Nickel Revolution
From their inception as The Wailing Phantoms and later as The Inchanters, Minneapolis' The Nickel Revolution performed as a teen garage combo, an R&B band with sax, a bubblegum group, a psychedelic band and, finally, as a hard working, hard rock band.  Their exploits, including performing all over Minnesota and into Wisconsin and Illinois, hanging with The Young Rascals, recording for Candy Floss Productions and Mercury Records and appearing on the Upbeat TV show, are well documented on the group's excellent website/blog.  Drummer Jerry Lenz, however, was grateful in filling in some other holes--including a 2012 reunion--in this exclusive interview with 60sgaragebands.com.
The Nickel Revolution: Ron, Louie, Jerry, Keith (standing) and Scott.
Jerry Lenz

An Interview With Jerry Lenz
January 2012

60sgaragebands.com (60s): Your brother Louie Lenz, Scott Jeffy and you comprised the core of the group from the Wailing Phantoms through the last incarnation of The Nickel Revolution.  Did you find it difficult at any time during the various personnel changes?  How did you recruit new members?
Jerry Lenz (JL):  The changes were never difficult. Challenges yes, but not difficulties. As I said in one of the posts, bands are like first girlfriends in that a breakup is normally in the cards. We never had a big change where half the band left mainly because Scott, Louie and I decided early on to stick it out and the three of us were very business minded. That helped keep some of the other members on track. We were serious about being on-time and professional, collecting our money and getting expenses covered and everyone paid.

Early on we ran ads in the local musicians paper, Connie’s Insider, to recruit and hold try-outs. Later, we just networked, had guys sit in and move on.

60s: How important was the decision to sign with Central Booking Agency?  How much impact did they have in spreading the Inchanters popularity?
JL. That was the biggest early step. CBA was the premier agency. In addition to Dick Shapiro, Bill Diehl (local radio DJ and success story) was part of CBA. They had connections and were totally professional booking us in high-paying schools and later on they booked us in the best clubs and ballrooms throughout the midwest.


60s: How involved was Dick Shapiro with the group?
JL. CBA was always available by phone and we could even pop in for a visit on a Saturday morning to talk and get advice. The office was in Dick's downtown condo and he personally was a great guy and well-liked in the media and the "who's who" of the Twin Cities.

60s: What exactly was The Nickel Revolution's role in the appearance with Dick Gregory?  Did you interact with him at all on stage, or serve as in-between act?
JL: We were simply the rock band booked to boost student attendance. They had a dance band booked and we were the rockers. It was a great trip for the band. Dick was cordial, easy to talk to and cracked jokes. It was extremely interesting because rock bands seldom got to play that type of gig.


Backstage with The Young Rascals.
60s: What are you recollections of The Young Rascals, who you got to hang around and perform with for a large part of a day?  Did performing with them affect the band's outlook at all?
JL: The Young Rascals experience was a huge motivator for the band to practice and build a better on-stage show. We learned a ton. They were incredible musicians and you can see YouTube videos of them live, demonstrating what quality musicians and singers they were. Not so with some of the English bands coming over in the Beatles wave.

It was the first opportunity (Friday-Sunday) for us to observe first-hand how a major rock band traveled, performed and spent their leisure time. They were extremely friendly and fun and very supportive of fans that had showed up at the airport.

60s: Was CBA solely responsible for your signing with Candy Floss Productions?
JL: No, however, the only groups that could sign up with Candy Floss had to be booked by CBA.

60s: What other groups did Candy Floss sign during that period?  Did you interact with any?

JL: TC Atlantic, Hot Half Dozen, C.A. Quintet, Michael Yonkers, Seraphic Street Sounds, plus studio only bands that did not perform more than a handful of times, such as Eric Marshall & The Chymes and The Shambles/Puddle.  We were friends with TC Atlantic and The Hot Half Dozen.

60s: Was Candy Floss responsible for deciding which songs the group would record?

JL. Yes, they were.  As we quickly found out, they were controlling everything.

60s:  Did you have any input?

JL: Only for appearance sake. Of the two principles, Dale Menten was totally professional and an excellent musician and singer. Peter Steinberg was supposed to be an "author" who took up songwriting. He was the shark that would cause Candy Floss to fail. We, along with most of the other bands, stopped paying them in 1969. We never saw any money from our recordings.

60s: Did you resent Candy Floss' control at the time, or did you simply go with the flow?

JL: Early on we were all ears and open to their guidance. They did get us on a major label and did promote the record well to radio. That exposure increased our performance rates four to five times for major gigs and got us with a national agency, Dino Enterprises of Indianapolis.

In the end, we were doing better on our own at developing our own true sound and building our audience. We just walked away from Candy Floss and they were in so much trouble that they did not pursue any of the bands. They had no money to sue.

60s: None of the five songs that The Nickel Revolution recorded were originals.  Did the group write any songs, or dabble at all in songwriting?

