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Frank Gray

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Rock ’n’ roll dream found in lost record

Ted Rupel remembers the ‘60s rock era, when every city of any size had a handful of popular bands, many struggling to land a record deal and become famous.

When they gathered at teen clubs, people would simply dance to most bands’ music, but there was one Fort Wayne band in particular that Rupel recalls. When they played, you didn’t dance. You crowded the stage at places like the armory downtown, or the Hullabaloo or any number of other venues, and you’d just watch and listen.

The band was called the Olivers. They could do a killer job covering other bands’ songs, but they wrote their own music, too, and played all over the state.

The Olivers could have been a national act, Rupel said. In fact they should have been a national act. They did cut one single in the mid-1960s that was picked up by a national label, but the venture that should have made them, for various reasons, didn’t pan out.

Back in 1969, in the dead of winter, the band headed out for Minnesota where they had a date at a new, state-of-the-art recording studio. There, they recorded an entire album. They even had a record company waiting in the wings to start pressing the album.

For some reason, though, that record deal fell apart. Later Dove Studios, the place where they recorded the album, closed.

For years, members of the Olivers tried to track down the acetate, that fragile disc that could be used to make records, but they couldn’t find it.

The Olivers remained in the music business for some time. They later changed their names to the Triads.

Years passed, though, and then decades, and the acetate was presumed lost.

Then, not that long ago, Rupel started nosing around on the Internet and stumbled across a stunning piece of news.

The old acetate had survived and somehow ended up in California, where someone put it up for auction online. A man who runs a blog on 1960s Indiana garage bands had bought the acetate and linked up with an outfit in Germany that was pressing the album and selling both vinyl and CDs of the long- lost album.

Rupel bought a copy of the album, which has only recently become available, through the mail in Germany, and it’s just as fantastic today as he remembers it, he said.

For members of the band, it would have been nice if the album could have been released maybe four decades ago. For one band member, Mike Mankey, who now lives in Minnesota, there is a certain amount of satisfaction that their album is finally out there.

Yes, he said, it was a big letdown when the record deal fell through, but life goes on, and the discovery of the acetate and the belated release of the album gives him a feeling of closure, and it’s a great feeling, he said.

Meanwhile, the band’s various members have gone on with their lives.

Chuck Hamrick, the drummer, is now a college professor, Mankey said. Jay Penndorf, a guitarist and singer, joined the military and became a colonel. Rick Durrett, who played keyboards, is a music producer in Nashville and has played with a number of well-known music stars. Billy Franze, who handled bass and vocals, is still a musician in Minnesota, and Mankey, a guitarist and singer, is now an IT professional in Minnesota.

The album, by the way, can be found at www.break-a-way.de, the German company producing the records and CDs, or at www.gethip.com/store, an American distributor, where you can do a search for the Olivers and order the album.

As the saying goes, all things come to he who waits.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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