finally found a niche in honky tonk country. I love that music. Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Dwight Yokum, Emmy Lou and Gram Parson, Lefty Frizzel. As Johnny Paycheck lamented.”precious memories”, take me back to the good ole days.

5 comments:

  1. .. got'em all, Johnny, all killers

    thanks and have a nice evening

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great, The 45 is raw, but I think both sides are very good. When I first heard "That's how strong my love is" I thought that it was so so, but the more I listen to it, the more I liked it a lot, it has it's own unique sound. Michael, As always thank you for your comments.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a trip down memory lane! These Appleton bands from the 60's were our mentors.I remember many band contests at the Cinderella Ballroom with the Memories, The Yorks, and several other bands. We tried to compete but we were never the polished musicians that these guys were. What a wonderful era that I'm proud to be a part of. Great to see these posts out there. Dar Ryba-Borchardt (The She-5)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Dar
    Wisconsin was home to many outstanding groups in the 1960's, that's for sure. I appreciate you and the rest of the She Five for your support of the Vietnam Vets. That was wonderful thing,thank you. I also posted this link about the group for others can learn more about the group.

    http://www.radioflyerband.com/she_5.htm.

    I like the cool photo's and the newspaper clips of the band. Thank you for your comments

    ReplyDelete