JL: Very much so when Keith Luer joined the band. A good third of what we performed were originals that he wrote.

60s: Did winning the "Best New Material" at the Connie Awards open any new doors for the group?

JL: Yes, that put us on Mercury's Phillips label and the song took off in the Midwest. We were slammed with bookings and the rates were tremendous, plus a lot of action on big shows with national acts.

60s: You've described perhaps your best known song, 'Oscar Crunch', as an "off-the-wall novelty" song.  How different was the song from the band's then current play list?
JL: It was the only novelty song we played. We were R&B/rock with it came out and later that year had developed more hard rock, blues rock material.

60s: It appears as if The Nickel Revolution were steered towards the bubblegum genre.  What was the group's opinion of bubblegum music at the time?

JL: At the time, we felt that we were getting wise counsel and it was better than nothing so we dabbled with it. We were never motivated to write or perform any bubblegum. We did have fun, especially working with The 1910 Fruitgum Co. because in many ways, they were in the same boat--wanting to rock, not pop.

60s: Looking back today, have your thoughts about bubblegum changed?
JL: Today? Hey, there is a market for the genre. We were not into it then or now.

60s: What do you recall about your appearance on Upbeat?

JL:  It was truly exciting, fun, fast and over as fast as it began. You go in, get the stage assigned, set up simple drum kit (no amps) and the floor people arrange you on-stage. They do test shots, send you to makeup and then you sit and wait to lip-sync your song. It was over in two minutes. We did get to see it back home as it was filmed about 2-3 weeks in advance. There was no way to record it back then for home.

60s:  Are there any known unreleased recordings?  Any live recordings?

JL: Yes. All three on YouTube: 'Sweet, Sweet Lovin', 'Treat Her Right' and 'Here Come da Judge'. We are looking for tapes (would be really poor quality, one mic recordings off the speaker).




60s: Why did The Nickel Revolution disband?
JL: 1970 (1969-70) saw many bands break up because of the Vietnam War and the end of student deferments. Scott Jeffy decided to join the Navy rather than be drafted. I was married and had a baby on the way and it was time to join the corporate world. We had toyed with the idea of moving to the West Coast, but the money out there was crap and expenses were higher. It didn’t make good business sense and many were failing as they tried. We did not want to end of playing bars for a living. It was time to close the book.
 

60s: The Nickel Revolution evolved through the years as a teen band, an R&B band with sax,  and as a hard rock/heavy sound group.  What was your personal preference for the type of music that the group performed?
JL: Each evolution was fun, exciting and had a true sense that we were on a journey. It kept getting better. Today, when I sort it out, my heart is happiest with blues (R&B, rock/blues and straight classic blues). I play in blues jams and Orlando is a great town for the genre with clubs to play, etc.

 

60s: What is the latest on the summer 2012 reunion?
JL: Momentum is growing. It has gone from an intimate party in a hall to getting serious about having a local agent help us book a good venue and invite friends from the groups we played with.


The Nickel Revolution at Someplace Else, 1967.
Nickel Revolution Evolution

Wailing Phantoms (1964)
Keith Follese on keyboards and lead vocals
Louie Lenz on rhythm guitar
Scott Jeffy on bass guitar
Jerry Lenz on drums

Inchanters (1965)
Keith Follese on keyboards and lead vocals
Louie Lenz on rhythm guitar
Scott Jeffy on bass guitar
Jerry Lenz on drums

Nickel Revolution (1966)
Ron “Honeybear” Hort on keyboards and lead vocals
Louie Lenz on rhythm guitar
Scott Jeffy on bass guitar
Jerry Lenz on drums
Jeff Simons on lead guitar

Nickel Revolution (mid-1967)
Ron Hort on keyboards and lead vocals
Kent Saunders on lead guitar and lead vocals
Louie Lenz on rhythm guitar
John Berman on saxophone
Scott Jeffy on bass guitar
Jerry Lenz on drums

'Sweet, Sweet Loving,' 'Treat Her Right', 'Here Come Da Judge' (Unreleased) 

Nickel Revolution (1968)
Ron Hort on keyboards and lead vocals
Keith Luer on lead guitar and vocals
Louie Lenz on rhythm guitar
Scott Jeffy on bass guitar
Jerry Lenz on drums and vocals

'Oscar Crunch' (with Gary Paulak on lead vocals and Barry Goldberg and Whip Lane on backing vocals)/'What Do You Want To Be (Nothing)' (Philips 40569)

Nickel Revolution (1969)
Mickey Larson on keyboards and lead vocals
Keith Luer on lead guitar and vocals
Louie Lenz on rhythm guitar
Scott Jeffy on bass guitar
Jerry Lenz on drums and vocals

Nickel Revolution (1970)
Bob Fisher on keyboards and lead vocals
Keith Luer on lead guitar and vocals
Louie Lenz on rhythm guitar
Scott Jeffy on bass guitar
Jerry Lenz on drums and vocals


The Nickel Revolution