Once more, this time with feeling
Elvis was in the movies and the Beatles were still unknown when The Stereos began performing rock ‘n’ roll.
The quintet from Monrovia High School experienced “American Graffiti” in real time, the early 1960s in the Los Angeles area, cruising for Big Boy burgers between beer party gigs.
Some time today they will all play together again in Greg Lyon’s Grass Valley garage, the first time since graduation broke up the band in 1962.
“Forty-four years ago, I don’t believe it,” Lyon said looking at a picture of the old group in their matching outfits. “Everybody’s scared as hell, we don’t know if we can do it or not.”
What they will try to do is play at least one song from their then-contemporary play list. Acid rock and funk didn’t exist then, so it could be “Running Bear,” “Tell Laura I Love Her,” or maybe even “Devil or Angel.”
“We’ll probably have the cops knock on the door, but that well be the fun of it,” Lyon said, and the neighbors have been alerted.
The makeup of the band reflected the style of their day. Lyon, who is about to retire from the Nevada County Road Department at 62, simply sang bass.
Leo McLaren, now in the horse racing industry in Southern California, played the drums. Friday afternoon he was surrounded by his old bandmates again.
“It’s like being reborn again,” McLaren said. “It makes me want to do some playing.”
Sue Avants, now Suzanne Gilbert, sang and currently works at a medical center in Portland, Ore.
“The memories are wonderful,” Gilbert said. “Our first talent show we won singing “Running Bear.”
Shan Williams, now Shan Carlson, used her classical training to play piano and is a retired school teacher living in Santa Cruz. She and Gilbert were one year behind the guys in school.
“This is super exciting after 44 years,” Carlson said. “I haven’t seen the fellas since then.”
Bringing most of the instruments will be band leader, singer and guitarist Alan La Bossiere. He makes his living in real estate in Clear Lake these days and spent five years as a professional musician after the band broke up.
“We’ll probably make fools of ourselves,” La Bossiere said.
The Stereos practiced every Wednesday night and Saturday in LaBossiere’s garage. It was particularly pungent due to his father’s penchant for working long hours there without the benefit of a bath.
“We all had some ability and it seemed like when we played together some good things would come out of it,” Lyon said. “I came up from the church choir and sang with the Dr. Lyon’s Boys Choir in Pasadena, (no relation) which is now an elite choir.
“So I could just walk into the old garage and they’d say, ‘can you harmonize on this?’ and I could. Alan was a natural and so was Leo. Leo taps his fingers all day.”
They actually made a couple of recordings that didn’t go anywhere, but Lyon still has an old reel-to-reel tape of their songs and some stuff he and La Bossiere did at Pearl Harbor during their subsequent U.S. Navy days.
The band’s big night of fame came when they appeared on “Yeakel’s Rocket to Stardom,” a TV talent show in Southern California sponsored by Yeakel Oldsmobile.
“We went on at 11 or 12 o’clock at night and we were competing for first place,” Lyon said. “Everybody said we should have won but somebody’s son or nephew did, you know, politics.”
But there is no bitterness.
“It kept us out of trouble,” Lyon said. “There was good faith among the group and we trusted each other.
“The good memories have lasted. Just the other day somebody had the late ’50s stuff on KVMR and I could harmonize with every single song.”
To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4237.
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