The Muther's Oats Rocked '60s Lakewood
Feb. 7, 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles arrival in America. British music and cultural influence would become a major force in America over the coming years.
The History Channel says, “The Beatles first American tour left a major imprint in the nation’s cultural memory. With American youth poised to break away from the culturally rigid landscape of the 1950s, the Beatles, with their exuberant music and good-natured rebellion, were the perfect catalyst for the shift.”
In the meantime, Lakewood’s Baby Boom generation enjoyed a heavy dose of its own home grown musical expression during the turbulent '60s. Dozens of Lakewood area venues offered local teenage musical groups like the James Gang, the Baskerville Hounds, the Choir, the Tiffany Shade, the Born Losers, the Blackweles, the Tree Stumps and others the place to express the thoughts and emotions of a generation of teenagers.
Among the area favorites were the Muther’s Oats.
The Muther’s Oats was composed of three Lakewood High students - Ed Senko, lead singer; Dave Darmour, piano; and Tony Miraglia, saxophone. Added to this mix were three west shore students - Jim Sekala, lead guitar; Dan Mahoney, drums; and Rik Melvin, bass.
According to the web site Buckeye Beat, the Muther’s Oats competed in the 1966 Cleveland Press band contest and was named one of the region’s top five bands. As a result of their strong showing, the group won an opportunity to perform as opening act for Paul Revere and the Raiders at Public Hall.
“Ten thousand people on a revolving stage, flash bulbs going off at a blinding rate. Who could ask for more? It was a childhood dream,” recalled Muther’s Oats lead singer Ed Senko.
Among the other rock legends the ‘Oats shared a stage with were the Lovin’ Spoonful, Bobby Goldsboro, Chad and Jeremy, the Union Gap, Moby Grape, the Shadows of Night and the Young Rascals.
“I should mention Glenn Schwartz as well, who was one of the best guitar players around, if not the best,” said Senko.
A former Bunts Road resident, Senko recalls, “The most exciting was playing at Euclid Beach Ballroom with the Spoonful. John Sebastian (Lovin’ Spoonful's lead singer) was my hero and to be able to play two shows on the same stage was a kid's dream come true. The Choir was on the same bill and I imagine they felt the same way. It was a magical show, the fans loved it and so did we”.
“Another exciting venue was playing the Upbeat Show; that was the cat’s meow,” Senko continued. The Upbeat Show was produced locally at the studios of Channel 5, WEWS and featured performances from both local and national rock and roll acts.
“You have to realize that everybody watched the Upbeat Show; the excitement, the dancers who we got to know, having the OJs on the same show and meeting (host) Don Webster, it was great,” said Senko.
Senko recalls the band’s formation in 1965. ”David and I were playing with a group called the Tiaras and Tony was playing with Jim and Dan. We were all between groups and decided to practice together and it clicked. I think we knew we had something special.”
“We practiced at Rik’s house, long and hard,” said Senko.
The group played anywhere from three to four times per week. Among the venues included “all the CYOs” (St. Clement, St. James in Lakewood), Otto’s Grotto, Euclid Beach, the Cell (located at Lakewood City Council Chambers Auditorium), the Lakewood YMCA, Public Hall, Hullabaloo, Cedar Point, Bay Way, high school dances, numerous country clubs and private parties, according to Senko.
The Muther’s Oats music included an “eclectic” mix according to Senko. “We played anything from the Rolling Stones, the Byrds to Wilson Pickett, the Beach Boys and the Youngbloods,” said Senko.
The era of the mid 1960s is known as the “Garage Band Era” according to Rock and Roll historians.
The term "garage band" or "garage rock" comes from the perception that many such performers were young and amateurish and often rehearsed in a family garage. Some bands were made up of middle-class teenagers from the suburbs, but some were from rural or urban areas, while others were composed of professional musicians in their twenties. During this early period of rock and roll, radio stations provided a venue for wider commercial exposure. And unlike today’s radio stations, local radio disc jockeys (djs) had great leeway in which songs they played during their airtime.
Many of the regional garage band groups were able to land radio airplay and have their music broadcast to larger audiences. Among the more noted were the Choir, the Critters, and the McCoys, who recorded Buckeye theme song, “Hang on Sloopy.”
Wikipedia says, “The style was characterized by lyrics and delivery that were more aggressive and unsophisticated than in commercial pop music. It began to evolve from regional scenes as early as 1958, heavily influenced by surf rock. The "British Invasion" of 1964-66 greatly influenced garage bands, providing them with a national audience. Thousands of garage bands were extant in the USA and Canada; hundreds produced regional hits, and a handful had national chart hits. By 1968 the style largely disappeared from the national charts. It was also disappearing at the local level as amateur musicians faced college, work or the Draft.”
According to Senko, in 1968 “...the group broke up basically because of college. When we started we were all in high school. But the year after (high school graduation) Jim, Rik and Dan were off to John Carroll and Case Western, I was going to Cleveland State and David was going to Kent and Tony to the Cleveland Institute of Art. As a result our practice time went down and other priorities went up.”
“I was so lucky to grow up in such an opportunistic era for music. 48 years have come and gone and yet people still remember the Muther’s Oats,” reflects Senko. “They tell me they remember when I played at such and such, and I was dating this girl, and we had so much fun. Those stories warm your heart, knowing you were part of their good memories, through such a volatile time in politics and war.”
Senko, now retired, was eventually drafted and served as a medic in the Vietnam War. Dave Darmour is a producer in Los Angeles, Jim Sekala is a bio-chemist in Colorado, Tony Miraglia is an art professor in New England, Dan Mahoney is a retired Lakewood resident, and Rik Melvin is now deceased.
Anna Hogan Broadbent, Elbur Avenue resident and noted area musician, recalls, “The Muther’s Oats were so popular because they were handsome boys playing rock and roll music live and on stage at teenage dance venues. With the British invasion happening the Muther’s Oats were supplying that music at a local level. Every Lakewood girl’s dream! Eddie Senko has a great voice and the band had great harmonies.”
“The best advice I can give to new musicians is to believe in your music, and your ability to play it. But also, do the work that it takes to be successful….the hard work, practice, practice, practice. Also be respectful of your competition. It goes a long way. Don’t quit your day job, build up a following and get out and play.”
To be continued:
Tom George can be reached at TJGeorge1369@msn.com or (440)734-8177.
50+ years proud Lakewood resident BA Journalism, THE Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, general assignment reporter Ohio State Lantern daily newspaper active in civic and community affairs in Lakewood for many years