Though his friendship was genuine it
was not without purpose. Chris was a kid with a mission. He wanted to play
in a band and he wanted to play with the best musicians in town.
Unbeknownst to me, Chris also had befriended some other local musicians from
a newly formed band called the Penny Arcade. The guys in the Penny Arcade
were a year older than Scot and I and were very popular in school. I didn’t
know any of them personally.
Chris suggested we all get together and
make music at my house. Scot and I were open to the idea considering The
Changing Tymes were not doing very well and it was time for a change. Thank
you Chris! Chris arrived probably on a Saturday afternoon with Russ Fields,
Frank Luchsinger, Al Penny, and a few extra amps, guitars, and a Vox organ.
There was an instant camaraderie even
as we were setting up the equipment and tuning the guitars. These guys were
all friendly, considerate, and funny. I was now seeing a different Chris.
Everyone had a high level of respect for him and eagerly followed his lead
as he began to play and sing. We played and sang together and the result
was… It was marvelous! These guys could really sing! Enthusiastic voices
in harmony accompanied by dynamic respectful musicians rang out in my
basement making all prior efforts there pale in comparison.
Thus began the short lived long lasting
“1010 Balloon Activities Group” that changed my life forever. Oh that
name… There’s a story here.
An obscure, one hit wonder band called
“The Vectors”, recorded “What in the World” which made the charts in the
Spring of 1966. Joe Kelley played and sang on that record. Joe also lived
in Hinsdale and was several years older than us. He was the first guy from
our home town to have a hit record. It was a huge deal for us young
wannabes to have a local connection to a nationally recognized recording
After their months short moment in the
rock and roll spotlight, The Vectors disbanded. Joe was immediately
recruited to play with an emerging Chicago area band called “The Shadows of
The Shadows greatly eclipsed The
Vector’s fame with the release of their cover of Van Morrison’s
“Gloria” charting nationally to number one in April of 1966. That song got lots
of airplay. Subsequent albums sold like crazy. We were enormously proud to
live in the same town as “the guy who played guitar on Gloria”.
Joe was a good friend of Russ's
older half brother Butch. Eventually we all got to know Joe. Though as
musical youngsters in his sight, Joe encouraged our efforts to be a band
often attending our rehearsals offering advise.
Joe’s father served
a division of the armed forces
called the 110th Balloon Activities Group responsible for
maintaining observation balloons in WWII. Joe had a Zippo lighter
engraved with "110th Balloon Activities Group".
It was a
great name. Joe wanted to use it for his own
band but chose to let us use the name. We modified it to “1010
Balloon Activities Group” for symmetry painting a “10” on the front of each
of the two bass drums I used at the time. We quickly were known as
"The 1010 B.A.G."
denied the existence of that Zippo lighter but told me he has an
ammo box with “110th Balloon Activities
Group” stenciled on it. If that ammo box really does exist, I'll find
it and photograph it! Chris and Russ actually saw the lighter and I
believe that it did exist.
We were off to a good start with the
blessing of a local rock legend and the genius of Chris Rhodes. Regular rehearsal’s ensued and we were
soon performing at local high school dances and Chicagoland teen clubs like
The Cellar, The Blue Village, and the Pink Panther.
Go to 1010 Page