THE COMPLETE CHARLIE O'NEILL BAND CHRONOLOGY:
In the beginning, long before the days of choirs and bands, there were wonderful summer afternoons spent staging 'concerts' in Gary Kelchlin's garage. South Buffalo's 'Pawnee Park' and Hillery Playground were always teeming with boys and girls, some eager to witness 10 year old 'Ray Ray' Hall, 9 year old Gary 'GK' Kelchlin, Billie Schoellkopf, and Chuckie O'Neill pantomiming the hits of the day. The 'performers' would lay down the army gear, baseball bats, football pads, or whatever else occupied us in the A.M. and head into a 'production meeting' to select the repertoire for the afternoon concert. Hits like 'Traveling Man', 'Splish Splash', 'Down the Line', 'King Creole', and 'I Got Stung' were routinely covered by this make believe band. After the show, we would sit and bask in the make believe glory. It was from this little band of friends that my first experience on a real stage was born.
In the summer of 1959, The South Buffalo Cub Scouts were embarking on a musical minstrel show to be presented at the St. Teresa's School Auditorium. Gary asked if I'd like to pantomime 'Twinkle Twinkle little Star' with him at this event. After convincing him I'd need something to do while he 'sang', Gary's Dad handed me an old acoustic guitar and told me to pretend to play. We worked out a side-to-side dance step, rehearsed a few times and off to the big show we went.
The second show on Saturday afternoon went off without a hitch. But our debut on Friday night was a total disaster. Mr. George Ushold, a qualified recording engineer was manning the turntable as GK and I started our performance in front of a full house. Word has it that the 45 RPM recording was scratched, or warped, or that the lighting at the turntable was poor. For what ever reason, the song started skipping and bouncing around, the moment we started our performance. Our side-to-side dance step went askew and GK and I were bumping and crashing into each other. The star that was supposed to come down at the end of the song with GK on one knee pointing to it while lip synching 'There you are little star…' bobbed up and down several times while the audience roared with laughter. The above photo, given to me recently by GK is from that very show.
The Hoard: (1966)
Charlie O'Neill-organ, Russ Ellis- guitar, Don Duffy-bass guitar, Bill 'Horace' Healy -vocals, Drummer-Unknown.
After having just moved from my beloved South Buffalo to the barren outback called West Seneca, I fell in with a group of local kids who had what could only be loosely described as a 'Band'. Although all the band members were very enthusiastic music fans, musical skills were at a minimum. The 'Hoard' or 'The Horrid" as our detractors called us, was already up and rehearsing at Bill 'Horace' Healy's house by the time I received my invitation to join. I don't think this group ever rose to the level of a public performance, but I do remember vividly, wildly celebrating with my new band mates, the fact that during a rehearsal the girlfriend of one of the band member's older brother was actually tapping her foot while listening to us! This, believe it or not, was the highlight of 6 months of getting together almost every Sunday afternoon. Russ Ellis, our handsome lead player was in a perpetual state of learning Johnny B Good, adding exactly 3 new notes a month to the opening guitar riff. The last time I spoke with Russ, he was still working on it. I played an Ace Tone portable organ with The Hoard, and although I had a great time and have made life long friendships with the band members, I was just biding my time until I could figure out a way to get back to South Buffalo to join…
The Poor Soles. (1966)
Charlie O'Neill-bass guitar, Gary Kelchlin-drums, Bill Bauer-guitar, Dave Crane-lead guitar, Willie Schoellkopf -vocals.
The Poor Soles were an actual performing band by the time I returned to South Buffalo and Gary Kelchlin's cellar to check out their rehearsal. Gary Kelchlin aka 'GK', and Willie Schoellkopf were close neighbors of mine, and good friends all through grade school, so I was curious and a bit jealous when I found out that my old buddies had a band without me. When I heard them at rehearsal, I knew I had to figure out a way to get into this band. When I brought along my new Ace Tone electric organ to a rehearsal/audition, I didn't go as well as I had hoped. Actually, I was a big flop. It turns out there was some stiff resistance to adding an organ to the mix when the band really needed a bass player. I couldn't figure out why Willie didn't just play bass and fill that obvious gap, but it was my good fortune that he didn't. After trading in my Ace Tone organ for a Klira bass guitar with a Premier amp, I was finally a member of this really good sounding little unit.
Now, for me to name all the wonderfully fun moments and great exciting times that happened with this band, I would go on far too long. I'm not sure we sounded as good as I thought we did, but the awesome experience of playing with my first real band is something I will never forget, it stays with me always, When I think back to what songs we played, I realize that even by today's good guitar music standards, The Poor Soles had a great and very hip set list. Beatle songs, Loving Spoonful Tunes, The Byrds, The Kinks, The Standells, The Knickerbockers, Wilson Picket...from gigs at Bishop Timon High School dances to The Seneca Show, and Sunset Beach cottage parties, this little band remains one of my personal favorites. The band photo was taken in 1965 at St. Teresa's Parish Center and shows (left to right), Willie Schoellkopf, Charlie, and Dave Crane. Not pictured; GK and Bill Bauer.
