by Mimi Betinis
1971-2, Oak Park Illinois
Our group started right out of high school as a jam band. First we called ourselves Black Pudding. The original lineup was Mick Rain on drums and vocal, Mike Gorman on bass and vocal, John Pazdan on guitar and piano, and me on guitar and lead vocal. We had a small rehearsal room in north Oak Park and would sometimes make sound-on-sound recordings with my Sony 630D machine.
I came up with the name Pezband from the candy which I liked. But it was really the combination of letters: PEZ which appealed to me. So to call the group Pezband could only mean one thing…us. That was the goal.
One of our first jobs was playing a very little pizza joint in Berwyn, IL called the Boston Pub which was very close to where we all lived. We played for pizza and beer and got popular, drawing in fans. The owner loved us, we got him business. We also played The Ground Round hamburger place, The Redwood Inn banquet hall, The Oak Park Coffee House, and many other little places. Soon we developed a good-sized following of fans. Our original lineup ran about for 10 months then I recruited Cliff Johnson as lead singer.
Through mutual friends we made the acquaintance of the Marier Brothers: Ken, Donn and Doug. Doug was our age, but Ken and Donn were a few years older and were in the jingle business. They heard us (with Cliff singing) and decided to produce an album for us at the iconic United Technique studio (which was owned and operated by a real character of an engineer named Ed Cody). Ken and Donn did a lot of jingle and advertising voiceover work at United Technique, so it was a natural place for us to record.
Most of the songs were written by me and Cliff. I had a little set-up in my basement with a piano and we would sit down and knock out tunes all day long. I think some of our influences at that time were, The Jeff Beck Group, Traffic, Savoy Brown and early Fleetwood Mac. Doug Marier (who was a musician himself) introduced me to Wes Montgomery so that was an influence as well.
When the day came, the five of us were absolutely thrilled to be in a real recording studio. I was just 21 at the time and Mike was a lad of 18! I don’t think the record took very long to record and mix. Maybe about three days.
The Marier Brothers shopped the record around Chicago but came up empty handed. That was okay because we were very driven at that point. We kept going. The rest, of course, is Pezband history.
So what happened to those eight songs cut into acetate some 45 years ago? To my knowledge, there were only two acetates and a couple of 5 inch tape reels. Over the years they were lost—or maybe even thrown away. The only remnant was an old, miserable cassette copy that I found in my basement. I was afraid to even play it, but I had fond memories of those early days and suspected that maybe one or two Pezband fans might be curious about our very first recording.
I knew that only one man in the entire universe could rescue those tracks: my good friend and producer/engineer John Pavletic. Using his amazing skills—as well as the latest digital recording equipment, John not only rescued UNITED TECHNIQUE 1972, he made the album sound better than it did on the original vinyl. John captured all the raw energy of our brand new band flexing their musical muscles for the very first time.
I hope you enjoy this little slice of Pezband history.