If you love the music of the 60s, you’ll love The Stumps. These Dayton natives made a name for themselves in the Dayton area and grew to perform with some of the biggest acts of the decade. In this interview with 60sgaragebands.com, Mark Fraze of The Stumps reveals what it was like to tour, make records and play music in the height of Beatlemania and the Hippie era. The Stumps will relive these memories and more tonight at Fraze as they play our final $2 Tuesday concert of the year. Don’t miss this Dayton classic!
An Interview With Mark Fraze
60sgaragebands.com (60s): How did you first get interested in music?
Mark Fraze (MF): After seeing the movie The Viking in second grade, I liked the theme song so much that when I returned home I worked it out on the piano and played that little ditty all day. My next serious exposure was from the orchestra teacher of my elementary school. At this time I was so moved, I took up the violin.
60s: Was The Stumps your first band?
MF: My first band was called The Vibrations. It was formed in 1963 and the group lasted a little more than a year. When another group came out with the same name we renamed ourselves The Explicits.
60s: Where and when was The Stumps formed?
MF: The Stumps was formed in Kettering, Ohio in 1964 by Mark Fraze (bass), Steve Common (guitar), Steve Harding (keyboards) and Tom Davis (drums).
60s: How would you describe the band’s sound? What bands influenced you?
MF: We were a vocally adept four-piece band playing top 40 hits of the day. Our influences were typically all the groups of the British Invasion but especially The Beatles” and on the American side, The Beach Boys.
60s: Where did the band typically play?
MF: We started at private parties, then local dances and moved on to the larger teen spots in our city and other surrounding cities.
60s: Which of the local teen clubs did you play at?
MF: We performed at Forest Park, Kettering Skating Rink, LeSourdesville Lake, Sidney Teen Center, Piqua Hullabaloo, Springbrooke Gardens, Sugar Shack, Club Cuyhota, Lima Teen Center, Christopher Club, and Tipp City Teen Center plus many church sponsored teen clubs and armory dances spread out all over the state, to name a few.
60s: What was the Dayton rock and roll scene like in the ’60s?
MF: It was amazing. Schools actually let bands bring their equipment into classrooms and play before school. Of course bands had little equipment, which made this possible. Everyone I knew was in a band. Music was the primary focus for all the kids.
I think the greatest example of the scene was the Battle of the Bands sponsored by WING Radio in the mid-’60s. In a weekend, over 400 bands signed up.
60s: How did you hook up with Bob Holiday?
MF: Bob Holiday, a popular local DJ, not only spun records at dances but also promoted them. He saw us play at Kettering Skating Rink in early 1965. He took note of the group and asked us if we needed bookings to which we obviously said yes. After many performances, he thought we offered promise and began managing the group.
He had plans; many ideas and drastic changes were made. He recommended the clothing we wore changing from a “wear anything look” to matching double-breasted suits, shirts, ties, shoes and we changed outfits every set. We kept track of the outfit changes and song lists so not to duplicate these when performing at the same spot the next time. This always made the group seem even “fresher” than it was. Horsing around between songs was frowned upon as well as excessive tuning time. Choreography was arranged to many of our songs. We also would open every set with a medley to get every performance off to a fast start.
A code of conduct was instituted. From the second you left your home to the time of your return, everything was in this contract. It even specified who you could and couldn’t talk to. It actually improved our professional image and in some cases kept us out of trouble.
Changes were even made to the way we practiced. Recording the practices, stools instead of standing and the use of headphones was instituted to perfect singing. A certain number of current hits were required to be learned on a regular basis. Having access to new releases early, Bob had us actually perform some songs the first day they were played on the radio.
60s: How did The Stumps wind up touring the Southwest?
MF: ‘Think Of The Good Times’ was released in the spring of 1967. The head of our record label, Bobby Boyd, then contracted us to go on tour with The Buffalo Springfield and The Five Americans. At the time the Five Americans had two number #1 records, ‘I See The Light’ and ‘Western Union.’ I was very excited to perform with them but was not familiar with Buffalo Springfield. By the end of the summer, I realized I was touring with the powerhouse songwriters for the next decade, Stephen Stills, Neil Young and Richie Furay.
One funny story: On the afternoon of our first tour performance, a fellow tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I’d help unload two vans. Not knowing the person or the group, I still gladly helped. When all was said and done, the fellow looked at our equipment and asked if we were going to really “use that stuff.” When I replied “of course,” he thanked me for my help and said our group could use their equipment instead. That is how I met Neil Young. The Buffalo Springfield used our amplifiers to tune-up with in the dressing room.
That tour took us through the Southwest and we relocated to Tucson, Arizona.
60s: What about the Happening ’67 Tour?
MF: By 1967 the group had played on several occasions for Dick Clark. The “Happening ’67 Tour” was one of his initial forays in the psychedelic arena. Living in Tucson, The Stumps were asked to join the western swing of this tour. We’d been through Beatlemania, the Go-Go dancing, Hullabaloos and now it was time for the “Hippie” movement. Happening ’67 sent a shock through this conservative, matching blazers little Ohio band. Now we were face to face with San Francisco-types, visually and musically. Personally I felt really out of place. The Stumps were definitely the most “conventional” group there. There was no way the group could grow hair or change fast enough to fit in so we filled the ‘traditional” role.
The Seeds, The Yellow Payges, The Rubber Maze and The Stumps were the musical groups but there were many non-musical attractions–Psychedelic light, smoke and glow shows, “hippie” art and clothing exhibits and of course plenty of black lights and posters.
60s: What were the circumstances leading to the Boyd 45?
MF: We had been recording for a couple of years having no success with the record labels. Our manager, Bob Holiday, sent our tape to Boyd Records and basically that was it. They called and said “you’re signed, be in Texas by June to start your tour.” I actually thought we might be playing really big dances.
The Stumps recorded ‘Think Of The Good Times’ first in the fall of 1966 at Columbia Studios in Nashville and again around Easter in Phoenix, Arizona, in the spring of 1967. The Nashville experience was not what we expected. Our new drummer, Jim Wagner, was a Keith Moon clone. He was only 14 or 15 and before the session, I told him to just play like hell and you’ll be fine. He really let loose but in such a way that when we tried to go back later and overdub a straighter snare beat, it just wouldn’t work. The B-Side was a cover of The Who’s ‘My Generation,’ which had not (yet) been released in the U.S. The Nashville folk did not get the stuttering and the feedback and the session producer, who had just finished a Sonny & Cher project was no help.
Bob Holiday had a previous managing and booking relationship with The McCoys of ‘Hang On Sloopy’ fame and our A-Side was sent to lead guitarist, Rick Zerringer, aka Rick Derringer, for suggestions. His advice was to simplify and get a better dance beat. As mentioned, we couldn’t overdub, so a newer version was cut in Phoenix, Arizona with a much hipper producer. This was the version released.
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