Much of my youth was spent
playing in the streets and playgrounds of North Beach and taking guitar
lessons at Joe Brattesani's School of Music. With my younger cousin Fred
Bustos on rhythm guitar, we’d crank out one Ventures song after another in
my Chestnut Street basement and at Salesian School variety shows.
When I got to high school in 1964, one of my classmates
said he had a friend named Curt Mallegni who could play Wipe Out on the
drums. Could it be the same Curt who used to crack me up in the fifth
grade and then transferred to St. Vincent De Paul? It was. The three of us
won a Moose Lodge “Stardom Stairway” talent show as The Interludes,
playing Sleepwalk and Walk, Don't Run.
Curt was friends with Nick Paolini, a talented
accordion player. Nick expressed an interest in joining the band. I told
him what we really needed was a bass player, so he went out, bought a
bass, and learned how to play it (well). Not only did he play bass, but he
could also sing lead, which
allowed us to become more than just an instrumental
Fred left the band to start his own
group, The Times Four. In order to have a more versatile sound, we thought
it might be a good idea to add a keyboard player instead of another
guitar, so the word went out to all the schools in the area. One cold,
rainy night I answered the door, and there stood Ned Bawden, an excellent
piano player who practiced about eight hours a day, chain smoked nonfilter
Kools, and slept under his piano. He was a proficient song writer as well.
Ned bought a Hammond organ and had it delivered to our first gig at St.
Bridget’s. We really destroyed that organ as we carried it from one teen
club to another, half hanging out of Nicks' old Plymouth, rear end loaded
down with all of our gear nearly scraping the street. Enter the Vox
Continental organ, which gave us that "British Invasion" sound. With our
new sound, we decided that “The Interludes” sounded like an act on The
Lawrence Welk Champagne Hour, so after