Russ stood up with me when I married Gail.  I had this lighter engraved for him as a gift.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

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 artist. 

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 Knight”. 

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."

Joe recently 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. 


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