Parasomnia / The Plagues

Images Of America

Baytovens: East Bay Book

Suburban Blues

Duane Thomas & Sax Man

House On Marchant Street

A Song For You

   

Bruce Tahsler Book Preview

Editor’s Note: Bruce Tahsler has written a book (now available) on the ‘60’s East Bay rock and roll scene. It's a guide to nearly 300 garage bands in the East Bay during the mid-to-late sixties. A member of The Talisman, Bruce was able to interview 46 bands, including The Harbinger Complex, Gotham City Crime Fighters/Tower of Power, The Spyders, The Immediate Family, Barry Carlos, Bill Quarry, Peter Wheat & The Breadmen, Stanley & The Fendermen, The Shillings, The Staton Brothers, and more.  Also included will be band pages for these groups with musician names and the instrument they played, a Clubs & Venues page, and a discography of original songs (whether recorded or not). If that isn’t nearly enough, the book will be issued with a corresponding CD, compiled by Alec Palao, of songs by many of the bands covered. 

One of the very best groups from the East Bay scene, The Baytovens’ Beatles-like blend of pop and rock resulted in the official release of unfortunately one lone single, the jangly and classic “Waiting For You” b/w “Such A Fool” (Belfast 67-1001).The core of the band was together for a short 18-month span yet still managed to make the most of their time together, resulting in a legacy that firmly places them among the best groups (from a pool of hundreds) that the ‘60’s Bay Area scene had to offer. Here, in an exclusive for 60sgaragebands.com, is a preview chapter from Tahsler’s forthcoming book, with photos graciously provided by The Baytovens own Carl Depolo. Depolo is still very much actively involved in music, and 60sgaragebands.com will be providing exciting news on some of his ongoing projects shortly…


The Bay Area’s Best: The Baytovens

The High Street Presbyterian Church in Oakland was attracting attention, but not for the usual church services.  The Baytovens, a San Leandro rock band, were drawing fans to the church in record numbers. Amazingly, it was not to see their concerts, but their rehearsals! What started Baytovenmania? The answer lies ahead. 

Brothers Jon and Rich Green moved to the Bay Area in 1958. They began their musical careers as children taking piano and accordion lessons. But they ended up teaching themselves nearly everything they learned, usually playing by ear. One Christmas, their parents presented them both with Silvertone guitars and amps. The boys spent hours learning songs from records and the radio.  

Leon Dietch, a friend of the Green brothers since childhood, was an accomplished piano player. The three joined forces and began playing early sixties instrumentals and Everly Brothers tunes. When Leon wasn’t jamming with Jon and Rich he spent his time playing his favorite music, Beethoven, on his keyboard. It was Leon, in fact, who suggested the name The Beethovens to the Green brothers, who loved it. KYA’s Tony Bigg later change the spelling to The Baytovens, identifying the band with their Bay Area roots.


While the Green brothers were polishing their skills, another musician began his path to The Baytovens. Upon graduation from San Leandro High School, Carl Depolo and several of his close friends traveled to New York for the 1964 World’s Fair. They bought a classic1938 Yellowstone Park touring bus for the trip. During his stay in Queens, Carl met a ten-year-old African-American boy who owned a set of drumsticks. Wherever the youngster went he tapped out a rhythm with his sticks, including against buildings, and on the pavement. Carl soon befriended the youngster.   

On the day Carl and his friends left New York, the young boy approached Carl and said, “I want you to have these,” and gave him his drumsticks. During the three thousand mile journey home, Carl drove his friends crazy by drumming on the seats, windows and the floors. At times, the rest of the guys attempted to hide the sticks, but to no avail. 

By the time the bus arrived back in San Leandro, Beatlemania was taking the country by storm. With his new interest in drums and his love for The Beatles, Carl became certain that music would occupy a large part of his life.  The following week, Carl purchased a set of drums for $50 - a fairly large sum of money in those days. A Christmas scene was painted on the bass drum, the largest Carl had ever seen. To the delight of the neighbors he set up his new drums in his living room and practiced daily. One day, the postman stopped by. He told Carl he had heard him play while walking his route. The postman turned out to be in a “surf band” that was looking for a drummer. Though he was uncertain if he was ready to join a group, Carl agreed to perform with the band.  