GK and the Atlantic Tug (1967)
Gary Kelchlin- drums, Willie Schoellkopf-vocal/ guitar, Charlie O'Neill-piano, Ray Ray Hall-bass
This musical unit was put together for a recording project. I'm not sure how we arranged to do that, but I was thrilled to be working on a 45 RPM of original songs in a real recording studio. Side A is a tune I wrote called 'Believe'. Side B is a very strange and amusing song that Willie and I co-wrote with the mind-bending title 'The Day After Yesterday', As kids, Willie and I would sit around and write songs, sometimes from scratch, other times using existing melodies with new lyric. This particular song was like no other. After writing down all the chords we knew, we put them in a jar and proceeded to write this song lottery style. We also wrote the lyric lottery style, writing down psychedelic words and phrases and drawing them out one at a time to create the verse and the chorus. To my knowledge this may be the only song ever, written and recorded in this manner. Willie Schoellkopf sang this song with an English accent to give it a 'Liverpool' flavor. The acetate 45 RPM was sent to me by Dom Cedro a little while back. Although I'm not sure how he ended up with it, I was very happy to have received it.
The Legal Matter (1968)
Russ Ellis-guitar, Charlie O'Neill-bass, Willie Schoellkopf-vocals, Brian Cid-drums, Dom Cedro-guitar
To the best of my recollection, this band only played at West Seneca High School functions. The highlight of this band's short life was winning the school sponsored battle of the bands 'Transcendental Trip', with a stirring rendition of 'Purple Haze'. Dom Cedro was a master at pulling some amazing feedback sounds out of his Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar and Fender Duel Showman amp, and although each of the five bands did Purple Haze (!) and we were the last band up, I feel we won the contest on the strengths of Dom's wickedly psychedelic solo.
The Bob Schultz Band (1969)
When The Bob Seeger System came to town early in 1969 and amazing thing happened to my little world of music, I had been waiting in the wings to get into a band called 'The Nomads', the bad boys from East Aurora NY. I knew it was only a matter of time before they fired their bass player and hired me to take his place. I was being 'groomed' for this position by Mike Jackson, my long time local guitar hero. While this little drama was unfolding a new story was being written. At the time, Bob Seeger was a rising star on the national scene. He had a big hit with "Two plus Two is on my Mind' and a huge hit with 'Ramblin' Gamblin' Man'. Of course he went on have many more big hit songs thereafter, but at the time he was right up there with all the big ones. Bob Schultz was Bob Seeger's keyboard player and the driving force behind his Detroit sound, Bob Schultz was in the process of quitting the Bob Seeger System when they arrived in Buffalo. Somehow, after the Buffalo show, Mike Jackson persuaded Bob Schultz to form a band and move all of us back to Detroit. I was now in this new group formation. I won't say that this new thing ever really got off the ground, but the six months I spent living and playing music in and around Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Jackson Michigan was a huge learning experience for me. I met, and hung around with all kinds of musical talent, on a completely different level than I had ever been exposed to before. But just like that it ended, and back to Buffalo I went. Bob Schultz would later surface living in the Buffalo area. I tried to get him in The Blue Ox Band with me, but I didn't have enough support within the band to make the changes, so that never happened, Mike Jackson migrated to Ottawa, Canada in the summer of 1969 as the U.S. military draft and Viet Nam loomed.
The Atlantic Tug (1969-1970)
Upon my return to Buffalo, I resumed teaching at Chimes Music Store in West Seneca where I met a guitar teacher by the name of Norris Hawks Lewis. Norris and I started tinkering around with different players while trying to form a new group. We eventually ended up with Norris on bass, Brian Cid on drums, Dom Cedro on guitar, Bruce Lewis (Norris' younger brother) on sax and percussion. I played guitar and keyboard, It was with this band that I played my first real bar gig...The Trojan Lounge in South Buffalo. We also had it together just enough to start booking ourselves, eventually getting the attention of a real booking agency. We kept plugging away and trying our best. By the following year we had finally arrived as:
The Blue Ox Band (See their page.)
The Chuck and Bill Show ( 1971-1974 and 1980-1982)
Willie Schoellkopf- acoustic guitar, Charlie O'Neill- electric guitar.
This duo was born while we were in rehearsal for the Willie Schoellkopf version of the Blue Ox Band. Willie and I landed a series of wonderful gigs at a bar in Orchard Park N.Y. called The Blue Fox and another one in North Boston. N.Y. called Murphy's. The Blue Ox Band's new repertoire was based on the songs Willie and I worked out for this gig. 'The Chuck and Bill Show' resurfaced years later at Curran's in downtown Buffalo.
The Off Hour Rockers (1979)
Dan Rydlewski-organ, Wendy Lasker- vocal, Clark Finn-bass, Jerry Bass-drums, Charlie O'Neill-guitar.
OHR was a Lancaster, N.Y. based band I played with for a few months. Good folks playing the hits of the day. I had fun, played a bunch of dates and headed back out on the road.
