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Your Mother

Connecticut is not a state that usually comes to mind when garage aficionados get together to sing the praises of the unsung heroes of rock and roll, carport style.  This is a travesty, because if there was ever anybody who needed some long overdue praise and accolades, it would be Your Mother.  “Cryptic Subterfuge” has been popping up on many a mixed tape for years and years without any thought given to the creators of this classic slab o’ wax. 

By Fogey McOldster


Your Mother - The Night Before The Recording Session

The next time you hear “Cryptic” (or perhaps, the first time you hear it), keep these names in mind:

Eddie Griswold - rhythm guitar, vocals and, occasionally, bass 
Jon LeVeen – keyboards and lead vocals 
Willie Parquette - lead guitar, vocals and, occasionally, bass 
Jeff Purvin - electric bass, lead vocals and, occasionally, rhythm guitar 
Gary Tharler – drums

Your Mother (go ahead and get your jokes out of the way, please) came together in late 1967, but most of the members cut their teeth in other local bands before that.  Jeff Purvin’s first “group” (lasting all of one performance) was The Jaegers.  “In 1966, I went to an all-boys boarding school in Pomfret, Connecticut called the Pomfret School” says Jeff. “My first band was The Jaegers. One weekend, about three months after I started going to Pomfret, my father came up to visit me. I borrowed a Fender Jazz Bass from a senior named Wes Brown who played in the top band on campus. The Jaegers and I played an absolutely horrible set of songs for my Dad. I was literally playing random notes on the bass. But, my father was impressed enough to buy me my own bass, an Epiphone Embassy Deluxe. Blessedly, that was The Jaegers last performance.”


The Sentrys
Jeff then joined a surf band called The Sentrys, where he spent the next six months learning bass while playing Ventures’ songs.  Eddie Griswold and Willie Parquette were in The Sentrys as well.  While this was Eddie’s first band, Willie had a little more experience than the rest.  “My first band was The Misfits.  This was a local outfit that featured me on lead and rhythm guitar. I played with some older guys from a nearby town. They were a rough group and my parents would cringe every time they picked me up to go play a gig. I was 15-years old and playing in bars; just like Paul Simon said ‘so I learned to play some lead guitar and was underage in a funky bar!’  It was good training for what came later.”

After The Sentrys disbanded in early 1967, Jeff joined The Essence of Sound, notable in that it was his first band to play mostly original songs, and also because this is where he met Jon Leveen.  A few months later, once The Essence had evaporated, Your Mother was formed, with Jeff sticking with Jon and reuniting with Willie and Eddie.  Gary Tharler rounded out the personnel, joining his first band and providing their classic name as well.  “We were getting brain-dead throwing out names and someone said, ‘how 'bout your mother.’ And I said, ‘hey how about ‘your mother’? Wouldn't it be cool to have a name that would start a fight when people asked who the band was that night?” Jeff adds “The name ‘Your Mother’ was 100% a joke name. We all thought it was hilarious that someone might ask, ‘So, who's playing at the dance tonight?’ and that the answer would be [with mock attitude] ‘Your Mother!’ Of course now, this all seems ridiculous, but we had a ball joking around with the name. Personally, I give Gary credit for coming up with the name.”

The Night Before The Recording Session
Once the taxing effort of deciding on a name was completed, Your Mother began playing whenever and wherever they could, usually around the Pomfret School.  According to Jeff, “we played mostly for school dances. Yet, often, we’d set up somewhere on the grounds of our Prep School, e.g. in one of the parking lots, in the gym, or in the lounge outside of the dining room, and just start playing.”

Jeff also recalls the group performing at various girl schools as far as 100 miles away, and the occasional private party.  “One of the most memorable ones was in Mt. Kisco, New York. We played for someone who had a wonderful estate. First they asked us to set up on top of the pool house, while the guests drank and frolicked in the pool. Then they moved us up to the mansion to the after dinner party. Fred Gwynne, the actor who played in the TV show, CAR 54 WHERE ARE YOU? and who played Herman Munster in THE MUNSTERS was there. Our lead guitarist, Willie Parquette (who we called “PQ”) joked around during the party by weaving the CAR 54 WHERE ARE YOU? theme song into our set. Gary, our drummer, played a 20-minute Toad solo. The guy throwing the party offered the band an extra $100 if Gary would play a second drum solo.”

