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the Flock

Euclid, 1966-69

flock pic

"The Flock" was a Motown (and some rock) cover band from the east side of Cleveland, Ohio. Most famously, it was, at the time, the only integrated group in the city, and, this, only a year or so after the Hough race riots, which made for some interesting nights at certain venues.

Indeed, more than a few times during its heyday, the band was advised by venue security or local police to pack up early, or to hurry when breaking down, for its own safety. (Not to mention having practices in Kinkopf's basement in Euclid interrupted by local police, called to the scene by neighbors because the noise was too loud -- or maybe because there were black people in the neighborhood.)

But The Flock was more than a curiosity. It was a band that could really, really, really play and put on a fabulous show. The group began during that "garage band" era of the mid-60s, when everyone wanted to be like The Beatles.

The signature members were all St. Joseph High students -- Ralph Jaros (lead guitar), Harry Mayes (tenor sax), John Nissen (bass) and Eric Kinkopf (drums). Jaros and Mayes met when the latter was giving sax lessons to the former after school at St. Joe. Kinkopf and Mayes, meanwhile, had been in the process of trying to put together a group in the basement of Kinkopf's parents' house in the Beverly Hills area of Euclid, Ohio.

Says Jaros of his early relationship with Mayes: "My endeavor of music led me to play tenor sax at 15 in the school band although playing guitar was my first choice."

Jaros lived on Cleveland's east side, on Pulaski Ave., and had started taking guitar lessons in the seventh grade at Sodja Music on E.l85th Street: "To enhance my sax playing I took lessons from a junior, Harry Mayes, who was an unbelievable talent. He could play anything. Just hum a tune and, Bam! he was pouring out exquisite melodies."

Mayes, also from Euclid., Ohio lived a short drive from Kinkopf, and the sax player's connection with Jaros, who fancied wearing a full- Iength black leather jacket, later gave the group its solid push toward its Motown sound.

Shortly after Jaros made the group a trio, John Nissen, also a St. Joe student from Eastlake, Ohio was added on bass guitar. The soon group gained some traction - at least in the basement of the Kinkopf's small ranch home on Effingham Boulevard and on Sunday afternoons in the butcher shop of Kinkopf's father at Shoregate (where it shortly toyed with the name "Psychedelic Mushroom"). Along the way, brothers Tom (guitar and keys) and Kevin McDonald, of Richmond Heights, Ohio and also St. Joe students, joined as vocalists.

The group began developing its set list - all covers, mostly rock and Motown pop standards of the time - with Kevin McDonald, only I4, then, singing perfect leads, emulating the voice of Robin Gibb with shear perfection on a number of Bee Gees hits. In addition to the soul favorites, McDonald's superb renditions would become part of the group's calling card.

Stll, until December of 1966, the Flock was just another all-white garage band scrapping for "mixer" gigs. Then Sidney Anderson joined the group, and all that changed. Anderson was bussing tables at a Christmas Party at the Tanglewood Motel near Kirtland, Ohio where "The Flock" was performing, and he asked if he could sing a song - "Stand By Me."

And sing, brother, he did.

Sidney Anderson, black, from Painesville, Ohio joined the group that night and soon recruited a friend, Floyd Wooten, black also from Painesville. Andrew Bernal, also black, Wooten's friend from Painesville, too, later also joined as a vocalist.

Without realizing its uniqueness, The Flock suddenty had become the first integrated rock band in the Cleveland area, and quickly earned grassroots notoriety as a tight, funky, showy group playing mostly at east side venues for the next two years.

flock pic

All those booking were done by Jaros, who, at 16, managed to keep The Flock busy most every Friday and Saturday night, and soon, as the group's popularity rose, taking dates as far as six months in advance.

Many fans began comparing the kids - as we were kids, after all, ranging in age from 14 to 17 - to the Sensations, December's Children and the Charades, aII older, more advanced Clevelandarea professional musicians and bands.

The band's highlight came at the 1968 Teen Fair, where it put on a number of spectacular shows but finished a controversial second to the infamous Joe Walsh's "James Gang" who is presently with The Eagles.

And here's why it was "controversial":

The band was playing at a west side gig the evening of its final Teen Fair performance (where it had gone head-to-head that afternoon with Walsh's band), when it received a caII from a Teen Fair official. The official asked Mayes, the band spokesman, if the band was enrolled in the Musician's Union. It was not. The official then asked if the band would join. The members took a moment to discuss the possibility, then decided against joining, and for two reasons: one, as a eight -piece group, the members felt that the union rates would price them out of too many jobs - and, above all, the boys lived to perform; and, two, some members were headed off to prep school, college and the military, and the continued existence of the group was in jeopardy.

flock pic

flock pic

Mayes gave the official the group's answer; the official called back within minutes and told Mayes that "The Flock" had ... finished second place awarding to The Flock a recording session at Audio Recording Studio, in the old WKYC TV 3 news building at East 6th and Rocwell in downtown Cleveland. The James Gang, received first place, and was awarded a record contract with a national record label leading Joe Walsh and the James Gang to it's fame and popularity, and Joe Walsh to a fabulous musical career to the present.

The band disbanded a few months later, in the fall of 1968, when Jaros headed off to the Navy; Mayes and Kinkopf left for college, and Kevin McDonald went east to a New England prep school. Anderson had left months earlier on military duty. The band did reform in various fashions, Iater, Iasting for a year, but it was never quite the same.

Bio from Eric Kinkopf, original drummer, of the Flock---and Ralph Jaros, original lead guitarist, of The Flock. What a run we had! Dated 9-27-2014