Here’s a photo of a Winchester
landmark that I’m betting most everyone will immediately
Pizza House has been operating from the little white
building on East Washington Street for many years, and for a lot
of us it established the “gold standard” for store-bought pizza.
story isn’t about food. Instead, it has something to do with
the current owner of the Pizza House, Ron Brandon, and his
connection to one of the great bands of the 60’s – The McCoys
--- and their story.
founding members of the McCoys were from Union City: Rick
Zehringer, his brother Randy, and their neighbor, Dennis Kelly.
These guys --- much like our classmates who formed “The
Illusions” --- were very young when they started.
As a youngster, Rick was always interested in guitar, and his parents
encouraged this interest with his own electric guitar before his
tenth birthday [Note 1]. The instrument came naturally to
him, and after a few initial lessons from his uncle, Rick's dad
located a guitar teacher in Union City, and later, a teacher in
Richmond. Before long, the lessons
were discontinued, because the teacher in Richmond no longer had
anything new to show Rick. Instead, he said Rick was showing
brother Randy started out as an
accordionist, but he soon set that aside and took up
drumming. Dennis Kelly, who lived in a house on the street in
back, was interested in playing music and stopped around one day
when he heard Rick practicing on the front porch. Rick offered
to teach him bass if Dennis could get his own instrument, which
is how it turned out that Rick started teaching bass guitar to
Dennis. Soon, it occurred to these guys that they had the
nucleus of a band, and in 1962 “The McCoys” was formed. Rick
was born in 1947, so he was turning 15 at the time. Randy was
Lacking microphones and other sound equipment, they decided to learn
instrumentals to get the band started. Rick had an album by The
Ventures [Note 2], a popular guitar group from the early
Don’t Run”). He figured the easiest song on the album to
learn was a number called “The McCoy”. After learning this
first song, the band decided to become The McCoys because
that would give them an automatic theme song. So that’s where
the band originally took their name, from that Ventures tune.
Pretty soon they were playing weekends, in Union City, Greenville, and
places toward Dayton. A booking agent suggested they change the
name of the band to the Rick Z Combo, in order to provide
a flashier name, and they played with that name for a
One night while they were playing
a dance over at Greenville, a kid was at the side of the stage
playing along on a piano --- with a cast on one hand --- and
that kid was Ronnie Brandon. It happened that the boys were
looking for a little more balance in their sound – balance that
a keyboard could provide --- so they invited Ron to join the
band. After joining, Ron Brandon played for three months
without being paid, because the band was booked-up three months
in advance at $60 per night, and they couldn’t raise the rate!
That $60 didn’t allow the new guy to be paid.
Dennis Kelly was a little older than the Zehringer brothers, and when he
left for college he decided to give up his spot in the band. He
was replaced on bass guitar by Randy Hobbs, another Union City
native. Hobbs had a reputation around town as a “hood” but he
was also a very talented natural musician who fit-in well in the
band. He was raised by his mother, and they didn’t have a lot
of money. Somehow, Hobbs managed to get hold of a beat-up six
string Danlectroguitar. He removed two of the strings and
managed to tune down the ones remaining so it sounded like a
legitimate bass. On his own, Hobbs was already learning and
playing Motown bass lines (performances created by the great
James Jamerson) and he turned out to be a good singer as
With this new lineup, they once
again changed the name at the urging of one of their promoters.
This time, they became Rick and the Raiders [Note 3], and
cut a private label record shortly thereafter that they could
pitch at their shows.
Bear in mind, even at that early
age, Rick Zehringer was a very gifted guitarist.
Before long, Rick and the Raiders were playing a lot of
shows in and around Dayton. Local promoters took notice, and
pretty soon they were opening for the
Beach Boys and many other well-known acts. The band also
demonstrated that they could learn songs quickly, so often they
would not only open for an act, they would also remain on stage
and serve as the back-up band for the headliner. Among the
famous acts that Rick and the Raiders provided back-up
Roy Orbison and
Lou Christie. Not bad for some high schoolers from out in
the sticks in Indiana.
It was at one of these gigs that
they were discovered and got their chance. The boys were opening
Want Candy”), who liked what they heard and they immediately
signed the boys to a recording contact with Bang Records (home
Neil Diamond and
Van Morrison in addition to The Strangeloves) [Note 4].
The backstory of The
Strangeloves is pretty unique. They billed themselves as three
brothers from Australia: Giles, Niles and Miles Strange --- born
of the same mother but to different fathers. Their publicity
releases said all three brothers were raised on an Australian
sheep farm, where they were involved in some sort of sheep
cross-breeding “get rich quick” scheme. (Hence, I suppose, the
name of the band: “Strange Loves”.) In reality, these guys were
three music producers from New York City: Bob Feldman, Jerry
Goldstein and Richard Gott – a.k.a. FGG Productions. (Click
here to read more about The Strangeloves.) As they were
actually producers affiliated with
Bang Records, they were in a unique position to move quickly
and sign the band, and just a few days later, the boys from
Union City found themselves recording in New York City.
(To Be Continued)