Aside from covering the likes of Cream and Jimi Hendrix, Your Mother had a sound that was “some pop and some psychedelic” according to Jon.  “There was a kind of Vanilla Fudge thing – and maybe some Music Machine.”  Before you write ‘em off as a covers band, check out what Jeff has to say:  “For a school band, we played an unusually large number of original songs. Many were kind of jazzy. I tended to write more slow songs than fast songs.”

Willie Parquette and Jeff Purvin
The next logical step for Your Mother (or any garage band, it seems) was to make a 45.  So, having worked up two songs (“Hello” and “Cryptic Subterfuge”), the guys headed over to Syncron Sound Studios in Wallingford, Connecticut.  Jeff remembers it being a weekend affair.  “I remember that the band practiced both of the songs over and over again acoustically on Friday, the day before our recording date. We hoped to go in and nail both of the songs in one take to save money (recording studios charge by the hour.) We weren't able to do each song in one take, but we came very close. One of the features of the A-Side, 'Cryptic Subterfuge,' is that it speeds up dramatically in the middle then drops down to the song’s original starting speed. I was determined to make sure we succeeded in bringing the tempo of the song back down to exactly the same tempo we started with. We actually measured this with a metronome after each take to be sure. Because the studio had giant, wonderful Marshall amps and killer Voice of the Theatre studio voice monitors, we were mesmerized by our own sound. We had never sounded so full and rich during gigs or practices.”

As for the songs themselves, both were either written or co-written by Jeff.  “This is a good time to credit my co-writer on ‘Hello’, Joe Barth. I met Joe the summer before Your Mother recorded our record. We were both counselors at Camp Chewonki in Wiscasset, Maine. The camp had a Saturday campfire tradition. Both Joe and I regularly performed at these campfire events. Inevitably, Joe and I started hanging out and playing music. I remember how ‘Hello’ came to be. One day, I started finger picking the guitar notes that start the song. He immediately started playing the second guitar part in the song. We looked at each other and thought, ‘Hmm. That sounds pretty good!’ As I remember it, I then wrote the verse music in the song and he wrote the chorus. Rather proudly, we played the song at the next Saturday campfire. I regretted that I was not able to thank Joe personally for his role in Your Mother’s recording of his song. I had no idea where he lived or how to get to him. So, now I’d like to say, ‘Thanks, Joe!’”

Gary Tharler and Willie Parquette
However, “Cryptic Subterfuge” was strictly a solo affair for Jeff.  “I started the writing process on the bass. Just listen to how the song starts. It’s basically just a simple bass part and my voice. That’s exactly how it was written.  By the way, the name, 'Cryptic Subterfuge' came from my thinking that the words 'Cryptic' and 'Subterfuge' were bitching cool words. Since the song had a dreamy mysterious thing going down, I just thought, oh what the hell, I'll call it 'Cryptic Subterfuge.' It makes no sense...but that's where the name came from.”

Once the tracks were laid down, one or two thousand singles were pressed.  The two sides were as different as day and night, or rather, AM and FM.  According to Gary “It’s logical that the radio stations would pick ‘Hello’ as the single instead of ‘Cryptic Subterfuge.’ I recall our choosing these two songs for the record because we thought ‘Hello’ would make a good Top 40 song and that ‘Cryptic Subterfuge’ would be good ‘FM’.”

Aside from local airplay (Jon recalls the single “got some airplay in Worcester on the top 40 station, WAAB. I think Gary might have gotten it on WEIM in Fitchburg.”), “Hello” stirred up some action on the west coast, thanks to Jeff and his sister (what, you were expecting…his mother?).  As Jeff remembers it, “Like any teenager who’s just recorded a record, I sent a copy to my parents, brothers and sisters. My sister, Jill, lived in Thousand Oaks, California. She brought the record over to the local rock radio station and said 'You’ve got to play this! It’s hot, hot, hot on the East Coast!' [God Bless her.] Of course, Jill didn’t know which side was the A-Side. She sold 'Hello' as the A-side, and the radio station bit. Jill called me soon afterwards and told me they were playing 'Hello' a lot.”

Eddie Griswold
Even though Your Mother never had a manager, they had a one person publicist and promotion team in Jill.  Thanks to her efforts, renowned producer Gary Usher reportedly took interest in the single, although Jeff wasn’t initially impressed.  “I never met Gary, or talked with him. Apparently, he (or someone associated with him) called the radio station and asked ‘Who’s that band?’ The radio station only knew of my sister Jill, so they called Jill up and shared that Gary had something nice to say about ‘Hello’. I remember Jill calling me up and, semi-hysterically, telling me about what had just happened.  Frankly, I was more interested in the radio airplay than Gary Usher’s interest.  I had no idea who Gary Usher was.”

