Two weeks ago in this very spot we posted the pair of videos above featuring obscure novelty garage rock band The Cavemen doing a spot on The Mike Douglas Show during the 1966-67 season. The footage created a flurry of interest and a fair bit of debate about exactly who these young lads were and where they came from and what they recorded. Thanks to the miracles of the internet, we now have the full story courtesy the young blondie that Mike Douglas interviews, Vic Rose. Here is the story in his own words.
I find it amazing that suddenly after all these years The Cavemen seem to have resurfaced. Way back when, (these clips were done live on The Mike Douglas Show during the first week of January 1967), I was the keyboard player with the band. You are seeing me at the ripe old age of twenty. I will be sixty-three next week. At the time the band ranged in age from eighteen to twenty-two. We were a local New Jersey bar band. Mustang Sally was typical of what we were playing in the bars six nights a week.
We originally started out as The Chryslers back in 1965. Back in June of that year, we played a few nights at the Casino Ballroom (where we appeared with a very young Patti Labelle and the Bluebells), and The Parrot Club, both on Seaside Boardwalk. At The Parrot Club we did the nights off for two house bands - The Knockouts and The Blue Boys. Back in 1965, long hair was new. Groups like The Beatles and The Stones were new within the last two years. The general public still looked like the fifties. Meanwhile, in addition to long hair, gimmicks were big in 1965. The Blue Boys dyed their hair blue. At the other end of the boardwalk that year, there was The Green Men appearing at The Beachcomber... they dyed their hair green. We decided at that point that we should have a gimmick too.
It was at that time that we became The Peacocks after finding out where to buy the colored hairspray from The Blue Boys. As The Peacocks, we bought all the colors [of dye] and every night had different color hair. After a few months of doing this, we definitely noticed an increase in crowds. We also found doing this washing it out every night when we got home a pain in the ass. We knew we wanted a gimmick. That's when one of the guys suggested The Cavemen. For
twenty-five dollars worth of cloth, one of the mothers sewed together the outfits you see in the video. We had pictures taken on Turtle Back Rock in West Orange with our manager's Brownie Camera. Those pictures helped us get booked all over the country - from The Jolly Jester in Springfield, Massachusetts to the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in New Orleans. In the meantime, we got a record deal and recorded Whatever Will Be Will Be with Small World on the flip side. It was originally recorded for Skyline Records and then was put out on 20th Century Fox. We recorded a few other songs, but as far as I know, nothing else was ever officially released. Meantime, in the fall of 1966, we were booked to play a private Christmas party for Merv Griffin. It was at that party we were booked for the appearance on Mike Douglas!
Many years ago, when VCRs became available, one of the guys contacted The Mike Douglas Show to see if we could get a copy of our performance. We were told that the tapes had been erased years ago. We thought nothing more of it until a few weeks ago, when I heard from Lenny the drummer, who I hadn't heard from in over twenty-five years, that we were on YouTube.
Yes, The Mike Douglas Show was produced live in Philadelphia. It was one of the first syndicated shows, If not the first. It was shown in that area three weeks later and within eight or
ten weeks, broadcast nationwide. I doubt any of our other appearances exist, but we also had appeared live on The Jerry Blavat Show in 1966 on the same day as Roy Head and The Dovells. We also did many TV appearances lip-syncing our record from upstate New York down to Washington DC. When you lip-sync, they didn't have to pay you, but supposedly that helped get your record played. One of our most memorable of those experiences was a small UHF station in DC. We arrived after a four hour drive - they were having technical difficulties, and there was no sound that day. We decided that was stupid and didn't go on. The other guest that day did go on. You probably have heard of the other artist - [performing his soundless] new record, When a Man Loves a Woman, Percy Sledge!!!
As far as ethnicity, the singers, Eddie and Willie, as well as the second guitar player Hector are Puerto Rican. They were all living in Paterson, New Jersey at the time. As far as time frame, this was the time of Cannibal and The Headhunters and Sam the Sham and The Pharoahs - whose music we played nightly in bars.
Regarding the song Valerie, besides playing and loving everybody from the Stones to R&B and Blues, we all loved playing fifties rock and doo-wop. Ot wasn't all that old then. The Valerie routine sort of grew in clubs. It had started out as a serious cover, but as we noticed audience reaction night after night, it grew more and more absurd and into a comedy routine. We had performed it at the Merv Griffin party and then it got suggested for The Mike Douglas Show.
I am also surprised to hear that there were two other groups of Cavemen in 1966. This is the first I have heard this. We were definitely the New Jersey Cavemen. The second record mentioned in the blog was not us. Although we played Bo Diddley, and many of his other songs, I don't remember recording it or the other one "All About Love." As far as our record goes, Whatever Will Be Will Be was a cover (It could very well have originally been The High Keys) and Small World was an original.
Unfortunately, I have lost touch with Eddie (our singer on Mustang Sally) and Hector (second guitar player) over the years. Willie (singer on Vallerie) died back in the seventies. This sudden appearance on YouTube, which was discovered by the son of Lenny (the drummer) helped us get back in touch, which was great after all these years.
I have been and still am a professional musician. After The Cavemen - 1969 - I was in a band in Philly called Sweet Stavin Chain, which had an album out on Atlantic's Cotillion label. That group opened for many major concerts in Philadelphia including The Jefferson Airplane and Grand Funk Railroad. We also played in New York at both The Electric Circus and The Filmore. Then in 1972, I was in a band called Life that played the entire season at The Chatterbox on Seaside Boardwalk. The next major group I was in was Megaton. I work with them 1973-1985. They were a major Jersey bar band that played the shore in the summer (Belmar, Point Pleasant, Long Beach Island, Cape May etc). mostly Middlesex County the rest of the time. They had a minor disco cover record (Rain 2000), as well as a live album we used to sell in clubs. During this whole time, I did gigs on and off. Played piano for Screamin' Jay Hawkins, who I met when The Cavemen backed him up on star night at The Hi Hat Lounge in Dover, NJ in 1966.
Since 1985, I have been working around Jersey as a single piano player/one man band. I've played countless bars, restaurants, hotels and private parties. Among my best "claims to fame" was in 1989. I was the only unknown act to perform at the world premiere of Great Balls of Fire, the Jerry Lee Lewis movie. I did the opening cocktail party where I sat at the grand piano in a tux playing things like "As Time Goes By" - then, halfway though my set, broke into Jerry Lee Lewis songs at full volume to warm up the crowd for the movie. More recently, I spent much of the last several years at Brunello in Wayne and The Brick House in Wyckoff. At the moment, I have no public gigs scheduled (I am doing a few nursing homes and private affairs), as I am in the process of relocating to Florida. I am still in Jersey right now and will be on and off for the next several months.
While not a regular WFMU listener, I have listened and enjoyed your free form format periodically over the years. I go back as far with WFMU as when Vin Scelsa did "The Closet" back in the sixties!