The Bonnevilles

In the hazy days between the end of rock & roll's first great era and the British Invasion, the beat never really stopped, it just went underground. While the charts were loaded with pretty-faced micro-talents, the locals still danced to the throbbing beat of a thousand local combos, plying their trade and usually hopping on the twist craze bandwagon of the early 1960s. One such outfit was Milwaukee's Bonnevilles, a high-voltage combo that mined a largely instrumental turf with guest vocalists thrown in for good measure. With a lineup of guitar, bass, organ, sax and drums, the band (not to be confused with the Bonnevilles surf group from California or the Detroit 1960s teen band known as the Motor City Bonnevilles) cut their first records for the Drum Boy label out of Chicago in 1963, although a suspect single on Coral in 1961 remains a possible debut disc. Singles featuring the band backing vocalists Bobby Merkt and 12-year-old female chirper Wendy Colby were issued first, followed by the band's lone album, The Bonnevilles In Action. This album contained the Drum Boy singles and new material from the band's set list and was reissued again in 1964 with a new cover as Meet The Bonnevilles in an attempt to capitalize on the success of the Beatles, quickly becoming a staple of the $1.98 cutout bins. The band continued to cut 45s into the mid-'60s for Fenway ("Sky Dive"), Spotlight ("I'm Walking the Dog") and Pyramid ("Tell Me"). In 1966, the band reformed as the Skunks, issuing another spate of singles on Teen Town, USA (an early cover of Dallas Frazier's "Elvira"), Quill, Sherri, White Whale, World Pacific and Mercury, with most of the sides cut in Chicago. The Bonnevilles/Skunks were simply one of many bands who toiled in the trenches, making music for the everyday Joe and Josephine. That they were smart/good/lucky enough to make records to let us be aware of their presence is their collective footprint in the snow in this blizzard we call the history of rock & roll. ~ Cub Koda

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