History of The Nickel Revolution

October, 1964:  The Wailing Phantoms form with the following lineup: Keith Follese on keyboards and lead vocals; Louie Lenz on rhythm guitar; Scott Jeffy on bass guitar; and Jerry Lenz on drums. Louie and Scott attend Robbinsdale High School  Keith and Jerry  are in Carl Sandburg Junior High School.. After school the band practices at the Lenz home or the nearby Follese house. Keith and Jerry begin taking take the bus to downtown Minneapolis to check out the bands playing at the Dayton’s Top 10 Club on Saturdays, held in the 8th floor auditorium and later everyone is checking out the shows and music stores.

The band plays cover songs including The Grind, Midnight Hour, Shake, Louie Louie, Summer Time Blues, Gloria, Heatwave, Long Tall Texan, Born in Chicago, Love Light, Mickey’s Monkey, etc.

The band plays a regular gig at the Robbinsdale Teen Center; Friday nights for the junior high crowd and Saturday nights for the seniors along with appearances at the New Hope Pool teen nights and other sock hops in the area.  

1965: In January, the band changes its name to The Inchanters. There is a big demand for teen bands and offers to play grow quickly. In the summer of 1965 the band was invited to play at the new teen center at the premier Minnesota resort Breezy Point, north of Brainerd, MN. This was a great opportunity as it included food, lodging and recreation for several days. The band chose this gig over going to see the Beatles onlyMinneapolis appearance on August 21, 1965. No regrets as the concert was disappointing for fans. Shortly thereafter, The Inchanters joined the union and signed with Central Booking Alliance.  Their first appearance for CBA is a fraternity party at the University of Minnesota. 

1966: The group is playing clubs, schools and all types of venues as CBA keeps them busy. Later in the year, the group goes through some personnel changes. Keith Follese leaves the band and is replaced by Ron “Honeybear” Hort.  Jeff Simon joins the band.

The new lineup is: Ron Hort on keyboards and lead vocals; Jeff Simon on lead guitar; Louie Lenz on rhythm guitar; Scott Jeffy on bass guitar and Jerry Lenz on drums.  With a new band lineup, a new musical direction (adding more rock, R & B, blues) and with encouragement from booking agent Dick Shapiro (Central Booking Agency), the band comes up with a new name, Nickel Revolution.  At a Saturday morning band meeting, while going over a list of potential band names, Scott picks up the local Minneapolis Tribune newspaper looking for ideas and comes across an article on a “nickel revolution” that reports on the United States government dropping 90 percent silver coins from production and replacing them with coins made of cheaper metals, resulting in a coin shortage as people saved the older coins silver instead of spending them.  With a new band name: The Nickel Revolution, local musician Skip Dahlin (original bass player with The Accents) comes up with a logo for the band that is based on the Indian head nickel.  The logo is used on Jerry’s bass drum head. 

1967: The band is booked at local clubs including Magoo’s; the Purple Barn; the Prison; Someplace Else; and New City Opera House… as well as out of town clubs and ballrooms including: Valhalla (Worthington); The Fun House (Pierz); The Tower (Austin); George’s Ballroom (New Ulm); The Blazer (Nisswa) and across the border in Wisconsin at The London Inn in Eau Claire. In March the band was in concert with comedian and civil rights activist, Dick Gregory at the Northwest Sate University in Missouri.

Mid-1967:  The band goes through another change in members.  Jeff Simon leaves the band and is replaced by Kent Saunders. John“The Fly” Berman joins the band.  The new lineup is: Ron Hort on keyboards and lead vocals; Kent Saunders on lead guitar and lead vocals; Louie Lenz on rhythm guitar; John Berman on saxophone; Scott Jeffy on bass guitar and Jerry Lenz on drums.  The band members now perform in tuxedos and learn dance steps from John Berman.  With a sax player in the band, a new dimension is added to the R & B songs. 