After several days of intense rehearsals, the band played a gig at San Leandro’s Church of Assumption. For the drum platform, two large tables were pushed together. Approximately ten minutes into the first set, the vibrations from the drums began moving the two tables apart. Carl looked down between the tables, and, much to his surprise saw the floor!  Moments later, Carl, his drum set, and his cymbals crashed down to the floor. His first thought was, “what a way to break into the business!” The concert was halted while the drums were set up again - on the floor this time. 

Near the end of the evening, two young musicians approached Carl and told him how much they enjoyed his playing. The boys were forming a band to play Beatles music. That’s all Carl needed to hear; his brief tenure as a surf-drummer was over. The two youths were Jon and Rich Green, founders of The Baytovens. Carl became the drummer for the soon-to-be Band. Leon Dietch, the Greens’ childhood friend who suggested the band’s name, had since left the band. The Baytovens soon realized they needed another guitarist to achieve the sound and quality they desired. This man would be Dwight Pitcaithley, a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo college student who was becoming an exceptional guitarist, and loved folk, blues and the new sounds coming out of England.


Carl Depolo

On the night of February 9th, 1964, Dwight’s outlook on the music world was irrevocably changed when he tuned in to the Ed Sullivan show. Dwight was mesmerized by four lads from England called The Beatles. “There was just something infectious about them,” Dwight said in an interview years later. “Their two and three part harmony was so uplifting and exciting. It reminded me of some of the early Buddy Holly and Everly Brothers’ harmony.” 

After leaving college a year later, Dwight pursued musical interests ranging from Bola Sete to The Beatles. His younger brother Al arranged a meeting with the Green brothers; it was soon apparent that The Baytovens would have their fourth and final member.  

Now, all the band needed was a place to rehearse.  Carl’s close friend Pastor Trevitt of the aforementioned High Street Presbyterian Church gave them permission to use the church theater. Soon, they were attracting everyone from parishioners to Hells Angels. 

“Apparently,” said Dwight, “the sounds from one of our concert rehearsals wafted down the block and attracted the interest of the East Oakland Hells Angels chapter house. They just wandered in and proceeded to sit down in the church pews opposite us.  We were quite surprised but decided not to stop playing. They were decked out in full colors and grooving to the music. We must have played for an hour straight.” 

During a 1998 interview, the band was asked how The Beatles influenced The Baytovens: 

Rich: “Their songs made sense. They had meaning and depth behind them. The music and their harmonies were so unique.” 

Dwight: “It was such a joy just playing their music. Initially, we weren't paying much attention to the fact that we were performing in front of people, we were just interested in playing it and making it sound good.” 

Carl: “They were contagious, it’s hard to explain it. They were totally different. They were new, refreshing, alive and melodic. We were just kids, and we wanted to sound like them. I grew up listening to Fats Domino and Chuck Berry. The Beatles hit me like a two-by-four.” 

Jon: “It was incredible and so much fun. I loved it. Just to be up there playing and singing their songs...what a high.” 

The Baytovens’ church rehearsals were becoming quite popular with the locals. The band was also gaining popularity; the first Baytovens Fan Club was founded at this time. But Dwight, Jon, Rich and Carl needed more exposure. They needed to show the public how good they were; they needed a manager.


Dwight Pitcaithley

Larry White was propelled into the “British Invasion” in 1964, but not as a musician. Larry’s love for show business and music was instilled in him at an early age. Always the entrepreneur, Larry excelled at band promotion and management.  While still in high school, Larry heard of The Baytovens through guitarist Dwight Pitcaithley’s brother, Al. “You should go check them out,” Al said.  “You could probably use them at one of your dances, and they might even need a manager.” 

