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The Rockin' Ramrods
The Rockin' Ramrods

History of Boston Rock
     History of Boston Rock & Roll - Chapter 10 - The British Are Coming!

In 1964, strains of The Beatles' From Me to You began to be heard on radio stations across the country, from Boston to Duluth to San Francisco, and by 1964, a full fledged British invasion hit the shores of America. It brought with it a host of bands doing Caucasian versions of American black rock n' roll and white teen idol harmonies, to take rock n' roll one step further.

Band members' radical long hair made them the new outrage of parents.

The Beatles' won over America in their February 9, 1964 Ed Sullivan show appearance. The Stones followed quickly in their footsteps, playing at The West Coast in June.

In the early morning of September 12, 1964, a 14-year-old girl from Avon, Massachusetts crept out of bed and got on a bus bound for North Station in Boston. By the time she arrived there, a couple of hundred girls had already gathered-outside her destination, the Madison Hotel.

Armed with her Kodak brownie, a bag full of drawings of Ringo, Paul, George and John, confetti (the Beatles had requested that fans stop throwing jelly beans because they hurt) and a Datebook Press Pass that she had sent away for via a coupon on the back of a teenybopper magazine, Kathei Logue weaved through the crowd to the front door of the Madison. "Excuse me, excuse me, Press" she explained. She was stopped at the door to the hotel.

"There must be some kind of mistake! I'm here on assignment from New York for the Beatles Press Conference," blurted Ms. Logue. "Well, young lady, the conference doesn't begin until this afternoon. Come back then and ask for Sergeant Scott. He'll take care of you," she was informed by a Boston policeman. "Thank you very much."

Kathei turned and made her way back through the crowd. Suspecting that Kathei was important, a group of six teenagers began to follow her.

Heady with her success at the door, Kathei told them, importantly, "I'm going to visit George's sister in Kenmore Square. Would you like to meet her?" she asked. No one said no. "Follow me." Little did they know, she was feeling her Wheaties and had never met Harrison's sis.

Off she went to the Somerset Hotel (now Boston University dorms), and through its doors with her entourage, in search of Louise Harrison Caldwell. From door to door, they went, asking "is Louise here?" "We didn't find her, but we did locate the Los Angeles Angels who took us over to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game," Logue explained. There, she managed to lose the entire group of teens, except for a young man with a camera.

They returned to the Madison, where the crowd had grown much larger. "Excuse me. Excuse me. Press." At the door, without questioning Kathei's story ("Hi, I'm a reporter from New York City and this is my cousin. He's a photographer from Avon.") they ushered her to the doors of the press conference room where she waited with Herald Traveler reporter, Paul Benzaquin.

The doors finally opened and in strolled 14-year-old New York reporter Kathei Logue with her personal photographer, straight to the front row seats. Enter Derek Taylor, the Beatles Press Agent, followed by, The Fab Four, rock's favorite mop tops. A few children of Boston's VIP's had wormed their way into the audience, and they screamed at the sight of their favorites. One girl ran toward the Beatles, but was quickly ushered out, along with her friends. The press began questioning their subjects "John Lennon, when will your new book be available?" Kathei asked. (John was on the verge of releasing a volume of his schoolboy poetry John Lennon In His Own Write). John answered sheepishly, "It will be coming out soon."

At the end of the conference, Kathei managed to get Derek Taylor's attention and persuaded him to take her and her friend back to the Beatles' hotel room for autographs. Then it was over to the Boston Garden for the Beatles first appearance. The Garden wouldn't let Kathei through the underground passage from Madison to the Garden, so she had to run around through the crowd with ticket in hand to catch a glimpse. "I couldn't tell you if they even played, or what they played," she admits. "The screaming was so intense that you couldn't hear anything! I threw my confetti and headed home."


The first Boston band to take a ride with the British Invasion was The Rockin' Ramrods. The Ramrods were heartthrobs of the South Shore. Selling out the Surf in Nantasket, gig after gig; boasting a fan club of over 2500. The 1964 Gilchrist Fashion Hop (held at the Orpheum) distributed its own program that stated "When polled a number of high school girls for their choice of favorite local band, The Rockin' Ramrods was their unanimous choice."

By August of 1964, the Ramrods had open. For Jan and Dean, The Dave Clark Five, and Orlons.

The band was led by two brothers from West Newton, Vinn (rhythm guitar) and Ronn (bass, vocals) Campisi. Bob Jesse Henderson (drums) and Newton's Bill Linnane (lead guitar) completed the quartet.