November, 1967:  Dick Shapiro books The Young Rascals at the Minneapolis Auditorium and Dick arranges for the Nickel Revolution to pickup the band (and their equipment) at the airport, drive them to the Minneapolis Auditorium and help set up the gear.  The band rents a U-Haul trailer and hooks it up to the back of their minivan.  The band gets to hang out with the Young Rascals; Dino Danelli, Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigatti and Gene Cornish, before and after the concert.  The following day the band drives the guys (and their equipment) back to the airport. 

Late in 1967, The Nickel Revolution, along with several other CBA acts agree to contract with Candy Floss Productions for recording and management development. 

1968: Early in the year the band enters Dove Recording studios for Candy Floss and records a cover of “Sweet, Sweet Loving,” along with “Treat Her Right” as the “B” side. Shortly after the first trip to the studio, Candy Floss comes up with a good idea. They want The Nickel Revolution to record “Here Come Da Judge,” based on the popular sketch in the hugely successful TV show, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. After a few regular and boring takes, Honeybear brought the song to life by singing it in his Yiddish accent. The rest is history as they say and everyone in the studio was laughing out of control. It was the perfect touch for the song.

The producers mixed the tune and made dubs. They immediately shopped their record label contacts offering a surefire novelty hit to the first company ready to take a risk. No deal was struck because Candy Floss did not have an original idea. There were dozens of bands racing to record a “Here come de judge!” songs. One notable version was recorded by Shorty Long on Motown.

March 8, 1968:  Local radio station WDGY promotes “Super Scene 68” a concert held at the Metropolitan Sports Center in Bloomington.  The Nickel Revolution and other local bands play before the headline acts: Wilson Pickett, The Hollies and The Strawberry Alarm Clark.  Jerry Lenz loans out his cowbell to Strawberry Alarm Clark drummer Gene Gunnels (the cowbell is prominent in their hit song “Incense and Peppermints”).  This would be one of the last gigs with Kent and John as the band begins to change its style.

The Nickel Revolution moves into a more hard rock sound.  Kent Saunders and John Berman exit the band and Keith Luer joins the band. The new lineup is: Ron Hort on keyboards and lead vocals; Keith Luer on lead guitar and vocals; Louie Lenz on rhythm guitar; Scott Jeffy on bass guitar; and Jerry Lenz on drums and vocals.  With a new hard rock sound, the band takes on a new look, dressing in the psychedelic “hippie” style of the era.  

Next, Candy Floss Productions entered the Nickel Revolution in a contest sponsored by Connie’s Insider and Mercury Records for the 1968 “Best New Material” category in the Annual Connie Awards. Whoever wins the competition has a clear shot at having their single on the Mercury/Phillips label. The band reports to the studio for the session which is controlled by the guys at Candy Floss Productions.  Producer Pete Steinberg is promoting the bubblegum sound at this time.  Much to the surprise of the band they are informed that their song, “Oscar Crunch” has already been recorded with Gary Paulak on lead vocals. The only thing Pete wants the guys to do is sing background vocals with  Barry Goldberg and Whip Lane and Gary. The song was written by Gary Paulak, Barry Goldberg and Pete Steinberg. For the “B” side, The Nickel record a song they were contractually obligated to pick from the Mercury/Phillips publishing catalog. The song is called “What Do You Want To Be (Nothing).” Keith Luer sings lead and plays guitar. Ron Hort on keyboards; Louie Lenz on rhythm guitar; Scott Jeffy on bass guitar and Jerry Lenz on drums. The band wins the competition at the Connie awards on May 27, 1968 and is pictured on the cover of  The Minneapolis  Tribune the next morning. 

The recording is sent to Mercury, recording contracts are signed, there is probate court to go through as several members are under age 21 so the process takes a while. It was a mid-summer release for Mercury on the Phillips label. “Oscar Crunch” is an “off the wall” novelty song and quickly becomes top ten in the Twin Cities and several other Midwest markets. Scattered airplay on the east coast as well. The record is actually played on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Dick was surveying the nation, he called on KDWB in Minneapolis to ask for their hottest pick. At the time, The Nickel Revolution’s Oscar Crunch, was crushing the top ten in the band’s hometown.  