Interest was also shown by no less than Columbia Records, thanks again to Jeff’s sister (too bad there aren’t more sisters like Your Mother’s).  “Sometime later, I got a call from an A&R guy at Columbia Records in New York City. Again, Jill was the one who made this happen.  She had given a copy of our record to someone she knew who worked for Columbia on the west coast.  I don’t remember getting the call from Columbia’s New York City office or what was said to set up the appointment. I do remember the meeting with Columbia, though.  It was held in a high rise in New York City near Broadway. First, I was struck by how small the A&R guy’s office was. Second, after he started playing ‘Hello’ on the turntable behind his desk, I remember he turned around towards me and started tapping his pencil on desk, like a single drumstick. I could see he was trying to decide if the song had enough of a beat (or the right kind of beat, or something like that). I could also see he wasn’t finding what he wanted.  He asked me some questions about the band. Then he said something like, ‘The song is a good start. You should keep working at it and get back to me if you ever record another record.’ Of course, we never did that.”

By the spring of 1968, Your Mother gradually fell apart, with the members taking interest in other projects and lots of different styles, such as hard rock (Vertical Smile, with Jeff, Will, and Gary); Jazz (Fat City It Is, with Gary and Jon); Memphis-style horn funk (Copperhead, with Will); Country rock a la Grateful Dead style (Ricky Jones Band, with Jon); and covers (Fabulous Kangaroos, with Jeff), not to mention church bands (Ed).

Jon LeVeen

So…what’s become of Your Mother?  Well, let’s hear it straight from her…er, them:

Jon LeVeen: “I'm still playing with Jones'n, a classic rock and funk band based in Central Maine doing about 70 gigs a year across the state.”  (Visit their
website)

Gary Tharler: “I sold my drums when moving to California in 1976. But in 1990 I bought an almost exact replica of my Ludwigs, and fixed and polished them up like a mechanic would with a classic old car. I played a little to records. Around the same time I started connecting to people doing African drumming and percussion. I studied at Esalen under Babatunji Alatundi, who died a couple of years ago. More recently I've discovered a community of hand drummers in Sierra Madre, a picturesque little town of craftsman houses and redwoods, nestled into the hills above Pasadena, California. I've jammed with Djibril N'doye, a wonderful professional drummer from Sierra Leone.”

Will Parquette: “I don’t play in a band or perform, but I do write original material all the time. Most of my stuff now is jazzy instrumental material played finger-style on acoustic-electric guitar. I still like to plug in my old Strat and blast away on occasion.”

Jeff Purvin: “I’ve gone from being the consummate hippy in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s to becoming “The Man.” I’m the CEO of a medical device company that makes tests for people with diabetes.  I’ve never stopped playing music though. I’ve recorded a bunch of songs via overdubbing on a Teac 4-track. I’ve jammed with many people over the years for fun. In August, 2005, I played a solo acoustic set at the Purvin Family Reunion. I love seeing my 12-year old, Colton, getting into music. I go out of my way to understand and appreciate the music he likes (which isn’t always easy (!)) I made a deal with him. He can order any songs he wants on iTunes, anytime, and it’s on me. I just want him to enjoy loving music as much as I have.”

Ed Griswold: “Since leaving Kona in 1994 I’ve played sporadically and do not play with any group regularly, although I’d sure enjoy being part of a band again.  There’s nothing like it! My wife and I live in Friday Harbor, Washington and own and run an import store (Thai clothes and décor items) with our son, Ian (22).  We travel to SE Asia once or twice a year to restock our store.  Our daughter, Amanda (26), lives in Oregon, with her husband and three kids and helps in our shop by coming up a couple times a year and redecorating (‘merchandising’).  I also work part-time as a charter pilot, flying Cessna single-engine planes regionally (from northern Vancouver Island all the way down to Oregon and over to central Washington, but mostly around the islands and down to Seattle).”

Overall, Your Mother had a great time.  Perhaps Jeff Purvin sums it up best: “I really enjoyed hanging with the band members. I’ll never forget the feeling I had one night when the crowd applauded, really exuberantly, right after Jon played the first few notes of ‘Cryptic Subterfuge.’  I thought, ‘Damn! This is my 15 minutes of fame!’”


Media
"Cryptic Subterfuge"
Media
"Hello"
Your Mother Performing Live
Willie Parquette and Jeff Purvin