Taking Al’s advice, Larry attended a rehearsal session. Larry remembers: “The music just blew me away. They were playing Beatles, Dave Clark Five, Kinks and Animals tunes. All of my favorites! After the rehearsal, I talked with them and told them how much I enjoyed the music. I also mentioned that I knew several radio personalities at KYA. By the end of the day I was the manager of The Baytovens.” 

When Larry arrived home that evening he called his friend Tony Bigg, a DJ at KYA, to tell him about his new discovery. “I’m going to manage them,” Larry exclaimed, “and they sound just like The Beatles.”  Tony had such faith in Larry’s discovery that he began to mention the up-and-coming group on his radio show.   

The first live performance by The Baytovens was the 1965 Christmas Dance at San Leandro High. The Baytovens opened with “A Hard Days Night” and the audience went crazy. They never looked back after that show.  

The band rehearsed daily, did photo sessions, and performed three to four times per week. The band used Gibson acoustic guitars, Rickenbaker electric, Hofner bass, Ludwig drums, and Fender and Vox amps. The P.A. system speakers Dwight built were so state-of-the-art that other bands used them instead of the house P.A.  The Baytovens’ popularity was increasing by leaps and bounds. They had tapped into the very essence of the new musical movement coming out of Great Britain and the public wanted more. 

The Baytoven’s first major gig with Larry White was the Super Harlow A Go-Go at Longshoremen’s Hall in San Francisco on January 8, 1966. The band performed with The Vejetables, William Penn & His Pals, and The Just VI to a packed house. The Go-Go sold out for two weeks.     


Jon Greene

In 1966, Larry took The Baytovens into Leo de GarKulka’s Golden State Recording Studios in San Francisco. He had been pushing the band to start working on some of their own material. In a matter of hours Dwight penned two originals, “Love Look Away” and “My House.” The songs were recorded but never pressed. Jon Green also wrote, “Message To BF,” which was never recorded.  

The Baytovens performed at many East Bay venues including the IDES Hall, Rollarena, UAW Hall, Oakland Auditorium, and Oakland Coliseum. The band also entertained at Longshoremen's Hall in San Francisco, H. Liebes’ “Battle of the Bands” at the Cow Palace, and numerous concerts and dances.  The boys also appeared on Tempo, a ‘60’s teenage talent show broadcast on San Francisco’s KPIX Channel 5. 

The Baytovens had the distinction of being one of the highest paid bands in the East Bay. During the mid sixties the band was making more money than both The Vejetables and The Mojo Men. At one particular gig held at San Francisco State University, they received $450 for forty-five minutes work. Another performance in Northern California brought in $1200 for one hour. These were incredible amounts of money in those days.  

As Dwight later said about rock and roll shows: “I thought the Oakland Coliseum Concert would be an incredible concert for us; since we would have a chance to play with some of the most successful artists in rock music, including Eric Burden and The Animals, Sly and The Family Stone, The Association, and particularly my favorite, the Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete, who I was listening to long before The Beatles ever hit the USA.  

“The Coliseum show was during a time when public address systems were designed for basketball games, and sound checks for the performers were mostly nonexistent. This obviously made hearing yourself, and performing well, next to impossible. This was one of the main reasons The Beatles stopped performing – they couldn’t hear themselves over the noise of the huge crowds.


Rick Green

“While backstage, wondering how we were going to cope with all this, the concert promoter approached us and said, ‘Sly and Te Family Stone aren’t going to show, so you guys are on now.’ Needless-to-say, we could hear our hearts pounding.  

“You just can’t imagine how nervous you can get when you’re introduced and have to walk out on this huge dimly lit stage in front of a sea of people yelling so loud you can’t hear yourself think,” Dwight continued. “You plug in your guitar, look at each other with bewilderment, walk up to the microphone only to find out that you can hardly hear yourself. Beginning with a Beatles medley was all that kept us on track. Somehow we managed to get through the set with the crowds cheers and applause following us off the stage.”  

