by Ted Lyons
I first saw The Doughboys in 1965. I just finished a Friday night rehearsal with the Plainfield, NJ St. Mary’s Boys Choir and was making my way up from the basement when I heard The Yardbirds “For Your Love” coming out of the gym/assembly hall. WHAT??? I’d spent the last seven years in that school with the Sisters of (no) Mercy and that sound just didn’t jive! The five guys onstage were called the Ascots and their guitar player, my paperboy Mike Farina, had been downstairs singing with the choir an hour earlier. The bass player, Mike Caruso, was a neighborhood guy I was friendly with and the drummer, Richie Heyman, and I, did a couple seasons with the Braves in the Plainfield Little League. The lead singer, Myke Scavone, had been the drummer for the Apollos who I remembered from the Plainfield Fourth of July parade about a year earlier. And their other guitar player, Willy Kirchofer, I’d seen playing guitar on his porch one afternoon a few months earlier. I tried to wrangle him into my band but he said he was already in a band. Yeah….sure.
These guys were all about two years older than my crew and when you’re twelve and they’re fourteen that’s a serious gap. I’d been hearing music coming from Mike Farina’s house just on the other side of my back yard. That was, finally, The Ascots.
Plainfield, NJ, like the rest of Main St. America, was in the throes of a 60’s/British Invasion/Carnaby St/folk/rock/political/ flower power/head shop/ music revolution. In 1966 I moved from Plainfield to Piscataway but continued my weekly trips to the Queen City to play music with my pals, take a guitar lesson at Gregory’s Music and walk the streets of downtown Plainfield; usually, hopefully, ending up in the balcony of The Strand Theater with my girlfriend, not watching a James Bond flick. The band, girlfriend, Gregory’s and Plainfield in general faded out as Piscataway, new girlfriend, new band and new guitar teacher faded in. There was a whole Wonder years, coming of age thing happening.
The Ascots hit their stride a few years later when they donned WW One army uniforms, changed their name to The Doughboys and won Zacherley’s Disc – o -Teen battle of the bands. Zacherley was a cool Dracula type TV host who would play horror movies and occasionally interrupt the movie to deliver words of wisdom from his coffin. He’d then close the top and the movie would resume. Too hip. The prize for winning the band battle was a stint as the house band at The Café Wha? in NY’s Greenwich Village. Between St Mary’s and The Café Wha? I’d seen the Doughboys a few times at NJ Hullabaloos and scattered high school dances. Mike Farina had left and they were gigging as a four piece, covering artists like Hendrix and Cream before anyone else. They also played snippets of commercials, old TV shows, cartoons etc. on the wall behind them. That’s entertainment, man. They cut a record that could be found on most central NJ jukeboxes and were opening up for some name bands but soon after the run at Café Wha? The Doughboys called it quits.
Myke Scavone went on to front Ram Jam (Black Betty), Mike Caruso became a session player and spent some time playing with Jimi Hendrix. Richie Heyman, after playing, with Link Wray and Brian Wilson started a solo singer/songwriter career as Richard X. Heyman.
In 2000, the Doughboy’s reformed for a “one time gig” at Richie’s birthday party. It felt, and sounded good and the Doughboys continued to roll. They kept it up covering a good chunk of the East Coast and releasing three cds along the way, in addition to a DVD documentary, “Rock n’ Raw.” After Willie Kirchofer’s sudden passing in 2005, Gar Francis, of Sticky Fingers fame, took over lead/rhythm guitar duties. Their latest cd, Shakin’ Our Souls features performances from Mark Lindsay (Paul Revere & The Raiders) and Genya Ravan (Ten Wheel Drive.)
One of their earlier originals, Black Sheep, was dubbed one of the “coolest songs in the world” by Little Steven Van Zandt on his Sirius Underground Garage radio show. Little Steven nominated more Doughboy’s tunes including a very cool cover of The Moody Blues’ “Tuesday Afternoon.” The Doughboys song list is still a blend of sixties covers and originals delivered with the same high intensity enthusiasm I saw on that St. Mary’s stage almost fifty years ago. Take a look at their version of Route 66 on youtube live from The Stone Pony or their version of Smokey Robinson’s Tears of a Clown and you’ll get an idea. Wow! Rock and Roll IS here to stay.