The California Band (1978-1979)
After the demise of the Blue Ox Band I headed to Los Angeles to see if there was a place for me there. A Buffalo area friend of mine, Jeff Whiting, got me into a top 40 band from Seattle that had relocated to L.A. These were dismal musical times for guitar players all over as far as I could tell. Pop music had really turned ugly. In Los Angeles, disco ruled the day. I'd like to report that playing all over Hollywood and Los Angeles was a great, exciting thing, but really, it was not. I was getting discouraged and burned out, gigging 5 nights a week and traveling all over. So after a year or two, I had had enough, I loaded up my 1963 Ford Falcon and headed home to form.
The Thirds (1980) (See their page.)
Rocket 88 (1988) (See their page.)
Rick Smith Band (1992-present)
In 1989 I was clerking and teaching guitar at Elmwood Music in Buffalo. A student of mine, Pam Smith approached me about an original music project her brother Rick was trying to put together. Rick had been traveling all over the world gathering material for his music, making friends and garnering financial support to do the best music project he could. Pam and Rick knew that by having Rick do his CD project in Buffalo, his money would go further and the quality would still be there. After Pam put me in touch with Rick, I signed on to produce Rick's CD, 'In the Leaving'. Although I did some guitar playing on the recording, my primary task was to hire the personal and put Rick in touch with recording studio people and get the project from point A to Z. We hired Jim Brucato from The Thirds to arrange the music, the late Jon Mathias to engineer and co-produce, along with a host of mostly bluegrass, country/folk musicians and close Smith family friends to work their magic. The result was a wonderful 14 song all original music CD that exceeded almost all our expectations. After a flurry of CD release events including Nietchze's and Buffalo's Thursday at the Square, Rick headed off to the wild blue yonder only to resurface much later back in Buffalo to settle down.
In 2003 Rick and Jim Brucato started work on Rick's 4th CD titled 'Saturday at 3'. They were nice enough to call on me for the electric guitar parts in March 2004 while I was recovering from my cancer surgeries. Working on this CD and recording again bolstered my spirits and soothed my soul. On November 4th 2004, The Rick Smith Band ( Rick Smith guitar/vocal, Jim Brucato guitar vocal, harp, percussion, Cave Wilson drums, Tim Mroz bass, Charlie O'Neill guitar, keyboard, vocal) held a CD release party at Nietchszes in downtown Buffalo to a full house of appreciative fans. Rick is a wonderful songwriter, a good singer and guitarist. To me, this kind of thing is what this music thing is all about. I'll be playing with, and hopefully working on Rick's 5th CD someday soon.
JoyRyde (1994, 1995)
Mike Lacki vocal/ keyboard, Johnna Scime, lead vocal, Geoff Perry bass, Charlie O'Neill guitar, Dan Rogow, drums.
By 1994 I was still playing intermittently with The Thirds and Rocket 88 when I was asked to join this very successful local band. At the time, JoyRyde was a band that had already been around for some time, and had made a very smooth transition from hip bar band to hip wedding band. I came on board the same time bassist Geoff Perry did. While I replaced long time guitarist John Collins, Geoff replaced long time bassist Bob Parker, ushering in a new, but sometimes awkward version of the band. However, during my two year stint with the band, JoyRyde managed to win two Best Top Forty Band Buffalo Music Awards and apparently satisfied everybody who hired us during this period. After a pause in the booking action, I decided I had had enough, and so did JoyRyde, and we moved on. The band continues today with Dennis Parry on bass and Dick Baurle on guitar and Al Hury on drums, Mike and Johanna. JoyRyde is always a great sounding, very professional band regardless of the personal line up.
The Stone Bridge Band (See their page.)
Hot Guitars from Buffalo (See their page.)
Kelleigh Taylor and The Rocking Gauchos (1997-present)
(The Rocking Gauchos consists of any qualified musician available at the time)
Kelleigh Taylor was introduced to me by her parents, two of my favorite people, Carol and Hank Boismenu at the Blue Ox Reunion show in 1997. Although I knew and trusted Carol's opinion about music I was silently skeptical when she described her daughter's vocal talent to me. However, I was more than willing to help her put together a small demo CD to help showcase Kelleigh singing chops. After hearing Kelleigh sing for about 3 seconds I knew she was something special. I proceeded to arrange a session at Advanced Audio Productions in Orchard Park, N.Y. with a group consisting of Jim Brucato on bass, Jeff Whiting on drums, Denny Mike on Pedal steel and myself on guitar. I fully expected to get a first-time-in-the studio-those-guys-are all-way-more-experienced-than-me type of performance from Kelleigh that day, but that was not the case. And what passes for routine from her now, Kelleigh nailed a very tough vocal rendition of Lee Ann Rhimes' "Blue' instantly. The band was amazed. The engineer was awed. I continue to work with Kelleigh to this day on various music projects. Presently we are rehearsing with multi-instrumentalist, Jim Sweet (See Home Grown Music on the Biography page, Kelleigh is singing "Are You Still' and 'Pass It On')