The Baytovens were on top. Their reputation had spread throughout the Bay Area and into northern California. Larry White had done a superb job of promoting the boys, and Dwight, Carl, Jon, and Rich were four very talented young performers. 

Since The Baytovens’ last recording stint at Golden State Studios, Dwight had composed two new originals, “Waiting For You,” and “Such A Fool.” Larry felt the band was ready for another session and decided on the celebrated Studio 3 at Western Recording Studios on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. The studio had some of the finest producers and engineers in the business. Such prominent groups as the Mamas and The Papas, The Seeds, and The Beach Boys all recorded at Western. The Baytovens paid for their own session and were able to secure a total of three hours in the studio, a small amount of time to lay down music and vocal tracks. 

The Baytovens’ songs “Such A Fool,” and “Waiting For You” were recorded on the Belfast label, a label created by Larry. The label was named on behalf of his friends Van Morrison and the group Them, who hailed from Belfast, Ireland. Larry sent a copy of the record to radio station KPAY in Chico. The record became a local top-10 hit. 

During the last six months of The Baytovens’ existence, the band leaned toward a performance comprised mainly of originals. As Larry once commented, “In the beginning, it was a novelty to play an original. In the end, it was a novelty to play a Beatles song.”


L-R: Larry, Dwight, Rick and Carl

The Baytovens were as popular as ever. They were loved and respected by both fellow musicians, and the fans they entertained. Larry booked them into all the popular Bay Area venues. The name The Baytovens was synonymous with the rock music scene in northern California during the mid-to-late sixties. ABC Dunhill expressed a desire to sign the band. Larry and the boys thought they might be on the brink of making it big.  

Then, almost as quickly as the band was formed, it all fell apart. Like so many bands, their personal interests moved them in new and different directions.  As Dwight later reflected,  “Perhaps we were a bit tired of the concert schedule, living out of a suitcase and dealing with each other.”  

In the span of one week The Baytovens lost their guitar and bass players - half of the band. By May of 1967, only eighteen months after it started, the former “pride of the East Bay” was no more. 

For a short while, Dwight and Carl continued on, enlisting the talents of keyboardist Stuart Anderson, one of the finest keyboard players in the area, who went on to perform with Mark & Stanley and The Fendermen.  The three-piece band continued on as the New Baytovens. As Carl Depolo explained in a 1998 interview, “We did a number of gigs under the Baytovens name, but it just didn’t feel right. We were trying to sell The Baytovens, but it wasn’t The Baytovens we all remembered.” 

Larry White remembers, “When The Baytovens broke up, I woke up the next morning and thought, what am I going to do with my life? Up to that point The Baytovens were my life.” 

Today, Carl Depolo, the former drummer who once drove his friends crazy tapping out rhythms in the back of a 1938 touring bus, is a professional sports photographer. In a 1998 interview, Carl remembered The Baytovens. “All of our personnel were first-class.

Dwight was a professional about the technical aspect of the band. He wanted every note to be perfect. Jon and Rich felt the same way, and concentrated a great deal on stage appearance. And Larry was obviously that way. A true professional.”  

Former guitarist Dwight Pitcaithley continued to play music for the next thirty years, jamming and performing with various bands. Today, Dwight lives in San Leandro and is making available to the public the “Beatles Lost Photos,” a collection of photographs taken by Larry White during The Beatles Cow Palace concerts.    

After the breakup, Jon Green went into the print business, managing a print shop in Berkeley and then his own Hayward printing business. From there, he moved to the Santa Cruz Mountains where he opened an excavating business with his brother Rich.  “I can’t help wondering how far we would have gone if we stayed together,” Rich remarked.   

One of the most talented and successful local bands was no more. The musicians moved on, but the music of The Baytovens still echoes in the halls and other venues where they performed. Rich’s final comment was an interesting one. How far would they have gone? Would we be listening to their CDs today, with their albums of yesterday packed away in our attics? 


Rick and Jon Green
Carl Depolo and Dwight Pitcaithley