August 23, 1968:  The Nickel Revolution open up a concert at the Minneapolis Armory.  On the bill are Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, the 1910 Fruitgum Company and Vanilla Fudge.  Following Nickel Revolution, Boyce and Hart perform.  After Boyce and Hart it is announced that the headline act, Vanilla Fudge, would not be at the show.  This information did not go over well with the crowd.  The Minneapolis Tribune later reported: “A crowd of about 2,000 teenagers grew unruly – chanting, yelling obscenities – stomping their feet – when it was announced that the feature act at a pop concert, the Vanilla Fudge, wouldn’t appear.”  So it turned out that the bubblegum band from New Jersey, the 1910 Fruitgum Company, would be the headline act for the concert.  No one at the concert seemed to know what happened to the Vanilla Fudge. 

November, 1968: The band opens up for Question Mark and The Mysterians (out of Texas) at a concert hall in Champaign Illinois.  

November, 1968: The band is contacted by Dino Enterprises out of Indianapolis, Indiana and they book the Nickel Revolution for an appearance on the “Upbeat” television show.  The band travels to Cleveland, Ohio to tape their segment on the show at WEWS TV (hosted by Don Webster).  The show, similar to American Bandstand, features bands lip-syncing their hit songs.  Nickel Revolution “sing along” with their recording of “Oscar Crunch” and the taped show is aired in December on 100 NBC stations across the country, including Minneapolis–St. Paul. 

Following the taping for the “Upbeat” show, the band travels to Portsmouth, Ohio (Southeast of Cincinnati) to perform at Shawnee State University. This also was the band’s highest paying gig; $2,500 (that converts to over $16,000 in 2011).

1969 The Nickel Revolution are playing a heavy schedule of Midwest clubs and turning down many of the dates Dino Enterprises is attempting to book. Too far away without consistent or consecutive bookings to make touring possible. The Phillips release and airplay lands the group many appearances with bubblegum groups and does not really fit in, but they would play their one and only, “Oscar.”

The world is changing dramatically and now the band is playing “love-ins” and outdoors gigs. Some of it is pretty radical and politically charged.

1969 also brought about another personal change as Ron Hort exits the band and is replaced by Mickey Larson (deceased) on keyboards and vocals. One of the bands favorite venues is the London Inn in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and the band is booked there often.

In 1970 there would be one last personnel change as Mickey Larson exits and Bob Fisher enters on keyboards for a handful of gigs. Louie, Scott and Jerry had decided to bring the Nickel Revolution to its conclusion as the end of student deferments was ending and Scott would have to either enlist or be drafted. Jerry was now married with his first child on the way and for most members, the corporate world would offer employment and it was time to put on work clothes.

In 2006, a CD is released called Candy Floss “The Lost Music of Mid America” which contains “Oscar Crunch” and “Here Comes Da Judge.”  The CD is on the Weekend Records label.

In 2011, the band announces via the internet that they are planning on playing a reunion concert in the twin cities in the summer of 2012.

We welcome your comments and feedback on this blog. You can post here and share this with your friends via Facebook and Twitter (see easy links). If you want to email us any questions or comments: NickelRevolution@gmail.com

See these great websites for further insights to Twin Cities bands from the 50s, 60s, 70s:

http://www.jeanneandersen.net/musichighlights.html

http://minniepaulmusic.com/

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Comments
  1. […] Everything does have a season and the season for The Nickel Blues Band begins now with a rebirth and vision. The name and logo come from the founder, Jerry Lenz (drummer and keyboards), who began playing in rock bands at the age of 14 in 1964. His first band would evolve (turn, turn, turn) into The Nickel Revolution. For a full insight into the heritage of NBB (Nickel Blues Band) see Jerry’s blog and website for the original band here: NickelRevolution […]

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