Remember The Park Avenue Playground?

Park Avenue Playground On 45

Park Avenue Playground 45


You’re not alone in your lack of recall of this obscure band, trust me.

Back in the late 60’s I was in a pop rock garage band. I know, I know. So was everyone else. Known then as the U.S.Males, we were performing quite a lot in the Chicago-land area but again, so was everybody. Garage bands were like Starbucks now. On any given day, when we would go outside on a break, we could hear the muffled thump and low tone of a kick drum and a bass with a hint of too loud electric guitar and screaming vocals coming from multiple directions in my south Chicago suburb of Lansing, IL.

I was alternately on rhythm guitar or bass (when the bass player didn’t show up for a gig or practice) and was writing half of the original material along with Mike, the Farfisa player. We performed so much we began garnering bit of attention and backing.

So now we move into a more rarified field. We got ourselves a record! with the help of our friend, manager, mentor and body gaurd, Larry Goldberg who just recently got in touch with me through the interwebs. We recorded up in Madison WI (I coulda swore it was Michigan) and came back with a tasty little pop 45.

After a name change, we got on the bill with quite a few acts in the area. We started playing the same circuit with The Cryan Shames, The Flock, The Shadows of Knight, not to mention opening for Spirit, The Bob Seger System and a host of other bands too numerous and lost in the synapses of my mind at this posting. A few more were; Mason Profit, The Outsiders, The Amboy Dukes (Ted Nugent’s band) and Alice Cooper (if you need a link to find out who Alice is, I can’t help you)

Not everyone was as lucky as my bandmates and I were in those heady days of early american garage rock. We had fun almost always. There was that weekend in Peoria .. but I digress.

Now, all these years later, a label named Sundazed Music Inc. has released a compilation of recordings released on USA and Destination records, available in *vinyl* as well as CD, which includes the A & B sides of our humble 45.

My life is awesomesauciest at this moment.

Makes me wanna make another record.

OK. A place for my ramblings and songs. Wh00tle!

I’m gonna do my best to let people into my head here. I have a little fictional memoir started. I’l put some of the real stories here for your perusal. Like …

Christmas time, ’65.

My aunt (mom’s sis) finds out I have a band. She calls me and asks if I’d like to make some money playing at a private holiday party. Well, as you can imagine, I was thrilled and said yes. She gave me the address and promised me $100 minimum. Tells me to show around 6pm as I recall.

(A little background on my Aunt Sis. Vivacious, red-haired Irish woman. Nurse at Little Company of Mary Hosp. where I was born. Wonderful sense of humor, always having fun. When she died, she was starring in a community production of “Mame”, a role she was born to play.)

It was a clear, cold winters evening. Snow everywhere. We found the place, not far from where my aunt lived in the Beverly neighborhood of south Chicago. Parking was a bit of a problem as it is in the city but we managed to get the van into the driveway. I go up to the door of this mansion and ring. A slightly inebriated elderly gentleman answers with a not so subtle look of “What the…”. I’m panicking, thinking “Uh oh! Wrong place? Wrong night?” I tell him I was hired to play for the Christmas party by my Aunt Sis at this address. Suddenly my aunt appears and takes over. She whispers something to the man and the guy started laughing so hard I thought he was gonna have a coronary right there in front of me. Aunt Sis hugs me and calls for some of the guests to come and help us bring in the stuff.

We load in (with the help of about nine or ten people) and it’s bedlam. People are laughing and frantically moving furniture and clearing a place for us to set up. Turns out my aunt planned this to be a surprise on the host and guests and everyone is thoroughly enjoying the gag.

The band sets up amidst a swirl of well toasted doctors and nurses. Once we’ve tuned and check, check, checked, I count the band into our best number “Long Tall Sally”  and I swear I felt the house move with the shear force of the merriment in the room. Well heeled people, dressed to the nines, danced with drinks in hand and smiles on their faces.

We played for about a half hour and would’ve played all freaking night if it were up to us but my Aunt Sis promised my mom to have us packed and on the road home before too late.

While we tore down and loaded out, women are hugging and kissing us and men are pressing ten and twenties into our hands and shirt pockets.  I know I went home with about $200 and another indelible mark on my psyche. I want to make a living doing that- to people.

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“Good bands light up like ascending fireworks in the night sky. They climb as fast and brilliantly as they can, bang hard in search of the ultimate “ahhhhh” from their audience, and then fall in shimmering desperation, lingering as long and gloriously as possible until a new band streaks by them skyward to its own destiny. Very few explode with enough radiance to remain in people’s minds over the years.” ~ Carl Gustafson ~