Their luck with records was not quite as successful. They never had a national hit. And the highest a record ever hit on the charts was #16, in 1965, with Blue Lit Bright Skies on WMEX. But let this not deceive you, the band was a very successful phenomenon.

"These 4 lads create the powerhouse music which makes you lose your sense of tangibility and soar in a hypnotic sort of way (to the drivin' sounds)" reported the Gilchrist Fashion Hop program in 1965.

Ronn Campisi remembers, "At this point the main objective of bands was to make tapes that were good enough that a major label would buy them from the band and press them."

Their only release, in 1964, was another pair of songs that Freddie Cannon produced. The original She Lied had a Dave Clark Five feel to it and was quite gritty. The flip side was The Girl Can't Help It, a Little Richard song from the movie of the same name. It was released on Cannon's Bon Bon label.

"When we did covers we tried to do an original version of them," said Campisi. That is, they took a song such as The Girl Can't Help It and gave it a Ramrod feel. In other words, they added their hard driving, primitive style with an occasional slightly out of pitch vocal delivery. It worked.

The spring of 1965 shed light on the Ramrods' awe of the Beatles. The Ramrods released a self-produced 45 rpm record on manager Bill Spence's Plymouth Records. It featured the Beatles' ditties I Wanna Be Your Man b/w I'll Be On My Way. The record flopped.

That spring Bill Linnane left the band and was replaced by the carrot topped organist, Scott Curtis of Scituate. Their close alliance with Cannon also began to pay off when they were ushered out to Hollywood to appear in a rock n' roll film by Swan Records' Frank Slay, Jr.

In the fall of 1965, Frank Slay, Jr., the man who brought you Freddie Cannon, released a Hollywood movie called East is East. "The movie started out to be a documentary like the T.A.M.I. Show," remembers Ronn Campisi. "Then Slay had other scenes shot to make it into a story with a plot. It was all American bands. The story was boy meets girl. Then the girl runs away across the country. She goes from city to city with him chasing her. And of course, in every city there was a band playing. When they hit Boston, it was us. I believe we played Play It' (an original) and Got My Mojo Working. Arnie Ginsburg also made an appearance."

"It was playing across the country in drive-ins," recalls Arnie.

By this point, the Ramrods were playing every Friday and Saturday at some high school in the area. They were also preparing for two major tours, one with the Kingsmen (Louie, Louie) and the other a six-week U.S.-Canada tour with the Rolling Stones.

. . .

Before they embarked on the tours, the Herald Traveller caught up with them. A popular cultural upheaval was that of the issues on the length of a man's hair. Vinn Campisi was excited to exclaim that his mother had become jealous of his hair because it was longer than hers. It's funny to look at the old pictures because the length today doesn't really seem that radical now. But it sure was then!

Scott Curtis was happy about his newly found wealth. "We made enough money in one week to survive on peanut butter and hot dogs for a month." Vinn on money: "We hope to make a million each."

During the Kingsmen tour, Curtis got cold feet and disappeared. The Ramrods braved 3 dates as a trio and then brought in the talents of local Lonny Cirelli (keyboards). Off they went for a six week tour with the Stones.

"After the first week I don't remember much," said Campisi. "You become disoriented. Sleep, wake up, play a gig, get on a plane." So much for the glamourous life.

What were the Stones like?

"Mick and Keith were more aloof than the rest. The only time we saw them was on the plane. They kept more to themselves."

"When you're on a tour, like with Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells, the only time you see each other is in transit. On the plane you zone out and sleep."

The Ramrods never made it to the majors. As folk merged with rock, the Ramrods lean- ed towards the folkie psychedelic with the trippy Flowers in My Mind b/w "Mary, Mary (a reference to marijuana???) in 1966.

"When we toured with the Stones, I was 18 years old. I had fun," Ronn explains. "Something is fun when you don't take it too seriously. When I started taking this whole thing seriously, it wasn't fun anymore. That's when I left the band," Ronn told us.

The band went on to call itself Puff, and Ronn still wrote material for it. He eventually became the art director of The Real Paper, and then The Boston Globe. Today, Jesse Henderson is chief engineer at Longview Farms recording studio. Vinn Campisi is operations manager on the West Coast for Warner Brothers. Lenny Cirelli works in the drapery department of a major department store. And Bill Linnane works at Lincoln Laboratories in computer graphics. No one seems to know where Scott Curtis is.

COMING SOON: Barry and The Remains; The Rolling Stones at the Manning Bowl,- Moulty and The Barbarians - Are You A Boy or Are You A Girl?

This article originally appeared in The Beat in 1985
(c) Charles William White III

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